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Fantasy Baseball 2015: Top Sleeper Pitchers to Target Late in Drafts

Pitching depth is usually the key to success for fantasy baseball players, and the best way to compile depth is to take advantage of late-round sleepers with high upside.

Breakouts happen every year. Pinpointing the candidates isn’t always easy, as any number of factors can go into the success of young hurlers. Several young arms are on the cusp of reliability from a fantasy standpoint this season.

Coincidentally, all reside in the American League Central. That should create for some exciting matchups within the division in 2015. Take advantage of these names now before they begin to pick up steam early in the season.


Trevor Bauer, Cleveland Indians

Trevor Bauer has yet to put it all together in the bigs, owning a career 4.44 ERA and 7-12 record. He made 26 starts last season, but had problems limiting baserunners (1.379 WHIP). That certainly contributed to his 4.18 ERA, which would have been much higher had it not been for a successful two-month stretch in July and August.

Check out his numbers from those months:

It’s that 12-start stretch that should give potential owners hope. He struck out 68 in 70.2 innings, a reassuring sign for fantasy players. Even inconsistent starters can provide value if they strike out a ton of hitters, and that’s certainly something Bauer is capable of.

But a key for those pitchers is limiting walks, and that’s something Bauer has done in spring training. Spring stats are generally meaningless, but something can be said for a pitcher who has limited free passes. That’s how he came to his own defense on Twitter on Saturday:

If Bauer can make 30 starts and pitch around 180 innings in 2015, expect him to make meaningful fantasy contributions. He might win 10-12 games with an ERA under 4.00 and close to 160 strikeouts, but the potential is there for much more.

Take a chance on him late and watch him grown in 2015.


Shane Greene, Detroit Tigers

Shane Greene was never the highly touted prospect Bauer was, so his success with the New York Yankees last season came as a shock to many. He sat down 81 batters in 78.2 innings and had an ERA of 3.78, which was supported by a 3.73 FIP.

He was hurt by some bad luck. Opposing players had a .330 BABIP against him. With the league average last season at .296, per FanGraphs, it’s obvious that Greene’s numbers should have been even better.

He only won five games in 15 appearances (14 starts) for the Yankees. His new team, the Detroit Tigers, should provide him with several opportunities to win given their strong offense. Part of a three-way deal that netted New York Didi Gregorius from the Arizona Diamondbacks, Greene has the potential to end up being the most valuable player moved in the trade.’s David Schoenfield pegs him as a dark-horse contender for the American League Cy Young as early as this season:

He’s the longest shot on the board. A marginal prospect entering 2014 — Baseball America rated him as the Yankees’ No. 16 prospect — injuries in the rotation gave Greene a chance, and he performed well. His fastball averaged 93 mph, his slider was a swing-and-miss offering and he showcased a good cutter. His walk rate was a little high, and Derek Jeter didn’t help his BABIP any, but if he improves his command and continues developing his changeup, breakout potential is there — and the Tigers may have stolen a good starter from the Yankees.

Fantasy owners don’t need Greene to emerge as a Cy Young contender. As long as he maintains his high strikeout rate and wins around 12 ballgames, he’ll have a home on plenty of rosters.

Should he break out as Schoenfield suggests he might, you might have yourself the steal of the draft.


Danny Duffy, Kansas City Royals

By all accounts, Danny Duffy was the Kansas City Royals’ best starter in 2014. He posted a 2.55 ERA in 24 starts spanning 141.0 innings, making him arguably a more reliable option than James Shields for stretches of the season.

Many forget about his regular-season exploits, though. The team’s whirlwind of a playoff run pretty much erased what happened earlier in the season from memory. Duffy was not a key cog in the playoffs, making just three appearances (no starts) because of a ribcage injury.

Kansas City was still successful without their diminutive left-hander, but they need him to step up in 2015 with the offseason departure of Shields. One particular area where he needs to improve is his strikeout rate.

Last year’s mark may have just been a blip on the radar, writes Nando Di Fino of the New York Post:

“Duffy’s strikeout rate hit a career-low in 2014, with 6.8 strikeouts per nine innings. But it was Duffy’s first full season back from Tommy John surgery, and he had a 10.5 K/9 in the minor leagues. History suggests the strikeouts will return.”

Duffy appears healthy now, and that’s important for the Royals. With 30 starts and roughly 180 innings under his belt during a full season, Duffy should strike out close to a batter per inning and win at least 12 games.

He doesn’t allow many baserunners (1.112 WHIP in 2014) and generally keeps the ball in the yard (12 home runs allowed in 2014), which makes him a very attractive fantasy option given the above predictions.

He’s a future ace. Wouldn’t it be nice to be the owner that grabbed him before his breakout campaign started?


Kenny DeJohn is a Breaking News Team Featured Columnist. Follow him on Twitter.

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MLB Rumors: Latest Trade, Free-Agent Buzz Around Spring Training

There’s generally not much in the way of trade or free-agent buzz during the early stages of MLB spring training, but sometimes there are a few rumors that warrant a serious look.

Much of the talk of spring camp right now is about players who reported out of shape, youngsters who might crack the roster or veterans who might not have much left in the tank. Most teams don’t talk about further acquisitions until the final weeks of the spring, when managers can really get a vision of what holes still need to be filled.

But sometimes trades are too good to pass up. The same goes for free-agent signings.

Below are the hottest rumors as things stand on Tuesday—just before the spring training game schedule gets underway.


Diamondbacks’ Willingness to Trade

A last-place team in 2014, the Arizona Diamondbacks made moves this offseason to give the organization hope for the future. But there are still a handful of expensive, underperforming veterans who could get the axe before the season gets underway.

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that three veterans in particular have been made available:

But what good is a rumor if it isn’t swiftly denied by the team’s general manager? Heyman has that too:

Conflicting reports are nothing new, especially after a wild offseason. But it’s reasonable to believe that the team could actively look to move at least one of Trevor Cahill, Cody Ross or Aaron Hill. Team CEO Derrick Hall stated in the past that the team could look to shed payroll, via’s Steve Gilbert:

And Cahill, Ross and Hill are ideal trade candidates, at least from Arizona’s perspective. Below are their salaries for 2015, per Spotrac, compared with their production from 2014:

Cahill is battling several starters for a spot in the rotation, which doesn’t appear to have too many roles locked down. Josh Collmenter is presumably a guarantee, but the remaining four arms could be comprised of any of the following names—Cahill, Rubby De La Rosa, Jeremy Hellickson, Allen Webster, Chase Anderson, Vidal Nuno or Daniel Hudson.

