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Hot Stove: Taking stock pre-break

Taking stock before the break

Friday was the last business day of the year for Major League Baseball and the 30 club offices, which all close beginning Monday through New Year's Day.

And while that doesn't mean that player movement will come to a complete standstill, it perhaps means that the big deals will have to wait until 2008.

Thus, 2007 will close with Carlos Silva having signed with the Mariners, but six of the more coveted pitchers remaining right where they are: Johan Santana with the Twins, Erik Bedard with the Orioles and Mark Prior, Kris Benson, Bartolo Colon and Livan Hernandez as free agents.

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When everybody returns from the holiday break, there will be less than six weeks remaining before the start of Spring Training.

Where has the offseason gone? Keep in mind that there's no pressure on any of this. The non-waiver trade deadline extends to July 31, and there are no longer any deadline restrictions to sign free agents in the current Basic Agreement.

But with time beginning to dwindle as clubs try to fill holes, here are four prominent teams that still have them:

Mariners: Seattle is still looking for starting pitching after signing Silva to a four-year deal and remain in the running for Bedard.

But if the Orioles want the Mariners to include right-hander Brandon Morrow in a deal for the left-handed starter, that might put a kibosh on it. Though Mariners GM Bill Bavasi didn't completely rule out a trade that would include the hard-throwing Morrow during Thursday's press conference introducing Silva to the Seattle-area media, he told reporters:

"[Morrow] is highly, highly unlikely to leave. I'm not saying he couldn't be traded, but it's unlikely."

Morrow has been starting in Venezuela after working out of the Mariners' bullpen in 2007, and Bavasi added that he can't view the club's future without him.

"If we add a starter, then he pitches in the bullpen," Bavasi said. "If we don't, then either Brandon or Horacio Ramirez would be the fifth starter. And if it's Ramirez, Morrow would be at the end of the bullpen."

Yankees: Hard to believe that the Bronx Bombers, heading into their final year at the current Yankee Stadium, have spent in excess of $400 million this offseason, but haven't made significant upgrades at any position. And this is with Joe Girardi replacing Joe Torre as manager.

Since getting boxed by the Indians in their American League Division Series, they've re-signed veterans Alex Rodriguez, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte, while picking up an option on Bobby Abreu. That sends them back out against defending World Series champion Boston and much-improved Detroit with virtually the same roster as last season, albeit a year older.

They could still use a first baseman, plus pitching help in the bullpen and starting rotation. The latter ended the season almost in tatters, with Chien-Ming Wang being blasted twice in the playoffs by the Indians and Mike Mussina so ineffective he was in and out of the bullpen.

They remain in the Santana sweepstakes, but the Yanks will create another hole in center field if they trade Melky Cabrera to the Twins in that deal. Considering the condition of their legs, neither Johnny Damon nor Hideki Matsui are capable of replacing Cabrera out there.

Dodgers: Heading into their 50th anniversary season in Los Angeles, the Dodgers made a big splash this month by signing free agents Andruw Jones and Hiroki Kuroda. This coming after Torre left the Yankees and replaced Grady Little as manager.

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Though Jones will displace Juan Pierre in center field, perhaps moving Pierre to left, the Blue Crew still could use another power bat in the middle of the lineup behind Jones and Jeff Kent. If not, they're eyeing another season using the oft-injured Nomar Garciaparra at third base.

While Scott Rolen would fit nicely into this picture, GM Ned Colletti may be more likely to pit Garciaparra and Andy LaRoche against each other this spring. An outfield surplus of Pierre and Andre Ethier gives Colletti some trading chips. And it's hard to believe, because of the current falling out between Rolen and manager Tony La Russa in St. Louis, that Rolen will remain with the Cardinals.

Keep this one on the front burner.

Giants: It's hard to comprehend what's going on here. The team cut loose Barry Bonds and Pedro Feliz and with it 48 of the 129 homers hit by its position players last season. In their stead, San Francisco signed center fielder Aaron Rowand to a five-year, $60 million deal with the hope that he will infuse some much-needed power and enthusiasm back into the Giants lineup.

"He's the type of guy who's going to hold everybody accountable to doing the same thing he's doing -- that's playing the game right and playing it to win," said manager Bruce Bochy about a guy who hit 27 homers and knocked in 89 runs in a hitter-chocked Phillies lineup.

The signing of Rowand moves Dave Roberts from center to left field and keeps Randy Winn in right. But the Giants still have gaping holes at third base, first base and in the bullpen, where the mostly untested Brian Wilson is going to be asked to close games, a real problem area in San Francisco for the past four seasons.

For a while, general manager Brian Sabean was dangling young starters Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum on the trade market. But that no longer seems to be the case.

"With this move, we're not definitively interested any longer in listening to any offers on Cain and Lincecum," Sabean said the day Rowand signed.

But Sabean still has some money left in the budget, and with so many players on the market, the Giants hardly seem to be a finished product.

Keeping tabs: The Cubs are still interested in Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts, even after his admission this week that he once used human growth hormone as stated in the Mitchell Report. "We would evaluate players in a case-by-case situation," general manager Jim Hendry told the Chicago Sun-Times. ... After the Phillies signed Geoff Jenkins to replace Rowand and added pitcher Chad Durbin on Thursday, assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. indicated they are no longer interested in re-signing free agent Kyle Lohse. But apparently the Mets are. "We talked to [Lohse's agent Scott] Boras a few times, and, from all indications, it looked like it would take four years," Amaro told the New York Post. "We let him know that we wouldn't go higher than three. He indicated he could get four and we bowed out gracefully." ... Prior seems to be leaning toward signing with his hometown Padres. The former Cub grew up in North San Diego County, and his family still makes its home there. Prior missed the entire 2007 season after right shoulder surgery and has won one game since 2005. "He'll really have to decide what's really the best place for him," his agent John Boggs told the Houston Chronicle. "He's trying to deliberate what direction he's going to go in." Prior is looking at a one-year deal, which is a perfect fit for the Padres.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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