2014 MLB Free Agency: Separating Fact from Fiction with the Latest Rumors

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2014 MLB Free Agency: Separating Fact from Fiction with the Latest Rumors
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Is Max Scherzer done in Detroit?

On the MLB trade and free-agent markets, rampant speculation—from the well-reasoned to the downright outlandish—starts immediately after the World Series ends. The signings, however, do not—at least not the ones for the big stars.

Those deals usually do not happen until the Winter Meetings at the beginning of December. No premier free agent wants to ink a new deal until the market has been set. The problem is, until the first deal has been struck, the market can't take shape.

For now, that leaves plenty of time to sift through the torrent of rumors flooding the hot stove. From predicting where the top free agents will end up to figuring out which stars are on the trade block, the MLB offseason is buzzing.

Now, it's time to distinguish the fact from the fiction.

 

1. Shin-Soo Choo Will Score a $100 Contact This Winter

Shin-Soo Choo is about to make a ton of money.

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports recently predicted that the 31-year-old will scoop a $120 million, six-year deal this winter.

That's not just his opinion. Heyman also asked an anonymous agent and general manager, and both projected that Choo would rake in $110 million. The San Francisco Giants recently doled out $90 million to Hunter Pence for a five-year deal, so the groundwork is certainly in place for Choo to crack $100 million.

Admittedly, Pence hit 27 home runs compared to Choo's 21. The Giants' right fielder also stole 22 bases, while Choo nabbed 20. However, Choo gets on base at a far superior clip of .423, compared to .339 for Pence.

How much money will Shin-Soo Choo sign for this winter?

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The native of South Korea can also play either center field or right field, while Pence is limited to the corner spot. Unlike Pence, who agreed to his extension before the end of the season, Choo will benefit from having multiple bidders drive up his price.

According to Mark Sheldon of MLB.com, a whole slew of teams have already expressed interest in him. Those clubs include the New York Yankees, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies and Texas Rangers. With all of those options, a stellar resume and the potential for a six-year deal, this rumor is a fact.

 

2. The Boston Red Sox Will Land Free-Agent Slugger Brian McCann

Brian McCann will have no shortage of suitors this winter.

The World Series champions could be among those who are interested. McCann's agent told Scott Lauber of The Boston Herald that the catcher is “fascinated” by the idea of linking up with the Boston Red Sox.

Buster Olney of ESPN pointed out that McCann will receive attention from clubs like the Rangers and the Yankees. However, Olney explained that the Red Sox could be the “sleeper” in the equation:

Olney speculated that McCann would take the place of Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the short term. That's reasonable enough, as Saltalamacchia was Boston's only free agent not to receive a qualifying offer.

Eventually, McCann would become the full-time designated hitter. But would he really? David Ortiz only has one more year on his deal, but at this point, there's no reason to believe the World Series MVP won't play beyond this season.

First base wouldn't be a better option either. If the decision comes down to extending Mike Napoli or springing for McCann, then the choice is obvious. Check out how the stats compare from last year:

  • Napoli: .259/.360/.482, 38 doubles, 23 home runs, .223 ISO
  • McCann:.256/.336/.461, 13 doubles, 20 home runs, .205 ISO

Napoli's line is slightly better, and more importantly, the Red Sox will be able to sign him for fewer dollars and years than they would have to offer McCann.

Swooping in for McCann would be far from a disaster, but look for the Red Sox to find a more efficient use of their funds. This rumor is fiction.

  

3. The Tampa Bay Rays Will Ship Out David Price

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Even David Price thinks he's done in Tampa Bay. At the end of the Tampa Bay Rays' season, the three-time All-Star told Roger Mooney of The Tampa Tribune:

If you go with what's been done in the past, I guess you're going to have to think you're going to get traded...It's part of baseball and it's something I've seen go on, it's kind of something I've prepared myself for.

Quite a few teams have been preparing themselves for that possibility as well. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that the Philadelphia Phillies, "have gone so far as to kick around a trade for Price."

Wherever the lefty ends up, Rosenthal also suggested that the Rays might get in their own way:

The Rays' biggest obstacle, as they entertain offers for Price, might be their own expectations—they surely will want to beat their return for [James] Shields, and not by a little. In the end, they might need to accept less than what they envision, just as a suitor might need to give up more.

Last December, the Rays sent Shields and right-hander Wade Davis to the Kanas City Royals for a six-player package headlined by right fielder Wil Myers.

Tampa Bay's steep demands will scare off lots of trade partners. Some team will step up, though, as the 2012 Cy Young Award winner can't become a free agent until 2015. The guarantee of two seasons plus the option to secure the lefty over the long term will simply be too good to pass up. This rumor is a fact.

 

4. The New York Yankees Will Lock Up Robinson Cano With a Long-Term Deal

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Robinson Cano is in no rush to make a decision about his future.

New York Yankees' general manager Brian Cashman told Anthony McCarron of The Daily News“Robbie will control the urgency...It sounds like he's in no hurry and wants the process to play out and he's earned that."

Cashman is ready to wait for the five-time All-Star to make his final decision. When he does, the Yankees will have a pile of cash waiting for him. According to a report from the AP, the Yankees will be able to add $80 million to the payroll this winter without going over the luxury-tax threshold (h/t CBS Sports).

Outside of the Yankees, the Los Angeles Dodgers would have been the obvious candidates to pay the exorbitant sum Cano is seeking. Los Angeles, though, has already snapped up Alexander Guerrero, a Cuban second baseman, this offseason.

With that option off the board and the Yankees flush with resources, this rumor is a fact. A deal most likely won't be hammered out until the winter meetings, but Cano will eventually re-up with the Yankees, and he'll also be $200 million richer for it.

 

5. The Detroit Tigers Will Sell High on Max Scherzer

Should the Detroit Tigers trade Max Scherzer?

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Would the Detroit Tigers really consider trading the favorite to win the 2013 AL Cy Young Award?

According to a report from Rosenthal, they are willing to accept offers on Max Scherzer. The money saved on Scherzer could be earmarked to re-sign Miguel Cabrera after the 2015 season. Plus, the Tigers could target prospects to plug the holes in their bullpen and outfield.

There's just one problem with this idea: the timing is awful. And that is not from Detroit's perspective, but rather, from any potential trade partner's.

Admittedly, Scherzer won 16 games in 2012. The fact is, though, 2013 was the tall right-hander's breakout season, and his value has never been higher.

Swinging a deal for Scherzer this winter would be an egregious example of buying high. No MLB GM would make that mistake, right? For that reason, this rumor is fiction.

 

 

Basic stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com. Advanced stats via FanGraphs.com. 

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