Major league baseball's annual winter meetings, being held separately from the minor league meetings because of a rift between the two sides, begin Monday but the trading which usually spices these proceedings may be absent.
That's because more than 80 free agents are still available with more possibly joining the ranks in January on a second-look basis because of prior collusion on the part of owners.
"There may not be any trades at the meetings but maybe we can set the groundwork for future trades," said Chicago Cubs President Don Grenesko, whose ballclub already dipped into the free agent pool to grab left-handed pitcher Danny Jackson.
There will be a Rule 5 draft Monday, the American League and National League owners' meeting will be held Tuesday, and the joint major league owners meeting is Wednesday, after which the meetings adjourn.
The free agents available include American League Cy Young winner Bob Welch, 1987 AL Most Valuable Player George Bell and St. Louis speedster Vince Coleman.
The Cubs inked Jackson, who was 6-6 last season for Cincinnati and on the disabled list three times, to a four-year, $10.5 million deal, while the San Francisco Giants signed Bud Black to a four-year, $10 million contract.
The major league representatives also are expected to discuss the growing rift between themselves and the minor league system.
The issues still unsettled are the length of years covered by a new agreement between the majors and minor league teams, the amount of games the minor leagues should play each season, the amount of revenue the majors want from the minors and an understanding as to the baseball commissioner's power. No new talks were scheduled.
Still, let the owners and agents worry about those things. It's time for each team to upgrade its wish list:
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Wish list: The Orioles spent October trying to get a head start on a major trade, but their search continues for a run-producing outfielder, a left-handed starter and a lefty reliever.
Trade bait: There is a surplus of right-handed starting pitching, and it will increase if the club signs left-hander Matt Young. The Orioles also figure to shop one or more of their young outfielders and could be talked out of third baseman Craig Worthington for a quality run-producer.
Rumor mill: The Orioles could make a play for Cleveland Indians' outfielder Cory Snyder -- who has expressed a desire to play in Baltimore -- or try to strike a deal with the California Angels, who are trying to move Dante Bichette and Devon White.
If Christmas comes early: Boston Red Sox GM Lou Gorman will call the Orioles back and tell them that Mike Greenwell is available -- and affordable.
Boston Red Sox
Wish list: The Red Sox lost another front-line starting pitcher (Mike Boddicker) to free agency, so it isn't hard to figure out what they will be looking for in Chicago. They also need some speed in the outfield and a productive hitter to replace Dwight Evans.
Trade bait: Outfielder Mike Marshall is the player the Sox would like to move, but Carlos Quintana and shortstop Luis Rivera figure to be available.
Rumor mill: The Red Sox have made a play for Matt Young and are believed to be waiting for Dennis Martinez to become a new-look free agent.
If Christmas comes early: Someone will offer a front-line starter for Marshall and Rivera, saving the Red Sox millions on the free-agent market.
Wish list: The Indians need a left-handed hitter to balance the offensive lineup and a front-line starter to beef up a decimated rotation.
Trade bait: Cory Snyder.
Rumor mill: Snyder to virtually every team in the American League. . . . The Indians are thought to be making a play for free-agent outfielder-first baseman Gerald Perry.
If Christmas comes Early: Free agent Candy Maldonado will decide that loyalty is more important than money and sign a two-year contract.
Wish list: The Tigers are one of only 26 teams that are looking for pitching this year. They need a fourth starter or a fifth starter or both. The club also would like to find a left-handed DH.
Trade bait: Pitchers Steve Searcy and Jeff Robinson are available, but it doesn't say much for them that the Tigers are willing to give them up at a time when the team is desperate for pitching help.
Rumor mill: There is interest in free agent Matt Young, because signing him would require no draft choice compensation.
If Christmas comes early: The Tigers will stop resisting the urge to sign Michigan native Bob Welch, though he would cost a draft choice.
Wish list: The Brewers need pitching help, too, especially if free-agent left-hander Ted Higuera ends up signing with another club. Milwaukee also needs run-production now that Rob Deer is a Tiger.
Trade bait: Greg Brock is always available, but the Brewers won't have much to talk about unless some of their front-line players are on the block.
