Fact or Fiction on All of MLB Offseason Week 13's Free-Agency, Trade Rumors
We've reached that point in the offseason where the closer we get to spring training, the slower time seems to move.
Most teams have their rosters set and are focused on adding organizational depth, signing fringe major league talent to minor league deals, moves that barely force the rumor mill to twitch, much less pick up speed. Thankfully, there are enough clubs still in need of a significant piece to keep things churning.
Will an injury force a big-market club to finally dip its toes into the free-agent waters? Is a part-time player destined to become an everyday player for a fringe contender? Can a team continue to ignore what it proclaimed was its biggest area of need only a few months ago?
We'll tackle all of that and more in this week's edition of Fact or Fiction.
Fact: The White Sox Will Trade for an Outfield Bat
While there are still a slew of free-agent outfielders available, a group headed by Dexter Fowler and Austin Jackson, the Chicago White Sox are going to have to go the trade route to find the outfield bat they seek.
Why? Because the ChiSox want a left-handed bat to bring some balance to their lineup, according to MLB.com's Phil Rogers, and the list of left-handed-hitting outfielders still available via free agency is, well, pretty underwhelming:
- David DeJesus
- Matt Joyce
- David Murphy
- Skip Schumaker
- Grady Sizemore
- Will Venable
It's hard to argue that any of them would be an upgrade over Avisail Garcia, who stands to lose his starting job after hitting .263 with a .701 OPS and providing below-average defense in right field over parts of three seasons with the White Sox.
Rogers reported the White Sox "are exploring" a potential deal for the Dodgers' Andre Ethier, a player Los Angeles may be motivated to move as he's set to gain 10-and-5 rights in early April, giving him veto power over any trade the club tries to include him in.
Another target could be Cincinnati's Jay Bruce, who has struggled mightily over the past two seasons, hitting a combined .222 with a .695 OPS, but is still in the prime of his career and could bounce back to a more palatable .260 batting average and .800 OPS with a change of scenery.
Both players have their warts, and neither one is what you'd call cheap, with Ethier due $38 million through 2017, while Bruce is due $13.5 million this season. Because of that, neither one is going to cost Chicago any of its best prospects, like Tim Anderson or Carson Fulmer, to acquire.
Dealing from the farm might not be an ideal scenario for the White Sox, but neither is extending their seven-year absence from the playoffs. Either one of those veteran outfielders would help Chicago on its quest to play meaningful October baseball.
Fiction: The Yankees Will Sign a Free Agent to a Major League Deal
New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has made it clear that the team has no intention of becoming the last team to sign a free agent to a major league deal, even in the wake of Greg Bird's season-ending shoulder injury.
"I would expect that we'll look at anybody interested in coming in on a minor league contract and interested in being an insurance policy," Cashman told NJ.com's Brendan Kuty.
But with a number of experienced first basemen still available as free agents—a list that includes Pedro Alvarez, Ike Davis and Justin Morneau—speculation has picked up that the Yankees will indeed sign someone to a major league deal.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post suggested Juan Uribe as a potential target, noting he could fill in at third base for Chase Headley on days the Yankees need Headley to play across the diamond, but that seems even more unlikely than adding an Alvarez or Morneau for reasons we'll delve into shortly.
All this speculation make sense, considering the fragility of 35-year-old Mark Teixeira, who hasn't played in more than 125 games since 2011, and Alex Rodriguez's inability to play the field, at any position.
But the Yankees are comfortable with Dustin Ackley serving as Teixeira's primary backup, and it's not out of the question that Brian McCann and outfield prospect Tyler Austin, who spent some time at first base in the Arizona Fall League, could both see time at the position.
The Bronx Bombers might go outside of the organization to find a more suitable backup option, but it'll be on their terms—and that's a non-guaranteed minor league deal.
Fact: Juan Uribe Will Be Cleveland's Starting Third Baseman
Entering his age-37 season, Uribe's best years are behind him. Yet he remains an above-average defender at third base and swings a solid, albeit unspectacular bat, hitting a combined .253/.320/.417 with 14 home runs, 43 RBI and a 104 wRC+ last season with three teams.
According to Cleveland.com's Paul Hoynes, general manager Mike Chernoff mentioned third base as a potential spot the club was looking to upgrade during a recent interview on MLB Network.
"When you look at our team, you can see spots where we have some younger guys or have a little bit of uncertainty still," Chernoff said. "Whether that's on the infield at third base or in the bullpen or potentially complementary bats on the bench. There are a lot of different ways we could upgrade."
Currently projected to have Giovanny Urshela and Jose Ramirez split time at the hot corner, adding Uribe would allow the Indians to let Urshela continue his development at Triple-A while the veteran and Ramirez held things down for the big league club.
While there are probably a number of teams that wouldn't mind adding Uribe to their benches, there simply aren't any starting opportunities available for him outside of Cleveland. Eventually, the two sides will come to an agreement on a deal, likely a one-year pact, perhaps with a mutual option for 2017.
Fiction: The Orioles Won't Add Another Starting Pitcher
As a disappointing regular season came to an end this past October, the Baltimore Orioles made it clear that bolstering their starting rotation was the team's top offseason priority.
"Do we have the resources to have a good pitching staff? Yes," executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette told MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli. "The development of the pitchers, the trading for the pitchers and the signing of pitchers, I think we are going to have to do all those things."
Yet the Orioles have done none of those things. The team's former ace, Wei-Yin Chen, departed as a free agent for Miami, and with pitchers and catchers set to report to spring training in a matter of weeks, time is running out for the club to make a move.
"The Orioles could still make a move to add a starting pitcher," the Baltimore Sun's Eduardo A. Encina wrote, "but as we get closer to spring training, the likelihood is growing that the Orioles will look internally for their No. 5 starter."
Those internal options include the inexperienced Tyler Wilson and Mike Wright, journeyman Vance Worley and, yes, even failed-starter-turned-reliever Brian Matusz. None are overly appealing, and that short list only accentuates the team's lack of organizational depth on the mound.
While the Orioles aren't willing to surrender their first-round draft pick to sign someone like Yovani Gallardo, according to Encina, there are still a number of experienced arms available—a list that includes Mat Latos, Tim Lincecum and Kyle Lohse—that would at least provide some competition for the No. 5 job.
Baltimore could also explore the trade market. Earlier this week, I proposed a deal that would land the O's San Diego's Andrew Cashner, and there are sure to be a handful of pitchers who become available before Opening Day.
It may not happen before spring training officially begins, but the Orioles will eventually bring someone in from outside the organization to give them another option to fill out the rotation and/or provide additional (and much-needed) depth.
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