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January 3, 2013

Rumor Roundup

Thursday, January 3

by Daniel Rathman

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It’s official: Edwin Jackson finally has a multi-year contract with his signature on it. But apart from the Cubs introducing their new starter and the Rays coming to terms with their ace, Wednesday brought little action. Today’s Roundup begins with notes on two American League East teams that have been relatively quiet this winter, compared to their wheeling-and-dealing rivals.

Yankees still seeking a right-handed batbut not Delmon Young
Eight days ago, the Yankees signed former Braves outfielder Matt Diaz to a minor-league deal. Why? The New York Times is on it:

Diaz is, as the headline noted, a right-handed hitter, and the Yankees needed at least one to complement their all-lefty outfield of Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, and Ichiro Suzuki. But, according to the New York Post’s Joel Sherman, general manager Brian Cashman is unsatisfied with the Diaz pickup, implying that at least one more platoon addition is in the offing.

Sherman did not speculate on Cashman’s shortlist, but he explicitly eliminated Delmon Young, who is having a difficult time generating interest despite spending the 2012 season as the number-five hitter for the American League pennant winners. The 27-year-old served mostly as the Tigers’ designated hitter, making only 31 regular-season appearances in left field—and anyone wondering why got a taste of his ineptitude in Game One of the World Series. In addition to poor fielding skills, Sherman also mentioned Young’s drunken, anti-Semitic rant near the team’s Manhattan hotel as a reason for his exclusion from Cashman’s search. Young’s .281 career TAv against left-handed pitching simply isn’t enough to surmount that baggage.

MLB.com’s Bernie Pleskoff speculated that the Indians could be a fit for Young, and a handful of teams should come calling in the coming weeks. The Yankees, too, have several options remaining to fill or compete for the fifth-outfielder gig. Scott Hairston is the biggest name of the bunch, and Sherman’s colleague, Kevin Kernan, noted that Cashman is still courting the ex-Met in the wake of the Diaz signing. The 32-year-old Hairston, who logged a .315 TAv versus lefties in 2012, might be the only relevant free agent that would require a guaranteed major-league job, but a two-year offer from a competitor might also price him out of New York’s budget.

Assuming that the Yankees stick to one-year or minor-league pacts, and that this rigidity leads Hairston to sign elsewhere, Cashman’s backup plans could include the likes of Jeff Baker and Austin Kearns. They would be logical targets if Cashman is looking for quantity over quality, but either would likely be the underdog in a spring training battle if Diaz is healthy. CBS Sports' Jon Heyman mentioned Baker as an option for the Yankees a couple of weeks ago, and Kearns played in 36 games for New York in 2010.

Orioles could bring back Matt Lindstrom to bolster bullpen
Buck Showalter’s relief corps was one of the key factors behind Baltimore’s Cinderella run last season, and general manager Dan Duquette is now exploring ways to fortify it. One option, per Baltimore Sun beat writer Dan Connolly, is luring Lindstrom, who was traded to the Diamondbacks for Joe Saunders on Aug. 26, back to Camden Yards.

Lindstrom recorded his best strikeout rate (20.0 percent) since 2007 last year, and his combination of mid-90s heat and sharp sliders has always generated plenty of ground balls. The 32-year-old northpaw struggles at times against left-handed hitters—mostly because he lacks a changeup to keep them off-balance—but he allowed only eight extra-base hits over 200 plate appearances in 2012, largely thanks to his ground-ball profile.

Besides Rafael Soriano, who would cost a team its highest unprotected draft pick, Lindstrom may well be the top right-handed reliever still available. He is competing for attention with Jose Valverde, Francisco Rodriguez, and Jason Frasor, now that the top tier of set-up men—Koji Uehara, Mike Adams, Jason Grilli, and Joel Peralta—has been gutted. Lindstrom has not drawn much public interest in recent days, but his representatives at The Sparta Group should expect more calls as spring training approaches.

Giancarlo Stanton a virtual lock to stay in Miami
Nothing the Marlins do should surprise us anymore, but anyone who has spent the last several days concocting wild trade scenarios involving Stanton—and there are quite a few armchair GMs, judging by Ben Lindbergh’s Twitter and comments-section rummagingmight want to come up with a new hobby. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal heard on Wednesday that the odds of a Stanton barter are “as close to zero as they can be.” And, in case that’s not specific enough, Heyman was told that the chances are precisely “zero percent.”

Stanton is set to earn only $500,000 in 2013, his last pre-arbitration year, so there is no financial motivation for the Marlins to put him on the market now. A Jurickson Profar-led package from the Rangers might tempt Larry Beinfest, but even that sort of offer would not ensure that common ground could be reached. With 12.7 WARP through his first three major-league seasons, and a 5.2 WARP campaign produced over just 123 games last year, Stanton is well on his way to Most Valuable Player consideration. “Pissed off” or not, he’ll almost certainly remain in Miami for at least one more year.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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