Best of What’s Left – 20 Free Agents Still on the Market

There’s plenty of talent still out there on the free agent market. Here are 20 of the top names remaining and where TBO believes they will go. But it’s all essentially just a shot in the dark…..isn’t it? Feel free to pick some of your own, but you might have a better chance at the lotto.

HITTERS:

Catchers

Jason VaritekGiants: Tek’s days of regular starting are virtually over, but he would be a very good instructor to a young catcher if he doesn’t retire. Though I think he’d be a great fit as a tutor in K.C. or San Diego, he may want one more shot at a title. That leaves San Francisco and Milwaukee as playoff potential teams with young catchers and limited backup options. With worries about Buster’s knee, I can see in in the bay area.

First basemen

Prince Fielder - Mariners: The Mariners need offense, badly. Jack drafted Fielder while in Milwaukee and he fits in with what the Mariners need. Second place to the Washington Nationals, they still seem interested, despite what Rizzo says to the media.

Carlos Pena - Cubs: The Cubs will likely stay away from committing too much money to a player that will likely eventually need to stay in a DH role (his defense isn’t even that great now).

Third basemen

Wilson BetemitRockies: Right now Jonathan Herrera is penciled in the depth chart as the starter at third base. He is more suited for a utility role, opening a spot for Betemit.

Eric ChavezMariners: Chavez is a tough one to pick. The Yankees would have interest again if they can’t work anything out with their Japanese import. But I can see him platooning with Alex Liddi while mentoring him and Kyle Seager on defense. It would also allow Seager to have a little more seasoning in the minors.

Outfielders

Juan Pierre - White Sox: With few options in their system and Carlos Quentin rumored to be traded, the White Sox will try to keep some stability in their outfield. Keeping Pierre around will maintain a leadoff presence as well.

Coco Crisp - Giants: The Giants have been rumored in connection with Crisp for a while.

Yoenis CespedesMarlins: With what they’ve bid on C.J. Wilson and Albert Pujols, it seems that they are willing to spend even more money than they already have. Scouts believe he is a best fit in right field, but the Marlins will wedge him into center where he could be passable.

Designated hitters

Johnny Damon - Athletics: Yes, a return engagement for Damon in Oakland. Johnny helps to fill the outfield void for Billy Beane, is experienced at DH, and has shown he can be a leader for a young team.

 

PITCHERS

Starting pitchers

Edwin Jackson - Marlins: Starting pitching is one of their main focuses this winter and they have the money to do it.

Hiroki Kuroda - Yankees: Kuroda has let it be known that he’s not really interested in playing for other teams. If he’s still in the Majors, he’s still with the Dodgers.

Roy Oswalt - Red Sox: The Sox still need to add an arm to their rotation after fixing their bullpen. With the ownership limitations on payroll, they are unlikely to go after an Edwin Jackson. With the two trades for relievers, they’ve cut out plenty of trade bait for a top starting pitcher. Oswalt may be the route to go.

Javier Vazquez – Retires.

Hisashi Iwakuma - Twins: The Twins had interest in Iwakuma last winter, their need for pitching may put them there again.

Paul Maholm - Cubs: It is sounding more and more like Matt Garza will be gone soon. Although they’ve acquired Wood, the Cubs may still be interested in an innings eater like Maholm.

Bartolo Colon - Baltimore: Colon proved last season that he still has the stuff to pitch in the AL East….at least until he wore down late in the season.

Jeff Francis - Padres: Francis may be a good fit in the spacious Petco park.

Joel Pineiro - Pirates: A return to the NL may be best for Pineiro and the Pirates are looking for experience in their rotation again.

 

Closers/Relievers

Ryan Madson – Angels: Madson’s choices have fallen apart on him through a very deep closer free agent and trade market.

Francisco CorderoReds: With little else out there, Cordero will likely return.

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It’s Just Speculation: Baltimore Orioles

Unlike the Seattle Mariners that had a good pitching staff, but a horrible offense, the Orioles had a middling offense and a horrible pitching staff. They were ranked dead last in many statistical pitching categories in 2011, some by a wide margin. Though they are in a rebuilding mode, the Orioles will need to take a deep look into available pitching to at least look respectable in 2012.

Offensively, the Orioles could use some improvements in certain spots as well. Although there’s some uncertainty at second base, if Brian Roberts is not able to play, the team does have decent backup options of Robert Andino or free swinging prospect Ryan Adams. The infield corners are intriguing. The team plucked Mark Reynolds in a trade with the Diamondbacks a year ago to play third base, but he is now rumored to be on the move across the diamond to play first base. The current situation has a platoon of Chris Davis and former first rounder Matt Antonelli playing a platoon at the hot corner with Ryan Adams the current backup. The Orioles are also hopeful that Josh Bell can bounce back from a down season on the farm to emerge as a candidate at the hot corner. But his plate discipline problems may preclude that thought from becoming reality. A value-signing or trade at either corner could still shake things up.

Left field is questionable as well. Luke Scott‘s shoulder injury puts things in doubt. The team could decide not to offer him arbitration, but sign him for a lesser amount to see how he recovers. However, that would open up other teams to bidding on his services as well. Even if the team is able to work something out, it looks as though Scott may be regulated to the DH role for a decent part of the season as the surgery completed was on his throwing shoulder. The team’s main secondary option at this point is Nolan Reimold, a former upper-level prospect that hasn’t fared well in the majors. He did have a very nice September (.281/.395/.578 with 5 HR), but that’s a small sample size and September figures can be misleading due to the presence of September call-ups. Once again, a value signing or a trade could help left field, but it is doubtful as the team’s main focus will be pitching.

As mentioned earlier, pitching, especially starting pitching, will be the main focus this winter. Jeremy Gutherie will likely be gone before 2013, whether by trade or by free agency after the 2012 season. As it is unlikely that they will get much out of him if he leaves after the season, especially with the new draft pick compensation system, Baltimore should try to trade him soon. Pitching, pitching, and more pitching should be the goal of any trade involving him.

They have started some value shopping this season. In November they claimed Darren O’Day off waivers from the Texas Rangers where he was lights-out for a couple seasons before arm issues.  They’ve also recently completed a trade for Dana Eveland with the Dodgers. Eveland enjoyed some of his best pitching in the Dodgers organization and the Orioles think he can build off that success. I doubt he can stick in the rotation as Baltimore hopes, Camden Yards is far from the pitchers’ playground in Chavez Ravine. But he could be a good lefty option out of the pen if he doesn’t stick.

Look for new GM Dan Duquette to do some more value shopping like he did with O’Day and Eveland to allow the team to go into spring training with plenty to look at when filling out the roster. A few won’t stick, but some have enough upside that a rebuilding team like the Orioles can gamble on for future deadline trade chips or roster stability.

It’s an uphill battle for the Orioles, more of a fight for the birds than the Mariners. But the team has proven in the past that they can sustain high payrolls, they just need to build enough of a supporting cast before going out to acquire the high-priced players that could put them over the top.

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It’s Just Speculation: Marlins Offseason

Ok, here’s the report that I drafted speculating on the Miami Marlins’ offseason prior to the Winter Meetings….

The Florida Marlins (now the Miami Marlins) are heading into what could be a very interesting offseason for them. Already, they’ve brought in Ozzie Guillen to manage the team’s first season in their new ballpark and have been rumored to be open to spending a significant amount of funds this winter to make the 2012 team a contender. But after an ugly 2011 season on several fronts, the team has its work cut out for it.

Obviously, the team’s outward willingness to spend this offseason brings to mind a possible signing of Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, or C.J. Wilson. The signing of Pujols or Fielder would mean that Gaby Sanchez or Logan Morrison would need to be traded to make room. Also, with the lack of quality pitching on the free agent market, Wilson’s price may be too steep as even the Yankees are rumored to be interested in him as well.

That said, with a glaring lack of talent in the minors, the Marlins may be interested in trading Sanchez in a package for a starting pitcher. With Matt Moore knocking down the door to the rotation with his late-season performance and his dominance of the Rangers in the playoffs, the Rays may be interested in trading away one of their starters for a stable, cheap offensive performer at first base. Getting Sanchez out of Sun Life Stadium may result in 25 home runs, providing a good amount of power to the Rays lineup.

With a boost to the starting rotation complete, the Marlins would then be able to sign Pujols or Fielder (who went to Eau Gallie High School in Melbourne, Florida). Putting Fielder’s lefty bat between right-handers Hanley Ramirez and Mike Stanton would make for a very potent 3-5 in the lineup.