Dealing Cahill and allowing the younger arms to progress as starters isn’t a bad idea.

Ross is essentially buried in the outfield, with Mark Trumbo slated for right, A.J. Pollock penciled into center and David Peralta ready for left. Ender Inciarte is the likely No. 4 outfielder. Ross is getting paid far too much to be a No. 5.

Finally, while Hill is slated to start as things stand now, the Diamondbacks would do well to give their younger middle infielders more reps. Chris Owings and Nick Ahmed are both shortstop prospects, but Owings is listed as the No. 3 second baseman on the depth chart, per Would Arizona consider moving him to second full time to clear a spot for Ahmed?

It’s something manager Chip Hale has to decide, but it’s not a bad idea.

There would definitely be teams willing to deal for Hill or Cahill, but Ross could be a hard guy to move. Arizona might have to consider releasing him outright.


Hector Olivera Takes Physicals

A bevy of Cuban prospects made headlines this offseason. Yasmany Tomas, Yoan Lopez and Yoan Moncada were highly sought-after talents once they hit the open market. One of their countrymen is still out there to be had, and interest is apparently picking up.

Hector Olivera appears to have taken the next steps in working toward an MLB career, reports Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal:

The 29-year-old is different from youngsters like Tomas, Lopez and Moncada in that he probably won’t need much seasoning to refine his tools. Sure, there will be an adjustment period moving from Cuba to the United States, but what you see is what you get with the 6’2″, 220-pound infielder.

Baseball America‘s Ben Badler highlighted what he saw from Olivera at a showcase early in February:

Olivera did show plus bat speed and a loose, easy swing with good bat path through the hitting zone and a mature approach that was evident even in BP. He drove the ball with authority and out of the park to all fields. The showcase was at the Dominican air force base, where the fences are short and scouts warn that can make for a deceptive evaluation, but he hit several balls that would have been out at any major league stadium, including one blast to straightaway center field. In three rounds, he hit around 10 balls out, mostly to his pull side, showing the power to be a 20-home run threat.

A 20-homer second baseman is a valuable commodity, but if Rosenthal‘s report about the Los Angeles Dodgers having interest is true, then it wouldn’t set up a favorable situation for Olivera or the organization.

There are multiple reasons—all of which have to do with the team’s personnel in the middle of the diamond. Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick are the current starters at shortstop and second, respectively, with Justin Turner and Darwin Barney scheduled to be reserves. That already fills the depth chart.

But Alex Guerrero, 28, is also waiting in the wings for an opportunity. He signed a four-year, $28 million deal in October 2013 before playing just 11 games for the Dodgers in 2014. It doesn’t appear as if there’s much greater of an opportunity in 2015, barring injuries to the parent club.

Guerrero can’t be optioned to the minors this year, however, so that leaves the club in a bit of a predicament.

So where would that leave Olivera?

Kendrick and Rollins are both free agents after the season, so perhaps the Dodgers could roll with Guerrero and Olivera then. But is it smart to turn to two first-time starters, ages 29 and 30, respectively? Probably not, especially for a team looking to win.

Olivera is a talent whom the Dodgers aren’t wrong to be somewhat interested in. But he’s simply not a fit for the current roster. It wouldn’t be wise for them to invest in his future, especially when it’s so foggy in Los Angeles.


Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @kennydejohn

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MLB Spring Training 2015: Camp Schedules, Early Predictions for Upcoming Season

The calendar has turned to March, meaning we’re inching ever closer to the onset of the 2015 MLB regular season.

Spring training is now in full swing for all 30 teams. Pitchers are throwing bullpens, and hitters are taking their hacks in the cage in preparation for the upcoming grind of a 162-game season. As if that weren’t enough, there’s a slate of roughly 30 spring games to be played as well.

General managers worked tediously this offseason to build complete rosters for such a grind, but not every team is poised for success in 2015. There are some that will disappoint.

The arduous journey has begun for every team in baseball, and while it’s hard to make predictions so early in such a long season, you will find a couple below.

Cactus League Grapefruit League
Angels Diamondbacks Braves  Orioles
Cubs Reds  Red Sox Tigers
Indians Rockies  Astros Marlins
White Sox Royals  Twins Mets
Dodgers Brewers Yankees Phillies
Athletics Padres  Pirates Cardinals
Giants Mariners Rays Blue Jays
Rangers   Nationals  

Full daily schedule is also available at

Most Improved Team: Chicago White Sox

There’s a legitimate argument that can be made for which team had the best winter.

The San Diego Padres revamped their offense and added a front-line starter to an already strong group. The Chicago Cubs added Jon Lester, Dexter Fowler and Miguel Montero, giving them a strong veteran presence on an otherwise young team. Even the Boston Red Sox can be considered major winners after signing two of the top hitters on the market and trading for Rick Porcello.

But the top spot goes to the Chicago White Sox. They were aggressive in filling needs, as’s Jayson Stark writes:

If you watched White Sox GM Rick Hahn at work this winter, you could almost see him checking off boxes on his offseason wish list: Top-of-the-rotation starter — Jeff Samardzija (check). Closer — David Robertson (check). Left fielder — Melky Cabrera (check). First baseman/DH to ease the load on Jose Abreu — Adam LaRoche (check). Left-handed reliever — Zach Duke (check). Super utility men — Emilio Bonifacio and Gordon Beckham (check). Now that the transaction dust has settled, this team is way better than the 89-loss outfit of 2014.

Those commitments were mostly large financial ones—aside from the deals for Bonifacio and Beckham, of course—and that seemingly left USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale in shock:

When assessing the woes of last season’s White Sox, it’s obvious to see why these moves were made. They ranked 28th in baseball in terms of offensive WAR (10.6), 25th in starter’s ERA (4.26), 28th in reliever’s ERA (4.38) and 28th in defensive rating (negative-48), per FanGraphs.

