Getting ready for the Winter Meetings

Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor

Rounding Third Logo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Major League Baseball's hot stove will officially get cranked up starting on Monday, as the Winter Meetings get underway from Indianapolis, Indiana.

When it comes to the Winter Meetings, I have learned one very important thing: believe nothing. There are going to be a-million-and-one rumors over the next week, and chances are none of them will come true.

Obviously, though, these meetings are going to be about one person and one person only: Roy Halladay.

Halladay made some news on Tuesday when he stated that he would not accept a trade after the start of spring training. You can't really blame him. Halladay wasn't the same pitcher last season once the trade rumors started to heat up. He doesn't want to have to deal with that stuff all year.

For the life of me, I cannot understand why the Jays would deal Halladay within their own division, but everything you hear has the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox as the leading suitors. This is going to be Alex Anthopoulos' first move as a general manager and it will likely define his tenure in Toronto. Does he really want to deal Halladay and then have to face him maybe three or four times a season?

Roy Halladay's name is going to be tossed around all week and he will be rumored to be headed everywhere.
My best guess is that he has no intention of dealing Halladay to anyone in the AL East. More than likely he is getting the Yanks and Red Sox involved just to drive up the price for a team like the Philadelphia Phillies. Then again, any team that deals for Halladay now is going to have work out an extension. There are not many teams willing to fork over $100 million these days, except for the two teams Halladay has been linked to.

Either way, Halladay's name is going to be tossed around all week and he will be rumored to be headed everywhere from the Atlanta Braves to the Yomiuri Giants. Though I doubt anything gets done in Indianapolis, I do think he will be dealt by Christmas.

One player who I totally expect to be dealt next week is Chicago's Milton Bradley, who wore out his welcome with the Cubs about as soon as he signed. Honestly, I can't believe it's taken this long, but when you have $20+ million left on a contract and you are as well-regarded as the H1N1 Virus, things don't go as smoothly as you would like.

Lou Piniella can't stand him, the fans don't like him, his teammates want him gone and his production on the field has been next to nothing. Other than that, Bradley's first year with the Cubbies was a rousing success.

His name has been brought up in trade rumors since the day the season ended. I have heard three-way deals that have him going to Toronto or Texas. The latest rumor making the rounds is that Bradley is headed to the Tampa Bay Rays for another disgruntled outfielder/designated hitter in Pat Burrell, who is equally as well-liked in his current clubhouse as is Bradley.

If you are looking for a player whose name you will be shocked to hear in trade discussions next week, look no further than Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon.

Papelbon has started to rub some people in the Red Sox organization the wrong way with his antics, and his playoff implosion also did not help.

Boston believes hard-throwing righty Daniel Bard is a closer in waiting. The Red Sox want to get younger in their lineup, and what could be a messy contract situation with Papelbon is on the horizon.

Don't be shocked if he is shopped for a young bat this winter. The Red Sox are going to inquire on San Diego's Adrian Gonzalez. Unlike Anthopoulos, though, I don't think new San Diego GM Jed Hoyer is quite ready to send his franchise player packing just yet.

Theo Epstein covets Rangers first base prospect Justin Smoak. Texas could use a big-time frontline starter, which most people believe Papelbon will still be. I have heard Smoak to Boston for well over a year now. With the former South Carolina Gamecock just about ready to hit the big time, there is no better time than now for that kind of deal to happen.

Speaking of the Red Sox, they have reportedly asked second baseman Dustin Pedroia to move over to shortstop. Given the free agent second base class it is not a bad idea, but one of the players the Red Sox had targeted, Detroit's Placido Polanco, is on the verge of finalizing a three-year deal with Philadelphia to play third base.

Even with Polanco gone, though, there are plenty of other free agent options at second base, including Orlando Hudson and Marco Scutaro.

As far as the big free agents are concerned there is nothing going on, nor do I expect any movement with Matt Holliday or Jason Bay next week. Neither one of those guys wants to sign before the other and with Scott Boras representing Holliday, he will be shopping around for a while.

The Red Sox and Angels have both been linked to Holliday, but both teams still have a bad taste in their mouths because of how Boras handled the Mark Teixeira contract a year ago.

Most teams are waiting to see what happens with Halladay before they get going.

In a sign of the times, I guess, there were only 23 players offered arbitration this year, one fewer than in 2008. Teams would rather lose their free agents without any compensation than take a chance on having them accept it, and be stuck with someone for one year at a big price.

Looking at the list of 23, 10 are type-A players all of whom are likely to decline, meaning whatever club signs them would have to surrender a first-round pick to the former team, which would also receive a supplemental pick.

The only player I could possibly see accepting arbitration is Rafael Betancourt, who was done no favors by the Colorado Rockies. I mean, is there a team out there that is going to give him a contract knowing they have to surrender a first-round pick? I doubt it, considering more established relievers such as Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano are out there.

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