Owners gather in Nashville
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - R.A. Dickey wandered through the sprawling Opryland Hotel on Sunday, dropping into baseball's annual winter meetings for a quick visit. The newly minted NL Cy Young Award winner had a purpose — nope, nothing to do with getting a new contract from the New York Mets. Not a sightseeing trip, either, to marvel at the river boats, waterfall or "A Country Christmas" decorations inside the complex. Rather, Dickey made the 15-minute drive from his home to see a Mets trainer for a routine checkup after abdominal surgery in October. The knuckleballer did find it a bit ironic, however, that when baseball's annual swapfest was last held in this hotel, in 2007, he was in limbo, left off Minnesota's list of protected players and plucked by Seattle in the Rule 5 draft. "Kind of funny, isn't it?" he said to New York reporters.The fates of several other players could take shape over the next few days. Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke top the list of available free agents and Cleveland shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and Marlins pitcher Ricky Nolasco have been mentioned in trade speculation. The Los Angeles Dodgers, who spent freely in trading for Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford late last season, could be the big spenders this week. It sure won't be the Marlins, who made a splash by signing free agents Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle at last year's meetings, then finished last in the NL East and traded the trio after the season. This time, the Marlins might take a more modest approach. "We'd like to do some more things," Miami president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said last week. "But are we talking about huge free agents? I'm not sure that's the mode we're in right now." Executives from all 30 teams will take the opportunity of being under the same roof — albeit spread out, as the hotel has 2,881 rooms — to try to shape their clubs for next year. The meetings end Thursday with the Rule 5 draft, where Dickey was once available for anyone willing to take a chance. The first major action at the meetings could come this morning. That's when the Hall of Fame's pre-integration era committee will announce whether any new members have been elected. The panel, part of what used to be called the Veterans Committee, considered 10 candidates this weekend. Among them were long-ago NL MVPs Marty Marion and Bucky Walters, umpire Hank O'Day and former New York Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, who oversaw the team when it acquired Babe Ruth, won its first six World Series championships and built Yankee Stadium. Hall of Famers Bert Blyleven, Phil Niekro, Don Sutton and Pat Gillick are also on the 16-member panel.