Cabrera and LaRoche certainly solve some of the offensive issues, as both are 20-homer threats who can bat in the middle of the order. Samardzija and Robertson, each one of the top pitchers in their respective roles last season, will patch up shotty units for manager Robin Ventura. Defensively, Cabrera and LaRoche are solid, if nothing else.

Ventura now has a deep rotation to work with. Headlined by Samardzija and perennial All-Star Chris Sale, the unit also features Jose Quintana, John Danks and possibly top prospect Carlos Rodon.

Add in the fact that youngsters like Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton, Avisail Garcia and Tyler Flowers could still improve, and the White Sox are a team to watch in 2015 and beyond.

Hahn made moves to win now, but they also set him up for the future. No GM had a better offseason. Look for the White Sox to compete in the American League Central and possibly represent the division in the playoffs.

Prediction: White Sox win 91 games and win the AL Central.


Most Disappointing Team: Baltimore Orioles

The Baltimore Orioles won 96 games in 2014. It might be a struggle for them to even get to 86 in 2015.

The American League East champs lost Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis in free agency, two major contributors to last year’s team. Right-handed power is hard to come by in today’s game, but Cruz was the best of them all in 2014, smacking 40 home runs to lead baseball.

Andrew Miller, one of the studs of the postseason for the Orioles, also left town during the offseason, signing with the New York Yankees. The importance of a dominant bullpen was highlighted by the Kansas City Royals in October, so it will be interesting to see how the team copes with the loss.’s David Schoenfield defended Baltimore’s choices:

Inactivity isn’t always a bad thing just as activity doesn’t ensure improvement. What have the Orioles lost? They’ve lost some 2014 value: Cruz was worth 4.6 WAR, Markakis 2.7 WAR and Miller 1.0 WAR (with the Orioles). The general consensus, however, is that the Mariners overpaid for Cruz (four years, $57 million) and the Braves overpaid for Markakis (four years, $44 million). Miller was just a rental and was going to leave anyway. Cruz turns 35 on July 1 and Markakis is entering his age-31 season, had offseason surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck and has a .371 slugging percentage over the past two seasons. It’s understandable that the Orioles didn’t want to commit nearly $100 million to those two guys. 

At least there are options for the O’s. Dylan Bundy isn’t far from a major role on this team. The top prospect should be a starter in the future, but there’s nothing wrong with him settling into a late-inning role out of the pen in 2015. It should be enough to get his feet wet before a breakout season in 2016.

Kevin Gausman, another young arm, should find a permanent role in the rotation this season. He’s primed for a breakout himself. One can also assume that Ubaldo Jimenez will improve upon his disastrous 2014.

Baltimore had one of the best offenses in baseball in terms of WAR last season, per FanGraphs. Such noticeable losses put the pressure on Matt Wieters, Manny Machado and Chris Davis, three stars who either struggled or fell victim to injuries.

Davis hit 26 homers, but he slashed .196/.300/.404 after posting a line of .286/.370/.634 in the previous year. He doesn’t need to hit 53 bombs again, but he’ll have to up his average and on-base percentage.

For Wieters and Machado, it’s all about staying healthy. Machado told The Associated Press, via The Washington Times, that he’s ready to go: “I think everything has been going smooth, knock on wood. Everything’s been going good. I’ve just got to keep my strength up. I’ve got two brand new knees now, so it’s just time to go out there an play and keep do what I’ve been doing, stay on it.”

With a clean bill of health and a full season, Machado could hit 20-plus homers with a balanced slash line and even a Gold Glove to top it off. He’s a future stud barring trips to the disabled list.

The Orioles might be good, but they might be bad too. There are too many question marks surrounding the Orioles, and instead of putting a bunch of eggs in the metaphorical basket, it’s probably safest to bet low on the team.

Prediction: Orioles win 84 games and miss the playoffs.


Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @kennydejohn

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MLB Rumors: Latest on James Shields, Yoan Moncada and More

The calendar has changed over to 2015, yet there are still several noticeable names remaining in the MLB free-agent pool.

High-profile pitchers and potentially impactful position players can be had for the right price, and it’s shocking to see names like Max Scherzer and James Shields generating relatively little interest. Jon Lester’s signing should have accelerated the free-agent pitching market, but only the mid- and low-tier arms got scooped up.

In terms of bats, the most intriguing option left is probably Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada. He’s just 19 years old and has an extraordinarily high ceiling. He’ll command a large contract, one certainly out of the ballpark for most teams.

The latest MLB rumors have much to do with Shields and Moncada, as well as a big-name pitcher who hasn’t done much in the bigs over the past several years. Read on to find out more.


James Shields

Shields is the No. 2 pitcher available behind Scherzer, but there should be more of a market for a guy capable of delivering over 200 innings and a sub-4.00 ERA. There’s at least one team with an interest in his right arm, reports Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal:

The Miami Marlins have acquired Mat Latos, Dan Haren and David Phelps this offseason, but Rosenthal notes that there are legitimate reasons for their interest:

Miami’s rotation has the potential to be lethal with Jose Fernandez, Henderson Alvarez and Latos headlining the rotation when all three are healthy together, but adding Shields into the mix would make this one of the deepest rotations in baseball.

Throw in the fact that offensive upgrades Martin Prado, Dee Gordon and Mike Morse will drastically change the production of the lineup, and the Marlins are poised to compete in the National League East—even without Shields.

There’s a significant financial commitment to be made, though, as there’s a strong chance the 33-year-old will earn a five-year contract in the $100 million range.

Demands like these are likely why interest hasn’t picked up, as not many teams have the resources or philosophy to give that type of money to someone Shields’ age.

One would have to think he’ll sign soon. Spring training begins in mid- to late February, and a player of his caliber likely won’t remain on the sidelines while his colleagues are beginning serious preseason workouts.


