Odds of Top Suitors Acquiring Each Top 25 Offseason MLB Target

Ely Sussman@@MrElyminatorCorrespondent INovember 25, 2013

Odds of Top Suitors Acquiring Each Top 25 Offseason MLB Target

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    Combining players from the MLB free-agent and trade markets on this list gives teams an active roster-sized crop of 25 established players who are capable of satisfying various needs in 2014 and beyond.

    Each individual's list of suitors is still very fluid during this opening month of the offseason.

    But rather than waiting out the negotiating process, let's set odds on where they'll spend their futures based upon what's known right now.

    Top suitors were chosen based on insider rumors, expected financial flexibility and current roster composition. The rankings took players' present abilities, contract statuses and likelihood of growth/decline into consideration.


    *Stats provided by Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

25. Joe Nathan, RHP (Free Agent)

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    New York Yankees: 30 percent

    In case you missed it in a previous article I wrote, David Robertson's first six major league seasons had a ton in common with the first six of Mariano Rivera's career. With Rivera finally retired, why is general manager Brian Cashman so hesitant to promote Robertson into the closer's role, as noted by Anthony McCarron of The Daily News

    Well, Joe Nathan is the one option on this free-agent market who's definitively more qualified to handle the ninth inning in the Bronx.

    Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News tweeted that the Yankees were working on securing a power bat before pursuing the 39-year-old. With Brian McCann now under contract, perhaps talks will heat up.


    Detroit Tigers: 20 percent

    Detroit made the mistake of letting the 2013 offseason pass without adding any late-inning relief.

    General manager Dave Dombrowski expressed unfounded confidence in flame-throwing prospect Bruce Rondon. However, he had to answer some uncomfortable questions during spring training when it was evident that Rondon wasn't ready to debut.

    There's no way that he can rationalize the same approach this winter with Joaquin Benoit drawing interest in free agency and Drew Smyly anxious to enter the rotation.

    The Tigers will undoubtedly sign a reputable closer, although ESPN's Jayson Stark hears that their search is "starting to tilt" toward Brian Wilson.


    Seattle Mariners: 12 percent

    You'll see the Mariners repeatedly linked to veteran hitters in this article, as buffing up the heart of their lineup is the top priority.

    But FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi report that the Mariners are also shopping for a big-name closer, specifically mentioning Wilson and Grant Balfour. It wouldn't be at all surprising if Seattle also contemplated Nathan, who resides just one tier above them.

    Danny Farquhar solidified the ninth inning for the M's in 2013. On the other hand, his lack of previous MLB experience has many skeptics clamoring for an upgrade.


    Other MLB Teams: 38 percent

24. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C (Free Agent)

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    Chicago White Sox: 30 percent

    CSN Chicago's Dan Hayes likes catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia as a long-term solution for the White Sox.

    He reminds us that neither Tyler Flowers nor Josh Phegley capitalized last summer when given the opportunity to secure a starting gig. Moreover, Chicago general manager Rick Hahn is targeting players who can help the club compete now and several years down the road (hence the six-year deal for Jose Dariel Abreu).

    Because Saltalamacchia doesn't turn 29 until May, the White Sox can make a lengthy commitment without fear of being ripped off on the back end of it.


    Toronto Blue Jays: 28 percent

    Toronto is serious about upgrading behind the plate, according to Sportsnet's Shi Davidi. GM Alex Anthopoulos has reportedly been in contact with all of the notable free-agent catchers, including Salty.

    Clearing a roster spot and payroll for such an acquisition hinges upon the Blue Jays finding a taker for J.P. Arencibia. Conveniently, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that multiple teams have expressed interest in him.


    Other MLB Teams: 42 percent

    The Colorado Rockies made a "very aggressive play" for Brian McCann, according to Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post. They also weren't far behind the Philadelphia Phillies in the bidding for Carlos Ruiz.

    But with those free agents off the market, Post colleague Troy Renck gets the impression that they'll proceed with Wilin Rosario as catcher. 

    Returning to the Boston Red Sox also appears to be a long shot, as Alex Speier of WEEI.com reports that they've shown "no willingness" to offer more than a two-year deal.