Beyond that, the club still has to consider holes in centerfield and third base as well as at closer. The centerfield market is relatively thin, but the trade market is more interesting. However, Miami’s lack of talent in their minor league system may limit their ability to go that route. In the end, they may try to give Bryan Petersen a full-fledged try in center, with possibly a veteran right-handed bat to back him up.

The Marlins do have some internal options for centerfield that they can try, it will be finding someone for third base that might be tough. Although his defense is ready, Matt Dominguez‘ bat certainly is not. Outside of Aramis Ramirez, there’s not much on the free agent market and Ramirez would require a commitment in years that the Marlins might not want to make. Wilson Betemit or even taking a buy-low shot at someone like Mark DeRosa may be fruitful low-cost signings.

It may be enticing to bring in Francisco Rodriguez, who may be lured by the opportunity to play closer to Venezuela. However, if they are able to bring in a Pujols/Fielder type, they may not have the flexibility to bring in Rodriguez as well.

Now it’s: 1) Sign Heath Bell, Jose Reyes, and Mark Buehrle. 2) Offer more for Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson than the teams that eventually signed them. 3) Look elsewhere to spend millions of dollars to blow the top off of their payroll over the next few seasons.

Wow, amazing how one week in Dallas can change everything, not just for the Marlins, but for the rest of baseball.

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It’s Just Speculation: Mariners Offseason

Things weren’t looking too good for Jack Zduriencik heading towards the offseason. His Mariners were near the bottom of the AL cellar and there were rumblings that he might lose his position. But the Mariners extended Jack in late August, allowing him to concentrate on rebuilding the team’s woeful offense without the worry of his contract status.

That said, Jack has a very LONG way to go to improve the Mariners for 2012 onward. Unlike the Twins, who rest one spot below them at the bottom of the AL standings, they can’t point to major injuries to star players like Justin Morneau or Joe Mauer as part of their demise. Jack’s stockpiling of defensive talent with little regard to offensive firepower during his tenure has left the team punchless.

The first and most obvious step the Mariners could take would be to sign a slugger like Prince Fielder. As it has been said numerous times, Jack was at the helm of the Milwaukee Brewers’ draft efforts when Fielder was picked up and will likely be intersted in bringing him to Seattle, despite Fielder’s defensive shortcomings. The Mariners also have plenty of funds coming off the books to aid in the aquisition of the premiere first baseman.

Bringing in Fielder wouldn’t necessarily mean the end of Justin Smoak in a Mariners outfit, but he definitely has something to prove in 2012 if the Mariners plan on keeping him. On the bright side, Smoak had a .301 average with a .793 OPS in September. Sure, it is a small sample size, but it may also be a sign that he’s starting to figure things out. With Mike Carp in the fold, the team could also look to trade “the Freak from Goose Creek” to somewhere like Baltimore, where he could play with his high school teammate Matt Wieters.

They’ve also had a hole in left field for a while. There are a number of potential options there from within the system but too many of them seem to be too free swinging to count on developing into full-time starters. But I could see the Mariners giving that corner an additional year to figure things out, until they are forced to find something solid with Ichiro Suzuki possibly leaving after the season, opening up gaps in both outfield corners.

Third base has been problematic for the team since Adrian Beltre left (but at least they received Taijuan Walker as a compensation draft pick when he left). There’s probably little hope that Chone Figgins can find his swing again, and Alex Liddi will likely be too strikeout prone to succeed in the majors, but Kyle Seager is an intriguing player that could turn into a passable regular. With little on the free agent market or available via trade, he should get a chance to prove himself.

Shortstop could be an area where the team looks to improve though. Defensive wiz Brendan Ryan is highly unlikely to hit as well as he did in 2009. If he strikes out on Fielder, Jack could chase down Jose Reyes on the free agent market, but it’s more likely that he would pursue a trade. A deal with Boston for Marco Scutaro or Jed Lowrie could be a possibility. They could also look towards Ian Desmond if the Nationals are enchanted by the thought of Steve Lombardozzi playing in Washington next season.

