Fans are conscious of what David Price would cost, but still insist that their teams go after him.
MLB fanbases will spend the 2014 season depleting their bank accounts to support teams through the purchases of tickets and merchandise.
It's only fair this Christmas that baseball executives respect the people's wishes and take these suggested transactions into consideration.
Usually, there is a specific signing, trade or contract extension that the fans advocate. However, in a few cases, there's a focus on off-the-field issues.
Santa Claus will try his best to fulfill everybody's desires, if not by Dec. 25 then shortly thereafter.
The Arizona Diamondbacks starting rotation hasn't featured a surefire ace since the Brandon Webb days.
Ian Kennedy was a tease in 2011. Patrick Corbin's shaky finish to last season—only two quality starts in last seven tries, 8.00 earned run average—means he still has a lot to prove. And top prospect Archie Bradley isn't quite ready to unleash his fury at the major league level.
These fans want somebody they can trust to go deep into games every five days, somebody who can pitch in the desert without surrendering a zillion home runs.
Masahiro Tanaka has the potential to be that guy. Frankly, he's the only free agent who does.
During their first full season together, general manager Kevin Towers and skipper Kirk Gibson won an NL West title. But they've gradually swapped out the previous regime's players for their own "gritty" ones, resulting in consecutive .500 finishes.
The Snakes have made slight improvements to their outfield and bullpen this winter. Without Tanaka, however, they face long odds of exacting revenge on the Los Angeles Dodgers (or keeping the Towers-Gibson tandem intact beyond 2014).
Bleacher Report's Jason Catania has explained the Craig Kimbrel dilemma, that "Kimbrel actually has been too good too soon." He'll begin getting expensive in 2014, and on the strength of his monster saves totals and insane peripheral stats, the All-Star right-hander will eventually become the sport's highest-paid reliever if he ever reaches free agency.
But Atlanta Braves fans cringe at the thought of trading Kimbrel, who has been the lone constant on their pitching staff throughout the past three seasons. Besides, the moves we've seen this offseason—the Cleveland Indians releasing Chris Perez, the Baltimore Orioles dumping the salary of American League saves leader Jim Johnson, etc.—indicate that teams don't overvalue ninth-inning experience anymore. So despite his steady invincibility, nobody would give up the farm for Kimbrel.
To silence all the chatter, the Braves should try buying out their closer's arbitration years and delaying his free agency. It would be unprecedented, but who says no to four years, $44 million and a $14 million club option for 2018?
The Mariano Rivera comparisons aren't premature. Kimbrel has the potential to be the best finisher in major league history, and the Braves' window to contend for a championship only stays open so long as he's wearing their uniform.
It's not such a good look for Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos to let Nate McLouth and Scott Feldman depart via free agency, trade closer Jim Johnson and back out of the Grant Balfour deal.
To date, the O's have signed two major league players this offseason, Francisco Peguero and Ryan Webb. The trade for outfielder David Lough is also worth noting.
Still, that means the starting rotation, the roster's biggest weakness, has gone completely unaddressed. Although this class of free-agent pitchers is underwhelming, there are a handful of individuals capable of co-leading the rotation with Chris Tillman.
A.J. Burnett makes his year-round home in Maryland. The Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly believes Baltimore could "sell the local angle" to make him deviate from the "Pittsburgh Pirates or nothing" plan. It helps that the O's have more financial flexibility than the Bucs, enabling them to make a larger contract offer.
Burnett's career numbers at Camden Yards are concerning, but his newfound infatuation with generating ground balls should yield better results.
Jackie Bradley Jr.
A running theme of this article is that MLB teams must try to meet their fans' expectations despite there being so few impact free agents left on the market.
Center field is one of many thin positions. The Boston Red Sox cannot trust Rick Ankiel or oft-injured Grady Sizemore, for example, to produce any more than Jackie Bradley Jr. could in 2014.
Nonetheless, Red Sox fans would prefer to have a veteran alternative to Bradley on the roster considering that he batted just .189 in 37 games last summer.
Denard Span of the Washington Nationals certainly fits. For the price of Ryan Dempster and one of Boston's advanced pitching prospects, the club could obtain the soon-to-be 30-year-old, who's a valuable defender with great contact skills.
Who can be this year's Scott Feldman?
Chicago Cubs fans, your team is asking for one more year of patience.
One more year of flipping veteran players for future assets. The Cubs need one more year to bide their time for Javier Baez to reach the majors and the rest of the homegrown infielders to take strides in the right direction. Then, Theo Epstein will open up his wallet.
To equip this franchise for a dominant run during the second half of the decade, it needs even more young talent. The Cubs have spent the past couple years acquiring it by selling high on their pitchers.
