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Checking in from the Winter Meetings

Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor

Chris Ruddick Logo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - So far at Major League Baseball's Winter meetings, there has been an awful lot of talk but not a whole lot of action. Anyone who is anyone in the baseball world is here, and everyone is just waiting for something big to happen. Actually I think they would settle for anything at all to happen.

The two big names people are talking about the most are free agent left-hander Barry Zito and Boston slugger Manny Ramirez, who is going through his yearly go-around on the trading block.

Don't expect Zito to sign anytime soon, though. For one, I believe New York is where he wants to wind up, but the Mets have said they don't plan on offering more than a four-year deal. Supposedly Texas has offered, or is prepared to offer, a seven-year deal topping $100 million.

Secondly, his agent is Scott Boras and there is no way he is going to let Zito sign before his big ticket Japanese star Daisuke Matsuzaka (another Boras client) agrees in Boston. Matsuzaka has until December 14 to sign, which means Zito probably won't put his name on a contract until right around Christmas.

As far as Manny goes, Boston general manager Theo Epstein has imposed a Wednesday night deadline to field any serious offers for his All-Star outfielder. The Dodgers appear to be the most interested, but Epstein is asking for a king's ransom in return, and rightfully so by the way. When San Diego approached the Red Sox, Epstein used Jake Peavy as a starting point, so you know he is not messing around.

My gut says he stays in Boston and we go through this all again next year.

RIPKEN COMMENTS ON MCGWIRE

The biggest news to come out of the meetings thus far has been Cal Ripken's comments, or lack thereof, on Mark McGwire's Hall of Fame eligibility.

Ripken was speaking to the media with regards to his new relationship with Field Turf, an synthetic surface manufacturer, and was asked his opinion on the ongoing McGwire debate, which has really not become a debate at all at this point.

"I'm curious, but I don't feel that I'm in a position to judge," Ripken said. "History will judge us all in some way. And, if you're content with the truth coming out, then whether your judgment day is now or 50 years from now doesn't matter."

JULIO LUGO BECOMING A HOT COMMODITY

There are a number of teams vying for the services of free-agent infielder Julio Lugo. The funny thing is just about every team that is interested wants him to play a different position.

The Mets want him at second, Boston would use him at short and the Cubs would utilize him as a jack-of-all-trades, with the hopes of having him play center field. They could also use him at short, provided they deal Cesar Izturis.

Lugo wants to play short, which automatically puts the Red Sox at the top of his list, but he has always been a favorite of Mets' general manager Omar Minaya.

WHEN DID TED LILLY BECOME SANDY KOUFAX?

In a sign of the times, free-agent left-hander Ted Lilly is about to become a rich man.

Reports over the weekend had Lilly signing a four-year, $40 million deal with the Chicago Cubs, but they proved to be false. Lilly could still wind up in the Windy City, but his representatives are speaking with a number of teams here and his price could rise to as much as $12 million a season.

Not bad for a pitcher who has posted a 59-58 mark with a 4.60 ERA over his career.

MIGUEL BATISTA HEADING TO MISSOURI

This much I know. Miguel Batista will be pitching in Missouri next season. The only question that is remaining is whether or not he will be wearing Cardinals' red or Royals' blue.

Apparently the Royals have offered Batista a deal similar to the one Philadelphia gave Adam Eaton. I can't imagine St. Louis going that high for Batista, but playing with the Cardinals right now is a heck of a lot more intriguing than starting for the hapless Royals every fifth day.

OTHER RUMBLINGS

* Still no official deal for Greg Maddux, but all signs point to him ending up in San Diego.

* Apparently the only thing holding up Vicente Padilla's return to Arlington is him passing a physical. Numerous reports last night had him agreeing to a three-year, $34 million contract with Texas that includes an option for a fourth season.

* The Reds are going hard after free-agent second baseman Mark Loretta and have offered a multi-year deal in the $3 million a year range.

* The New York Yankees are surprisingly quiet, as they await word on whether or not Andy Pettitte plans on making a return to the Bronx. Houston skipper Phil Garner does not believe the Pettitte retirement stories, but he is not so sure that the lefty will pitch for the Astros next season.


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