Loudest Trade Buzz, Free Agency Updates for Every Team Entering Spring Training
With spring training just around the corner, teams around baseball find themselves looking to make the final additions to their rosters.
Some teams are looking to add complementary pieces, while others are scouring the market for something more substantial.
Whether it's signing one of the two big-name free agents still looking for a home—center fielder Michael Bourn and right-handed starter Kyle Lohse—or looking to the trade market for the piece or pieces they seek, general managers around the league remain busy as the start of the season slowly draws closer.
What's your favorite team looking to do heading into the Cactus and Grapefruit leagues?
Let's take a look.
Despite general manager Billy Beane's statement that the team's 25-man roster was complete after trading for Jed Lowrie and Fernando Rodriguez, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the A's remain interested in 37-year-old left-handed reliever Hideki Okajima.
Okajima, 37, hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2011, allowing four earned runs in 8.1 innings of work for the Boston Red Sox.
A former All-Star, the Yankees signed Okajima to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training before the 2012 season, but the southpaw failed his phyiscal and the deal wasn't finalized.
With a career 3.11 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 261 relief appearances, Okajima, when healthy, can be an effective left-hander out of the bullpen.
If he winds up with the A's, he'll compete with Sean Doolittle and Jordan Norberto for a spot in the A's bullpen. In addition, after an outstanding 2012, southpaw Jerry Blevins is assured of being one of the lefty relievers Oakland relies upon in 2013.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Things have been pretty quiet around the Angels, who spent big money in the free-agent market again this winter, inking Josh Hamilton to a five-year, $125 million deal.
At this point, extra bodies for spring training and potential minor league depth is where the Angels are focused, which would explain why they were one of the teams mentioned by ESPN's Jerry Crasnick as having watched three underwhelming free-agent pitchers throw:
That'd be Mark Lowe, Ryan Rowland-Smith and Kip Wells.
Lowe was effective in relief for the Rangers in 2012, appearing in 36 games, pitching to a 3.43 ERA and 1.22 WHIP, while Wells went 2-4 in seven starts for the Padres, finishing the season with a 4.58 ERA and 1.64 WHIP.
Rowland-Smith hasn't thrown a major league pitch since 2010.
Even if the Angels wind up signing one of them, there's little chance of them breaking camp with the team.
Moving shortstop Jed Lowrie and reliever Fernando Rodriguez may have only been the first of multiple moves the Astros will be making, as Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal says that 27-year-old starter Bud Norris is available.
Norris, who went 7-13 with a 4.65 ERA and 1.37 WHIP with the Astros in 2012, has averaged nearly a strikeout per inning over the course of his career and has drawn interest from teams around the league.
Rosenthal says that the Baltimore Orioles, San Diego Padres and St. Louis Cardinals are all known to have expressed some level of interest in acquiring Norris at the winter meetings that took place this past December in Nashville.
It's not known exactly what Houston wants in exchange for him, but chances are it'd be multiple pieces much like it received in the Lowrie deal—pieces that the team can use to build a contender down the line.
Speaking of shortstops, Houston is one of the teams interested in signing infielder Reid Brignac, recently designated for assignment by Tampa Bay, according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman:
Brignac, 27, is an average fielder who has spent the majority of his career at shortstop, but is a mediocre hitter with a career slash line of .227/.268/.317 over parts of five seasons with the Rays.
Toronto Blue Jays
Heyman says that the Blue Jays are still searching for live arms to bolster their bullpen, which was overworked in 2012 due to a rash of injuries to the starting rotation.
Here's how Toronto's bullpen looks heading into spring training:
|Middle Relief||Darren Oliver||LHP|
|Middle Relief||Brad Lincoln||RHP|
|Middle Relief||Esmil Rogers||RHP|
|Long Relief||Brett Cecil||LHP|
ESPN's Jerry Crasnick noted that the Blue Jays were one of seven teams to watch a trio of free-agent pitchers throw recently:
Of the three, 29-year-old right-hander Mark Lowe makes some sense for Toronto. Lowe, who pitched to a 3.43 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 36 games for the Rangers in 2012, would be an inexpensive addition—and insurance against Sergio Santos' surgically repaired shoulder not being ready for Opening Day.
Other free-agent relievers Toronto could have interest in include Francisco Rodriguez, Kameron Loe and Bobby Jenks.
What, adding the Upton brothers wasn't enough?
