MLB Free-Agency/Trade Rumors: All the Latest Whispers, News and Speculation
The MLB season has officially ended, but a whole new season is starting.
Free agency kicks off Tuesday as teams will look to add the pieces to their rosters in the same way the Boston Red Sox did last offseason.
Over the next five days, there will be a lot of rumors about free agents and possible trades.
Here's a look at all the latest whispers, news and speculation.
Note: All stats obtained from Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
Red Sox Will Make Qualifying Offers to Napoli and Drew
The Red Sox will make qualifying offers to Mike Napoli and Stephen Drew, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports:
The Red Sox won a World Series thanks in part to their short-term deals, and Drew and Napoli became vital parts of the team after signing such deals. The Red Sox would be happy to bring them both back, but by making the qualifying offer, it also sets them up to receive compensatory first-round draft choices should either leave.
Napoli had himself a good season, batting .259 with 23 home runs and 92 RBI. He struggled a bit in the postseason, batting .217 with two home runs and seven RBI.
Drew also had himself a good season, batting .253 with 13 home runs and 67 RBI. However, the postseason was another story as he batted .111 with one home run and four RBI. While he did struggle at the plate, it was plays like this that kept him in the lineup.
If both players take the qualifying offer, it will be good for the Red Sox as they will keep two players who helped them get to the World Series. If not, then they at least get two compensatory picks out of it.
Joe Nathan Wants to Stay in Texas
Joe Nathan knows the Texas Rangers need a lot this offseason, but that doesn't mean he doesn't want to stay with the team.
According to Richard Durrett of ESPN Dallas, Nathan has made it clear he wants to stay with the Rangers:
I know they have a surplus of arms in the bullpen and I know the business side of it, ... You’re trying to get as much money as you can to strengthen your club, so they may want to spend that money somewhere else. They have some work to do to piece some holes together.
Nathan has been a dominant closer the last two years, garnering 80 saves and a 2.09 ERA. He's been an All-Star both years as well.
He does have a $9 million option for next year, which he has the right to decline after finishing 55 games in 2013. But Nathan is looking for a two-year deal, something that could complicate things in Texas, especially considering Nathan would be 40 in that second season of the deal.
Durrett notes the Rangers do have other options at closer if it doesn't work out with Nathan:
This club has holes, as Nathan mentioned, and they'd likely want to stay as financially flexible as they can. Tying up that money in two years of Nathan or even one at $9 million seems doubtful, with cheaper options like Joakim Soria and Tanner Scheppers on the roster.
Phillies Targeting Outfielders
The Philadelphia Phillies are looking to be major players in free agency this offseason. According to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, they're looking to make a splash in the outfield:
The Phillies are targeting big-time free-agent outfielders and baseball people expect them to be in the mix for Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, Nelson Cruz and possibly Curtis Granderson.
The Phillies have a team built around superior starting pitching and veteran infielders but have a clear weakness in the outfield, where they got subpar production this past year.
One thing to keep in mind is that while Ellsbury and Choo would fill roles at the top of the order for the Phillies, both are left-handed hitters. The Phillies already have four left-handed hitters in the lineup.
That makes Cruz a viable option. And after a year where he was suspended for his role in the Biogenesis scandal, he could come at a decent price for the Phillies.
Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News wrote that the Rangers were going to give Cruz a qualifying offer. But if he doesn't accept that, then he's fair game for the Phillies. The Phillies have a top-10-protected pick, so they wouldn't lose their first-round pick by signing Cruz.
Gordon Beckham to Toronto?
A year after a flurry of trades made the Toronto Blue Jays early-season favorites in the AL East, the Blue Jays appear to be looking to trade again.
This time, the Blue Jays aren't looking to make huge moves.
According to Scott Merkin and Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com, the Blue Jays are interested in acquiring second baseman Gordon Beckham from the White Sox:
MLB.com has learned that the Blue Jays have interest in acquiring the White Sox second baseman, which dates back to last offseason, when the possibility of a trade was first explored. The interest has since been renewed with general manager Alex Anthopoulos intent on upgrading the position.
For Toronto, adding Beckham would be a definite upgrade. Here's how he compares to the players who played second base for Toronto in 2013:
|Beckham||Stats||Blue Jays 2B|
When looking at the numbers, Beckham has a clear advantage in average, on-base percentage and extra-base hits. Now, Toronto second basemen may have had four more extra-base hits, but they did it in 218 more at-bats.