Yoan Moncada

Moncada likely won’t make an impact in the bigs right away considering his young age, but that will not stop big spenders from throwing money his way.’s Jesse Sanchez reports that one notoriously lavish organization will be in the running:

The Los Angeles Dodgers won’t be alone in their pursuit. Baseball America‘s Ben Badler expects eight teams to join them in the hunt. Interesting options include the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays, all of which have already gone over the international spending bonus pool. They’re already at max penalty, so signing another player to a large deal won’t result in a more severe consequence.

For teams that have yet to incur penalties, Moncada might be out of their price range. That said,’s Jonathan Mayo spoke to a scouting director who said that it’s a small price to pay for his absurd talents: “He’s worth going way over your international spending pool, in my opinion. This game is about talent and Moncada is the kind of talent worth the investment.”

A potential five-tool talent, Moncada has good speed, power and contact skills. He has plus arm strength and decent technique in the outfield. It’s only a matter of time before he takes the minors by storm and begins his climb to the majors.

Los Angeles seems like a strange fit given its wealth of outfielders. The Red Sox are in a similar situation. This could become a rare bidding war between the Yankees and Rays, both of which will have holes in the outfield in two years or so—about when Moncada should be ready.

Of course, anything can happen when bidding on international studs. Take Yoan Lopez, for example. Not many expected him to sign with the Arizona Diamondbacks, yet the organization loved him enough to make a competitive offer.

Anything can happen with Moncada, but rest assured that he’ll be paid handsomely.


Johan Santana

Remember Johan Santana? He has fallen off the face of the baseball earth; he last pitched for the New York Mets in 2012.

Injuries have prevented him from reaching the majors since that point, yet he is still working on a comeback after suffering an Achilles injury with the Baltimore Orioles last season.

The two-time Cy Young winner is probably nothing more than a lefty reliever at this point in his career, but that hasn’t stopped the Yankees from showing interest, according to Dan Martin of the New York Post: “Scouts who saw him said he was relying more on guile than power. Nevertheless, the Yankees remain intrigued by the possibility of bringing in Santana and will ‘keep an eye on him,’ according to a source.”

During Santana’s last stint with the Mets, low velocity resulted in ineffectiveness. He made 21 starts but produced a 4.85 ERA (4.09 FIP) and a WHIP of 1.333—a career high for a season in which he logged at least 100 innings.

He’s an ideal buy-low candidate, however. Santana didn’t forget how to pitch, even if his velocity isn’t what it used to be. The worst-case scenario is that he either gets injured or performs poorly in the minors and gets released. The best-case scenario is that he joins a bullpen and pitches well, perhaps making a spot start here or there.

The Yankees have left-handed depth in Andrew Miller, Justin Wilson and Chasen Shreve, so Santana would strictly provide depth if signed.


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MLB Trade Rumors: Analyzing Dan Haren, Ben Zobrist Rumblings

The majority of the offseason’s most valuable trade chips have already been dealt, but there are still a few coveted veterans who could be on the move before the start of spring training in February.

Complementary veteran pieces are still available for the right price. Oftentimes, those are the types of acquisitions that set the offseason’s successful teams apart from the pack. While the big prizes of the winter are the ones that lead to the most improvement, the extra pieces take a team over the top.

There are several of these pieces still available on the trade market, and two of them have made headlines in early 2015. Below, you’ll find an analysis of the latest buzz surrounding their current situations.


Dan Haren

Dan Haren wasn’t fond of his trade from Los Angeles to Florida, and’s Joe Frisaro reports that the Miami Marlins are working on finding a deal that would move him back to the West Coast. “From what I’ve heard, there is a market for Haren, and the Marlins will do their best to work out a deal that accommodates both parties. Those talks are already underway,” Frisaro writes.

Fox Sports’ Joe Morosi adds to Frisaro‘s report:

There are a few teams who could presumably be in the running for the 34-year-old right-hander. The Seattle Mariners, San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres are certainly in the discussion considering how close they are to contention, and a dark horse could be the Oakland Athletics, the team Haren pitched for from 2005 to 2007.

The Los Angeles Angels general manager, Jerry Dipoto, has said that his team won’t reacquire Haren, who pitched for the team from 2010 to 2012. Los Angeles presumably has a need in the rotation, though, with Garrett Richards a question mark and Tyler Skaggs scheduled to miss all of 2015 after Tommy John surgery.

If the Halos are indeed not interested in a reunion, then it will come down to the other four teams mentioned above.

Check out their full rotation options below:

Haren would be a strong fit on any of these clubs because of the veteran leadership he can provide those young pitchers, but it comes down to which team feels as if it will compete at the highest level next season.

One would assume that the A’s will regress given the roster overhaul they’ve undergone, so it’d be interesting to see them jump into the discussion. Plus, they have injured arms A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker expected to return from Tommy John surgeries at some point in 2015.

San Diego has been the most active team this offseason, though we’ve yet to see GM A.J. Preller address the rotation outside of reclamation project Brandon Morrow.

San Francisco were in the hunt for James Shields in December, so it’s clear that the Giants want arms. Haren represents an affordable option there.

As for Seattle, it’d be odd to see them go after Haren. Promising young arms James Paxton, Taijuan Walker and Roenis Elias are vying for rotation spots behind Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma.

That would point to the Giants as the favorites if we’re going off need, but any of the teams could make room for a successful veteran who would be happy to pitch near his home.


Ben Zobrist

The Giants should also be considered the favorites for Ben Zobrist at this point given the mammoth hole in left field, though any number of teams have the need for an affordable veteran who can play nearly any position on the field.

Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe reported on the size of Zobrist‘s market:

Zobrist, 33, has one of the biggest trade markets out there. The super utilityman is being pursued seriously by the Giants, Nationals, Angels, and Cubs. The Rays recently acquired Asdrubal Cabrera on a one-year deal, sparking further speculation that Zobrist might be on the move. The Rays are said to be asking for at least one top prospect and a mid-level one.

Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News echoed that every team in existence could benefit from having him on a roster:

Despite the fact that a high percentage of teams will likely call the Tampa Bay Rays in the coming days, the Giants stand out as the best fit. Coming off the World Series victory, San Francisco must now look to fill the void left by Pablo Sandoval at third base.

Casey McGehee can’t do that by himself, so adding a consistent bat to play left field should help to deepen the lineup. At the very least, the Giants’ motivations for wanting Zobrist should trump the field.

