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MLB Free Agents 2012: Top 30 Offseason Rumors

Doug MeadCorrespondent IOctober 24, 2011

MLB Free Agents 2012: Top 30 Offseason Rumors

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    In just about every facet of life, rumors can be downright insidious. They start off as someone innocently passing along a piece of information that they “heard” about, and within the blink of an eye, that rumor has gone viral.

    Dictionary.com defines the word rumor as, “a story or statement in general circulation without confirmation or certainty as to facts.”

    How often have you heard someone say, “I heard that so-and-so is having a baby!” Usually, the first question out of our mouth is, “Where did you hear that?”

    The same certainly holds true in the world of Major League Baseball.

    MLBTradeRumors.com has rocketed to the top of the charts simply by aggregating all the rumors spreading through baseball, and from every source imaginable.

    The biggest times of the year for rumors occur in the weeks leading up to the MLB trade deadline and in the weeks following the end of the World Series.

    This is when players become free agents and teams are looking to improve for the following year.

    Since the World Series will conclude this week, the start of November will start the second season, when GMs get to work in setting up their rosters for 2012 and beyond.

    And so, just by the nature of these deals, for every potential deal there will most likely be 100 rumors in tow.

    We at Bleacher Report will take a look at some of the biggest rumors floating out there and whether those rumors turn out to be fact or fiction.

    There are no doubt many more rumors floating out there right now, and we will focus on those that have been discussed most recently.

    Let’s take a look…

Chicago White Sox May Trade Carlos Quentin To Philadelphia Phillies

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    This rumored deal has an iffy chance of reality.

    According to the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago White Sox will likely explore options to trade right fielder Carlos Quentin, who is arbitration-eligible for one more year.

    One of the top candidates could be the Philadelphia Phillies.

     

    Fact or Fiction?

    This deal is likely fiction. The Phillies loved the production they received from Hunter Pence over the last two months of the regular season and will likely try to secure Pence to a long-term deal.

    There are quite a few teams who could use a power hitting outfielder, such as the Braves, Rockies, A’s, Twins and Orioles.

    In addition, the White Sox want to find a permanent home for power-hitting prospect Dayan Viciedo, and right field is the best option.

     

Carlos Zambrano May Join Manager Ozzie Guillen With Florida Marlins

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    Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano's season ended in August after he walked out on his team. He was ejected for intentionally trying to hit Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones.

    Zambrano was placed on the disqualified list in mid-August and didn't pitch again.

    The Cubs would love to unload Zambrano, and according to Ignacio Serrano of El Nacional (Spanish link), Zambrano spoke to Florida Marlins manager Carlos Guillen about the possibility of joining him in Miami.

     

    Fact or Fiction?

    Well, it’s fiction, but only for now. Zambrano has one more year on his contract, which calls for $18 million, and the Cubs would likely have to foot most of that if the Marlins were willing to take on Zambrano and his “feisty” personality.

    In addition, Buster Olney of ESPN is reporting that the Marlins would be hesitant to bring on Zambrano, more because they believe his pitching has regressed.

Tampa Bay Rays May Trade James Shields To Florida Marlins For Logan Morrison

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    For at least part of the summer, Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher James Shields was the subject of trade rumors.

    Shields had a bounce-back year in 2011, throwing 11 complete games while compiling a 16-12 record and 2.82 ERA.

    ESPN’s Buster Olney is reporting the Florida Marlins are strongly considering pursuing Shields and that they would offer up outfielder Logan Morrison in exchange.

     

    Fact or Fiction?

    It’s probably fiction. Olney notes that Rays GM Andrew Friedman would be unlikely to part with Shields because of his wish to maintain the team’s pitching depth, which is among the strongest in all of baseball.

David Ortiz Will Sign With the New York Yankees

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    This particular rumor was actually started by none other than David Ortiz himself.

    While discussing the problems in the Red Sox clubhouse that had been exposed in an in-depth article by the Boston Globe, Ortiz told Colleen Dominguez of ESPN New York that he respected the Yankees organization.

    "It's great from what I hear," Ortiz said of the Yankees. "It's a good situation to be involved in. Who doesn't want to be involved in a great situation where everything goes the right way?”