The Mariners could also use some veteran depth in the rotation as well. Erik Bedard could return for yet another stint in Seattle, but the Mariners may just be looking for cheap innings-eaters on short-term contracts like Jeff Francis or Paul Maholm. Though with Seattle’s defense, former Mariner Joel Piniero would be enticing. But don’t rule out an aquisition from the far east as the team tries to re-establish its presence in the Japanese markets.

The Winter Meetings should be an interesting time, Trader Jack loves to make moves outside of the free agent market and we could see some movement then. You never know, but the time they leave the meetings the Mariners could be walking away with two star-caliber hitters in their back pockets.

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It’s Just Speculation: Twins Offseason

The Minnesota Twins had a horrid season….simply horrid. With the payroll that they were dishing out last season it was completely frustrating to Twins fans to watch their team finish last in the AL Central for the first time in quite a while. What’s worse, they are possibly about to lose two of their most productive bats from the 2011 season. Things aren’t looking so good for a team that was recently the class of the AL Central, sporting a brand new stadium to go with it.

To get turned around, they need health first and foremost. Having Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau on the shelf for much of the season instantly spells doom to the team’s chances. These two are, by far, the most important cogs in the team’s offense. Having them healthy would be a massive boost. But regardless of how healthy Mauer is, the team needs a viable back up behind the plate that will play a significant number of innings. Not just a defensive stalwart that can’t hit his way out of a box, but a catcher that could possibly play full time on any other team.

Elsewhere on the infield, GM Bill Smith New/Old GM Terry Ryan has already started the reconstruction process. Scouts believed that Tsuyoshi Nishioka fit more in the Majors as a second baseman when he came over to the United States last year. He is now moving over so that Jamey Carroll can take over shortstop. Although Carroll has played over 500 innings each of the past two seasons at short, he’s mostly played a utility role around the infield during his tenure in the majors. But Jamey also brings some much-needed OBP to the lineup as well, sporting a .355 or higher figure each of the last four seasons. This looks like a decent signing for Ryan and the Twins.

Finding players to fill holes in the outfield may also be tough. Both Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel are checking out free agency for the first time. The team would really like to keep Cuddyer, who is better offensively and defensively, but the price tag may be just too much. With Denard Span and Ben Revere already in the outfield, the team may sacrifice defense for a little more offense. This may mean a Josh Willingham or Ryan Ludwick. Ludwick may be the cheaper option that would not completely prohibit the team from trying out prospects like of Joe Benson or Chris Parmelee in his place if he under performs or spends his usual time on the trainer’s table.

But they’ve already signed one player that could help. Ryan Doumit came to the Majors as a catcher, but has also played right field and even a little first base. Doumit could be a good addition, getting 500-550 AB while floating between those three positions (as well as DH) for the Twins. I picked Doumit to sign with the Twins back on November 8th because he just seemed to fit perfectly with their needs.

Regardless of their offensive woes, pitching will probably be a big focus of the team’s winter plans. They will likely need to find at least one starting pitcher, if not two, as well as a late-inning arm or two. I could see them going after a pitcher the likes of Erik Bedard or Joel Piniero to fill out their rotation. They could also make another run at Hisashi Iwakuma, who they were a supposedly a significant player for last winter before Oakland won negotiating rights.

As for the late innings, we could see them adding a right-handed closer to match up with the lefty Glen Perkins in the back of the pen. The options abound for free agent closers this offseason, but don’t look for the team to go high-end. With all the holes they need to fill, the Twins will probably look for a middle-tier closer to replace Joe Nathan. Rumors about their interest in Colorado’s Huston Street makes sense as a relatively low-cost, experienced closer. They may also wait out the closer market and try to pick up a value at a decent price. Francisco Cordero may fit that bill. He had decent statistics on the surface, but his strikeout rate took a big drop. Some other teams may shy away, but the Twins may pay for Cordero’s experience to back up a rotation that had only pitcher with over 200 innings last season.

Terry Ryan isn’t going to be bored this offseason as he tries to rebuild this team to what it was when he stepped down and let Bill Smith take his place.

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It’s Just Speculation: Astros Offseason

The worst team in baseball, as far as wins go, the Houston Astros had a disastrous season in 2011. With a fire sale this past July, a farm system that has regularly been near the bottom for the past few seasons, and a possible switch to a tough AL West, the team’s new ownership will have a tough task ahead of them.

