Although many of the big-name MLB free agents have already found a new home, there are plenty of impact players still available.
Virtually every team in the league can look at the roster at this point and find a place where an upgrade is needed. While some of them will add smaller pieces over the next few months, those with funds still available have a chance to get a big acquisition before the start of the season.
These players could all make a big difference in 2014, and here is the latest buzz surrounding which club will be able to sign each.
As one of the best pitchers in Japan, Masahiro Tanaka represents the biggest mystery on the free-agent market.
According to John Schlegel of MLB.com, the 25-year-old pitcher told the Rakuten Golden Eagles he wants to be posted for MLB teams to bid on. In a news conference, he stated, "I informed my team that I would like them to allow me to test my abilities in Major League Baseball next season."
The organization can decide not to post him, which is a legitimate possibility with the new rules stating the Nippon Professional Baseball team cannot get more than $20 million. However, there are a number of teams waiting for the possibility of bringing the pitcher to the United States.
Ken Davidoff, George A. King III and Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that the New York Yankees are a team that is squarely in the running:
Even though the revamped posting system hurts the Yankees...they remain highly interested in Tanaka, so much so they intend to compete for his services despite the reality that landing him would destroy the remote chance they currently have of getting their 2014 payroll under the $189 million luxury-tax threshold.
The authors argued that the recent cheap signings of Brian Roberts and Matt Thornton are a sign that the front office is saving money for the bigger acquisition.
Meanwhile, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports notes that the list does not end there:
The way the Rangers see it, they've taken their best shot at free-agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. Their next target will be Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, assuming he is posted. Of course, the bidding for Tanaka also figures to include the Yankees and Dodgers, Angels, Diamondbacks and Cubs, and heaven knows who else.
With Tanaka likely to demand over $100 million in guaranteed money, teams better be confident in his ability before getting involved in this bidding war.
Although Mark Reynolds is not the player he used to be, he can still bring a lot of power to a lineup. This has kept him in talks with his most recent team: the Yankees.
Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reports that the Yankees are one of a few teams interested in the corner infielder:
Source: Yankees and Mark Reynolds' agent have talked, but "nothing close" at the moment. Several teams interested in Reynolds.— Mark Feinsand (@FeinsandNYDN) December 17, 2013
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports provides a few more possibilities for the veteran:
yanks on mark reynolds. but angels, twins, others in. NYY no certainty. in LA, MR could make up for some lost trumbo power— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 17, 2013
Reynolds has spent time at first and third base throughout his career, even spending time at second base this past season. Of course, his value comes from the ability to hit home runs, and that is something he does extremely well.
Between the Yankees and Cleveland Indians, the 30-year-old hitter knocked 21 home runs in 2013. This was the sixth year in a row he topped 20 long balls, and he has hit a total of 202 in his seven-year career.
There will certainly be plenty of teams looking for a power bat from the right side who can be available at a reasonable price. Reynolds fits this description and should remain in high demand until he agrees on a deal.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reported some startling news concerning negotiations over Shin-Soo Choo, saying:
In the aftermath of Robinson Cano's defection to Seattle, New York presented Choo a seven-year, $140 million deal, three sources outside the Yankees' organization told Yahoo Sports. When Boras countered asking for more money – one source indicated he wanted "Ellsbury money," or $153 million over seven years – the Yankees pulled the offer and signed Carlos Beltran to a three-year, $45 million deal.
This aggressive tactic has paid off for Scott Boras in the past, but the market is starting to sour for the talented outfielder.
Rosenthal already pointed out that the Rangers have moved on, while Jerry Crasnick of ESPN recently noted that the Detroit Tigers are also "out of the mix for Choo now that they've added Rajai Davis to their outfield alignment."
Passan notes that the Houston Astros are in the hunt, despite the fact that the current payroll is low and the team is far from contending. However, Buster Olney of ESPN guesses that this will be Choo's best chance of landing a big contract:
It's just speculation, but I wonder if Shin-Soo Choo's best chance to get paid the most money he can will be with the Houston Astros.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 13, 2013
The pros and cons for the former Cincinnati Reds star are clear. He has a great approach at the plate (.423 on-base percentage in 2013) and can contribute in a number of ways but has concerning splits (.215 batting average against left-handed pitchers).
Still, his overall ability is certain to demand a large contract from someone. The question is which organization will be willing to fork over the cash.
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