     

    Fact or Fiction?

    It’s fiction. Ortiz was clearly speaking out of frustration.

    In comments made after Ortiz won the Roberto Clemente Award, he stated his preference would be to stay with the Red Sox.

CC Sabathia May Be Pursued By the Texas Rangers

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    It is widely believed New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia will opt out of the remaining four years of his contract, worth $92 million.

    While Sabathia himself has yet to confirm his plans, the Yankees are expected to work hard on retaining Sabathia, should he exercise his option.

    Rumors have recently been floating around about the Texas Rangers and the fact they will heavily pursue Sabathia, should he decide to opt out of his deal.

     

    Fact or Fiction?

    This is fiction. Rangers GM Jon Daniels essentially rolled his eyes when asked about the possibility.

    "Unless you are able to develop your own, it's not sustainable," Daniels told George King of the New York Post. "In our position we can't pay free agent dollars for everybody, we need to be able to develop our own players, particularly pitching."

    The Rangers will attempt to sign their own free agent, C.J. Wilson, before addressing any other needs.

Joey Votto May Be Traded By the Cincinnati Reds

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    Even during the 2011 regular season, there was much speculation about whether or not the Cincinnati Reds would entertain trade offers for first baseman and former NL MVP Joey Votto.

    Sports Illustrated’s Jon Heyman indicated on Twitter that the Toronto Blue Jays would be interested, as well as several other teams.

    However, Reds GM Walt Jocketty shot down any notion of the Reds trading Votto, saying, “We haven’t talked about it. I wish that people would stop writing it. Why would we trade one of the best players in the game? We’re trying to win.”

     

    Fact or Fiction?

    Fiction, at least for now.

    Jocketty would be crazy to deal Votto before knowing what the going price will be for Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder in free agency.

    Only then will he have an idea of what the market will bear for Votto when he is eligible for free agency after the 2013 season.

Colorado Rockies May Pursue Mets Third Baseman David Wright

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    The Colorado Rockies have had a gaping hole at third base for several years now, and the 2011 combination of Ty Wigginton, Jose Lopez and Ian Stewart was woefully inadequate.

    According to several reports, including from Troy Renck of the Denver Post, the Rockies will actively pursue acquiring New York Mets third baseman David Wright.

     

    Fact or Fiction?

    This is fact. The Rockies have options in Jordan Pacheco and Chris Nelson, but Wright would add offense at the hot corner that they haven’t had since the days of Vinny Castilla.

    Mets GM Sandy Alderson will likely listen to any deal if he feels it can make sense for the future of the franchise.

New York Yankees Will Replace Nick Swisher With Carlos Beltran in Right Field

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    When the New York Yankees were eliminated in the ALDS by the Detroit Tigers, right fielder Nick Swisher was lambasted in the local press and criticized as one of the players responsible for the loss.

    Swisher hit .260 with 23 HRs and 85 RBIs during the regular season. However, in the ALDS, Swisher hit just .211 with one RBI.

    Swisher has an option year that the Yankees can exercise for the 2012 season, but there have been persistent rumors the Yankees will not pick up his option.

    They may instead go hard after free agent Carlos Beltran.

     

    Fact or Fiction?

    This actually has a good chance of being fact. Beltran is a postseason stud, hitting .366 during his career, although he has not appeared in the postseason since 2006.

    Beltran is coming off a year in which he was finally healthy after three seasons, posting a .300 average with 22 HRs and 84 RBIs.

Andre Ethier Will Be Traded By the Los Angeles Dodgers

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    When Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier started the season with a 30-game hitting streak, it was assumed the season would be filled with greatness for the 29-year-old.

    However, Ethier ended up hitting .291 with just 11 HRs and 62 RBIs, numbers not seen since his rookie year of 2006.

    There have been rumors swirling about Ethier’s status with the Dodgers, with many believing he will be traded.

    Ethier made $9.25 million in 2001 and is entering his final arbitration, so a raise is most likely in order one year before he hits free agency.

     

    Fact or Fiction?

    This is likely fiction. While Dodgers GM Ned Colletti will listen to any reasonable offers concerning members of his team, he has repeatedly said Ethier remains an integral part of the Dodgers’ offense.

