Nationals among favorites for Greinke, Rays may make run at Reynolds

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Welcome to 2012 version of baseball’s Winter Meetings: The Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center is an overwhelming maze of corridors, two million Christmas lights, restaurants and shops.

Visitors can ride a showboat down the Cumberland River, visit the Holly Jolly Town Square, take a carriage ride or check out the two million pounds of ice sculptures with the theme of “Shrek the Halls.”

And, of course, a visitor can walk anywhere and get into a baseball conversation. Sunday night, as more than 3,000 baseball people were arriving, there was plenty of baseball talk circulating amid the nonstop Christmas carols.

Here are a few of the early conversations, questions and topics that were discussed during a swing through the corridors Sunday night:

* Everyone seems to think that the Dodgers and Nationals are the two favorites to sign free-agent pitcher Zack Greinke. It makes sense for both teams. The Dodgers need to support Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley in the rotation and the Nationals have a hole to fill with Edwin Jackson gone. The Dodgers have the money and the Nationals always have the element of surprise.

* The Orioles couldn’t fit third baseman Mark Reynolds into their financial plan, but several teams are interested in Reynolds. The Rays would like him as a DH/first baseman. The White Sox need a third baseman, and even though there are defensive concerns, they’ll take a look. The Pirates might want him for depth.

* Nobody can figure out the market for outfielder Josh Hamilton, although the Phillies and the Red Sox could be the big-money teams that go after him. The Phillies would prefer a right-handed bat, but Hamilton would be dangerous no matter what. The Red Sox need outfielders and need to make a splash, especially if they trade Jacoby Ellsbury.

* Speaking of the Red Sox, they apparently are calling the Twins regularly to see if they could get either one of two former American League Most Valuable Players, first baseman Justin Morneau or catcher Joe Mauer. The Twins have only one pitcher, Scott Diamond, as a sure thing in their rotation and need all the pitching they can get.

* There will be a good debate about how has made the biggest improvement, the Nationals with outfielder and leadoff batter Denard Span or the Braves with center fielder B.J. Upton. Span is a sure deal at the top of the order. People are saying that Upton, 28, is re-energized by a new team, league and the chance to play outdoors. The Braves, however, added payroll flexibility when they traded started Tommy Hanson to the Angels for reliever Jordan Walden, who can throw in the highs 90s and find the strike zone.

* With Upton projected to bat in the middle of the Braves’ order, Atlanta is still looking for a leadoff batter. They wanted Span, but weren’t willing to give up either of their best pitching prospects, Randall Delgado or Julio Teheran, to the Twins. And, the Braves didn’t have any one in the low minor leagues that compared to the Nationals’ Alex Meyer. So the Nationals won out. The Braves could sign Angel Pagan or Shane Victorino.

* After losing Russell Martin to the Pirates, the Yankees will be looking for a catcher. They’re aggressively calling teams about trades because the free agent market is thin with Mike Napoli and A.J. Pierzynski at the top of the list. The Yankees are listening to offers on outfielder Curtis Granderson.

* The teams that expect to be aggressive at the Winter Meetings are the Rays and Royals. Can the Rays actually keep all their pitching and go through another season where the offense is challenged? Will the Royals get some pitching to take advantage of an offense that’s going to be dangerous in 2013?