Setting Odds for Each Big Post-Winter Meetings Rumor Coming True
While the rumor mill has slowed to a crawl compared to the frenetic pace at which it was spinning during the winter meetings, there's no shortage of juicy speculation revolving around big-name talent to be found.
From front-of-the-rotation starters to heart-of-the-order sluggers, teams can still seemingly get their offseason shopping done in time for the holidays, ensuring that their respective fanbases will have a "Holly, Jolly Christmas" indeed.
But if we've learned anything from baseball over the years, it's that rumors don't always come true.
What are the odds of the biggest post-winter meetings rumors coming to fruition? Let's take a look.
Rumor: Justin Upton Will Be Traded to the Padres
Credit both Atlanta's John Hart and San Diego's A.J. Preller for not hesitating to shake things up shortly after taking over as the general manager for their respective clubs.
Hart traded Jason Heyward to St. Louis for a pair of young arms that includes Shelby Miller, while Preller convinced Padres ownership to take on $75 million of Matt Kemp's contract in an effort to bolster a moribund offense.
So maybe it shouldn't come as a surprise that multiple sources, including Atlanta beat writer Mark Bowman of MLB.com, report that the two have been discussing a deal that would send Justin Upton back to the National League West.
Some will point to the fact that the Braves weren't exactly trotting out a modern-day version of Murderer's Row as a reason why they shouldn't move a slugger like Upton, but Hart tells The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jeff Schultz that's precisely why he needs to consider it:
“Let’s be honest: This team finished 29th in offense. It’s not like I’m breaking up the ’27 Yankees.”
Before the winter meetings began, Joel Sherman of the New York Post was reporting that Atlanta's asking price for Upton was higher than it was for Heyward, a Gold Glove defender but inconsistent hitter whose power has never developed as expected.
Let's assume that instead of two young arms, the Braves would want three—or two arms and a young, controllable infielder who could play second base.
San Diego has plenty to offer in both regards.
Even after trading Zach Eflin and Joe Wieland in the Kemp deal, the Padres are deep in young quality arms, enough in the likes of Robbie Erlin, Casey Kelly, Joe Ross, Keyvius Sampson and Burch Smith that the club wouldn't necessarily need to part with its top pitching prospect, Matt Wisler.
Up the middle, Jedd Gyorko and Yangervis Solarte could be expendable given top prospect Taylor Lindsey's expected arrival at some point during the 2015 season, or perhaps Lindsey could wind up as the centerpiece of a deal himself.
The point is, there's enough here for a deal between the two clubs to actually come to fruition.
Rumor: The Yankees Will Eventually Sign Max Scherzer
One of the constant narratives throughout the offseason has been that the New York Yankees were merely biding their time and letting the market set itself before striking—and that, ultimately, the team would wind up signing free-agent ace Max Scherzer.
At the winter meetings, super-agent Scott Boras told reporters that if the Yankees hoped to have a "World Series-quality rotation" in 2015, they needed to sign Scherzer. General manager Brian Cashman's response, via The Wall Street Journal's Daniel Barbarisi, was telling:
"Good, that means he likes the four we've got!"
While clearly said in jest, there's always some truth in remarks like this. And the truth is this: Cashman, like the vast majority of Yankees fans, probably realizes that Scherzer alone isn't going to solve all of the team's issues.
Would he help? Of course he would. It'd be ridiculous to try to argue otherwise. But he alone isn't going to propel the Yankees back into the playoffs.
While a guest on ESPN Radio New York's Michael Kay Show, ESPN's Buster Olney agreed with the host's assertion that the Yankees wouldn't get involved with Scherzer. (Note: This is an audio clip; comments begin around the 2:10 mark.)
Olney reasoning was sound: Scherzer's asking price—Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi reported that he's seeking a $200 million deal—is high, and the Yankees continue to be engaged with veteran relievers, such as former San Francisco closer Sergio Romo.
That may not seem significant for a team with pockets as deep as the Yankees, but we can't forget about Sherman's report that, were they to re-sign 3B Chase Headley to a deal in the mid-$40 million range, budget constraints would force them to shop in the bargain bin to round out their rotation.
If fitting, say, a $12 million salary for Headley into their 2015 budget would be problematic, how in the world would they be able to make Scherzer's salary—which would be substantially higher, even if his multi-year deal was backloaded—into the mix?
All of a sudden, the premise of the Yankees passing on Scherzer seems pretty believable, doesn't it?
There is, of course, a wild card factor that could change everything at any time, and that's that the Yankees are still owned by the Steinbrenner family.
While George's sons haven't been nearly as reactive to what, say, the Red Sox were doing as their dad was, you can never rule out that, on a whim, they decide that they absolutely must have Scherzer, cost be damned.
That said, it appears as if the brothers are taking a "hands-off" approach this winter, allowing Cashman to make the moves he believes are in the team's best interests. That doesn't bode well for Boras and Scherzer getting the Yankees involved.
Rumor: Ian Desmond Will Be Traded to Seattle
Even after adding Nelson Cruz's bat to the lineup, Seattle continues to look for ways to bolster its offense.