    "I think we need him," Colletti said. "He is a middle-of-the-order, left-handed-hitting outfielder who has power and is a good hitter.

    "He is very hard on himself, and he is about as close to a perfectionist as we have, and we all know that is impossible for all of us. In the first half, our offense was kind of pivoted toward two players, and that was probably unfair to them to some extent."

    Ethier missed the last three weeks of the season after having arthroscopic surgery on his knee, which certainly didn’t help his power production during the second half of the season.

Philadelphia Phillies Will Pursue Chicago Cubs Third Baseman Aramis Ramirez

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    With the Chicago Cubs likely to decline the option year on the contract of third baseman Aramis Ramirez in order to free up payroll, the Philadelphia Phillies have been rumored to be one of the teams who will pursue the 34-year-old slugger.

     

    Fact or Fiction?

    This would appear to be fact, especially after Phillies manager Charlie Manuel went on record as saying the team needs an upgrade at the hot corner.

    "If we need to upgrade and we can, we should do it," Manuel said.

    Incumbent third baseman Placido Polanco has struggled to stay on the field consistently over the last two seasons, and while he is guaranteed $6.25 million next year, that shouldn’t stop the Phillies from their pursuit of Ramirez.

New York Yankees Will Part With Jesus Montero For Starting Pitching

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    New York Yankees catching prospect Jesus Montero has long been rumored as a valuable trade chip for the Bronx Bombers.

    Despite the fact he is one of the highest rated prospects in baseball.

    Three weeks ago, New York Daily News reporter John Harper threw out the rumor that Montero could be used as trade bait this offseason in order for the Yankees to upgrade their rotation.

     

    Fact or Fiction?

    This could definitely be fact. Montero was nearly traded by Yankees GM Brian Cashman in a deal with the Seattle Mariners that would have netted Cliff Lee.

    That deal fell through.

    But it’s clear Cashman will use Montero as a chip if he can land a starter of Lee’s caliber in the future.

Japanese Prized Pitcher Yu Darvish Will Sign With the Texas Rangers

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    Since MLB began their Asian invasion in the mid-1990s, it has been hit or miss as to whether or not players from Japan can succeed.

    For every Ichiro Suzuki, there is also a Kei Igawa.

    The latest craze to possibly hit the open market, 25-year-old pitcher Yu Darvish, has posted five straight seasons in Japan with an ERA under 2.00 and interest in him is expected to be high.

    Many executives in baseball believe the Texas Rangers will win the bidding rights to Darvish, and New York Post reporter Joel Sherman tweeted the Rangers as possibly leading the pack.

     

    Fact or Fiction?

    This could also be fact. It’s going to cost upwards of $100 million to sign Darvish between the posting fee and the contract.

    The Rangers are one of the few teams in position, financially, to deal with that kind of a blow. Darvish would give the Rangers a formidable rotation, if his pitching actually translates to the American major league level.

Cleveland Indians Decline Option Year of Contract For Grady Sizemore

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    Cleveland Indians center fielder Grady Sizemore has only played in a total of 104 games over the last two seasons due to several knee issues.

    Sizemore’s contract calls for a 2012 option year for $9 million, and several rumors have circulated about the Indians declining the option and paying the $500K buyout.

     

    Fact or Fiction?

    This will probably be fact. Sizemore underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Oct. 3 and is expected to take six to eight weeks to recover.

    Unfortunately, Indians GM Chris Antonetti can’t wait that long, as he has to make the decision on Sizemore’s option within three days of the end of the World Series.

    Antonetti has major decisions to make regarding Sizemore’s $9 million option and Fausto Carmona’s $7 million option.

    $16 million would be a nice piece of cash with which to make some upgrades.

MLB Will Announce a Collective Bargaining Agreement Soon

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    Unlike the NBA and NFL that have seen protracted negotiations lead to lockouts, the MLB and MLBPA have had very congenial and meaningful discussions with regard to a new collective bargaining agreement.

    The MLB will not wait until the end of the current CBA to expire before making an announcement.

     

    Fact or Fiction?