Remaining free agents like Jason Hammel and Paul Maholm are looking for multi-year deals, and it might make sense to meet their demands. Both would give the Cubs flexibility to complete a trade following the 2014 season or, if the young core blossoms faster than expected, retain them in the pursuit of a 2015 playoff berth.
ESPN's David Schoenfield (h/t Mark Polishuk, MLB Trade Rumors) is not crazy to praise the Chicago White Sox for their offseason business. One of baseball's most pathetic offenses now has a lot more youth and upside.
Somewhat out of step with the rest of their game plan, the White Sox re-signed captain Paul Konerko for one year, primarily to mentor and serve as a designated hitter. The fans still adore PK.
But the fact that he and Adam Dunn—both enormous defensive liabilities—populate the same roster will really restrict how manager Robin Ventura can utilize his other position players.
Coming off a 34-homer year (and 75 since 2012), Dunn would surely interest a few teams if placed on the trading block. Following his departure, the South Siders could allocate more resources toward refilling the bullpen.
Arroyo's return would enable the Reds to sell high on Homer Bailey.
Nothing bothers fans more than learning that one of their impact players doesn't want to stay with the team.
Homer Bailey has persistently declined to participate in extension talks with the Cincinnati Reds. That doesn't make him a bad person; he's just confident that his career will continue on an upward trajectory, culminating in an enormous payday once he reaches free agency next winter.
In all likelihood, though, the mid-market Reds won't be his highest bidder.
There's no better time than the present to cut ties with Bailey. He's trimmed his ERA and WHIP for five consecutive seasons, plus the right-hander is younger than fellow trade candidate David Price and in line for a slimmer 2014 salary. Oh yeah, and he's thrown a pair of recent no-hitters.
Newly signed Chien-Ming Wang is a long shot to rival Bailey's production, as are Cincinnati's other internal options. Only the return of free agent Bronson Arroyo would provide the Reds with sufficient depth to shop him.
But for what it's worth, general manager Walt Jocketty doubts that they can strike a deal with the veteran innings-eater, per John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Sources: #Indians listening on Masterson with idea of exploring longer-term options. Masterson entering final season before free agency.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 10, 2013
The Cleveland Indians have been down this road before.
Whenever their rotation leader gets expensive, they try to flip him for a thick prospect package.
But aside from outfielder Michael Brantley, Cleveland has virtually nothing to show for the CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee trades. Lacking the Cy Young Awards that they earned, Justin Masterson wouldn't command as much on the trade market as they did.
Last summer, he was reunited with former manager Terry Francona, and the results were encouraging (3.45 ERA, 9.09 K/9, 3 CG in 193.0 IP). If the plan is to retain Francona for many years, it would be wise for the Tribe to lock up one of "his guys."
The durability—or lack thereof—of Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki will determine whether the Colorado Rockies make any noise in the National League pennant race.
The fanbase's wish is that those stars stumble upon some sort of invincibility formula, but that's a bit over the top for this article. Santa Claus isn't a Rockies fan, so let's give him something semi-realistic to do.
This club needs a sturdy defensive presence behind the plate to replace Yorvit Torrealba. There was reported interest in Kurt Suzuki for that role before the Minnesota Twins reached a $2.75 million agreement with him.
John Buck has more offensive potential, anyway, and his arrival would free up Jordan Pacheco to demonstrate his versatility.
The bullpen issues that have nagged the Detroit Tigers for much of the past two seasons will persist unless they find a quality setup man in free agency.
Joaquin Benoit is headed to the San Diego Padres, and Jose Veras has a gig with the Chicago Cubs. Moreover, Drew Smyly will transition to the starting rotation. So if the 2014 season got underway today, the Tigers would, by default, turn to Al Alburquerque and Bruce Rondon in high-leverage spots.
Acquiring either Grant Balfour or Fernando Rodney should have the fans breathing a bit easier.
The Houston Astros' overall awfulness—MLB-worst 51-111 record and season-ending 15-game losing streak—made them difficult to watch in 2013.
One glaring flaw, the root of their non-competitiveness, was a lack of plate discipline. Houston's offense led the American League in strikeouts while drawing the fourth-fewest walks.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Singleton posted an on-base percentage in the .400 range for their Single-A, High-A and Double-A affiliates before taking some lumps at Triple-A last summer. But by beasting in the Puerto Rican Winter League, per Quinn Roberts of MLB.com, the 22-year-old is proving himself worthy of a spot on the active roster.
Astros fans are tired of being told that first basemen Brett Wallace and Jesus Guzman give them a chance to win. They'll stay away from Minute Maid Park until Singleton gets his opportunity.