Beckham would be an upgrade for the Blue Jays and it's a move that could be one of the final pieces the Blue Jays need to meet the expectations they had from 2013.
Mets Likely to Trade a First Baseman
The New York Mets have a lot of first basemen, and a move is likely this offseason, according to Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News, who spoke with Mets COO Jeff Wilpon:
The Mets’ COO discussed the team’s “glut” at first base and said the club has already received calls from teams interested in trading for one of several first basemen, a group that Wilpon did not limit to the struggling Ike Davis and Lucas Duda.
"There’s probably a glut of first basemen. You can count five, if you wanted to," Wilpon said...Something has got to happen there with the logjam. There’s been some interest already. Where that interest goes and what that brings back, that you have to let play out a little bit."
This is just one of the many things the Mets have to figure out this offseason, as Wilpon stated there are only four players the team is sold on heading into next year. Those guys are third baseman David Wright and pitchers Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and Zack Wheeler.
Pirates to Try to Re-Sign 3
Burnett’s case is by far the most intriguing—because he has gone on the record that he will either pitch for the Pirates or retire. A heck of a negotiating stance, should he decide to continue his career. In all likelihood, the Bucs will make his the qualifying offer of $14.1 million and he will accept...
In Burnett's case, both sides are in an awkward place, but if the feeling is mutual, there's no reason a deal can't get done.
As far as Byrd, he was great in his time with the Pirates, batting .317 with three home runs and 17 RBI in 107 at-bats after being traded by the Mets.
Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review also notes Byrd shouldn't expect a long contract for various reasons:
Byrd is in line for a big hike over the $700,000 he made this season with the Pirates and New York Mets. But the size and length of his next contract will be tempered by his age (36) and previous suspension for use of performance-enhancing substances.
Jason Vargas Won't Get Qualifying Offer
The Angels have only one free agent, pitcher Jason Vargas, and they have until 2 p.m. Monday to decide whether to extend a one-year, $14.1-million qualifying offer to the left-hander who went 9-8 with a 4.02 earned-run average in 24 starts during an injury-plagued 2013 season.
The Angels are not expected to make that offer because it would push them up against the $189-million luxury tax threshold for 2014, but that wouldn’t preclude them from pursuing a multiyear deal with Vargas, who has expressed a desire to remain in Anaheim.
It's no surprise that Vargas won't get a qualifying offer, but just because he desires to stay with the Angels and they desire to keep him doesn't mean it's going to happen.
Angels Pursuing Trades
The Angels have made huge splashes in free agency the last two years as they signed the likes of Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson and Josh Hamilton.
However, this year will be different as GM Jerry Dipoto will look to make improvements to the ballclub (mainly the starting rotation) via the trade market, according to MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez:
The Angels' general manager—assured in early October that he'd return for a third year—will spend a vast majority of his offseason talking to teams about ways to acquire starting pitching via trade, preferably by dangling offensive pieces like Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar, Peter Bourjos and Mark Trumbo.
Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times tweeted the Padres have interest in Trumbo.
With the Angels having to spend wisely this offseason, on Thursday I looked at creative ways the Padres could make trades to acquire the talent they desired.
Jacoby Ellsbury Speculation
Joe Baker of MLB Nation recently did a little speculating on Jacoby Ellsbury.
While he is the second-best hitter on the market this offseason, Baker expects Ellsbury to get a deal more in the neighborhood of what B.J. Upton got from the Braves last year:
When Ellsbury does sign with a team you can expect a deal in the neighborhood of $15 million a year similar to what B.J. Upton got from the Braves last year. A deal for Ellsbury could look like 5 years/$75 million, or a deal that is similar to that. I don’t think Ellsbury will top a deal of over a $100 million but it is possible. As for other variables in the contract, such as a no-trade clause, I wouldn’t expect anything.
Nick Cafardo tweeted that agent Scott Boras told him he received a lot of phone calls from various GMs on Ellsbury and teammate Stephen Drew.
Baker speculated who a few of those teams could be:
While all 11 of the teams with apparent interest aren’t mentioned in Cafardo’s tweet, the Phillies and Cubs have been two teams who have been mentioned in the past of having interest in Ellsbury. Also, you’d have to think that the Boston Red Sox aren’t going to let Ellsbury go easily so expect them to be in the race for him. Other teams that could have interest are the Texas Rangers, New York Mets, San Francisco Giants and the Arizona Diamondbacks.