Obviously, the most important part of baseball is played out in the summer, but the decisions that are made right now help determine how well that goes.
Teams are looking to fill strategic holes by signing that key free agent or by making that mutually beneficial trade.
However, until the deals are actually executed, nothing is certain, and the rumors circulate relentlessly. Even the most informed sources are wrong at some point, and it is hard to know without a doubt which ones will really happen.
With that disclaimer of my imperfections stated, we are going to be looking at 10 rumors that are being talked about right now and see how plausible each one really is. I will try to demonstrate through logical conclusions why each deal should or should not happen.
I won't replicate my entire article here, but here are the main reasons why it could work.
The Kansas City Royals have obviously made a commitment to starting pitching for the season. By bringing in Ervin Santana via trade and through the retention of Jeremy Guthrie, the middle of the rotation is set.
James Shields could lead that rotation.
Wil Myers is one of the best prospects in baseball, and he coincidentally plays center field. Since BJ Upton just left the Tampa Bay Rays for a big contract with the Atlanta Braves, that position is wide open.
Myers could play that position for years to come.
Both teams have a reason to be legitimately interested in this trade, and it would not surprise me at all to see this or a very similar trade develop before the end of winter.
In the same report from Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star, the Kansas City Royals have also discussed a deal that would send Wil Myers to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for left-handed starting pitcher Jon Lester.
Even if I had not already said that I believe a trade with Tampa Bay makes sense, I would not believe this trade from either side.
Kansas City does need a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher. However, Jon Lester is not that option.
He is coming off arguably his worst professional season (9-14, 4.82 ERA, 1.383 WHIP, 7.3 K/9), and Myers is a huge price to pay.
The Royals need to make sure that they receive an almost definite return for a player who has the potential to develop into an excellent middle-of-the-lineup hitter.
On the Boston side, it does not make sense to acquire another centerfielder. Jacoby Ellsbury is already holding down the position, and if he goes anywhere, Jackie Bradley has the potential to be an excellent replacement.
Obviously, Myers could transition to another outfield position, but for a team that already had the fourth worst ERA in baseball in 2012 (4.70), it does not make sense to trade a potentially top-of-the-rotation pitcher for yet another centerfielder.
The Atlanta Braves signed BJ Upton, and the Washington Nationals traded for Denard Span.
The Philadelphia Phillies are also in the market for a centerfielder, and according to Buster Olney of ESPN, they have been talking to Angel Pagan for weeks. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports also reported that the Phillies are assumed to be one of the two teams that offered Pagan a four-year contract.
This deal is definitely plausible.
First of all, it is obvious that the Phillies are going to do something.
Right now, John Mayberry, Jr. probably controls the position right now, but he does not have the skill set that the Phillies need in their lineup.
He does have some power (14 home runs in 2012), but the Phillies have plenty of that type of production with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley in the middle of the lineup.
They need someone who can set the table and create RBI opportunities.
Pagan hit .288 last season with eight home runs, 56 RBI and 29 stolen bases. Also, he led the National League with 15 triples.
This type of hitter would fit right into the second slot in the lineup and complement Philadelphia's offensive attack.
Any trade involving Justin Upton seems to be just about dead right now. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick said that there is a "high likelihood" that Upton remains in the desert.
For the sake of the franchise, it makes sense to keep the 25-year-old right fielder on the team.
The only reason that these rumors were circulating in the first place was because Upton had a difficult 2012 (.280, 17 HR, 67 RBI, 18 SB).
If he had been producing like the 30-30 threat that he is, Arizona would never dream of trading him.
It is kind of funny that he almost went 20-20 and was a disappointment.
Unless some team comes along and absolutely blows away the Diamondbacks, don't expect Upton to be on the move anytime soon.
Zack Greinke is easily the best arm on the free-agent market this winter, and he has been understandably attracting a lot of attention. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the Washington Nationals might be interested.
That said, it makes very little sense for the Nationals to even consider bringing in the former Cy Young Award winner.
The Washington Nationals are a team built on pitching. Their pitching staff was one of the best in baseball in 2012, and while there is always room for improvement, the money could be better spent developing the offense.
