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December 17, 2012

Rumor Roundup

Monday, December 17

by Daniel Rathman

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Sometimes, trades take days to pull together. Just ask Alex Anthopoulos and Sandy Alderson, who needed the entire weekend to hammer out the terms for a deal that will send R.A. Dickey to Toronto, pending a contract extension. Today’s Roundup includes a recap of that saga and some free-agent buzz surrounding two other American League East teams.

Negotiations in progress between Blue Jays, Dickey
According to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, as of early Sunday afternoon, the Jays and Mets had an “agreement in principle,” which set the wheels in motion for Anthopoulos and Dickey’s agent, Bo McKinnis, to work out a mutually acceptable pact to keep the knuckleballer in Toronto beyond the 2013 season. The extension is critical to the trade, because Anthopoulos is unlikely to surrender his top two prospects—catcher Travis d’Arnaud and right-hander Noah Syndergaard, who are both believed to be in the agreed-upon swap—for one year of Dickey, even at a bargain cost of $5 million. Mike Puma, a beat writer for the New York Post, was the first to report the seven-player framework, which also includes major-league catchers Josh Thole and John Buck, as well as two unidentified prospects.

Puma’s colleague, Joel Sherman, heard on Friday that Dickey was opposed to an extension with the Blue Jays, and noted on Saturday that his reluctance to commit to one could ultimately become a deal-breaker. But Dickey, drawn by Anthopoulos’ win-now mentality and perhaps by the flight schedule between Toronto and his home in Nashville, has apparently relented, assuming that the years and dollars will match.

The specifics of Dickey’s asking price to seal the deal have not yet leaked, and reports from last week—when the Mets seemed to make progress toward keeping the 38-year-old in Queens—may not be an accurate guide. Andy Martino of the New York Daily News suggested that the gap between New York’s offer and Dickey’s demand was about $6 million, with the team suggesting a two-year, $20 million tack-on to his existing $5 million paycheck for 2013 and McKinnis seeking $26 million for the 2014-2015 seasons. However, that asking price accounted for Dickey’s minimal leverage, given his existing commitment to the Mets, and may have even included a discount to reward the chance that they took on him three years ago. ESPN’s Buster Olney spoke with a veteran agent on Sunday, and was told that Dickey could reasonably expect $40-45 million over three additional years from the Jays.

More details about the extension or the trade could emerge later today. For more on the lead-up to the trade, the second this offseason in which a top prospect (or two) has been put on the block for a frontline starting pitcher, check out today’s edition of Effectively Wild.

Update 11:52 a.m. ET: Richard Griffin of The Toronto Star, reports that Dickey has agreed to an extension with the Blue Jays. The terms should be available shortly.

Are the Yankees lurking in the Michael Bourn sweepstakes?
Remember when, in a matter of hours last January, the Yankees consummated a blockbuster trade with the Mariners and reeled in Hiroki Kuroda? General manager Brian Cashman has a penchant for operating under the radar, and some of his counterparts are wondering if he’s plotting a shocker as you read these words.

Specifically, multiple insiders told Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe that the Yankees have kicked the tires on Bourn, the last man standing among the free-agent crop of center fielders. With B.J. Upton taking his place in Atlanta, Angel Pagan staying in San Francisco, Shane Victorino going to Boston, and Philadelphia and Washington addressing their holes in trades for Ben Revere and Denard Span, respectively, demand for Bourn is running thin. Few of the big-ticket teams have openings in the middle of their outfields, and few of those that do have allocated room in their budgets for Bourn, who turns 30 on the 27th of this month.

A month and a half ago, Jim Salisbury of CSN Philadelphia passed on some buzz about agent Scott Boras seeking as much as $100 million for Bourn. Considering his work in securing a $214 million hitch for Prince Fielder, it’s unwise to doubt Boras, but we can safely say that a nine-figure deal is not in the offing. The Rangers are one possible, deep-pocketed fit, but Bourn would do little to replace the power once supplied by Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli, so general manager Jon Daniels might be more inclined to court Swisher. Thus, as spring training draws near, Bourn’s price tag will almost certainly continue to drop—and that’s where the Yankees could enter the fold.

There are, however, two significant caveats that may downplay the likelihood of his landing in the Bronx. First, everything that the Yankees have done so far this offseason suggests that their $189 million payroll cap for the 2014 season is inflexible, and our own Maury Brown explained the factors that contributed to its self-enforcement. Second, Bourn—like incumbent outfielders Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, and Ichiro Suzuki—hits left-handed, and employing three like-handed outfielders with similar skillsets would be taking redundancy to a new level.

If the Yankees were to sign Bourn, then Granderson, whose $13 million club option for 2013 was exercised in late October, would presumably be traded. But Granderson’s expiring deal fits the $189 million blueprint, and moreover, the dearth of center-field vacancies would seemingly diminish his trade value. The 31-year-old Granderson has thumped at least 41 home runs in each of the past two seasons—and he is not entirely a product of Yankee Stadium’s short porch—but his rising strikeout rate and lackluster on-base percentage might worry teams with more spacious parks. Similarly, teams looking to acquire Granderson as a corner outfielder, citing his -22.9 FRAA since 2011 as a reason for the shift, might also find his one-dimensional offense insufficient. Given those shortcomings, Cashman may struggle to find an attractive return for a player that he is in no immediate hurry to move.

Boras’ and Cashman’s stealthy track records suggest that nothing should surprise us, but the path that would bring Bourn to the Yankees is not yet paved. That could change, if Boras is willing to structure a contract around New York’s uneven budget or if a compelling offer for Granderson floats across Cashman’s desk, but until those dots begin to connect, this theory should be taken with a grain of salt.

Red Sox interested in Stephen Drew as a one-year plug
Meanwhile, Ben Cherington continues to search for reinforcements, and is now believed to be turning his attention to his depth chart at shortstop, where Jose Iglesias and Pedro Ciriaco represent the only internal options. Iglesias’ bat remains a major question mark, and Ciriaco profiles better as a utility man, so there is room for a veteran who could serve as a bridge and mentor to the team’s middle-infield prospects.

ESPN’s Jayson Stark tweeted on Sunday that the connection to Drew, which arose weeks ago, has been rekindled, though the Red Sox are only interested in the 29-year-old as a short-term solution. That would enable Iglesias and Boston’s other minor-league shortstops—a group led by number-one prospect Xander Bogaerts, with Jose Vinicio and Deven Marrero further down the pipeline—to gain more seasoning, before one of them takes the reins for the long haul.

Drew’s left-handed bat could also appeal to the Red Sox, whose earlier additions have created a righty-laden lineup. The imbalance may reflect a plan to capitalize on the Green Monster, but as of right now, Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz are the only everyday players who bat left-handed. Three of the fresh faces, Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli, and David Ross, hit from the right side of the plate, and the fourth, Shane Victorino, is a switch-hitter in name only. Creating balance in manager John Farrell’s order appears to be a secondary consideration for Cherington this offseason, but it nonetheless is an element that could enhance his interest in signing Drew.

Update 11:50 a.m.: CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports (and others have confirmed) that the Red Sox and Drew have come to terms on a one-year deal worth $9.5 million.

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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