The MLB offseason will jump back into the swing of things once the calendar flips to 2014. For now, the rumor mill has slowed down during the holidays, serving as a lull between a wild December and a January that also figures to feature plenty of high-profile moves.
In recent days, rumblings regarding some of the top free agents on the market like Stephen Drew and Ubaldo Jimenez have circulated, while Johan Santana's comeback attempt is a full-go. Here's a look at the latest rumors with these trio of players.
Stephen Drew, SS
The New York Mets have long been viewed as a logical landing spot for Drew this offseason. The free-agent shortstop is still looking for work weeks after Jhonny Peralta, the other top available player at the position, signed a four-year, $53 million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals.
While Drew comes with injury concerns after missing a combined 197 contests in the past three seasons, he provides a lot of pop to a premium defensive position. The Mets could use some more firepower in their lineup after last year's starting shortstop, Ruben Tejada, batted .202/.259/.260 with no homers and 10 RBI in 57 games while dealing with injuries and a lengthy demotion to Triple-A.
According to Marc Carig of Newsday, the Mets are leaning toward Tejada to be their everyday shortstop in 2014. But Carig also notes that the team is staying in contact with Drew's agent, Scott Boras, leaving the door open for a possible free-agent agreement.
The Mets remain in contact with Scott Boras, the agent for shortstop Stephen Drew, according to a person with knowledge of the talks. But the source likened the situation to the Mets' pursuit of outfielder Michael Bourn late last winter. Bourn ultimately landed with the Indians, but not before the Mets made a serious run at signing him, mostly because he had lowered his asking price as the season drew near.
It sounds like New York is playing a waiting game and hoping that Drew's contract requests will become more palatable.
While recent comments from Mets special assistant J.P. Ricciardi to WEEI 93.7FM also suggest the team is content with watching Tejada develop, keep an eye on Drew and the Mets as possible partners.
Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP
The market for marquee starting pitchers has been slow to develop this offseason as teams awaited the fate of Japanese righty Masahiro Tanaka, who was officially posted for MLB bidding by the Rakuten Golden Eagles on Dec. 26.
Expect the rumors on guys like Tanaka, Jimenez, Matt Garza and Ervin Santana to pick up in the coming weeks as the top right-handers available engage in negotiations. In a wide-ranging notebook, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe recently reported that multiple general managers told him the New York Yankees seem like a logical landing spot for Jimenez.
A few GMs I spoke with recently feel the Yankees may wind up with Jimenez, even if they land Masahiro Tanaka. “He had an excellent second half, has great stuff, and he has the type of personality that would fit New York,” one GM said. “He doesn’t let things get to him. He’s good at shrugging off things and turning the page.”
On the surface, it certainly makes sense. The Yankees need some rotation help behind CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova, and they have made a habit of signing big-name free agents.
While Jimenez has been largely inconsistent since his banner year in 2010, he wrapped up the second half of 2013 strong (6-5, 1.82 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, .223 opponents' average and 10.7 K/9). Jimenez has arguably the biggest upside of any MLB-proven pitcher available and would be a nice addition to the rotation in the Bronx.
Johan Santana, LHP
Johan Santana is set to turn 35 years old during spring training and hasn't thrown an MLB pitch since 2012, but that hasn't stopped teams from kicking the tires on the two-time Cy Young winner.
Per Darren Wolfson of ESPN1500 in Minneapolis, the former Minnesota Twins great has generated interest this offseason:
Cafardo also weighed in on the Santana situation recently, pointing to the Twins as a logical destination.
Santana is getting closer to making a decision on a minor league deal with a team. There’s been some speculation about the Twins since Santana still resides in Fort Myers, Fla., where the Twins have spring training. The Red Sox, who also train in Fort Myers, passed. But a small-market team such as the Astros could also have some interest. Santana is just trying to get back pitching and prove himself again.
The Twins have been very aggressive in trying to shore up their dismal starting rotation from 2013 that didn't feature a single 10-game winner. The club has already signed Ricky Nolasco (four years, $48 million), Phil Hughes (three years, $24 million) and Mike Pelfrey (two years, $11 million) to respective deals this offseason, and Santana represents another low-risk option.
According to LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Santana is expected to try out for teams in the near future:
Santana has dealt with major injuries in recent years that completely wiped out his 2011 and 2013 seasons, but his sterling career numbers (139-78, 3.20 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 8.8 K/9 ratio) is enough to warrant a look in spring training.