The MLB hot stove has cooled off considerably in recent weeks. Many of the top free agents have come off the board, which has allowed those left on the market to await offers from teams desperate to fill a hole, with trades being the alternative option.
While the action is going through a little bit of a lull lately, which isn't a surprise following the winter meetings, it's only a matter of time before things heat back up. And even though the market lacks star power, there's still quite a few impact players available.
With that in mind, let's examine some of the latest fodder on the rumor mill featuring players capable of playing a key role for teams next season.
Kendrys Morales doesn't generate much hype as a free agent because he's not a flashy player. Instead, he's a solid hitter with a career average of .280 and at least 20 home runs in each of his past three full seasons. A perfect fit to fill a hole at first base or designated hitter.
Even though there's been limited buzz around him so far, agent Scott Boras is trying to get the process moving along. Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reports he's contacted the New York Mets in an effort to open up dialogue toward a potential deal:
Scott Boras trying to engage #mets ownership in talks over 2 big remaining free agents, Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 22, 2013
Given the immense struggles of Ike Davis, Morales would seemingly be a logical addition for the Mets, but the report doesn't give any information about if the talks led to any progress. An American League team needing a DH would be a better fit since they could hide his subpar defense, though.
The New York Yankees face the daunting task of trying to replace Mariano Rivera at the back end of the bullpen. After watching Grant Balfour's deal with the division-rival Baltimore Orioles fall through, Kevin Kernan of the New York Post reports they could add him to the mix:
According to industry sources, the Yankees have shown some interest in closer Grant Balfour, whose two-year deal with the Orioles disintegrated. Balfour has converted 62 of 67 save opportunities the last two years.
If the Yanks signed Balfour, who should close games?
David Robertson would probably still be the favorite to serve as the team's closer, at least to open 2014, after three terrific seasons of middle relief. But signing a fiery competitor like Balfour, who will be out to prove something to Baltimore, would provide a boost.
If for whatever reason Robertson isn't able to acclimate himself to the new role, the Yankees would have a veteran closer ready to step in right away. The pen will certainly be leaned on heavily with question marks in the rotation, barring more arrivals.
As expected, Fernando Rodney came back down to Earth in 2013 after a 2012 season that saw him finish with a microscopic 0.60 ERA and 48 saves. He still remained a reliable ninth-inning option for the Tampa Bay Rays, posting a 3.38 ERA and 37 saves.
Now, with the Balfour mess in the rearview mirror, the Orioles are back on the hunt for a closer of their own to replace Jim Johnson. Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports Rodney is apparently atop their wish list as they ramp up their pursuit:
Source: #Orioles being aggressive trying to land Fernando Rodney now that Balfour deal has collapsed.— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) December 21, 2013
The bullpen is definitely one area where Baltimore needs to focus some resources before Opening Day. Although the Orioles wouldn't be able to expect the 2012 version of Rodney, even the 2013 level of performance would be an upgrade.