Both Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal and ESPN's Jim Bowden have reported that the Mariners and Washington Nationals have discussed a deal that would bring SS Ian Desmond to Seattle, though the club wasn't willing to include either of its prized young arms, James Paxton or Taijuan Walker, as part of a package.
While Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune says that the team "has cooled" on the idea of trading for Desmond, it shouldn't stop the two sides from trying to get a deal done.
Over the past 10 seasons, only the Kansas City Royals have gotten less production from the position than the Mariners. The list of players they've sent out to short during that span is lengthy, one that includes Yuniesky Betancourt, Brad Miller, Mike Morse (yes, that Mike Morse), Brendan Ryan and Josh Wilson.
So it would make sense that they'd jump at the chance to snag Desmond, who, since 2012, has been the most productive shortstop in baseball not named Troy Tulowitzki or Hanley Ramirez—and arguably the best if you're a fan of WAR (Wins Above Replacement).
While asking for Paxton or Walker is certainly reasonable on Washington's part, it's not as if they're the only young arms that Seattle has to offer. Erasmo Ramirez is under team control through the 2018 season, while Roenis Elias is not yet arbitration eligible.
After that, players that have yet to make their MLB debuts—Edwin Diaz, Anthony Fernandez, Luiz Gohara, Victor Sanchez and even Danny Hultzen, who was named the organization's third-best prospect by Baseball America as recently as 2012 before injuries derailed him—could be of interest to the Nats.
So too could incumbent Mariners SS Brad Miller, a stout defender or prospect Chris Taylor, who may ultimately be best served by sliding to second base, which just so happens to be an area of need for the defending NL East champs.
Washington has tried, unsuccessfully, to work out an extension with Desmond that would keep him in our nation's capital past 2015, according to MLB.com's Bill Ladson.
With key members of the rotation, Doug Fister and Jordan Zimmermann both set to hit free agency as well, the team needs to add some depth as insurance should both depart.
As is the case with Justin Upton, Seattle has enough to facilitate a deal that would find both clubs walking away happy with their return.
Rumor: James Shields Will Wind Up in San Francisco
Despite the absolute drubbing they put on him in Game 5 of the World Series—five earned runs and seven hits over three innings of work—both Peter Gammons and Alex Pavlovic of the San Jose Mercury News say that the San Francisco Giants want to add the 32-year-old to their rotation.
Since 2007, no pitcher in baseball has logged more innings than Shields has, and only two pitchers, Felix Hernandez and Cole Hamels, have made as many starts in which they went at least six innings and surrendered three earned runs or fewer.
That's what you call consistency, and it's why, as we looked at Friday, multiple teams have been linked to him this offseason.
While Madison Bumgarner is a stud atop the rotation, the World Series champs aren't exactly swimming in quality starters. Both Jake Peavy and Ryan Vogelsong are free agents, and neither one is expected to return. Matt Cain is, but he's coming off season-ending elbow surgery, Tim Hudson will celebrate his 40th birthday around the All-Star break and Tim Lincecum is a shell of the ace he once was.
The Giants lost out on Lester and lost longtime third baseman Pablo Sandoval via free agency. With the substantial improvements made by the Los Angeles Dodgers and, to a lesser extent, the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres, the NL West has become a more dangerous place to play.
As Bleacher Report's Jason Catania wrote, the Giants have to do something, and soon.
Signing Shields would be about the safest—and most sensible—move they could make. That he's a California native, having grown up roughly an hour south of San Francisco in Santa Clara, certainly doesn't hurt their chances.
Rumor: The Reds Will Trade Jay Bruce
Speculation surrounding Jay Bruce's future in Cincinnati began well in advance of the winter meetings, with Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reporting in mid-November that the Reds were at least considering a trade involving their right fielder.
The rhetoric only increased when Bruce's agent, Matt Sosnick, confirmed to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick that his client had turned down a pair of extension offers during the regular season:
It is true that the Reds made Jay two offers during the season. The fact the deal didn’t get done had nothing to do with Jay's desire to remain a Red for life, which is still the case. It was more about his desire to make sure that contract talks didn't become a distraction during the season. But Jay still greatly appreciated the offers.
While it's true that teams have called Cincinnati about him—Sherman reported that Baltimore inquired but was unable to find a match—it's not like the Reds have to trade him.
Bruce remains in the prime of his career and is under team control for at least two years at more-than-reasonable prices: $12 million in 2015, $12.5 million in 2016 and either a $13 million team option or a $1 million buyout in 2017.
He's coming off the least productive season of his career, but at least some of his issues can be attributed to a bum knee that required surgery to repair and very likely never had a chance to fully heal. That does nothing to help increase his trade value—or maximize a potential return for the Reds.
Even more than that, however, is the fact that from 2011 to 2013, Bruce was a legitimate MVP candidate, hitting .257/.332/.488 with an average of 32 home runs and 102 RBI a year.
Why in the world would the Reds sell low on a talent like that?
The answer is simple—they wouldn't.
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