    This is definitely a fact. As a matter of fact, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports tweeted that commissioner Bud Selig could possibly announce an agreement before the end of the World Series.

San Francisco Giants Will Sign Grady Sizemore

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    If the Cleveland Indians decide to pick up the 2012 option for center fielder Grady Sizemore, the San Francisco Giants could very well take a chance and sign the oft-injured player.

    John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote about that very possibility Sunday.

     

    Fact or Fiction?

    This could very well be fact. It’s no secret the Giants are desperate to add offense, and with no guarantees as to whether or not they sign Carlos Beltran, GM Brian Sabean will be shopping.

    Sizemore would likely be given an incentive-laden contract based on games played, considering he has only played 104 games in the last two seasons.

Boston Red Sox Will Bring John Farrell Back From Toronto To Manage

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    With the Boston Red Sox expected to name Ben Cherington as their next GM Tuesday, one of the first orders of business for Cherington will be to replace departed manager Terry Francona.

    Several sources in the industry have speculated that Cherington and the Sox could be targeting current Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell.

     

    Fact or Fiction?

    I believe this is fiction. According to Alex Speier of WEEI, the Red Sox will not be targeting current managers of other teams.

    In addition, the Sox will be looking for a personality that can stabilize the current atmosphere within the clubhouse.

Prince Fielder Will Re-Sign With the Milwaukee Brewers

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    Less than a week after the Milwaukee Brewers were knocked out of the playoffs by the St. Louis Cardinals, the Brewers are still waiting for emotions to subside before embarking on any plans to re-sign first baseman Prince Fielder.

    Brewers owner Mark Attanasio indicated to Milwaukee radio station ESPN 540 that he has every indication of trying to bring Fielder back.

    "We’d love to bring the big guy back. I try to put all my energy into this. I want to put some distance between this. Obviously, I take losing hard. I don’t want my emotions to swing one way or another. We expect he’s going to have a lot of people who want to bring him on. We’ll do what we can. We'll be in the game.

    "Away from that, I’m committed to winning. This is not the last time you’re going to see a Milwaukee Brewers team in the playoffs. We have a lot of great pieces here."

     

    Fact or Fiction?

    I believe this to be fiction. Maybe I’m wrong, but saying, “we’ll do what we can” and “we’ll be in the mix” doesn’t exactly exude confidence that Fielder will be returning.

Chicago White Sox Will Try To Shop Current Players on the Roster

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    Chicago White Sox GM Kenny Williams spent a lot of money in player acquisitions this past winter.

    He landed players such as Adam Dunn, who was absolutely horrible throughout the season. Outfielder Alex Rios, who also signed a multi-year deal, wasn’t much better himself.

    Rumors have been swirling about the possibility of Williams shopping several players in order to revamp a roster that finished a distant third in the AL Central.

     

    Fact or Fiction?

    This is indeed fact. Wiliams went on air on local radio station AM 1000 on Saturday to speak about his plans for the offseason.

    "Everyone I've heard speak on it is right,” Williams said. "We have talented people, and we did not achieve what we wanted to based on some of those talented people not performing. But we're in a position where we have to look at the future. So I will not be in shopping mode—I'll be listening to see what the interest is in some of our players. Quite frankly, I don't expect people to try to blow our doors down for some of our guys who had down years. Their value is going to be down a little bit.

    "So what we have to do is weigh whatever they're offering up against our chances are for the next season.”

    John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Carlos Quentin are expected to generate quite a bit of interest for other teams.

Philadelphia Phillies Will Sign Minnesota Twins Closer Joe Nathan

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    The Philadelphia Phillies have some interesting decisions to make regarding their bullpen. Their current closer, Ryan Madson, is a free agent, as is Brad Lidge.

    It’s widely expected Lidge will not be offered a contract, but Madson is a mystery at this point.

    The club indicated earlier this month they would likely look outside the organization for a closer if they don’t re-sign Madson, and Minnesota Twins closer Joe Nathan could be the man they’re looking at.

     

    Fact or Fiction?

    For me, it has to be fiction. I can’t imagine Joe Nathan is a better option at this point than Madson would be, and the Phillies had quite a bit of success with Antonio Bastardo when Madson was on the DL.

