La Russa, Torre, Cox, Steinbrenner could be next to join Hall of Fame

Before any trades and signings, the focus of the winter meetings will be on fame.

Joe Torre, Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox were among the candidates considered by the Hall of Fame’s expansion era committee in voting scheduled to be announced Monday. The trio of retired managers was joined on the 12-man ballot by a pair of much-debated figures who died in recent years: New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and pioneering players’ union head Marvin Miller.

Among the nine managers with three or more World Series titles, Torre and La Russa are the only ones not in Cooperstown.

”He’s going to go to the Hall of Fame,” La Russa’s former closer in Oakland and St. Louis, Dennis Eckersley, predicted last year.

Torre and Cox retired as managers after the 2010 season, and La Russa retired after leading St. Louis to the 2011 championship. Torre won four World Series titles with the Yankees, La Russa three with Oakland and the Cardinals, and Cox one with Atlanta. La Russa is third among managers with 2,728 wins; Cox had 2,504 and Torre 2,326.

On the ballot for the sixth time, Miller received 11 of 16 votes when the expansion-era committee last met three years ago, one shy of the required 75 percent. Steinbrenner made his ballot debut in 2010 and received fewer than eight votes, the Hall said, without specifying.

By the time the vote is announced, the lobby in the Dolphin hotel near Walt Disney World should be filled with agents and team officials arriving for the four-day session.

Even before the meetings, 42 of 168 major leaguers who became free agents after the World Series already had agreements, with at least seven more deals in the process of being finalized.

Since Boston finished off St. Louis for its third title in 10 seasons, Prince Fielder, Ian Kinsler, Doug Fister, Jim Johnson, David Freese and Heath Bell have been traded in a busy swaps market.

”It’s not the best free-agent market,” Texas general manager Jon Daniels said, ”and so I think that teams realize they weren’t going to be able to fill all of their needs, or wouldn’t necessarily want to fill all of their needs on the open market, and that led to a lot more accelerated trade conversation, and we’re seeing that play out.”

Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury, Joe Nathan, Jhonny Peralta, Tim Hudson and Curtis Granderson are some of the top free agents who have already changed teams.

”We’re disappointed. He’s been a great player, a great Yankee,” New York general manager Brian Cashman said of Cano during an event Sunday in Stamford, Conn. ”I know they’re dotting I’s and crossing T’s in Seattle, but they’re getting a great player.”

Outfielders Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz are among the free agents still available, joined by designated hitter Kendrys Morales, shortstop Stephen Drew and pitchers Bronson Arroyo, Bartolo Colon, Matt Garza, Roy Halladay, Ubaldo Jimenez, Fernando Rodney and Ervin Santana.

”It’s a bit like an art auction,” Oakland general manager Billy Beane said. ”You go into any free-agent period with a rational view of how you see things and also remember you’re part of a dynamic market. It’s still a very busy time for us. We’re certainly not bored, that’s for sure. This is a time the industry is very active, you want to make sure you’re a part of what’s going on so you don’t miss anything.”

Cano has the largest package, a yet-to-be-finalized deal said to be worth $240 million over 10 years for the All-Star second baseman.

”Nothing should be surprising anymore. Therefore I wasn’t surprised – after a moment,” New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said. ”That kind of money has been spent before. The thing about baseball (that) is funny is that all 30 teams are on a continuum and nobody is in the same point psychologically, competitively and financially at any point in time.

”So there’s always somebody who’s digging in their heels, they’re not going to do this and they’re not going to do that, they’re going to get the first pick every year for three years, what have you,” he said. ”And there’s somebody on the other end that’s going crazy. It doesn’t do any good to lament that. That’s reality. You just have to deal with it.”

After missing the playoffs for only the second time in 19 seasons, the Yankees have been big spenders despite the loss of Cano. New York has committed $307 million to add Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and Kelly Johnson and to retain Hiroki Kuroda and Brendan Ryan.

”We have enough voids that we don’t have to prioritize any one,” Cashman said.

New York also is interested in pitcher Masahiro Tanaka if he is made available by his Japanese team. Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball have an agreement in principle on a new posting system. If ratified by both sides, there would be a $20 million cap on the fee going to Japanese clubs for players put on the posting market, and any MLB teams bidding the specified price would be able to compete to sign the players.