Coming off the winter meetings and holiday season, Major League Baseball teams can start getting back into the swing of things. It's been a fairly quiet trade season, at least based on our expectations at the end of the 2013 season, but that doesn't mean there aren't moves to be made.
In fact, one could argue that we will see more activity on the trade market now that we are edging closer to seeing the top free agents come off the market. Once teams have an idea of where the rest of the market is, it will be easier to open things up for deals.
To keep you from going nuts with all the speculation that will be coming out, we have compiled the latest news on top trade candidates and what the likelihood of a deal being consummated is. Here are the latest rumblings and grumblings from the MLB hot stove.
It's been quiet in New York since the Yankees introduced Carlos Beltran at a press conference, though some of that might have to do with the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes and the team loading up one more bullet to sign him.
However, that doesn't mean the Yankees aren't getting phone calls from other teams about Brett Gardner.
Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com reported that at least a handful of teams have made inquiries about Gardner's availability.
Since the Yankees signed Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, at least a half-dozen teams—from the Phillies to the Tigers—have taken a run at Brett Gardner, knowing he’s a free agent at the end of next season. But Brian Cashman won’t move him until and unless he has to for starting pitching.
That last bit is critical, since it makes Tanaka seem even more in play for the Yankees than ever before.
General manager Brian Cashman has done a great job of rebuilding New York's lineup on the fly, adding Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann, but the starting pitching is still the difference between this team being a playoff contender and legitimate World Series threat.
I'm curious what Gardner could fetch in a potential trade. I love him as an elite defensive player who hits for average and gets on base. Since 2010, the only Yankees position player with more Fangraphs' Wins Above Replacement is Robinson Cano.
He will be a free agent at the end of 2014, and you don't find a player with the all-around impact Gardner has very often. That's why the Yankees aren't in a hurry to trade him, and why a team looking to acquire him will have to part with a lot.
Aside from keeping a few of their own free agents, the defending champion Boston Red Sox have stayed away from doing anything drastic this winter. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
That doesn't mean there aren't moves here and there that general manager Ben Cherington wants to make.
They aren't alone in the Denorfia sweepstakes, as Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com notes there are at least five other teams looking at the Padres star.
(San Diego has) had at least a half-dozen teams try to talk to them about Chris Denorfia, from the Rangers to the Red Sox to the Rockies before they got Drew Stubbs, and Josh Byrnes has told every club he simply won’t deal Denorfia as long as he thinks the Padres can contend for a post-season berth.
If you are wondering why Denorfia is drawing so much interest, keep in mind that he posted 3.9 Fangraphs' Wins Above Replacement last season. He's not a monster offensively, hitting a career-high 10 homers in 2013 with a .337 on-base percentage, but take him out of Petco Park and it's likely the power numbers spike a little bit.
Combine that with stellar defense at all three outfield positions last season, playing 58 games in left field, 41 in center field and 97 in right field, and Denorfia suddenly looks a lot more attractive.
He's going to turn 34 years old in July and is only making $2.25 million in 2014, which could allow the Padres to ask for a little bit more in return. Finding quality players at bargain-basement prices is the key to long-term success.
A team like Boston, that already has a plethora of outfielders, would have to move someone like Daniel Nava or Mike Carp to add Denorfia. If given the choice, I would rather keep what I've got, but that's why the Red Sox don't pay me to make those decisions.
Ike Davis' hot-and-cold career in New York seems likely to continue, at least for one more season. The Mets had reportedly been trying to find a suitor for the 26-year-old first baseman at the winter meetings, but couldn't get anything substantial.
Now, nearly one month after the winter meetings, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com reports that the Mets expect Davis to be in their starting lineup on Opening Day.
Mets insiders now expect Ike Davis will be in spring training with the team in Port St. Lucie, Fla. -- while cautioning they are willing to reengage the Pittsburgh Pirates or Milwaukee Brewers or any other club in search of a first baseman in trade talks in the six weeks before pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 15.
Considering the Mets seem to think of Davis as a star, or at least an everyday player, it's no surprise they can't find a trade package good enough for him. He's got some value as a potential platoon bat, which is hardly ideal for first base, but nothing more than that.
Davis' best season was 2010, when he hit .264/.351/.440 with 19 homers and respectable defense through 147 games. That's four years ago and he's never been able to replicate it. The closest he came was in 2012, hitting 32 homers, but had just a .227/.308/.462 slash line.
Even though they have been active this winter by adding Bartolo Colon and Curtis Granderson, the Mets still aren't close to competing in the National League East. Losing Matt Harvey for the season will make it even more difficult to see a .500 record in 2014.
Since there are no expectations for the Mets, much like Davis, at least they can afford to give him consistent at-bats to see if something clicks and that 2010 performance shows up again. Given his issues hitting left-handed pitching (.602 career OPS), I don't see it happening. But stranger things have happened.
The Cincinnati Reds have made more headlines for what they've lost (Dusty Baker, Shin-Soo Choo) since their season ended in Pittsburgh.
We could add one more name to that list: Homer Bailey, though at least moving him would bring something back to build for the future.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports that Bailey's name is still floating around in trade circles, even if there's no evidence the Reds want to deal him.
The Reds have been very quiet this offseason, but Bailey’s name has come up quite often as possible trade bait. In fact, the Reds could possibly bring back Arroyo if they can deal Bailey.
Bailey's name was floated around as a potential trade candidate at the winter meetings, but general manager Walt Jocketty told reporters that wasn't true because the Reds were trying to re-sign the right-hander.
It's going to cost the Reds a pretty penny to even get in Bailey's ballpark on an extension, let alone entice him with enough money to sign.
He's going to be 28 years old in May, coming off a career year in 2013 with 209 innings pitched, 199 strikeouts, 3.49 ERA and will be a free agent at the end of next season.
The Reds are in a very precarious position because they are built to compete now even though they have lost their second-best position player (Choo) and a reliable cog in the rotation (Bronson Arroyo).
I still think they are the No. 2 team in the National League Central, but the farm isn't going to offer much help for 2014. Top prospect Robert Stephenson won't be ready until 2015, at which time he could take Bailey's spot, but that doesn't do anything to add depth to an aging, expensive roster.
Exploring trades for Bailey would be in Cincinnati's best interest, though it's not hard to understand why they want to keep him and try to sign him long term.
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