More specifically, the Nationals should focus on bringing back Adam LaRoche (.271, 33 HR, 100 RBI) to solidify the center of the lineup.
Money is not unlimited, and it makes more sense for the Nationals to develop their lineup rather than stockpile even more talent in an area of strength.
Improving that weakness will have a greater impact on the upcoming season.
Of course, by the end of this winter, just about every team in baseball will have been rumored to be in the running for the services of Josh Hamilton.
Obviously, the Texas Rangers will be involved in the bidding, but I would be surprised to see Hamilton return as a Ranger next year.
Jim Bowden of ESPN contests that Texas truly is the best place for Hamilton because they can help support him and understand his issues. However, Bowden also mentioned that it would not be surprising at all to see a surprise team sweep in with a giant offer and try to take Hamilton away.
I would be surprised to see Hamilton make that decision.
Yes, the Texas Rangers do already have the supports already in place, but there are good people in every American city who can help Hamilton if he needs it.
He will decide where he wants to live, and once he has figured that out, he will work with people in that city to create an environment where he can be successful.
The Boston Red Sox had a disappointing 2012, and it would not be surprising whatsoever to see them make substantial moves this winter.
Nick Swisher is capable of playing first base as well as in the corner of the outfield. That versatility is said to be valued by the Red Sox, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
Of course, there will be plenty of Josh Hamilton rumors swirling around Boston, but Swisher seems like a more logical choice.
The money that they would save from not signing Hamilton would allow the Red Sox to fill holes in their pitching staff.
A new manager might also help bring about change in Boston as well, but a hitter with the potential to crush 30 home runs would not hurt whatsoever.
Although my fellow Vermonter, Buster Olney of ESPN, would apparently disagree with me, it does not seem like the Tampa Bay Rays would be wise to trade David Price.
A few weeks earlier, I did write a piece that said that if the Tampa Bay Rays ever wanted to trade Price, now would obviously be the best time to do that given the fact that his value can probably not rise any higher.
However, I never once said in that article that I thought it would happen. (I just wanted to be entirely open about what I wrote before and clear up any potential confusion.)
Yes, the Tampa Bay Rays will eventually lose David Price to free agency, and yes, there are logical reasons for trading him right now. They might as well get the best return possible.
The problem with any trade involving Price would indeed be the price. Tampa Bay would be able to command a gigantic sum in return.
Perhaps I will feel differently when Zack Greinke is off the market and other teams are scrambling to pick up a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher. However, it will be interesting to see if anyone will be able to meet the high price tag that the Rays will definitely define.
If no one will give them the deal that they want, they can get another outstanding season of production out of Price and try the market again next year. There is no rush.
There are a few major reasons that any type of trade involving Giancarlo Stanton will not happen this winter.
First off, he is a young power hitter. He is the heart of the Miami batting order and virtually all it has left.
Yes, it did voluntarily decide to trade a large portion of the franchise, but the team still needs to put some type of product on the field, and Stanton is a huge part of that with his 37 home runs last season.
Also, because of the fire sale that sent most of the Marlins' elite talent north of the border, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe suggested that it is hard to imagine MLB Commissioner Bud Selig being OK with Stanton leaving as well.
At only 23 years old, Stanton could be in Miami for a long time, and it is definitely possible that in that time, most of the minor league talent that just entered the franchise will be ready to contribute in a significant way.
Bill Baer of ESPN.com suggested that the Philadelphia Phillies might be interested in bringing Michael Bourn back to the city where he began his career in 2006 and 2007.
However, despite the fact that he plays center field, he would not fit into the Philadelphia lineup very well.
He obviously belongs at the top of the lineup, but the Phillies already have Jimmy Rollins at that position.
The next question then becomes why they both cannot coexist.
Generally speaking, neither one hits for a high enough average to set the table. Earlier in the slideshow, I talked about Angel Pagan and why this attribute makes him potentially valuable.
Ryan Howard and Chase Utley need to be able to drive in runs, and adding another bat to the top of the lineup who doesn't hit for a very high average could be problematic.
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