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Whispers: Watch for Jays in free agency


Keep an eye on the Blue Jays when teams start throwing around money this fall. After brilliantly ridding themselves of Vernon Wells and Alex Rios, the Blue Jays are expected to become major players in free agency within the next two years. Like the Rays, they are big fans of adding a second wild card in each league. … Despite commissioner Bud Selig's push to get one, there will be no hard slotting for the draft in the upcoming labor deal, at least not if Selig wants it finalized in time to be announced during the World Series, as he did the current one in 2006. The White Sox are among the teams pushing the hardest for hard slotting. Jerry Reinsdorf's reluctance to go above slot for amateur talent is among the reasons the Sox's system has slipped badly in the last decade. The union strongly opposes hard slotting even though amateurs aren't union members. … Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin is charting upward on the topic of managerial candidates. He could become a factor in Boston, although the Red Sox can't do anything until they get the Theo Epstein situation sorted out. … Speaking of that, Red Sox assistant general manager Ben Cherington might not be a lock for a promotion if Epstein leaves. The Sox reportedly also will weigh external alternatives, and no one knows if owner John Henry still has a thing for Billy Beane. … One executive believes the White Sox's Robin Ventura hiring isn't as radical as it seems because Ventura won't have to worry about NL intricacies.

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