Braves GM Frank Wren spoke with Bill Shanks of the Macon Telegraph shortly after finishing the trade for Justin Upton, and as you can see from this section of the interview, the Braves aren't necessarily done tweaking the roster:
SHANKS: Maybe one of the best parts of this deal is that you still have financial flexibility. Does that allow you to tweak the roster before you get to Florida?
WREN: I don’t know if it’s before we get to Florida, but there’s no question it gives us the flexibility. I think we just look at our team and see what we need to adjust as we go along. We’re not pinned under a budget that doesn’t allow us to make moves and be creative. I think we are in a really good spot right now. We do have some flexibility. We’ve had to use a few prospects, so that makes it more difficult to trade. But we still have depth there as well.
SHANKS: Do you need another veteran for the bench, especially with guys like Chipper, Prado Ross and Hinske now gone?
WREN: Not necessarily. I think we’re in pretty good shape. With (Gerald) Laird and with Ramiro Pena, who we signed, and Reed Johnson, who is a real pro… I think we’re in pretty good shape. We’ll see how it all plays out in the spring. That last week of March is always important as you put those finishing touches, whether it’s the 23rd or 24th or 25th man, and that’s what will play out. If we feel like we’re deficient in that area, there are players that fits those needs available at that time of year.
So, Braves fans, don't expect any moves to be made until spring training games get underway in earnest.
Milwaukee's move to the National League prior to the 1998 season came back to bite the organization this winter as the Brewers tried to add some insurance at first base, as Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports notes:
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 1, 2013
With starting first baseman Corey Hart sidelined until late May (or late April, if you believe Hart's stance on things), Mat Gamel, whose knee injury that knocked him out of action in 2012 necessitated Hart's move from the outfield to first base, is slotted to hold down the position until Hart returns.
Apparently the Brewers are uneasy about that prospect, thus the attempts at landing Lyle Overbay and Juan Rivera.
The free-agent pickings are slim at first base, with 42-year-old Jim Thome—who hasn't played the position regularly since 2004—being the best available option.
Should Hart suffer a setback or Gamel look terrible in spring training, don't be surprised if the Brewers make a move to land another option, whether it be someone who was released or via trade.
St. Louis Cardinals
Despite losing Chris Carpenter for the 2013 season with the same shoulder injury that forced him to miss most of the 2012 season, a reunion with Kyle Lohse is not in the works, according to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Cards interest in Lohse "negligible at this time."
— Joe Strauss (@JoeStrauss) February 5, 2013
After Adam Wainwright and Jake Westbrook, the Cardinals starting rotation is largely inexperienced, with Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn and either Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly or Trevor Rosenthal filling the fifth spot.
At this point, it doesn't appear as if the Cardinals are going to look outside the organization to replace Carpenter, though they are known to have expressed some interest in Houston's Bud Norris at the winter meetings.
Free-agent options other than Lohse include Derek Lowe, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Roy Oswalt, Joe Saunders, Chien-Ming Wang and Randy Wolf.
Other than distancing both himself and team president Theo Epstein from Curt Schilling's recent allegations that a member or members of the Boston organization suggested that he use performance enhancing drugs to recover from injury in 2008 (via CBS Chicago), Cubs GM Jed Hoyer hasn't been up to much lately.
Alfonso Soriano has been readily available in a trade for more than a year, but odds are that he will wind up back in left field at Wrigley Field in April.
Trade chatter around staff ace Matt Garza will certainly pick up once spring training gets underway. Garza will prove that the elbow injury that ended his 2012 season is behind him, though it's entirely possible that the Cubs decide to hold onto him and work out an extension.
For the first time in a long time, I can write one of these without mentioning the latest updates surrounding Justin Upton. Upton's gone, Martin Prado is manning third base and the Diamondbacks are still looking to add to their stockpile of starting pitchers.
According to Chris Cwik of CBSSports.com, there was some talk that the Diamondbacks were looking to package shortstop Nick Ahmed (acquired in the Upton trade) with a pitching prospect to acquire Detroit right-hander Rick Porcello, but there's been no news on that front lately.
The deal itself made little sense—to me at least.
Arizona's rotation is solid, coming in at No. 12 in our latest rotational power rankings heading into spring training, and neither Randall Delgado or Pat Corbin currently have a spot on the staff, seemingly destined to start the season at Triple-A.
With the exception of a right-handed bat with power on the bench—and I don't see the Diamondbacks having room to add one—there isn't much other than a tweak here or there that Arizona figures to do before spring training.
Los Angeles Dodgers
With the unproven Luis Cruz the starting third baseman on a team of All-Stars, the Dodgers had been looking to add 37-year-old free agent Scott Rolen to provide both depth and insurance.