Thankfully the team is not bogged down by several long term ill-advised contracts. Carlos Lee, the team’s biggest albatross, will be a free agent after the 2012 season. Brett Myers and Brandon Lyon will be free agents after next season as well, unless Myers’ ’13 option vests. Yet if Myers pitches well enough for his option to vest, then he should be decent trade bait down the stretch next season regardless. This would leave Wandy Rodriguez as the lone player under a guaranteed contract after the 2012 season, but he too has been mentioned in various trade rumors this past summer.

Next season should be a season of analysis for the Astros. With essentially no hope of contention, the team should set aside the desire to play veterans in the quest for a few more wins. They need to give what young talent they do have a chance to play full time and assess what holes they need to fill down the road.

However, thankfully GM Ed Wade will not be there. I bemoaned his hiring after viewing his previous work in Philadelphia (as well as his extension) and the Astros have actually gotten worse under his control. The new ownership has already ousted Wade and is currently trying to figure out who will take his place. Whoever is hired for the job certainly has an uphill battle ahead of them.

The team does have two free agents this season, shortstop Clint Barmes and outfielder Jason Michaels. Barmes is the most valuable of the two, but he will likely not be back as the Astros are unlikely to meet the bids of other teams. Unless they are able to trade for a young shortstop, the team will probably fill shortstop with a good-fielding, but light-hitting veteran like Jack Wilson. Someone that will give a young pitching staff some defensive confidence behind them as they develop.

As for help elsewhere on the free agent market, it is doubtful that the team will hit the market with much vigor as they are too far from contention to waste several million to go from bad to mediocre. A few role-playing veterans on one or two year contracts will likely be landed with an eye towards providing mentoring and stability. If the new GM has a good eye, he may even be able to flip a rebounding veteran for a decent return as well.

Unfortunately for Astros fans, hope for a good 2012 or even 2013 season is certain to end in frustration. A return to the cellar in 2012 is highly probable.

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Where will the Notable Free Agents Go? – 2011-2012

About every baseball writer tends to do a piece each year to pick where at least the top few free agents will go. To follow the crowd, TBO will conduct this shot-in-the-dark as well, but also pick some notable ones as well. Feel free to pick some of your own, but you might have a better chance at the lotto.

HITTERS:

Catchers

Ramon Hernandez - Mariners: Jack has a sizeable task ahead of him if he is intent on improving the Mariners’ offense. Hernandez is the best option available at catcher. This move would be similar to Detroit’s signing of Victor Martinez last season, giving Hernandez a few at bats at DH, while splitting time behind the plate with Miguel Olivo.

Ryan Doumit - Twins: Doumit is the perfect fit for the Twins. They need a catcher that can hit, allowing the team to let Mauer play 1B and DH more. Ryan also can play right field and platoon with prospect Joe Benson. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s played first base, important with  Morneau’s recent issues.

 

First basemen

Albert Pujols - Cardinals: The Cardinals will do what it takes to keep him in Cardinal red. Although they are still “searching” for a manager, it’ll likely be the Pujols-recommended Jose Oquendo, just another measure to ensure he stays put.

Prince Fielder - Mariners: The Mariners need offense, badly. Jack drafted Fielder while in Milwaukee and he fits in with what the Mariners need. Second place to the Florida Marlins, thinking they’d trade Gaby Sanchez to the Rays or another team for pitching.

Carlos Pena - Cubs: The Cubs will likely stay away from committing too much money to a player that will likely eventually need to stay in a DH role (his defense isn’t even that great now).

 

Second basemen

Kelly Johnson - Tigers: Stability at second base has been needed for a while in Detroit. Johnson can make this lineup look even better.

Aaron Hill - Diamondbacks: The Diamondbacks were pleased with Aaron’s production last season after they acquired him, just not his option price. I believe they will re-sign him.

Jamey Carroll - Blue Jays: Toronto needs some OBP near the top of the lineup and a second baseman.

 

Shortstops

Jose Reyes - Brewers: Prince Fielder is as good as gone in Milwaukee. The money they save could go to a much-needed defensive boost in their middle infield and a premiere leadoff hitter.

Jimmy Rollins - Phillies: It’s doubtful the Phillies have enough funds to go after Reyes and Rollins is the next-best option available. He’s also a Philly icon, it’s bound to happen that he re-signs.

