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2014 MLB Free-Agent Tracker: Rumors, Destinations for Top 15 Remaining FAs

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistJanuary 13, 2014

2014 MLB Free-Agent Tracker: Rumors, Destinations for Top 15 Remaining FAs

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    Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

    Major League Baseball teams are in a free agent holding pattern. Some have already made their big moves for the 2014 season, while others are waiting for one shoe to drop before playing the rest of the field. 

    The biggest domino in the air right now is Masahiro Tanaka. The Japanese right-hander is clearly holding up the starting pitching market, but his presence is also impacting some of the top position players. 

    Until those teams that have money set aside for Tanaka know what he will do, they can't commit resources elsewhere. That's why I would expect a flurry of signings to happen at the end of January, shortly after Tanaka is expected to sign with an MLB team. 

    But Tanaka is just one of the many stories to follow on the free-agent trail. Here is the latest news and rumors surrounding the top 15 players still left unsigned. 

    Note: All rankings are my own. Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted. 

No. 1 Masahiro Tanaka, RHP

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    Koji Watanabe/Getty Images

    Age: 25

    2013 Stats (w/Rakuten Golden Eagles): 27 GS, 24-0, 1.27 ERA, 212.0 IP, 168 H, 6 HR, 32 BB, 183 K

    Signed by New York Yankees (January 22)

     

    Latest News/Rumors

    Update: Thursday, January 23 at 9:40 a.m. ET

    The sweepstakes are over, as Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported on Wednesday that the New York Yankees have agreed to terms on a seven-year, $155 million deal with Masahiro Tanaka. 

    It was hardly a surprise signing, since the Yankees had the most obvious need and were saving a lot of money on Alex Rodriguez's salary when the embattled third baseman was suspended for the 2014 season. 

    Now the onus is on Tanaka to pitch up to that contract, which is the fifth highest in MLB history for a starting pitcher. 

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: Tuesday, January 21 at 7:40 a.m. ET

    Masahiro Tanaka has just a few days left to decide which MLB team he will pitch for in 2014, or else return to Japan. While we don't know what's going to be the ultimate factor in his choice, thanks to Tom Loxas of Chicago Now, two teams remain in the lead for the Japanese star. 

    Hearing it is down to #Yankees and #Cubs for Tanaka derby.

    — TomLoxas (@TomLoxas) January 20, 2014

    In addition to that, Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago reported that the Cubs are very real players in the Tanaka sweepstakes. 

    A source told me on Saturday that the Cubs appeal to the Tanaka negotiating group, listed a chance to be the ace of the team and grow with the top rated young players that are developing in the organization.

    I've always thought Chicago was the best fit for Tanaka. He can learn the ropes in 2014 with a team that doesn't have high expectations, then be ready to lead the rotation in 2015 when that excellent core of prospects debuts. 

    Tanaka is just 25, so there doesn't have to be urgency to win right away like there was with Hiroki Kuroda when he debuted in 2008 at 33.

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: Friday, January 17 at 8:30 a.m. ET

    Youth can be a selling point for some players, which is the tactic the Cubs are taking in their pursuit of Masahiro Tanaka. 

    According to ESPNChicago.com, Cubs manager Rick Renteria said that the team pitched Tanaka on the impressive collection of young position player talent coming through the farm system. 

    [Our pitch] to him is that we're a club on the [upswing]. We're a club that has a lot of talent [in the minor leagues] besides the guys that we have here [at the major league level]. The organization has quality players coming up that's going to significantly impact the organization.

    Under different circumstances, I don't know if the youth argument would work. But Tanaka is only 25 himself, so it's not like there is an urgency to win in his first season. It certainly helps teams pursuing him if you can compete now, but I think the Cubs have a great case to be made. 

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: Thursday, January 16th at 9:50 a.m. ET

    The Cubs could emerge from the shadows to steal Masahiro Tanaka away from the bigger boys on the block, according to a report from Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal. 

    Sources: #Cubs pushing hard for Tanaka. #Angels remain involved, along with others previously mentioned - #Yankees, #Dodgers, etc.

    — Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 16, 2014

    I've always thought the Cubs made sense because of Tanaka's age and the team's lack of starting pitching in the system. Whether he fits into their price range is another story, though it's not like this franchise is hurting for money. 

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: Wednesday, January 15th at 9:15 a.m. ET

    Not that it comes as a surprise, but if you want Masahiro Tanaka, it's going to cost a lot of money.

    Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun Times spoke to an industry source who said that Tanaka's price could get as high as $140 million. 

    Industry source suggests Tanaka price tag to hit $140M. Reinsdorf's absence at meeting suggested warm, not hot #whitesox interest

    — Daryl Van Schouwen (@CST_soxvan) January 14, 2014

    Considering the way teams value pitching, not to mention the fact that clubs like the Yankees and Dodgers, loaded with cash and willing to spend, are going to be in the bidding, Tanaka picked the perfect time to move to the United States. 

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: Tuesday, January 14th at 9:40 a.m. ET

    If the Angels are in on Masahiro Tanaka, it's probably news to the team and general manager Jerry DiPoto. 

    According to a report from Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times, the Angels never met with Tanaka when he spent three days in Los Angeles meeting with teams last week. 

    DiPoto did say that he wouldn't comment on whether the Angels were in or out on Tanaka, but this would certainly seem to indicate that their ability to get in a big bidding war for the right-hander is not very good. 

    Meanwhile, as far as teams who have a lot of money to spend, David Waldstein of the New York Times noted on Twitter that indications are the Yankees and Dodgers are the favorites to land Tanaka. 

    Consensus in Japan right now is that Yankees and Dodgers are favorites on Tanaka and word is his wife prefers to be on West Coast.

    — David Waldstein (@DavidWaldstein) January 13, 2014

     

    This isn't surprising since everyone assumed the Yankees were going to sign him and the Dodgers love to spend money to enforce their will on the rest of baseball. 

    The west coast element does make this interesting, possibly suggesting that the Dodgers will have the first chance to land Tanaka. Now the question becomes, do they have enough money to sign Tanaka and re-sign Clayton Kershaw?

    --End of Update--

     

    Don't sleep on the Chicago Cubs in the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes. Patrick Mooney of Comcast SportsNet Chicago reports that the Northsiders are prepared to make the Japanese right-hander a "nine-figure investment."

    Of course, the team to watch is the New York Yankees. They are going to save more than $22 million on Alex Rodriguez's 2014 salary if his 162-game suspension holds up after his appeal. 

    Citing reports from Sports Hochi in Tokyo, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times notes that Tanaka's list of teams he wants to play for includes the Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels. 

