Michael Bourn is still out there, and there's still plenty of chatter about where he might end up next.
Pitchers and catchers will report any day now, but until then there's still plenty of unfinished business to tend to out on the free-agent market.
Here we are in late January, and notables like speedy center fielder Michael Bourn and veteran starting pitcher Kyle Lohse still don't have contracts. Proven closers like Jose Valverde and Brian Wilson are also still looking for work, and I suspect all of us are waiting for the Texas Rangers to do something.
The rumor mill has something to say about each of the above topics these days, as well as plenty more about this/that player and this/that team.
Let's go ahead and take a look at all the hottest rumors and play a little game of "Fact or Fiction" while we're at it.
Super-agent Scott Boras was tasked with finding homes for two All-Star closers this winter: Rafael Soriano and Jose Valverde.
Soriano is squared away, as he signed a two-year contract with the Washington Nationals. As for Valverde, Boras told George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press that he expects the veteran right-hander to receive more interest now that Soriano is off the market.
That makes sense. Now that the top closer on the market is spoken for, all the closers still remaining on the open market figure to get more attention by default.
That's about the extent to which Boras' hope for more interest in Valverde makes sense. There's certainly not about to be a bidding war over his services, as every club in baseball is aware of what happened with Valverde in 2012.
Valverde had a brutal season, plain and simple. He watched his ERA climb from 2.24 in 2011 to 3.78, and he went from zero blown saves to five. His command, which wasn't great to begin with, was never there and he wasn't fooling anybody with his stuff. Both his fastball and his splatter lacked life.
Valverde should get more looks than he was getting before, but it's a stretch to say that more teams are going to be truly interested in him.
Nobody wants to play for the Miami Marlins.
Well, except for Freddy Garcia and Bobby Abreu, of course.
Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald has heard that there are actually several veteran free agents who are interested in taking their talents to South Beach, and he specifically name-drops Garcia and Abreu.
Why would two guys like them be interested in playing for the Marlins? Largely because both are Miami residents, and it sounds like neither of them are ready to hang up their spikes just yet.
The Marlins have roles that Garcia and Abreu could fill. Garcia could slide into a starting rotation that could use a veteran arm to mix with their young arms. He would be both an innings-eater and something of a mentor for the likes of Jacob Turner, Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez.
Abreu could fit as a reserve outfielder, and perhaps as a reserve first baseman as well. He's a shell of the hitter he used to be, but he still has good on-base skills (.361 OBP with the Dodgers in 2012) and some speed to burn on the basepaths. As such, he'd be a decent lefty pinch-hitting option.
Like with Garcia and the pitching staff, Abreu could also be a mentor for some of Miami's young hitters, namely Giancarlo Stanton and Logan Morrison.
As for why the interest could be mutual, the Marlins need to throw both their players and their fans a bone by spending some money, yet neither Garcia nor Abreu would be expensive.
In all, Garcia and Abreu are very realistic targets for the Marlins.
Quick, name a starting pitcher on the Colorado Rockies!
I'm guessing some of you had to sit there and think for a minute or two, and that's totally understandable. There aren't many recognizable names in Colorado's rotation these days.
But the Rockies may be working on changing that. According to Troy E. Renck of The Denver Post, the Rockies are "aggressively pursuing" veteran right-handers Carl Pavano and Derek Lowe.
Pavano was limited to only 11 starts in 2012 thanks to a shoulder problem, and Lowe bombed after a strong start with the Cleveland Indians. Between his time with the Indians and New York Yankees, he compiled a 5.11 ERA.
So if the Rockies are pursuing Pavano and Lowe, they're probably doing so without much interference from other clubs. All the same, they both look like much-needed upgrades for Colorado's rotation anyway.
Pavano averaged over 200 innings per season between 2009 and 2011, so he fits as an innings-eater in Colorado's rotation. Per FanGraphs, Lowe had the second-highest ground-ball rate in the majors among pitchers with at least 140 innings pitched in 2012, so he could prove to be immune to the thin air of Coors Field.
The pieces fit together pretty well here.
The word straight from the top is that the San Francisco Giants are done with Brian Wilson.
Giants general manager Brian Sabean had this to say during an event in New York this past weekend, via Anthony Sulla-Heffinger of the New York Post:
I’m going to be brutally honest as I always am, I don’t [think Wilson will return]. In this case, where you are getting a second Tommy John…it’s the type of rehab where he’s still not further up along to judge exactly where he may be able to come back in major league fashion, let alone as a closer.
This is something of a reversal of course from what's been said in the past. Even while Wilson was drawing heavy interest from the New York Mets, the word from Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle is that the Giants were still considering a big league deal for him.
