Fact or Fiction on All of MLB's Hottest Free-Agency, Trade Rumors
After an extremely busy start to the offseason, things had slowed significantly over the past few weeks as the free-agent starting pitchers waited for the Masahiro Tanaka situation to conclude and the remaining free-agent hitters held firm on their high asking prices.
But now that Tanaka has signed, expect an exciting finish to the offseason as the remaining free agents come off the board and, whether one happens or not, the possibility of another big trade or two looming.
Here are some of the latest rumors from around the league and whether I believe they are closer to fact or fiction.
David Price Will Take the Mound for the Rays on Opening Day
The David Price (pictured) trade talk has never really heated up to the point that was expected this offseason. In fact, Buster Olney of ESPN is hearing (Insider subscription required) from rival executives that the perception is that the 28-year-old ace will stay put and take the mound for the Tampa Bay Rays on Opening Day.
While there's always a chance that the Rays will be blown away with an offer between now and the start of the season, it would be hard to envision a scenario where they can trade Price now and still put together a strong enough 25-man roster to compete in the AL East.
That doesn't mean they couldn't get a fair offer. But a trade package would likely include young and unproven talent. They were able to trade away James Shields for a package of young talent last offseason, but that was much less risky with Price still in the fold. They don't have that luxury this time around.
After making several moves to solidify their bullpen, along with the re-signing of David DeJesus and James Loney, the Rays are in good shape to build on their 92-win season from 2013 in which they went to the playoffs for the fourth time in six seasons.
If the plan was to trade away their best pitcher, it would've made more sense for them to do it early in the offseason so they'd have a better chance to re-invest the savings—Price will make $14 million in 2014 and is eligible for arbitration prior to the 2015 season—into helping to fill the void. It's probably too late for that now.
This notion that the Rays will hold on to Price is FACT.
Ervin Santana Won't Do Better Than a 4-Year, $60M Deal
If the Milwaukee Brewers can finalize the four-year, $52 million deal with Matt Garza that was agreed upon yesterday—there is a holdup in the deal that is not due to medical concerns, according to Adam McCalvy of MLB.com—the list of Ervin Santana (pictured) suitors could grow.
The Arizona Diamondbacks, Los Angeles Angels and Minnesota Twins were three teams that were heavily connected to Garza in rumors and not so much with Santana, if at all. If those teams shift their focus and make Santana a priority, then a bidding war could push his current asking price, which was reported by Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports to be in the four years and $60 million range, much higher.
And even then, it's not likely to come close what he was seeking early in the offseason when Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that Santana was hoping for a $100 million guarantee. But with options dwindling, I'm guessing that Santana's representatives will be able to get an extra year and an extra $1 million per season.
That would put the offer at five years and $80 million for Santana's age 31-35 seasons, which could be a bargain if he continues to pitch as he did in 2013, a year where he posted a 3.24 ERA with a 72 percent quality start rate.
Santana having to settle for four years and $60 million is FICTION.
The Mets Won't Offer Stephen Drew More Than a 1-Year Deal
The New York Mets appeared to be the most logical fit for free agent Stephen Drew (pictured) once the St. Louis Cardinals filled their void at shortstop by signing Jhonny Peralta earlier in the offseason. But Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reported a few weeks back that the team wasn't willing to give the 30-year-old more than a one-year deal.
Even if the Mets can wait for Drew's asking price to drop and they can potentially land him on a team-friendly one-year deal, it wouldn't seem to make a lot of sense from either side's perspective.
The Mets, even if they feel otherwise, aren't in a strong position to contend for a playoff spot while playing in the same division as the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals and without ace Matt Harvey, who is likely to miss the season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Signing Drew to a one-year deal and trading him to a contender later in the season if they aren't in playoff contention isn't a bad idea. But why would Drew sign a one-year deal with the Mets when he could very likely sign a one-year, team-friendly deal with the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees?
In reality, it's a multi-year deal or nothing at all between Drew and the Mets, which makes the Mets' one-year "take it or leave it" stand FICTION.
The Orioles Are Working Towards a Deal with Fernando Rodney
After trading away closer Jim Johnson, the Baltimore Orioles moved quickly to find a replacement. Grant Balfour agreed to a two-year, $15 million deal two weeks later but the deal fell apart due to medical concerns. The search would continue. Or would it?
More than a month later, the O's still haven't acquired a closer. Jonah Keri of Grantland.com reported yesterday, however, that they were "making progress" on a deal for Fernando Rodney (pictured), who would be the team's last chance to fill the void via free agency.
Tommy Hunter, who posted a 2.81 ERA with a 1.5 BB/9, 7.1 K/9 and four saves last season, would appear to be a solid backup plan to Rodney as the team's closer for 2014. Not bringing in another late-inning reliever, though, could affect the overall depth of the bullpen and hurt the team's chances of competing in a tough AL East.
Keeping Hunter in a setup role and bringing in Rodney to handle ninth-inning duties makes a lot of sense for this O's team, which is why the report of the two sides moving towards a deal has to be FACT.
The Orioles Won't Sign Nelson Cruz or Kendrys Morales
Signing Delmon Young to a minor league deal wouldn't appear to be a big move, yet Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe and Rich Dubroff of CSN Baltimore each believe it likely indicates that the team would not pursue free agents Nelson Cruz (pictured) or Kendrys Morales, respectively.
While Young is capable of filling the role of the right-handed hitting platoon at the designated hitter spot—he has a career .812 OPS versus left-handed pitching—Cruz or Morales could be impact middle-of-the-order hitters in the everyday lineup in 2014.
The asking price for both players should drop eventually and the O's are smart to wait it out and at least make it seem as though they're not interested. They'd also have to surrender a draft choice to sign either so paying a high salary in addition to that isn't preferred for any team.
If the rumor was worded as "The Orioles won't sign Nelson Cruz or Kendrys Morales at the current asking price," it would almost certainly be a fact. But don't think they won't jump on the chance to sign either hitter if the price drops into the $5-8 million per season range. This one is FICTION.
The Yankees Are at Their Spending Limit
In addition to the $20 million posting fee it cost them to negotiate, the New York Yankees just gave a seven-year, $155 million contract to Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka (pictured). Since the move pushed their 2014 payroll over the $200 million mark, it probably shouldn't be a huge surprise if they were done spending, which is what sources are telling Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.
But this particular Yankees team still has holes to fill on their roster and passing on Stephen Drew, who could help at shortstop, second base or third base, and Fernando Rodney, who could help fill a late-inning role in what appears to be a very thin bullpen, could result in one ridiculously expensive fourth or fifth-place team.
After investing so much money into star-caliber players who can help in 2014, it would be a mistake to stop before the overhaul was complete. And it would be a shame if they weren't very good because the infield wasn't healthy enough or because the bullpen couldn't hold leads.
The money it would cost to upgrade these team weaknesses doesn't compare to how the team will be affected financially from their first losing season since 1995.
The Yankees aren't done spending. This one is FICTION.