The Philadelphia Phillies Will Re-Sign Shortstop Jimmy Rollins

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    Shortstop Jimmy Rollins has spent his entire major league career with the Philadelphia Phillies, winning the NL MVP Award in 2007.

    While he is not the same player he was four years ago, Rollins is still one of the better shortstops in the National League.

    Rollins is now a free agent, and he has indicated he will not accept anything less than a five-year deal with the Phillies, making the decision to retain Rollins for GM Ruben Amaro Jr. a bit tougher.

     

    Fact or Fiction?

    This rumor is fact. Amaro Jr. would be ridden out of town on a rail if he fails to retain Rollins.

    Rollins may be forced to accept less than five years, but somehow the Phillies will work this out.

Beer Will Be Banned in All Major League Clubhouses

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    There are currently only 13 teams in Major League Baseball that allow beer in clubhouses.

    Including the Boston Red Sox, who were targeted immediately following their epic September collapse. Reports of several starting pitchers drinking beer in the clubhouse during games emerged.

    As a result, MLB will investigate the policy of allowing beer in the clubhouse and move to ban it.

     

    Fact or Fiction?

    This is fiction. MLB VP of operations Joe Torre will say all the right things regarding beer in the clubhouse, but it seriously sounds like the union would squawk over any such ban.

Chicago Cubs Pitcher Ryan Dempster Will Exercise Player Option For 2012

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    Chicago Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster has been with the team since 2004, first as a closer before moving back to the rotation in 2008.

    Dempster has a player option in his contract that he can exercise for $14 million for the 2012 season, and he has not indicated his plans yet.

    That could change Saturday.

    Dempster told ESPN 1000 in Chicago he was happy to hear that Theo Epstein had taken the job of president of baseball operations, and is looking forward to Epstein working to change the culture of the team.

    "You know what's funny is people sit there and you see the kind of money that it is and automatically you just assume that it's a no-brainer," Dempster said. "And to me, I never played the game for money. I never do. It's a great byproduct of what we do, but I play to go out there and try and win, and win as a team. I don't know what the direction of the team is with somebody (new) in charge. ... Do they want to go younger? Do they want to go older? Those are questions that obviously I gotta ask.

    "But I love playing in Chicago. I love being a Chicago Cub, and I want to be here for the rest of my career. I'm happy that Theo is going to be in charge now and really looking forward and excited and getting an opportunity talk with him. And hopefully it's not just picking up an option for this year, but I'll go out there and play the best I can and be here for a long time."

     

    Fact or Fiction?

    This is fact. Dempster would be crazy not to exercise the option, despite what he says. He would never get a deal anywhere near that on the open market.

Andrew Friedman Will Leave Tampa Bay Rays To Become LA Angels GM

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    When Los Angeles Angels GM Tony Reagins announced he was stepping down, immediately a laundry list of candidates was assembled.

    One of the names not on the original list was Tampa Bay Rays GM Andrew Friedman. He is now.

    Angels owner Arte Moreno and president John Carpino were seen hob-nobbing with Friedman in the Tampa area.

     

    Fact or Fiction?

    It is probably fiction, as Friedman has a great situation in Tampa with a great young core of players.

    However, it shows the Angels are ready to hand the GM job over to a man who will show more authority over personnel decisions than in the past (read Mike Scioscia).

Boston Red Sox Will Sign Carlos Beltran To Play Right Field

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    It certainly appears likely the J.D. Drew era is over in Boston, and the Red Sox will be in search of a right fielder.

    While Josh Reddick filled in capably over the last two months of the season, the Sox are looking for more power and production at that position.

    Rumors have been swirling about where free agent Carlos Beltran will end up, and many of them have him going to the Red Sox.

     

    Fact or Fiction?

    This is fiction. Incoming Red Sox GM Ben Cherington will no doubt explore the possibility of signing Beltran, but they will want a player that they can sign long-term.

    With Beltran's injury history, I don't believe the Red Sox are willing to take a chance on offering Beltran a four or five-year deal.

New York Mets Will Re-Sign Shortstop Jose Reyes

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    There has been much talk about where New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes will be playing in the 2012 and beyond.