Plus, Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow seems to think he’s exactly the type of player team GM Brian Sabean seeks, saying via, “He’s a good player. He’s a Sabean-type player.”

Besides Zobrist‘s obvious fit in left, he would also act as an insurance policy should Joe Panik regress significantly in 2015.

Each passing day means the chances of a Zobrist trade increase. Asdrubal Cabrera will man second for the Rays next year, and Yunel Escobar will play shortstop. Third base and the outfield are covered. The time is now for the Rays to capitalize on Zobrist‘s value and get back prospects in return before he inevitably leaves in free agency next winter.

Look for him to be in orange and black by the time spring training rolls around.


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MLB Rumors: Trade and Free-Agent Buzz Surrounding Top Players Left on Market

With less than two months until teams report to spring training, it’s crunch time for MLB general managers looking to put the finishing touches on their offseason masterpieces.

Several teams are probably already done making major moves. The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres have been extraordinarily busy, and their roster overhauls will be on display as soon as camp gets underway.

Other teams have been strangely quiet thus far, so it’ll be interesting to see if they make moves now that other teams are out of the running for the remaining available players.

Three of the top players left on the free-agent and trade markets have made headlines recently. Get up to speed on their statuses below.


Asdrubal Cabrera

Widely considered the top bat available in free agency as things stand today, Asdrubal Cabrera has no shortage of suitors. Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi lists four potential destinations for the middle infielder, though there are presumably others in the hunt as well:

Of the teams Morosi lists, the Toronto Blue Jays appear to be the best fit. After dealing Brett Lawrie this offseason, the team lacks quality depth at second base. Ryan Goins, Maicer Izturis and Steve Tolleson are among those on the roster who could see time there, but adding Cabrera would effectively make them expendable.

Scott Ferguson of TSN 1050 writes that Cabrera may not be the future of the position, but he’s worth bringing in now: “Ryan Goins may one day learn to hit, and John Berti who’s been playing in the Arizona Fall League may be an option down the road, but right now, the Jays need a veteran like Asdrubal Cabrera.”

Adding Cabrera would also be an insurance policy for Jose Reyes at short should he get injured yet again. Cabrera could simply slide over to his right and allow one of the aforementioned players to see time at second.

This is an easy-to-see upgrade for Toronto. Cabrera hit .241/.307/.387 split between the Cleveland Indians and Washington Nationals in 2014. That’s now two consecutive subpar seasons from the 29-year-old, but there’s no reason why the Blue Jays can’t offer him a one-year deal and see if he can re-establish himself north of the border.

There wouldn’t be all that much pressure on Cabrera to produce offensively in a lineup packed with the likes of Reyes, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson, so this is an ideal scenario for all parties involved.


Marlon Byrd

Jimmy Rollins and Antonio Bastardo have already fallen victim to the rebuild that the Philadelphia Phillies are in the midst of, and the likes of Cole Hamels and Ryan Howard are on the chopping block as well.

Marlon Byrd, a surprisingly valuable player (for the most part) since 2009, is also a candidate for relocation. Morosi tweeted that he was actually almost shipped off to Cincinnati:

It’s unknown what the Phillies would have received in return, though moving Byrd is a positive by itself. He’s on borrowed time, enjoying arguably the best two seasons of his career (2013 and 2014) in his mid-30s. Moving him now would prevent the Phillies from having to deal with him when his value potentially lowers during the season.

This is a head-scratcher for the Reds. The outfield is thin, with Skip Schumaker currently in line for regular playing time in left field, but Cincy is in somewhat of a rebuild itself.

The Reds have dealt Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon, floated around the idea of trading Jay Bruce and both Aroldis Chapman and Johnny Cueto’s names have even popped up in rumors

Adding Byrd would not help the future of the team. The Reds would have to trade a prospect or two to get him, yet those prospects should remain in the team’s system as part of the plan a few years from now.

Also, Byrd is owed $8 million next season. The Reds need to cut payroll, writes Kevin Goheen of Fox Sports Ohio, so adding salary makes zero sense.

Byrd could very well be dealt this offseason, but it shouldn’t be to the Reds.


Max Scherzer

The pitching market is still tied to Max Scherzer, as the right-handed ace has yet to ink a new contract. That’s probably because he’s still asking for $200 million (h/t D.J. Short of Hardball Talk), a number no pitcher other than Clayton Kershaw has ever earned.

One team accustomed to spending large sums of money on pitchers is the New York Yankees. While they have been quiet in their pursuit (or non-pursuit) of Scherzer, Morosi believes that they’ll ultimately end up with the 30-year-old.

So if your question today is whether I believe the Yankees are pursuing Scherzer, the answer is an emphatic yes,” Morosi writes. “The New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium could have been renamed the ‘We Are Not Signing Max Scherzer Bowl,’ and I wouldn’t have been convinced.”

Morosi cites the team’s muffled pursuit of Mark Teixeira when he was a free agent prior to the 2009 season. Most believed the Yankees to be out on Teixeira until he surprised everyone and inked a lengthy, lucrative deal with the organization.

But why is this parallel relevant? Because both players had Scott Boras‘ name attached to them during free agency.

Boras is the best agent in the business when it comes to pinching every dollar out of prospective teams for his clients. The Yankees are one of the best at throwing money around, making Boras‘ eyes turn into dollar signs when his clients are interested in joining the Bombers.

It’s widely known that Boras always gives the Yankees a call. Morosi recalled a quote from John Henry in his report: “A half-dozen years later, it’s worth remembering what Red Sox owner John Henry told The Associated Press after Teixeira signed with his archrival: ‘There was no mention of the Yankees, but we felt all along that they were going to get the last call. That’s what you deal with in working with Scott.'”

A similar situation could very well happen with Scherzer.

The Yankees have yet to address their injury-prone starting rotation outside of young Nate Eovaldi, and you can rest assured that general manager Brian Cashman won’t stand pat. Something will happen.

How major that something will be is still undetermined.


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MLB Trade Rumors: Trade Buzz Surrounding Ben Zobrist, Nick Swisher and More

There’s usually a lull in the MLB offseason during the holidays, but expect the peace and quiet to come to an end once the calendar turns to 2015. There’s still wheeling and dealing to be done.

