Fact or Fiction on All of Week 9's Hottest MLB Free-Agency, Trade Rumors

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistDecember 29, 2016

Fact or Fiction on All of Week 9's Hottest MLB Free-Agency, Trade Rumors

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    Fact—New Year's Eve is fast approaching. Fiction—all of MLB's big-name free agents who remain unsigned will find new homes before the ball drops.

    As you'd expect, having so many notable players still in search of employment has led to increased activity in the rumor mill. Now that Edwin Encarnacion has come off the board, some of those players who were seemingly in holding patterns are finally seeing significant interest from multiple suitors.

    Free agents aren't the only ones receiving attention, though, as the trade market remains active with plenty of speculation surrounding a pair of the American League Central's best.

    Will Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier or Chicago White Sox pitcher Jose Quintana be traded? Will Matt Wieters wind up spending the 2017 season close to where he played his college ball? Where will the "Party at Napoli's" break out next?

    We'll hit on all that and more in this week's edition of "Fact or Fiction."

Fact: Matt Wieters Will Wind Up in Atlanta

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    The majority of B/R's MLB team (myself included) believed that free-agent catcher Matt Wieters would end up with the Atlanta Braves, and recent comments from Braves general manager John Coppolella have done nothing to make that prediction seem misguided.

    "Matt (Wieters) is a talented player," Coppolella said recently on SiriusXM's MLB Network Radio. "It would come down to price and years. We're happy with what we have now." What the Braves have now—Tyler Flowers and Anthony Recker—is a pair of serviceable backups.

    While he's not the superstar many believed he'd become and, per Baseball Prospectus, has posted four consecutive seasons of below-average pitch framing, Wieters would represent a significant upgrade over that duo.

    That he's a local product, having played his college ball at Georgia Tech, only adds to his appeal for the Braves, who are set to move into their new home, SunTrust Park, in 2017.

Fiction: Miami Won't Add a First Baseman

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    With 39 home runs, 135 RBI and an .802 OPS, Justin Bour has quietly put up some solid numbers over parts of three seasons with the Miami Marlins. But the bulk of that production has come exclusively against right-handed pitching, with the 28-year-old posting a measly .564 OPS against left-handers.

    So while Michael Hill, Miami's president of baseball operations, was likely telling the truth when he told the Sun Sentinel's Tim Healey that finding a right-handed platoon partner for Bour was "not a priority," the Marlins would be foolish not to do just that.

    It's not as if there aren't any right-handed corner infielders available. Former Marlin Chris Johnson, Trevor Plouffe and the reigning National League home run champion, Chris Carter, all remain unsigned and aren't likely to command more than one-year commitments.

    One option who would likely command a multiyear deal is Mike Napoli. And while the team has spoken to the veteran free agent, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported that Miami "isn't pursuing him" at the moment. We'll hit on Napoli a bit more later. 

    Regardless of whom the right-handed first baseman is, adding one makes more sense for the Marlins than playing catcher J.T. Realmuto at first base against southpaws, something Hill told Healey is a possibility heading into the 2017 season.

Fact: Mike Napoli Will Sign with Texas

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    Twice over the course of his 11-year career, Mike Napoli has found himself with the Texas Rangers—not by choice, but by trade. First in 2011, when the Toronto Blue Jays dealt him to the Rangers for reliever Frank Francisco; then again in 2015, when the Boston Red Sox shipped him to Texas in exchange for cash or a player to be named later.

    A free agent whose previous employer, the Cleveland Indians, replaced him with slugger Edwin Encarnacion, Napoli is looking for a new home. Rejoining the Rangers, a move that would be his choice for the first time in his career, appears to be a real possibility.

    MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan reported that Napoli and the Rangers have discussed a potential two-year deal, with sources telling him both sides are "highly motivated to get a deal done." That said, Texas isn't alone in its pursuit, with FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman reporting a "mystery team" (the Oakland Athletics, perhaps) remains in the mix.

    Ultimately, Napoli's decision will be to return to a contending team with which he's familiar. With Prince Fielder (retired) and Mitch Moreland (Boston) gone, Napoli would get the bulk of the playing time at first base in Texas, something he may not be able to find elsewhere.

Fiction: The Yankees Are Going to Trade for Jose Quintana

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    It's the rumor that won't stop: The Chicago White Sox's Jose Quintana is heading to the New York Yankees. But Tuesday saw conflicting reports emerge on just how much truth there is to that speculation.

    USA Today's Bob Nightengale tweeted that the Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates are the "most aggressive teams" in pursuit of the 27-year-old southpaw, adding that the clubs had discussed a three-way deal between them.

    Shortly after that, Joel Sherman of the New York Post cited multiple sources who insisted the Yankees are not working on a deal for Quintana or David Robertson, the White Sox's current (and New York's former) closer.

    The truth lies somewhere between the two reports. It makes sense that the Yankees would check in on Quintana and Robertson. It costs the team nothing to have that discussion. But the White Sox are going to insist on either shortstop Gleyber Torres or outfielder Clint Frazier in any potential deal.

    That's a deal-breaker for the Yankees, who have steadfastly refused to trade their best young talent thus far. While Quintana and Robertson would improve the club's pitching staff, they wouldn't catapult the Yankees to the level of Boston or Cleveland, the favorites to represent the American League in the World Series.

    Quintana and Robertson might get traded before Opening Day, but neither one will be heading to the Bronx as anything but a visiting player.

Fact: The Los Angeles Dodgers Will Trade for Brian Dozier

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    More conflicting reports emerged over the past few days in regard to the Minnesota Twins' slugging second baseman, Brian Dozier.

    Due only $15 million through 2018, the 29-year-old is a financial bargain, though the cost in prospects it'll take to pry him loose may be seen as prohibitive to some.

    That includes the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are willing to trade prized pitching prospect Jose De Leon as part of a deal but, according to Heyman, refuse to include first baseman and outfielder Cody Bellinger or pitchers Yadier Alvarez and Walker Buehler.

    Are the Dodgers being "stingy" with their prospects, as Heyman said some have alluded to? Absolutely. But there's no other suitor for Dozier's services at the moment. ESPN.com's Mark Saxon shot down the notion of the St. Louis Cardinals being involved; the Washington Post's Chelsea Janes did the same for the Washington Nationals.

    The Twins don't have to trade Dozier, but his value is never going to be higher than it currently is. Players with two years of control are more valuable than those with just one year—or one-and-a-half years, were they to trade him at next season's non-waiver trade deadline.

    Eventually, Minnesota will come to its senses, back off its demands for one of those three prospects to be included along with De Leon and reach an agreement with the Dodgers, who can supply the Twins with a greater quantity of quality prospects than most other teams.

                      

    Unless otherwise noted, all statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs. All contract information courtesy of Cot's Contracts (via Baseball Prospectus).