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Masahiro Tanaka’s Long List of MLB Suitors

In no more than 10 days, Masahiro Tanaka’s offseason-long odyssey will be over. By then, the coveted right-handed pitcher from Japan will have signed with an MLB team or, short of that, returned to the Rakuten Golden Eagles.

The deadline for Tanaka to sign with an MLB team is Jan. 24, according to Mike Axisa of CBS Sports, but beyond that, there’s still relatively little known about his dealings. Most recently, Tanaka ventured to the U.S. last week to meet with interested teams, but even that yielded only so much in the way of juicy reports.

So, for now, we’re left with a very long list of potential suitors, a few reports and good old fashioned intuition to make sense of where Tanaka might eventually end up. Here are some of the many teams that are reportedly in on Tanaka, and each one’s chances of coming away with him.

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Early Favorites to Win Every Major MLB Award in 2014

The major MLB awards have seen something of a renaissance in recent years—or at least the debate around them has. Voters still cling to dubious criteria to determine how to cast their ballots, but the discussion surrounding the MVP, Cy Young and, to a lesser extent, Rookie of the Year awards is increasingly shaped by the growing influence of sabermetrics analysis.

In some ways, the competing interpretations of the awards are what makes them interesting in the first place. Sure, we could just award the Cy Young to the guy with the most wins every year, and, conversely, the MVP could go to whichever player Fangraphs says has the highest WAR. But both scenarios seem awfully boring to me.

Both schools of thought have scored notable victories in recent years. Felix Hernandez took home the AL Cy Young Award with a mere 12 wins in 2010 in what was a win for the saber set, while the old-school types got their revenge in 2012, when Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera was awarded the AL MVP even though Mike Trout outgained him in WAR by a healthy margin.

The upshot? We might have a wider pool of candidates to consider for each award. Here are the guys who look like the early favorites to take home some hardware in 2014, whether it be because of their homers and RBI or their FIPs and strikeouts per nine.

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MLB Trade Rumors: Top 5 Available Targets and Most Likely Landing Spots

The blockbuster trade that sent Prince Fielder to the Rangers and Ian Kinsler to the Tigers was one of the offseason’s first landscape-changing transactions. There have been relatively few swaps since then, with the Diamondbacks-Angels-White Sox three-way deal leading the way, but perhaps the winding down of the free-agent market will spell the re-opening of the trade market.

Certainly, there’s no shortage of name-brand players out there who could be on the move. Here’s a look at five of them who have surfaced in reports at various times throughout the offseason, and where they might be headed.

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Analyzing All the Hottest MLB Action, Rumors Coming Out of the Holidays

The holidays have nearly run their course, but MLB hot-stove action is still going strong and figures to play out weeks into the new year. Offseason dealings can bleed into February, so this isn’t entirely novel, but this year’s strangely forming market can be attributed mostly to the circumstances surrounding Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka.

Recall, if you will, the flurry of activity the week before the winter meetings. That’s when Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Mike Napoli and Curtis Granderson agreed to terms, to name just a few of the bigger moves. Since then, there have been a few notable transactions, including the Rangers’ signing of Shin-Soo Choo, but things have been quieter overall.

Now, though, Tanaka‘s posting could signify a second wave of activity. Here’s the latest as we enter a new chapter of the offseason.

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Fact or Fiction for All the Biggest MLB Free-Agency, Trade Rumors

There’s an old saying that says don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see. That might not be any more true than when it comes to the art of MLB “rumor mongering.” In this business, negotiations and posturing often play out in the media, and it’s up to us, the readers, to make sense of it.

You can’t always discern which reports are legit and which are likely to look silly in a matter of days or weeks, but if you are mindful of a team’s needs, its budget and its recent history, it goes a long way toward figuring out what makes sense and what doesn’t.

From Masahiro Tanaka to Stephen Drew, here’s my take on five reports surrounding the biggest ongoing stories of the offseason.

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Remaining MLB Trade Targets That Can Change Balance of Power

If the Hot Stove is your thing, it’s been a fun offseason. Many of the premium free agents are off the board now, but the good news is several still remain. As you’ll see in this piece, there’s still a few big trade pieces who could further shake things up.


Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

A potential trade of Matt Kemp is a game changer for obvious reasons. Chiefly, he’s really good when healthy. Kemp was worth an 8.4 WAR when he was runner-up for the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 2011, according to Fangraphs. That could be the difference between going home or reaching the postseason for a lot of teams.

As well, unloading Kemp would free the Dodgers of his $20-plus million average annual salary over the next six years. They’ll probably have to eat some of it, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, but dealing Kemp would still save them a lot of money that they could then spend elsewhere.