    Even so, any team that's unhappy with its offense behind the plate could make sense for Salty.

23. Chase Headley, 3B (San Diego Padres)

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    Boston Red Sox: 13 percent

    Boston will likely revamp the left side of the infield. General manager Ben Cherington tells Pete Abraham  of The Boston Globe that the team has stayed in contact with free-agent shortstop J.D. Drew, but the possibility of transitioning Xander Bogaerts into a starter is going to be tempting.

    Space could open up at the hot corner if the Red Sox trade Will Middlebrooks or move him across the diamond to first base.


    New York Yankees: 10 percent

    The Yankees arguably have more motivation to pursue Chase Headley than any other suitor. Alex Rodriguez faces a suspension that could keep him out for all of next season, and their alternatives to him were horrible last season.

    Inconveniently, ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews reports that they'll "likely have to wait until 2014" for a decision to be made on his arbitration hearing.

    Until then, there still exists a slim chance that A-Rod slips off the hook and gets paid his entire salary. And the Yankees won't move prospects for Headley and absorb his projected $10 million expense, per Matt Swartz of MLB Trade Rumors, unless Rodriguez is definitely missing time.

    The San Diego Padres could obviously shop Headley before the Bombers hear back from the arbiter.


    Other MLB Teams: 22 percent


    Odds of Staying Put: 55 percent

    From Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe:

    There’s growing sentiment that Headley will be traded this offseason. There’s been talk about an extension, but the Padres, who are now willing to increase payroll under CEO Mike Dee’s leadership, are thinking that they can improve a couple of different areas long-term by dealing their third baseman.

    Even so, San Diego's front office has the option to let Headley play out 2014 before entering free agency, or it can lock him into a long-term extension. The combined odds of those two scenarios is slightly higher than the odds of an offseason exchange.

22. Billy Butler, 1B/DH (Kansas City Royals)

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    Seattle Mariners: 18 percent

    One year after originally being informed that the Mariners coveted Billy Butler, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reiterates that they have the hots for him again this offseason.

    Seattle's bats couldn't get anything going against southpaws last season (.229 BA, .657 OPS vs. LHP). Butler, meanwhile, owns a scalding .314/.394/.527 career batting line when provided with the platoon advantage. He even ranked third in the American League with 175 wRC+ in 2012.

    The M's have been unsuccessful in their recent attempts to woo offensively minded free agents to the Pacific Northwest. That frustration may convince them to instead peruse the trading block for alternatives like Butler.


    Other MLB Teams: 17 percent

    Kansas City's pursuit of free agent Carlos Beltran is going to heavily influence whether Butler survives the winter without being dealt.

    At this advanced stage of his career, Beltran's body isn't suited for everyday use in the outfield. But rather than letting knee issues force him to the bench once or twice each week, the Royals could start him at designated hitter...if Butler was out of the picture.

    Beltran suitors—specifically the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers—would seemingly have space for Butler after whiffing on the veteran switch-hitter. 


    Odds of Staying Put: 65 percent

    Even with Butler playing every game, the Royals lineup had long stretches of ineptitude in 2013.

    The team has opened its wallet wider than ever during these past two offseasons to prepare for a legitimate postseason run, but nobody will confuse K.C. with NYC. Bargains still need to be savored.

    By earning only $8 million in the final guaranteed year of his contract, Butler is poised to provide great bang for the buck.

21. Mark Trumbo, 1B/OF (Los Angeles Angels)

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    Boston Red Sox: 17 percent

    Mark Trumbo is only a small step down from 2013 first baseman Mike Napoli. He's also more than four years younger and undeterred by a potentially career-threatening hip condition.

    The Red Sox have surpluses of pitching prospects and proven veterans, writes Jason Mastrodonato of MLB.com, and the Los Angeles Angels would be elated to receive members from either group.


    Other MLB Teams: 43 percent


    Odds of Staying Put: 40 percent

    Jon Heyman of CBS Sports hears that the Angels are "very reluctant" to move Trumbo.

    But there's going to be interest from as many as a dozen teams, including the Colorado Rockies, Milwaukee Brewers and Tampa Bay Rays. Moreover, Albert Pujols tells ESPNDeportes Radio that his foot feels "99.9 percent healthy" (h/t Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com).

