The Most Intriguing Storylines Remaining for the MLB Offseason
As of now, the bulk of the MLB offseason activity is complete. The majority of the major free agents have signed. And if a blockbuster trade were going to take place, chances are it would have happened by now.
Five weeks remain between now and some of the most optimistic words in baseball:
"Pitchers and catchers report."
Before then, there are some things that still need to sort themselves out. While most of the MLB offseason is over, these storylines still need some sort of resolution.
Where Will the Remaining Free Agents Tied to Draft Pick Compensation End Up?
Michael Bourn, Kyle Lohse and Rafael Soriano.
At the beginning of the offseason, they were ranked No. 4, No. 6 and No. 14 respectively on ESPN's Keith Law's Top 50 free agents list.
And yet, here they sit still wondering where they will play their home games in 2013.
The reason is not for a lack of talent.
Almost any team would love to have any of these three guys on its roster. However, because each of these guys declined their qualifying arbitration offers from their former clubs, any team that signs them must send a high draft pick to their old employers as compensation.
In an age of baseball where prospects and cost-controlled (i.e. cheap) talent are being hoarded like treasure, teams are reluctant to part with their opportunity to land the next budding star.
So, these players continue to sit and twiddle their thumbs.
Lohse is coming off a career-best 16-3 record with St. Louis in 2012 and could end up in any number of different landing spots.
Soriano saved 42 games for the New York Yankees last season after replacing the injured Mariano Rivera. After he declined the Yankees' qualifying offer, he has since gone back to the Bronx groveling and was reportedly rebuffed.
These guys will certainly sign somewhere for the upcoming season, but the options are dwindling by the day.
The Justin Upton Saga Continues
Today on "As the Arizona Diamondbacks Turn," Justin Upton continues to ponder whether his current mate still loves him or will kick him to the curb.
The soap opera drags on.
Upton must have some thick skin to be able to handle the ever-changing landscape of his future whereabouts.
With three very affordable ($36.5 million) years left on his contract, Upton is the most talented player available this offseason. And when guys like new teammate Cody Ross are getting $26 million over the same time frame, Upton's contract has become an immense value as well.
Arizona's outfield situation is now clouded with Upton, Ross, fellow trade candidate Jason Kubel, Gerardo Parra, Adam Eaton and A.J. Pollock. And league rules still mandate only three are allowed on the field at a time.
Who stays and who goes?
Upton and Kubel are the most likely to leave. But general manager Kevin Towers seems to be posturing by saying he does not necessarily feel like he has to move anybody.
The list of interested suitors for Upton reads almost as long as the MLB standings, which is to say almost everybody has inquired. The Texas Rangers seemed most interested and able to pull off a deal if they were willing to include either Jurickson Profar or Elvis Andrus. The Boston Red Sox were interested. The Seattle Mariners, New York Mets, Atlanta Braves and Baltimore Orioles have all been linked in rumors.
Upton is eminently available. Anybody whose name has been dragged about in trade talks as often and for as long as his has is available—but only at the right price. That price has apparently not been met by interested clubs.
Until then, pencil Upton in as the right fielder for the Diamondbacks on Opening Day.
But like with all good soap operas, this story is to be tagged with a "to be continued..."
Are the Miami Marlins Done Selling off Their Players?
It began last summer.
The Miami Marlins initiated their latest fire sale with the Anibal Sanchez/Omar Infante trade to Detroit in July. Two days later, Hanley Ramirez was traded to Los Angeles. Then they sent Edward Mujica to St. Louis and Gaby Hernandez to Pittsburgh on the same day.
Once the offseason began, the Marlins resumed their purge. Manager Ozzie Guillen was ousted. Heath Bell was dealt to the desert in Arizona.
Then came the whopper on November 19 when the Marlins sent Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, John Buck and Emilio Bonifacio to the Toronto Blue Jays for prospects, which drew the ire of Miami's best commodity, Giancarlo Stanton.
Are the Marlins done dealing, though?
Ricky Nolasco is drawing interest from other clubs.
But if Stanton were to hit the market, well...let the bidding begin. The Marlins are willing to listen. There is no telling what Stanton could bring back in return, but ESPN's David Schoenfield took a stab at guessing what it might take to reel in the biggest fish in Miami.
He is the only real draw on that team right now. He is also not even eligible for arbitration until 2014 and will not be a free agent until 2017. For a guy who hit 37 home runs in three-quarters of a season in 2012, Stanton is perhaps the best bargain in all of baseball.
The Marlins would be foolish to entertain trading scenarios at this point. It would be wise to hold onto him until at least the trade deadline this year, or even better, wait until next offseason.
But will some team pony up its top four-to-six prospects in order to acquire Stanton before the season starts?
That would be a sure-fire way for the Marlins to seriously speed up the rebuilding process, and it would be one of the more fascinating trades in recent memory.
Are the Texas Rangers Able to Turn Around a Disappointing Offseason?
By all accounts, the Texas Rangers have had a rough go of it this offseason.
Their top two objectives were to re-sign outfielder Josh Hamilton and sign the top free-agent starting pitcher, Zack Greinke. Hamilton ended up with the rival Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Greinke went to L.A. as well, signing with the Dodgers.
They have been unable (or unwilling) to turn top prospects like Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt into guys like Justin Upton and R.A. Dickey via trades.
Veteran lineup presences Mike Napoli and Michael Young have both departed. So have relievers Mike Adams and Koji Uehara.
General manager Jon Daniels was able to bring in free-agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski and recently overpaid for the services of Lance Berkman.
But with the Angels stealing the Rangers' top offensive threat from last year and adding other pieces, Texas has taken a hit in the projections for 2013 and is seen as a second-place citizen in the American League West.
So how can they salvage the offseason?
Go get Justin Upton.
The Rangers possess one of the best farm systems in baseball. They have been hesitant to deal Profar. But guys like Olt, Martin Perez, Leonys Martin and Cody Buckel are all highly touted youngsters.
Ask Arizona general manager Kevin Towers what it will take (minus Profar) to pry Upton out of his hands and make it happen.
Putting Upton in that ballpark in Arlington will more than make up for Hamilton's departure and still save the Rangers' money compared to what Hamilton is making.
Anything else than having Upton roaming right field on Opening Day for Texas will have rendered this offseason a major bust for the Rangers.