The 2013 MLB free-agency period has been going on for a couple of months now; in which time we have witnessed some surprises as well as significant speculation surrounding landing spots for the top free agents.
While the field has narrowed, there is certainly no shortage of rumors going around involving several names that are left on the market.
A factor that has had a significant impact on the signing, or lack thereof, of some players happens to be Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement.
Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan points out that MLB teams are hesitant to sign players like a Michael Bourn or Kyle Lohse because they received and turned down qualifying offers from their former teams.
Of course, this means that should Team X decide to sign Kyle Lohse, they'd be forced to give up a draft pick and draft pool money.
While there are solutions out there to avoid the loss of a draft pick (sign-and-trades, etc.) this caveat has led to prolonged free agency for some players, many of whom have seen their names tied to several teams in the process.
Here is a take on some of the hottest rumors surrounding MLB free agents; let's play fact or fiction.
Could the Big Puma be making an encore appearance in Houston?
According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, Lance Berkman is talking about coming back for one more year in 2013.
Among those teams that are rumored to have interest in Berkman are the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros.
While the Rangers have lost both Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli, or 67 combined home runs from 2012, the team does not appear ready to sign offense on the free-agent market.
While answering Rangers fans' questions, beat writer T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com talks about how the team could look to add a bat from the likes of the Diamondbacks in the form of a Jason Kubel, for example.
In the same piece, Sullivan points out why the Rangers would not be willing to sign Berkman. Here is what he had to say:
Because he is 36, played in just 32 games for the Cardinals this past season due to injuries and is coming off knee surgery. Otherwise he would be great for what the Rangers need, a switch-hitter with power who can play first base and one of the corner-outfield spots. He is considered a much better left-handed hitter, which would still work for the Rangers if he is physically able to play the field. The guy has always been a winning player as the Rangers know firsthand.
On the flip side, the Astros would be bringing back a fan favorite.
Berkman, part of the "Killer B's" (Berkman, Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell), could end his career where it all began.
Additionally, despite the fact that the Astros signed Carlos Pena to DH next season, bringing back Berkman gives this young team a solid veteran presence in the clubhouse.
The worst-case scenario would have Berkman, Pena and Brett Wallace battling it out for the starting first base and DH responsibilities.
Is that such a bad thing?
Is Justin's time Up-ton in Arizona? (See what I did there?)
Yes, the Arizona Diamondbacks have a stockpile of outfield talent prepared to take the field for them in 2013.
As constituted on the team's depth chart, Jason Kubel will be the left fielder while Cody Ross plays center with Justin Upton in right.
It actually is a pretty stacked outfield.
Don't forget that the team still has Gerardo Parra and Eric Hinske on the bench.
While Justin Upton's name has been thrown around in trade rumors frequently, most recently the Sporting News has the Texas Rangers in play for him; to move a 25-year-old with the talent that Upton possesses seems to be a silly idea at this stage.
Consider this: he posted a .785 OPS in 2012, the lowest full-season percentage of his career.
Additionally, he only had 17 home runs and drove in 67 RBI. The Diamondbacks would be selling low.
On the other hand, Jason Kubel would be quite attractive to suitors.
In 2012, Kubel posted an .833 OPS, the second-highest of his career, with 30 home runs and 90 RBI.
While yes, he is older, Kubel also only has one year left on his deal and will only be making $7.5 million in 2013 with a team option for 2014.
Moving Kubel would allow the Diamondbacks to just slide Parra in as the everyday left fielder.
Napoli can't afford not to be a member of the Sox.
Mike Napoli will be a member of the 2013 Boston Red Sox.
He has to be, for his sake.
The Red Sox reached an agreement with Napoli some 32 days ago and have yet to formally announce the signing due to pre-existing hip injury concerns.
As WEEI's Alex Speier points out, there actually are plenty of options out there for the Red Sox should a deal go south with Napoli.
However, for Napoli things would get quite sticky. He would have to go back to free agency as a player with a scarlet letter on his chest.
Theoretically speaking, a major-market team with lots of money to spend opted to stay away from him for medical concerns.
Coupling that notion with a shrinking first base/catching market, Nap would have a hard time finding the type of payday he'd likely still receive in Boston.
Furthermore, the Red Sox could just sign a player like Adam LaRoche and call it a day.
At this stage it is obvious that both parties want to agree on terms; it is just taking a bit longer than most expected.
Where, oh where shall Bourn go?
So, maybe I'm making this rumor up. Here's the thing, though; the market for Bourn is pretty vague right now.
The closest thing to any news on a landing spot for Bourn came from CBS Sports' Jon Heyman on December 21 when he stated that the Texas Rangers were showing interest.
To date, that means the Braves, Phillies, Cubs, Rangers, Red Sox, Dodgers, Indians and Mariners (am I missing anyone here?) have all at least been whispered as having some measure of interest in Bourn.
Arguably, Bourn is the best free agent left on the market right now.
In addition, his agent is Scott Boras, a fact that should not be overlooked. Couple that with Bourn's declining a qualifying offer from the Braves, and it opens up the possibility of a very small, serious market for him.
Who will be willing to give up the draft picks, etc. to acquire him?
A team like the Baltimore Orioles could make for a very intriguing landing spot...I'm just speculating.