NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- With Minnesota Twins ace Johan Santana reportedly headed to either the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox, Orioles left-hander Erik Bedard has become the most coveted pitcher at baseball's winter meetings.
Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail spent yesterday meeting with several clubs, and Bedard - as well as shortstop Miguel Tejada to a lesser extent - was the dominant topic of conversation. MacPhail declined to specify how many teams have expressed interest in the 28-year-old pitcher, but one team source said calls about Bedard were coming in "left and right."
"There has been a lot of activity on him," said MacPhail, who has identified several teams who he believes have enough talented young players in order to consummate a deal.
MacPhail's recent acknowledgment that contract extension talks with Bedard have "cooled" has led to an increase in interest on Bedard, team officials say. However, MacPhail has made it clear to suitors that the Orioles are still exploring extending Bedard to a long-term deal and might not trade him.
MacPhail and Mark Pieper, Bedard's agent, denied media reports that the pitcher has informed the club he is set on becoming a free agent after the 2009 season and will not sign an extension with the Orioles.
"That's not what the agent told me," MacPhail said. "I did characterize the conversations as having cooled. I think things could heat up again. There hasn't been a `we're out' type of thing."
Pieper declined to discuss reasons the talks stalled, but he confirmed he didn't tell MacPhail he isn't interested in further dialogue.
"I can't really tell you what's going to happen," said Pieper. "All I know is that [report] is just not true. [Bedard] wants to keep his options open, and he hasn't ruled anything out."
The Los Angeles Dodgers, Seattle Mariners and New York Mets have been the most aggressive in pursuit of Bedard. MacPhail and Mets general manager Omar Minaya talked by phone yesterday and could meet today about Bedard. The Mets already have offered outfielder Carlos Gomez, reliever Aaron Heilman and pitching prospect Phil Humber but were rejected.
One baseball source called the Mariners a "dark horse" in the Bedard sweepstakes if they would be willing to put together an offer that included outfield prospect Adam Jones and pitcher Brandon Morrow.
The Cincinnati Reds also are interested in Bedard but aren't willing to discuss top outfield prospect Jay Bruce.
At this point, the Orioles are looking for an offer - similar if not better - to what the Twins are requesting from the Yankees and Red Sox for Santana, a two-time Cy Young winner. That is basically two top-quality, ready-to-play young major leaguers and a third prospect.
Although he is not as accomplished as Santana, Bedard has less mileage (barely half the number of big league innings), is the same age (eight days older than Santana), is cheaper and is signed through 2009, a year longer than Santana.
One major league general manager said Bedard's value was "less than Santana, but not by much."
And Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said Bedard may not be Santana, but he'd still be a welcome addition.
"I don't think any pitcher in baseball is going to have value like Santana - not this year and not in the next couple years," Guillen said. "With his name on the [trade] map, nobody is close to him. But when you talk about Bedard, you talk about the best left-handers in baseball, not just the American League. He has to be in the top three to five guys. His value is pretty high, a lot of people talk about him and we all like him."
The Orioles also met yesterday with the St. Louis Cardinals to discuss a potential deal with Tejada. It doesn't appear to be a good fit because the Cardinals aren't interested in moving outfield prospect Colby Rasmus and their farm system is relatively thin.
MacPhail met with the San Francisco Giants about Tejada but apparently didn't make any progress. The Houston Astros and Angels also are interested.
The Chicago Cubs have expressed interested in second baseman Brian Roberts, but the talks haven't progressed too far, according to an industry source.
The club is exploring several free-agent relievers. The Orioles had talks with the agent for reliever David Riske but dropped out when learning his price tag.