Clint Barmes - Giants: The Giants don’t have a pile of money to spend on the holes in their lineup, but something needs to be done about shortstop. Barmes would be a good, cheap option.

Rafael Furcal - Cardinals: If Pujols doesn’t break the bank for the Cards, Furcal is likely to come back. There seems to be mutual interest between the two parties.

 

Third basemen

Aramis Ramirez - Cubs: Theo and crew will likely make a big push to keep Ramirez in a Cub uniform to keep from losing their best cleanup-hitting bat.

 

Left fielders

Josh Willingham - Indians: Michael Brantley is moving to centerfield and a hole exists in left. The Indians seem to be going all-in and may be willing to pull in the power-hitting Willingham.

David DeJesus - Dodgers: DeJesus gives the team a left-handed platoon-mate for Jerry Sands in left field. He can also serve as a defensive replacement.

Jason Kubel - Athletics: The A’s need offense and Kubel’s a good OBP guy. He’s also an outfielder, a pressing need for the team.

Juan Pierre - White Sox: With few options in their system and Carlos Quentin rumored to be traded, the White Sox will try to keep some stability in their outfield. Keeping Pierre around will maintain a leadoff presence as well.

 

Center fielders

Coco Crisp - Giants: The Giants have been rumored in connection with Crisp for a while.

Grady Sizemore - Mariners: The Mariners’ quest to improve their offense comes down to filling a gap in left with an upside bat. Jack’s love of defense will be quelled as well. For Sizemore, he returns Washington, where he grew up.

 

Right fielders

Carlos Beltran - Red Sox: The Red Sox have been often rumored to be interested in Beltran and I don’t think that interest will fade away.

Michael Cuddyer - Cubs: The Phillies have plenty of interest, but I can see the Cubs swooping in to fill their hole in right field.

 

Designated hitters

David Ortiz - Red Sox: There’s plenty of rumors of Toronto being interested in ‘Big Papi’, but I just can’t see him outside of a Red Sox uniform.

Johnny Damon - Athletics: Yes, a return engagement for Damon in Oakland. Johnny helps to fill the outfield void for Billy Beane, is experienced at DH, and has shown he can be a leader for a young team.

 

PITCHERS

Starting pitchers

C.J. Wilson - Chicago Cubs: The Cubs are going to need good starting pitching to contend with the rotations of the Brewers and the Cardinals.

Yu Darvish - Blue Jays: The Jays seem to be the most interested in Darvish.

Edwin Jackson - Marlins: Starting pitching is one of their main focuses this winter and they have the money to do it.

Mark Buehrle - Marlins: After losing out on Fielder, the Marlins will hone in on improving the rotation as much as possible. They could deal away Nolasco for help elsewhere on the team and sign Buehrle, reuniting him with Ozzie Guillen.

Hiroki Kuroda - Dodgers: Kuroda has let it be known that he’s not really interested in playing for other teams. If he’s still in the Majors, he’s still with the Dodgers.

Roy Oswalt - Nationals: The Nationals have already expressed interest in Oswalt. The former ace, should also be a good mentor for Steven Strasburgh.

Javier Vazquez – Retires.

Hisashi Iwakuma - Rangers: The Rangers are going to need to replace C.J. Wilson and they were interested in him last winter.

Paul Maholm - Reds: The Reds need better starting pitching and they have a limited budget, Maholm may fit in.

Bartolo Colon - Baltimore: Colon proved last season that he still has the stuff to pitch in the AL East….at least until he wore down late in the season.

Erik Bedard - Royals: The Royals have mentioned a few times that they are looking at improving their rotation depth. They’ve also been interested in trading for Bedard in the past.

Jeff Francis - Padres: Francis may be a good fit in the spacious Petco park.

Chris Capuano - Mariners: Seattle needs a little more depth in their rotation. After snatching up Fielder, they’ll have to go relatively cheap, that’ll be Capuano.

Tsuyoshi Wada - Twins: The Twins need starting pitchers and they were interested in Iwakuma last winter. They may be interested in Wada as well.

Freddy Garcia – Yankees: There’s mutual interest between the two parties, it should happen.

Aaron Harang - Padres: He’s a southern California native and other teams know that Harang doesn’t have much left.