    L.A. sorely needs controllable starting pitching, and moving this slugger is the key to obtaining that.

20. Denard Span, CF (Washington Nationals)

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    San Francisco Giants: 13 percent

    Center fielder Angel Pagan missed most of the 2013 season due to injury, and Jon Heyman reports that the Giants would consider shifting the 32-year-old to left.

    Few members of this free-agent class provide superior outfield defense to Pagan, which is why the team will at least kick the tires on Denard Span.

    Range, his greatest asset, would be especially valuable at spacious AT&T Park. Moreover, Span is nearly three years younger than Pagan, and his 20 stolen bases last year would have been good for the second-most on San Francisco, behind only Hunter Pence.

    The Giants need to strengthen their offense, and this is one of the few ways to do it without unseating any regulars from the beloved 2012 team.


    Chicago Cubs: 10 percent

    Junior Lake produced plenty of exciting moments as a rookie, but the 23-year-old's resume doesn't suggest that he'll continue improving. It's unlikely that he'll have a lasting impact on the organization, at least not in an everyday role.

    That means Chicago could have an opening in center field.

    The Cubs and Nationals were partners in August's David DeJesus trade. Perhaps they'll once again cooperate in the relocation of an expendable veteran.


    Other MLB Teams: 10 percent

    Span's dramatic platoon splits with the Washington Nationals were completely uncharacteristic.

    If the league dismisses them as an anomaly, then he could have a handful of suitors. But that's a big "if." 


    Odds of Staying Put: 67 percent

    Jon Heyman has a hunch that Washington is listening to offers for Span so that he'll have somewhere to go in case the team lands Jacoby Ellsbury. The Nats' healthy relationship with Scott Boras and desire to contend immediately could culminate in an enormous contract.

    With that said, odds are that Ellsbury signs outside of the nation's capital, leading the team to pull Span off the trading block.

19. Matt Wieters, C (Baltimore Orioles)

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    Chicago Cubs: 15 percent

    Chicago likes the potential of current catcher Welington Castillo, but he isn't likely to ever develop Matt Wieters-like power (20-plus home runs in three straight seasons).

    ESPN Insider Jim Bowden believes that the Cubs would make a great trade partner with the Baltimore Orioles because of Jeff Samardzija (subscription required). The right-hander would obviously bolster the top of their shaky starting rotation.


    Other MLB Teams: 20 percent


    Odds of Staying Put: 65 percent

    "Orioles pitchers allowed a stunning 176 homers last season with Wieters behind the plate," writes Nick Cafardo, "most among major league catchers." He adds that the franchise catcher finished dead last in that department during each of the previous two summers.

    Of course, those totals were skewed by the hitter-friendly conditions at Camden Yards, the lackluster quality of Baltimore's pitching staff and Wieters' excellent durability.

    Nonetheless, this raises concerns about whether there's a persistent flaw in his pitch sequences. That subtle weakness—along with Wieters' projected eight-figure salary, per Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors—could deter several interested teams.

    On another note, Baltimore doesn't have any decent in-house alternatives to Wieters. Trading him would make them scramble to find a replacement.

18. Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP (Free Agent)

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    Toronto Blue Jays: 25 percent

    Generating swings-and-misses is imperative to sustaining solid performances at hitter-friendly Rogers Centre. For that reason, Ubaldo Jimenez's 9.6 K/9 last season certainly has the Blue Jays front office salivating.

    It also ought to be encouraging for them to see his ground ball rate rebound after dropping to dangerously low levels in 2012.


    New York Yankees: 20 percent

    When the Colorado Rockies shopped Jimenez during the summer of 2011, ESPN's Tim Kirkjian reported that the Yankees were among his most serious suitors.

    Not much has changed in two-plus years, according to George A. King III of The New York Post. The volatile right-hander is still on their radar.

    The Yankees have multiple rotation spots to address following the retirement of Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes' pending departure. 


    Other MLB Teams: 55 percent

17. Dexter Fowler, CF (Colorado Rockies)

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    Seattle Mariners: 22 percent

    Fox Sports' Jon Morosi reports that the Seattle Mariners are pursuing Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler. Colorado would make him available at the right price. 

