Editor’s Note: Across the Diamond: Hot Stove League Edition is a new weekly column that appear on Baseball News Source every Friday and details free agent and trade talk at every position.
Following the annual Rule 5 Draft, the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings ended on Thursday with many teams heading home with items on their “to do” lists checked off.
Though trades were conducted and free agent signings were implemented, most front offices have more tasks to complete before their respective lists are finished.
Though significant moves were made – like Washington signing right-handed pitcher Dan Haren; Boston inking first baseman/catcher Mike Napoli and outfielder Shane Victorino to three-year, $39 million deals; Tampa Bay landing shortstop Yunel Escobar; and San Francisco retaining outfielder Angel Pagan and infielder Marco Scutaro – the groundwork was laid for potential blockbuster trades and dramatic free agent signings that are at this point only speculation.
Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton, this offseason’s premium free agent prizes, are still on the market. The Dodgers remain a possible destination for Greinke, but the Rangers are reportedly in heavy pursuit.
Until they determine whether or not they sign the right-hander, the Rangers will likely hold off on bringing back Hamilton.
As for the left-handed slugger, Seattle appears to be his fallback option, though the Red Sox are said to have interest in his services if he would agree to a three-year deal.
Anibal Sanchez, Edwin Jackson, Ryan Dempster, Francisco Liriano and Kyle Lohse are big ticket starting pitchers who are still free agents. Roberto Hernandez (formerly known as Fausto Carmona); the non-tendered Jair Jurrjens, John Lannan and Mike Pelfrey; Carl Pavano; Brett Myers and Joe Saunders are rotation pieces available who will cost less in terms of years and annual salary.
The Rays, which are apparently willing to trade an arm like Shields or Jeremy Hellickson for an impact bat under prolonged team control (like Kansas City outfield prospect Wil Myers), have yet to tap into their surplus of starting pitching.
The New York Mets have R.A. Dickey under contract for 2013 but have yet to sign him to an extension and are listening to offers from other teams. Cleveland’s Justin Masterson is another starting pitcher under team control who is generating trade interest.
While Greinke and Hamilton are the most significant free agent prizes, Arizona’s Justin Upton appears to be the most prominent trade target this offseason.
Rumors persist about a three-team or four-team deal between the Diamondbacks, Indians, Rangers and Rays that would likely include Upton, Shields and one of Arizona’s top pitching prospects (such as Trevor Bauer or Tyler Skaggs).
Cleveland shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera would also be part of that mega transaction.
First baseman Adam LaRoche and Washington are likely to work out a deal, though it has yet to happen. Kevin Youkilis, who would play first base for Cleveland and third base for the New York Yankees (while Alex Rodriguez is sidelined) reportedly has to decide between a two-year offer from the Indians (where he would rejoin Terry Francona) and a one-year, $12 million contract with the Yankees.
Mark Reynolds, who was non-tendered by Baltimore, is another corner infielder drawing interest, though he is much better defensively at first base than he is at the hot corner.
Cabrera is the most established and talented shortstop that teams can acquire via trade, but the Dodgers are apparently open to dealing the promising Dee Gordon, who became expendable once Hanley Ramirez was acquired.
Another infielder attracting calls from other teams is Michael Young, who could be headed from the Rangers to the Phillies
There was a time when a majority of the offseason transactions were made at the MLB Winter Meetings, but in recent years the gathering has served as a place where appetites were whet for what will follow for the rest of December and leading to spring training. This week’s event was no different.
Before Christmas, though, the Hot Stove League will undoubtedly burn with captivating trades and free agent signings.