Fact or Fiction on All of MLB's Hottest Free-Agency, Trade Rumors
The flurry of moves that many predicted was quick to follow Masahiro Tanaka's signing hasn't materialized as of yet, with the rumor mill eerily silent as it pertains to potential trades that could do down between now and Opening Day.
But the rumor mill has picked up steam when it comes to free agency, with the future homes for a number of high-profile players yet to be determined.
Here are some of the latest rumors from around the league and my take on whether they are closer to being fact or fiction.
*Unless otherwise noted, all statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.
Toronto Will Sign Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana
The Blue Jays have been looking for another starter since the offseason began, trying to bolster a rotation that had the second-highest ERA in baseball last year (4.81). As presently constructed, the Blue Jays don't have the arms to get back into contention in the AL East.
At the team's recent "State of the Franchise" event, general manager Alex Anthopoulos told Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith that he believed any of the four remaining "big-name" free agent arms would be a good fit: "Arroyo, Burnett, Santana, Jimenez. Those guys...can all be a significant improvement."
But is it realistic to think that the Blue Jays could—or would—sign two of them?
That's what ESPN's Jim Bowden says will happen in his latest insider-only post (subscription required), naming Toronto as the likely landing spot for Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana, not one or the other, as he had previously reported via Twitter.
The team has barely spent any money this winter, with its big expenditure being the two-year, $8 million deal that it handed catcher Dioner Navarro. Fitting both Jimenez and Santana into the team's budget shouldn't be a major issue.
That, coupled with the fact that both of Toronto's first-round draft picks this year are protected—meaning that they'd be losing second-and-third-round picks to sign the pair of starters—gives this rumor sturdy legs to stand on.
Suk-Min Yoon Is the Next Great Asian Starting Pitcher
Overshadowed by Masahiro Tanaka for much of the offseason, 27-year-old Korean pitcher Suk-Min Yoon is another international free agent that is drawing significant interest around the game, with "six-or-seven teams" still in pursuit of him, his agent, Scott Boras, recently told Fox Sports' Jon Morosi.
Baltimore is one of the teams that has made Yoon an offer, according to The Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly, while the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Drew Davison reports that the Texas Rangers are interested, though they had yet to extend an offer.
Back in October, Boras had this to say about his client to George A. King III from the New York Post: “He’s a 91 to 92 [mph] guy. He’s a good pitcher … not an overpowering arm," with King noting that Boras compared him to Kyle Lohse.
But there are legitimate concerns about the health of Yoon's shoulder and arm, as MLB Trade Rumors' Tim Dierkes wrote about at the beginning of the offseason:
Yoon dealt with a shoulder injury in 2013, about which not much is known publicly. Jee-ho Yoo of the Yonhap News Agency tells me the injury "seemed serious." Yoon made 11 starts with a 4.16 ERA, as well as 19 relief appearances with a 3.60 mark.
While Yoon may wind up being a solid, back-end starter, he could just as easily wind up pitching in middle-or-long relief.
He has the chance to be good, not great, and fans—and teams—need to set their expectations of him properly.
Kendrys Morales Is This Year's Version of Kyle Lohse
Despite a seventh-place finish in the 2012 NL Cy Young Award voting, Kyle Lohse had to wait until the week before Opening Day last year before he found a new home, signing a three-year, $33 million deal with the Milwaukee Brewers.
While plenty of big-name free agents remain unsigned, it's Kendrys Morales that folks have pegged as this year's version of Lohse, an impact player that won't sign until the offseason comes to an end—if he's lucky.
As one GM told ESPN's Buster Olney (subscription required), if Morales wants to earn more than the $14.1 million qualifying offer he turned down from Seattle, he will have to wait until after the June draft to get that deal, when teams wouldn't have to surrender a draft pick to sign him.
Even if Morales was willing to accept significantly less than $14.1 million, there have been no indications that any team has gotten to the point where they are ready to present him with an offer. Instead, they are focusing their attention on outfielder Nelson Cruz and the free-agent pitchers that are still available.