     

    Analysis

    The Yankees potentially being able to wash most of Rodriguez's 2014 salary off the books is a huge boon in their efforts to land the best starting pitcher on the market. I'm not entirely sold that the front office is set on getting under $189 million, especially with the money the team has already spent on Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. 

    It's also not a surprise that Tanaka's preferred destinations are New York and Los Angeles. Why? Exposure and money. No teams have more money and are willing to spend it than the Dodgers and Yankees. 

    The Angels used to fall in that category, but they are likely tapped out on $100-plus million contracts until Mike Trout hits free agency. 

    The Seattle Mariners have a history with Japanese stars (Ichiro Suzuki, Hisashi Iwakuma) and have shown a willingness to spend money this offseason, so don't count them out in these negotiations. 

No. 2 Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP

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    David Maxwell/Getty Images

    Age: 29

    2013 Stats (w/ Cleveland Indians): 32 GS, 13-9, 3.30 ERA, 182.2 IP, 163 H, 16 HR, 80 BB, 194 K

    Potential Suitors: Indians, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks

     

    Latest News/Rumors

    Update: January 31 at 8:10 a.m. ET

    We may be moving closer to getting some resolution for the top remaining free agent pitchers. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that the Blue Jays are sizing up Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana. 

    The Jays have yet to make an offer to a free-agent starter, according to major league sources. But they have done extensive background work on right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, digging into his medical records, and also remain interested in righty Ervin Santana and other free agents, sources said.

    Even more than a team like Baltimore, also in need of pitching but having depth in the minors, the Blue Jays desperately need to do something for their rotation this offseason. 

    It's been a quiet winter in Canada, but with spring training around the corner, the hot stove appears to be heating up. 

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: January 28 at 9:00 p.m. ET

    There may be hope for smaller market teams hoping to land a starting pitcher. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, during an appearance on MLB Network, said that Ubaldo Jimenez may be willing to accept a three-year contract (h/t Ben Nicholson Smith, SportsNet Canada). 

    Heyman also said that the Orioles and Blue Jays appear to be the main players for Jimenez's services at this point. Both teams are in need of another pitcher, so being able to potentially get one at their price has to be considered a win. 

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: January 27 at 9:05 a.m. ET

    Despite being the best pitcher still on the market, Ubaldo Jimenez is still looking for work. His list of suitors could be growing, as Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reported the right-hander has had discussions with the Orioles. 

    Orioles still looking for starting pitching. They've had recent, active dialogue w a few including Santana, Arroyo and Jimenez, sources say

    — Dan Connolly (@danconnollysun) January 24, 2014

    All it takes is one team to give Jimenez what he wants, but giving up a draft pick (and the slot money attached to it) hasn't appealed to many teams this offseason. 

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: January 21 at 7:45 a.m. ET

    Don't be so quick to rule the Indians out of the Ubaldo Jimenez sweepstakes, at least according to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal

    Re-signing free-agent righty Ubaldo Jimenez? It is not out of the question. Nearly two weeks ago, I reported that Jimenez’s agents were telling clubs that he still expects to sign a multiyear deal at $14 million-plus annually. But so far, he has yet to complete such a deal.

    As much as Indians fans like to think there is hope, I still think Jimenez has to wait on Masahiro Tanaka before anything can happen with him. Cleveland isn't going to outbid anyone for Jimenez, so it's going to be on him to "settle" for a lesser deal. 

    Perhaps the offer Jimenez wants won't come, opening the door for a return to Cleveland. I wouldn't be optimistic about it, but this has been a strange offseason for pitching. 

    --End of Update--

     

    Even though he will likely have to wait until Masahiro Tanaka signs before his market picks up, Ubaldo Jimenez is still seeking a big pay day, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports: 

    Agents for Ubaldo Jimenez telling clubs that he still expects to sign a multi-year deal at $14 million-plus annually.

    — Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 7, 2014

    Rosenthal also reported that the Toronto Blue Jays are "a leading candidate to sign either Jimenez or (Ervin) Santana."

    The Cleveland Indians could remain in play for Jimenez if his asking price doesn't get out of control, according to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

     

    Analysis

    The Blue Jays have to be considered the favorites for Jimenez at this point. Unless something changes after Tanaka signs, the only team linked to the right-hander with money in desperate need of starting pitching is Toronto. 

    As much as Cleveland fans may want to believe there is a chance Jimenez returns, he's going to get too many years and too many dollars from someone else. The only reason the Indians still get mentioned is because Jimenez's market won't develop until Tanaka's deal is done. 

    A sleeper team to watch, in my opinion, is the Arizona Diamondbacks. I don't like the fit of Jimenez, who gives up a lot of fly balls, in that ballpark, but general manager Kevin Towers has shown a willingness to take drastic steps if he thinks it makes the team better. 

No. 3 Ervin Santana, RHP

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Age: 31

    2013 Stats (w/ Kansas City): 32 GS, 9-10, 3.24 ERA, 211.0 IP, 190 H, 26 HR, 51 BB, 161 K

    Potential Suitors: Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Mariners, Orioles

     

    Latest News/Rumors

    Update: January 31 at 8:15 a.m. ET

    Ervin Santana's market may be taking shape, as Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports the Toronto Blue Jays are doing their homework on the right-handed starter. 

    The Jays have yet to make an offer to a free-agent starter, according to major league sources. But they have done extensive background work on right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, digging into his medical records, and also remain interested in righty Ervin Santana and other free agents, sources said.

    Given how late we are in the process, the Blue Jays could be looking at a bargain price for Santana or Jimenez if they choose to go that route. It will cost them a draft pick, but for a team that's built to win now, the future can wait. 

    --End of Update--

    Update: Monday, January 27 at 9:08 a.m. ET

    In their attempt to keep up with the big boys in the American League East, the Orioles could get in the mix for Ervin Santana, according to Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun

    Orioles still looking for starting pitching. They've had recent, active dialogue w a few including Santana, Arroyo and Jimenez, sources say

    — Dan Connolly (@danconnollysun) January 24, 2014

    The Orioles desperately need one more starting pitcher who can give them 200 innings. Santana has been healthy throughout his career, but consistency has never been his trademark. That could limit his ability to get the deal he is looking for. 

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: Thursday, January 23 at 3:20 p.m. ET

    Even though there doesn't appear to be any movement on a contract, it certainly appears that we know what the right-hander wants. 

    According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, as recently as last week, Santana is looking for $60 million over four years.

    As of a week ago, Ervin Santana still was seeking a four-year deal in the $60M range. Chances of him getting anything close growing slimmer.

    — Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 23, 2014

    If Santana is unable to get that kind of deal, especially in light of Masahiro Tanaka's contract with New York, this could turn out to be a great secondary pitching market for teams in need of a starter. 

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: Wednesday, January 15th at 3:05 p.m. ET

    In a move that could be something or a whole lot of nothing, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that three teams have requested medical records for Ervin Santana. 

