MLB Trade Rumors: One Rumor Each Team's Fans Would Love to Hear
Months ago, they were dream scenarios, a mere twinkle in the eye of an erstwhile general manager.
Albert Pujols to the Angels?
Prince Fielder to the Tigers?
Jose Reyes to the Marlins?
Today they are certifiable baseball fact—question marks removed—and the fodder that keeps every MLB fanbase dreaming of some better tomorrow.
Because what starts as a whisper in your ear or a link in your inbox can end up wearing your hometown threads.
If only you'll believe...
...and if the rich guy that owns your favorite team hates money.
Philadelphia Phillies: Cole Hamels to Sign Extension
I have since confirmed the following statistics first bought to my attention via email (from my dad):
Steve Carlton at age 27: 104-72 (.591), 124 ERA+, 1.22 WHIP, 3.0 BB/9, 7.0 K/9
Cole Hamels at age 27: 74-54 (.578), 126 ERA+, 1.14 WHIP, 2.3 BB/9, 8.5 K/9
That comparison tells you why Phillies fans are so keen on inking Cole Hamels to a long-term deal. The 28-year-old former MVP is one of the best southpaws in baseball and the key to keeping Philadelphia atop the NL East.
In the most recent issue of ESPN the Magazine, Jim Bowden ranked Hamels as the most likely potential 2013 free agent to leave his current team (he gave Hamels a 60 percent chance of leaving). That, combined with the rising fortunes of the Braves, Nationals and Marlins, gives Phillies fans reason for worry.
Progress on a Hamels extension would be just the tonic they need, ensuring that their rotation remains one of baseball's best for the next three years.
Atlanta Braves: Jair Jurrjens Trade Imminent
Jair Jurrjens: 26 years old, All-Star pitcher, expendable.
The pitching-rich Braves need offense, and Atlanta fans would like nothing more than to ship Jurrjens for an outfield bat like Adam Jones or Andre Ethier.
Jurrjens is good, but when you have prospects like Mike Minor, Julio Teheran and Arodys Vizaino in the pipeline, his talents become redundant.
A middle-of-the-lineup hitter would help erase the memory of last year's collapse and give Atlanta some momentum in an offseason dominated by the Marlins and Nationals.
Washington Nationals: Deal in Works for B.J. Upton
The ebb and flow of their flirtation with Prince Fielder left some Nationals fans disappointed, but it wasn't a make-or-break proposition for this franchise.
The most glaring hole in their long-term plan remains in centerfield, where Roger Bernadina still hasn't convinced the front office of his viability.
Enter B.J. Upton, a long-rumored trade target of Nationals brass and the ideal candidate to assume centerfield as Washington vies for the postseason.
Upton's enviable talents have led observers to define him by what he hasn't accomplished in the big leagues. But look at what he has done: two seasons over 20 home runs, three seasons over 40 stolen bases and four seasons with a WAR above 3.5.
And he's just 27 years old.
Loosed from the pitcher-friendly confines of Tropicana Field, Upton could be an elite performer for the Nationals. Even if he isn't, he's a well-above-average performer at a premium position.
New York Mets: Moving the Dead Weight
The New York Mets are on the way down, but they haven't maximized return on the assets they still have.
Mike Pelfrey, R.A. Dickey and Jonathon Niese are all worth varying levels of something to contending teams, and New York should look aggressively to move them.
Trading Carlos Beltran before the deadline last year was a nice start, but New York is still well short of a total overhaul. Their farm system is just average, and there should be a more concerted effort to get this team ready for the future.
Miami Marlins: Closing in on Yoenis Cespedes
By virtue of the fact that they flirted with every top free agent available, Miami’s offseason haul feels like a disappointment.
They got Jose Reyes, but that only angered Hanley Ramirez.
They landed Mark Buehrle, but they wanted C.J. Wilson or Gio Gonzalez (via trade).
And whatever happened to their hard-nosed pursuits of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder?
Signing Cuban super-prospect Yoenis Cespedes would erase any feelings of inadequacy and help lure members of the Cuban expat community living in Miami to the franchise’s new ballpark.
Milwaukee Brewers: Ryan Braun to Avoid Suspension
Based on precedent alone, it seemed certain that Ryan Braun would miss the first 50 games of 2012 for failing a drug test.
After all, no one in MLB history has successfully appealed a suspension under baseball’s new policy.