Rumor mill: There is talk that reliever Dan Plesac or infielder Gary Sheffield will be made available if a blockbuster deal can be arranged.
If Christmas comes early: The Brewers will re-sign Higuera and trade Brock for a minor-leaguer.
New York Yankees
Wish list: The Yankees need a third baseman badly and are interested in signing a free-agent starting pitcher. The club also needs to re-sign Dave Righetti, which is no certainty.
Trade bait: There isn't much to offer here, which is why the club has been so heavily involved in the free agent market.
Rumor mill: The Yankees are waiting for Gary Gaetti to become a new-look free agent and will not be outbid for his services. There also is interest in free-agent pitchers Ted Higuera and Zane Smith.
If Christmas comes early: Stump Merrill will get a new nickname.
Toronto Blue Jays
Wish list: The Jays thought they would be able to sign free-agent left-hander Bud Black, so now they have a big hole in the rotation. They also would like to sign a free-agent outfielder and acquire a second baseman.
Trade bait: Left-hander John Cerutti is very available. So is outfielder Mookie Wilson and second baseman Manny Lee.
Rumor mill: The Blue Jays approached the Brewers about acquiring Gary Sheffield. If they could pull off such a deal, Kelly Gruber would move from third base to center field.
If Christmas comes early: The Blue Jays will sign Bob Welch and Willie McGee.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Wish list: The Angels are looking to replace half of their starting infield. Manager Doug Rader has run out of patience with Johnny Ray and Jack Howell.
Trade bait: Nobody is safe, but Devon White, Howell, Ray and Dante Bichette are very available.
Rumor mill: First baseman Wally Joyner might be a surprise departee. He is the one player the Angels know has great value and he also is the one everyday player they can readily replace.
If Christmas comes early: General Manager Mike Port will convince the Cleveland Indians to give up second baseman Jerry Browne for White, Ray and some prospects.
Chicago White Sox
Wish list: The White Sox need a starting pitcher and a run-producing outfielder.
Trade bait: Ivan Calderon, Carlos Martinez and Steve Lyons. Left-handers Ken Patterson and Scott Radinsky might be available, but definitely won't come cheap.
Rumor mill: The White Sox are making a pitch for Bob Welch. The club brought former Red Sox outfielder Dwight Evans in for a physical, but new GM Ron Schueler is more interested in Dave Henderson, likely to become a new-look free agent.
If Christmas comes early: The White Sox will convince Welch that Chicago is not so very far from his hometown in Michigan.
Kansas City Royals
Wish list: The Royals recently lost right-handed reliever Steve Farr, so they will have to expand their search for relief. The club already was looking for a left-handed middleman, but Jeff Montgomery could fill that role if Mark Davis regains some effectiveness next year. The club also needs a back-up catcher.
Trade bait: Danny Tartabull keeps coming up in trade conversations, but it's usually the other clubs that mention his name. The Royals stand to lose several players to free agency, so they won't have a lot to talk about in Chicago.
If Christmas comes early: Someone will come along and trade for Davis, freeing the Royals to spend $3 million a year on a couple of lesser-known but more effective relief pitchers.
Wish list: The Twins are just hoping that they don't lose third baseman Gary Gaetti to new-look free agency.
Trade bait: The Twins figure to be pretty open-minded about anyone but Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek and some of the young starting pitchers. Reliever Juan Berenguer would like to be traded after butting heads with Manager Tom Kelly last year.
Rumor mill: Gaetti will become a new-look free agent and sign with the New York Yankees.
If Christmas comes early: After years of searching for a donor, the Twins finally will come up with a personality for Kelly.
Wish list: The A's would just like to keep their three-time AL championship club together for another year. They need to re-sign Bob Welch and Scott Sanderson and hold onto potential new-look free agent Dave Henderson.
Trade bait: Pitcher Mike Moore could be made available if Sanderson re-signs.
Rumor mill: The A's expressed some interest in Mickey Tettleton, but probably would re-sign back-up catcher Ron Hassey if Welch comes back.
If Christmas comes early: The A's will get Welch back without having to give him controlling interest in the Levi Strauss Co.
