The MLB Winter Meetings are well under way and we've got storylines up the yang.
The artist formerly known as Florida is re-branding to the Miami Marlins—and Heath Bell and Jose Reyes are coming with them! Could Albert Pujols be next? How does 10 years, $250 million sound?
I would definitely take my talents to South Beach for that. There are some rumblings going on in other cities too.
The Dodgers continue to pay for mediocre talent, and the Yankees and Red Sox continue to do, well, nothing. And the Cubs finally figured out that Pujols would be a slight upgrade over Carlos Pena.
We're going to see all sorts of trades and signings over the next couple days. Here's our best guess at five trades and 10 signings that either could or should be made in Dallas.
This probably won't happen. But it should. I loved watching Rivera tear it up behind Matt Kemp for the last part of 2011, but Jerry Sands proved he's got the chops to handle the starting job. And all indications are that the Braves want a power-hitting left fielder in exchange for Prado.
The Dodgers' idea of an upgrade at second base was signing one of my favorite all-time players, Mark Ellis, to a two-year, $8.75 million contract. Too bad who I like and don't like doesn't mean diddly when improving a team. Apparently Ned Colletti values my fandom too much.
Ellis is worth about $8 million fewer than he will be getting paid at this point in his career. He plays slick defense but he is actually a worse bat than the guy he's replacing. Jamey Carroll went over to Minnesota and signed for about $2 million fewer.
Anyway, Prado would be an incredible upgrade for a Dodgers lineup badly in need of another solid hitter. Dee Gordon and Prado at the top of a lineup setting the table for Kemp, Sands and Andre Ethier would be pretty menacing.
This one actually has a chance. It's widely accepted that Billy Beane doesn't value the closer position, and therefore it's widely accepted that All-Star Andrew Bailey is on the market. With Francisco Cordero out in Cincy, they need to make a run at a player like Bailey.
Another thing we know is the Reds have a ridiculously powerful lineup. There isn't even room for uber-prospect Yonder Alonso, who's blocked by Joey Votto at first and by his own stone hands in the outfield.
The A's have plenty of closer options already in their bullpen (see: Joey Devine, Grant Balfour, etc.), so losing Bailey wouldn't be a huge blow. They could definitely use some pop though, especially if Josh Willingham signs elsewhere. And he will.
This trade would definitely play to each team's strengths. The Reds really need to bolster their entire pitching staff, and the A's couldn't hit the broad side of a baseball last year. Plus, the cost-effective A's will like how cheap Alonso comes.
Rumor has it that this deal has already been at least discussed.
Would the Royals really move their best outfielder for Jurrjens? I don't know. They could, and still be better off for it though.
Gordon had a ridiculous year in 2011, hitting over .300, leading the team in home runs and bringing in a Gold Glove because of 20 assists in the outfield.
I couldn't resist this possibility though, because a lineup that still boasts Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, Jeff Franceour, Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar is young and talented. Add that to a decent rotation that just added Jonathan Sanchez, and the Royals are finally legit contenders again in the American League.
Honestly, there's a better chance of Hideki Irabu being elected to the Hall of Fame than this trade happening, but you've got to think Kansas City GM Dayton Moore has at least looked at the possibility of acquiring Jurrjens.
If the Braves and Royals were to make a swap like this, chances are K.C. would require Prado to be shipped over to make up for some of the offense as well. Who knows? Atlanta could really like getting a power-hitting left fielder and a prospect from the Royals' loaded farm system.
A little Floridian swappage. The Marlins already made themselves pretty scary on offense when they signed Jose Reyes for the entire budget of Miami, Hanley Ramirez's happiness and Jose Guillen's grooming kit.
The addition of Reyes, their hard pursuit after other big free agents and Morrison's much-publicized fallout with the franchise last season makes the left fielder expendable.
There is a plethora of pitching in Tampa Bay, but a solid lack of offense. Adding a power bat like Morrison makes Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton, Ben Zobrist and Company suddenly a lot more formidable.
We know the Marlins are willing to make moves in hopes of bringing a title to Miami in their first season. And we know the Rays are looking to swap either Davis or Jeff Niemann for an upgrade on offense.
Adding another good starter to a crew that includes Josh Johnson and Anibal Sanchez is money for the Marlins, and it's a guarantee that Morrison would wreck some catwalks in Tampa Bay.
The White Sox claim they aren't rebuilding. I call bull. They've offered up Danks, Gavin Floyd and Gordon Beckham, among others, as trade bait. GM Kenny Williams wants to get younger apparently, so why not get a pretty good, young bat in Lowrie?
Boston will probably pay big for another starter, since they are relying on hope, prayer and luck for their rotation right now. Danks has good stuff and can be a dominant pitcher in the back half of a rotation. Plus, they have Jose Iglesias ready to step up and fill Lowrie's shortstop role.
As much as I enjoyed the Boston collapse last season, the new sheriff in town, Ben Cherington, won't let that happen again in his first year at the helm. A rotation of Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Danks wouldn't be too bad of a start.
