Playing Fact or Fiction with All of MLB's Hottest Buzz
With 2015 finally upon us, MLB general managers are in the stretch run of preparations prior to the beginning of spring training. As such, there is an ample amount of buzz and speculation regarding each franchise.
That makes this a fine time to play a round of Fact or Fiction with the latest news.
To be sure, we can’t cover every rumor that's floating around. Rather, we will focus on a few select pieces of information that have circulated over the past several days. That way, we can stay as current as possible.
After all, MLB storylines change in an instant. It is the nature of the beast.
Here is a look at three buzzworthy stories and our take on whether they will come to fruition or become an afterthought in what is a raucous offseason.
Ben Zobrist Is Going to Get Traded
To be sure, the rumors surrounding Ben Zobrist’s potential trade from the Tampa Bay Rays have been swirling for a while.
Most recently, Peter Gammons noted that “several” executives believe he will end up with the San Francisco Giants. And while we could rehash all of the rumors regarding Zobrist, we would have to go back a couple of years. So in the spirit of brevity, let’s just all agree that almost every club wishes to have the switch-hitter on its roster.
There are two reasons for the interest.
First off, Zobrist has been worth a minimum of 5.4 fWAR (FanGraphs' version of wins above replacement) each of the past four years, playing as many as seven fielding positions in one season. In other words, he is versatile and productive.
The other reason teams are fascinated with Zobrist is that he is inexpensive. Set to earn a modest $7.5 million in 2015, he comes at a fraction of the cost it takes to land free agents with favorable comps. True, the prospect cost will be great, but prospects are the great unknown, money isn’t.
And to top everything off, the Rays recently inked Asdrubal Cabrera to a one-year deal, making the prospect of moving Zobrist without losing a ton in the way of production a realistic one.
Don’t take that the wrong way. Cabrera is nowhere near as accomplished as Zobrist is, but when looking at the drop-off in production should Zobrist get moved, it's a lot less with Cabrera in the mix as opposed to any other body the Rays have in the system.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the Rays have won with less. It must be noted that Joe Maddon is no longer with the franchise, and he was a large part of the reason the Rays overachieved, but history tells us that the club can't be counted out regardless of roster composition.
So will he get moved or not?
As CBS Sports’ Matt Snyder correctly noted, “who couldn't use a guy who can play defense almost anywhere and be productive with the bat in an everyday role?” Some team will pony up the Rays’ asking price for one season of Zobrist.
Stephen Drew Is Going to Get $10 Million Per Season
File this on your desktop in the I-Must-Not-Have-Read-That-Correctly folder: Stephen Drew is looking for upward of $10 million per season on the free-agent market.
Yep. That’s what Joel Sherman from the New York Post is reporting. It's a flabbergasting proposition.
Simply put, Drew’s agent, Scott Boras, can’t conceivably think that any club would be willing to commit that much money after a season in which his client put up a .162/.237/.299 slash line and finished with a minus-1.1 fWAR.
On the flip side, Mike Axisa from CBS Sports pointed out that Drew’s market is going to pick up following Asdrubal Cabrera’s signing with the Tampa Bay Rays. That could create a mild bidding war should more than one club strongly consider the free agent.
And yes, Drew proved he can play both middle infield positions this past season. But is the lack of open-market options combined with his added versatility enough to persuade a general manager to shell out that much coin over multiple seasons?
There are too many red flags to warrant that type of contract. One executive had this to say, per Sherman: "Fine, you want to say June and July [last year] were spring training for him, well, how about August or September? There was never a time in which he looked like a major league hitter. The ball didn’t come off his bat well, there was zero consistency. Nothing."
That about sums it up. Drew may get $10 million over two seasons, but not on a per annum basis.
The New York Yankees Are Going to Stand Pat at Second Base
According to ESPN Insider Buster Olney (subscription required), “it’s very possible the [New York] Yankees will choose among four options” to be the Opening Day second baseman. He listed Rob Refsnyder, Jose Pirela, Cole Figueroa and Nick Noonan as the players the club will audition.
Now Olney did note that “if some attractive alternative at second develops, they could make a move,” but he added that manager Joe Girardi wouldn’t be against working with a young player at the keystone position.
To a degree, Olney’s argument makes sense.
After all, the Yankees need speed and youth somewhere in the lineup other than at shortstop, where Didi Gregorius is set to take over for Derek Jeter. And from all accounts, both Refsnyder and Pirela are on the verge of something special, meaning that there is at least a chance the situation isn’t as dire as some fear.
With that said, are we to believe that the Yankees are going to stand pat when offense isn’t a guarantee next season?
General manager Brian Cashman has seen what the lack of a dependable second baseman in the lineup can do. He can't be comfortable going into the 2015 season with what is currently on the 40-man roster or in the minor leagues.
To be sure, Cashman won't leverage the farm system to land a guy like Troy Tulowitzki, but he isn't hedging his postseason bet on Refsnyder or any of the other guys currently in the mix being ready. That is not to say that one of them won't ultimately win the Opening Day job, but Cashman will find a veteran with a proven track record to add to the conversation.
Unless otherwise noted, all traditional, team and advanced statistics are courtesy of FanGraphs.com and Baseball-Reference.com. Contract information pulled from Cot's Contracts. Transaction, injury and game information are courtesy of MLB.com.