    Michael Saunders has started the majority of Seattle's games in center field since 2012, but he could simply shift to left field in the event that the club acquires Fowler.

    Entering his age-28 season, Fowler is an affordable option who could remedy the Mariners' baserunning deficiencies and awfulness against left-handed pitching. He'll earn $7.35 million next season and gain arbitration eligibility for the final time in 2015.


    Boston Red Sox: 13 percent

    Likewise, the Red Sox were significantly weaker against southpaws last summer. In-house center field candidate Jackie Bradley Jr. would only exacerbate that issue in an everyday role, judging by his .080/.207/.120 batting line when at a platoon disadvantage a year ago.

    The reigning world champs have a surplus of pitching in the high minors, and Fowler could serve as a one- or two-year buffer between Jacoby Ellsbury and Bradley. 


    Other MLB Teams: 25 percent 


    Odds of Staying Put: 40 percent

    Fowler's athleticism makes him the perfect fit in Coors Field.

    No MLB player has more triples over the past five seasons. Plus, the ballpark's expansive dimensions require a center fielder who can cover a lot of ground.

    The Colorado Rockies would be wise to engage him in contract extension discussions.

16. A.J. Burnett, RHP (Free Agent)

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    Pittsburgh Pirates: 35 percent

    A.J. Burnett has put himself in an awkward situation.

    He spent all of 2013 professing his admiration for the Pirates, but never checked to make sure that they had the financial flexibility and motivation to re-sign him. If they did, he likely would have received a $14.1 million qualifying offer.

    With that said, MLB.com's Tom Singer proposed an outside-the-box compromise: have Burnett make a midseason return. "That would allow Burnett  family time," he explains, "and for the Bucs to shoehorn the prorated portion of an eight-figure salary into their budget."


    Other MLB Teams: 15 percent


    Retirement: 50 percent

    Burnett has two World Series championships (2003 and 2009) and more than $120 million in career earnings. He ought to be able to walk away satisfied at age 36.

15. John Lackey, RHP (Boston Red Sox)

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    Other MLB Teams: 25 percent

    John Lackey's $15.25 million salary this coming season wouldn't actually rule out many potential destinations.

    The contract will reward whichever team absorbs it the following year. The right-hander's Tommy John surgery triggered a clause that creates a 2015 club option at the league minimum (approx. $500,000).

    Nick Cafardo is of the opinion that there's no better time to trade Lackey. The Texas native just posted a 3.52 earned run average over 189.1 innings.


    Odds of Staying Put75 percent

    Speculation that the Boston Red Sox would move an existing rotation member only ramped up when the club expressed interest in Tim Hudson.

    But now that Huddy is off the market, it's unclear if any other free-agent pitcher is intriguing enough to compel the front office to actually put Lackey on the trading block.

14. Mike Napoli, 1B (Free Agent)

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    Boston Red Sox: 55 percent

    Mike Napoli indicated that he wants to return to Beantown, according to WEEI.com's Rob Bradford, although he won't rush through the free-agent process.

    The Red Sox will get extra draft picks when Jacoby Ellsbury and Stephen Drew sign elsewhere, but that's not enough of an incentive to cut ties with Napoli. They don't have a Jackie Bradley, Jr./Xander Bogaerts-like prospect ready to fill the first-base void.

    Maintaining good vibes in their clubhouse and league-leading run output hinges on Boston re-signing Napoli.


    Colorado Rockies: 20 percent

    Troy E. Renck of The Denver Post reports that the Rockies have been in contact with Napoli.

    The Rockies clearly have money to blow on Todd Helton's heir. If Wilin Rosario isn't shifting into that role, then Napoli appears to be the club's No. 1 free-agent target.


    Seattle Mariners: 10 percent

    The Mariners haven't formally expressed interest in Napoli yet, but general manager Jack Zduriencik valued his power, right-handedness and experience last winter, per The Boston Globe's Pete Abraham.

    Entering 2014, Seattle still needs all of those qualities.