But, as GM Ned Colletti told MLB.com's Ken Gurnick, Rolen will "probably end up some other place than Los Angeles," without going into further detail.
The Dodgers can definitely use some bench help, as Juan Uribe or Jerry Hairston Jr. are currently the backups for Cruz and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.
After Rolen, Casey Kotchman is probably the best free-agent option available.
With that in mind, the Dodgers continue to try to move some of their starting pitching depth—either Chris Capuano or Aaron Harang, and a backup corner infielder could definitely be something they try to acquire in any potential deal.
San Francisco Giants
The bearded one may not be done in San Francisco.
MLB.com's Chris Haft points out that Giants manager Bruce Bochy wasn't willing to say "no" when asked whether former closer Brian Wilson would be back in a Giants' uniform at a recent speaking engagement:
Emphasizing that [GM Brian] Sabean decides which players to sign, Bochy said, "I can't say that [Wilson] will be back." But, Bochy added, "I can't say the door's closed on Brian Wilson. ... I don't think that's completely shut."
Back in January, Sabean was frank in his comments that Wilson didn't appear interested in an incentive-laden deal with a low base salary and likely wouldn't be returning to the Bay Area.
Wilson, who is recovering from the second Tommy John surgery of his career, threw for the New York Mets back in January at UCLA. Things didn't go well, with Wilson tossing only 20 pitches with low velocity and being deemed not ready to return to action.
It's a long shot, but the Indians have joined the long list of clubs who would be interested in a discounted Michael Bourn, according to ESPN's Buster Olney:
Indians among the teams that might have interest in Michael Bourn if his price tag dropped A LOT. Lots of clubs trolling for bargains now.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) February 5, 2013
Bourn would replace Drew Stubbs in center field and present skipper Terry Francona with some interesting decisions to make with his lineup.
Does he slide left fielder Michael Brantley down to second, pushing second baseman Jason Kipnis into more of a run-producing spot? Or does he bat Brantley ninth, giving the Indians speed and the ability to get on base consistently at both ends of the lineup?
While this scenario isn't likely to pan out, just the fact that the Indians are willing and able to spend more money to improve the team is a great sign for Chief Wahoo's tribe.
Michael Bourn would be a perfect fit in Seattle, who have money to spend and the need for a major upgrade at the position.
ESPN's Jim Bowden and Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe both name the Mariners as a team waiting for his asking price to come down, but Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times makes a pretty convincing argument for signing Bourn before that happens.
After signing Felix Hernandez to the richest contract a pitcher has ever received—a seven-year, $175 million extension—whether any of Seattle's free-agent budget for the 2013 season remains available is a valid question to ask.
Whether it's Bourn or a trade for someone else while utilizing pieces from their incredibly deep farm system, there's a deal for the Mariners to drastically improve their offense out there.
Minor moves, like the signing of veteran reliever Jon Rauch to an incentive-laden one-year deal for a million dollars, are what can be expected from the Marlins heading into spring training—and probably the regular season.
Whether or not the Marlins add any additional pieces is largely inconsequential, as the team is in for a long season after owner Jeffrey Loria conducted his latest fire sale in Miami.
New York Mets
Chances are that Michael Bourn is not going to become the Mets center fielder.
Pride and a draft pick stand in the way of a deal coming to fruition.
While multiple teams have interest in signing Bourn at a reduced price, the Mets are one of the few willing to offer him a multi-year deal. Joel Sherman of the New York Post opines what that deal might be—and why Bourn's agent, Scott Boras, is hesitant to accept it:
This is my HUNCH not hard reporting: #Mets in 3-yr $30-$35M range for Bourn, Boras wants to top Victorino AAV ($13M), Pagan terms (4-$40M)— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) February 7, 2013
As for the draft pick, the Mets finished with the 10th-worst record in baseball, and thus had a right to the 10th pick in this year's draft, which would be protected under the rules of the new CBA.
But the Pittsburgh Pirates failed to sign their first-round pick from a year ago, Mark Appel, and received the 10th pick this year as compensation, pushing the Mets into the unprotected 11th pick.
Should the Mets pursue a waiver from commissioner Bud Selig, it's unlikely that he'd grant it this far along into free agency, nor is he looking to do Boras any favors. The MLBPA could also file a grievance, which would put the case before an independent arbitrator.
Sorry Mets fans, but the team's search for a capable outfielder is going to continue.
As presently constituted, the Nationals bullpen features one left-handed reliever—Zach Duke.
