MLB Rumors: 5 Contenders Already Looking for Key Upgrades

Sam Stryker@sbstrykerContributor IIIApril 9, 2013

MLB Rumors: 5 Contenders Already Looking for Key Upgrades

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    The baseball season may be just a week old, but that doesn’t mean teams with postseason or championship aspirations are resting on their laurels.

    It might be a contender off to a slow start looking for a spark or a well-rounded squad with a hole or two to fill. It could be a current contender looking to both this year and beyond or a team with a deep lineup looking to deal from a point of strength.

    All of these franchises are already rumored to be on the hunt to make moves in the young MLB season.

    They may have different motives, but what these teams share in common is an aspiration to strengthen already-strong lineups. 

Philadelphia Phillies

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    Despite their deep rotation and strong lineup, the Philadelphia Phillies are off to a slow 2-5 start. The starting pitching has been hammered in that period. 

    On Monday night, Roy Halladay yielded seven earned runs in four innings against the New York Mets. Opening Day starter Cole Hamels has yielded 13 runs in two starts.

    But Phil Sheridan of the Philadelphia Inquirer argues the bullpen may be the area most in need of improvement for the Phillies.

    Though it is early in the season, Sheridan said that doesn’t mean the Phillies “shouldn’t be aggressive about addressing problems,” most notably the relief corps.

Boston Red Sox

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    The Boston Red Sox are off to a hot start and even lead the American League East division with a 5-2 record.

    Boston has looked impressive on both offense and pitching.

    The team has scored the most runs in the AL (39) while it is second only to the Chicago White Sox in runs allowed with 20. The Red Sox also boast the best run differential in the AL with plus-19.

    But that doesn’t mean Boston is standing pat.

    The team may look to bolster its pitching in the wake of John Lackey's right-bicep injury.

    Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports the Red Sox are interested and in the running for starting pitcher Aaron Harang, who was designed for assignment by the Colorado Rockies after being acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Texas Rangers

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    A recent powerhouse, the Texas Rangers are off to a strong start, tied at the top of the AL West with the Oakland A’s with a 5-2 record. But Texas may already be looking to extend its run both in the short- and long-term future. 

    The ink is still drying on shortstop Elvis Andrus’ five-year, $120 million contract extension, but the Rangers have some serious baseball decisions to make.

    Shortstop Jurickson Profar is baseball’s highest-ranked prospect according to—but Andrus is apparently here to stay in Texas. 

    Sure, the Rangers could keep Profar, move Ian Kinsler to first base and plug in the highly-touted youngster at second. But according to ESPN’s Jim Bowden, there might be another solution. 

    Bowden tweeted Saturday that Texas general manager Jon Daniels “artfully would not answer” whether he would agree to swap Profar for St. Louis Cardinals' outfield prospect Oscar Taveras. 

    The move would seem to solve a problem for both teams—St. Louis boasts a deep outfield—but the deal remains just a rumor at this point.

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    The Los Angeles Dodgers have demonstrated recently that they know a thing or two about wheeling and dealing, and they might not be done yet.

    Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times notes the big-budget Dodgers—with their record $230 million payroll—have stockpiled starting pitchers to the point they have more arms than available spots in the rotation. 

    While the Dodgers recently moved starter Aaron Harang to the Colorado Rockies for catcher Ramon Hernandez, the team still has two extra, veteran arms in Chris Capuano and Ted Lilly.

    While Hernandez notes neither Lilly nor Capuano has demanded a trade, both pitchers—like Harang—could be wearing different uniforms before the end of the season. What the Dodgers will ask for in return has yet to be determined.

Tampa Bay Rays

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    The Tampa Bay Rays are among the best in baseball at building a winner on a budget, and the team is rumored to be thinking about the long- and short-term good of the team early in the season.

    It may be just a rumor, but it is a scintillating one at that—Rays ace for Profar, the top-rated Rangers prospect.

    Baseball analyst Keith Law said in an interview with ESPN Radio he would not make the trade from the Rangers’ end, and he went on to say “It would be very hard for the Rays to justify a deal like that with the perceived value of price.”

    Indeed, the pill would be a tough one for Tampa Bay to swallow—Price, after all, won the AL Cy Young last season. 

    But Profar is a top-flight talent under club control for another six seasons, while the southpaw Price can hit the open market after the 2015 season. The youngster would also be an immediate upgrade at short for the Rays. 

    Price will also make more than $10 million this season, and his contract will escalate from there. For that reason alone, a swap for the young Profar would have to be a tempting deal for the budget-conscious Rays.

    All statistics via ESPN.