What? Seriously? Yes, I'm serious.
The O's lineup is pretty ferocious; it's just hidden in the depths of the AL East every season. If they can get a bona fide star like Fielder in the heart of that order, they suddenly become one of the best offenses in the league.
They will still need to add a starting pitcher that can really bolster the depth of the rotation, but they've got some young talent there to work with. Plus, they are looking at David Ortiz for DH. Ortiz and Fielder would make quite a power-hitting, left-handed combo in their lineup.
For some reason, the market on Fielder is shrinking right now, with the Dodgers and Brewers both recently admitting they can't afford him (according to MLBTradeRumors.com). And Prince isn't doing himself any favors; apparently he wants to play for a contender that is located east of the Mississippi.
Interesting little contract caveat there, Prince. You can never rule the Yankees or Red Sox out, but I don't think either have a first baseman on their priority list right now. I know it's a stretch to expect the Orioles to contend any time soon, but they have the pieces in place to make a move in a couple years.
Plus if the Cubs don't jump at it pretty soon here, the market might be so thin that the only remaining team on the East Coast who can afford Fielder will be the Orioles.
I don't want to use the term inevitable yet, but...this is picking up a lot of steam. First LeBron, now Albert? Really?
The Marlins have reportedly upped their offer to be 10 years and north of $200 million for the slugging first baseman. That's going to be a lot of cheddar to pass up, especially joining a team that is rapidly improving.
I think the Fish could unseat the Phillies in the NL East if the season started today. Add in the Sultan of St. Louis and it's a done deal. Not only does he make their offense the scariest in the league, but it gives the Miami Marlins of Florida free rein to trade another really good first baseman.
Gaby Sanchez has held down the fort for a couple years for the Marlins, and has done a really stellar job. He doesn't receive the love he deserves, but I'm sure the Marlins could get back a pretty good starting pitcher for Sanchez if they do sign Pujols.
The main problem with Pujols signing in Miami is that they'd have almost their entire payroll dedicated to just six players.
UPDATE: Pujols has since signed a mammoth contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. But check out what he left on the table!
Unless Giants GM Brian Sabean blindfolds himself, spins around 10 times, then throws another dart across the room and hits the bulls-eye with a pickup like Cody Ross in 2010, the Giants will not win the World Series with the lineup he has in place.
And yes, that is how he chose to sign Ross for those of you who didn't know.
The Giants really need an upgrade at shortstop, where Brandon Crawford played admirably last year. Just not admirably enough. With Buster Posey coming back in 2012, plus the resurgence of Pablo Sandoval, the Giants have a couple pieces in place.
They went out and got Melky Cabrera from the Royals already. Assuming he will be the 2011 version of Melky and not the every-other-year-before-that version, the Giants scored. But shortstop has always been a sore spot there, and adding Rollins to the top of this lineup would be dynamite.
Rollins is from the Bay Area and I'm sure he would like a homecoming to a team he would immediately make a contender in the NL.
He might cost a little more than most teams would be willing to spend, and he's a brittle old man, but the reward is high; when healthy, Rollins is one of the best shortstops in the game. A good backup option for San Francisco would be Rafael Furcal.
UPDATE: Sources say Buerhle has struck a deal with Miami.
Okay, this should do it. This should end the spree. Not because Jeffrey Loria won't still be foaming at the mouth over all the talent on the market, but because he will literally be all out of property cards to mortgage. Boardwalk only brings in so much.
The Marlins have been one of the teams going hardest after Buehrle this winter, and rightfully so. He would add a little depth to a pretty good rotation. He's the consummate professional and will get them 12-14 wins with a good ERA, while logging about a billion innings.
He won't command top dollar, but he won't necessarily be cheap either. If Miami can get him for around $10 million a season, they will. Just two or three years should do it. At that point, we should just hand them the World Series trophy and save everyone some wear and tear.
UPDATE: Wilson signed with the Anaheim...I mean Los Angeles Angels.
My first instinct was to write "Anaheim." Guess I hold grudges better than I thought. The Los Angeles Angels have been recently rumored to be going hard after Wilson. Apparently Dan Haren, Jered Weaver and Ervin Santana isn't enough of an embarrassment of riches.
It makes sense though. The Angels do not like to lose, and they have lost the division crown to the Rangers two years running. What better way to take the title back than by doing it with one of Texas' best players on your side?
Los Angeles has money to burn. They always do. And Wilson would fit in nicely to that rotation, giving them a really good lefty option at No. 3. If they do go out and get him, Wilson will get the last laugh. They will pay him way too much. But that's what desperation costs.
The Nationals could be players for Wilson too, but in my experience, when the Angels front office wants someone bad enough, they get him.
UPDATE: The Brewers went out and replaced a little bit of lost offense by signing Ramirez to a three-year, $36 million deal.
The Phillies are getting knocked around by the Marlins in the free-agent market right now. The Marlins are getting better, the Phils are getting worse. And what is the natural instinct when you're against the ropes getting pummeled?
