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November 4, 2013

Rumor Roundup

Restarting the Rumor Mill

by Daniel Rathman

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The World Series is over, and the offseason is upon us. That means it’s time for rumors, and regular roundups of those rumors at BP. Here is the first of the fall:

A Rotation for the Ages in Los Angeles?
Blessed with the deepest coffers in baseball, the Dodgers will be a team to watch every winter. This winter, Ned Colletti apparently has high-end pitching on his mind.

Peter Gammons wrote last week that insiders believe the Dodgers are determined to acquire the two premium arms on the market: Masahiro Tanaka, who is expected to be posted by the Rakuten Golden Eagles, and David Price, who is nearing free agency and about to get pricey in arbitration. Colletti may have the chips and dollars to nab both of them, assembling a juggernaut rotation that already features Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.

Executives told Yahoo’s Jeff Passan that the posting fee for Tanaka could exceed $75 million and might even reach $100 million, heights that few teams other than the Dodgers would be willing to reach. Since Tanaka is an import, he would not cost Colletti his first-round draft pick. That, Gammons’ sources say, would open the door for Colletti to tempt Andrew Friedman with some of his best prospects.

Corey Seager, a shortstop or third baseman who ranked third on Jason Parks’ Dodgers pre-season prospect list, might be the headliner in a deal that could also include no. 8 prospect Chris Withrow, who performed well out of the bullpen down the stretch. Julio Urias, “the best young lefty in the minors,” could close the deal for Price, who will be eligible for free agency after the 2015 season.

Marlins Looking for Cost-Controlled Bats
The Marlins’ payroll on Opening Day 2013 was a shade under $40 million. MLB.com beat writer Joe Frisaro on Thursday confirmed what most of us already thought: that Miami would shy away from high-priced free agents and plan to enter the 2014 campaign with a similar amount on the books.

So, how will first-year general manager Dan Jennings seek to improve his roster? Jennings told ESPN’s Jim Bowden that position players with low service time sit atop the team’s wish list. The Angels’ Mark Trumbo and the Red Sox’ Will Middlebrooks fit the job description.

Middlebrooks could become available if the Red Sox retain Stephen Drew or otherwise add a left-side infielder, a scenario in which wunderkind Xander Bogaerts would slide over to third base. General manager Ben Cherington could then use Middlebrooks to fill another void or pad his pitching staff. Jennings mentioned “young pitching” as an asset that could help the Marlins bolster their lineup.

Trumbo’s possible future in Miami is murkier. Unless the 27-year-old can handle the hot corner, where he has made only nine big-league appearances, he does not fit at any of the vacant positions. The other three corners are occupied by Logan Morrison (first), Christian Yelich (left), and Giancarlo Stanton (right), franchise cornerstones who, at least for now, remain affordable. And for those wondering if Stanton could suddenly become available, Jennings delivered this message: “He will be in right field at Marlins Park on Opening Day.”

Cardinals Could Shop Pitchers for Upgrade at Shortstop
Finally, the defending National League champions, whose stable of young arms is the envy of the league, are open to dealing from that strength. Manager Mike Matheny had so many precocious pitchers at his disposal that the Redbirds were able to secure the pennant with just one inning from Shelby Miller, who has as much long-term upside as any of them.

According to Joe Strauss, a columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, general manager John Mozeliak is expected to dangle Miller or fellow right-hander Lance Lynn in pursuit of a shortstop. Such a move would fly in the face of the adage, “you can never have too much pitching,” but with Carlos Martinez worthy of a rotation look and Jaime Garcia on the mend, the Cardinals have more talented hurlers than spots in which they could make an impact.

The goal would be to stabilize a shaky position at which Pete Kozma dazzled with the glove, but compiled a .201 True Average during the regular season and went hitless in the World Series. Among players who logged at least 400 plate appearances in 2013, Kozma’s TAv bested only those of Adeiny Hechavarria and Darwin Barney, who were a tick behind at .200. Daniel Descalso, a part-time player, compiled a .240 TAv in 358 trips to the box and fits better in a utility role.

Shortstops are not easy to acquire, as the Diamondbacks found out last winter, when they parted with Trevor Bauer to obtain Didi Gregorius from the Reds. In 2013, only seven shortstops delivered a .250 TAv and a positive FRAA while amassing at least 400 plate appearances. Jhonny Peralta, one of those seven, is a free agent, and so is Stephen Drew, who met one of the criteria (.272 TAv) but came up short in the field (-3.3 FRAA). Drew is on track to receive a $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Red Sox; Peralta is expected to leave the Tigers without one.

The Cardinals’ trade targets are not currently known, though Jurickson Profar’s name is sure to come up. Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said about a month ago that he is not going to “force” a trade just to clear up the middle-infield glut that kept Profar on the big-league bench for most of the 2013 campaign. Still, Texas has a plethora of holes to fill and could use rotation depth, something the Cardinals can easily provide. Top outfield prospect Oscar Taveras also might interest Daniels, but he is coming off of an injury-marred season and might figure prominently into St. Louis’ near future, too.

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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