Winter meetings preview: AL teams

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bay fielding.jpgJust a couple of quick sentences on what each team may be looking to do this week.
Baltimore – The Orioles are on the lookout for a couple of corner infielders, a starting pitcher and a closer, but with youngsters on the way, they’re more after veteran stopgaps than building blocks. Felix Pie is on the block and could bring bullpen help.
Boston – Upgrading from Jason Bay to Matt Holliday makes even more sense now that the Red Sox have surrendered their first-round pick with the Marco Scutaro signing*. Roy Halladay’s name will also come up frequently, and the Red Sox will explore a Mike Lowell trade. If Lowell goes, it’d open the door for an Adrian Beltre signing.
*The Cards would still get Boston’s first-round pick in such a scenario, but for the Red Sox, the draft-pick cost for Holliday is merely a second-round pick.
Chicago – Ken Williams is full of surprises, but the White Sox don’t have a lot to work with after doing their shopping during the season and landing Jake Peavy and Alex Rios. A Bobby Jenks deal doesn’t appear to be on the agenda, but it can’t be ruled out. The White Sox still need an outfielder and a designated hitter, but they could wait and bargain hunt to fill both spots.
Cleveland – The Indians will be thrifty this winter, so while they need some veteran bats to provide protection at first base, second base and in left field, they’ll probably wait for price tags to fall. If they can find a way to turn some of their exceptional minor league depth into a young starting pitcher, they could pull the trigger.
Detroit – Likely to be one of the most active teams at the meetings, the Tigers still have Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson up for grabs. They’ll also be talking to relievers and shortstops, though it looks like they hope to re-sign Fernando Rodney and Adam Everett. Don’t expect to see anything happen with Miguel Cabrera.
Kansas City – Excepting Zack Greinke, the Royals’ most expensive players –Jose Guillen, Gil Meche, David DeJesus and Kyle Farnsworth — are all available. So are Mike Jacobs and John Buck, though they’re expected to be non-tendered. Cheaper options like Alberto Callaspo and Brian Bannister are out there as well. The Royals are going to need a starter, an outfielder or two and maybe a DH.
Los Angeles – Having lost Chone Figgins, the Angels might now make a push to get a John Lackey deal done. Halladay and Bay are other potential targets with the team having room for one big contract. GM Tony Reagins will also continue his attempts to find a new home for Gary Matthews Jr., though it’s proving to be an extremely difficult task.
Minnesota – The Twins still have a need at second or third or both, and there simply isn’t a better fit for Beltre if Minnesota could just come up with the money. GM Bill Smith will also likely be charged with getting rid of Glen Perkins, who is at odds with management.
New York – GM Brian Cashman is playing things close to the vest so far. The Yankees are in on Halladay, but perhaps not on any of the big three free agents: Holliday, Lackey and Bay. The Yankees will be in touch with their own top three free agents: Andy Pettitte, Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui. They may be the top candidates to ink Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman, but there’s nothing to indicate he’s close to signing.
Oakland – The A’s are going to be in on some free agents after all, as they made clear with their bid for Scutaro. Troy Glaus is one who makes sense for their lineup. They have a bigger need when it comes to starting pitching, though. To free up some cash, they may trade or later non-tender Jack Cust. They also have relief depth to use in the hunt for help.
Seattle – The first order of business will be to announce the Figgins signing, but the Mariners won’t stop there. They’re still capable of putting together strong bids for Lackey and Bay, and they’ll be on the lookout for a first baseman, perhaps Nick Johnson.
Tampa Bay – The Rays remain at the center of the Milton Bradley talks, with Pat Burrell likely to move on if a deal is struck. They could also trade Dioner Navarro, who is a non-tender candidate following the Kelly Shoppach acquisition. Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton do not appear to be available.
Texas – It remains unclear just how much financial flexibility the Rangers possess. They’re reportedly discussed Kevin Millwood with the Orioles, and if they could dump his salary, they’d have a better chance of upgrading their lineup. Jermaine Dye is believed to be a top target. However, with ownership still up in the air, they may be forced to remain quiet.
Toronto – A Halladay deal is very unlikely to get done at the meetings, but there will surely be talks. The Jays also have other business to worry about. They’re looking to move Lyle Overbay (to Seattle?) and pick up a catcher and an outfielder. They can afford to part with a reliever or two to fill one of the holes.

Reds acquire Darnell Sweeney from the Dodgers

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The Reds acquired utilityman Darnell Sweeney from the Dodgers in exchange for cash considerations, J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group reports.

This is the second time that the Dodgers have traded Sweeney. The club sent him to the Phillies along with John Richy in August 2015 for Chase Utley. The Phillies sent him back to the Dodgers this past offseason with Darin Ruf in exchange for Howie Kendrick.

Sweeney, 26, made his major league debut in 2015 with the Phillies, hitting a meager .176/.286/.353 in 98 plate appearances. With Triple-A Oklahoma City this season, he hit .227/.290/.412 in 131 PA. While Sweeney’s bat hasn’t proven to be anything special, he has played second base, third base, shortstop, and all three outfield positions, so his flexibility will make him useful at some point.

Bryce Harper to Little League players: “No participation trophies, first place only”

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Nationals’ star outfielder Bryce Harper had some words of advice for a local Little League team on Saturday, telling a crowd of young players and their parents that winning matters far more than any participation trophies they might receive for their efforts on the field.

“As much as they might tell you, ‘Oh, it’s okay, you guys lost…’ No, Johnny, no,” Harper explained. “No participation trophies, okay? First place only. Come on.”

The panic over participation trophy culture has swelled over the last few years as studies continue to suggest that children are happier when they’re praised for their accomplishments, rather than rewarded for simply trying their best. The general idea is that kids aren’t motivated to succeed when they know they’ll receive a ribbon or medal celebrating their efforts at the end of the day — regardless of whether they win or lose. (Granted, it stands to reason that every kid can feel the difference between winning a championship trophy and receiving a participation ribbon.) Some have taken the idea to an extreme, claiming that when a child receives too many accolades for mediocre or poor performances, it can warp the way they view the world by generating a sense of undeserved entitlement.

Harper kept his tone light during the Q&A session, however, drawing cheers and applause from the majority of parents and a few of the kids. The 2015 NL MVP has routinely taken his own advice over the years, earning Rookie of the Year honors, four All-Star nominations and a Silver Slugger award since he broke into the major leagues in 2012. Next on his list? A World Series championship.