The possibilities for that are endless—hey, this is the Dodgers after all. But they’ll need all of it and then some to hammer out extensions for Hanley Ramirez and Clayton Kershaw, worthy undertakings considering those moves will keep them atop the NL West for the next couple of years.

I think the Seattle Mariners should have moved on Kemp yesterday. It’s risky, yes, but the Robinson Cano contract wasn’t exactly the move of a risk-averse team. They still need to get better for the Cano deal to make sense; acquiring Kemp would be one way to do that.


David Price, SP, Tampa Bay Rays

David Price said he’s preparing himself to be traded, as Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune reported in October. Would you blame him if it were wishful thinking? He’s not going to get on with his life/career with the Tampa Bay Rays, as we know they cannot afford to sign him to a long-term deal.

Any team would be glad to have Price. He’s a hard-throwing ace in the prime of his career and a lefty to boot. There’s not many of them for sale these days, as they tend to get locked into long-term contracts—except the ones on the Rays.

Price’s departure from Tampa would be a stark reminder that the system is unfair, but it would also be yet another opportunity for the Rays to remind everyone of how smart they are.

They’ll end up with a nice haul of prospects, because that’s what they always seem to do. The team that acquires Price will get two years of a Cy Young Award-winner at cost-controlled salaries. That’s super valuable.

On the field, the Rays would take at least a small step back without Price. I’m not sure that’s a given considering how adept they are at developing players, but I also doubt they have a four- or five-win pitcher just waiting in the wings to backfill the rotation spot.

They might still be an 88-win team without Price, though, which is pretty astonishing if you think about it.


Brett Gardner, OF, New York Yankees

On Sunday, Yankees president Randy Levine said the team has “absolutely no intention” of trading Brett Gardner, according to I’m not buying it.

Gardner is a good, cheap center fielder entering his walk year, a valuable commodity. It’s fair to wonder whether he’s available now that the Yankees have signed Jacoby Ellsbury, but apparently, that’s not the case, as Levine tells it. Instead, the Yanks plan to have Gardner in left, alongside Ellsbury.

Maybe that really is the Yankees’ plan, or maybe, it’s just a negotiating ploy, but they still have a lot of holes to fill on their roster. In no particular order, they need a starter or two, a couple of relievers, perhaps a second baseman and maybe a third baseman.

Can they get all of that in free agency?

Gardy can slide into left, combining with Ellsbury to give the Yanks a great defensive outfield and more speed in their lineup. Or, Gardner could be trade bait, because I’m sure teams are interested in him now or would be if he were made available.

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Six Big Deals That Could Still Go Down at the 2013 Winter Meetings

The action was modest through the first two days of the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., with a couple of secondary-type signings taking place, as well as the interesting three-way trade between the Angels, Diamondbacks and White Sox.

There figure to be at least a few more transactions before the Meetings disband, however, as the Orioles were reportedly on the verge of making a notable free-agent signing on Tuesday night, while the Marlins were reportedly motivated to make a trade and were getting plenty of interest from potential suitors.

Here are six moves that I could see going down before the all the sun bathing wraps up and everyone heads back to the cold-weather regions being pounded by snow and rain. Not that I’m jealous or anything.

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MLB Trade Rumors: Three Deals That Make Sense for Both Teams

The Hot Stove is a bonfire, but we might still see some big moves with the Winter Meetings set to begin on Monday.

The free-agent market is quickly drying up, but the trade market has remained steady, and there are some game-changing names still floating around in rumors.

Here are three blockbuster trades that, based on reports and looking at the fallout of the flurry of recent activity, I think make sense for both sides.


Mariners get: OF Matt Kemp
Dodgers get: IF Nick Franklin

In this deal, the Mariners would follow up on their splashy signing of Robinson Cano by acquiring Kemp, another expensive, MVP-caliber player.

Kemp is coming off an injury-wrecked 2013 season and also missed time in 2012, though he was still productive in the latter campaign in 449 plate appearances. Of course, what the Mariners are paying for is the hope that Kemp can recapture his 2011 form, when he racked up 8.4 fWAR.

Kemp has six years and $130 million remaining on his contract, according to Cot’s; although I’ve taken the liberty of assuming the Dodgers will eat about $30-40 million, bringing down the cost to about $90-100 million. That’s still not cheap, but it’s more palatable, and clearly the Mariners are willing to spend, as evidenced by the Cano deal.

Kemp’s defense in center field has long been the subject of debate—Fangraphs pegs him as below average to horrendous out there—and with Dustin Ackley manning center in Seattle, the M’s can slide Kemp into a corner, probably right field.

I’m not a scout, but Kemp looks more like a right fielder than a center fielder anyway; certainly athletic but with a very big frame. Plus, moving him to right might help keep him healthy, as he’ll have to cover less ground there than in center.