    Sources: #Orioles, #Twins, #Yankees recently requested medical reports on free-agent RHP Ervin Santana. Yankees, however…

    — Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 13, 2014

    …were only doing diligence. Santana, a flyball pitcher, poor fit for #Yankees. #Twins, too, unlikely for Santana and other FA starters…

    — Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 13, 2014

    The Orioles would be an interesting fit for Santana. They desperately need to add another starting pitcher, though I would be surprised if Baltimore was able/willing to give him the kind of deal he'll be looking for based on his 2013 performance. 

    --End of Update--

     

    Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that the Blue Jays are near the top of the list for Ervin Santana, citing Toronto's two protected first-round picks (No. 9 and 11) as a major reason. 

    Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers said in an interview with Sirius XM Radio, conducted just after the winter meetings, that the team was trying to land a pair in the trio of Santana, Matt Garza and Masahiro Tanaka: 

    Kevin Towers #Diamondbacks reiterated on our show that they are still "in" on 2 of Tanaka, Garza & Santana #SiriusXM Sirius 209 XM 89

    — JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) December 18, 2013

     

    Analysis

    Santana is a pitcher whose free agency has been fascinating to me. He's coming off a strong season with Kansas City and is young enough to hold value on a four- or five-year deal, but consistency from start to start and season to season has never been his best attribute. 

    The Angels, who are desperate for starting pitching, basically dumped Santana after the 2012 season when he posted a 5.16 ERA and allowed 39 homers in 178 innings. 

    One thing that does work in Santana's favor is health. He's made at least 30 starts in five of the last six years, with at least 200 innings in four of the last six years. 

    The Blue Jays, as mentioned, desperately need another starting pitcher. If Santana's asking price is lower than Jimenez's, he could be a better option considering how much money they already have tied up on the roster. 

    If the Diamondbacks choose between Santana and Jimenez, Santana would be a better fit. He generated ground balls at a rate nearly three percent higher than Jimenez did in 2013. 

No. 4 Stephen Drew, SS

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Age: 30

    2013 Stats (w/ Boston): 124 G, .253/.333/.443, 112 H, 29 2B, 8 3B, 13 HR, 67 RBI, 6 SB

    Potential Suitors: Red Sox, Mets

     

    Latest News/Rumors

    Update: Friday, January 31 at 8:18 a.m. ET

    If you can figure out what's going to happen with Stephen Drew, please let him know. The 30-year-old shortstop's market continues to get more bleak with each passing day.

    Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, quoting New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, says they aren't likely to pursue Drew. 

    We haven't ruled it out, but I think doing anything is unlikely. I think that Stephen will always have other opportunities. We continue to monitor his situation. We're looking at other free agents that are still available, and [we're] trying to judge their status and how they might fit with us. I know there's been a lot of speculation about Drew and the Mets, but at this point, that's what it remains -- speculation.

    Drew and agent Scott Boras likely had high expectations coming off a productive 2013 season, but his injury history and draft compensation appear to have severely limited whatever market there might have been. 

    --End of Update--

    Update: Tuesday, January 28 at 9:00 p.m. ET

    There may be a new player in the Stephen Drew sweepstakes, as Jon Heyman reported on MLB Network (via SportsNet Canada) that the Toronto Blue Jays could get involved in the bidding for the shortstop. 

    It's very vague wording, so don't take it as concrete. I am also skeptical because the Blue Jays have Jose Reyes and Maicer Izturis as a backup. 

    Why would Drew go to a situation where he couldn't play every day? Why would the Blue Jays spend money on another shortstop?

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: Thursday, January 23 at 9:45 a.m. ET

    It appears we may have been too hasty assuming that Stephen Drew's lack of a market meant a return to Boston was imminent. 

    Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington spoke at a Boston event this week and said that "“I think the time that’s being spent on it talking about it publicly is not necessarily consistent with the time we’re spending on it." (via Boston Herald)

    Having Xander Bogaerts ready and able to take over at shortstop, while costing a fraction of what Drew would even on a one-year deal, certainly helps Boston's leverage. 

    Scott Boras is a master strategist, but the shortstop market isn't exactly flowing with teams in need of a starter. It's going to take a serious last-minute turnaround for something to happen before pitchers and catchers report. 

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: Tuesday, January 14th at 2:12 p.m. ET

    Scott Boras is playing his cards close to the chest when it comes to Stephen Drew. The super-agent told reporters, via Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, that he's talked to "five or six teams...concerning Stephen."

    There is no mention of which teams Boras is talking to, which I am sure is by design. Drew will find a home eventually, but there may be more options out there than we thought. Of course, this could all be a ruse by Boras to try and generate a bigger contract for his client. 

    --End of Update--

     

    In a radio interview with WEEI, Boston Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said the team has kept communication with Stephen Drew open, though nothing was imminent. 

    Drew's leverage has all but evaporated, as the only other team with a strong link to the shortstop was the New York Mets. Unfortunately, as Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reported, the Mets are "reluctant" to make an offer longer than one year. 

    In addition, Anthony DiComo of MLB.com notes that the Mets plan to start the 2014 season with Ruben Tejada as their shortstop. 

     

    Analysis

    Stephen Drew picked a bad year to hit free agency. There aren't many starting shortstop jobs available as it is, but combine that with the fact that the 30-year-old has a history of injuries and draft compensation attached, and his leverage is all but gone. 

    Even the Red Sox, Drew's former team, could survive without him by putting star prospect Xander Bogaerts at shortstop and Will Middlebrooks at third base. 

    I like Drew as a strong defensive shortstop with above-average power, but if you can't play 140-plus games per season, teams aren't going to give you a multiyear offer and sacrifice a draft pick. 

No. 5 Nelson Cruz, OF

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Age: 33

    2013 Stats (w/ Texas): 109 G, .266/.327/.506, 110 H, 18 2B, 27 HR, 76 RBI, 5 SB, 35 BB, 109 K

    Potential Suitors: Royals, Mariners

     

    Latest News/Rumors

    Update: Friday, January 31 at 8:35 a.m. ET

    It turns out Nelson Cruz may end up exactly where we thought he would one month ago, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio.

    .@JimBowdenESPNxm: my sources are telling me that the #Mariners may make an offer to Nelson Cruz as early as today #InsidePitch #SXMSports

    — MLB Network Radio (@MLBNetworkRadio) January 30, 2014

    Cruz does give the Mariners a power bat to put behind Robinson Cano, but it's another case where they would be sacrificing defense for some offense. Corey Hart and Logan Morrison, both should be limited to first base or DH duties, have also been added to the mix. 

    It makes some sense that Cruz would be on Seattle's radar, given the need for more offense, even though it will cost the team a draft pick. 