    Other MLB Teams: 15 percent

    The Texas Rangers continue searching for bats. They could accommodate Napoli by utilizing newly acquired Prince Fielder as a full-time designated hitter.

    Small-market clubs like the Milwaukee Brewers and Tampa Bay Rays have voids to fill at first base, although it's doubtful that either would meet Napoli's asking price and surrender a draft pick.

13. Austin Jackson, CF (Detroit Tigers)

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    Other MLB Teams: 50 percent

    Bob Nightengale of USA Today didn't drop any hints when tweeting that the Detroit Tigers were listening to offers for Austin Jackson.

    That said, a great up-the-middle defender who's a steady source of double-digit home runs will generate interest from many of the same teams that like Denard Span and Dexter Fowler.


    Odds of Staying Put50 percent

    The Tigers won't ship Jackson away unless they secure a substantially better center fielder/leadoff man. Among available players, only Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo fit that description (too many health issues with Matt Kemp at the moment).

    Detroit remains in contention for both of those free-agent stars, but the odds of landing either is essentially a coin flip.

12. Matt Garza, RHP (Free Agent)

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    Minnesota Twins: 35 percent

    Minnesota's homegrown starting pitchers have been huge disappointments during the past few years, and the club isn't getting much from stopgap free agents either. General manager Terry Ryan admits that it might finally be time to make a big splash, reports MLB.com's Adam Berry

    That could mean reuniting with a former top draft pick, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN

    The fiery right-hander is apparently open to the possibility


    Toronto Blue Jays: 15 percent

    The Blue Jays are more likely to trade for a starting pitcher, but Chicago Now's Tom Loxas hears that Garza is their "Plan B" in case a Jeff Samardzija blockbuster doesn't materialize.


    Other MLB Teams: 50 percent

11. Carlos Beltran, RF (Free Agent)

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    Texas Rangers: 25 percent

    During the GM Meetings, Mark Feinsand of The Daily News tweeted that the Rangers were working on arranging a meeting with Carlos Beltran.

    Texas could be motivated to make the most substantial offer to Beltran coming off a season in which the offense sputtered.


    New York Yankees: 22 percent

    Yankee Stadium suits power hitters who swing from the left side, and under manager Joe Girardi, this team has had a lot of offensive success by rotating DHs.

    While waiting for Masahiro Tanaka to be posted and Robinson Cano to get more realistic about contract negotiations, Feinsand reports that Beltran has emerged as New York's No. 1 target.


    Kansas City Royals: 13 percent

    Jon Heyman hears that Kansas City is "serious in its intention to bring him back" to the place where it all began.

    Heyman takes the Jason Vargas signing as an indication that the club won't cower from a long-term commitment. Moreover, the Royals still might "hold an allure" for Beltran because he broke into the majors with them.


    Other MLB Teams: 40 percent

    We cannot count out the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox and Seattle Mariners, either.

10. Jeff Samardzija, RHP (Chicago Cubs)

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    Toronto Blue Jays: 25 percent

    Beyond R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle, Toronto's starting rotation is extremely shaky. The Blue Jays' window of contention might only stay open another two years, and adding another innings-eater would certainly help them take advantage of it.

    Right on cue, ESPN 1000's Bruce Levine tweeted that the Jays have asked about Chicago Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija.

    General manager Alex Anthopoulos validated the report in the most general manager-like way possible—by not denying it in a conversation with SiriusXM's Jim Bowden


    Arizona Diamondbacks: 22 percent

    The D-Backs have been interested in Samardzija since the summer months.

    They aren't lacking in rotation options, but they could certainly use somebody with elite strikeout ability. Arizona's starters ranked 13th out of 15 National League teams in K/9 last season, per ESPN.com.

    Given their reported interest in outfielder Nate Schierholtz, per Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, the Chicago Cubs should at least consider an expanded trade.


    Pittsburgh Pirates: 15 percent

    Chicago Now's Tom Loxas hears that Pittsburgh has "entered the derby" for the 28-year-old right-hander. He reminds us that the Bucs can dangle highly regarded pitching prospects like Nick Kingham and Jameson Taillon.

    The Sean Marshall trade from two offseasons ago suggests that the Cubs front office won't shy away from trading established players within the NL Central.