Bruce Chen still fits with the Royals...if they can afford to re-sign him.
Santa cannot bring Ervin Santana back to the Kansas City Royals as they approach their payroll limit, but he could surely find another veteran to reinforce the rotation.
The trade of Will Smith to the Milwaukee Brewers and release of Luis Mendoza, who's headed overseas, leave the Royals with few fill-ins capable of replacing an injured starter. Even though James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Vargas enter 2014 with durable track records, it would be naive to construct a roster under the assumption that they'll all avoid the disabled list.
Bruce Chen and Jerome Williams are examples of free-agent solutions who wouldn't pout about relieving. Plus, they double as good clubhouse characters.
Any Los Angeles Angels fans who saw Joe Blanton stink last summer are in favor of burying him as far down the depth chart as possible. Trading for Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago helps, but Blanton is still only a couple major injuries away from rejoining the rotation.
Enter right-hander—and California native—Matt Garza.
Although he's been far from injury-free, Garza is consistently above average, with seven straight seasons posting at least a 100 ERA+. Moreover, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports that the stress fracture in his pitching elbow that led to a 2012 stint on the disabled list didn't affect him in 2013.
Garza would be an expensive Christmas surprise but one that the Angels could acquire on cash alone. A midseason move from the Chicago Cubs to the Texas Rangers made him ineligible to receive a one-year qualifying offer, so he isn't linked to a compensatory draft pick. That's especially important for this club considering the pitiful state of its farm system.
David Price's potential landing spots have dwindled.
The Rangers decided that bolstering their offense was a top priority and, in the process, made massive, long-term commitments to Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo. Through various trades, the Diamondbacks have moved many of their top trade chips and prioritized free-agent pitching.
Factors removing the Seattle Mariners from the Price sweepstakes include their hesitancy to part with Taijuan Walker, rumors that the left-hander wouldn't sign an extension with them and a report from Ken Rosenthal that they've burned through most of their spending money.
This all bodes well for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The fifth spot of their starting rotation is unresolved with Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley recuperating from major injuries, but the fans won't endorse a Price trade if it means gutting the farm system.
With fewer bidders, perhaps they won't have to.
The Miami Marlins addressed roster holes like only the Miami Marlins can—with frustratingly cheap, low-risk/low-reward solutions.
Rafael Furcal received a major league deal coming off Tommy John surgery, and he's slotted as the starting second baseman. By the way, Furcal hasn't started a game at that position since 2002.
New third baseman Casey McGehee slashed .292/.376/.515 in 2013...while playing for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. When last seen in the U.S., however, he was clinging to rosters as a platoon player and failing to crack the .300 mark with his on-base percentage.
The Fish also picked Garrett Jones off the scrap heap via a two-year contract, expressing inexplicable optimism that he'll revert to respectability at ages 33 and 34.
Team owner Jeffrey Loria doesn't expect fans to trust these "glue" pieces or the fact that new catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia is somebody to build around. He doesn't care about earning their trust.
Miamians desperately wish for him to defer to another rich guy who does.
Juan Francisco is only a reputable power threat against right-handers.
Milwaukee Brewers fans watched in horror as their offense's output plummeted from 776 runs in 2012 to only 640 runs last season, a 17.5 percent drop-off. Only the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees disappointed more in that regard.
Ryan Braun's suspension, Aramis Ramirez's knee issues and mediocrity off the bench were largely responsible.
More so than any of that, however, the Brew Crew was foiled by counterproductive first basemen. The Juan Francisco/Yuniesky Betancourt/Sean Halton/Alex Gonzalez combination fell laughably short of mimicking Corey Hart's lost production.
The Brewers don't possess the kind of cheap, high-ceiling assets needed to make a meaningful upgrade via trade.
But Kendrys Morales is still out there in free agency, and Mark Reynolds and Michael Young should be intriguing as platoon candidates.
Arroyo never gets hurt. Ever.
Even with starting pitchers Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes and Mike Pelfrey all scooped up from the free-agent market, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press leaves the door open for one more multi-million dollar acquisition:
Second person with direct knowledge tells me #mnTwins remain strongly interested in signing Bronson Arroyo as well.— Mike Berardino (@MikeBerardino) December 15, 2013
The legitimate rotation candidates in Minnesota's minor league system—most notably, Alex Meyer—aren't ready to make the active roster directly out of spring training. To ensure a rebound to relevance after three straight seasons of 95-plus losses, the Twins need one more stopgap starter.
Arroyo's most important trait is his durability (zero career missed starts due to injury). Remember that Pelfrey just underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012, while Hughes has never logged 200 innings in a season.
