The 2013 MLB offseason has already brought about some interesting movement around the league. Some big-name players such as Robinson Cano have signed lucrative contracts with another club. However, others are still testing the market.
The rumor mill is in full swing as these players continue to garner interest from different teams. Three players in particular have been making headlines recently, as potential landing spots have begun to take shape.
Let's break down each player, interested teams and what the signing would mean for these franchises.
Seattle Mariners Show Interest in Nelson Cruz
Despite the Mariners' offseason spending spree, they are still eyeing some high-priced free agents. One happens to be outfielder Nelson Cruz, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today:
The #Mariners, it would seem, are now in prime position to sign Nelson Cruz with Choo going to Texas— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 21, 2013
After the Texas Rangers signed Shin-Soo Choo to a seven-year, $130 million deal, per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Mariners quickly turned their interest to Cruz.
Richard Justice of MLB.com thinks that Cruz would be a perfect fit in Seattle. Said Justice:
Another thing that makes [Cruz] so attractive is that the Mariners could add him without touching their nucleus of starting pitching, especially top prospect Taijuan Walker.
And then again, if they signed Cruz and wanted to trade Walker in a package that included a young position player, the Mariners would appear to be good enough to make a serious playoff run.
Cruz would certainly help out the Mariners' bats, as he was able to deliver 27 home runs last season despite a 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.
Tampa Bay Rays are in on Grant Balfour
According to Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports, the Baltimore Orioles were not able to close out their deal with Grant Balfour. Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette had this to say regarding the closer's physical:
The Orioles were disappointed that we couldn't complete a contract with Grant Balfour. The reason is the club's not satisfied with the results of the physical exam.
We would never say never or close the door, but we're turning our attention elsewhere for now to look at some other options to try to staff our team and try to build a contending team for 2014.
This opened the door for the Rays. Jim Bowden of ESPN tweeted that the team has interest in Balfour:
Rays are in on Balfour according sources— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) December 21, 2013
Tampa Bay is in the market for a closer, and Balfour seems like the logical fit. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the Rays do not see the same red flags as the Orioles did. Rosenthal relayed this from Rays team physician Koco Eaton:
Eaton told FOX Sports that he saw no red flags with Balfour’s arm, and Reds team physician Timothy Kremcheck—who performed elbow and shoulder surgeries on Balfour in 2005—concurred.
Since the team doesn't have doubts about Belfour's arm, it seems as though they are ready to make a push for the closer who has converted 62 of 67 save opportunities over the past two seasons.
Baltimore Orioles Seek Out Andre Ethier
According to a tweet from Jim Bowden of ESPN, the Orioles are in on Andre Ethier and Raul Ibanez:
Orioles are in on Andre Ethier, Raul Ibanez and not in Morales or Tanaka if posted— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) December 8, 2013
Of course, Ibanez is now off the market, as he recently signed a one-year deal worth $2.75 million with the Los Angeles Angels, according to CBSSports.com.
That leaves Ethier as the desired target.
Ethier remains a wild card here, as he is very familiar with trade rumors. In a report from Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, Ethier explained how he feels about the situation:
I thought I handled it last year from the year before—it's the same old stuff. I prepare every offseason to make myself better to make the team win. I'm a Dodger until I'm told otherwise. That's why I'm here today.
I stand here today still a Dodger after all the rumors. I'm moving forward with the organization and happy to be where I'm at.
Ethier had a bit of a down year in 2013, delivering just 12 home runs and maintaining a batting average of .272. Still, the seven-year veteran has plenty left in the tank and would help Baltimore remain competitive during the upcoming season.