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: Tuesday, January 21 at 7:55 a.m. ET

    Nelson Cruz likely overplayed his hand this offseason, which could be good news for teams in the market for a right-handed power hitter. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, citing an NL general manager, thinks the former Texas slugger will have to take a one-year deal. 

    Teams are staying away because salary demands still haven’t come down quite enough, according to one National League general manager. Cruz, who requires a team to give up a draft pick, may have to settle for a pillow contract of one year to reestablish value.

    While a signing team would still have to give up a draft pick, a one-year deal for Cruz, who is more than capable of hitting 30 homers, wouldn't be the worst thing to happen. 

    Plus, if the signing team has a top-10 pick, that's protected and they would only have to give up a second-round selection. 

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: Tuesday, January 14th at 2:15 p.m. ET

    Joaquin Benoit, a friend of Nelson Cruz, provided an interesting quote about the slugger's free agent status during an interview with MLB Network Radio on Tuesday. 

    Joaquin Benoit tells us his friend Nelson Cruz "is a little worried" at this point about signing somewhere. Had a 2-year offer/wanted 5 yrs

    — MLB Network Radio (@MLBNetworkRadio) January 14, 2014

    Suspension or no suspension, I would've been shocked if Cruz got a five-year offer this winter. He's entering his mid-30s and has no defensive value at all. The right-handed hitter is going to have to settle for much less than anything he anticipated when the season ended. 

    --End of Update--

     

    The Mariners may need to add another big bat, but price has become an issue after spending so much money on Robinson Cano. 

    Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that Seattle's front office is now in a spot where it will likely have to clear any major moves with ownership. 

    Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels spoke at a luncheon recently, and according to Gerry Fraley of Dallas Morning News, the Rangers don't anticipate bringing Cruz back. That makes sense given their current outfield has Shin-Soo Choo, Leonys Martin, Alex Rios and Michael Choice vying for playing time. 

    Kansas City, still trying to upgrade its offense, did seem like a landing spot for Cruz early in the offseason, but that hasn't gone anywhere since the winter meetings. 

     

    Analysis

    Nelson Cruz is in a bad spot. He offers one of the most precious commodities in baseball (right-handed power), but he's a bad defensive player who doesn't get on base and strikes out a ton. He also has draft compensation attached, meaning a team will forfeit a pick and slot money to sign him. 

    Much like Stephen Drew, Cruz overplayed his hand this winter and figures to be a very late signee. His best course of action might be to wait until spring training starts and see if someone gets hurt, giving him some leverage back. 

No. 6 A.J. Burnett, RHP

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    David Maxwell/Getty Images

    Age: 37

    2013 Stats (w/ Pittsburgh): 30 GS, 10-11, 3.30 ERA, 191.0 IP, 165 H, 11 HR, 67 BB, 209 K

    Potential Suitors: Pirates, Orioles

     

    Latest News/Rumors

    Update: January 31 at 8:40 a.m. ET

    In a surprising twist, A.J. Burnett's market could include the Orioles, who have already been linked to the right-hander, and another American League East team, according to Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com. 

    Orioles "all in" on AJ Burnett, Rays in, early in process

    — Peter Gammons (@pgammo) January 30, 2014

    The Rays are clearly going for it, in their own way, knowing their window is soon closing with David Price hitting free agency after the 2015 season. Burnett would slot in nicely as a bridge between Price and the young duo of Chris Archer and Matt Moore. 

    But the Orioles have always seemed like the most logical destination, given his desire to stay near his home in Maryland. Baltimore could use another starter heading into the season while waiting for Kevin Gausman, Eduardo Rodriguez and Dylan Bundy to be ready for a rotation job. 

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: January 28 at 9:00 p.m. ET

    Good news for teams in need of starting pitching, as the market just got one more hard-throwing right-hander. After contemplating retirement, A.J. Burnett has reportedly decided to pitch in 2014, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (h/t Matt Snyder, CBS Sports). 

    It will be interesting to see if teams other than the Pirates and Orioles, who have both been tied to Burnett this winter and are close to his home in Maryland, are able to get in the bidding. 

    If Burnett only wants a one-year deal, that could make him very attractive to teams that don't want to invest multiple years in younger free agent starters. 

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: January 23 at 3:00 p.m. ET

    The clock is still ticking for A.J. Burnett to make a decision on returning in 2014, but that doesn't mean the Pirates, who Burnett has pitched for the last two years, are sitting around and waiting to hear from the right-hander. 

    Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com provided quotes from Pirates president Frank Coonelly about the Burnett situation. 

    Coonelly said #pirates have "turned the page'' and are ready to go to spring training without Burnett in the rotation.

    — Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) January 23, 2014

    But Coonelly added that team has financial flexibility to keep Burnett if he "surprises'' them and wants to return. #pirates

    — Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) January 23, 2014

    If the Pirates want to have a real shot at contending next year, I think they need Burnett. How likely is it that Francisco Liriano duplicates his 2013 performance? Or Charlie Morton? What are you going to get from Wandy Rodriguez?

    I know they have young arms, like Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon, but the latter hasn't thrown a pitch in the big leagues. Burnett makes them a significantly better rotation, if he decides to return. 

    --End of Update--

     

    All signs seem to indicate that A.J. Burnett will call it a career following a successful 2013 season with the Pittsburgh Pirates. 

    Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage did an interview on a Pittsburgh radio station (via CBS Pittsburgh) saying he doesn't anticipate Burnett pitching again:

    I’m on that percentage point where he’s not going to come back. I’ve got to prepare the pitching with no A.J, so that’s the route I’m going right now. If he does come back, alright. But right now, I’m leaning that way, where he’s going to retire.

    The Pirates and Baltimore Orioles are the only two teams with a connection to Burnett, and given how long it's been since any news came out, one would think he would have signed with one by now so the team could plan the rest of its offseason. 

     

    Analysis

    Both the Orioles and Pirates need A.J. Burnett. The Pirates, who had a surprisingly strong rotation in 2013, will enter next season with the always-volatile Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Wandy Rodriguez and Edinson Volquez in the rotation. 

    The Orioles have been searching for starting pitching since Buck Showalter took over as manager. They will get help in 2014 from top prospect Kevin Gausman, but after him, Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman, there are a lot of questions with no answers. 

    Burnett should do these teams the courtesy of making a decision soon, but I guess at this point in his career, he doesn't need much time to prepare for a season. 