Yet there are whispers that Braun’s challenge may stand and the reigning MVP could be back on the field for Opening Day. Should those whispers grow bit louder, Brewers fans can re-engage hopes of a division title defense and, at least to some extent, begin to forget the offseason from hell.
St. Louis Cardinals: Roy Oswalt on His Way
The St. Louis Cardinals were the presumed front-runners for Roy Oswalt at the 2009 trade deadline. When the right-hander fell to the Philadelphia Phillies, it came as a mild shock.
Things appeared to come full circle this offseason, when the Cardinals reportedly signed Oswalt. But even that was a smokescreen, as the elusive hurler took a meeting with the Rangers just days after his Cardinal fate seemed sealed.
St. Louis fans hope it’s a brief conversation and that the veteran finally opts for Cardinal red. A one-year deal would lay a bridge to ace of the future, Shelby Miller, and help the franchise breach life after Albert.
Cincinnati Reds: Joey Votto Says, “I Do”
The Cincinnati Reds are all in on Joey Votto after trading first-base prospect Yonder Alonso to the San Diego Padres.
But is the first baseman all in on Cincinnati?
Votto has played coy on contract talk, and based on what Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder scored, the Reds can’t afford him if he hits free agency in 2014.
If he doesn’t warm to Cincinnati soon, the Reds playoff window looks mighty small.
Reports say the Reds want to negotiate with Votto, and Cincinnati fans would love to get some mutual reinforcement from their best player.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Contract Talks with Andrew McCutchen Heating Up
Start with a euphemism: The Pittsburgh Pirates have a checkered past when it comes to keeping top talent in house.
Translation: The Pirates of recent vintage would have traded Babe Ruth if they had the chance.
Bucs fans would love to see management reverse the outflow of elite players by committing All-Star Andrew McCutchen to a long-term deal.
The team played well for stretches last year, the farm system is on the rise and the ballpark is still baseball’s crown jewel. There is reason for hope in Pittsburgh, and in ways both symbolic and practical, signing McCutchen represents the next step forward.
Chicago Cubs: Alfonso Soriano on the Move
Theo Epstein’s done well with the cards dealt him.
He let Aramis Ramirez walk, he traded Carlos Zambrano and he cut ties with Mike Quade. The Cubs needed a house cleaning, and Epstein set a new-sheriff-in-town tone from the onset.
The last domino to fall is Alfonso Soriano, whose fading production and mammoth contract is a momentum-sapping leech on Chicago’s rebuilding efforts.
The Cubs won’t be able to cut and run from the money, but they can get some return talent from a team desperate for power. If Epstein can salvage something from the Soriano disaster, his first offseason in Wrigley will be an unqualified success.
Houston Astros: Carlos Lee, Wandy Rodriguez Drawing Major Interest
Like their brethren in Chicago, Houston needs to jettison the veteran pieces left over from more competitive days.
Carlos Lee, Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers are the biggest names, and they represent the last bit of leverage Houston has in their rebuilding process.
Mind you, Houston was the worst team in baseball last year, and according to John Sickels, they have the sixth-worst farm system in baseball.
It’s a dreadful combination, and the Astros need some talent in the fringes to frame their 2013 move to the stacked AL West.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Miguel Montero Ready to Sign
The only damper on Arizona’s stellar offseason has been their inability to lock up All-Star catcher Miguel Montero.
Montero provides top-five production at a thin position, and he’s a key member of the Diamondbacks young core. Keeping him in the desert gives Arizona great stability moving forward and keeps their hand out of the free agent market.
That’s where a low-payroll team like Arizona needs to be.
San Francisco Giants: Both Aces Are in the Cards
Don’t worry, I already hate myself for that pun.
There’s a feeling around the Bay Area that the Giants cannot afford contiguous long-term deals for co-aces Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum, both of whom could reach free agency in the next two years.
Lincecum wants a deal in the seven to eight-year range, and Cain could be the most coveted player on the 2013 free-agent market.
San Francisco fans would rejoice in a revelation that their team could indeed afford both. Side by side, the two would keep the Giants competitive for the next four to six years.
Los Angeles Dodgers: New Ownership Imminent
The Los Angeles Dodgers are in for a quick turnaround if they can find a committed successor to disgraced owner Frank McCourt.
In Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw L.A. has cornerstone players on both sides of the ball, and with new ownership, could be big players for Cole Hamels or Josh Hamilton in next year’s free-agent market.
They have all the ingredients of a team on the rise, but stability at the top remains key. A diligent and timely decision on that front positions Los Angeles well for the future.
