How the Rest of MLB's Offseason Dominoes Will Fall Post-Winter Meetings
For all the talk that went on over the past four days while teams gathered in Orlando, Fla. for MLB's annual winter meetings, there really wasn't much resolution.
Several big-name free agents are still on the board, and trade talk surrounding impact players such as Matt Kemp, Brandon Phillips, David Price and Jeff Samardzija, while extremely entertaining and all, is just talk at this point.
For those of us who enjoy having something baseball-related to discuss 365 days a year, this is good news. We're not going to run out of things to talk about. Potential trades will remain on the table. Some free agents won't sign until January, and possibly even February.
Teams are still far from being finished assembling their rosters. And they might not be until just before the start of the regular season.
Here's what you can look forward to for the next couple of months.
Closer Musical Chairs Conclusion
With so many proven closers available on the free-agent market and a good number of closing jobs seemingly open around the league, it's been a surprise that only Edward Mujica, Joe Nathan and Brian Wilson have landed jobs. And Wilson will return to a setup role with the Dodgers, while Mujica will take the eighth-inning role for the Red Sox.
This will change soon, however, as Grant Balfour and Joaquin Benoit appear close to signing. The Orioles are one of three teams that have offered a multi-year deal to Balfour, according to Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun, while the Padres are the leading candidate to sign Benoit, reports Buster Olney of ESPN. That leaves Fernando Rodney as the top remaining closer on the market.
Several teams could use an upgrade for their ninth-inning role—most notably, the Yankees need to replace Mariano Rivera, who retired after the season—and things should begin to fall into place in the very near future.
David Price Stare Down
The Rays will hold the line on a very high asking price in trade talks for ace David Price, who is still under club control for two more seasons, and interested teams will continue to offer trade packages that don't include their best prospect. Until this changes, the stare down will not end.
It appears that the Rays have the leverage for now. Another year of Price leading their rotation won't be a bad thing. His trade value might decline some next offseason, but settling for a lesser offer now because of that won't help their cause.
As for Price, he's adjusted his thinking enough to be open-minded about a trade. In a text message sent to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Price talked about his future.
"It's something I've kind of prepared myself for,'' Price said. "I've seen my teammates go through it and watched how they handled it. Just waiting to see what is going to happen.''
Enough teams are on the verge of being legitimate playoff, and even World Series contenders, that the chances are strong that one of them will step up and meet the Rays' price. They might have to wait until the top of the free-agent market is bare and the Masahiro Tanaka situation is resolved, though.
Logjam in Dodgers Outfield Will Be Cleared
The Dodgers aren't trading Matt Kemp—at least that's what they're telling his agent, according to Jayson Stark of ESPN—and all is quiet on the Andre Ethier front.
Manager Don Mattingly said in an interview with MLB Network Radio that he likes the idea of having four great outfielders. General manager Ned Colletti, despite having an abundance of starting pitching last season, did not make a trade to clear things up prior to Opening Day.
Yet it will be a surprise if Ethier or Kemp isn't traded this offseason.
It's unlikely any teams are coming close to Colletti's asking price for Kemp, which is why they're comfortable saying he won't be traded. It doesn't mean some team won't change its mind and intensify its pursuit.
And last year's pitching abundance consisted of Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang and Ted Lilly, all overpriced, back-of-the-rotation starters. If Colletti could've made a halfway decent trade, he would've done so.
Moving Kemp is still a long shot, but expect talks on Ethier to pick up once free agents Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz are off the board.
Potential Masahiro Tanaka Bidding War
Several teams are awaiting word on whether the new posting system, which will allow for a maximum $20 million bid—will be approved by MLB's Executive Council and whether Masahiro Tanaka's team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, will post him this offseason.
The council will meet early next week, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post. If it's ratified, Rakuten will make a decision shortly thereafter on whether to make their star pitcher available. Team president Yozo Tachibana is undecided, noted Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, since the team would've likely made up to $40 million more under the previous system. There was some speculation that he'd cost more than Yu Darvish, who was posted for $51.7 million.
If and when he is posted, expect several teams to place the $20 million bid for the chance to negotiate with the 25-year-old with the Cubs, Diamondbacks and Yankees likely among the most aggressive suitors.
Shin-Soo Choo: The $140 Million Man?
Shin-Soo Choo's reported asking price—Bob Nightengale of USA Today is hearing that it's seven years and $140 million—makes him an extremely risky acquisition for any team. But with so many teams potentially interested in the 2013 All-Star, Jeff Passan thinks he could end up with an eight-year deal.
Nightengale believes it could be the Astros, who have very little money committed to the payroll and a new television contract that reportedly gives the team the ability to add a significant amount of dollars beginning in 2014. Owner Jim Crane said the payroll could be between $50-60 million in 2014; it's still under $25 million after the free-agent signings of Scott Feldman and Chad Qualls and the acquisition of Dexter Fowler.
He may not match Jacoby Ellsbury's $153 million deal, but Choo appears well on his way to $140 million.
Three Overpaid Starting Pitchers
There's no mistaking that 30 teams in major league baseball would make room in their starting rotation for Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana, the top three starters on the free-agent market.
But with the sizable contracts they're expected to land this offseason, "value" is a term that isn't likely to be attached to any of the three over the next several seasons. None of them are expected to land a $100 million deal, but it wouldn't be a surprise if one of them gets somewhere between $75-90 million over the next five seasons.
Can't Predict Baseball
If there's one thing I'm certain about when it comes to baseball, it's that this game is extremely unpredictable. The best teams on paper can be terrible on the field. Players are really bad one year and, without much explanation, are All-Stars the next.
When it comes to what's happening off the field, there are just as many surprises. I can almost guarantee you that some notable player whose name will not have surfaced in one offseason rumor will end up being traded.
It may not reach the magnitude of last year's blockbuster deal between the Marlins and Blue Jays, which sent Jose Reyes packing after one year in Miami, but it's a good idea to expect the unexpected.
Of all the players whose names haven't made it to the rumor mill, which one is most likely to be traded?
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