Hot Stove: Santana buzz heating up

Hot Stove: Santana buzz heating up

Had Major League general managers gathered around the Thanksgiving spread grabbed a wishbone, there is little doubt who would have been on their minds before giving it a tug:

Johan Santana, the premier Minnesota left-hander whose perceived availability has begun to dominate the table talk.

The Twins' motivation for dealing the two-time Cy Young Award winner? Pretty basic: Santana can become a free agent after his four-year contract expires in 2008, and preliminary extension talks have left he and the club about $40 million apart.

Thus, rookie Minnesota GM Bill Smith can either turn him into a package of younger players now, or risk seeing him walk unattached through the Metrodome's doors later.

Santana is set up to be the headliner at next week's Winter Meetings -- Florida third baseman Miguel Cabrera is already booked as the opening act in Nashville -- but there are a couple of caveats to his possible move.

One, the 28-year-old Venezuelan has no-trade powers which he would waive only for a pre-arranged long-term deal. Two, only a few select teams can afford to play in his neighborhood.

Potential destinations thus include the two New York teams, the two Los Angeles teams and, well, the short list may end there.

Speaking of fowl and extra stuffing, the Yankees are the only club able to even entertain the thought of adding a $25 million pitcher while in the midst of signing off on another $305 million deal (for Alex Rodriguez, including all the trimmings).

Bombers brass will huddle this week in New York to attempt to put a ceiling on the club's 2008 budget, and to determine whether there might be room under that ceiling for Santana.

Beyond that determination, Hal Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman and Co., will have to decide whether Santana's pursuit would be worth the effort, knowing that landing him might take a high-end pitching prospect -- Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes or Ian Kennedy -- and a position regular -- Robinson Cano or Melky Cabrera.

Elsewhere around the Hot Stove, from people to places...

Hot Stove

Cabrera: The hyperactive Angels remain his liveliest pursuers because, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, they still offer the most appealing four-player package on the table -- second baseman Howie Kendrick, catcher Jeff Mathis, outfielder Reggie Willits and a pitcher (Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders or Nick Adenhart).

Twins: If Santana indeed is expected to be pitching elsewhere next season, it may be time to throw some dirt on a rumor "that won't die," according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press -- Matt Garza to Tampa Bay for outfielder Delmon Young. The Twins wouldn't be looking to move any other starting pitchers -- even for a runner-up in the 2007 American League Rookie of the Year voting.

Indians: The Tribe's rumored inquiry into Bucs outfielder Jason Bay was confirmed by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The price is reportedly high, but the intrigue is new Pirates GM Neal Huntington's familiarity with the Indians farm system, giving him the insight to target a package that might get a deal done.

Astros: GM Ed Wade continues running out of Plan As, so he has turned his attention to Plan Bs. Two bullpen arms he had been pursuing, Francisco Cordero and Scott Linebrink, are heading to Cincinnati and the White Sox, respectively, so Wade is keeping in touch with Paul Cohen, the agent for free-agent right-hander Troy Percival, and has also contacted the agents for Jeremy Affeldt, Doug Brocail and David Riske.

Wade made a contract offer to free-agent second baseman Kazuo Matsui last week, after Luis Castillo re-signed with the Mets. Other available free agents the team has contacted include second baseman Tadahito Iguchi and starting pitchers Randy Wolf and Jon Lieber

Bobby Kielty: The well-traveled outfielder (four teams in seven seasons), who struck a key homer in Boston's World Series-clinching victory in Denver, is letting Coco Crisp take the first step of his own free agency. Crisp has been on the trading block with the emergence of rookie outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, and Kielty told the Boston Herald: "With Coco not there, it is a very good situation for me in terms of playing time. ... But with Coco there, it's not an ideal situation for me."

Braves: They are one of the teams possibly interested in Kielty, if the outfielder decides to move on. He could fill a left-field platoon role with Matt Diaz, while also strengthening a weakened bench.

Mariners: Sometime between now and next Monday's opening of the Winter Meetings, GM Bill Bavasi and manager John McLaren should find out whether their trans-Pacific pursuit of right-hander Hiroki Kuroda has paid off. The pair met with Kuroda last week in Tokyo, although it isn't known whether the meeting included a contract offer.

Phillies: Philadelphia has also made a proposal to Kuroda, as well as to left-hander Wolf, who left the Phils a year ago for the Dodgers. Meanwhile, the Phillies continue to monitor Aaron Rowand's interest in returning, knowing they would face stiff competition from three teams regrouping after missing out on Torii Hunter -- the Rangers, Dodgers and White Sox.

Rays: A hope to upgrade defensively at shortstop has them interested in Cesar Izturis, a free agent after making one error in 30 games at the position after the Pirates landed him from the Cubs on July 19.

D-backs: They are still interested in retaining free-agent first baseman Tony Clark. They have also reached out to free agent Mark Sweeney in case Clark moves on to another team.

Matt Clement: The 33-year-old free-agent righty is drawing a lot of interest -- for someone who hasn't been on a mound for 17 1/2 months. Arizona, Colorado, Toronto, Cleveland, San Diego and Pittsburgh are all piqued by Clement, who didn't play last season after undergoing right shoulder surgery in 2006.

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