A's lay in wait on Meetings' first day
Haren, Blanton could be moved once Santana saga ends
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Twins and the Marlins are the belles of the ball at baseball's annual Winter Meetings, where trade rumors involving Minnesota ace Johan Santana and Florida man-child Miguel Cabrera are every bit as unavoidable as is getting lost in the massive maze of fountains, lobbies and hallways that distinguish the host Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.
The A's, of course, aren't among the deep-pocketed teams angling to acquire Santana and Cabrera, so they were content to let the dance of deception play out without them Monday. General manager Billy Beane and his crew arrived fashionably late, checking into the hotel as the first day of the meetings turned to night.
If and when the Santana saga reaches some form of finality, however, Beane figures to be a busy man. Thanks to Beane's recent suggestion that his club's top starters, Dan Haren and Joe Blanton, could be dealt if the circumstances and return package were right, Oakland's suite will likely become a popular destination among GMs who came up empty in the Santana sweepstakes.
"I don't know if that's going to be the case," Beane said. "I think the perception out there is that we came here looking to get rid of some guys, but that's certainly not the case from our perspective."
According to one source, Yankees GM Brian Cashman, with whom Beane is friends and frequently speaks, would be first in line to chat with Oakland if the Twins pass on New York's offer of righty starter Phil Hughes, outfielder Melky Cabrera and a prospect for Santana.
The Yankees have reportedly told Minnesota that their proposal is a take-it-or-leave-it deal that would be pulled from the table late Monday, after which Haren would immediately become New York's primary trade target.
"If they don't get Santana, they'll go hard after Haren," said the source. "And they might even give up more [for Haren] just to make sure they get him."
Haren is attractive for a variety of reasons, with his age, contract status and durability tops among them. The 27-year-old righty, whose current deal will pay him an average of about $5.4 million for the next three years, has thrown at least 217 innings in each of the past three seasons.
As such, Beane could find the Yankees willing to sweeten the deal they offered the Twins. Among the prospects Oakland might ask for is shortstop Alberto Gonzalez, a slick fielding 24-year-old who spent much of the 2007 season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, batting .247 with a .300 on-base percentage in 106 games.
Another source said the Arizona Diamondbacks are interested in Haren but might not be willing to part with enough of their young talent to suit Beane. In that case, the D-backs could explore the possibility of acquiring Blanton, whose trade value might be at its zenith.
Blanton, who this winter is eligible for arbitration for the first time and won't be a free agent until 2010, figures to get a salary bump to about $3 million for 2008. And if he has another solid year, he'd be in line to make $7 million or more in 2009.
"Blanton could get real expensive in a hurry," said a National League scout. "If I'm the A's, I'd be looking to deal him before Haren, who is such an incredible value. If Billy can get a good deal for Blanton that includes a young starter and a couple good prospects, maybe he rolls the dice and tries to make a run at it this year."
Or maybe not. The general consensus here is that if Cabrera ends up with the hot-in-pursuit Angels, who cruised to the 2007 American League West title and already have added outfielder Torii Hunter and starter Jon Garland this offseason, Beane will have no choice but to commit to the first true rebuilding process of his 10-year tenure.
"If the Angels get Cabrera -- or even [Miguel] Tejada -- they'll have that division wrapped up by June, and they'll win it in 2009 and 2010, too. Maybe longer," said the scout. "Billy knows that. If the Angels get even stronger, you'll see him talking to everyone about everyone. He'd have to go young and start over."
Beane said he isn't counting on a domino effect relating to Santana or Cabrera, adding that he's followed the various negotiations "as a fan." However it turns out, Beane, who said early Monday evening that he'd been contacted by one team since touching down in Music City, likes the position he's in.
"I don't know how many teams we'll be meeting with," he said, "but I think it's safe to say we'll be the home team in most of them."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.