The action was modest through the first two days of the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., with a couple of secondary-type signings taking place, as well as the interesting three-way trade between the Angels, Diamondbacks and White Sox.
There figure to be at least a few more transactions before the Meetings disband, however, as the Orioles were reportedly on the verge of making a notable free-agent signing on Tuesday night, while the Marlins were reportedly motivated to make a trade and were getting plenty of interest from potential suitors.
Here are six moves that I could see going down before the all the sun bathing wraps up and everyone heads back to the cold-weather regions being pounded by snow and rain. Not that I'm jealous or anything.
It seems like a matter of when, not if, the Marlins will unload first baseman/outfielder Logan Morrison. They've already signed his likely replacement in Garrett Jones, and have told other teams that they're looking to move Morrison soon, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.com tweeted Monday.
Well, the Marlins don't seem to be playing coy with respect to their desire to rid themselves of Lo-Mo. Perhaps that's not surprising since he seems to have fallen out of favor after failing to live up to expectations and engaging with the team in a public feud a couple years back over his demotion to the minor leagues.
Despite his inconsistencies and his propensity to get injured, Morrison is still young, cheap and capable of playing multiple positions. Thus, several teams looking to acquire a low-salary first baseman or corner outfielder should be interested. The Pirates, Rays, Brewers and Orioles fit that bill, and the Mets would make sense if they unload Ike Davis.
The Orioles have emerged as the likely landing spot for free-agent reliever Grant Balfour. The sides have discussed parameters of a deal, Roch Kubatko of MASN.com tweeted on Tuesday. Such talks are typically the prelude to an agreement, Kubatko explained in that same tweet.
This is something of a head-scratcher to me. Unless the O's end up getting Balfour at a steep discount, I don't see why they didn't simply hold onto Jim Johnson. I'm guessing Balfour will end up with a two-year deal in the range of $16 million, which is about fair, dollars to wins. But the Orioles could have kept Johnson for one year and about $10 million, so it seems like they will have done a lot of legwork with a pretty modest payoff: an extra year of an comparable pitcher, at a slightly smaller annual salary. Meh.
It would make sense on a lot of levels for the Brewers and Hart to reunite. The Brewers need a first baseman, probably a cheap one, and, in my opinion, Hart needs a one-year deal to re-establish his value after a year off. Plus, I'm assuming the Brewers have been able to monitor his health situation closely over the past year, so they should have a clearer idea of where he is physically than any other team. It's kind of a devil-you-know situation for both sides.
If a deal with the Brewers falls through, Hart could could draw interest from some of the same teams that might be interested in Morrison, such as the Pirates, Rays, Orioles and perhaps even the Mets if they can unload Ike Davis (maybe to the Brewers?).
The Yankees' acquisition of Carlos Beltran gives them five potential outfielders between him, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Alfonso Soriano and Ichiro Suzuki.
Gardner is most valuable in center, where Ellsbury has displaced him, and Ichiro and Soriano might be unmovable. So, it makes sense that the Yankees would be getting calls about Gardner from teams that hope to capitalize on the logjam. Indeed they have, as Bryan Hoch of MLB.com tweeted Tuesday.
Gardner is good, young and under team control for one more year, so the Yanks should get a similarly useful Major League player or a pretty good prospect in return for him. The Reds might need a center fielder, depending on what they do with Billy Hamilton. The Giants could also look like a sensible fit for Gardner, as they need a left fielder.
Hoch reports the Yankees are willing to listen on Gardner but they're not actively shopping him. That may be true, but I think they're trying to play it cool to keep their asking price high. I think they'll end up flipping Gardy, perhaps for bullpen help or a utility-type infielder.
The Matt Kemp sweepstakes seemed to be gaining steam heading into the Winter Meetings, as even Kemp's agent said he expected the slugger to be traded, as Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday. Buster Olney followed that up on Monday with a tweet saying four teams were in talks with the Dodgers on Kemp or Andre Ethier.
I hate it when reporters don't specify which teams are engaged in these talks, don't you? Anyway, I've been guessing that the Mariners will be the ones to take the plunge on Kemp, and I'm sticking to that story. If you look at their roster after the Robinson Cano signing, there's still more work to be done, otherwise the Cano deal doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Kemp is a gamble, but the M's have the prospects—and presumably the cash, judging by Cano's contract—to get it done.
The Rays were deliberate in trading James Shields last offseason, as his name was popping up in rumors the previous summer, and they may be taking the same patient approach with Price, according to Jayson Stark of ESPN.com, who reports that teams are getting the impression that the Rays are in no rush to peel off their ace.
That's generally a prudent vibe to give off if you're trying to maximize your return in a potential trade involving a superstar player. But I also think a deal could happen because there are at least a few motivated, win-now teams that need pitching help and won't find a starter of Price's ilk on the free-agent market. I've predicted the Dodgers will end up with Price, but the Mariners would make sense, too, as would the Rangers. They all have deep pockets—and therefore could afford to re-sign Price if they were to acquire him—as well as a surplus of cost-controlled talent that the Rays would probably want in return in a trade.