From the Dodgers’ perspective, they would get a promising, potentially versatile and cost-controlled infielder in Franklin who has become a valuable trade chit for the Mariners now that he’s been displaced by Cano.

Franklin played second base for the M’s last season because of the presence of Brad Miller at shortstop. But Franklin split time in the minors between second and short, so I wonder if he’d get another crack at shortstop in the Majors.

Franklin, 23 in March, showed promise in 412 PAs in 2013, slugging 12 homers and drawing walks at a good rate. He struck out too much but made more contact in the minors, so I would expect him to cut down on the whiffs as he gains more experience.

The Dodgers’ infield situation is murky as of now. They need a third baseman and perhaps a second baseman, with Alex Guerrero, whom they signed out of Cuba this offseason, tentatively slated to man the keystone.

Franklin is a great insurance policy at second if Guerrero needs time in the minors or is a bust. If Guerrero is ready, Franklin could play short, bumping Hanley Ramirez over to third, thus taking the Dodgers out of the market for a third baseman, which is thin.

In addition to moving a lot of money off the books, trading Kemp would also alleviate the Dodgers’ outfield logjam, leaving things to the still-formidable trio of Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig.


Angels get: Brett Anderson, SP
Athletics get: Howie Kendrick, 2B

Intradivision trades aren’t easy to pull off for obvious reasons. But the Angels and Athletics set aside their differences as recently as September to pull off a swap, so I don’t see why they couldn’t do it again.

In this deal, the Halos would get some much-needed help in the starting rotation, which has reportedly been their primary focus this offseason.

Anderson, a lefty, comes with major injury concerns, having missed significant time in each of the past four seasons due to a variety of ailments. But he’s a highly regarded pitcher, with many teams having been linked to him since it became clear that the A’s are willing to trade him.

The Angels’ everyday lineup looks good on paper—assuming Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols rebound to some degree. But their starting rotation is in shambles after Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson.

Anderson hardly makes for a plug-and-play No. 3 because of the injury concerns. But his upside is such that he could pretty easily surpass Wilson as the Angels’ second-best pitcher if everything falls into place for him—i.e., if he stays healthy.

Anderson is owed $8 million in 2014 with a $12 million club option for 2015, so paying him for 2014 and then reevaluating for 2015 would be of no concern for the deep-pocketed Angels.

Meanwhile, the A’s could still use a second baseman despite having several options there because none of them is optimal.

Eric Sogard is decent defender but a zero with the bat. Alberto Callaspo, who was acquired from the Angels in the aforementioned trade, can’t handle the position defensively and is better suited to a utility role; and Nick Punto is similarly a utility/bench guy, albeit a glove-first one.

Kendrick is a solid, well-rounded second baseman whom the A’s could plug in without having to deal with the platoon hassle. The Angels reportedly expressed a willingness to entertain trade offers for him earlier this offseason in hopes of landing a pitcher.

If they do in fact deal Kendrick, Grant Green could then step in at second base, which is a big risk considering it remains to be seen whether he’s an everyday player. But perhaps the Halos are willing to risk getting little out of second base in order to improve their rotation.

Kendrick is owed about $19 million over the next two years, so this is close to an even-money swap, assuming Anderson’s 2015 option is picked up.


Dodgers get: David Price, SP
Rays get: Zach Lee, SP; Joc Pederson, OF

This is a proposed deal I came across from ESPN’s Jim Bowden (subscription required), and it makes a lot of sense.

The Dodgers are rumored to be interested in another top-tier pitcher, and Lee and Pederson make sense as a suitor for Price, since the Rays are a win-now team that may be willing to part with their top prospects to acquire him. And, the Dodgers have the financial wherewithal to re-sign him when he hits free agency in two years (or before then).

The Dodgers’ rotation is a strong 1-3 with Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu, but things get a little hairy after that.

Dan Haren looks like a good rebound candidate after a strong second half in 2013, but that’s far from a sure thing. Josh Beckett or Chad Billingsley will round out the rotation, but they’re both coming back from serious injuries. Sure, many teams’ rotations are in worse shape than that, but the Dodgers are aiming to win a World Series, so adding Price could be the difference.

Price, a left-hander, is under team control for two more years, but he could make as much as $30 million through two more rounds of arbitration, so he won’t be dirt cheap—although that’s still a bargain relative to what pitchers of his ilk typically command on the free-agent market.

Certainly, the Dodgers would be able to afford his next contract, whether that would be a long-term extension or if he were to reach free agency.

For the Rays, this package would represent a strong return of cost-controlled talent, which is exactly what they need to continue thriving.