While Duke was excellent for the Nationals in 2012, it was a small sample size: fewer than 14 innings of work while allowing 11 hits and two earned runs.
Sure, the right-handers in the bullpen do a solid job against left-handed batters, but after the departures of Sean Burnett, Mike Gonzalez and Tom Gorzelanny from last year's bullpen, the team could use a more established left-hander.
Or so you'd think.
GM Mike Rizzo doesn't think that it's something the team needs to be overly concerned about, as he told The Washington Times' Amanda Comak:
"We feel good about our bullpen. It's not a necessity to get a left-handed specialist type of reliever. But if one made sense for us, we certainly wouldn't rule it out."
If a move is going to happen, it likely won't be until spring training is well underway.
Former National League All-Star Jair Jurrjens, who agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the Orioles earlier this winter, still isn't officially a member of the organization, as Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun notes:
#Orioles & Jair Jurrjens still havent finalized deal. Physical ended Mon.; O's docs still vetting info. Jurrjens says "we're getting close."— Dan Connolly (@danconnollysun) February 6, 2013
Jurrjens says there's "just some small stuff" on the one-year contract that needs to be worked out.— Dan Connolly (@danconnollysun) February 6, 2013
I think Jurrjens will be a pleasant surprise at the back of Baltimore's rotation this season, giving the team quality outings and a chance to win in the vast majority of his starts. Signing him may not be as inconsequential as some believe.
As for the offense, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman thinks that veteran outfielder Bobby Abreu would be a good fit for the Orioles, though Baltimore hasn't been linked to the 38-year-old at all this winter and I don't see where Abreu helps the Orioles, as he's a shell of the player that he once was.
San Diego Padres
The Padres need starting pitchers, and the Los Angeles Dodgers have some that they'd like to unload, which leads Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal to ask a rather obvious question—could there be a reunion between the Padres and Aaron Harang?
Harang, 34, went 14-7 with a 3.64 ERA and 1.37 WHIP for San Diego in 2011, signing with the Dodgers as a free agent following the season.
As presently constituted, Padres starting pitchers came in at No. 28 in our latest power rankings of MLB rotations, and even the most ardent Padres fan would agree that additional arms are needed.
Whether it's Harang or another expendable veteran, such as Kansas City's Luke Hochevar, there's a good chance that San Diego will add another arm before Opening Day.
Other than small moves to add bodies to the mix in spring training, things have been relatively quiet around the Phillies since the team signed Delmon Young to play right field.
Minor league contracts, handed out to the likes of shortstop Matt Tolbert, are likely the only types of deals that you'll see the Phillies make between now and the start of spring training.
Whether starting pitcher Francisco Liriano, who agreed to a two-year, $14 million deal with the Pirates just before Christmas actually winds up donning a Pirates uniform in 2013 remains unclear.
Liriano, who reportedly broke his non-throwing arm when he fell in his bathroom days after signing the deal, remains on track to work out a new deal with the club, according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman:
actual baseball note: liriano #pirates deal still on track, pending physical. exam delayed while non-throwing arm heals— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) February 6, 2013
Heyman is far more optimistic than Pirates GM Neal Huntington, who only a few days ago was non-committal on whether the team would have the Liriano situation worked out before spring training (h/t Pittsburgh Tribune-Review):
“The process continues,” Huntington said. “We have ongoing conversations. I'm not an oddsmaker, so I don't know if it is likely or unlikely that we will add another pitcher."
While talk of the Rangers making a run at Kyle Lohse or Michael Bourn on the free-agent market isn't likely to subside anytime soon, it's smaller moves that the team is more likely to make between now and the start of spring training.
Utility infielder Ryan Theriot is on GM Jon Daniels' radar according to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal:
Theriot, 33, posted a .270/.316/.321 slash line in just under 400 at-bats for the San Francisco Giants last season. His ability to play multiple infield positions would give the Rangers some versatility on the bench.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays have been busy on the free-agent market this week, finalizing deals with designated hitter Luke Scott, second baseman Kelly Johnson and reliever Kyle Farnsworth, which is par for the course in Tampa Bay.
Any other moves the team makes between now and the start of spring training will be along those same lines—low-cost moves that don't add a real difference-maker to the club.
With Tampa still having a plethora of starting pitching in its system, there's always a chance that one of those arms could be flipped for additional help around the horn; perhaps at first base, where the underwhelming James Loney takes over for the equally disappointing Carlos Pena.
