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MLB Rumors: Finding 7 Nuggets of Truth Among the Wild Chatter

Andrew GouldFeatured ColumnistDecember 19, 2012

MLB Rumors: Finding 7 Nuggets of Truth Among the Wild Chatter

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    With the MLB offseason rumor mill in full swing, it's difficult to decipher the credible reports from mere speculation.

    For all the by-the-second updates on every free agent and possible trade scenario, we're often all left scratching our heads at a last-minute surprise that nobody saw coming.

    The New York Mets went from targeting J.P. Arencibia and Anthony Gose for R.A. Dickey to snatching Travis D'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard.

    Many quickly wrote off the notion of the Kansas City Royals dealing top prospect Wil Myers, but then they traded him and Jake Odorizzi to go all in on their playoff aspirations.

    And yet again, the Los Angeles Angels swooped in from nowhere to sign the top free-agent batter. Things change fast.

    Throughout all the offseason chaos, here are six happenings with a highly probably chance of occurring, along with one promising trend unfolding so far. Nothing is 100 percent, and some of these calls assume that logic will prevail, but here are some of the safer predictions that should come to fruition.

1. Justin Upton Will Stay in Arizona

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    Eventually, the Arizona Diamondbacks will come to their senses and realize that trading their top young superstar is a foolish move.

    Trade rumors have swirled for more than a season regarding Justin Upton. The 25-year-old disappointed the organization by only hitting .280/.355/.430 with 17 home runs and 18 stolen bases last season.

    Upton did not perform horribly, but his numbers fell off the table following an outstanding 2011 campaign in which he produced a more appealing .289/.369/.529 slashing line, 31 homers and 21 steals.

    Since the Diamondbacks placed shortstop on top of their wish list, they are now unlikely to deal Upton after acquiring Cliff Pennington and Didi Gregorius. Neither offers much of an upgrade at the position, but we’ll just let them live blissfully in ignorance.

    Nevertheless, Josh Towers seems to have recovered some sanity. FOX Sports' Jack Magruder reported on Twitter that Upton is "almost certain not to move now."

    In five major-league seasons, Upton has put forth two astounding seasons with three solid, yet unspectacular efforts. For a 25-year-old with upside high enough to draw comparisons to a young, healthy Ken Griffey Jr., Arizona would be unwise to part ways with Upton.

    Then again, this is a franchise that just shipped out Trevor Bauer for Didi Gregorius, so who knows?

2. Yankees Won't Sign Michael Bourn

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    The eerily hushed New York Yankees have not factored into any discussions for the major free agents, but a source has finally associated them with a top name.

    According to The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo, the Yankees are “quietly interested” in Michael Bourn, who looms as the top remaining free agent.

    Bourn is a great player whom the Atlanta Braves will certainly miss in 2013. As one of the game’s top speedsters, Bourn can also reach base and play phenomenal defense. He probably deserved to bring home the Gold Glove last season after recording a 22.4 UZR, according to FanGraphs.

    That’s all great, but why would the Yankees spend their no-longer unlimited cash flow on a speedy outfielder when they already have some?

    Brett Gardner also steals bases and plays exceptional defense in the outfield. His career .355 on-base percentage is actually higher than Bourn’s .339. They just signed Ichiro Suzuki, another swift outfielder, to a two-year extension.

    Mason Williams, their farm system’s premium prospect, is highly touted for his ability to reach base, steal bases and flash some leather.

    Maybe the Yankees are panicking after watching the Toronto Blue Jays load up while they stay put, but an organization now cognizant of how they invest their payroll will realize that Bourn is a poor fit for their team. 

3. Adam Laroche and Washington Nationals Will Part Ways

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    Returning from shoulder surgery with fervor, Adam Laroche exceeded the Washington Nationals’ expectations, crushing 33 home runs and driving in 100 runs.

    His bounce-back season will attract a hefty sum in free agency, so don’t expect Washington to pay up. According to MLB.com’s Bill Ladson, talks between Laroche and the Nationals “are at a stalemate.”

    After winning 98 games in 2012 and adding Dan Haren during the offseason, Washington will steer many early season discussions as the National League favorite. The pressure to capitalize on this window of opportunity would normally entice a team to aggressively retain a notable veteran player, but Washington looks just fine without Laroche.

    Hitters with a .510 slugging percentage don’t grow on trees, but the Nationals are fortunate enough to have two other power threats up their sleeve.

    If given the chance to replace Laroche, Mike Morse could seal the gap left by his departure. Filling in for an injured Jayson Werth, Morse hit 18 home runs in 406 at-bats. Now that the Nationals employ Werth, Denard Span and Bryce Harper in their outfield, Morse can slide over to first base, a more appropriate position for the 6’5”, 230-pound slugger.

    They also can play Tyler Moore, who slugged .513 last season in 156 at-bats and is the youngest option of the trio. With all these alternatives, why pay a 33-year-old coming off a career year? 