For now, it seems as if even the MLB trade rumors have taken a backseat to eggnog and caroling. The few we do have focus on players with the ability to play the outfield.

The free-agent market for outfielders is mostly depleted, with options like Nori Aoki, Colby Rasmus and Mike Carp representing the best players left available for teams to bid on. Naturally, it’s not a surprise that teams searching for outfield help have turned their attention to the trade market.

Teams still have some time to make upgrades before spring training, but they better act fast. If they wait, then the best options will be gone.

Below are the latest rumors on some of the more intriguing outfielders available.


Ben Zobrist

Traditionally a second baseman or shortstop, Ben Zobrist has played over 400 career games in the outfield. He can play any position on the field except catcher, and that makes him one of the more invaluable players in the sport.

So how can the Tampa Bay Rays justify dealing him away?

Nothing is imminent yet, but Peter Gammons reports that several general managers have told him that the San Francisco Giants will eventually trade a package of prospects for the versatile veteran.

Should the Giants acquire Zobrist, they’d likely pencil him in as the team’s everyday left fielder. Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford have second and short locked down, respectively, and Casey McGehee will most likely assume third-base duties after the position was vacated by Pablo Sandoval.

Even if it’s not the Giants who acquire Zobrist, Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi writes that “there’s a decent chance” Zobrist will be moved before Opening Day.

The 34-year-old may be worth more to the Rays in a trade than he would be on a team looking like it will enter a mini-rebuild next season. A free agent after 2015, he’s owed just $7.5 million next year. That’s extremely affordable considering his value. He has produced a WAR of at least 5.4 each of the past four seasons, per FanGraphs.

A switch-hitter who can deliver a line of .270/.350/.420 with 15 homers and 70 RBI can be a difference-maker for a lineup in need of more depth. The Giants certainly do after losing Sandoval and Mike Morse to free agency.

Couple his bat with his versatility, and Zobrist is easily one of the most valuable players in baseball. The Giants better be ready to deal top prospects if they want to add him to the team.


Nick Swisher

Fresh off the worst season of his successful 11-year career, Nick Swisher has become the subject of trade rumors this offseason.

He hit just .208/.278/.331 with eight homers and 42 RBI in 401 plate appearances in his second year with the Cleveland Indians. While he still has two more years left on his contract, the Indians already appear to be moving on.

They acquired Brandon Moss earlier this offseason, a player with the exact same set of skills as Swisher. He’s a first baseman who can also play the outfield but should really be the designated hitter—just like Swish.

Naturally, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe reports that the Indians “would like to trade him.” It won’t be easy to trade someone coming off such a bad season. Indians general manager Chris Antonelli has to sell him to other teams as a big bounce-back candidate, but even that might not work.

Cafardo lists the Chicago Cubs as a possible trade partner. On paper, that seems like a fit. The Cubs have a talented young roster but need to infuse some more veteran leadership in the final months of the offseason. Jon Lester is there to command the pitching staff, but there isn’t someone to help groom the young hitters.

With Anthony Rizzo firmly entrenched at first base, Swisher could play a semi-regular role as a corner outfielder. He’d have to yield time to Jorge Soler and others, of course.

Perhaps a one-for-one deal could work if the Indians are interested in taking Edwin Jackson from the Cubs. Sometimes a change of scenery is good for struggling veterans. At the very least, the Indians would be getting another arm who can be used in the back of the rotation.

We’ll have to wait to hear more information on a potential Swisher trade, as Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer writes that “the Indians consider Jason Kipnis, Bourn and Swisher three of the keys to 2015.”

Conflicting reports are nothing new this time of the year, so we’ll just keep waiting.


Other Outfielders

Plenty of teams have outfield depth from which to deal. Morosi lists nine teams and several players who could be involved at some point, with Zobrist and Swisher both named on the list.

He writes that we should see “heavy activity” when it comes to outfield bats following the holidays. Among the list of names are a few intriguing ones.

Carlos Gonzalez of the Colorado Rockies, Josh Hamilton of the Los Angeles Angels, Jay Bruce of the Cincinnati Reds and Mark Trumbo of the Arizona Diamondbacks are among those names probably on the unlikely-to-be-dealt list; however, the craziness of this offseason should leave our minds open for anything.

Trumbo is a player who would certainly garner interest if made available, but Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic tweeted back on Dec. 10 that nobody has been able to gauge Arizona’s interest in moving him:

Piecoro tweeted a few days earlier a quote from Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart regarding the idea of moving the slugger:

It would be hard to justify moving Trumbo. Sure, he only slashed .235/.293/.415 in 362 plate appearances, but you have to remember that he was troubled by a foot injury for most of the season. Even still, he hit 14 homers and drove in 61 in 88 games.

That’s nearly 30 home runs and over 100 RBI projected over a full season, and one would have to assume that his slash line would have approached his four-year average with the Angels—.250/.299/.469—had he been fully healthy.

Trumbo is a valuable bat for an Arizona team that might surprise next season. He, Paul Goldschmidt and Yasmany Tomas form a tough trio for pitchers to work through, and their are plenty of other young hitters ready to take the next step.

Arizona should only move Trumbo if it is blown away by an offer. Given his performance last year, it probably won’t be.


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MLB Trade Rumors: Buzz Surrounding David Price, Blue Jays’ Next Move

Most of the offseason’s biggest trades come prior to the flipping of the calendar, but there could still be a blockbuster or two in the works as the MLB offseason continues on through January.

Despite the calm associated with the holidays, there are still a few MLB trade rumors to analyze. The rumor mill is done churning out bit after bit like it did during the winter meetings. That said, the buzz that comes out now can still have an impact.

Take the recent string of rumors, for example. They can have a major impact on the rest of the league if they come to fruition. Find out more about them below.


David Price

Acquired at last year’s trade deadline to aid the playoff push of the Detroit Tigers, left-handed ace David Price shouldn’t get too comfortable in the Motor City this winter.