Wish list: The Mariners are one of the few teams in baseball that isn't looking for a starting pitcher, but a left-handed reliever would be nice. There also is interest in a No. 5 hitter to replace the departing Jeffrey Leonard.
Trade bait: Seattle has a lot of solid starting pitchers, but the Mariners aren't eager to give any of them up. The emphasis figures to be more on free agency.
Rumor mill: The Mariners would like to re-sign Matt Young, but are reluctant to offer a three-year contract. He already has at least one three-year offer, so a return to Seattle seems doubtful.
If Christmas comes early: The Mariners will acquire Rick Honeycutt from the A's for the father of a player to be named later.
Wish list: The Rangers need a catcher, preferably one who hits right-handed. They also need someone to throw to him.
Trade bait: Pete Incaviglia seems to be the name that everyone is throwing around, but the outfielder the Rangers would love to deal is Gary Pettis. There don't figure to be any takers.
Rumor mill: A deal has been discussed that would send Incaviglia and at least one more player to the Mariners for pitcher Bill Swift and catcher Dave Valle.
If Christmas comes early: The Mariners will overlook the fact that Incaviglia strikes out in nearly a third of his at-bats.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Wish list: The Cubs just signed Danny Jackson, but they still are seeking help in the starting rotation. They also covet a right-handed bullpen closer and a right-handed hitter.
Trade bait: It seems far-fetched, but there are whispers that the Cubs are willing to trade Jerome Walton for a power-hitting outfielder. Reliever Mitch Williams and outfielder Dwight Smith are available.
Rumor mill: The Cubs might try to move shortstop Shawon Dunston, close to free-agent eligibility. There also has been talk of Walton for Danny Tartabull.
If Christmas comes early: The Cubs will find a taker for the erratic Williams and restructure their bullpen around a not-so-wild thing.
Wish list: Montreal could use some pitching help in the starting rotation and in the bullpen.
Trade bait: Could this be the year that Montreal bids goodbye to Tim Raines? There has been speculation to that effect, but rumors about Raines seem to go around every year.
Rumor mill: Here's the latest Raines rumor. He could be going to the New York Mets for a starting pitcher (either Bob Ojeda or Sid Fernandez) and at least one position player.
New York Mets
Wish list: The Mets are looking to add some speed at the top of the lineup, since they will be hard-pressed to replace the power lost when Darryl Strawberry signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Trade bait: It depends on which direction the Mets dwork
take with several veteran players who will be eligible for free agency next year. They need to sign Frank Viola, Dwight Gooden and Kevin McReynolds to contract extensions or trade them while there still is time.
Rumor mill: The Mets are close to signing free-agent outfielder Vince Coleman.
If Christmas comes early: The Expos will give up Raines for Fernandez and a position player, saving the Mets enough money to give McReynolds a contract extension.
Wish list: The Phillies are looking for a front-line starter, but who isn't? They also could use a left-handed reliever and a back-up second baseman.
Trade bait: Outfielder Von Hayes remains this team's most attractive commodity, but pitcher Bruce Ruffin and first baseman Ricky Jordan also figure to be available.
Rumor mill: The Phillies are another team waiting for the new-look free agents to come out, at which time the club will make a play for Dennis Martinez.
If Christmas comes early: Hayes will be traded for a quality starting pitcher, bringing to an end three years of Von Hayes trade rumors.
Wish list: The Pirates are just trying to keep last year's NL East championship team together, but they don't figure to be successful. The club has been damaged by free agency and needs to re-sign several players.
Trade bait: The situation is too uncertain for the Pirates to give up anyone.
Rumor mill: There has been some off-the-wall speculation that the club will trade MVP Barry Bonds and rebuild. Don't believe it.
If Christmas comes early: Zane Smith, Don Slaught, Sid Bream and Gary Redus will decide to stay in Pittsburgh for a few more years.
St. Louis Cardinals
Wish list: The Cardinals could use some relief, now that Ken Dayley has signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. They'll be thin in several areas if Vince Coleman and Terry Pendleton sign with other clubs.
Trade bait: The uncertainty brought on by the wide-open free-agent market will make it difficult for the Cardinals to part with anyone.