It's your choice, New York Mets fans: Wait about a month into the new year to receive your ideal Christmas gift, or settle for something far less valuable.
Super-agent Scott Boras is currently marketing Stephen Drew as a long-term solution at the shortstop position. Given his injury history and inconsistent track record at the plate, that's a ridiculous proposition, even in this depleted free-agent market.
However, as we saw with Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse last offseason, Boras reluctantly lowers his clients' contract demands to land them jobs prior to the regular season.
Drew makes a lot of sense for the Mets on a deal in the two-year, $25 million range. Signing him would require the not-so-steep sacrifice of a future third-round draft pick (their 2014 first-rounder is top-10 protected), and the farther Ruben Tejada and his career .642 OPS get from the starting lineup, the better.
MetsBlog's Matthew Cerrone agrees: "Drew would be a massive upgrade at shortstop compared to what was on the field last season for the Mets."
Hiroki Kuroda—and every other member of New York's projected rotation—enters 2014 with question marks.
This sentiment isn't universal, but it's pretty close—the New York Yankees fanbase doesn't care about the $189 million luxury-tax threshold.
There's acknowledgement that the Yankees will need some semblance of a farm system for sustainable success. For that reason, pursuits of Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez—both of whom are tied to compensatory draft picks—aren't highly encouraged.
But coming off a season in which they missed the playoffs, these tortured souls shouldn't scoff at any starter with All-Star potential, regardless of their red flags.
Ticket-holders and YES Network junkies alike are less infatuated with Masahiro Tanaka than the front office seems to be. After all, their team notoriously misjudged Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa based on their success in Japan, and lowlights of those pitchers' careers are still seared into their memories.
Team owner Lew Wolff
John Hickey of the San Jose Mercury News writes that the Oakland Athletics have been searching for a new ballpark ever since Lew Wolff seized control of the team in 2005. But they've been slowed by objections from Major League Baseball and the San Francisco Giants—and even Wolff's reluctance to compromise.
From a baseball operations aspect, the A's are in excellent condition. General manager Billy Beane leads them toward 2014 with a deeper pitching staff and a lineup that includes all of last summer's key contributors.
The fanbase just wants some sort of assurance that the days of their club at O.co Coliseum are numbered. Nobody wants to play in poo:
Visitor dugout in Oakland. Probably 4" of standing water/potential sewage. pic.twitter.com/kAZGQx0cfr— Glen Perkins (@glen_perkins) September 21, 2013
Jonathan Papelbon tried kissing up to Philadelphia Phillies fans before his first regular-season appearance with the organization, via Spike Eskin of CBS Philly:
The difference between Boston and Philadelphia, the Boston fans are a little bit more hysterical when it comes to the game of baseball. The Philly fans tend to know the game a little better, being in the National League, you know, the way the game is played.
All of that is long forgotten, however.
Last summer, Papelbon converted barely 80 percent of his save opportunities. That was the worst mark of his major league career, as was his 8.32 K/9 and 1.0 fWAR.
Dumping the 33-year-old—and as much of the $26 million left on his contract as possible—would give the Phillies the flexibility to pursue Grant Balfour, who's just as fiery, but not as vile toward his own teammates and supporters.
Davis' struggle face. He wouldn't wear it as much if used selectively against right-handed pitching.
Pittsburgh Pirates fans aren't particularly greedy this holiday season.
They're like mature children from a tough economic background who understand that their parents must complete their shopping on a limited budget. Rather than expecting a lavish present, they would be content to fill a roster niche with a toy they can cherish for several more years.
Ike Davis fulfills their desire for a Gaby Sanchez platoon partner. He batted merely .205/.326/.334 last summer with about one strikeout per game, but he boasts a lifetime .827 OPS through his age-26 season when operating at a platoon advantage.
Pirates fans ought to be thankful for Lucas Duda, the New York Mets' internal replacement for Davis. His presence will make them peddle Davis with more urgency and, ultimately, accept a discounted trade package.
The San Diego Padres have missed the playoffs for seven straight years, in large part because they don't spend what it takes to retain All-Star-caliber players long term. Recent victims of this unofficial policy include Adrian Gonzalez and Mat Latos, both of whom were traded.
And now, they could end up giving Chase Headley the same treatment.
One significant difference between Headley's situation and theirs, however, is that he's coming off a disappointing season (.250/.347/.400, 13 HR in 600 PA). Therefore, trading the switch-hitting third baseman this winter wouldn't yield a franchise-changing return.
The fans plead, "Why not push for national relevancy now?" San Diego could always flip Headley at midseason if the 2014 team collapses—or at least receive a compensatory draft pick if he signs elsewhere as a free agent a year from now.
