With each day that we inch closer to pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, time keeps on ticking on the futures of Michael Bourn, Kyle Lohse and the other top free agents that remain unsigned.
The bidding wars that these players and their representation were hoping for never materialized, and they are faced with fewer potential landing spots—and far less bargaining power—than anyone expected.
But make no mistake about it—these players will be on a major league roster before long.
Let's check in on the latest rumblings from the rumor mill as to what roster that might be.
Expected to be one of the most sought-after free agents on the market, Bourn has had to sit back and watch everyone around him, from All-Stars like Josh Hamilton to PED users like Melky Cabrera, sign new deals before he did.
The Texas Rangers, who currently have Leonys Martin slotted in center field, could be a landing spot for the Gold Glove-winning center fielder, according to T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com, though it should be noted that Rangers GM Jon Daniels said he does not anticipate making another move.
Texas lost Josh Hamilton from its lineup and failed to land free-agent starter Zack Greinke, so much of the money that the team had allocated for those players remains unspent. With the financial ability to bring Bourn on board, you can never rule the Rangers out of anything.
Braves GM Frank Wren has yet to shut the door on a return to Atlanta for Bourn, who spent the past year-and-a-half patrolling center field at Turner Field, according to David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Just talked to #Braves GM Wren on Bourn: "Nothing’s changed. If we got a call and there was a deal to be made, we’d be open to it."— David O'Brien (@ajcbraves) January 6, 2013
This seems like a far less-likely destination for Bourn, who the Braves have already replaced with B.J. Upton, though it does provide some interesting options for Atlanta.
According to ESPN's JIm Bowden, Bourn wouldn't be a lock to reclaim his spot in center field:
Frank Wren told us that if they were to sign Bourn they would consider it a "toss up" on who would play CF and who would play LF— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) January 6, 2013
Bringing Bourn back would allow the Braves to move Martin Prado to third base permanently, replacing Chipper Jones and giving manager Fredi Gonzalez an improved defense and a ton of options with his lineup.
Established veterans and hurlers coming off of injury have signed new deals, leaving Kyle Lohse to sit and wait patiently.
Which Free Agent Will Sign First?
At this point, it seems as if Lohse, who went 30-11 with a 3.11 ERA for the St. Louis Cardinals over the past two seasons, is going to have to lower his asking price significantly if he's going to land a multi-year deal.
Lance Berkman, who the Texas Rangers recently signed to serve as the team's designated hitter, is a big Lohse fan, having played with him in St. Louis, and he was quick to suggest that the Rangers sign his former teammate, according to Bowden:
Lance Berkman has recommended Kyle Lohse to Rangers GM Jon Daniels...Rangers open to it if market falls enough— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) January 10, 2013
He would bolster a rotation that is without a true veteran presence, allowing the Rangers to put either Alexi Ogando or Martin Perez back into the bullpen—or to use Perez as a trade chip in a deal for another bat.
After filling in admirably for the legendary Mariano Rivera with the Yankees in 2012, Rafael Soriano wants to close in 2013.
Unfortunately for Soriano, it doesn't appear that anyone is interested in his services.
There had been rumblings about a potential return to the Bronx in a setup role as he filled in 2011, but CBS Sports' Jon Heyman put those rumors to rest:
not sure where this got started, bit rafael soriano did not offer to return to yanks on 1 yr deal. sori wants to close.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) January 8, 2013
Of course, there are two sides to every story, and Bob Klapisch of The Record and Fox Sports has an entirely different take on what actually happened with the Yankees:
Told Scott Boras asked #Yankees last month if they'd consider taking Rafael Soriano back on a 1-yr deal. Request flatly denied.— Bob Klapisch (@BobKlap) January 7, 2013
It makes sense that the Yankees wouldn't want Soriano back for a number of reasons, but ESPN's Buster Olney spells it out for everyone:
The Yankees want the draft pick/draft dollars they'll get when Soriano signs elsewhere more than they want him back, no matter the contract.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 7, 2013
With seemingly nobody interested in Soriano as a closer—or at the salary he wants—both he and the Yankees might be waiting until someone gets injured in spring training before this situation is actually resolved one way or another.
Rick Weiner is a Featured Columnist covering all of MLB and a member of B/R's Breaking News Team.