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MLB Rumors: The Loudest Trade Buzz, Free Agency Updates for Every Team

Ely SussmanCorrespondent IDecember 24, 2012

MLB Rumors: The Loudest Trade Buzz, Free Agency Updates for Every Team

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    MLB teams remain hard at work this holiday season, completing transactions and contemplating new ones. Catch up on all the player movement from this weekend and let the loudest rumors preview what may happen next.

    The free-agent class thinned out when outfielders Cody Ross and Nick Swisher agreed to multi-year deals. However, the big-name Scott Boras clients—Michael Bourn, Kyle Lohse and Rafael Soriano—can still be courted.

    Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates are finalizing a trade that would send Joel Hanrahan to Beantown.

    Courtesy of baseball's best insiders, here's what going on around the league.

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Cody Ross signs three-year deal.

    Here's a surprise.

    The 32-year-old was previously linked to teams with outfield vacancies. Instead, he'll get $26 million from the Arizona Diamondbacks, who actually have a surplus at the position.

    Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic provides the year-by-year breakdown:

    Cody Ross' deal with Dbacks: $5M in '13, $8.5M in '14 and $8.5M in '15. $9.5M club option in '16 or $1M buyout. Includes $3M signing bonus.

    — Nick Piecoro (@nickpiecoro) December 23, 2012

    Ross returns to the National League after one season with the Boston Red Sox. He's historically been excellent against left-handed pitching (.928 OPS), but very pedestrian when at a platoon disadvantage (.727 OPS).

     

    Jason Kubel could be traded.

    General manager Kevin Towers tells MLB.com's Steve Gilbert that he won't necessarily trade an outfielder.

    But Kubel is expected to generate a lot of interest.

    He signed with the D-backs last winter and led the team in home runs (30) and runs batted in (90). Kubel's contract guarantees $7.5 million in 2013 and includes a $7.5 million club option—or $1 million buyout—for 2014. 

Atlanta Braves

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    Scott Hairston could be too pricey.

    The Atlanta Braves still need a left fielder, but David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution worries that they would lose a bidding war for Hairston.

    He wants an opportunity to play every day. Industry sources expect the 32-year-old to get a deal comparable to Jonny Gomes' ($10 million for two years).

    Well, good riddance!

    Braves pitchers fared well against Hairston last season, and his career numbers at Turner Field aren't impressive either (via Baseball-Reference.com).


Baltimore Orioles

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    Baltimore Orioles have "stepped by their efforts" to keep Joe Saunders.

    The southpaw made 10 starts for the O's during the 2012 regular season and playoffs. He would be the most experienced member of their rotation if he re-signed.

    ESPN's Buster Olney expects Saunders to beat the two-year, $15 million deal Joe Blanton signed earlier this offseason (Insider access required).

    He achieved a career-best 2.87 strikeout-to-walk ratio last year.

     

    Adam Greenberg gets an opportunity.

    Greenberg made a long-awaited return to the majors last season. Now, he will need to earn his way back.

    Baltimore has signed him to a minor league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

    In all likelihood, he'll begin the regular season at Triple-A.

     

    Interest in Justin Smoak?

    A major league source tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that the Orioles could acquire the 26-year-old as a middle-of-the-order bat.

    His stats are hideous, but Safeco Field tends to suppress offense. Smoak posted a robust .341/.426/.580 triple-slash line in September.

Boston Red Sox

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    Boston Red Sox acquire Joel Hanrahan.

    The porous bullpen, which blew 22 saves last season, ought to be much improved.

    Hanrahan throws mid-90s heat and limited left-handed batters to a .135 batting average in 2012. He didn't locate well after the All-Star break, but his strikeout rate remained superb. He'll take the ninth-inning job from incumbent close Andrew Bailey.

    The 31-year-old has grown a terrific goatee that the Red Sox will get to enjoy until he reaches free agency next winter. He'll earn about $6.9 million for the 2013 season, according to the MLB Trade Rumors arbitration projection model.

