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December 10, 2012

Rumor Roundup

Monday, December 10

by Daniel Rathman

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Ned Colletti and Dayton Moore stayed busy after returning from Nashville: The former reeled in Zack Greinke and Ryu Hyun-Jin over the weekend, and the latter snagged James Shields and Wade Davis from the Rays late Sunday night, sending a Wil Myers-led batch of prospects to Tampa Bay. While Moore’s rotation overhaul is largely complete, Colletti’s is expected to continue over the coming days and weeks.

Need a starting pitcher? Call the Dodgers, who may not be done yet
If you include the $27.5 million posting fee the Dodgers paid last month for the right to negotiate with Ryu, their combined outlay for Greinke and the Korean lefty comes to $208 million. Los Angeles now has five starting pitchers that are guaranteed seven-figure salaries for the 2013 season, and that count does not include Ryu, Aaron Harang, or Chris Capuano—not to mention any future additions, such as Anibal Sanchez or Kyle Lohse, who reportedly are still on Colletti’s radar. As you can infer from those numbers, and as CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweeted in the wake of the Greinke signing on Saturday, Harang and Capuano should not get too comfortable in Chavez Ravine.

Both Harang and Capuano were signed to two-year deals with third-year options last offseason, and while those back-loaded pacts were panned at the time, they now give Colletti an opportunity to restock a farm system that took a hit in August. The 2013 Dodgers roster appears set, at least in terms of players that Colletti could obtain in return, with the exception of the bench, which lacks thump. With both of those factors in mind, Colletti is likely to focus on minor leaguers in talks for his expendable starters, who are due $7 million and $6 million, respectively, next season.

One possible trade partner, the Royals, came off the board on Sunday, but while Harang (0.4 WARP)—whose walk rate has steadily hiked, from 7.5 percent in 2010 to 8.1 percent in 2011 to 10.8 percent in 2012—could prove difficult to move, Capuano (1.3 WARP) should draw plenty of interest as the free-agent crop thins. The Brewers, who last week considered shedding Corey Hart to create room in their budget for a starter, are a potential match, especially if the Dodgers are willing to cover salary to obtain a better prospect. The Twins, who added Vance Worley from the Phillies in the Ben Revere trade, could also use another starter, and Minnesota offers the pitcher-friendly ballpark to mask Harang’s and Capuano’s middling stuff.

With Greinke now a Dodger and Shields now a Royal, the stage is set for Sanchez, Lohse, and company, in the same way that B.J. Upton becoming a Brave and Denard Span becoming a National paved the way for the center-field market to develop at the Winter Meetings. The Dodgers’ trade chips are a useful alternative for general managers that fail to secure one of the second- and third-tier free agents, but they are unlikely to interest the team most affected by the weekend’s biggest signing and trade.

The Rangers moved on to Plan B… and now, on to Plan C
When Rangers GM Jon Daniels learned that Greinke had chosen the Dodgers, he turned his attention to Shields. But, among the other reasons Andrew Friedman had for pulling the trigger with the Royals on Sunday night, the Rays GM may have preferred Myers to any of the prospects—most notably infielder Mike Olt—that Daniels had put on the table. Now, as CBS Sports’ Danny Knobler tweeted hours after the Shields deal broke, Daniels and the Rangers have reached a crossroads.

Considering that Texas was, apparently, the runner-up in the Greinke derby, Daniels has an abundance of payroll flexibility to add a starting pitcher. He also has a slew of coveted prospects, with Olt, shortstop Jurickson Profar, and lefty Martin Perez leading most teams’ wish lists, and an abundance of high-ceiling talent to help sweeten a package in the lower minors. What we know is that Daniels still has myriad ways to upgrade his rotation; what we no longer know, now that his top two choices have come and gone, is which of the remaining ones he prefers.

While the Rangers rolled out the red carpet for Greinke, they were not—at least, as of Tuesday—among the six teams with confirmed interest in Sanchez or among the two most directly tied with Lohse. Daniels saved $6 million this weekend by sending Michael Young to the Phillies, but he has so far not shown any inclination to reinvest that money into a second-rate free agent. Re-signing Josh Hamilton may now be Daniels’ top priority, but his path to a rotation upgrade is muddied, and the four-team trade scenarios floated at the Opryland Hotel last week—initially thwarted by the Diamondbacks—seem infeasible in the aftermath of the Shields deal.

Ichiro almost certain to stay in the Bronx
While many free-agent scenarios grew cloudier, one became clearer on Sunday: Ichiro will (barring a major surprise) not be leaving the Yankees. The right fielder was expected to sign a one-year contract with New York from the moment the offseason began, and according to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, general manager Brian Cashman is finally ready to finalize it.

Heyman confirmed Rosenthal’s report, noting that while the Phillies and other teams—perhaps including the Giants—have kicked the tires on Ichiro, the mutual interest between him and the Yankees suggests that a return should never have been in doubt. The 39-year-old amassed a .322/.340/.454 triple-slash line for the Yankees after coming over from the Mariners on July 23, seemingly revived after producing a .261/.288/.353 output over the first three-and-a-half months of the season.

Assuming that Ichiro puts pen to paper in the next several days, Cashman will add a right-handed hitting outfielder to the top of his list of needs. Like Ichiro, the Yankees’ incumbent center fielder, Curtis Granderson, and left fielder, Brett Gardner, both hit left-handed, as does their projected fourth outfielder, Chris Dickerson. Finding the right complement, who would drop Dickerson a spot on the depth chart and ideally be able to spell all three of the starters, won’t be easy given the team’s looming payroll constraints. Scott Hairston’s and Cody Ross’ demands have so far proven too rich for Cashman’s 2014-conscious blood, and as the GM admitted last week, “beggars can’t be choosers.”

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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