Every season, the MLB Winter Meetings give rise to dozens of fascinating rumors about blockbuster trades or surprising free-agent signings. Some come to fruition, but the majority of them leave us wondering who on earth ever thought such a thing would actually happen.
Trade rumors sometimes spring fully formed from the heads of sportswriters. At other times, teams make cursory inquiries on players they have no real intention of acquiring, and writers misunderstand.
One way or another, though, we always hear a fair number of crazy rumors during the week-long swap meet. Read on for the 10 most outrageous rumored moves of the Winter Meetings.
The fact that this rumor was true does not make it any less ludicrous. Werth is a great player, the only elite on-base threat on the free-agent market who also defends his position well. He deserved a mega-deal, perhaps even $100 million or more.
At $18 million per season for seven years though, the value evaporates pretty fast. Werth will be good for the Nats, but he is not the difference between the team competing or not in any foreseeable season, and the investment is prohibitive for Mike Rizzo and company as they look for pitching help.
From the Rangers' perspective, the trade that they reportedly discussed with the Cubs on Monday makes fine sense. They need not guard their relief surplus too closely, so moving Darren O'Day would have been logical enough.
With Mitch Moreland at first base, they also had no need for first baseman Chris Davis and would have loved to unload him on Chicago for a presumably smart return.
For the Cubs, though, the deal would have been a mess. Sure, they need relief help, but they can get it in a dozen different places on the free-agent market this winter without surrendering what would presumably have been at least one good young player.
At first base, the Cubs got a big upgrade on the potential acquisition of Davis on Tuesday by signing Carlos Pena, putting a merciful end to this rumor. The Cubs-to-Rangers half of the deal never even reached circulation, but unless it was virtually nothing, the Cubs dodged a bullet by not pulling the trigger on this deal.
This rumor was foolish on multiple fronts:
1. Benoit, who signed with the Tigers for three years and $16.5 million earlier this offseason, should never have gotten nearly that much. To expect another team to repeat Detroit's mistake, or even outstrip it, is insane.
2. The agent for Guerrier rushed to the press as soon as the rumor leaked, insisting that the reports were off-base. Guerrier has a bit more self-awareness than that, and will not pursue a three-year deal unless it presents itself.
3. Crain apparently is holding out for that much, which demonstrates a degree of delusion that narrowly seems possible. His demands are scaring off many of his early suitors, and he might find himself sitting on the market lacking leverage very soon.
As it turns out, it wasn't all that crazy to think that the Phillies would find the money to pursue a top-flight starting pitcher. All things considered though, Greinke was never a fit.
The Royals would probably have wanted more than Philadelphia could reasonably have offered in order to give up Greinke, on whom the price tag seemingly remains prohibitive for most teams.
Greinke was also a part of the floating, rather nebulous rumors that followed the Marlins all week.
First, it was reported that they would act as facilitators of a Rangers-Rockies swap involving Michael Young. Then other sources said that the Marlins had been intimately involved in three-way trade negotiations, but that neither Texas nor Colorado had been involved.
Finally, it came out that Marlins had at least discussed acquiring Greinke from Kansas City. Somewhere in this web of lies was the premise that the team is looking to deal at least one of their two strong arbitration-eligible pitchers, Ricky Nolasco and Leo Nunez.
How it would all work is hard to say, though Nolasco doesn't seem such a bad fit for Kansas City himself if the Royals can get further in contract talks than the Fish have. It was all very confusing, and absolutely nothing came of it.
Still, Nolasco and Nunez may be on the trading block.
Three teams (Washington, Chicago and Milwaukee) reportedly checked in on Loney, and the early prevailing wisdom was that he would get dealt.
Ultimately though, it should have been clear from the start that this trade was a non sequitur: The Dodgers don't have the money to replace Loney at first base on the open market, so unless the Brewers were looking at a straight-up Loney-for-Prince-Fielder trade, there was never much chance of Loney leaving California.
Rumors early in the week had the Rangers getting heavily involved with free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre, and looking to trade Michael Young to the Rockies to pave the way. Young's big albatross of a contract, which still has three years and $48 million left on it, probably stopped this deal before it got started.
Young has now been told he will not be traded, which is for the best. Texas can still pursue Beltre. Young isn't much of a fielder anyway, but he did hit .284/.330/.444 with 21 home runs last season. He would actually be more valuable as a DH.
Trading him to the NL would have made no sense.
When the Diamondbacks let it be known that they would listen to trade offers for Upton, perhaps even shop him, the whole league balked. Interested teams quickly found the price much, much higher than they had ever expected. Media types grew tired of digging for Upton rumors when so many would-be suitors so obviously wrote off acquiring Upton so quickly.
Kevin Towers just smiled.
This rumor was, in retrospect, almost certainly a purely fabricated ploy by Towers. Upton signed a six-year contract before 2010, then watched his OPS sink by 100 points from his breakout 2009 year. Towers had no intention of trading a player in whom his organization had just invested so deeply, and so he set the price outrageously high.
His only purpose in even starting the rumor mill was to get to Upton where he lives, and we will not know until the season starts whether it worked. Still, the rumor itself was a laughably short-lived circus.
This move made less than no sense. Boston reportedly began sniffing around the Mets camp to see what it would take to pry away Carlos Beltran on Tuesday, before signing Carl Crawford instead. The Crawford acquisition was inspired, but the mere idea of a Red Sox-Mets swap is tough to figure.
Presumably any deal for Beltran would have to involve either young talent going to the Mets, or a salary dump for New York. Yet the Red Sox clearly intended even early in the week to spend more money in free agency, so there was no reason for them to do that deal in either sense.
Beltran would hardly have represented a substantial enough upgrade over Mike Cameron to make the deal worth the team's time. Obviously, when the Red Sox swept in and inked Crawford, the Beltran rumors disappeared overnight.
This is one example of the reporters and the anonymous sources getting it right, but that does not lessen the ridiculousness of the week-long pursuit of Lee. The "mystery team(s)" came and went half a dozen times during the week, with no one ever really identifying the Phillies as an interested party.
The buzz of anticipation and insubstantial speculation around the best available free agent is always fascinating, but in Lee's case, it took on a surreal sense of uncertainty even as tidbits of meaningless information kept pouring in.
By the end of the process, Lee had made a noble and well-respected decision and handled himself with grace—yet the courtship and the hoopla surrounding the lead-up to his signing have to draw comparisons to that of LeBron James.