    In the six-player deal, Boston also receives 24-year-old infielder Brock Holt.

     

    Sources say there are talks with Adam LaRoche.

    Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal notes that the Red Sox could simply end negotiations with Mike Napoli and sign the former Washington Nationals first baseman instead. They agreed to terms with Napoli during the winter meetings, but aren't content with his physical health:

    "Sox doctors identified an issue with one of Napoli’s hips during his physical, prompting the team to attempt a “major renegotiation,” sources say."

    According to Rosenthal's report, LaRoche has discussed both two-year and three-year possibilities with the club.

    In either case, signing him would cost Boston a second-round draft pick. LaRoche declined a qualifying offer earlier this offseason.

Chicago Cubs

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    Chicago Cubs still seeking an outfielder.

    Though Jed Hoyer has been busier than any other National League general manager this offseason, he's reportedly looking to add more.

    He indicated to Carrie Muskat of MLB.com that the Cubs are "in the market" for an outfielder who can play center and right. This player would almost certainly bat right-handed, considering that the projected starters at both positions—David DeJesus and Nate Schierholtz—struggle against southpaws.

Chicago White Sox

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    Seeking a left-handed bat.

    Danny Knobler of CBS Sports tweets this news, and it shouldn't come as a surprise.

    The Chicago White Sox lost A.J. Pierzynski to free agency. Tyler Flowers, who swings from the right side, will replace him as primary catcher. Jeff Keppinger adds to the imbalance.

    Knobler identifies Jason Kubel as a specific trade target. He's very available following the Cody Ross deal.

     

    Shopping Gavin Floyd.

    Floyd has been on the block since the team picked up his $9.5 million option, and the White Sox are reminding others of his availability.

    Few of the remaining free-agent starters can provide comparable quality. The exceptions would demand multi-year commitments. 

Cincinnati Reds

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    Cincinnati Reds "continue pursuit" of Mike Gonzalez.

    Aroldis Chapman will join the starting rotation in 2013. The Reds want a second lefty in the bullpen to fill the void.

    Jim Bowden of ESPN.com tweets that Gonzalez has drawn interest.

    The 34-year-old is very vulnerable against right-handed batters, so Cincinnati would presumably use him for specific matchups in the middle innings.

Cleveland Indians

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    Nick Swisher to sign four-year deal.

    The Ohio native has nine years of major league experience and eight consecutive 20-homer seasons. He's a 304/.381/.504 hitter in 36 career games at Progressive Field.

    The highest-paid free-agent acquisition in Cleveland Indians history is guaranteed $56 million. A $14 million option vests with 550 plate appearances in 2016, writes Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News.

    Because Swisher declined a qualifying offer from the New York Yankees, Cleveland must surrender its top 2013 draft pick. However, the Tribe has a protected first-round selection. Other suitors like the Atlanta Braves and Texas Rangers didn't have the same luxury and must have been deterred by that condition.

    The 32-year-old will start in right field, where he is a slightly below-average defender.

Colorado Rockies

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    Freddy Garcia being considered.

    The Colorado Rockies checked in with the 36-year-old free agent, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports. Garcia has nearly as much MLB experience as all of the team's rotation candidates combined.

    Besides re-signing Jeff Francis, this front office hasn't tried to improve the starting pitching. 

     

    Dexter Fowler price remains high.

    Colorado's center fielder has technically been on the trading block all winter, though at a prohibitive price.

    Jim Bowden learned on his SiriusXM radio that the Rockies still expect a large package in any exchange:

    Dexter Fowler told us on #SXM that Rockies GM Bill Geivett told him that it would take a lot in return for them to trade him to the Braves

    — JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) December 20, 2012

    Fowler is eligible for arbitration following a breakout year. Even if he leaves, the team would boast a formidable starting outfield of Tyler Colvin, Michael Cuddyer and Carlos Gonzalez.