Boston Red Sox
Since joining the Red Sox prior to the 2011 season, 27-year-old left-hander Franklin Morales has been solid—and he's gotten the attention of teams around the league.
According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, multiple teams have expressed interest in acquiring Morales, who has served primarily in a relief role in Boston.
Morales, who was stretched out toward the end of the 2012 season as a starter, has pitched to a 3.73 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 108.2 innings of work, averaging a strikeout per inning over the past two seasons.
Should Boston suffer an injury during spring training, Morales very well could be the trade chip the team uses to fill that hole.
Don't look for the Reds to make any more moves between now and the start of spring training.
GM Walt Jocketty told MLB.com's Mark Sheldon as much when he addressed the team's beat reporters earlier this week:
I think we are pretty much done. We thought Dusty would like to have another left-handed pitcher for the bullpen. Parra was the best available. We’re excited about that upside, especially when he’ll be working with Bryan Price. He can pitch in a variety of roles — long or short — he’s capble of doing anything.
In the same piece, Jocketty also mentions that there has been no movement on the Scott Rolen front, but it appears that the team would consider bringing the veteran third baseman back on a one-year deal.
Colorado's starting rotation was the worst in all of baseball in 2012, finishing the season with a combined ERA of 5.89 as opponents batted .304 against the beleaguered group.
While the team expects the bulk of its rotation—which was injured—to bounce back with solid campaigns, the team is still trying to add arms to the mix.
They offered a minor league deal to veteran Derek Lowe, who passed (according to Troy Renck of the Denver Post) and decided to wait to see if a major league offer comes around as spring training gets underway.
If the Rockies do add another starter, it will be someone along the lines of Lowe—a veteran who might have something left in the tank, but whose best days are firmly behind them.
Kansas City Royals
With the additions of Wade Davis, James Shields and Ervin Santana this offseason, Kansas City heads into spring training with a starting rotation that has the potential to be very good—but at the very least will be improved from a year ago.
One of the holdovers from last season, 29-year-old Luke Hochevar, will compete with the likes of Bruce Chen and Luis Mendoza for the fifth and final spot in Kansas City's rotation.
Should he fail to clinch the spot, he could find himself on the move—perhaps to San Diego, as Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal opines.
The return K.C. got would be negligible, but moving the disappointing former top overall draft pick would certainly be welcomed by the Royals faithful.
Detroit avoided the temptation to sign a high-priced veteran closer this winter, choosing instead to see what 22-year-old prospect Bruce Rondon can do in the ninth inning this season instead.
Should Rondon prove that he's not ready for prime time in spring training, the Tigers could look outside of the organization for the answer—namely to Boston, where former closer Andrew Bailey is serving in a setup role.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe says that Bailey will be one of the most heavily scouted players in Red Sox camp this spring, and for the right return, Boston would move the two-time All-Star and 2009 American League Rookie of the Year.
Over the first four years of his career, Bailey, 28, has saved 81 games while pitching to a 2.47 ERA and 1.03 WHIP, striking out just over eight batters per nine innings of work.
Minnesota could look to bolster its bench by adding middle infielder Reid Brignac, recently designated for assignment by the Tampa Bay Rays, according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman.
Brignac, 27, is a light-hitting middle infielder with a career slash line of .227/.268/.317 and an average glove in the middle of the infield.
He's not a game-changer by any stretch of the imagination, but he would challenge 24-year-old Eduardo Escobar for a spot on Minnesota's bench in spring training.
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox were looking to add a complementary left-handed bat to the mix and claimed former Red Sox first base prospect Lars Anderson off of waivers from the Arizona Diamondbacks, but it's hard to imagine that he was the left-handed bat that GM Rick Hahn was hoping to land.
Third baseman Brent Morel, who figures to compete for a bench spot in spring training but who was made expendable by the team's signing of Jeff Keppinger earlier this winter, could be used to acquire that bat.
Morel, 25, was someone the Miami Marlins had interest in earlier this winter according to CBS Sports' Danny Knobler, and while the Marlins have since added veteran Placido Polanco to play third base, Morel could still be of interest to the rebuilding franchise.
New York Yankees
Working under an edict from owner Hank Steinbrenner to get under the $189 luxury tax threshold for 2014, the Yankees have been relatively quiet this winter.
Outside of re-signing their own free agents, they've made low-cost signings such as Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner and Juan Rivera to bolster the roster—and chances are that the team's done fiddling with things until spring training gets underway.
Any moves that the team makes between now and Opening Day are sure to be along the same lines as the Hafner and Rivera signings—short-term, low-cost, low-risk investments.