Recent MLB trade rumors claim that dozens of players are being shopped around, even though a handful fit well on their current teams.
Aged veterans with exorbitant contracts always get peddled, so Alfonso Soriano and Vernon Wells are predictably on the block.
Impending free agents on struggling franchises could be moved (e.g. Shin-Soo Choo).
Also, elite talents like David Price, Giancarlo Stanton and Justin Upton will be discussed because they can attract robust packages of prospects.
Setting those obvious targets aside, let's focus on the shocking individuals who are reportedly available as the winter meetings get underway.
At this rate, the Pirates won't have any experienced relievers next season.
Joel Hanrahan was one of many Pittsburgh Pirates to struggle in September as the team painfully extended its streak of losing seasons.
Fortunately for him, the arbitration panel doesn't mind his monthly splits. They'll instead focus on his All-Star selection, 59.2 innings pitched and 36 saves. Matt Swartz of MLB Trade Rumors projects that information to earn him approximately $6.9 million.
ESPN insider Buster Olney tweets that the Pirates have discussed their closer's status with other teams this winter.
D.J. Short of NBC Sports concisely sums up the situation:
Signing Russell Martin and dealing Hanrahan would send mixed messages to the fanbase, so I doubt this would be a real possibility unless the Pirates are able to bring back Jason Grilli, who FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported yesterday is drawing some interest as a closer.
Pittsburgh faces competition in trying to re-sign Jason Grilli, their veteran setup man, who will certainly be offered multi-year guarantees. The front office also dealt Brad Lincoln and Chris Resop in July and November, respectively.
In just a few months, the Bucs' biggest strength—the bullpen—has become a question mark. They would be better off compensating Hanrahan, their last remaining reputable reliever.
Peralta regressed in 2012 after being an All-Star the year before.
In Jhonny Peralta, the Detroit Tigers have an effective and durable shortstop, owed a reasonable $6 million salary in 2013. He's a sure-handed fielder who made the AL All-Star team in 2011.
ESPN.com's Jim Bowden has insisted throughout the offseason that free agent Stephen Drew is a better fit in Detroit because of his defensive range. Last month, he reported the Tigers would trade Peralta to make space for the 29-year-old.
But Drew—a Scott Boras client—ranks atop a weak group of unsigned shortstops, so he's in line for a bloated long-term deal.
It's unclear why the Tigers would want to pay extra for him. With Peralta in the starting lineup, they have won consecutive AL Central titles, the only two in franchise history.
Morse will earn $6.75 million next season before hitting free agency.
The Washington Nationals completed their search for a center fielder with the acquisition of Denard Span. As a result, Bryce Harper will move to left, Jayson Werth will stay in right and the Nats will choose between Adam LaRoche or Mike Morse at first base.
ESPN's Jayson Stark learns from an AL executive that Washington is "definitely shopping" the latter in order to re-sign LaRoche.
This is puzzling because Morse provides the team with so much more financial flexibility and similar production.
The slugger will earn a modest $6.75 million in 2013, his contract year. Based on performance, the Nationals could extend him during the summer, pursue him as a free agent next offseason or give the 2014 job to powerful, pre-arbitration eligible Tyler Moore.
Re-signing LaRoche was previously a top priority because of his handedness. Among the remaining regulars, only Danny Espinosa and Bryce Harper could hit from the left side. The Nationals needed the 33-year-old to provide balance.
But that's no longer a concern with the lefty-swinging Span on the roster.
Washington is bidding against the Boston Red Sox for LaRoche, who reportedly seeks a three-year deal (via Adam Kilgore, Washington Post). He's the top first baseman in the free-agent class, easily worth $13-15 million per season.
This positional decision indirectly determines which starting pitcher the Nationals will pursue. LaRoche's money could buy Ryan Dempster or Kyle Lohse. If GM Mike Rizzo commits to his Gold Glove winner, however, he will be picking from a lower tier when filling out the rotation.
Prying a good, pre-arbitration eligible player from the Rays is usually like pulling teeth.
Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald hears that the Tampa Bay Rays have been listening to offers for starting pitchers Jeremy Hellickson and James Shields. Buster Olney's latest column identifies David Price as a trade candidate (ESPN Insider access required).
The Shields news is hardly surprising. He'll make $9 million in 2013 and another $12 million the next year (via team option). That's more money than the small-market Rays feel comfortable spending on anyone not named Evan Longoria. Tampa Bay would like to swap him for young talent before he reaches free agency.
Likewise, Price—the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner—is getting expensive. Olney writes that the team can "demand an incredible package of prospects" and still flaunt a deep starting rotation come Opening Day.
But Hellickson? Not even eligible for arbitration yet!
He fared well in his second full MLB season, improving his strikeout-to-walk ratio and winning a Gold Glove. Justin Verlander and Jered Weaver are the only qualifying AL starters with a better earned run average since 2011.
The Rays need to free up payroll to address their offensive deficiencies. Moving Hellickson wouldn't help them do that.
Myers dominated the minor leagues last season.
The Kansas City Royals wasted no time addressing their suspect starting rotation. Ervin Santana came over from the Angels on Halloween, and Jeremy Guthrie re-signed as a free agent several weeks later.
Is the team satisfied?
Not yet, according to Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star. He reports that outfield prospect Wil Myers has been discussed as the centerpiece in potential deals for Jon Lester or James Shields. A major league source confirms these rumors to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com.
The soon-to-be 22-year-old hit for terrific power in the minor leagues last season (37 HR, 109 RBI, .600 SLG). The Royals will eventually have an everyday opportunity for him in right field with Jeff Francoeur's contract expiring after 2013.
By dangling Myers, K.C. is assuming that Lorenzo Cain and Francoeur will rebound from unproductive campaigns. When they disappointed in 2012, the Royals finished with the third-lowest run total in the American League.
Through free agency, the Royals can add another quality arm without compromising outfield depth.