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November 5, 2012

Rumor Roundup

Monday, November 5

by Daniel Rathman

In this new series, which will run most weekdays throughout the offseason, I’ll link to a few of the freshest rumors off the hot stove and discuss their potential significance for the players and teams involved. The goal is to take what’s already offered by the many purveyors of baseball rumors on the internet and then provide a more in-depth, analytical perspective on the news. The first post in the series is below; please feel free to leave any feedback in the comments, and I’ll consider it for future installments.

Two trades involving 40 percent of the Angels’ 2012 starting rotation lit the hot stove last week, as Ervin Santana was shipped to the Royals, and Dan Haren—at least for a few hours—seemed destined to become a Cub. Now that free agency is underway, here’s a look at the biggest news from the weekend, featuring three players who are increasingly likely to don new uniforms in 2013:

Red Sox content to let Cody Ross test the market
After delivering a career year in the friendly confines of Fenway Park, Ross had every right to expect the Red Sox to make a concerted effort to retain him. But the 31-year-old told WEEI over the weekend that general manager Ben Cherington never came close to striking a deal with his agent, Mike Milchin, despite “a ton of opportunities.”

A right-handed pull hitter, Ross logged a .267/.326/.481 triple-slash line in 2012, good for a .289 TAv that marked the best full-season effort of his five-year tenure as an everyday player. Ross was worth 2.1 WARP, his highest output since 2008, and he figures to draw plenty of interest from teams in need of a versatile outfielder but unwilling to break the bank for the top-tier free agents.

But teams other than the Red Sox ought to exercise caution in their pursuit of Ross, whose splits continue to be a cause for concern. Ross continued to thump left-handed pitching in 2012, but righties limited him to a .256/.308/.422 line, and most of that damage was aided by the Green Monster.

As the above spray chart, from TexasLeaguers.com, shows, Ross is almost exclusively a left-of-center hitter. That approach produced 39 extra-base hits in 248 at-bats at Fenway Park, but only 18 in 228 at-bats on the road, where many of Ross’ fly balls were caught instead of clearing or peppering the wall.

Ross could enjoy similar success for the Phillies or Reds—two other teams in search of outfield help—but his agent may struggle to create a deep pool of suitors. And if teams with pitcher-friendly parks explore other options, a return to Boston may still be the most likely outcome. Ross admitted as much, following up his disillusioned comments by adding, “Everybody knows how much I love Boston.”

Brandon McCarthy drawing heavy interest
McCarthy and his wife, Amanda, were blown away by the care and support offered to them by Athletics fans after the righty was hit in the head by a line drive on Sept. 5. That experience served to enhance the loyalty that initially developed between player and team when the A’s took a low-risk chance on McCarthy with a one-year, $1 million deal in December 2010, fueling speculation that the 29-year-old would choose to stay in Oakland for 2013 and beyond. But the former White Sox’ and Ranger’s success may make him a hot commodity, and he may soon receive offers that, the aforementioned loyalty notwithstanding, he won’t be able refuse.

On the heels of a 2.4-WARP campaign in 2011, McCarthy gave the A’s one win over 18 starts in 2012, posting a 3.71 FIP over 111 innings of work amid a spate of injuries. McCarthy’s checkered medical history is likely to dog him and dampen his earnings for the rest of his career, and though the head injury he sustained in September was a freak accident, his chronic shoulder woes—which date back to a stress fracture suffered in August 2007 and cost him 62 games (about 12 starts) this year—are a glaring red flag.

That factor may ultimately enable the bargain-hunting A’s to keep McCarthy, but the “immediate interest” reported by Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle is an ominous sign for general manager Billy Beane. If talks with McCarthy are derailed, Beane could enter the Haren bidding, offering the once-durable former Athletic an opportunity to rebuild his value in Oakland.

Josh Hamilton’s asking price: $175 million
The free-agent class’ top position player won’t come cheaply, as John Perrotto reported last week that the outfielder is seeking $175 million over seven years. That would give Hamilton the ninth-richest deal (by total value) in major-league history, and the fourth-highest average annual salary, equaling the $25 million Ryan Howard is banking from the Phillies.

But Hamilton’s agent, Michael Moye, may have a tough time maintaining that asking price, with the Red Sox and Yankees probably out of play, and other high-payroll teams—such as the Angels and Dodgers—with no room for the 31-year-old in their outfields. Maury Brown has more details on Hamilton’s offseason prospects here.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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