    Other MLB Teams: 18 percent

    Samardzija is a top-four starting option in any current MLB rotation. Couple that with Matt Swartz's modest $4.9 million projection for his 2014 salary, and it's hard to rule out any potential destinations.

    With that said, obvious rebuilders like the Houston Astros and Miami Marlins seem reluctant to move prospects under any circumstances.


    Odds of Staying Put: 20 percent

    Previous contract extension talks between Samardzija and the Cubs have been fruitless.

    At least they're still trying, as the two parties have had discussions, which was mentioned on The Dave Kaplan Show. 

9. Hiroki Kuroda, RHP (Free Agent)

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    New York Yankees: 55 percent

    "The Yankees also have moved from gloomy early in the offseason to more upbeat that Hiroki Kuroda will return for another year," according to The New York Post's Joel Sherman.

    Kuroda has been the most valuable member of New York's pitching staff over the past two seasons. The Yankees gained the inside track to re-sign him after extending a $14.1 million qualifying offer (which he predictably declined). 

    Kuroda's countryman, Masahiro Tanaka, is the team's top free-agent target, but with MLB's posting system yet to be revised, the front office could get antsy and make Kuroda an overly generous contract offer.


    Other MLB Teams: 10 percent

    The 38-year-old has an affinity for the West Coast after beginning his major league career there, but which California teams will seriously bid on him?

    The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants reportedly won't forfeit their first-round draft picks under any circumstances. The San Diego Padres are satisfied with the state of their starting rotation, according to Corey Brock of MLB.com. And although the Los Angeles Angels need depth, they likely cannot afford Kuroda, explains MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez:

    The Angels took on about an extra $4 million in salary during Friday's trade, which sent outfielders Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk to the Cardinals for third baseman David Freese and relieverFernando Salas. That trade, coupled with the Smith signing, leaves the Angels with roughly $8 million of wiggle room before hitting the luxury-tax threshold of $189 million.

    That leaves only the Oakland Athletics.


    Retirement/Japan: 35 percent

8. Ervin Santana, RHP (Free Agent)

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    Toronto Blue Jays: 20 percent

    More so than anything else, the Blue Jays' chances at playoff contention were ruined last summer by the fragility of their starting rotation.

    That's one thing that Ervin Santana can absolutely help them with. The right-hander has started at least 30 games in each of the past four seasons and six of the past eight.

    Sportsnet's Shi Davidi reports that Toronto contacted Santana's representative earlier this offseason, as it's been "casting a wide net" to find rotation reinforcements.


    Minnesota Twins: 15 percent

    The Twins had a front-row seat to Santana's bounce-back season, losing all three times that they faced him in 2013.


    Other MLB Teams: 65 percent

    Jon Heyman reported that Santana's agents were aiming for a $112 million guarantee.

    That asking price will come down, but it's clear that small-market clubs won't have much involvement in the bidding.


7. Matt Kemp, CF (Los Angeles Dodgers)

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    Boston Red Sox: 11 percent

    The reigning world champs have inquired about Matt Kemp, according to Nick Cafardo. He adds that the Los Angeles Dodgers would presumably eat a portion of the $130 million remaining on his contract to facilitate a trade.

    WEEI.com's Jerry Spar reports that general manager Ben Cherington and manager John Farrell prefer to keep Shane Victorino in right field, where he's a plus defender. Acquiring Kemp would enable them to do that. With Jackie Bradley Jr. nearly ready for everyday duty and Jonny Gomes entering free agency after the 2014 season, Kemp could eventually shift to left.

    In August 2012, the Red Sox and Dodgers hooked up on a blockbuster trade that turned out to be mutually beneficial. That likely makes them eager to participate in future transactions.


    Seattle Mariners: Five percent

    Top free agents haven't been taking Seattle's money in recent offseasons.

    Maybe they're deterred by the club's brutal travel schedule, its long postseason drought or a combination of both.

    But the Mariners desperately need offensive reinforcements to win back the trust of their fanbase, and if necessary, they'll overpay via trade to get it done.


