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Bank on these things happening in 2009


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Jake Peavy and Roy Halladay will be traded

Not exactly going out on a limb with Peavy; the Padres will be pathetic both on the field and at the gate, and desperately need the influx of inexpensive young talent that a Peavy blockbuster could provide.

Halladay is less certain to be dealt: Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi has said that the team would move him only if the sagging economy left ownership with little choice. Well, check back in June after the Jays get off to a poor start and their attendance craters.

Club officials believe the team will be stronger in 2010, the final year of Halladay's contract. Better the Jays should trade the pitcher in July and maximize their return than risk losing him only for draft picks after next season.

The economy will help flood the trade market

One reason the Red Sox showed restraint in free agency was the their belief that teams such as the Padres and Blue Jays could engage in massive salary dumps if they perform poorly and revenues plummet.

The Tigers' season-ticket base has been cut almost in half, and a number of other teams also are bracing for attendance drops. But if trade talks this spring are any indication, deals will be difficult to consummate even for teams that are willing to help defray a player's salary.

Phillies outfielder Geoff Jenkins, Angels outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. and Nationals outfielder Austin Kearns are among the players who could be had at little cost, yet their respective teams have been unable to find takers.

The demand will be greater if players of higher quality — Peavy, Halladay, Tigers outfielder Magglio Ordonez, A's outfielder Matt Holliday — become available.

Manny Ramirez will be a pain in the rear

The relationship between Ramirez and Los Angeles is still sickeningly sweet, a honeymoon with seemingly no end. Ramirez has even turned the Los Angeles Times' T.J. Simers, one of the toughest columnists in America, into his personal Oprah.

This worm will turn.

Manny has every reason to be on his best behavior this season while preparing for another spin at free agency. But it's one thing to stay focused for two months, as he did with the Dodgers last season, and another to do it for six.

Ramirez, who turns 37 on May 30, already has been slowed by a hamstring injury. His attention span is about as long as L.A.'s, so a June vacation on the DL might be necessary — just an innocent little sit-down strike if the Dodgers balk at signing him to an extension.

Over/under on games played: 128.

A-Rod will not make it through the season

A-Rod will work his tail off to recover from hip surgery, making it back by May 1, faster than his doctors predicted. Chances are, though, that Rodriguez will be a diminished player — a development that will drive him nuts.

Persevering in a pennant race would make Rodriguez a more sympathetic figure; he cannot be any less of one. But remember, A-Rod still must undergo a second, more extensive surgery. And his resolve would benefit no one if he is a significantly lesser version of himself.

Come July, the Yankees might look more seriously at a temporary replacement such as the Mariners' Adrian Beltre. And A-Rod might abandon his plan to wait until the end of the season to undergo his second surgery.

The WBC will get blamed

Some in the game view the tournament as an all-purpose boogeyman, responsible for every twinge on every participant's body. Commissioner Bud Selig, for one, is tired of such carping, but even for players who avoid injury, the after-effects are a legitimate concern.

Peavy and Astros right-hander Roy Oswalt threw high-intensity innings in mid-March; J.J. Putz and Francisco Rodriguez, the Mets' two big relief acquisitions, earned maximum-effort saves. Check back on them in August.

The new Yankee Stadium will be offensive

I'm not talking about how the park will play; that's to be determined. I'm talking about the Yankees opening their monument to excess in the middle of the worst economy since the Great Depression. And no, I'm not forgetting about the Mets and — ahem — Citi Field.

The teams bear only so much blame; the plans for both parks were formulated when the economy was in better shape. But the timing of the respective openings, needless to say, is unfortunate. Tickets sales are a concern for both clubs. And lest anyone forget, new parks with more expensive seats often lack the soul of the buildings they replace.

There will be no surprise teams

At this point, the Royals no longer would qualify as a surprise — they have gotten more hype than the Jonas Brothers, and with a payroll pushing $75 million, they ought to be good. Yet, their lineup and back of their rotation are significant questions.

The Reds will be more interesting in the post-Griffey, post-Dunn era; their pitching actually is decent, and first baseman Joey Votto looks like a major star. But as with the Royals, I'll believe it when I see it. Ditto with the Rangers, who actually were not bad last season, going 70-65 after their 9-18 start.

The Marlins would not be a surprise; they won 84 games last season. The Braves and Cardinals could exceed expectations, but c'mon, neither is viewed as a patsy. If you're looking for a team that would resemble the Rockies of 2007 or Rays of '08, it probably is not out there.

Then again, if the Blue Jays, Orioles, Mariners, Nationals, Pirates or Padres finish above .500, consider me surprised.

The Nats will draft — and sign — San Diego State righty Stephen Strasburg

Do the Nats have a choice? They failed to sign their top selection last year, University of Missouri right-hander Aaron Crow. Their refusal to sign Strasburg — or even draft him — would be a public-relations blow from which the franchise might need years to recover. As it is, the Nats are hardly the rage in D.C.

The team's lack of leverage is a huge problem, considering that Strasburg's advisor, Scott Boras, will exploit his advantageous position to maximum advantage. Boras is not going to get his reported asking price of $50 million, but no doubt he will establish a draft record.

The Nats will just have to wear it.

Gary Sheffield will hit his 500th home run

First, he needs a job; the Tigers released him on Monday. Sheff, sitting on 499 homers, hardly is assured of signing with a new team quickly. Frank Thomas, another right-handed D.H., is still unemployed.

The real question is how Hall of Fame voters eventually will view Sheffield, who also is just 385 hits short of 3,000. Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Eddie Murray and Rafael Palmeiro are the only members of the 500-3,000 club.

Sheffield, like Barry Bonds, reportedly testified to a grand jury that he unknowingly used substances alleged to be steroids. Yet, Sheffield has come under far less scrutiny than Bonds from the government and media.

Randy Johnson will earn his 300th victory

Johnson, five victories short of 300, is not as big a lock as Sheffield, but he won 11 games last season at age 44 coming off his second back surgery in two years. The Giants are not a strong offensive club, but Johnson's improved health should enable him to reach 300 with little difficulty.

The 5,000-strikeout milestone will be more difficult to achieve; Johnson is 211 strikeouts short. Nolan Ryan, the only pitcher in history to record 5,000 strikeouts, finished with 5,714.

Managers will get fired. The Yankees will be a soap opera. The World Series will be a doozy

More later in the week.

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