No. 7 Matt Garza, RHP

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Age: 30

    2013 Stats (w/ Chicago and Texas): 24 GS, 10-6, 3.82 ERA, 155.1 IP, 150 H, 20 HR, 42 BB, 136 K

    Signed with Brewers (1/26)

     

    Latest News/Rumors

    Update: January 27 at 9:15 a.m. ET

    Though it had been talked about late last week, the Milwaukee Brewers announced that Matt Garza has officially agreed to a four-year, $50 million contract that includes a vesting option for 2018, according to the team's official website

    Signing Garza is a peculiar move for the Brewers, who are in desperate need of pitching with a barren farm system not likely to provide any talent in the next few years. Garza could give them a quality arm to pair with Yovani Gallardo if he can stay healthy, which has been a problem the last two years. 

    The Brewers had no issues with Garza's physical, so this has the potential to be a good deal for the team. 

    --End of Update--

    Update: January 23 at 10:20 p.m. ET

    Even though talks haven't broken down, it turns out that Matt Garza doesn't have a deal with the Brewers yet. 

    The team released a statement on its official website after reports surfaced that a deal had been reached, simply stating that nothing has been agreed to even though there is an ongoing dialogue between the two sides. 

    "Despite media reports, negotiations between the Brewers and Matt Garza are ongoing, but there is no deal yet."

    The release also contains information from a source saying that both sides "simply need more time to hash out the final terms of the agreement." 

    Given Garza's injury history, you can understand why the Brewers want to take their time before jumping head first into a deal. 

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: January 23 at 1:25 p.m. ET

    It turns out that Matt Garza just needed Masahiro Tanaka to come off the board, as the right-hander has reportedly agreed to a four-year, $52 million contract, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. 

    Source: Garza in agreement with #Brewers, four years, $52M, pending physical.

    — Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 23, 2014

    The Brewers are in desperate need of pitching thanks to a barren farm system and poor investments in recent years. They are taking some risk with Garza, who has missed time the last two years with injuries, but considering the pitching market, $13 million per season isn't outrageous. 

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: January 23 at 9:50 a.m. ET

    The Angels may not be done spending money to upgrade their starting pitching, though the market has probably changed their level of interest. 

    Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reported that the Angels' interest in Matt Garza has been real, but they "don't want to overpay" him because of his injury history. The pitching market figures to take explode now that Masahiro Tanaka is off the board. 

    Garza had high hopes of landing a big multi-year deal, though I would be surprised if it happens because of his inability to stay healthy the last two years. 

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: January 21 at 8:00 a.m. ET

    Matt Garza's injury history is turning into a problem for the right-hander in his quest for a long-term contract this winter, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe

    Garza may have to settle for fewer years even with the price of pitching very high. “There may be concerns about him physically,” said one AL executive. “I think most teams are thinking four or five years is just too risky, even if he’s a no-compensation guy.”

    Garza hasn't thrown more than 200 innings since 2010 and hasn't made 30 starts since 2011, so you can understand why there is trepidation. He does have a history of success in the American League East, which could help him, but that was four years ago. 

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: January 14th at 2:20 p.m. ET

    Matt Garza will eventually find a new home, but don't expect it to be in New York. Richard Justice of MLB.com reported that the Yankees' all-out effort to land Masahiro Tanaka has made them bystanders in the race to sign another top-tier free agent pitcher. 

    The Yankees have been all-in on him and so far have shown little interest in Ervin SantanaMatt Garza or any of the other free-agent pitchers on this market. If Tanaka lands elsewhere, Cashman almost certainly will sign at least one more starter.

    I'm still bullish on the idea that the Yankees would want Garza. His injury history and inconsistent performance in Texas should scare them off. 

    --End of Update--

     

    Being the No. 5 right-handed pitcher in a slow-developing market means Matt Garza will be waiting a long time to find work. 

    The good news is there are no shortage of potential suitors, though Garza's price is going to be a concern at some point. 

    Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer speculates that the Indians could have interest in Garza if/when Ubaldo Jimenez signs elsewhere, stating the team has always liked him and even tried to acquire him from the Cubs last July. 

    Darren Wolfson of ESPN 1500 reported that the Minnesota Twins still have interest in Garza, but on a shorter deal than what he is looking for:

    (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

    The Diamondbacks were thought to be the favorites for Garza at the winter meetings, but one month later, there has been virtually nothing from Arizona's side. The Angels would have had interest, but acquiring Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago might be all they want to do since those players won't cost nearly as much money. 

     

    Analysis

    As long as the wait has been for pitchers like Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana, I imagine it will take longer for Matt Garza to sign. He appears to view himself at the same level as those two right-handers, which I can't disagree with, but they have a stronger track record of health. 

    Garza is also coming off a mediocre performance pitching two months in Texas. Even though that park can humble the best pitchers, it doesn't do anything to help Garza's free agency value.

    That's good news for smaller-market teams like Cleveland and Minnesota, both of which might have a better chance of landing Garza than they would have if he'd stayed in the National League all season. 

No. 8 Kendrys Morales, 1B/DH

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Age: 30

    2013 Stats (w/ Seattle): 156 G, .277/.336/.449, 167 H, 34 2B, 23 HR, 80 RBI, 49 BB, 114 K

    Potential Suitors: Royals?

     

    Latest News/Rumors

    Update: January 31 at 8:45 a.m. ET

    Kendrys Morales may use one of the most interesting strategies you will ever see from a free agent.

    Buster Olney of ESPN (Insider Subscription required) says that some executives believe the first baseman may wait until after June's draft to sign, thereby getting rid of the draft compensation attached to him and being able to leverage himself to teams who may have lost a big bat to injury. 

    It's certainly a different tactic to take, and one that would make sense given how limited interest has been in Morales, but for a player still in his prime to wait two months after the season starts to sign seems far fetched. 

    Of course, it takes a team to make Morales an offer to get him to sign on the dotted line before spring training. 

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: January 28 at 9:05 p.m. ET

    It's taken nearly three months, but we may have an interested suitor for Kendrys Morales. It may end up being the team he spent last season with: Seattle. 

    Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the Mariners may have one big play left this offseason. 

    New Mariners president Kevin Mather has suggested that GM Jack Zduriencik could still have a little more financial flexibility, and the team has indeed had discussions with five of the half dozen or so biggest free agents remaining...

    Heyman's report says that Morales, along with Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, Bronson Arroyo, Nelson Cruz and Fernando Rodney are all on the team's short list. 

    Morales is a known commodity, though he doesn't seem to fit on the roster with Logan Morrison and Corey Hart battling it out for first base and DH at-bats. 

    --End of Update--

     

    It's a rough time to be Kendrys Morales. He turned down a $14.1 million qualifying offer from Seattle, thinking there would be a market for a 30-year-old switch-hitter coming off a season with 57 extra-base hits. 

    Unfortunately, when you are a DH and part-time first baseman who will cost a signing team its first-round draft pick and have Scott Boras as your agent, teams are going to be reluctant to negotiate a deal.