Detroit Tigers

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    Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly on the trading block.

    The sinkerballer isn't a great fit for the Detroit Tigers. So long as slow-footed Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder play the infield, he's going to surrender a ton of base hits.

    Smyly, meanwhile, gets his pitch count up very quickly and doesn't last deep into ball games.

    Recognizing their deficiencies, the team re-signed Anibal Sanchez to bolster the starting rotation.

    Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports identifies several teams with interest in Porcello. The front office is also getting calls about Smyly, tweets Danny Knobler.

Houston Astros

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    Jeff Luhnow downplays free-agent activity.

    The Houston Astros recently signed Carlos Pena and Jose Veras to major league deals.

    Their general manager informs MLB.com's Brian McTaggart that the team isn't in "active discussions" with any other free agents.

    Infielder Jose Lopez caused a stir when he told Venezuelan media about plans to fly to Houston for a physical. The validity of his comments is in doubt following Luhnow's statement.

Kansas City Royals

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    Luke Hochevar is expendable.

    The Kansas City Royals initiated a conversation with the Colorado Rockies about his availability, according to Troy Renck of the Denver Post. Those talks didn't get far, however, as Renck points out that Hochevar would have been more reasonably priced as a non-tendered player.

    The 29-year-old isn't projected to crack K.C.'s starting rotation in 2013.

    A former No. 1 overall draft pick, Hochevar was among the worst starting pitchers in the league last season. Yet he is projected to earn $4.4 million in arbitration due to his MLB service time.

Los Angeles Angels

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    Potential dumping spot for Vernon Wells.

    After the Texas Rangers dealt a declining veteran to the Philadelphia Phillies, the Los Angeles Angels have an opportunity to do the same.

    The NL team has some interest in Wells, according to Jon Heyman, and with the supply of corner outfielders shrinking, a move could actually take place.

    Of course, L.A. would be responsible for most of the $42 million remaining of his contract. Even after the Kendrys Morales trade, the 34-year-old is buried on the Angels' depth chart.

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Rafael Soriano not being mentioned in relief search.

    The Scott Boras client seems like a fit for the free-spending Dodgers considering his high asking price and past excellence.

    But team sources say otherwise.

    Jim Bowden of ESPN.com reports that the team is internally discussing Brian Wilson instead of Soriano. Above all, Los Angeles prefers left-handed help, according to Jon Heyman.

Miami Marlins

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    John Maine signed to minor league deal.

    He pitched 16 games at the Triple-A level last season, posting a 4.97 earned run average.

    Maine, however, is a former 15-game winner with the New York Mets. He also has postseason experience.

    The Miami Marlins rotation could use his veteran presence.

Milwaukee Brewers

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    Finalizing the 2013 team.

    It's been a very quiet offseason for the Milwaukee Brewers, and general manager Doug Melvin seems satisfied with that. MLB.com's Adam McCalvy reports that the GM is "getting down to the end" of adding players.

    So far this winter, the Brewers have acquired Burke Badenhop from the Tampa Bay Rays and signed Tom Gorzelanny to a two-year, $5.7 million deal.

    The lineup will remain relatively unchanged after leading the National League in runs scored last summer.

Minnesota Twins

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    Brett Myers could join revamped rotation.

    The right-hander dominated the Minnesota Twins in six relief appearances last season, so now they want him in a starting role.

    Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe doesn't believe the offseason additions of Kevin Correia, Rich Harden, Mike Pelfrey and Vance Worley will be an issue. General manager Terry Ryan admits that Harden could wind up in the 'pen (via Rhett Bollinger, MLB.com), while Pelfrey is coming off Tommy John surgery.

     

    Twins talked to Yuniesky Betancourt.

    Minnesota is shopping for a free-agent utility player, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN, and Betancourt could be the answer.