4. Edwin Jackson Will Get a Long-Term Deal

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    After years of constantly switching teams and settling for one-year deals, Edwin Jackson is finally set to get his long-awaited pay day.

    According to ESPN’s Jim Bowden, Jackson’s suitors are down to the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers after the San Diego Padres dropped out of the equation.

    Over the past five years, Jackson has donned six different uniforms, most recently inking a one-year deal with Washington to prove himself worthy of a larger investment. He succeeded, posting a career-best 1.22 WHIP and 2.90 K/BB ratio.

    Spurned by Anibal Sanchez, the Cubs will carry out their quest to nab another quality starter. Watching the Los Angeles Angels poach Josh Hamilton likely made the Rangers anxious to acquire someone who can assist in the taming of their rival’s high-powered offense.

    With these two squads squabbling over Jackson’s services, the 29-year-old is poised to cash in with a lucrative multi-year deal.

    To stack the cards more in his favor, Jackson is seeking a contract in a market where Jeremy Guthrie netted $25 million over three years. If Kevin Correia can get two years of job security, Jackson should easily earn at least three. 

5. Either Rick Porcello or Drew Smyly Will Get Dealt

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    Now that Anibal Sanchez re-upped with the Detroit Tigers in an $80 million contract, they possess six capable starters in Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Sanchez, Doug Fister, Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly. In a market where general managers lunge at any available arm, Porcello or Smyly could earn Detroit a sizable return.

    While Detroit currently has no glaring holes in dire need of addressing, a middle infield or bullpen upgrade wouldn't hurt. Or after seeing the packages the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Mets received, they can find a team desperate for a back-end starter and stock up on prospects. 

    In his rookie season, Smyly tossed 99.1 innings, tallying a 3.99 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and 2.85 K/BB ratio. Some teams would happily take that from their third or fourth starter.

    Despite underwhelming numbers on the surface, Porcello’s Sabermetrics don’t look nearly as bad. The 24-year-old posted a 3.91 FIP along with a career-worst .344 BABIP. This earned Porcello a 2.9 WAR, according to FanGraphs, which ranks higher than a 2.0 WAR during his rookie campaign that many wrongfully consider his best season.

    While rumor mills typically highlight Porcello's availability because of his standing as a former top pick and five-star prospect, a deal could also center around Smyly.

    But because of this hype, Porcello has also drawn more interest from other organizations that would land Detroit a better return. Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski told Ted Kulfan of The Detroit News that he received "numerous" inquiries about Porcello directly after retaining Sanchez.

6. The Angels Will Trade at Least One Position Player

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    Landing Josh Hamilton puts someone out of a job in Los Angeles.

    Between Peter Bourjos, Mark Trumbo and Kendry Morales, only one outfield slot and the designated hitter role remain available. Since they need another starting pitcher to help ameliorate the loss of Dan Haren and Zack Greinke, a trade involving one of these players seems inevitable.

    Most speculators label Bourjos the odd man out, but CBS Sports’ Danny Knobler stated otherwise, reporting that the Los Angeles Angels would prefer to keep him, trade Morales and slide Trumbo over to designated hitter.

    And that’s not even including Vernon Wells and his $42 million due over the next two years. Despite his cumbersome contract, Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News reported that the New York Yankees expressed interest in the 34-year-old for some odd reason.

    Don’t assume that the Angels will part ways with Bourjos, especially considering their propensity to target defensive-minded players to surround their star bats. Trumbo offers pure power and Morales wields a more well-rounded bat, but Bourjos provides speed and a sensational glove.

    Los Angeles will likely make a move before Opening Day, but at this point, it’s impossible to say which one will go.

7. Teams Are No Longer Chasing Saves

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    One of the major insights from Moneyball involved Billy Beane’s eagerness to dupe fellow general managers who overvalued closers based solely on the saves attached to their stat line.

    Front offices are catching on, with most of them (the Los Angeles Dodgers gave Brandon League $22.5 million, but that’s pocket change to them) reluctant to shell out big bucks to average closers.

    A few years ago, teams would have fought over Jose Valverde, but his name now seldom appears when discussing the free-agent hot stove.

    Even though the closer accumulated 84 saves over the past two seasons, FanGraphs calculated that he only posted a combined 1.8 WAR. His pedestrian 3.78 ERA and 6.26 K/9 ratio are rightfully scaring away MLB teams from signing him to handle the ninth inning, or any other inning for that matter.

    Teams searching for relief help usually jump for previous closers in the Matt Capps, Brett Myers, Brandon Lyon or Francisco Rodriguez mold, but all of them remain jobless.

    Meanwhile, middle relievers Mike Adams, Sean Burnett and Jeremy Affeldt all signed already, as teams recognize the value in selecting the best pitcher regardless of the juncture of the game in which he obtains outs.

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