If Ryan Vogelsong pitches every fifth day, the Giants won't be much better than they were in 2013.
A 38-year-old Tim Hudson and 36-year-old Ryan Vogelsong aren't horrible choices for a rotation's No. 4 and No. 5 spots.
Problem is, those directly ahead of them on the San Francisco Giants depth chart, Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum, don't instill much confidence. Moreover, there's nobody in the bullpen or upper levels of the minors to trust in case of an injury (Michael Kickham? Yuck!).
Coming off a disappointing 76-86 season, the Giants should've invested heavily in starting pitching this offseason, adding legitimate depth or top-end quality—or, to truly motivate the fans, it would've behooved them to do both.
They'll be grouchy to find anything less than Bronson Arroyo beneath the Christmas tree.
If the Seattle Mariners are serious about allocating playing time in the outfield to Corey Hart and/or Logan Morrison, then they'll need a center fielder with terrific range.
Thankfully, the trade market is ripe with veterans who satisfy that criterion. Colby Rasmus, Brett Gardner and Denard Span have been shopped to varying extents.
This would be an opportunity for the M's to relocate Nick Franklin while drawing themselves closer to the imposing trio of teams atop the AL West.
Pete Kozma has given the St. Louis Cardinals fanbase one terrific memory: a two-out, two-run single in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS. It proved to be the series-winner.
Based largely off of that hit, the Cards named Kozma their 2013 starting shortstop.
He soon made them regret it. The 25-year-old was a respectable .276/.335/.344 batter through Memorial Day, but he deteriorated the rest of the way (.178/.234/.227, 66 starts in team's final 112 games). Even his defense betrayed them during the Fall Classic (courtesy of MLB.com).
Offseason acquisitions of Jhonny Peralta and Mark Ellis make Kozma completely expendable. Actually, they give the Cardinals a choice between him and Daniel Descalso, but the latter's superior athleticism and durability makes it a no-brainer.
Last time Grant Balfour wore a Tampa Bay Rays uniform in 2010, he combined with Joaquin Benoit and Rafael Soriano to form baseball's best seventh-eighth-ninth combination.
His abilities haven't been diminished by Father Time. Balfour actually moved into the closer's role during his tenure with the Athletics and "raged" his way to an American League All-Star selection last season.
The Rays have a history of reviving the careers of elderly relievers, but newly acquired Heath Bell will be one of Joe Maddon's toughest projects yet. Allowing a .281 batting average to his 2012-2013 opponents suggests that he shouldn't be considered for high-leverage work.
Tampa Bay fans undoubtedly prefer Balfour, who converted 62 of 67 save opportunities over that same period.
The Texas Rangers showed unwavering support for Michael Young in 2012, even though he responded with horrible production.
Rotating between the designated hitter's spot and various infield positions, Young performed far below replacement level. The Rangers needed to take responsibility for most of his 2013 salary just to facilitate a trade.
Characterizing his age-36 performance as a "bounce back" might be an exaggeration, but Young did markedly improve from a 79 wRC+ to a 102 wRC+. Shaky as he is defensively, there's something to be said for having experience all over the diamond.
Ideally, the Rangers would utilize him in a DH platoon with Mitch Moreland.
Gordon Beckham was on Toronto's radar earlier this offseason.
The Mariners and Yankees began their Christmas shopping several weeks ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays, who showed up in the free-agent superstore to find them wrestling in the Robinson Cano aisle. They decided that it wasn't safe to get involved.
Cano obviously would've been an enormous addition, but it doesn't take much for the Jays to upgrade at second base.
Six players occupied the position in 2013, combining for a brutal .216/.258/.297 batting line. The only decent contributor from that group, Mark DeRosa, announced his retirement following the regular season.
The free-agent market has no attractive solutions, so Toronto fans will fill their wish lists with hypothetical trades involving the Chicago White Sox (Gordon Beckham), Cincinnati Reds (Brandon Phillips) or Seattle Mariners (Nick Franklin).
Desmond has won consecutive Silver Sluggers for his effectiveness at the plate.
As Joe Drugan of The Nats Blog explains, Ian Desmond is going to be expensive. Like nine-figure-deal expensive, if the Washington Nationals expect to deter him from free agency.
But Desmond flaunts the oh-so-rare package of power, fielding, baserunning, durability and intangibles. Then consider the dearth of quality shortstops coming up through Washington's farm system or approaching free agency in the near future.
Bryce Harper's status as a Scott Boras client means it'll be difficult to keep him beyond his team-controlled years. At least a Desmond extension would give the Nats some clarity as to what their lineup will look like through the end of the decade.
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.