    He served as an everyday shortstop until 2012, when the Kansas City Royals asked him to play second and third base. The disgruntled 30-year-old was released in August when the team cut back his playing time.

    Betancourt is skilled at making contact, but also reluctant to take pitches. His career on-base percentage is only .290 despite a respectable .266 batting average.

New York Mets

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    Veteran starting pitchers being targeted.

    Following the R.A. Dickey trade, the New York Mets have a spot to fill in their starting rotation.

    "Multiple industry sources" tell Ken Davidoff of the New York Post that free-agent stopgaps Shaun Marcum, Carl Pavano and Chis Young are leading candidates. Marc Carig of Newsday adds Joe Saunders to the wish list.

    Davidoff writes that the team has even engaged in trade talks with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who plan to move Chris Capuano and/or Aaron Harang.

     

    Grady Sizemore in the outfield mix.

    SNY's Kevin Burkhardt tweets that the Mets are "very interested" in the oft-injured superstar. The departure of Andres Torres created an opening in center.

    Coming off microfracture knee surgery, Sizemore would accept an incentive-laden deal with a low base salary.

New York Yankees

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    Outfielder Matt Diaz gets invite to big league camp.

    He only inked a minor league deal (via Mark Feinsand, Daily News), but Diaz is extremely likely to spend 2013 with the New York Yankees.

    They need a right-handed hitter to spell Curtis Granderson and Ichiro Suzuki in certain matchups. Without overpaying for someone like Scott Hairston, the Yankees found a veteran who owns a .324/.364/.498 lifetime triple-slash line against southpaws.

    Diaz will earn $1.2 million for making the 25-man roster. That would make him eligible for $800,000 in performance bonuses.

     

    General manager Brian Cashman content with rotation and catchers.

    The GM tells Christian Red of the New York Daily News that he had no interest in recently-signed free agents Francisco Liriano and A.J. Pierzynski.

    Moreover, Cashman doesn't plan to upgrade with acquisitions of any kind.

    He referred to Francisco Cervelli, Austin Romine and Chris Stewart as candidates to replace Russell Martin as primary backstop.

Oakland Athletics

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    Brian Gordon is coming to spring training.

    The Oakland Athletics aren't currently linked to any prominent available players. That's why we're talking about this 34-year-old journeyman.

    Ken Davidoff of the New York Post reports the minor league signing.

Philadelphia Phillies

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    Competing for J.P. Howell.

    Already this offseason, the Philadelphia Phillies have bolstered their bullpen by signing Mike Adams to a multi-year deal.

    They may land another free-agent reliever, according to Bill Ladson of MLB.com. He lists the Phillies as a leading suitor for Howell.

    The southpaw pitched pretty well in his second year removed from shoulder surgery (3.04 ERA in 50.1 IP).

    With an underwhelming mid-80s fastball, he relies heavily on offspeed pitches (via FanGraphs). 

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Joel Hanrahan to be dealt for Mark Melancon, three minor league players.

    Melancon had a breakout season in 2011 with the Houston Astros (2.78 ERA and 20 SV), then regressed last summer. Baseball-Reference.com shows just how irregular the 27-year-old was. At least he finished strong (one earned run in September).

    A prolific power hitter in the minor leagues, Jerry Sands could play first base or the outfield. He'll be under team control through 2018.

    Stolmy Pimentel once looked like a promising prospect, but there's been a steady decline in his strikeout rate since turning professional. He spent all of last season at Double-A. The right-hander turns 23 in February.

    Lastly, infielder Ivan De Jesus Jr. is entering his age-26 season.

San Diego Padres

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    San Diego Padres also interested in Brett Myers.

    Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe suspects that the 32-year-old will be among the next free agents to sign.

    The Padres dropped out of the Edwin Jackson bidding once his representative asked for a four-year deal. Myers, fortunately, isn't in a position to get such a guarantee considering that he didn't make a start in 2012.

    San Diego could use an innings-eater, and this guy qualifies. Myers averaged 220 frames per season from 2010-2011.

San Francisco Giants

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    Minor moves: Cole Gillespie and Sandy Rosario.

    The former is a 28-year-old outfielder who the San Francisco Giants signed to a minor league contract.

    Gillespie has 50 games of MLB experience, including starts at all three outfield positions. His offensive excellence in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League hasn't translated to success at the next level.

    San Francisco is the fourth team to claim Rosario off waivers so far this winter. The right-handed pitcher has been hammered in previous call-ups to the majors.

Seattle Mariners

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    Seattle Mariners sign Raul Ibanez.

    No longer the everyday player M's fans remember from last decade, he's still a potent power threat against right-handed pitching. 

    Ibanez earned just $1.1 million with the New York Yankees in 2012. Seattle, however, has guaranteed $2.75 million and included an extra $1.25 million in performance bonuses.

    The Mariners may use him as a platoon partner for Jason Bay in left field. In another scenario, they could convert Jesus Montero into a full-time catcher and move Ibanez into the vacated designated hitter spot.

     

    Team considering Joe Saunders.

    The Baltimore Orioles reportedly have some competition for the 31-year-old southpaw.

    A major league source tells Ken Rosenthal that the M's are talking to Saunders about their vacant rotation spot. Seattle dealt Jason Vargas for slugger Kendrys Morales earlier this month.

    Saunders would bring some diversity to the starting staff, which currently projects to consist entirely of right-handers (via MLBDepthCharts).

St. Louis Cardinals

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    J.R. Towles to compete for backup job.

    Last year's second-string catcher, Tony Cruz, isn't assured the same opportunity in 2013.

    Towles signed a minor league contract and has been invited to spring training. Come February, he'll battle for the privilege of playing behind Yadier Molina, writes Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com.

    The soon-to-be 28-year-old has struggled with the bat in parts of five MLB seasons.

Tampa Bay Rays

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    Who will serve as designated hitter?

    The Tampa Bay Rays still have a gaping hole to fill in their 2013 lineup.

    Tampa Bay had interest in Lance Berkman earlier this offseason. Now, though, team executives question his health, fitness and motivation to play, writes Buster Olney (ESPN Insider access required). Raul Ibanez and Carlos Pena are both off the market.

    Unless the Rays trust a familiar free agent like Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui or Luke Scott, they'll need to complete a trade. Jason Kubel could be a great fit.

Texas Rangers

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    Texas Rangers likely to improve through trades.

    Jim Bowden spoke with assistant general manager Thad Levine on The Front Office. The executive explained that his Rangers have been hesitant to pursue major free agents Adam LaRoche and Kyle Lohse because signing either would cost them a first-round draft pick.

    Texas remains involved in Justin Upton talks and hopes to complete a deal without moving Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar.

    General manager Jon Daniels says there's "a decent chance" the team will add another bat, tweets Anthony Andro of Fox Sports Southwest.

Toronto Blue Jays

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    Darren Oliver still leaning toward retirement.

    His age-41 season was terrific, and the Toronto Blue Jays understandably exercised their $3 million club option.

    Unfortunately, MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm reports that the left-hander will likely end his career to spend more time with family.

    Oliver could make his final decision next month.

Washington Nationals

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    Adam LaRoche being pressured to hurry up.

    A major league source tells Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post that the Washington Nationals want a definitive answer from LaRoche as the new year approaches. Bill Ladson adds that the two sides made "a little bit of progress" recently.

    LaRoche has enjoyed playing in Washington and seeks a three-year deal. General manager Mike Rizzo, meanwhile, prefers to have him off the books after 2014.

    He was solid excellent at first base in 2012, bouncing back from labrum surgery to win an NL Gold Glove, drive in 100 runs and account for 4.0 WAR.

    If an agreement cannot be reached, the Nationals will turn to Michael Morse.

     

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