    Compounding the problem for Morales is that Nelson Cruz, who is also struggling to find a contract, is basically the same player with a better track record of health and performance. 

    Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe noted that the silence around Morales right now is "deafening," which has to be what Boras is thinking too. I'd never bet against Boras finding what he thinks Morales is worth, but this could be one of the biggest mistakes the uber-agent makes this winter. 

     

    Analysis

    The Nelson Cruz domino is keeping Kendrys Morales in check. Once that falls, Morales' market will pick up.

    I listed the Royals as a potential suitor because I think they want another big bat, but they would have to move Billy Butler, a superior hitter, to sign Morales since Eric Hosmer isn't going anywhere. 

No. 9 Paul Maholm, LHP

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Age: 31

    2013 Stats (w/ Atlanta): 26 GS, 10-11, 4.41 ERA, 153.0 IP, 169 H, 17 HR, 47 BB, 105 K

    Potential Suitors: Cubs, Twins?

     

    Latest News/Rumors

    Update: Tuesday, January 21 at 8:05 a.m. ET

    Derek Holland's misfortune could be Paul Maholm's gain. The 31-year-old left-hander said in an interview on MLB Network Radio last week that the Rangers have contacted him to fill the void left by Holland (via Dallas Morning News)

    Holland underwent microfracture surgery on his knee just over a week ago, leaving a void in Texas' rotation at least until midseason. 

    Maholm's style as a soft-tossing left-hander probably wouldn't play well in Texas' park, but the Rangers just need someone to fill out the rotation until Holland returns. 

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: Wednesday, January 15 at 3:10 p.m. ET

    A second tour of duty in Chicago could be in store for Paul Maholm, at least that's what Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune speculated recently. He cited the team's need for starting pitching and lack of attractive options if the Cubs don't land Masahiro Tanaka. 

    Maholm made 20 starts for the Cubs in 2012 before a midseason trade to Atlanta. He was effective in his brief time with the team, posting a 3.74 ERA in 120.1 innings. 

    --End of Update--

     

    As much as teams value starting pitching, Paul Maholm's woeful 2013 season, in which he was left off the Atlanta Braves' playoff roster, has left him in a lurch. 

    The last major news about Maholm this offseason came in early December, when Mike Puma of the New York Post reported that the Mets talked to him before moving on:

    Mets had a chat with Paul Maholm's agent, but not expected to pursue.

    — Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) December 10, 2013

    The Mets eventually signed Bartolo Colon to a two-year deal.

    ESPN's Jerry Crasnick reported on December 12 that the Twins were watching Maholm: 

    Garza, Arroyo and Pelfrey aren't the only FA pitchers on #twins radar. They're also keeping tabs on Paul Maholm:

    — Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 12, 2013

    The 31-year-old lefty would fit well in the back of Minnesota's rotation, especially in that big park, but the team has already added Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes to go with Mike Pelfrey, Kyle Gibson and Samuel Deduno. 

     

    Analysis

    Timing is everything in free agency. Maholm was never a dominant pitcher, but he throws strikes and regularly makes 30-plus starts per season. He had respectable ERA totals in 2011 and 2012 (3.66 and 3.67) but came back to earth in 2013. 

    Maholm now finds himself without a team and no irons in the fire. I anticipate that will change as we move into spring training and pitchers get hurt, but a cheap one-year deal probably isn't what the left-hander envisioned coming into his walk year. 

No. 10 Fernando Rodney, RHP

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Age: 36

    2013 Stats (w/ Tampa Bay): 68 G, 5-4, 37 SV, 3.38 ERA, 66.2 IP, 53 H, 3 HR, 36 BB, 82 K

    Potential Suitors: Orioles, Mariners

     

    Latest News/Rumors

    Update: January 28 at 9:15 p.m. ET

    The waiting game is going to open doors for teams in need of a closer with interest in Fernando Rodney. 

    Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports the Seattle Mariners may jump back in on Rodney after being quiet for the last month. 

    Everything depends on what Rodney believes he can get on the market. Prices for closers have been dropping all winter, with Grant Balfour having to settle for a two-year, $12 million deal from Tampa Bay. 

    If Rodney can only get $6-7 million on the market, a team like Seattle could get back in the mix. 

    --End of Update--

    Update: January 27 at 9:15 a.m. ET

    It's taken awhile, but Fernando Rodney's market seems to be taking shape. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the Orioles were talking to the former Tampa Bay closer. 

    Jim Johnson was traded to Oakland in the offseason due, at least in part, to an escalating salary Baltimore couldn't afford. 

    Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News reported that the Mets were also in talks for Rodney's services.  

    The Mets do have a solid bullpen, though incumbent closer Bobby Parnell did have injury problems last season that left a void at the end of games. 

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: January 23 at 2:20 p.m. ET

    All the big relief pitcher dominoes appear likely to drop quickly now. Jonah Keri of Grantland.com reports that Fernando Rodney is moving closer to a deal with the Baltimore Orioles. 

    Source: #Orioles making progress on Fernando Rodney. O's expected to make 1 other significant move as well.

    — Jonah Keri (@jonahkeri) January 23, 2014

    The Orioles have been trying to find a new closer after trading Jim Johnson to Oakland. Considering Johnson's escalating salary, I will be interested to see what the Orioles and Rodney might agree on. 

    It's no secret that Rodney was hoping for a big pay day after two successful seasons in Tampa Bay, but his age and always erratic strike-throwing ability could make him a bust if the Orioles overpay. 

    --End of Update--

     

    The biggest thing to know about Fernando Rodney's free agency is that the 36-year-old closer wants $10 million per season, according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman:

    word is, fernando rodney is looking for $10M per year for at least 2 yrs maybe 3. #mariners cant be excited about that price

    — Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 12, 2013

    Rodney, unsurprisingly, hasn't found any takers at that price.

    According to Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun, the Orioles did have interest in the All-Star closer in early December after the debacle with Grant Balfour happened. However, a new report from Connolly says the Orioles will likely turn their attention to starting pitchers and enter the season with Tommy Hunter as their closer. 

    The Mariners are a dark-horse candidate just based on the fact that they need a closer and have spent money this offseason. I give them credit for not jumping on Rodney at his $10 million asking price. 

     

    Analysis

    As much as we make fun of long-term deals for closers, they don't change the market that much. Some teams are going to be desperate and make foolish moves, like the Dodgers giving Brian Wilson $10 million for one year, but the majority of teams know how volatile relief pitching is. 

    Fernando Rodney's only crime is waiting to sign a contract. If he, not Joe Nathan, went to the Tigers and offered his services, perhaps he would be Detroit's new closer in 2014. 

    You can't blame Rodney for wanting $10 million per season when he sees Nathan and Wilson getting that much. The 36-year-old had a better strikeout and ground-ball rate than both Nathan and Wilson last season. 