    Reyes has spent his entire career in New York, and with the Mets' ongoing financial issues, it continues to be a hot topic of discussion.

     

    Fact or Fiction?

    This is fiction. Joel Sherman of the New York Post believes the two hamstring injuries Reyes endured in the second half of 2011 reinforced the Mets' belief that Reyes will continue to have health issues as his career continues.

John Lackey Will Be Traded By Boston Red Sox To the San Diego Padres

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    Boston Red Sox starting pitcher John Lackey's struggles were well documented throughout the season, with an ERA that never got below 6.00 for much of the season, personal issues and rumors about Lackey and other pitchers drinking beer and eating chicken wings in the Red Sox clubhouse during games.

    There is now a rumor circulating that the San Diego Padres have been considering bringing Lackey on board.

     

    Fact or Fiction?

    This could very well become a fact. Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported the Padres have had internal discussions about Lackey.

    Manager Bud Black worked with Lackey while he was pitching coach for the Los Angeles Angels, and Lackey would no doubt be comfortable working with him again.

    However, Lackey is owed over $45 million for the next three years, so for this deal to happen, the Red Sox would likely have to pay most of that.

Closer Heath Bell Will Re-Sign With the San Diego Padres

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    San Diego Padres closer Heath Bell has long said that he would like to remain in San Diego and is willing to accept a hometown discount in order for that to happen.

    The Padres would like nothing more than to accommodate that.

     

    Fact or Fiction?

    This is fact. The Padres have offered Bell a two-year deal with an option for a third year, but Bell has stated his desire for at least a three-year deal.

    When all is said and done, the Padres will work this out, and Bell will remain in San Diego.

Albert Pujols Will Sign With the Chicago Cubs

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    There is no doubt the discussion concerning where St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols will play in 2012 and beyond is the hottest topic in baseball right now.

    Pujols will likely set a new bar in terms of money, and FOX Sports correspondent Ken Rosenthal opined on that very fact in his Sunday column.

    The Chicago Cubs have long coveted Pujols, and with Theo Epstein now in place as president of baseball operations, one can only speculate as to whether or not Epstein feels the same way.

     

    Fact or Fiction?

    This is fiction. Cardinals GM John Mozeliak will in fact re-sign Pujols, most likely to a deal somewhere in the range of $225-250 million for nine years.

    Pujols has been the face of the Cardinals franchise for a decade, and if they are able to get past the Texas Rangers and win the World Series, Mozeliak would be vilified in St. Louis if Pujols got away.

Starting Pitcher Mark Buehrle Will Re-Sign With the Chicago White Sox

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    Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf absolutely loves loyalty, with coaches, players and anyone involved with him.

    Starting pitcher Mark Buerhle has been part of the White Sox organization for his entire career, and that loyalty will be tested with his pending free agency.

     

    Fact or Fiction?

    This is fiction. The White Sox will be looking to cut back back from their 2001 payroll of $127 million, and Beurhle will likely command a sizable chunk of money.

    Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman believes the White Sox will attempt to offer Buehrle a two-year deal, but that may not be enough.

    There are also reports the New York Yankees will be interested in going after Buehrle as well, and that would certainly raise the bar in terms of money.

San Francisco Giants Will Trade Matt Cain

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    The San Francisco Giants have put together a formula for pitching that is the envy of every other team in the majors.

    A great starting rotation along with a shutdown bullpen propelled the Giants to the World Series championship in 2010.

    Despite the lack of power and production in their batting order, they continue to be a force in the National League.

    However, after this past season's struggles at the plate, many are wondering what the Giants will do to upgrade their offense.

    There is possibility they would deal one of their elite pitchers in order to facilitate an offensive upgrade.

     

    Fact or Fiction?

    This is fiction. Starting pitcher Matt Cain is a mainstay in the Giants' rotation, and GM Brian Sabean has made it clear that he will not deal Cain to the New York Yankees, or anyone else at this point.

    Have GMs lied before? Of course, but Tim Lincecum and Cain should be untouchable at this point.

     

    Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle. Follow Doug on Twitter, @Sports_A_Holic.

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