The big names may be mostly off the board, but there is still a vibrant free-agency market out there for teams trying to fill various holes on their rosters.
From a pitcher from Japan many teams are salivating over to a trio of veterans who could improve teams at the right cost, baseball's free-agency period continues to rumble along.
Let's take a look at a few rumors making the rounds.
The big name many major league clubs are still drooling over is Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. But as Bill Madden of the New York Daily News writes, a surprising contender for his services may yet emerge—the Oakland Athletics:
The race is on for the services of Masahiro Tanaka, with at least a half-dozen clubs (Yankees, Diamondbacks, Cubs, Mariners, Angels, Rangers and possibly the Dodgers) all believed to be ready to throw more than $100 million at a starting pitcher who hasn’t thrown a single pitch in the major leagues. And at least one major league exec is speculating about another real sleeper team in the sweepstakes.
“Watch out for Oakland,” the exec said. “They’ve got as much money as any team and they like doing these big international things—as with their signing of (Yoenis) Cespedes and the fact they were second to the Reds for Aroldis Chapman five years ago.”
Tanaka has the tools to become the next Yu Darvish. He went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last season for the Rakuten Golden Eagles. His fastball supposedly hits 96 miles per hour. His splitter is said to be nasty.
Still, springing for his posting cost and likely huge contract is a major risk. He's never pitched in the major leagues, after all, and importing a player from a foreign league always carries a ton of unknowns.
But if he were to come to Oakland and become the second coming of Darvish, well, an already strong Athletics team might just make the step from playoff contender to World Series participant. And that fact alone might make them more likely to take the plunge on Tanaka.
The Minnesota Twins, Matt Garza and Johan Santana
It would appear the Twins really want to add starting pitching this winter, as they've been linked to both Matt Garza and former ace Johan Santana.
Garza and the Twins seem to still be fairly far apart on a potential deal, however, as Darren Wolfson of ESPN 1500 reports:
Told nothing to report on #MNTwins-Garza front. Situation where Garza camp knows what Twins willing to do. They want long-term deal though.— Darren Wolfson (@DarrenWolfson) January 6, 2014
(con.) Ran out of characters -- should add nothing NEW to report. Twins would do short-term deal w/ Garza. He wants a long-term deal.— Darren Wolfson (@DarrenWolfson) January 6, 2014
Meanwhile, a Santana reunion is very possible, reports Andy Martino of the New York Daily News:
The Minnesota Twins remain a real possibility for former Mets ace Johan Santana, according to major league sources. Santana began his major league career with the Twins, who traded him to New York prior to the 2008 season.
Santana, 34 and trying to return from his second major shoulder surgery, has drawn interest from approximately 12 teams, according to a source. He has not decided whether to schedule a showcase for teams.
The Twins have continued to discuss Santana internally, remained in contact with his representatives, and still see a reunion as possible.
Garza seems to be the most popular pitcher on the market not named Tanaka, so the Twins likely won't be able to acquire him unless they are willing to relent on the length of the contract. In a rebuilding scenario, they are probably unlikely to tie up that cash in a longer deal.
That makes the Santana interest very intriguing. Given his recovery from another shoulder surgery and his age, his price should be very reasonable and his contract expectations won't be for anything more than a short (or one-year) deal.
Expect the Twins to be much bigger players in the Santana sweepstakes than they end up being with Garza.
Shortstop Stephen Drew may have priced himself out of the Boston Red Sox's plans with his contract demands. Could the New York Mets now enter the fray?
It seems likely. More than that, it seems that Drew and his representation are pushing for a deal in New York. From Martino:
The Mets maintain interest in free agent shortstop Stephen Drew (above), but are reluctant to offer more than a one-year deal, according to a major league official briefed on the team’s thinking.
That official said that Drew’s agent, Scott Boras, has called the Mets about Drew far more often than the Mets have called Boras. The team sees Drew as an upgrade over Ruben Tejada, of course, but not necessarily worth the price.
Drew hit .253 with 13 home runs last season, but his slick fielding is probably his most appealing feature to teams. Still, the fact that a more vibrant market has developed for the veteran shortstop means the Mets can probably wait to see if Drew will lower his demands.
In the interim, the team has Tejada as a backup plan. He's hardly a sexy option at the position, but he's preferable to overpaying for Drew.