    Other MLB Teams: 14 percent

    The New York Yankees, Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays have also shown interest in Kemp, Nick Cafardo reports.


    Odds of Staying Put70 percent

    Employing four starting-caliber outfielders for three spots is a good problem to have.

    Trading Kemp would leave the Dodgers vulnerable in the event of an injury. Besides, his trade value suffered after last summer's .270/.328/.395 batting line.

6. Masahiro Tanaka, RHP (Free Agent)

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    New York Yankees: 33 percent

    The last time the Yankees entered an offseason needing to revamp their starting rotation, they splurged on CC Sabathia.

    No member of this free-agent class, unfortunately, combines ace potential with durability and consistency like he did five years ago.

    Masahiro Tanaka comes closest to meeting the club's desire to improve without sacrificing prospects or future draft picks. Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports hears that the Yankees are "going to be bold" in their pursuit of him, while MLB.com's Bryan Hoch agrees that he's their top target.


    Los Angeles Dodgers: 22 percent

    Under new ownership, Los Angeles has seen fantastic early returns from international free-agent acquisitions such as Yasiel Puig and Hyun-jin Ryu.

    That predisposes the Dodgers to compete for Tanaka.

    However, after completing a deal with Dan Haren, as first reported by Rosenthal, they aren't as likely to enter the bidding. With four rotation spots filled and impact pitchers waiting in the high minors, there simply isn't a ton of urgency.


    Toronto Blue Jays: 15 percent

    Toronto, on the other hand, cannot trust its starting options behind R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle.

    The only question is whether the team has enough resources to commit a nine-figure sum for Tanaka's bid and multi-year contract.


    Other MLB Teams: 22.5 percent


    Odds of Staying Put: 7.5 percent

    Tanaka wants to make the leap to the majors, his NPB team (the Rakuten Golden Eagles) wants some compensation for his departure and MLB front offices desperately want an alternative to the depressing domestic free-agent market.

    An immediate resolution to posting system talks is in everybody's best interest, and Jon Heyman reports that Japanese officials are flying to New York to get this done.

5. Shin-Soo Choo, CF (Free Agent)

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    Seattle Mariners: 28 percent

    The Mariners traded away Shin-Soo Choo to the Cleveland Indians before they knew what a remarkable impact he could have atop the lineup.

    Now, given the mediocre .247/.296/.392 batting line from their leadoff men in 2013, Seattle's front office is expected to go after him aggressively.  


    Texas Rangers: 17 percent

    Jon Heyman notes that the Rangers already had good relations with agent Scott Boras, and trading for Prince Fielder brought yet another one of his clients to Texas.

    Heyman had reported that the club was "considering a run" at Choo, and in response to the Brian McCann signing, Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News believes that he's definitely a top target.


    Other MLB Teams: 55 percent

    The Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees could also use Choo as an upgrade over present corner-outfield options.

    Meanwhile, the New York Mets and Houston Astros covet his on-base skills, although it's unlikely that they have enough spending money to meet Boras' contract expectations. 

4. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF (Free Agent)

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    Detroit Tigers: 30 percent

    Trading Prince Fielder created some long-term salary relief for the Tigers.

    Bob Nightengale has already speculated that their efforts to shop Austin Jackson could be related to a Jacoby Ellsbury pursuit. Detroit ought to hold Ellsbury is high regard after he batted .320/.379/.560 against the club during the 2013 regular season and .318/.423/.455 in the ALCS.


    Washington Nationals: 24 percent

    Like Detroit, the Nats believe they can get more production from center field than they currently are.

    Ellsbury doesn't contribute superior defense to Denard Span, but his baserunning alone could add a couple extra wins over the course of a season.


    Chicago Cubs: 14 percent

    Cubs president Theo Epstein insists that his team won't be gambling on pricey free agents, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of The Chicago Sun-Times

    But the fanbase could soon lose patience if no effort is made by the franchise to progress from three consecutive 90-loss seasons.

    Chicago's center-field situation remains unsettled heading into 2014.


    New York Yankees: 12 percent

    Combining Brett Gardner and Ellsbury would give the Yankees tremendous outfield defense. Ellsbury's presence could also position them to trade Gardner and replenish a depleted farm system. 