That's right. You start throwing haymakers. And in what I believe will be the most underrated, most helpful move for a team this offseason, Philly will connect with a big right hook in signing Ramirez.
I think Ramirez is far from being done, at least as far as his bat is concerned. It won't be cheap for Philadelphia, but the former Cubs third baseman will be worth every $100 bill they throw at him.
He's going to have a year similar to 2011, in which he hit .306 with 26 home runs and 93 RBI. That will be a big help to an ailing lineup in Philadelphia. Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco are likely gone, Chase Utley is constantly injured, Ryan Howard is injured and Shane Victorino is just a little too skinny to carry an entire organization on his back.
Don't expect this signing to completely turn that divisional tide back in the Phillies' favor, but it will do a world of help in keeping them in the race most of the season.
Not that New York again. The good New York. The Yankees. You know, the team that always signs the biggest, most expensive free agents?
I don't care what his stats say, or the fact that he didn't live up to the Giants' ridiculous expectations in half a season last year, Beltran is not done.
The guy is only 34 and was one of the best players in baseball for a number of years. He's going to be overpaid, but not by much. He deserves a short deal with a lot of incentives. If he does go to New York, that lineup is going to be even more unfair.
Of course, the Yankees already have Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher in the outfield, so one has to go. That should be a pretty easy decision for GM Brian Cashman...it's Swisher, if you didn't already figure that out. Beltran would be an enormous upgrade.
By the way, in 142 games in 2011, he hit .300 with 22 home runs and 84 RBI. So what's everyone all worked up about? Dude will be good in 2012, and once again the Yanks will be the beneficiaries of deep pockets.
One of these days the BoSox will actually give Daniel Bard a chance to close. But for the next couple of years, they will get a nice steal in K-Rod.
Rodriguez had a nice little comeback year setting up for John Axford in Milwaukee in 2011. His stuff looked really good again, and he seems to be past his whole mental-meltdown phase.
The Red Sox let Jonathan Papelbon walk, and are now in the market for a new closer. I don't think they are as hot after Andrew Bailey anymore, and I think they will miss out on Ryan Madson. Heath Bell is gone and Francisco Cordero is on the wrong side of 35.
People forget that Rodriguez is only 29 because he's been pitching since Nixon was president, but he's just peaking in his prime and would be a really good dark-horse closer candidate for a contending team. He's pitched under pressure in the playoffs, and is just three seasons removed from his record-setting 62-save campaign.
Boston really needs a closer, and Rodriguez will be the best option left for them. Call me crazy, but I think he will be more effective for the Sox than Papelbon ever was.
One more stat for you: K-Rod has 291 career saves already. If he stays healthy, 400 saves is not at all out of the question. Only five other closers have ever reached the 400-save milestone.
If you don't recognize the name, shame on you. The recently defected 26-year-old Cuban prodigy will command upwards of $50 million from whoever signs him. And according to recent reports, the Tigers are more likely to sign Cespedes than any other proven, veteran hitter on the market.
I can't say I blame them. Cespedes looks like a stronger, shorter version of Dan Uggla to me, though some have compared him to a stronger, slower Cameron Maybin. And that makes sense, since Cespedes is a center fielder. But it's not necessarily a flattering comparison in the talent department.
I expect Detroit to nab this guy and either kick themselves by July or be laughing their way to another AL Central crown with their new star in tow. It's a complete win-or-lose situation here. There is no in between. He's been touted as the "best Cuban prospect in decades," so expectations are high.
If Cespedes hits .240 with 15 home runs, it was a bust. If he hits .240 with 20 home runs it's a bust. They will bring this kid in to hit .280 with 30 home runs and nothing less. He's certainly strong enough, and he's fared well against American competition in the past, but the majors is a whole different beast.
Tigers fans should get behind this move and hope for the best, because the potential that a Miguel Cabrera-Victor Martinez-Cespedes combo brings would be ridiculous. Kind of like Cespedes' video. If you haven't seen it, you must drop everything to watch it now.
Good luck sewing up your busted gut and repairing your floor-broken jaw.
Mostly because they would have to. Toronto has been wasting talent in the AL East for the last couple years by not going after huge names in free agency. They have a bunch of good young pitchers, and rookies J.P. Arencibia and Brett Lawrie seemed ready to complement Jose Bautista in their lineup.
But that won't be enough. If Darvish does indeed come to the MLB, the Jays need to jump on it. They've already been hot on his trail, but they will be competing with the likes of division-rival Yankees and Red Sox.
Not only do those teams have more money to spend, but they have greater needs in their rotations. So unless the Blue Jays are willing to spend a little dough on the Asian sensation, they will have to continue to troll the bottom of the division until their young pitching develops more.
I'm not sure if bringing in Darvish would even make the Jays legit contenders, especially in that division. But it would be a step in the right direction. Assuming, of course, that he's the next Hideo Nomo, and not the next Hideki Irabu.