Rumor mill: Despite public statements to the contrary, the Cardinals will not be unhappy to see Coleman and Pendleton go. They are eager to start from scratch with Bernard Gilkey, Ray Lankford and Felix Jose in the outfield and Todd Zeile at third base.
If Christmas comes early: The Cardinals still will be an also-ran in the NL East.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
Wish list: The Braves hope to sign free-agent third baseman Terry Pendleton to a four-year deal soon and have joined the Baltimore Orioles in the bidding for Franklin Stubbs. They also have shown interest in free-agent outfielder Willie Wilson.
Trade bait: Second baseman Jeff Treadway has garnered some interest from around the majors. So has surprise All-Star catcher Greg Olson. But the Braves would rather move outfielder Lonnie Smith and infielder Jeff Blauser. Third baseman Jim Presley also could be available if Pendleton agrees to terms.
Rumor mill: There has been speculation that the Braves are looking to Stubbs because they have given up hope that Nick Esasky will be back anytime soon.
If Christmas comes early: The Braves will persuade the California Angels to give up center fielder Devon White for Treadway.
Wish list: The Reds need to replace the recently departed Danny Jackson in the starting rotation, which will not be easy. They also need to re-sign free agent infielder Bill Doran.
Trade bait: Todd Benzinger and Paul O'Neill are available and marketable.
Rumor mill: O'Neill will be traded for a No. 4 or No. 5 starter.
If Christmas comes early: The Reds will change their frugal ways and sign a quality starter (Zane Smith?), vastly improving their chances of winning back-to-back NL pennants.
Wish list: The Astros need help almost everywhere but don't appear to be in any hurry to do anything about it.
Trade bait: Third baseman Ken Caminiti is available and tradable, but the Astros seem unlikely to pursue anything significant.
Rumor mill: There is talk that the club will clean house and rebuild from the bottom up. If so, Glenn Davis could become available, since he's a year away from free agency.
If Christmas comes early: Someone will buy the Astros and turn the club back into a winner.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Wish list: The Dodgers already got their biggest wish, signing Darryl Strawberry to a five-year contract. Now they need a left-handed reliever to go with Jim Gott and Jay Howell.
Trade bait: Outfielder Kal Daniels' value might never be higher, but there are conflicting reports about his availability. Hubie Brooks also might be had in the right deal.
Rumor mill: Fernando Valenzuela remains unsigned and might end up accepting salary arbitration.
If Christmas comes early: The Dodgers will sign relief pitcher Dave Righetti to a five-year deal and emerge from the off-season as the favorite to win the National League pennant.
San Diego Padres
Wish list: The Padres would like to find a right-handed bullpen stopper to team with left-hander Craig Lefferts, a shortstop to replace Garry Templeton and a third baseman to replace free agent Mike Pagliarulo.
Trade bait: Pitcher Calvin Schiraldi, infielder Templeton, outfielder Darrin Jackson, outfielder Shawn Abner, pitcher Derek Lilliquist and more.
Rumor mill: The Padres expect to lose first baseman Jack Clark to new-look free agency, but still will not offer him a multiyear contract. He figures to turn down their $2.5 million offer and sign with an American League team.
If Christmas comes early: The Padres will be able to trade for a quality starting shortstop to supplant Templeton, who made 26 errors last year. But that seems unlikely, since it is nearly impossible to acquire a front-line shortstop under the most favorable conditions.
San Francisco Giants
Wish list: The Giants claim that signing left-hander Bud Black satisfied their starting-pitching needs, even though they made a later play for Tom Browning. The only other area of concern is the bullpen, where they are looking for a setup man to go with Jeff Brantley and Steve Bedrosian.
Trade bait: Shortstop Jose Uribe is available and might bring a much-needed middle reliever.
Rumor mill: The Giants are concerned about the possibility that outfielder Brett Butler will take advantage of new-look free agency in January, but still have no plans to add outfield depth.
If Christmas comes early: Injured pitchers Kelly Downs, Don Robinson and Mike LaCoss will get healthy in a hurry, leaving the club with the solid rotation it needs to return to the top of the NL West.