CLOSE

Now Commenting On:

Hot Stove: Zito, Lilly drawing interest

Hot Stove: Zito, Lilly drawing interest

Now that the future of left-hander Tom Glavine has been determined -- he will remain with the New York Mets for at least one more season -- the left-front burner on the Hot Stove is being shared by free agents Barry Zito and Ted Lilly.

With the annual Winter Meetings beginning on Monday in Orlando, Fla., and the deadline to offer salary arbitration in everyone's rear-view mirror, this much is known about the two most attractive left-handed starters still available on the free-agent market: draft-pick compensation awaits the Oakland Athletics and Toronto Blue Jays if Zito and Lilly sign with other teams.

That was assured on Friday night when both pitchers were offered salary arbitration by their respective clubs. The players have until next Thursday to accept or decline. If Zito declines, as expected, the A's would get two draft choices because he is a Type A free agent. The Jays would be compensated with one draft pick if Lilly, a Type B free agent, departs.

More

But that's still down the road a bit.

As of Saturday morning, it appeared that the 28-year-old Zito was exploring his options with the Texas Rangers or in the Big Apple as Glavine's sidekick with the Mets.

And if it comes down to those two teams, fingers probably would be crossed in the offices at Safeco Field, Anaheim Stadium and McAfee Coliseum that the American League's Cy Young Award winner in 2002 chooses the Mets.

Why? Zito has a 12-2 career record against the Mariners, is 12-9 against the Angels, and has compiled an 11-1 career mark at Ameriquest Field in Arlington. Oh yeah, he also has a 51-30 record in Oakland.

While the A's have basically zero chance of retaining Zito -- and apparently aren't even trying -- the Jays are very much in the running to re-sign Lilly, who is believed to be seeking a four-year contract worth about $40 million.

"We've had an offer [from the Chicago Cubs], and we're considering coming back with another counter offer," Lilly's agent Larry O'Brien told MLB.com on Friday. "I'm planning on meeting with [Cubs general manager] Jim Hendry down at the Winter Meetings in Orlando next week, but we're also going to be meeting with [Toronto general manager] J.P. Ricciardi."

Month-long rumors that the New York Yankees also were pursuing Lilly have cooled. The team has exclusive negotiating rights with Japanese left-hander Kei Igawa, and O'Brien acknowledged that the Bronx Bombers "might not be in the mix anymore."

But according to the New York Post, the Yankees gaining the rights to Igawa didn't halt their search for rotation help, and if free agent and former Yankees star left-hander Andy Pettitte decides he wants to pitch next year, the Yankees will welcome him with open arms.

Pettitte, not offered salary arbitration by the Houston Astros, is contemplating retirement and has said he would make a decision by Christmas.

Elsewhere on the Saturday Hot Stove:

Red Sox: In something of a mild surprise, the Red Sox did not offer outfielder Trot Nixon salary arbitration. While Nixon still has the option of coming back, the Boston Globe reported on Saturday that he is expected to receive a multiyear offer from another club.

It remains unclear as to what impact that might have on left fielder Manny Ramirez's future with the team. The Red Sox are expected to sign outfielder J.D. Drew to a multiyear contract sometime next week. As part of the clause in his contract that allowed him to opt out with three years and $33 million remaining, the Dodgers were prohibited from offering arbitration, and therefore would not receive any compensation.

The Globe also reported that trade talks with the San Diego Padres involving Ramirez did not include right-hander Jake Peavy, as previously reported in San Diego and elsewhere.

In a non-related matter, if the Red Sox are successful in signing shortstop Julio Lugo, it would cost them their first-round draft choice (which would go to the Dodgers).

Dodgers: The Philadelphia Phillies did not offer salary arbitration to free-agent catcher Mike Lieberthal, paving the way for the Dodgers to sign the 13-year veteran as a backup to Russell Martin, according to the Los Angeles Times. Lieberthal, who spent much of last season on the disabled list and is recovering from surgery to repair a stomach muscle, still must pass a physical.

The Times report said the Dodgers are interested in re-signing Greg Maddux, who was not offered salary arbitration. Maddux reportedly is seeking a two-year deal for up to $25 million, while Los Angeles prefers a two-year deal for about the same annual salary Glavine received from the Mets -- $10.5 million.

Giants: Third baseman Pedro Feliz was not offered salary arbitration by the Giants, but his agent, Mike Arias, told the San Francisco Chronicle that his client has completed a one-year deal with the team for more than $5 million. The newspaper also reported that the expected signings of free-agents Rich Aurilia and Bengie Molina could be finalized by the end of Saturday or soon thereafter.

Diamondbacks: Free-agent outfielder Luis Gonzalez on Friday received his first contract offers, which came from the Orioles and Dodgers, his agent, Terry Bross, told the Arizona Republic. Bross also anticipates offers from two or three more clubs, possibly the Seattle Mariners and St. Louis Cardinals. Gonzalez was not offered salary arbitration by the D-backs, clearing the way for him to sign with another club without draft-choice compensation being involved.

Rockies: Colorado has agreed to purchase the contract of left-hander Oscar Rivera from the Yucatan Leones in the Mexican League for $1.3 million, the Rocky Mountain News reported on Saturday. Rivera would go into Spring Training vying for a spot in the Rockies' starting rotation.

Phillies: With the Reds not offering right-handed reliever David Weathers salary arbitration, it could clear the final hurdle to his signing with the Phillies. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Saturday that it was unlikely the Phils would continue their pursuit of Weathers, a Type A free agent, if it would cost them a first-round draft choice.

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less