Jason Marquis - Mets: Marquis has always wanted to pitch for his home town. A short-term deal with the Mets may be the end result.

Joel Pineiro - Pirates: A return to the NL may be best for Pineiro and the Pirates are looking for experience in their rotation again.

Bruce Chen - Royals: Chen has eaten plenty of innings for the Royals the past couple seasons and there seems to be mutual interest.

 

Closers/Relievers

Jonathan Papelbon - Red Sox: Sox blood flows through his veins.

Ryan Madson – Phillies: Madson wants to be a closer, the Phillies have resisted as they’ve liked him putting out fires. But they can’t lose Madson, they’ll give in and let him close.

Francisco Rodriguez - Marlins: It’s going to be tough to get good starting pitching in this market. Closing down a game is getting out of control going to be important if the Marlins are going to want a successful first season in their stadium. Having an unsettled closer spot doesn’t help things.

Heath Bell - Padres: He wants to stay there, but he also wants paid. They’ll work something out.

Frank Francisco - Twins: The Twins seem to go cheap lately on closers and Francisco will probably be one of the cheapest closers on the market.

Jonathan Broxton - Braves: The Braves are likely going to look for upside veteran arms with closer experience to fill out the holes in their pen like last season. Broxton is a Georgia native and could be a good fit.

Joe Nathan - Mets: The New York Mets want to groom Bobby Parnell for the closer spot, but they will likely need a backup if Parnell fails. Having Nathan help groom Parnell wouldn’t hurt either.

Kerry Wood - Cubs: It seems like Cubs or retirement for Wood, it’s likely the Cubs will welcome him back.

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It’s Just Speculation: Jair Jurrjens to the Royals

Every once in a while I like to throw out a wild trade idea in the It’s Just Speculation section. They don’t always make complete sense, but they’re fun to debate regardless. This time around it’s Jair Jurrjens, an All-Star pitcher for the Atlanta Braves. Yes, the Braves already dealt away Derek Lowe from their starting rotation and noted that they are happy with the depth they have, but GM Frank Wren hasn’t specifically stated that they wouldn’t trade from their strength again.

Current Royals GM Dayton Moore has already stated that it is his desire to improve the top of the Royals’ starting rotation this offseason and he’s not opposed to using prospects from his deep farm system to do it. With the team’s lack of payroll flexibility, taking the trade route is obviously Moore’s best option.

Yet there’s not much upper-tier talent available on the trade market. Other than the Tampa Bay Rays and the Atlanta Braves, who are overflowing with good, young pitching, other teams are hoarding their best pitchers in hopes of contention next season. The Braves in particular are an interesting trade partner for the Royals. Moore has been known to acquire a couple ex-Braves….ok, plenty of ex-Braves. Although Jair Jurrjens wasn’t on the Braves when Moore was hired by the Royals, Jair should be enticing for him nonetheless.

With the Scott Boras client inching towards free agency and the desire to place more of their young pitching firmly into the rotation, the Braves may be inclined to trade Jurrjens for some offensive help. But where can the Royals spare an offensive player good enough to entice the Braves? What about Alex Gordon? After a breakout season, Gordon is entering his arbitration years and is starting to get more costly, much like Jurrjens. Gordon would fill the void that the Braves have had in left field for a while as well as inject a little additional speed into the lineup, a target of GM Frank Wren lately.

But can the Royals give up such an important cog in their lineup? Eric Hosmer will be entering his first full season in the majors and is a likely candidate to break out. His teammate across the diamond, Mike Moustakas, struggled early last season, but really turned it on the final month (.352/.380/.580). If both break out, they could certainly take up the slack. As for the hole in left, Lorenzo Cain has strikeout issues, but is essentially ready for a long-term trial in Kansas City. If Cain doesn’t work out a couple months into the season, top hitting prospect Wil Myers may be able to take his spot. Although Myers had a down season at the plate in 2011, he’s tearing up the Arizona Fall League (.338/.471/.632, 17/16 BB/K) and could be on the fast track tot he big leagues if he keeps it up.

Of course other players would likely be involved in such a deal, but it is an intriguing proposition. The Atlanta Braves recently sent Jurrjens to the instructional league for a start at the end of the season instead of shutting him down completely. It could be that they were parading him as healthy again for a possible trade.

