Fact or Fiction on All of Week 8's Hottest MLB Free-Agency, Trade Rumors
Normally, the week before Christmas is a busy time in baseball, with teams looking to finish up deals with free agents and complete trades before the game goes on an unofficial hiatus until we ring in the new year.
That hasn't been the case in 2016, leaving us with a rumor mill that's bursting at the seams with speculation about the immediate futures of some big names.
Will two of those big names wind up with teams in smaller markets, moves that would obliterate the notion that small-market clubs can't contend with the "big boys" in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York? Has an injury limited the market for one of the better pitchers left unsigned?
We'll hit on all that and more in this week's edition of Fact or Fiction.
Fact: Jose Quintana Could Wind Up in Pittsburgh
There's a tendency to dismiss small-market teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates as potential landing spots for the biggest names on the market. Not only do the biggest names tend to command the biggest salaries as free agents, but the Pirates typically can't afford to part with the prospect haul it'd take to trade for one.
That's not the case when it comes to Chicago White Sox ace Jose Quintana, who is due just $15.85 million through 2018 and comes with affordable $10.5 million and $11.5 million team options in 2019 and 2020, respectively. It's no wonder then that the Pirates have "worked hard" to land the 27-year-old southpaw, per ESPN's Buster Olney.
Getting Quintana at an affordable rate for four years makes it easier for the Pirates to part with the young talent it'll take to pry him loose. According to Peter Gammons, Chicago asked the Houston Astros for their top two prospects and 24-year-old right-hander Joe Musgrove when the teams spoke earlier this month.
Outfield prospect Austin Meadows would almost certainly be part of the package heading back to Chicago, which recently traded its center fielder, Adam Eaton, to Washington. Pitching prospects Tyler Glasnow, Nick Keller and Jameson Taillon, along with first baseman Josh Bell, could also be in play.
With Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco the only Pirates under contract after 2019, Pittsburgh is built to win now. Quintana won't push the Pirates past the Chicago Cubs in the National League Central, but he'd help solidify the team's place as a perennial wild-card contender for the next few years.
Fiction: Cleveland Can't Afford Edwin Encarnacion
He's too expensive. That's what "most believe" about the Cleveland Indians' chances of signing free-agent slugger Edwin Encarnacion, according to FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman—that he's "a luxury the Indians will have difficulty affording."
Sure, ownership would have to be willing to sign off on a franchise-record Opening Day payroll to get Encarnacion signed, something approaching—if not exceeding—$120 million. But that's not really a stretch for the Tribe for two reasons.
First, the Indians added more than $20 million in payroll during the 2016 season. Per Cot's Contracts, the club went from an Opening Day payroll of $96.3 million to a season-ending total of $117.6 million. The team is willing to spend when necessary.
Then there's the additional revenue the club took in during its run to the World Series—nearly $48 million, a source estimated for Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer. Put the two together, and voila—adding Encarnacion's salary to the books suddenly doesn't seem like such a stretch.
None of this means that the Indians will sign Encarnacion, of course. But contrary to popular opinion, they could.
Fact: The Dodgers Need Brian Dozier More Than the Twins Do
The Minnesota Twins have no problem heading into the 2017 season with Brian Dozier entrenched at second base. The Los Angeles Dodgers don't have a second baseman—utility man Enrique Hernandez is the closest thing they can point to—and that's a problem.
Per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, both the Twins and Dodgers agree that any trade package for Dozier would begin with prized Dodgers pitching prospect Jose De Leon. Last week, we said it was a fact that the 24-year-old would have to be the centerpiece of any Dozier-to-the-Dodgers deal.
But the two teams can't seem to agree on the other pieces that would be heading back to Minnesota.
Nobody's suggesting the Dodgers should give in to exorbitant demands from the Twins, but at the same time, trading for Dozier is by far the team's best chance to not only plug the hole at second base, but actually improve their team.
Los Angeles' other realistic option to fill its void at the keystone, re-signing Chase Utley, sounds great in theory. But he's 38 years old and didn't exactly tear the cover off the ball for the Dodgers last year, hitting .252 with a .716 OPS. After the All-Star break, he hit just .238 with a .704 OPS.
The pressure is on for the Dodgers to embark on a deep playoff run that lands the team back in the World Series. Adding Dozier gives them the best chance to do just that, and ultimately, they'll find a middle ground with Minnesota and strike a deal.
They can't afford not to.
Fiction: The Mets Will Add a Center Fielder
It's no secret that the New York Mets have too many outfielders. Jay Bruce, Yoenis Cespedes and Curtis Granderson are penciled in as their three starters, with Juan Lagares the fourth outfielder and Michael Conforto currently the odd man out.
But that hasn't stopped the Mets from checking in on available center fielders.
They've had "minor talks" with the Pittsburgh Pirates about Andrew McCutchen, per MLB.com's Anthony DiComo, but those talks haven't gone anywhere. According to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, they aren't overly interested in the Kansas City Royals' Lorenzo Cain or Jarrod Dyson, either.
After that trio, there's not much left in the way of external upgrades—unless you consider free agents like Michael Bourn or Ben Revere an upgrade.
Lagares is by far the team's best defensive option in center, but the 27-year-old doesn't provide enough offense to be an everyday player. He needs a platoon partner, a lefty bat who can handle the position defensively.
Conforto is a corner outfielder, so he doesn't fit the bill. But prospect Brandon Nimmo does, and like Conforto, he has little left to prove in the minor leagues.
Fitting both Conforto and Nimmo into the Opening Day lineup would require the team to trade both Bruce and Granderson. MLB Network's Jon Morosi tweets that the Toronto Blue Jays have interest in one or the other, and there are enough teams in need of outfield help to think that moving the pair before Opening Day is feasible.
Sometimes, the best upgrade a team can find comes from within.
Fact: Tyson Ross Will Get the Contract He Seeks
Tyson Ross underwent thoracic outlet syndrome surgery on his right shoulder in October, the end result of a lost season for the right-hander, who was limited to just one start, spanning 5.1 innings, in 2016.
Though the procedure is starting to become more common, it's nowhere near as prevalent as Tommy John surgery, for which there's a lengthy list of success stories. Yet that doesn't appear to have limited Ross' market, with Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports tweeting that roughly 20 teams have interest in signing the free-agent hurler.
His former club, the San Diego Padres, remain interested in a reunion, and they've been joined by the Pittsburgh Pirates, Texas Rangers and both of last year's World Series participants, the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians as suitors for the 29-year-old.
According to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, Ross is looking for a deal that will pay him between $9 million and $11 million in 2017, an asking price that may not include incentives. As Grant noted, that's a "high price for [a] guy who might not be ready to start [the] year."
Signing Ross is a risky proposition to be sure, but between the lack of quality starting pitchers left available in free agency and the high asking price teams with pitching to spare are looking for in trades, what he's looking for isn't so outrageous.
With nearly two-thirds of baseball showing interest in his services, Ross will ultimately get the deal he's looking for.