    Other MLB Teams: 20 percent

    Neither the Boston Red Sox nor New York Mets want to spend north of $100 million on Ellsbury. Perhaps their perspectives will change as the free-agent class thins out.

    And it's difficult to believe that the Seattle Mariners really have "no interest" in him, as Mark Feinsand reports.

3. Robinson Cano, 2B (Free Agent)

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    New York Yankees: 57.5 percent

    Yes, the disparity between New York and all other Robinson Cano suitors is enormous.

    As the New York Post's Joel Sherman eloquently phrased it: "You would have a better chance of finding Bigfoot" than an industry source who expects Cano to sign elsewhere.

    Even with the Yankees hopeful to get beneath the $189 million luxury tax threshold for 2014, there exists a back-loaded contract that could make that possible while compensating Cano like one of baseball's most valuable players.


    Detroit Tigers: 12.5 percent

    Neither Tony Paul of The Detroit News nor anybody else has confirmed whether the 31-year-old free agent actually visited Motown.

    But it's clear that the presence of Ian Kinsler won't deter the Tigers from considering Cano as their future second baseman.

    As a member of the Texas Rangers last offseason, Kinsler indicated that he wouldn't fight a request to switch positions, according to ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett. Embracing a move to first base or left field could allow him and Cano to fit in the same lineup.


    Other MLB Teams: 30 percent

    The Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays and Washington Nationals could all surprise us.

2. Max Scherzer, RHP (Detroit Tigers)

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Toronto Blue Jays: Four percent

    Max Scherzer has a lot in common with Jeff Samardzija in terms of age, durability, physical build and repertoire, but he's undoubtedly the better pitcher right now.

    Creating any traction with the Detroit Tigers in trade talks would require the Blue Jays to surrender top pitching prospect Aaron Sanchez.


    Other MLB Teams: 11 percent

    Scherzer's pursuers aren't limited to those who can afford to extend him; anybody who can budget a reigning Cy Young Award winner for approximately $13.6 million next summer will give Detroit a call.


    Odds of Staying Put85 percent

    Detroit is still in win-now mode, which means Scherzer probably wasn't going anywhere in the first place.

    The Prince Fielder trade makes the possibility of his departure this offseason even more remote. That move actually makes it easier for the Tigers to lock up their star right-hander long-term, as Dave Dombrowski admitted to MLive.com's Josh Slagter.

1. David Price, LHP (Tampa Bay Rays)

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Los Angeles Dodgers: 33 percent

    The Dodgers wanted to add two starting pitchers this offseason to protect themselves in case Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley struggle to recover from their 2013 injuries.

    We now know that Dan Haren is one of them. But given his inconsistency and injury issuess over the past two seasons, L.A. is likely to fill the final opening with somebody who's more trustworthy.

    One general manager tells Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com that L.A. unquestionably has enough minor league talent to work out a David Price blockbuster with the Tampa Bay Rays. And of course, the Dodgers would make it a priority to extend Price through the rest of his productive years.


    Other MLB Teams: 62 percent

    The Texas Rangers could still be a landing spot, although consecutive ill-advised trade-deadline deals with the Chicago Cubs thinned out a once-outstanding farm system. Plus, the Ian Kinsler-Prince Fielder exchange forces Jurickson Profar into starting duty.

    Nick Cafardo suggests that Price might wind up with the Baltimore Orioles or Boston Red Sox, even though both are division rivals of the Rays. He also sees a fit with the Washington Nationals.


    Odds of Staying Put: Five percent

    After seeing longtime rotation mate James Shields dealt last winter, Price is convinced that he'll receive the same treatment, via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times:

    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. That's kind of the way it's happened with this organization when pitchers kind of get to this period in their career. We've seen it happen a couple of times already. I don't know what's going to happen, but I know what's happened in the past.

    The Rays' resources won't allow them to create a well-rounded roster while paying top dollar for two players. With Evan Longoria already inked to a lifetime contract, Tampa Bay's ace recognizes that he's headed to a larger market.


    Ely is a national MLB Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and a sportscaster for 90.5 WVUM in Miami. He wants to make sweet, social love with all of you on Twitter.