Reading between the lines now, the Giants may be choosing to back off because Wilson isn't willing to accept a low-risk contract. With Sergio Romo penciled in as their closer, there's absolutely no chance of the Giants paying Wilson something similar to the $8.5 million salary he made in 2012.
Even if Wilson were to see the writing on the wall and prove willing to accept a contract with a very low base and incentives, a return to the Giants is still unlikely. If he's going to accept a one-year deal of any kind, it's going to be from a team that could give him a shot to close games.
The Giants don't fit that bill.
Anybody interested in a guy who just went 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA?
Apparently not. Kyle Lohse is still looking for work, and the latest word concerning him is that he won't even be able to go home again.
According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals don't see the stars aligning in a way that would return Lohse to St. Louis.
“It’s really about opportunity at this point and the depth we have (at pitcher),” said Cards GM John Mozeliak. “Right now I would say from the Cardinals standpoint we feel we’re moving on.”
One of the issues at hand is the fact that the Cardinals already have a loaded starting rotation. It has Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright at the top, and then Jake Westbrook, Lance Lynn and Jaime Garcia. Waiting in the wings are top prospects Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal.
There's also the money to consider. The Cardinals wouldn't have to give up a draft pick to sign Lohse after he rejected their qualifying offer, but they'd still have to pay him Scott Boras prices. Boras knows that he has the best starting pitcher left on a market that has seen starting pitchers make tons of money, so he's not about to settle.
A return to St. Louis has always been unlikely for Lohse. I'd say that's still the case.
The Atlanta Braves signed B.J. Upton to play center field earlier this offseason, so they don't really have a natural spot for incumbent center fielder Michael Bourn.
However, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution says that the Braves are keeping their options wide open anyway. Despite Upton's presence in center field, Bourn has yet to be ruled out by the Braves.
From a baseball perspective, that makes sense. Upton could always be shifted to left field, with Martin Prado taking up a full-time job at the hot corner in place of the retired Chipper Jones. Re-signing Bourn would also take care of Atlanta's still unfilled need for a true leadoff hitter.
The Braves could also make a reunion with Bourn work from a financial perspective. They have under $71 million in salaries committed for 2013, and Baseball-Reference.com projects their final payroll to be about $83 million. They opened the 2012 season over $93 million, and their payroll has gone north of $100 million before.
I'm inclined to qualify this rumor as "fact" upon considering these things. But if I'm being honest, this rumor was a fact several paragraphs ago.
All O'Brien said was that the Braves haven't ruled Bourn out yet. That's Frank Wren doing what every other GM in the business would do in his shoes.
Perhaps Michael Bourn will end up playing for a different NL East team.
It's hard to tell whether this is a real rumor or not, but Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe wrote over the weekend that the New York Mets are not "out of the picture" on Bourn. They could sign him if the years and dollars are right.
I'm not sold for two reasons.
One: Scott Boras. He'll get Bourn the kind of contract they both want come hell or high water, so the years and the dollars likely never will be to the Mets' liking.
Two: The Mets already have quite a bit of money committed for 2013. Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com put their 2013 payroll at roughly $95 million as of last week, an estimate that includes the money they'll be paying the bought-out Jason Bay.
Rubin reported in August of 2012 that the Mets' payroll wasn't likely to change for the 2013 season. If so, the over/under has been set at $90 million all along.
The Mets are already committed to pay more than that in 2013. If they ever had a legit shot at Bourn, it probably past them by a while ago.
It's been a weird offseason for the Texas Rangers. They've had their fingers in many pies, yet they still haven't made an earth-shattering move.
That may change soon. Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com has heard from one rival executive that the Rangers are probably going to end up with one of the marquee free agents still out there, and that means either Michael Bourn or Kyle Lohse.
I doubt it will be Lohse. He's a pitch-to-contact guy who hails from the NL Central, and the Rangers didn't have good luck with the last such pitcher they acquired. Ryan Dempster, who is similar to Lohse in many respects, bombed as a member of the Rangers.
Bourn is the much more likely of the two to sign with Texas, and he does have an appeal for them. They could use a true leadoff hitter, as Ian Kinsler's on-base habits are too unpredictable and his power would fit better lower in the order. Bourn could be the guy who takes his place.
Though the Rangers already have an excellent defensive center fielder in Craig Gentry, Bourn would also give them Gold Glove-caliber D in center field.
However, the Rangers have watched a lot of power leave Texas this offseason, not a lot of speed. Bourn wouldn't help replace any of the thump they've lost.
So if the Rangers were to sign Bourn, it would be a big signing for the sake of a big signing. That's not really their style.
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