Colorado Rockies: Jorge De La Rosa Ahead of Recovery Curve
Losing starting pitcher Jorge de la Rosa to Tommy John surgery early in 2011 dealt the Colorado Rockies a blow from which, by coincidence or cause, they never recovered.
He’s expected back by May or June, but squeezing a few more starts out of de la Rosa improves Colorado’s chances next year.
Other than that, the trajectory of this team is fairly even.
Don’t let all the ancillary offseason move fool you. Colorado’s core components—Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Drew Pomeranz—remain unchanged. Getting support players healthy and tracking continued growth from prospects like Nolan Arenado is about the most Rockies fans can hope for.
San Diego Padres: Cameron Maybin Contract Extension on the Way
His transition to the major leagues hasn’t been as smooth as anticipated, but last year, Cameron Maybin showed signs of becoming the player scouts thought he’d be when he ranked as the sixth-best prospect in baseball (pre-2006 and 2007).
Maybin posted a 2.8 offensive WAR in 137 games and stole 40 bases, a 31-base jump from his previous career high.
The Padres talked about extending him, but things have cooled recently. San Diego fans would love to see their team secure a cornerstone player that pairs well with the middle-of-the-order bats they got in the Mat Latos deal.
New York Yankees: Someone Wants A.J. Burnett
In a 24-hour burst, the Yankees filled their offseason needs by adding Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda to the rotation.
Now, they’d like nothing more than for someone to take the dead weight off their hands.
I can think of no better way to describe A.J. Burnett, who will earn $33 million over the next two years despite posting an ERA north of 5.00 the last two seasons and finishing 2011 with the fifth-worst FIP among MLB starters.
The Yankees will gladly eat most of his salary to get something useful in return and clear up a rotation spot.
Tampa Bay Rays: Shopping James Shields
First consideration: The Tampa Bay Rays have more top-end pitching talent in the minor leagues than any team not named the Atlanta Braves.
Second consideration: The Tampa Bay Rays could use better bats at both the major and minor league levels.
Third consideration: James Shields, coming off the best year of his career, will never be worth more than he’s worth right now.
Put all three considerations together, and you’ve made the case to trade James Shields. He’s the most valuable asset on the Rays roster and also the most expendable. Matt Moore stands ready to assume Shields’ role at the top of the rotation, and Tampa could use the return to keep pace in the AL East.
Boston Red Sox: Starting Pitching Help Lined Up
After a buzz-tacular 2011 offseason, Boston has kept a low profile this winter.
They’ve looked for affordable veteran rotation help, but came up empty in courtships of Roy Oswalt and Hiroki Kuroda.
Either would satisfy pitching-starved Boston at this point and give fans hope that last year’s collapse wasn’t the start of a slide to mediocrity. Going into 2012 with the same bunch isn’t an option for the Fenway faithful.
Toronto Blue Jays: Joey Votto Wants out
Toronto fans covet what Cincinnati fans dread: Joey Votto on the open market.
Votto, a Toronto native, is the ideal candidate for a surging Blue Jays organization. He’s a hometown kid, plays a position of need and has the kind of all-fields swing that should age well.
Though it’s still two years off, any hint that Votto wants to test the water should excite Blue Jays fans. He’s the rare free agent that might target their organization, and he gives Toronto fans reason to look past this offseason's failures.
Baltimore Orioles: Adam Jones on the Trading Block
Orioles won’t want to hear this, but the red flags with Adam Jones are various.
He doesn’t walk, he strikes out a ton and, even in his youth, plays bad centerfield defense. His extensive exposure at the big-league level means he’s unlikely to break those bad habits.
It’s easy to get caught up in his age (26) and his power (25 home runs last year), but all of the above augurs for a hard decline once he passes his late 20s.
Rather than sign him to a contract extension, the Orioles would be wise to shop him for a big return while his youth still attracts suitors. Baltimore is two steps behind its competition in the AL East, and Jones can help them close the gap.
O’s fans may disagree, but news of a Jones trade ought to excite them.
Detroit Tigers: Matt Garza on the Way
Four years from now, the Detroit Tigers will be awash in bad contracts, just about the same time 20-year-old farmhand Jacob Turner is easing into his prime.
I think you can see where this is heading.
If the Tigers can swap Turner for Cubs ace Matt Garza, they should. That move gives them the best short-range prospects and gives their fans reason to believe they can contend for a championship before Justin Verlander hits free agency in 2014.
