A busy time in Sin City

These Major League Baseball winter meetings coincided with the National Finals Rodeo, which is held here in Las Vegas every December. There are cowboys everywhere, but it isn’t quite the culture clash you might think it to be. This morning, I saw two of them walking down the hall just outside the media work room, and these were REAL cowboys from head to toe: boots, Wranglers, long-sleeved Western-cut shirts, cowboy hats and full salt-and-pepper beards. As they walked, one of them was intently thumbing through the latest issue of a certain publication, copies of which had been stacked on a table outside one of the ballrooms. The publication? Baseball America, of course.

The Dodgers didn’t select or lose anyone in the major-league phase of the Rule 5 draft today. They did lose three players — SS Francisco Lizarraga (Cincinnati), RFAndrew Locke (Houston) and SS Shane Justis (Milwaukee) in the minor-league portion, which works differently from the major-league part. Those players are gone for good, the Dodgers getting $12,000 each for them from the teams who drafted them. The Dodgers did add one player in the minor-league phase, an infielder from the Toronto chain named Anthony Hatch.

Saito might be done with Dodgers

Ned Colletti characterized the negotiations as “a staredown,” and although he didn’t say it, it was clear that if Saito doesn’t reach agreement with the club by Friday, the deadline for clubs to offer contracts to their arbitration-eligible players, he will be non-tendered and sent into what is shaping up as free-agent purgatory this winter for many of the game’s unsigned players. The Dodgers are offering an incentive-laden, one-year deal, with those incentives presumably based on games finished. Saito’s representatives want a stronger guarantee, something the Dodgers are never going to give the right-hander given his recent health issues and inconsistency. In fact, as many as five of the Dodgers’ eight arbitration-eligibles — Saito, Angel Berroa, Yhency Brazoban, Scott Proctor and Jason Repko — are in at least some danger of being non-tendered on Friday if they don’t agree to terms. In Brazoban’s case, he is almost a lock to be non-tendered because of his continued failure to lose weight and get into better physical condition. … By the way, I got bad info earlier. The Dodgers are NOT interested in Omar Vizquel.

Dodgers might have interest in Omar Vizquel

He clearly would be nothing more than a fallback plan if the club doesn’t sign Rafael Furcal, he’ll turn 42 in April, and he hasn’t hit better than .250 in three years. But he IS an 11-time Gold Glove winner and would be another excellent addition to the clubhouse. He also would shore up the SS position for a year until Ivan De Jesus is ready, although he wouldn’t come close to providing the offense Furcal did.

Loretta deal done

The announcement is coming shortly, but this is something we have all basically known since last night. Appears to be a one-year, $1.25 million deal, and it’s as much about what he’ll bring to the clubhouse as it is about what he’ll bring to the field. Other than that, this penultimate day of the winter meetings is shaping up to be a slow one for the Dodgers.

Tommy back in the saddle

Tommy Lasorda has once again been named Global Ambassador to the World Baseball Classic, a title he gladly took on in 2006 and will fill again in 2009. He is at the podium speaking right now. He was introduced by MLB COO Bob DuPuy as being like Sara Lee. “There is nobody who doesn’t like Tommy Lasorda,” DuPuy said. Tommy just told the audience that from now on, he would like to be addressed as Mr. Ambassador, which elicited a smattering of laughter. … In case you didn’t already know, former Dodgers manager Davey Johnson will manage the USA team. Felipe Alou, who is also here, will manage the Dominican Republic.

Looking ahead to next spring

Today’s Winter Meetings festivities included a news conference with Ned Colletti, Joe Torre, White Sox GM Ken Williams and Sox skipper Ozzie Guillen to discuss the upcoming first spring training in Glendale, Ariz., at the new facility the two clubs will share. It was all pretty basic stuff, but the most interesting thing that came out of it, IMHO, was this:

the Dodgers will be using it not only as a spring-training site, but as a year-round staging ground for much of their baseball operation:

“This will be practically a 12-month endeavor,” Colletti said. “Our player-development department will move its headquarters there. Our Instructional League team will play there, and we may be able to double up on the Instructional League. We may double up on some specific clinics for players in the fall months. A few of our players reside in Arizona all year long, and they will have the opportunity to work out any day of the offseason. We will have extensive video, we will have extensive hitting oppotunities, pitching, fielding, and a lot of former Dodgers will be invited back to partake in it to be there both as instructors and as people who can teach a little bit about what the game is all about.”