Tweets from Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi on Sunday evening suggest that Price could be dealt yet again in order for the team to re-sign free agent Max Scherzer:

A free agent after the season, Price was just OK for the Tigers. He was 4-4 in 11 starts with a 3.59 ERA, though his 2.44 FIP suggests that he was actually a bit better, per Price also lost his only start of the playoffs, although it was a successful outing (two earned runs in eight innings against the Baltimore Orioles).

It seems strange that the Tigers would consider trading Price so quickly, but it makes a lot of sense when you consider that he is only under contract for another season. Moving him now to re-sign Scherzer would guarantee that the team at least gets to keep one of its starters.

Detroit can’t afford to let Scherzer walk and then risk Price walking as well at the end of the season. The team needs at least one of them in the fold to be successful, especially if Justin Verlander doesn’t bounce back in 2015.

In an ideal world, the Tigers would be able to both re-sign Scherzer and keep Price next season. By not giving Price an extension now, that would free up the necessary funds to ink the right-hander.

Scherzer‘s market has been slow to develop, despite him being head-and-shoulders the best pitcher left on the market. It could take a major move for the dominoes to start falling.

Trading Price qualifies as a major move.

Not that many teams would have the necessary prospects to get something done. The Boston Red Sox, Miami Marlins and Chicago Cubs do, so they would likely be players.

Of course, we know that Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski generally seeks major leaguers in trades who can help immediately. Even fewer teams can supply enough of that talent to pique his interest.

Detroit is completely in the driver’s seat with Price. There’s no immediate need to deal the ace. Locking him up to a long-term extension comes down to a matter of preference—it’s Scherzer or Price.


Toronto Blue Jays

In the midst of a busy offseason that has seen the Toronto Blue Jays acquire Josh Donaldson, Russell Martin and Michael Saunders to boost the lineup, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets that the organization will now shift all of its attention to the vacancy at the back end of the bullpen:

Casey Janssen closed games last year, saving 25 of 30 ballgames. He’s a free agent, though.

It makes sense that the Blue Jays could look to pass on him given the value of other relievers like Andrew Miller and David Robertson. They locked down massive contracts. Janssen would likely fetch half their value, but that’s still a lot for a reliever who is merely average.

That’s why it makes sense to approach other organizations with a wealth of relievers. Two teams come to mind immediately—the Kansas City Royals and Washington Nationals.

The 2014 postseason proved to the nation that the Royals have a plethora of incredible arms finishing off games. The unit was headlined by Greg Holland, who has been one of the best closers in baseball the past three seasons.

Despite K.C.’s success with the current formula, Fox Sports’ CJ Nitkowski thinks the team must trade its closer this offseason:

One of those players who should be on the move is closer Greg Holland. Holland has been magnificent in his Royals career, particularly in the last two seasons. In those 144 games, post season included, Holland has posted a 1.28 ERA, earned 100 saves, and struck out 208 batters in 140 innings. Incredible numbers.


In a a trade, the return of a well-regarded prospect or two is likely. He has an incredible streak of 151 straight games of throwing one inning or less. The Royals aren’t a team that should pay $8 million for that kind of reliever.

Toronto has prospects that could pique Kansas City’s interest.

The Nationals are a more likely trade partner because the target, Tyler Clippard, won’t come with the value of a closer. He has the pedigree to possibly blossom into a shutdown closer, but the Nationals have yet to show the willingness to entrust him with the job.

He’ll likely pitch the eighth inning in Washington in 2015, but GM Mike Rizzo hasn’t ruled out trading him (or any of his players) just yet, via James Wagner of The Washington Post: “We’ll listen to any deal for any player we got. If it’s the right deal, increases productivity and helps the ballclub, we’re all in.”

Clippard is exactly the type of pitcher Toronto must target. He’s cheap given his lack of recent closing experience (just one save the past two seasons), and if he pans out, the team can look to re-sign him following the season.


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MLB Trade Rumors: Hot-Stove Buzz Surrounding Cole Hamels and Troy Tulowitzki

The beauty of the MLB offseason is that you never know if the biggest move of the winter has been made.

Each day brings the potential for a move that’s bigger than the moves from days prior. Such is the case now. While the trades of Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Jimmy Rollins, Wil Myers and Jeff Samardzija could be categorized as the top deals so far, the potential for even bigger things is on the horizon.

Cole Hamels and Troy Tulowitzki have found themselves the focus of trade rumors for longer than just the past few months, but this offseason has featured the most serious talks for both players.

Where will each superstar play in 2015? They’re members of the Philadelphia Phillies and the Colorado Rockies, respectively, for now, but that could change in an instant. Read below to find out the most recent buzz.


Cole Hamels

The San Diego Padres are in the midst of a roster overhaul, having acquired Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers and Derek Norris in the past few weeks. They might not be done dealing.

Hamels, a native San Diegan, can be had for the right price. Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News reported Sunday that the Padres were interested in making a deal: “The Padres have had discussions about trading for San Diego native Cole Hamels with new outfielder Wil Myers as potential bait, according to a baseball source.”

Trading Myers would be bold. Even though he wasn’t all that productive last season, the 24-year-old outfielder has untapped potential and could become one of the best right-handed hitters in the division as soon as next season.

A conflicting report from Dennis Lin of U-T San Diego suggests the Padres recognize that and aren’t willing to trade him: “Indications from sources within the organization, however, are that the Padres intend on playing all three of their newest outfielders, including Myers. The early plan is for the 2013 American League Rookie of the Year to start in center field.”

Trading Myers in a deal for Hamels isn’t a far-fetched idea, though.

For one, Hamels would approve a trade to the Padres, reports USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale:

The Padres have a wealth of capable outfielders. Myers, Upton and Kemp are slated to start, but Cameron Maybin, Seth Smith, Will Venable, Abraham Almonte, Carlos Quentin and Rymer Liriano are also worthy of playing time. Obviously, it is impossible for a team to play nine outfielders.

Philly should be interested in bringing in outfield help. Marlon Byrd could be dealt, but he and Ben Revere are the only capable players they have to roam Citizens Bank Park. Myers and someone such as Liriano could pique the interest of general manager Ruben Amaro.

Hamels has been successful in San Diego, owning a 1.78 ERA and a 5-1 record in eight starts at PetCo Park. But that’s not the only reason he’s worth acquiring.