Turner is a great piece, but he isn’t what the win-now Tigers need.
Trust me—I know how cliché that sounds. I wouldn’t have said it if it wasn’t true.
Cleveland Indians: Getting Serious About Power Bat
Last year, the Cleveland Indians ranked below league average in isolated power, OPS and runs scored.
Offseason chatter by Lake Erie centered on finding a middle-of-the-order bat worthy of this team’s playoff aspirations.
So far, that chatter has amounted to nothing of note, and with Prince Fielder in Detroit, Cleveland's urgency waxes. Tribe fans would love to hear more talk about a deal for Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Lee or any warm body capable of supporting a promising staff.
As with the Derek Lowe deal, neither of those veterans would command much in return.
Chicago White Sox: Gavin Floyd Trade in the Works
Prince Fielder’s move to Detroit should have driven home the obvious for White Sox fans: It’s time to rebuild.
GM Kenny Williams has given the concept lip service—trading Carlos Quentin, Sergio Santos and Jason Frasor, for example—but hasn’t made the full plunge.
The White Sox need full-plunge commitment to retool a farm system that ranks among the worst in baseball. Trading Gavin Floyd would signal a start, with players like Gordon Beckham next in line.
Kansas City Royals: Alex Gordon Wants to Sign Long-Term
After countless letdowns in his development, Alex Gordon finally proved himself every bit the big-league hitter scouts saw when the Royals drafted him second overall in 2005.
Gordon posted a .303/.376/.502 slash line, played excellent left field defense and had the third-best WAR among AL outfielders.
Now, the Royals want him in powder blue for the long haul, and while there have been extensive talks, a deal doesn’t appear imminent.
Royals fan would love to see some movement on that front and get a sign from their frugal front office that brighter days are ahead.
Minnesota Twins: The Concussion Fog Is Clearing
Justin Morneau suffered one in 2010 and has never been the same. Denard Span caught the bug last year last June and played just 70 games as a result.
Concussions have taken an undue toll on the Minnesota Twins, and they're looking for some mercy in 2012.
If either of those players can get near their previous norms, Minnesota can return to respectability. If both bounced back, perhaps the Twins can do a bit of damage.
Without either, this team is as screwed as last year.
All Minnesota Twins fans can do is cross all appendages and hope for good news.
Texas Rangers: Getting Close on Ian Kinsler Extension
Josh Hamilton’s impending free agency gets all the attention, but it’s for sentimental reasons.
Hamilton’s compelling personal narrative and MVP highs gain him the lion’s share of the attention, but he isn’t as important to the Rangers as Ian Kinsler.
A look at Kinsler’s production over the last four years: .276/.357/.478 19.6 WAR 523 games
A look at Hamilton’s over the same period: .311/.366/.541 17.6 WAR 499 games
Hamilton’s been a bit better with the bat, but he plays a less valuable position, misses more time and is a year older than Kinsler.
Kinsler hits free agency after 2013, and his production at second base is second only to Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia.
Getting him locked up should be priority 1-A.
Los Angeles Angels: New Home for Spare Parts
They Los Angeles Angels have Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales on their roster, three players best suited to play first base.
It’s a good problem to have, but it’s still a problem.
Angels fans would like to see the team cast a lot in the battle between Morales and Trumbo and realize some value for whomever draws the short straw.
Oakland A’s: Move to San Jose Annulled
All signs point to the Athletics leaving their Oakland home of 44 years for the virgin lands of San Jose.
At this point, it would take some major interference by the San Francisco Giants or some act of the divine to keep the A’s in Oaktown.
Perhaps it’ll come in the form of owner Lew Wolff selling the team. Maybe Manny Ramirez will revert to his 1999 form and save baseball by the Bay.
Whatever it is, it needs to happen fast. Oakland is running out of time and options.
After an offseason fire sale, some sign of stability and loyalty would be more than enough for A’s faithful.
Seattle Mariners: Chone Figgins Draws Interest
Seattle has a good crop of young talent, but bloated contracts to Chone Figgins and Ichiro hold the team’s limited capital hostage.
Figgins’ deal is particularly troublesome because it has two more guaranteed years with a vesting option for 2014.
The Mariners would love to find a taker for Figgins so that Kyle Seager can move into the starting role at third base and the youth movement can take root.
After Figgins’ numbers last year (.188/.241/.243), it’ll be a tough sell, but someone might take him at a discount based on his time with the Angels. Mariners fans can dream.