No. 11 Bronson Arroyo, RHP

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    Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

    Age: 36

    2013 Stats (w/ Cincinnati): 32 GS, 14-12, 3.79 ERA, 202.0 IP, 199 H, 32 HR, 34 BB, 124 K

    Potential Suitors: Twins, Orioles, Yankees, Phillies

     

    Latest News/Rumors

    Update: January 28 at 9:40 p.m. ET

    Bronson Arroyo might be adding the Mariners to his list of suitors, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports

    New Mariners president Kevin Mather has suggested that GM Jack Zduriencik could still have a little more financial flexibility, and the team has indeed had discussions with five of the half dozen or so biggest free agents remaining -- pitchers Ervin SantanaUbaldo Jimenez and Bronson Arroyo, outfielder Nelson Cruz and first baseman/DH Kendrys Morales, who played for Seattle this past year, plus reliever Fernando Rodney

    If you need a starter to cover innings in the back of a rotation, Arroyo is the man for you. He doesn't offer much else, but a team like the Mariners, which already has Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker doesn't need an impact arm to lead the rotation. 

    Arroyo could be a good alternative, if the Mariners have enough money left in the budget to land the right-hander. 

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: January 27 at 9:25 a.m. ET

    One of the most durable starters in baseball, Bronson Arroyo is waiting for a market to develop. There have been many rumors floating around, but nothing to the right-handers liking thus far. 

    The Orioles, a team still searching for at least one more starting pitcher, have been in talks with Arroyo, according to Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. 

    Orioles still looking for starting pitching. They've had recent, active dialogue w a few including Santana, Arroyo and Jimenez, sources say

    — Dan Connolly (@danconnollysun) January 24, 2014

    Arroyo would be a bad fit in Baltimore. Camden Yards is a hitter-friendly home-run park. Arroyo gives up a lot of fly balls and homers because his fastball barely tops 88 on a good day. 

    The best thing Arroyo does is eat innings, though the Orioles might be looking for more impact than that if they sign a starter. 

    --End of Update--

     

    Few pitchers left on the market are drawing the kind of attention that Bronson Arroyo is right now. According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globethe Twins, Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies are showing interest in the right-hander. 

    Cafardo's report also mentions that "at least one team was moving closer to offering" Arroyo a third year. 

    ESPN's Buster Olney reported that the Orioles have also jumped into the Arroyo sweepstakes: 

    The Orioles are among the teams interested in Bronson Arroyo. The question, of course, is around contract terms.

    — Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 6, 2014

    He's always going to give up a lot of home runs and hits because the fastball has no velocity, but Arroyo is one of the most durable pitchers in recent memory. The 36-year-old has thrown at least 199 innings in nine straight seasons. 

    A lot of Arroyo's future value will also depend on where he pitches. A smaller park, like Yankee Stadium or Citizens Bank Park, is going to eat him alive. Minnesota would be the best spot, at least among teams that have shown interest, because of Target Field's spacious outfield. 

     

    Analysis

    He won't move the needle like Jimenez or Santana, but Bronson Arroyo might offer as much value as those two starting pitchers. 

    Arroyo isn't going to cost as much in years or dollars as his right-handed counterparts and will take the ball every fifth day. He can be a league-average pitcher, under the right circumstances, for a good team. 

    The Orioles have the biggest need for a starting pitcher, though I wonder if they would go to three years on a pitcher like Arroyo. The Twins have already signed two pitchers, so they don't need another one. 

    Nothing that Philadelphia does anymore surprises me, so if Ruben Amaro went to three years, it would make sense. 

    The Yankees probably have Arroyo way down on their list of priorities right now, though that could change if Tanaka signs with another team. 

No. 12 Suk-Min Yoon, RHP

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    Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

    Age: 27

    Potential Suitors: Red Sox, Twins, Giants

     

    Latest News/Rumors

    Update: Tuesday, January 14th at 2:25 p.m. ET

    Just as Masahiro Tanaka did last week, Suk-Min Yoon will be coming to America for meetings with MLB teams, according to a report from Korean news outlet Arirang (via MLBTradeRumors.com). 

    --End of Update--

     

    Suk-Min Yoon isn't generating a lot of buzz right now, but the 27-year-old Korean could play a prominent role in someone's bullpen next season. He also has starting experience, but given his slight 6'0" frame, a relief role provides the most upside. 

    Peter Gammons reported that Yoon is drawing interest from the defending World Series champion Red Sox and Twins:

    While we know the Twins, Red Sox are 2 teams on Korean RHP Suk-Min Yoon, one exec guesses he's a good fit for the Giants

    — Peter Gammons (@pgammo) January 10, 2014

    The San Francisco Giants have been active since the season ended, re-signing Hunter Pence, Tim Lincecum and Javier Lopez and adding Tim Hudson to the starting rotation. Another reliever likely isn't their highest priority, but depth doesn't hurt. 

     

    Analysis

    The Red Sox won the World Series with essentially a three-man bullpen in October. They could stand to add more depth to the group, though they are loaded with options in the minors (Matt Barnes, Anthony Ranaudo, Rubby De La Rosa) to choose from. 

    The Twins don't have a lot going for them at the MLB level right now, but their best asset is bullpen depth. They've invested a lot of money and years in the starting rotation, so finding one more arm for relief isn't a high priority. 

No. 13 Jason Hammel, RHP

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Age: 31

    2013 Stats (w/ Baltimore): 23 GS, 7-8, 4.97 ERA, 139.1 IP, 155 H, 22 HR, 48 BB, 96 K

    Potential Suitors: Cubs, Pirates, Royals, Braves, Orioles

     

    Latest News/Rumors

    All has been quiet on the Jason Hammel front since the winter meetings, when Jon Morosi of Fox Sports reported that the Cubs, Pirates, Royals and Braves were interested in the right-hander: 

    Jason Hammel has received interest from Cubs, Pirates, Royals, Braves, source says.

    — Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 10, 2013

    According to the Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly, Hammel could still return to the Orioles given how long it has taken the team to fill rotation holes:

    We were told that Hammel, the team’s Opening Day starter in 2013, might be an option in 2014 only if the Orioles still had a rotation opening at the end of the winter and Hammel was still looking for a job. Both sides enjoyed their time together, it just seemed like there would be a parting of ways. I’d still bet on that. But it’s January now.

    Hammel is a volatile option for teams given his long injury history. He hasn't started 30 games in a season since 2010 and hasn't thrown more than 140 innings in a season since 2011. 

     

    Analysis

    The one potential suitor that seems to make sense for Hammel is the Cubs. They won't provide him with an opportunity to win in 2014, but he doesn't have to worry about losing his job because the team doesn't have much to choose from right now. 

