Hot Stove: Baseball keeps going
Sport never stops generating stories throughout the year
New Yankees manager Joe Girardi paused briefly at last week's Winter Meetings to wax philosophical:"The great thing about baseball, it never stops." The Hot Stove couldn't agree more. Baseball is a highway without a shoulder, a treadmill without an off switch, a CD without a bad track. For instance, a day that preceded the most consequential burst of the offseason -- arbitration-eligible veterans not tendered contracts by Wednesday's midnight ET deadline who will shift the market, as well as Thursday afternoon's release of the Mitchell Report -- gave the Hot Stove all the excuse it needed to go simmer. But the Hot Stove is not into chilling, so it was a typically captivating day, with a distinct orientation. While clubs regrouped from missing out on a couple of Japanese free agents -- newcomer Kosuke Fukudome signed with the Cubs, Major League veteran Tadahito Iguchi with the Padres -- the impending arrival of a third created a stir on the West Coast. A day after calling off a planned "recruiting" visit to three cities, right-hander Hiroki Kuroda was reportedly on a plane headed for Los Angeles. The Dodgers' interpretation of that flight plan is that the 32-year-old hard thrower has decided to accept their three-year offer, for approximately $10 million a season. Kuroda's two other prime pursuers, Seattle and Arizona, of course are hoping he is headed to LAX in a manner like many other travelers around this time of year -- as a layover to their burghs. In announcing his decision two weeks ago to come to the Major Leagues, Kuroda had said, "I made the decision because I wanted to go one step forward as a baseball player." Hoping they indeed are his final destination, the Dodgers are confident he would take them one step forward as a National League West force. A control pitcher with a mid-90s fastball, Kuroda had a record of 103-89 in 11 Japan League seasons, completing 74 of 244 career starts. In a historical sense, it would be only fitting for the Dodgers to score the latest pitching nugget from Japan since their 1995 signing of Hideo Nomo triggered the assimilation now in full swing. Elsewhere around the Hot Stove, from people to places ... Aaron Rowand: If the White Sox had an interest in bringing him back before -- and they did -- imagine how eager they are after losing out on Fukudome to the North Siders. Yet, general manager Ken Williams still can't bring himself to offer a contract longer than four years to a 30-year-old outfielder coming off a career year -- while another club in need of a center fielder, San Francisco, might be willing to go up to five. Dan Haren: His suitors continue to line up, with the San Francisco Chronicle identifying the Indians as the latest. If Oakland GM Billy Beane does decide to leverage Haren, he may be able to receive three high-end pitching prospects from Cleveland -- but may find that top target Asdrubal Cabrera, the 22-year-old second baseman who gave the Tribe such a second-half lift, is off-limits.
Kris Benson: Unlike Kuroda, he definitely will be in Phoenix next Monday -- to work out for teams with an interest in signing him after an inactive 2007, due to rotator cuff surgery. Representatives of as many as half of MLB's 30 teams are expected for the viewing, with the New York Daily News identifying the Yankees as being one.Reds: Now that Francisco Cordero is in-house, you can't say the Reds aren't going all-out to make sure he has plenty of leads to protect. According to Foxsports.com, GM Wayne Krivsky is driving hard for both Haren and Erik Bedard -- with a package including Homer Bailey and Joey Votto, but not top outfield prospect Jay Bruce. Phillies: They were eager to re-sign Iguchi -- for whom they had traded last July in a second-base emergency created by Chase Utley's broken hand -- to play third, and now may turn their attention to Pedro Feliz, the former Giant. Pirates: Their talks with Detroit concerning third baseman Brandon Inge were brief, short-circuited by the Tigers' unwillingness to pick up much of the $19.1 million owed him over the next three seasons. But the clubs are still talking -- the conversation has just turned to right-hander Chad Durbin. Padres: With Iguchi solving their need for a 2008 second baseman, the Friars now turn their attention to the cavity in center. GM Kevin Towers is on the record that he'll swing a trade if incumbent Mike Cameron signs elsewhere and, according to reports from the San Diego Union-Tribune, has already asked the Pirates about Jason Bay. A couple of other Pittsburgh outfielders previously discussed -- Xavier Nady, Nate McLouth -- remain in play. According to the paper, the Bucs' top target remains Double-A third baseman Chase Headley.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.