NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Thoughts of the biggest stories on the first day of the Winter Meetings at the Gaylord Opryland Convention Center and Hotel.
* The Yankees announced that third baseman Alex Rodriguez will have surgery on his left hip and miss the start of the 2013. It’s the same story as last season, when he had surgery on his right hip and didn’t return until May 8. A-Rod will be out longer this time. The Yankees aren’t sure how they will replace A-Rod, but it appears that it will not be Eduardo Nunez. So this means the Yankees need a third baseman, catcher and a bundle of luck that Derek Jeter will be back from a broken ankle on opening day.
* The Nationals are one of the teams that have a chance to sign Zack Greinke, along with the Rangers, Dodgers and Angels. Any one who can make Greinke, a former American League Cy Young Award winner, the highest-paid pitcher in baseball will have him in their rotation next season. That’s why it seems like the Dodgers are the clear choice. Meanwhile, Dodgers GM Ned Colletti says the Dodgers are no longer a mystery team because of their new owners: “We’re in on everybody,’’ he says. “We’re in on players that we are not even in on.’‘
* There’s no way to read the market for outfielder Josh Hamilton, but the safe choice is that he will return to the Rangers on a three-year contract. However, the teams that might be willing to give him more years are the Red Sox and the Phillies. The Phillies, though, need a right-handed bat. Hamilton will be 32 next season and his inconsistent play and injuries are taking center stage, not his ability to hit 40-plus home runs. Still, the debate is this: Would the Phillies be better off signing Hamilton or Michael Bourn? Of course, if the Dodgers could trade Andre Ethier, maybe they make a run at Hamilton.
* The Red Sox’s signing of Mike Napoli means the chances increase that Adam LaRoche returns to the Nationals on a two-year contract. The Rangers could sign LaRoche and the Orioles could be in the market, as well. The Orioles are the hot rumor circulating the corridors, and when GM Dan Duquette was asked about that, he laughed and said that he hadn’t heard those reports. But he didn’t flat-out say that the Orioles weren’t interested in LaRoche.
* The Giants signed switch-hitting outfielder Angel Pagan to a four-year, $40 million contract. Pagan is 31, and while he didn’t hit well in the postseason, he was a boost for the Giants’ offense with 15 triples and a .288 average. Still, that’s a lot of money for Pagan.
* The Tigers are considered the front-runner for pitcher Anibal Sanchez. They traded two prospects for him, so they can’t afford to just let him go. But, Sanchez is the second-best starter on the free-agent market, and will not sign until after Greinke commits. The Nationals could be in on this one.
* Royals manager Ned Yost said that if his team gets another pitcher, they can contend in the AL Central. They like Jeremy Guthrie at the top of the rotation and Yost said that if Ervin Santana can find his slider, he could return to form. Luke Hochevar continues to be a baffling disappointment. “We’ve got a lot of good young hitters,’’ Yost says. “We need to get pitching to support it.’‘
* The Braves are looking for a leadoff batter, and it is anyone’s guess where they are going to get one. There’s talk that they will trade for Arizona outfielder Justin Upton, joining his brother B.J. and Jason Heyward in the Braves’ outfield. By the way, some scouts in Nashville think that B.J. Upton will emerge as a superstar in Atlanta. Others say he’ll continue to be a .248 hitter because he doesn’t have discipline to learn and improve.
* The best quote of the day belongs to the Twins’ Ron Gardenhire, who was asked about his rotation for next season. “We have one starter, and that’s not good,’’ he answered.
* Jack Morris, who could be a Hall of Fame pitcher next month, says he has fond memories of pitching in Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium. “I remember the way Earl Weaver used to argue,’’ he says. “Now that was entertainment. I loved watching him.’‘