    Pittsburgh could be a player, depending on what happens with A.J. Burnett. That would be a huge step down for the Pirates, but smaller-market teams have to get creative. 

No. 14 Grant Balfour, RHP

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    Age: 36

    2013 Stats (w/ Oakland): 65 G, 1-3, 2.59 ERA, 62.2 IP, 48 H, 7 HR, 27 BB, 72 K

    Reportedly signed by Tampa Bay Rays (1/23)

     

    Latest News/Rumors

    Update: January 27 at 9:30 a.m. ET

    The Rays officially announced a two-year, $12 million deal with closer Grant Balfour, according to MLB.com

    It has been a brutal market for closers this winter. Grant Balfour thought he had a deal with the Orioles last month, but the team backed out after not feeling comfortable with his physical. 

    In typical Tampa Bay fashion, the Rays waited back for a bargain to fall into their lap. The good news is Balfour is a known commodity, having pitched for the Rays from 2007-10. He will take over the ninth-inning role previously held by Fernando Rodney. 

    --End of Update--

    Update: January 23 at 2:20 p.m. ET

    Less than one hour after Jeff Passan's report, Andrew Rickli of SportsReelBoston.com reports that the Rays have indeed struck a deal with Grant Balfour. 

    #Source: Rays indeed sign Grant Balfour.

    — Andrew Rickli (@AndrewRickli) January 23, 2014

    While we will wait to hear official word from the team, Passan's report did say that it's expected to be a $12 million deal over two years. A solid bargain for the Rays, who apparently had no issues with Balfour's physical state. 

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: January 23 at 1:30 p.m. ET

    There had been rumors swirling on Twitter early Thursday that the Rays were planning a "significant baseball announcement." It turns out, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, that news could be a reunion with Grant Balfour. 

    Sources: Rays deep into discussions with closer Grant Balfour. Believed to be talking about a two-year, $12M deal.

    — Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 23, 2014

    This is the kind of deal the Rays thrive on. Balfour's market value was shot when Baltimore pulled out of a deal with him, so Tampa Bay waited things out and is on the verge of filling Fernando Rodney's void with someone the franchise knows very well. 

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: January 21 at 8:10 a.m. ET

    Grant Balfour may find a home before the offseason is over. Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Nationals are expressing interest in the former Oakland closer. 

    The team’s motivation, according to major league sources, was to create financial flexibility. The Nationals have two remaining arbitration cases. They have made no secret that they want to add another bat off the bench. But they also are interested in Balfour, sources said.

    Rosenthal also reports that the Nationals would like to trade former closer and current setup man Drew Storen. 

    --End of Update--

     

    Grant Balfour certainly showed no signs of being injured with the Oakland A's the past three years, making at least 62 appearances every season since 2011. He was all set to sign with the Orioles before a physical raised enough red flags for them to back out of the deal:

    #orioles wont complete deal with balfour. it's off

    — Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) December 20, 2013

    There are also conflicting reports about what halted the deal, as the Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly and ESPN's Buster Olney provided updates on the situation:

    Acrdng to sources, issue w Balfour concerns right shoulder. Had surgery for rotator cuff/labrum tear in Sept 2005. No shoulder probs since

    — Dan Connolly (@danconnollysun) December 20, 2013

    Source: The red flags that came up about Grant Balfour's physical state were about his wrist and knee, and not about his shoulder.

    — Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 13, 2014

    Kevin Kernan of the New York Post reported in late December that the Yankees had interest in Balfour to pitch in the back of their bullpen, though David Robertson is going to be given "the shot to earn the closer’s role."

    Jim Bowden of ESPN reported that the Tampa Bay Rays, who Balfour pitched for from 2008-10, were also showing interest in a reunion:

    Rays are in on Balfour according sources

    — JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) December 21, 2013

    Balfour would be the ideal Tampa Bay signing because his price is likely to drop after the Baltimore situation—an upside after a strong three-year run with Oakland. 

     

    Analysis

    Teams have been more cautious with relief pitchers, especially closers, in recent years. Whenever there is even the slightest hint of a problem, the player becomes persona non grata. 

    Balfour has had injury problems in his career, but few relievers can say that they have thrown at least 55.1 innings in six consecutive seasons. Finding an arm to plug in to the back of a bullpen you know will be there every day is incredibly valuable. 

    I would be shocked if Balfour didn't have a job before spring training. 

No. 15 Delmon Young, OF

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Age: 28

    2013 Stats (w/ Philadelphia and Tampa Bay): 103 G, .260/.307/.407, 87 H, 16 2B, 11 HR, 38 RBI, 20 BB, 78 K

    Signed with Orioles on January 13th per Eduardo A. Encina, Baltimore Sun

     

    Latest News/Rumors

    Update: January 13th at 7:20 p.m. ET

    The Orioles have reportedly signed Delmon Young to a minor league contract that includes a spring training invite, according to Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun.

    Young would provide outfield depth for the Orioles, which is something they have needed recently with Nick Markakis battling injuries and poor performance. It's a low-risk investment for the team, so why not take a shot?

    --End of update--

    We are really picking at the bottom of the barrel with Delmon Young, but that's where things are when you get to this stage of free agency. 

    There are a couple of important notes to keep in mind about Young. First, the Miami Marlins have been in contact with the 28-year-old about possibly playing first base:

    noted by @Ken_Rosenthal Delmon Young is working out at first base. The #Marlins have inquired about that option. #WinterMeetings

    — Joe Frisaro (@JoeFrisaro) December 10, 2013

    Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported on January 12th that Young was still on Miami's radar.:

    The Marlins are confident Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna (who played well in winter ball) will capably handle starting spots alongside Giancarlo Stanton, but they are exploring adding another outfielder for depth and other reasons and are looking at several options, including Delmon Young, 28, who hit .260 with 11 homers and 38 RBI for Philadelphia and Tampa Bay last season.

    Second, and more important, is that Young appears to be getting himself into peak physical condition in anticipation of the 2014 season:

    Delmon Young working out at 1B with the goal of increasing his versatility for interested clubs. He is 100 percent healthy and weighs 219.

    — Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 8, 2013

    He did prove to be a solid addition down the stretch for Tampa Bay last year, hitting .258/.329/.452 in 62 at-bats. If he wants to be an everyday player, odds are good he won't find a job. 

     

    Analysis

    The fact that Young is getting in shape is huge. He's built like a truck, but that has prevented him from being able to do anything on defense or basepaths. I don't think this transformation will make him a great player, but maybe there's more in the tank than we thought. 

    Going to Miami wouldn't be the worst idea in the world. Young could play in a low-pressure environment and, with a few strong months, could get dealt to a contender in need of a bat unable to pay for a big-time hitter. 

     

    If you want to talk baseball, hit me up on Twitter. 

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