While there are still a number of MLB free agents available, most of the top options are already off of the market. This has caused teams around the league to look toward trades to improve the roster for next season.
Of course, franchises are smart enough to avoid giving away a player for nothing. This will keep potential deals from moving quickly as the negotiation process continues through the start of the regular season.
These trades will likely take some time to be completed, but the latest buzz seems to indicate that a move will be made before the offseason ends. Here is a look at the latest trade rumblings from around the league.
Jeff Samardzija, SP, Chicago Cubs
After two full seasons as a starting pitcher, Jeff Samardzija has proven he has the potential to be an above-average major leaguer. However, the Chicago Cubs do not feel he is worth his cost.
Earlier in the offseason, David Kaplan of CSN Chicago quoted a source who said, "I don't see him throwing another pitch in a Cubs uniform. I think it's 99 percent that he gets moved. They're not ready to win and he brings you the young pitching you need for the future."
Although the mindset has not changed, Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago reports that the team will wait for the timing to be right:
Multiple industry sources have predicted the Cubs will let the free-agent market play out – Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana are still on the board – and see what happens with the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes before pulling the trigger on any Samardzija deal.
Still, Samardzija told Mooney that he did not want to go anywhere:
My first preference is to win here and be a success here. I know the upside that comes with surviving through this. Just the personal gratification I would get for battling through these few years and then down the road when we’d be looking back on this – (that’s) what really excites me.
Although the pitcher's ERA inflated to 4.34 this season to go with an 8-13 record, he finished fourth in the National League with 214 strikeouts and fifth with 213.2 innings pitched.
If the Cubs do not want to see if he turns into a legitimate ace in the future, there will be plenty of other teams willing to take that chance.
David Price, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
For most of the offseason, it was almost common knowledge that the Tampa Bay Rays would continue their tradition of trading players before they reach free agency with David Price. However, they do not feel like they need to rush a deal.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times provided the latest buzz regarding the Rays:
They are willing to listen on Price, who has two seasons until free agency, but it's going to take a lot — in terms of young talent — to get him. Fair conclusion: They haven't been made a good-enough offer yet.
In essence, the Rays are waiting to see if someone makes it worth their while to trade Price and take the accompanying step back team-wise.
Topkin also clarified, "There hasn't been much media chatter about a Price deal, though that may be more a product of the Rays' intense efforts at secrecy than a lack of actual talks."
The biggest problem has been the Rays unwillingness to give up on the year by trading away arguably their best player. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports broke down what the club is looking for:
Acquiring "now" players would be the Rays' preference, enabling them to gain back some of the short-term value they would lose by trading Price. The right fit, though, could prove elusive, considering that Price is even more accomplished than Shields.
The James Shields trade brought Wil Myers, who contributed immediately and was named the 2013 Rookie of the Year. It is hard to find a team willing to part with a player of this ability, but Price might be worth that cost.
Either way, it is important not to give away a perennial Cy Young candidate without getting quality players in return.
Heath Bell, RP, Tampa Bay Rays
Once a dominant closer, Heath Bell has struggled in recent years while bouncing around the league from the Miami Marlins to the Arizona Diamondbacks. He is now the property of the Rays, but this might not be the case for too much longer.
Grant Balfour would have made $15 million over two years if the Orioles hadn't backed away following his physical. Now, he could end up with the Rays, who are shopping Heath Bell, according to multiple industry sources.
The Rays acquired Bell from the Diamondbacks on Dec. 3 in a three-team trade with the Reds. Now they're gauging the market for him.
It is hard to imagine too many teams running at the chance to bring in a reliever who had 15 blown saves over the past two seasons. However, he showed some signs of life with a 4.11 ERA in 2013.
Additionally, Bell had 132 saves from 2009-11, and the talent is still there for a bounce-back season. If a team is able to pull him away for a low cost, it might be worth the deal.
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