Lee is a well-regarded pitching prospect, a premium athlete whom the Dodgers drafted and signed in 2010 in what was something of a coup, as he had committed to Louisiana State University to play quarterback there.

Lee has moved through the minors with little difficulty, posting great peripherals in Double-A last season at the age of 21. And, while most scouting analyses I’ve read about him suggest he probably won’t be a knockout ace in the vain of Stephen Strasburg, his floor is thought to be very high because of his athleticism, mechanics, and feel for pitching.

Pederson, an outfielder, has also performed very well throughout his minor league career. He hit .278/.381/.497 with 22 homers and 31 steals last season in Double-A at age 21. He appears pretty much ready to join a Major League outfield, except for the fact that he too is blocked in Los Angeles.

Neither Lee nor Pederson has even a day of service time in the Majors, so the Rays would have both for six years at cost-controlled salaries.

It may seem like giving up a proven star like Price is a lot, and it is, but if they get 12 combined years of cheap production out of Lee and Pederson (or any other package), they won’t regret flipping their ace.

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Winners and Losers of the First Month of MLB Free Agency

Most of the top-tier free agents remain unsigned roughly a month after the frenzy began, but several deals have been struck. Some of them look like good signings and some of them…do not. Here are the early winners and losers of the offseason.



Cardinals: The rich get richer, at least on paper. The Redbirds improved at two up-the-middle positions, signing free agent shortstop Jhonny Peralta and trading for center fielder Peter Bourjos. Peralta is a huge upgrade at short, and though some were surprised to see him get four years and $52M coming off a PED suspension, the annual average salary is still team-friendly, and he didn’t cost a draft pick because the Tigers didn’t make him a qualifying offer.

Acquiring Bourjos for David Freese allows the Cards to move Matt Carpenter to third base and turn over second base to Kolten Wong, improving the infield while saving money. Bourjos could platoon with Jon Jay in center field or perhaps relegate Jay to fourth-outfielder duties. With Matt Holliday, Bourjos, Jay and Allen Craig as their four outfielders, there’s no need to rush super-prospect Oscar Taveras up to the majors if he starts slowly in the minors.

Yankees: The Yanks have made only one move so far, but signing All-Star catcher Brian McCann was a big one. They got him for five years and $85M, with a vesting option for a sixth year. McCann will turn 30 in February, so there could be some dead years on the back end, but for now the Yanks acquired one of the best players in the game at the position—one, by the way, that was a black hole for them in 2013.

The Yankees still have work to do. They’re interested in free agent outfielder/DH types like Carlos Beltran and Curtis Granderson, and they probably need a backup plan at third base in case Alex Rodriguez‘s suspension is upheld. And of course, their negotiations with second baseman Robinson Cano loom. For now, though, McCann is an excellent start.



Phillies: The Phils have made two moves of note, signing both Carlos Ruiz and Marlon Byrd to multiyear deals at modest annual average salaries. The problem isn’t the terms of the contracts but rather that both guys are old and could have pretty low floors if their production falls off a cliff. The Phillies could eat either contract in that case but will have already wasted time and money if it comes to that.

With that in mind, these deals seem to indicate a lack of organizational direction. Are they win-now moves? Stopgap moves? A little bit of both, perhaps.

Giants: The Giants have been one of the most active teams so far this offseason. While none of their moves looks terrible in a vacuum, the question is whether their cumulative impact is enough to allow the Giants to threaten the Dodgers in the NL West. Simply put, I don’t think so.

The Giants had something of a worst-case-scenario season in 2013, so some rebound is expected. But bringing back Hunter Pence, Tim Lincecum, Javier Lopez and Ryan Vogelsong doesn’t improve the team much—nor does it address gaping offensive holes at shortstop, left field and center field. The addition of Tim Hudson to the rotation helps, but at this point in his career he’s a No. 3 or 4 starter.

It’s too soon to write off the Giants’ offseason entirely for obvious reasons, but they need to make at least one big move if not two, and that may be tough considering they’ve spent a lot of money already. Otherwise, it looks to me that they’re trotting out a team similar to last year’s, and I just don’t think counting on rebounds from guys like Matt Cain will be enough to close the gap with the Dodgers.

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MLB Trade Rumors: Updating Impact Players Available at Each Position

With a few weeks’ worth of free-agent signings and trades in the rearview, the markets at each position have taken shape and shifted to varying degrees. And with many more weeks to go on the unofficial Hot Stove calendara stretch that includes the upcoming Winter Meetings, the signature event of the offseasonmore trades are likely to be struck.

Here’s a look at some guys at each position that make sense as trade candidates, updates on the latest rumors surrounding them, plus new potential trade targets who have emerged from the fray.

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