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Playing Fact or Fiction with All of MLB's Hottest Free-Agency and Trade Rumors

Matt DagostinoContributor IFebruary 4, 2013

Playing Fact or Fiction with All of MLB's Hottest Free-Agency and Trade Rumors

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    We are just weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training facilities in Florida and Arizona.

    But there are still roster moves to be made.

    The rumor mill is not churning nearly as much as it was in December and January. But even as we turn the calendar over to February, teams are still trying to improve their rosters with what is left on both the free agent and trade markets.

    There is still some decent talent available that can help bolster ball clubs.

    Let's take a look at what will come to fruition as the offseason draws to a close and what we can expect to fall by the wayside.

The New York Mets Will Eventually Sign Michael Bourn

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    Michael Bourn is the most talented free agent without a job in 2013.

    The New York Mets have let it be known they are interested in Bourn. But there are a few hurdles the Mets must get over before they would pull the trigger on a deal for the center fielder.

     

    Can the Mets and Bourn agree to a contract that works for both sides?

    At the beginning of the offseason, Bourn and his agent, Scott Boras, were looking for a contract somewhere in the neighborhood of five years and $75 million. This late in the offseason, those numbers look unreachable.

    Boras, though, has been known with his clients who sign deals closer to spring training to work out what he calls a "pillow contract." These contracts allow his clients to get a one-year deal and then hit the open market again the following offseason. The players use the one-year contract to re-establish their value to try and secure a long-term deal the next season.

    That kind of deal is something the Mets would be far more agreeable to because they are unwilling (as they should be) to deviate from their long-term rebuilding plan.

     

    Will the Mets have to forfeit their first-round draft pick to sign Bourn?

    Because the Atlanta Braves offered Bourn a $13.3 million qualifying offer (which he declined), the team that signs Bourn will have to compensate the Braves with a first-round draft pick.

    The compensation rules used to state the teams with the 15 worst records from the year before got to protect their first-round pick. With the new CBA agreement, that has changed to the Top 10 picks are protected.

    The Mets had the 10th-worst record in 2012. But because the Pittsburgh Pirates were unable to sign their 2012 first-round pick, Mark Appel, they were awarded the ninth pick in 2013. That pushes the Mets to the 11th pick and on the outside looking in when it comes to protected first-rounders.

    New York plans to petition to the league so that they can keep the 11th pick. In fact, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe says they may try to nail down this part of the equation before continuing negotiations with Bourn and Boras.

    The league office will have a tough decision to make if and when it has to decide what to do about protecting the draft pick. It could set a dangerous precedent. But the Mets are the only team affected by the rule and it does seem like it makes something unintentionally inconsistent.

    There is no doubt, though, that Bourn would make the Mets a better team as they are in dire need of outfielders. If they are allowed to keep their first-round pick and get Bourn on a reasonable contract, the deal seems to make sense.

     

    PREDICTION:  Fact.  The Mets are unable to keep their first-round pick, but still sign Bourn to a three-year deal worth $36 million. Bourn will have an opt-out clause placed in his contract that allows him to become a free agent after the first year of the deal.

Alfonso Soriano Will Be Traded

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    For a guy with an albatross contract (2 years and $36 million remaining), Alfonso Soriano is drawing a decent amount of interest across the league.

    That's because he is coming off a season in which he hit 32 home runs and totaled 108 RBI.

    CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman has reported the Chicago Cubs have made it known the outfielder is available and they are willing to pay a large majority of his remaining salary if it means they can get back a useful piece or two.

    Soriano vetoed a trade last season that would have sent him to San Francisco, invoking his 10-and-five rights. So, he is not opposed to using that if he doesn't like where he'd end up.

    For his part, Soriano says he wants to continue to call Wrigley Field his home. But the Cubs are in rebuilding mode.

    Philadelphia and Baltimore might be two possible landing spots for Soriano as teams who could use a boost to contend in 2013.

     

    PREDICTION:  Fact. Look for Chicago to send Soriano (along with cash) to Philadelphia for a package featuring Domonic Brown.

Rick Porcello Will Be Traded

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    The Detroit Tigers currently have an excess of starting pitchers.

    With Justin Verlander topping the rotation, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello round out the starting five. Lefty Drew Smyly is another option.

    With six viable starters, the Tigers could deal from strength and use Porcello as trade bait.

    Teams like Seattle, Arizona and Baltimore have all been rumored to be seeking another starter like Porcello, who has averaged 12 wins per season in his four-year career.

    But it is rare in this day and age for teams to use just five starters throughout the season. Most clubs rely on six or seven starters, sometimes more. So to be able to absorb an injury with adding a Smyly or a Porcello to the rotation is an advantage few teams have.

     

    PREDICTION: Fiction. If he's not in the rotation to start the season, Porcello will be called upon by the Tigers at some point. They would have to get a good return in order to move him.

Scott Rolen Will Play This Season

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    Scott Rolen hit just .245 in 92 games for the Cincinnati Reds in 2012 due to a shoulder injury. Filling in for him, Todd Frazier hit .273 with 19 home runs and 67 RBI.

    Frazier will be the starter at the hot corner for the Reds in 2013. They also brought in Jack Hannahan to fill a bench role.

    Rolen has taken much of the offseason to decide if wanted to play in 2013, but the Cincinnati Enquirer's John Fay reports Rolen wants to suit up.

    The question is, where might he end up?

    The Reds may not have the money to pay Rolen what he's looking for after making $6.5 million last season.

    The Los Angeles Dodgers have kicked the tires on Rolen, who could slot in at third base and move Luis Cruz to a utility role.

     

    PREDICTION: Fact. Whether it's the Dodgers or somebody else, Rolen will find a job, even if he has to sign a minor league deal to do so. He will not get much money. But he can be a valuable asset to a team looking for a veteran presence.

The New York Mets Will Sign Someone to Replace Frank Francisco as Closer

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    With plenty of holes to fill on their roster and free-agent bargain shopping in full swing, the New York Mets may be one of the more active teams as spring training approaches.

    They are in on Michael Bourn as they look to upgrade their outfield.

    General manager Sandy Alderson has also set his sights on improving a bullpen unit that combined for a 4.65 ERA in 2012. Alderson came out and said he is not confident in last season's closer, Frank Francisco (5.53 ERA in 2012).

    In the past week alone, Alderson has signed Scott Atchison and LaTroy Hawkins to minor league deals and may be close to bringing Brandon Lyon aboard.

    And yet Alderson may still not be done.

    Lyon has 79 saves to his career resume, but just five in the last two seasons. So even if he is signed, Alderson may still look to bring in someone with more of a closer's pedigree.

    The Mets have seen Brian Wilson throw this offseason. Jose Valverde and even ex-Met Francisco Rodriguez may also get a look from the Mets.

    Any way you slice it, Alderson is not resting on his laurels when it comes to the bullpen. Last season's production was not acceptable. With a lineup that seems to lack some punch, it will be imperative that the Mets hold the opposition to as few runs as possible.

     

    PREDICTION: Fact. Expect to see at least one more arm at the back end of the Mets bullpen that can be relied on to be the closer instead of Francisco.

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