Despite being a fit for at least two National League clubs that could use help at first base—Milwaukee and Pittsburgh—as well as a better designated hitter option than some American League teams, like Baltimore, currently have in-house, Morales figures to be one of, if not the very last impact free agent to sign.
The Mets Will Make Another Big Splash Before Opening Day
After spending nearly $90 million to sign veteran starter Bartolo Colon and outfielders Curtis Granderson and Chris Young, rumors have continued to swirl around the New York Mets in regards to two more high-profile free agents: closer Fernando Rodney (pictured) and shortstop Stephen Drew.
The Mets have set aside money to sign a "closer type reliever," according to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York, with Kevin Gregg, Joel Hanrahan, Ryan Madson and Rodney on the team's short-list of targets.
But sources tell Newsday's Marc Carig that the Mets landing Rodney is "unlikely", which makes sense given the presence of current closer Bobby Parnell and flame-thrower Vic Black in the team's bullpen, along with its recent signing of Kyle Farnsworth.
As for Drew, who makes sense for the club given its need for a legitimate shortstop (Ruben Tejada isn't one, contrary to what some believe), GM Sandy Alderson continues to state that a deal between the veteran free agent and the Mets isn't going to happen, as he told MLB.com's Anthony DiComo:
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.
If the report from Andy Martino of the New York Daily News a few weeks ago is accurate, when he reported that the team wouldn't give Drew more than a one-year deal, you can kiss any chance of Drew landing in New York goodbye.
Without ace Matt Harvey, who will miss the entire 2014 season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, the Mets have little hope of contending for a playoff spot. Continuing to spend money this winter on big-name additions makes little sense, as the team is better off holding onto its cash until next winter.
Bronson Arroyo Won't Get More Than a Two-Year Deal
Few pitchers in baseball are as reliable as Bronson Arroyo has been over the past decade, with the veteran starter never spending a day on the disabled list and consistently providing his team with 200-plus innings of work a season.
He's been linked to nearly half of the teams in baseball at one point or another this winter, yet he remains available as a free agent—one that doesn't carry the additional weight of draft-pick compensation around his neck.
Frustration has begun to set in for the veteran right-hander, who vented to ESPN's Jayson Stark recently (subscription required):
...They forget about guys like me, who have done the job for the last eight or 10 years, and treat them like they've never done anything in this game. That's hard, man.
I don't know what to do. I'm not trying to break the bank. But I am a guy who's performed for the last 10 years as consistently as anybody in the game. And for some reason, nobody's thrown me an offer yet.
Back in November, 1500 ESPN's Darren Wolfson reported that Arroyo was looking for a three-year deal in the neighborhood of $27-$30 million, which definitely doesn't sound like a player that is asking for far more than he's actually worth, given Arroyo's extensive body of work.
Yet it's the number of years, and not the dollar amount, that seems to have turned teams off. While there's risk in signing a player through his age-40 season, there's a bigger risk involved for general managers whose teams need an innings-eater and decide to pass on Arroyo due to that third year.
They might not be around to atone for their mistake a year from now.
With a track record of success, a scarcity of better options available and his reasonable asking price, Arroyo will eventually find what he's looking for.
Seattle Will Sign Nelson Cruz
Major league sources told Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal that the Seattle Mariners were "back in business" on free-agent slugger Nelson Cruz, which makes sense given the team's glaring need for another formidable bat to pair with Robinson Cano in the middle of its lineup.
Cruz is far from an ideal fit for Seattle, given his shaky outfield defense, mediocre career numbers at Safeco Field and the plethora of designated hitters currently on the team's roster, namely Corey Hart and Logan Morrison.
But Cruz is the one available bat that can fill the void behind Cano in Seattle's lineup. After spending recklessly to bring Cano to the Emerald City, the Mariners can't afford to not spend once again to ensure that he has some protection in the lineup.
Earlier this week, I predicted that Seattle would sign Cruz to a three-year, $36 million deal. While the dollars may wind up going above the $40 million mark, the final deal won't be too far off from that prediction.