The White Sox also will use the facility year-round, but not nearly to the extent the Dodgers will. After all, Chicago is much farther away from Phoenix than Los Angeles is.

“For now, we are going to keep our short-season (minor-league) teamsin Great Falls, Montana, and Bristol, Connecticut, so we will not have a Rookie League presence there,” Williams said. “But we will have a medical staff there for rehab players, things of that nature.”

At the end of a very long day, I am now headed out to what has become a small, winter-meetings tradition that we started a few years ago. Every year, all the writers who are here at the winter meetings who ever worked at the now-defunct Cincinnati Post, a paper whose sports staff was down to about seven or eight people when I left there for the Daily News in 2004 and which disappeared completely on Jan. 1 of this year, all pick one night and go to dinner together. Sadly, this year’s contingent includes only three people: Chris Haft, who now covers the Giants for mlb.com, Marc Lancaster, who now covers the Rays for the Tampa Tribune, and yours truly. I’m sure we’ll have a toast to the grand old lady, may she rest in peace. To varying degrees, we all owe our careers to the time we spent filling her pages with the latest news on the Reds. Thankfully, we were all lucky enough to get out before the curtain fell.

Torre on the departures of Brad Penny, Joe Beimel

One story that hasn’t gotten a huge amount of attention this winter is the Dodgers’ complete lack of interest in re-signing pitchers Brad Penny and Joe Beimel. Joe Torre, who made his first appearance at the winter meetings earlier today, was asked about both of those players, and while he wasn’t completely transparent in his answers, he left little doubt that he didn’t want either one of them back.

On Beimel: “You make a decision as to what you want to do. We just felt Joe was inconsistent. He took the ball, whether good or bad, and went out there on a regular basis. I love Joe, but he wasn’t as good against left-handed hitters as he had been in the past.”

On Penny: “I thought it was best that he go out there on his own. He was uncomfortable, and I know he had some physical issues. We tried to use him out of the bullpen, but I think he was a little hesitant about doing that. Maybe the fact he was becoming a free agent had something to do with that.”

On a separate note, we now know why the Dodgers are so hesitant to talk about their deals with free agents Mark Loretta and Casey Blake. Turns out that when a deal is in place pending that player passing a physical — something we know is true in the case of Loretta and that we suspect is the case with Blake — if that information gets out in the open, there is a concern that if the player fails the physical and the deal never gets consummated, then it becomes obvious to other clubs that the player failed the physical and in theory hinders that player’s ability to get a deal with another club. That player can then file a grievance or perhaps even a lawsuit against the first club for allowing the information to get out. In other words, a player can sue one team for hindering his ability to deceive another team about his physical condition. What a world we live in.

By the way, this means nothing other than an interesting vignette, but Joe Torre and Joe Girardi are currently conversing on the other side of the media work room.

Colletti confirms meeting with Boras about Manny

It happened late last night, at Scott’s request, and it was the first correspondence between the two sides since Nov. 4, when the Dodgers made their two-year, $45 million offer that was later rescinded whey they got no response.
“He said that Manny still has interest in playing for the Dodgers,” Colletti said. “I said thank you for the information.”
And that was pretty much where the sides left it.
“We haven’t (decided on) the next step,” Colletti said. “As time goes on, we will decide what the next step is. I don’t know if there is a next step or not.”
The Dodgers APPEAR to have all the leverage in this matter, given that there doesn’t appear to be any serious interest on the part of ANY other club in Manny Ramirez, which is probably a big reason why Boras suddenly requested this meeting. And it is pretty clear that Ned is enjoying the fact that the club is in complete control. Ned was asked by us whether the original offer could materialize again, and he said he didn’t know yet.
Could Manny and Boras be starting to panic?
Ned also said he and Boras discussed Derek Lowe, but that nothing has changed there.
“I do not believe Derek Lowe is going to pitch for the Dodgers next year,” Colletti said.