While the rumor mill was spinning furiously during the winter meetings that came to an end on Thursday, some of baseball's biggest names remain without a team for the 2013 season.
Just because the meetings have come and gone doesn't mean that the Hot Stove League is cooling down.
If anything, the seeds planted and conversations that took place over the past four days have only made things even hotter than they were before.
Let's make our way through the smoke that surrounds some of the best players still available on the free agent market and see what's going on.
Josh Hamilton, OF
There isn't a more dangerous hitter on the open market than the 31-year-old Hamilton, who brings with him a well-documented suitcase full of excess baggage.
While there have been reports of multiple teams being in on the slugger, including the cost-conscious New York Yankees, the race to land Hamilton comes down to his former team, the Texas Rangers, and their fellow members of the American League West, the Seattle Mariners.
Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times reports that the Mariners continue to draw closer to a deal with Hamilton:
Mariners said to be "very close" to landing Josh Hamilton. Depends on what happens with Zack Greinke over next few days blogs.seattletimes.com/mariners/2012/…— Geoff Baker (@gbakermariners) December 6, 2012
As Baker notes, it depends on what happens with Zack Greinke––not Greinke to the Mariners, mind you, but Greinke to the Rangers.
If Texas lands Greinke, the thought is that the team simply won't be able to afford handing out deals that pay more than $20 million annually to both players.
As CBS Sports' Jon Heyman notes, whatever the Mariners offer to Hamilton, the Rangers will be afforded every opportunity to offer as well:
with word hamilton will take offers back to texas to perhaps match, 1 gm said, "why would anyone make him an offer now?"— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 7, 2012
Don't expect anything to happen on the Hamilton front until next week at the earliest.
Zack Greinke, RHP
The king of the free agent pitchers, the 29-year-old former AL Cy Young Award winner is no longer a lock to land with the Los Angeles Dodgers as previously thought, as GM Ned Colletti told reporters on Friday, including Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles:
Asked if he was on the "doorstep" of acquiring Greinke, Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said: "We're not on the front lawn. ... We're barely out of the car at the curb. It's better than driving around the neighborhood looking for the house. We know where the house is located. We just can't seem to get out of the car."
With the Dodgers seemingly out of the picture, that blows the door wide open for the team that traded three prospects to acquire him at the 2012 trade deadline, the Los Angeles Angels, to swoop in and bring him back into the fold, right?
Wrong, says Angels' GM Jerry Dipoto, who spoke to a number of reporters, including the Los Angeles Times' Mike DiGiovanna:
So we're clear, #Angels GM Jerry Dipoto said, "We are prepared to move on from Zack Greinke." Please tell me how to disable spell chk on BB!— Mike DiGiovanna (@MikeDiGiovanna) December 6, 2012
That leaves us with the Texas Rangers, according to ESPN's Jayson Stark:
Buzz this morning points toward Rangers zeroing in on Greinke &trading for a bat instead of signing Josh Hamilton & dealing for an arm— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) December 6, 2012
Adding Greinke to the mix in Texas––a team with more than enough to go out and trade for the bat that Stark speculates about (Justin Upton, anyone?)––would push the Rangers back to the front of the line as the favorites to represent the American League in the 2013 World Series.
Nick Swisher, RF
Former New York Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher has now vaulted to the top of the wish list for the Cleveland Indians, according to ESPN's Jim Bowden:
Indians hoping to sign Nick Swisher for 4yrs $48-$50m...but market shift has him looking for 4yrs $60m—JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) December 7, 2012
Swisher would give the Indians a power bat to replace Shin-Soo Choo with, should they decide to trade their All-Star outfielder who is set to hit free agency after the 2013 season.
Not only that, but his positive influence on the clubhouse would give new manager Terry Francona a veteran leader to lean upon, always a welcome addition to any team.
CBS Sports' Jon Heyman adds the Mariners to the list of potential Swisher suitors (try saying that five times fast), but you'd have to imagine that any possible interest Seattle might have is entirely contingent on what happens with their pursuit of Josh Hamilton––who's signing is likely what Swisher is waiting for before agreeing to a deal himself.
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