MLB Trade Rumors: Analyzing All the Latest Whispers, News and Speculation
The first month of the 2014 season is in the books, leaving baseball fans to opine about their respective teams. In a league of parity, few franchises outside of Houston and Arizona look buried this early in the season. Thus, the opportunity to upgrade on a daily basis is a task for every general manager.
Throughout the long, grinding 162-game campaign, rumors and speculation swirl on a daily basis. From trade talks to team employees leaking inside information to beat reporters, baseball's season specializes in turning the mundane into water-cooler talk.
As May begins, rumors are swirling. While we're likely still a month away from season-changing trades, contributors are available through free agency, respective farm systems and even the future international market.
Here's a rundown of everything you need to know about the latest big rumors around the sport.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and Fangraphs, unless otherwise noted. All contract figures courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts. Roster projections via MLB Depth Charts. Stats valid entering play April 30, 2014.
Joel Hanrahan Isn't Ready to Contribute
Despite the time and effort major league executives put into repairing bullpens on a yearly basis, poor relief performances derail seasons on a yearly basis. Heading into May, teams like Philadelphia, Detroit, Cincinnati, Texas and the Los Angeles Angels all have relief corps with ERA marks over 4.00, per ESPN.
With the average bullpen posting a 3.72 ERA, those teams are facing a problem as the season progresses into its second month. Luckily, help is on the horizon for a contender willing to spend money on a potential impact arm in Joel Hanrahan.
Unfortunately, that help isn't ready to help immediately. Even if Hanrahan signs this week, he won't be ready to roll in a high-leverage situation for "about a month," according to an evaluator that spoke to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News.
The former Pirates and Red Sox closer has drawn interest from teams, but the true impact likely won't emanate from his arm until around June, regardless of where he signs.
Scott Baker Drawing Interest
Despite flying under the radar in Minnesota, right-hander starter Scott Baker had a five-year run of excellence from 2007-2011 that rivaled many of the best pitchers in baseball. Across that half decade, Baker's 3.86 FIP (fielding independent pitching) and 3.48 strikeout-to-walk ratio was matched or exceeded by just nine starters with at least 800 innings pitched, per Baseball-Reference (subscription required).
Those nine names: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Zack Greinke, CC Sabathia, Dan Haren, Josh Beckett, Cole Hamels, Javier Vazquez and James Shields.
After pitching well for the Triple-A affiliate of the Rangers, Baker has an opt-out clause that can be used Thursday if the Rangers don't summon him to Texas, per Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish. As Cotillo notes in his tweet, teams are interested in the 32-year-old.
While injuries have halted a trajectory that had Baker poised for fame, a difference-making starter could be about to hit the open market.
Red Sox Haven't Re-Engaged Stephen Drew in Contract Talks
Until Stephen Drew signs with a major league team, his connection to the Boston Red Sox will keep alive hope that the World Series champion could return to his 2013 home. According to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, that's not likely to happen anytime soon.
In fact, as Bradford notes, the Red Sox haven't re-engaged Drew in any contract negotiations since the 2014 season began. When thinking about the potential of a young, ascending left side of the infield in Boston that includes Will Middlebrooks and Xander Bogaerts, it's easy to understand why the Red Sox would be hesitant to reverse course.
Furthermore, Middlebrooks' disabled list stint and shaky defense from Bogaerts already opened the door for Drew consideration. In theory, the worst is over for early season struggles from Boston's young infield combination.
According to Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen, the team knew difficult times could occur early this season, per Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston.
“We knew that," Hazen said. "The coaching staff knew that. You’ve got to grind through that a little bit."
If the Red Sox didn't reach out to Drew during the grinding period, don't expect them to call as Middlebrooks returns to health and Bogaerts blazes a path toward AL Rookie of the Year consideration.
Gregory Polanco's Call-Up Is Complicated for Pirates
Through 26 games, Pittsburgh Pirates right fielders have posted an OPS of .568, per ESPN. Last year, the average right fielder across the major league posted an OPS of .759. Unless Travis Snider or Jose Tabata can suddenly turn into impact hitters, Pittsburgh needs an upgrade in its outfield.
Luckily for the defending NL Wild Card participants, there's an outstanding prospect waiting for the chance to take over right field at PNC Park. In Gregory Polanco, the Pirates have the missing piece in a dynamic outfield that already includes Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen.
The only problem: figuring out when to promote him.
As Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review chronicled, the small-market Pirates must take into account performance, payroll and future arbitration figures while balancing the need to compete for a postseason berth again this summer.
While patience is a virtue, the Pirates cannot wait much longer to promote a potential impact player that's wasting away in the International League. Through 105 plate appearances, Polanco owns a 1.089 OPS and 25 RBI in Triple-A.
If Pittsburgh waits until the Super 2 cutoff in June, valuable victories could evaporate and cost the team when the postseason races heat up in August and September.
'David Wright of Korea' Looking to Crash MLB in 2015
The David Wright of America signed an eight-year, $138 million deal prior to the 2013 season. By doing so, one of baseball's best all-around players and third basemen was removed from the free-agent market for the foreseeable future.
According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, another version of David Wright could be entering the fold this coming offseason. Jeong Choi, a Korean third baseman, could be headed to Major League Baseball prior to the 2015 season. The five-tool player seems eager to make the jump, according to his agent.
"He has a strong desire to come and play in the major leagues," agent Melvin Roman said, per Heyman's report.
If Choi enters next winter's free-agent class, he'll join Pablo Sandoval and Chase Headley as potential boom-or-bust third basemen. With Choi currently playing at the age of 27, all three will hit the open market as 30-or-under third baseman with the potential for stardom.
With Sandoval and Headley, inconsistency will be the question mark. With Choi, it will be the unknown.
Which early season rumor are you most interested in?