When and where are the winter meetings?
They run from Monday through Thursday in Orlando, at a hotel right on the Disney World campus.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't you just in Orlando a few weeks back?
Good memory! The general managers' and owners' meetings took place Nov. 16-18 at a swanky hotel not very far from the site of the winter meetings.
So what's the difference between these meetings and those meetings?
Think of the GMs' and owners' meetings as a private retreat for high-powered executives and the winter meetings as a county fair - packed and open to everyone. Each of the 30 major-league teams will bring a slew of officials; every single minor-league affiliate will be represented, and people who work for equipment companies and other ancillary services also will attend.
OK, but we don't care about equipment companies. We care about the Hot Stove League!
And your appetite will be satiated. This baseball offseason has moved at a relatively brisk pace, and you can expect some huge transactions this week with all of the general managers and agents under one roof.
Such as . . . ?
You could do worse than wager that Cliff Lee and the Yankees will finalize a deal this week. Lee and agent Darek Braunecker have built momentum toward this point, with the Yankees and Rangers predictably most involved.
What else will the Yankees do?
They'd love to hear from Andy Pettitte that he wants to pitch for them again in 2011. All indications are that Pettitte indeed will return.
They want to add a lefthanded reliever, so they'll probably get some work done on that front - advancing negotiations, if not necessarily completing a deal. They have some interest in free-agent catcher Russell Martin, but that doesn't figure to be a priority.
What about the Mets?
Ah, the Mets. Well, unless you consider the hiring of a hitting coach to be a blockbuster move, they'll be pretty quiet. They will indeed interview candidates for hitting coach, and they'll keep sorting through the bargain bin for pitchers. They don't have much money to spend.
Yeesh. What other big names might we see change teams?
I'd bet on Carl Pavano signing his biggest contract since the Yankees gave him $39.95 million for four years at the 2004 winter meetings. The Twins are favored, followed by Washington. If Lee signs early in the week, Carl Crawford's market will become clearer, and he could find a new home, too.
Does anything else of interest occur at these meetings?
Why, yes. Monday morning, the Hall of Fame will announce the results of its latest Veterans Committee vote, featuring a list of contributors from 1973 to now. Former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, manager Billy Martin and pitcher Ron Guidry headline the list for us New Yorkers. But if there's any justice, longtime Players Association head Marvin Miller will gain induction.
And for bona fide baseball geeks, there's the Rule 5 draft on Thursday morning. That's when teams draft players with sufficient service time who haven't been protected on their teams' 40-man rosters. While most turn out to be duds, Josh Hamilton, Johan Santana and Dan Uggla have been Rule 5 pickups.
So by the time the meetings conclude Thursday, will the best of the Hot Stove League be behind us?
Maybe the biggest, but we still should have plenty of intrigue left. Agent Scott Boras works more deliberately than his fellow representatives, so you can bet he'll depart Orlando without new deals for his top free agents, Adrian Beltre, Rafael Soriano and Jayson Werth. Maybe a domino or two will fall in the Lance Berkman-Vladimir Guerrero-Jim Thome-Johnny Damon-Hideki Matsui-Magglio Ordoñez-Manny Ramirez group of designated hitters. Certainly not all of them, however.
After all, teams don't stop shopping when the holidays get here. They have a different holiday in mind: Opening Day.