The MLB winter meetings came and went without any big blockbuster signings or trades, but that didn't put a stop to the baseball rumor mill, which is always churning out new rumblings at this time of year.
From sluggers to starters to closers, there are still a few players who have been mentioned in recent rumors. Given the current state of the MLB offseason, here's a look at three big leaguers who are most likely to be dealt by the start of spring training.
The talented Cincinnati Reds second baseman has been a big name on the trading block all offseason, with the latest round of rumors connecting him to the Yankees, who reportedly nixed a deal that would have sent outfielder Brett Gardner to the Reds.
According to Mike Axisa of CBS Sports, Phillips and Cincinnati's front office are at odds over comments the player made about last year's contract extension.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Reds are still interested in dealing Phillips in order to open up a spot for free-agent second baseman Omar Infante:
The Cincinnati #Reds say they're quite interested in 2B Omar Infante, but they obviously need to find a taker for Brandon Phillips, first.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 12, 2013
So it's no secret that Phillips is on the trading block. If there's one thing working against Phillips, it's that he reportedly wanted to re-open up his contract negotiations, per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. With four years and $50 million remaining, Phillips will be hard-pressed to squeeze any more commitment from any team.
Though a Phillips-Gardner framework didn't work out for the Yankees and Reds, it doesn't mean the veteran second baseman can't still end up in pinstripes as the successor to Robinson Cano. Another possible option is the Los Angeles Dodgers, who could move Hanley Ramirez to third base and Cuban free agent Alexander Guerrero to shortstop.
It will take a lot to make a Phillips deal work, but the Reds are clearly trying to move him.
New York Mets first baseman Ike Davis has been linked with the Milwaukee Brewers as a potential trade target for weeks, and those rumors are heating up with recent changes to the first-base market.
As such, Milwaukee's best bet is to try and acquire Davis, who struggled mightily in 2013 (.205/.326/.334 with nine HRs and 33 RBI), but showed a lot of potential in 2010 (.265/.351/.440, 19 homers, 71 RBI) and 2012 (.227/.308/.462, 32 HRs, 90 RBI).
Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel speculated that the Brewers were involved with both Davis and Loney:
Fact that #Brewers still talking to Mets about Ike Davis is indication that FA James Loney still wants more years, $, than they will give.— Tom (@Haudricourt) December 13, 2013
So what's the potential hold up in the deal? According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, Milwaukee isn't willing to part with a promising young arm in return.
Tyler Thornburg is a 25-year-old righty who posted a 3-1 record, 2.03 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and a 6.5 K/9 ratio in 66.2 innings pitched across 18 games (seven starts). For a player as mercurial as Davis, it's easy to see why the pitching-starved Brewers are reluctant to part with Thornburg.
But there appears to be serious interest here between these two teams, so don't be surprised if they make something work in the near future.
It might be tough for the Philadelphia Phillies to find a trade partner for their veteran closer, but it's clear that they want to ship him to another team.
According to Buster Olney of ESPN, the Philly front office making a big push to deal Papelbon:
Folks who've talked with PHI say they're EXTREMELY motivated to move Papelbon. Could cost $39m for 2014-2016 seasons if '16 option vests.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 13, 2013
Olney also broke down the terms for Papelbon's vesting option in 2016, which could push his deal to $39 million over the next three seasons:
Papelbon's $13m option for 2016 vests if he finishes 55 games in 2015 or 100 total 2014-2015. http://t.co/UGeXZB0Jpc Had 118 GF '12-'13.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 13, 2013
With other high-priced vets like Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee, Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz and Chase Utley on the payroll, and other cheaper closer options on the market like Joaquin Benoit and Grant Balfour, it makes sense for the Phillies to try and shed Papelbon's salary.
But with top closer Joe Nathan signing a two-year, $20 million deal with the Detroit Tigers this offseason, it will be hard to deal a closer who makes $13 million annually. Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reported the club would be willing to throw some cash in to make Papelbon's contract more palatable, further indicating the team's desire to trade him away.
Possible teams that could use a closer are the New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians, Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers.