The first of several times Major League Baseball held its winter meetings at the Anatole Hotel in Dallas came in December 1980. Whitey Herzog was attending this conclave as Cardinals general manager/manager.

Bustling through the doors to the lobby on the Sunday evening before the start of the meetings, Herzog spied a St. Louis reporter who just had arrived and blurted, "Where the hell ya been? I've got trades to make."

And, before the dawn, Herzog and San Diego counterpart Jack McKeon had completed an 11-player swap. Before the week was over, Herzog had enacted deals that caused 23 players to change uniforms.

That was how the winter meetings worked in those days. All the talk was about trades, especially with the interleague trading deadline built into the last day of the meetings. There were very few free agent signings.

Now, there are almost no trades at the winter meetings. There is no interleague trading deadline and all the talk is about free agents.

When the meetings return this week to the Anatole, now a Hilton property, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Jose Reyes will be the names most often talked about.

In the cases of slugging first basemen Pujols and Fielder, the market has been slow to develop. The teams which often drive the free-agent train, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, have accomplished first basemen in Mark Teixeira and Adrian Gonzalez, respectively, to whom they already are committing a lot of money.

With the Los Angeles Dodgers up for sale and the New York Mets trying to find better financial traction, there are two more large-market teams basically out of play for both Pujols and Fielder.

The Miami Marlins made a pitch for Pujols and the Washington Nationals, seeking lefthanded punch, are reported ready to bid for Fielder, who at 27, is four years younger than Pujols.

Then there are the Chicago Cubs, who are reportedly interested in both. Fielder would seem a better fit because new Cubs manager Dale Sveum most recently was the hitting coach for Fielder's Milwaukee team and even managed the Brewers on an interim basis at the end of the 2008 season.

Clearly, the third top free-agent talent is National League batting champion Reyes, formerly the New York Mets' shortstop. Reyes, believed to be seeking $100 million for six years, was wined and dined by the Marlins and reportedly was offered between $75 million and $90 million for that six-year time frame. To date, though, there have been no other offers for Reyes.

Fielder, who hasn't really been sought after by his own team, hasn't received anything concrete either. The Seattle Mariners would seem to have at least minimal interest because general manager Jack Zduriencik was the Brewers' scouting director in 2002 when Milwaukee made Fielder a top pick.