With Derek Lowe now out of the rotation, the Braves may be more unlikely to pull the trigger on such a trade and have too much inexperience in the rotation. But the idea’s not completely too far-fetched.

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It’s Just Speculation: Who else could be traded?

Today is the final day for non-waiver related trades for the season. There’s already been a few significant moves already, but what other trades are likely to happen? Here’s some rough speculation over what players are most rumored to go and where they cold go:

Michael Bourn: Braves (already done)

Carlos Quentin: Stays

Ryan Ludwick: Indians

Josh Willingham: Pirates

Hiroki Kuroda: Stays, won’t waive no-trade

Heath Bell: Cardinals

Jamey Carroll: Brewers

Marlon Byrd: Red Sox

Grant Balfour: Diamondbacks

B.J. Upton: Nationals

Rafael Betancourt: Yankees

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It’s Just Speculation: Reds-Giants-Dodgers Three-Way

With roughly a month until the trade deadline, it’s often a fun exercise to explore possible trades that could happen before the end of July. These are not full-out rumors, just off-the-cuff speculation of trade scenarios.

Anyone who works in the industry or is an analyst can tell you that trades involving multiple partners are exponentially hard to complete. Getting two teams to agree on which players will be exchanged is hard enough, adding any additional “cooks in the kitchen” can douse the hopes of any trade quickly.

But one deal that just may work could be a three-way trade between the Cincinnati Reds, San Francisco Giants, and the L.A. Dodgers. Two of these teams, the Reds and the Giants, are in tight pennant races and are in need of a little additional help to propel each to the front of their respective division.

The Reds have a wealth of catching talent. Catcher Ramon Hernandez is enjoying a terrific offensive season (.308/.370/.513) and has provided well behind the plate as well. Although he hasn’t hit nearly as well as Hernandez, Ryan Hanigan has been relatively close to league average for a catcher and has more defensive potential than Hernandez at this point in his career. They also have a catcher by the name of Devin Mesoraco crushing Triple-A pitching down in Louisville.

However, their starting pitching has been relatively attrocious. Starters Bronson Arroyo, Edinson Volquez, and Travis Wood all have ERAs north of 5.00. Although they are looking forward to the return of Homer Bailey, the Reds are in desperate need for reliable starting pitching to team with the top offense in the NL.

The Giants are in a complete opposite predicament. They have a wealth of starting pitching, but lack any sort of viable offensive output from their catchers now that Buster Posey is out for the season with a broken leg.

Yet, there has been rumors that the Giants are very reluctant to give up any of their starting pitching for an offensive boost. Although they boast an impressive starting five that’s been good enough to essentially make Barry Zito a very expensive middle reliever, it is unlikely that they will be open to giving away any of them mid-season for a bump in offensive production.

That’s where the woeful Dodgers come in. With the McCourt dealings providing a blanket of financial insecurity that lays heavy on the organization, the Dodgers have been rumored to want to deal away some of the players nearing free agency. One of those players, pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, is enjoying a fine year for the Dodgers and has become the most likely to go. According to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports numerous teams have scouted Hiroki, including the Reds.

By sending Kuroda to the Reds, the Dodgers would relieve themselves of his salary for the rest of the season. The workhorse starter would give the Reds’ rotation a mid-season boost that they so desperately need. The Reds could then clear some salary to pay Kuroda by trading Hernandez to the Dodgers, clearing the way for Mesoraco to join them in Cincinnati. Hernandez would be a big boost to a lack-luster Giants offensive lineup and would be a free agent at the end of the season, allowing Posey to slip back in behind the plate next year. In return for letting Kuroda go, the Dodgers would then receive a couple prospects from the Giants and possibly the Reds.

Looking at previous trades of similar players that are about to hit free agency, it is unlikely the Dodgers will receive a player like Zach Wheeler or Eric Surkamp. Then again, the market for upper-end starting pitching will be very meager and the price may go up even though it is a somewhat of a salary dump move for the Dodgers.

Of course, there are a number of roadblocks in such a deal beyond just the three-way obstacle. This would mean that the Dodgers and Giants would trade within their division, not a completely usual practice in MLB. Also, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, Kuroda would require compensation to waive his no-trade clause. It’s also possible that money exhanged in the deal as well.

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