The Padres have a budding young rotation, headlined by Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross. Ian Kennedy, Odrisamer Despaigne and Robbie Erlin round out the group. The latter two pitchers could easily be replaced by Hamels, giving San Diego one of the top staffs in the National League.

It makes a ton of sense for these two clubs to strike a deal. Padres general manager A.J. Preller isn’t messing around in his first offseason with the team, and a move for Hamels would represent the icing on the cake.


Troy Tulowitzki

Tulowitzki is the top shortstop in baseball when healthy, though that’s the operative word here. He’s rehabbing as you read this, but he could also be scouring the rumor mill for his name.

He told’s Thomas Harding that he’s aware of the recent trade rumors: “I’m keeping up but I’m not worrying about it. I’m just doing my rehab and want to get back on the field. That’s my main focus.”

Those rumors involve the New York Mets, who are in desperate need of someone not named Ruben Tejada or Wilmer Flores to play shortstop.

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman has the latest: “The Mets maintain interest in Rockies star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, but it’s clear there’s a major gap to bridge in negotiations between the teams, with differences in ideas of player compensation and financial considerations, as well.”

It’s easy to see how player compensation could be a potential snag in talks. The Rockies likely want multiple top prospects for Tulo. Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero and other young players are must-haves for Colorado.

Of course, the Mets probably recognize the shortstop’s extensive injury history. Newsday‘s David Lennon opines that his history with the disabled list should convince the Mets to stay away:

The reality, however, suggests the short-term benefit of Tulowitzki would not outweigh the lasting fallout from the huge price for an aging, injury-prone star at a high-impact position.

Tulowitzki is rehabbing from hip surgery, which is something that’s expected for your grandma but alarming when it happens to a 30-year-old shortstop. He played only 91 games last season and has averaged 88 since 2011, when he made it all the way to 143.

He was phenomenal in 91 games last season, though, slashing .340/.432/.603 with 21 home runs and 52 RBI. The thought of plugging that into the lineup is certainly intriguing.

It might be safer for the Mets to avoid dealing for Tulowitzki, but it’d be hard to justify not bringing him in if the Mets can get him at their price. They are not far from contention. The only thing holding them back is their offense.

Pairing Tulowitzki with Lucas Duda and Curtis Granderson in the middle of the lineup could be what finally brings the Amazins back to the postseason.

A deal doesn’t appear likely at this point, but no one should be surprised if it happens.


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MLB Trade Rumors: Trade Buzz Surrounding Josh Hamilton and Seth Smith

The freshest batch of rumors is in, and the reports suggest that a couple of potent bats could be on the move in the months prior to spring training.

Several teams have been aggressive in reshaping their rosters. The Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, Oakland Athletics and San Diego Padres have been extremely busy upgrading and reshuffling in order to get the most talent on their respective rosters. The smartest teams use a mix of free agency and trades to make changes.

Making trades can be difficult, though, as negotiating for top players is never easy. Every organization values a player differently, hence the difficulties that often ensue.

Regardless, the following players are likely candidates to be dealt at some point during the winter months.


Josh Hamilton

Josh Hamilton hasn’t posted poor numbers on par with B.J. Upton since signing with the Los Angeles Angels prior to the 2013 season, but many would argue that he has been more disappointing given the five-year, $125 million contract he signed that offseason.

He has just 31 homers and 123 RBI in 240 games with the Halos, but it’s his OPS of .741 that is most disappointing. While with the Texas Rangers from 2008 to 2012, his OPS was .912.

The organization might be at wit’s end with the 33-year-old. Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that they’ve tried to trade him this offseason: “The Angels, according to major-league sources, have discussed a possible Hamilton trade with at least two teams this offseason, the Rangers and the Padres.”

Rosenthal notes that the talks were “exploratory in nature; they did not gain traction.”’s Jesse Sanchez echoed that statement:

That still doesn’t negate the fact that Hamilton could be on the move.

Hamilton is owed $83 million over the next three seasons, so it’ll take a team with deep pockets to take him on. The Halos would certainly cover part of the cost, but not enough to attract smaller-market clubs.

Trading Hamilton would simply be a move to rid the organization of some excess salary; there’s no way the team gets anything of extreme value for him. He’s a high-reward, bounce-back candidate for 2015, but teams don’t dish out top talent for a veteran in that regard.

Of course, general manager Jerry Dipoto is doing his best to downplay the talks, via Rosenthal: “We are absolutely of the belief that the ability is there for him to do the things that he has done in the past. Now we have to help him turn the key to bring the ability out.”

GMs contradict trade rumors all the time for various reasons, so make of this situation what you will. In the end, don’t be surprised if Hamilton has a new address next season.


Seth Smith

The Padres suddenly have a rather stacked outfield.

Wil Myers, Carlos Quentin, Rymer Liriano, Cameron Maybin, Will Venable, Abraham Almonte and Seth Smith are currently on the roster. The Dodgers have also finally traded Matt Kemp to the Friars, as their official Twitter account announced, so that’s another player who needs playing time in the outfield. And the team has finalized a trade for Justin Upton, reports Rosenthal.

Of the big group of outfielders, one could assume that Quentin would interest American League clubs that could offer him time at designated hitter. Liriano and Maybin are both players with high upside, so there should be interest there.

But an underrated player who could be on the move as a result of this overhaul is Smith.’s Jerry Crasnick hears that his name has been coming up in talks:

Smith slashed .266/.367/.440 last season. He was best against righties, though, as he slashed .270/.359/.455 against them.

Teams looking into Smith will utilize him as the left-handed-hitting portion of a platoon in either left or right field. This is where the 32-year-old stands at this point in his career, so he’s nothing more than a complementary piece in an already deep lineup.

A deal for Smith is the type of acquisition that could put a strong team over the top. Hiding weaknesses against southpaws becomes a lot easier with a player like Smith waiting on the bench to take his hacks.

The Padres would do well to trade him. He’s one of their most valuable trade assets, and they still have other holes to fill. With potentially nine outfielders for four jobs (don’t forget a reserve outfielder), there’s some dealing to be done.


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