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Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor

Chris Ruddick Logo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Here we are, just a few days away from perhaps the most anticipated regular season game in NFL history, and every sports show in the country is leading with baseball. Whether it is A-Rod, the New York Yankees managerial situation or Joe Torre to Los Angeles, it is all baseball, all the time.

MLB does not have much on the NFL, but when it comes to the offseason, there is not another sport that even comes close to generating the kind of excitement that baseball does.

Too bad MLB couldn't get the Hot Stove cooking a little earlier, because television ratings were the second-lowest ever for a World Series. But, that won't take away from the interest over the next couple of months, that is for sure.

So, with that said, let's take a look at some things that will get you ready for the offseason:

FIVE STORYLINES TO WATCH

1) WHERE WILL A-ROD LAND?

This is going to linger into the New Year, I think. ESPN's Jayson Stark had a great line on the radio this morning, saying that A-Rod would likely make an announcement at halftime of the Super Bowl. I have a feeling that this is going to drag on for a long time. The Los Angeles teams, maybe the Red Sox, the Tigers, the Giants, the Mets and the two Chicago teams are believed to be the clubs that will pursue him. There is also a team that will come out of nowhere and make an offer. Maybe a Baltimore, maybe a Seattle. When push comes to shove, though, I still think the Yankees will be a player in all of this. I hope I am wrong, but I can't imagine them letting him walk to Boston or the Mets without getting involved.

2) WHAT WILL THE YANKEES DO?

As much as we are going to hear about Alex Rodriguez in the coming months, we are also going to hear about how the Yankees are going to replace him. If you think Wilson Betemit is going to be the Yankees' third baseman on Opening Day next season, you need to have your head examined. The Yankees are going to make a move. Will they pull the trigger on a mega-deal for Miguel Cabrera? Nothing would surprise me, but I think they will go a different route. If I had to make a prediction on who is going to play to the right of Derek Jeter next season, I would say Garrett Atkins.
Johan Santana
Johan Santana may not remain in a Twins uniform.

3) WILL THE TWINS DEAL JOHAN SANTANA?

The Twins still maintain they want to sign Johan Santana. If Torii Hunter leaves, which is expected, those chances certainly improve, but it might not be up to them. Santana, who can become a free agent at the end of 2008, was not happy with the direction of the team this season and may want out. Obviously, the Twins would get a boatload in return for him, but again there are only a few teams that can pay him the $20 million a season he is going to get in an extension.

4) WHO WILL TAKE A FLYER ON BONDS?

Is anybody interested in the Home Run King? We are certainly going to find out. Barry Bonds thinks he is more than a part-time player and probably is, provided he lands in the American League as a designated hitter. Oakland seems like a fit, but they are not going to be a playoff team next year. The Angels make sense too, but if they sign A-Rod will they have enough left to get a Bonds deal done? Probably not.

5) MITCHELL INVESTIGATION FALLOUT

Supposedly, there are going to be some big names in former Senator George Mitchell's investigation on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the game. The report is expected to come out soon and could have a lasting impact on the game. Nothing in the report would shock me at this point, but I don't think it is going to live up to the hype. Here are the earth-shattering names I expect to read in the report: Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco, Rafael Palmeiro and maybe a few others that I already suspected.

FIVE PLAYERS THAT WILL BE TRADED THIS OFFSEASON

1) GARRETT ATKINS

Colorado has a stud third base prospect at Triple-A named Ian Stewart, who is ready to go, making Atkins expendable. The Philadelphia Phillies need help at the hot corner, as do the New York Yankees. Atkins is average defensively, but any lineup could fit in his 25 HR and 111 RBI from a year ago. Atkins will be a popular name at the general manager meetings next week in Orlando, and the Winter Meetings in early December in Tennessee. I wonder if he likes the Bronx?

2) MELKY CABRERA

Don't be surprised if a deal involving Atkins includes Yankees center fielder Melky Cabrera. Cabrera is one of the few chips the Yankees have that is not a pitcher. With a ton of free agent center fielders on the market, the Yankees could afford to part with Cabrera, who was a big part of their second half- resurgence this past season. If it is not for a 3B, the Yankees could ship him out for some help in the bullpen.

3) COCO CRISP

In case you were one of the many that did not watch the World Series, Jacoby Ellsbury solidified his spot as the Boston Red Sox center fielder for probably the next 10 years or so. In other words, Coco Crisp is as good as gone.

4) AJ BURNETT

This may come as a bit of a surprise, but the Jays are getting tired of his constant injury problems. Plus the emergence last year of Shaun Marcum, as well as Jesse Litsch and Dustin McGowan, gives Toronto a solid group behind ace Roy Halladay. The Blue Jays still have a lot of holes to fill, and trading Burnett is a way to do that.

5) MIGUEL TEJADA

We have heard his name in trade talks the last couple of years. However, the door is closing on the Orioles if they plan on getting anything significant in return for him. Not to mention there is a chance that his name could be included in Mr. Mitchell's report. Unless there are some more B-12 shots in his future, his better days are behind him. Tejada, though, still has some trade value and the rebuilding O's could get a few chips in return for him.

TEAM THAT WILL BE MORE ACTIVE THAN YOU MIGHT THINK: SEATTLE MARINERS

The Seattle Mariners were right in the thick of the playoff race up until the last month of the season. They know they are close and will be very active this offseason. I have talked to a few people that have said they are going to make a strong push for Santana this winter with a package centered around outfield prospect Adam Jones. How about a Santana-Felix Hernandez tandem at the top of a rotation? The Mariners have money. Don't be surprised if they try to lure A-Rod back to the Emerald City either.

PLAYER ON THE BLOCK YOU WOULD NOT EXPECT: JASON BAY

The Pittsburgh Pirates may be the worst-run organization in baseball at this point. They recently completed their 15th straight losing season, and to be honest, they have nothing to show for it. You would think the Pirates would have some young talent or at least a stacked minor league system. Nope. So look for them to deal their best player this offseason, as they yet again go in a different direction.

FREE AGENT THAT WILL GET OVERPAID: KYLE LOHSE

There are not many quality starting pitchers on the market this offseason, but one that is certainly going to get interest is right-hander Kyle Lohse. Lohse happens to be at the right place at the right time, and thanks to his stint with Philadelphia down the stretch, he is going to get paid. Unfortunately, whatever team signs him - probably to a 4-5 year deal in the range of $10 million per - is going to regret it big time. He has "bust" written all over him.

Make sure to check out my blog. I will be updating almost daily with all the latest rumors and free agent signings, as well as any other news that happens to come my way.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Ruddick at cruddick@sportsnetwork.com.
Chris Ruddick


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