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November 27, 2013

The Lineup Card

8 Unfulfilled Rumors From Last Year's Hot Stove

by Baseball Prospectus



1. Chase Headley to the Yankees
This rumor has been cropping up at least as far back as the 2012 non-waiver trade deadline, even in negative form: “The Yankees are unlikely to make a strong push for Headley… Though they will […] ask the Padres about Headley, [they] haven’t done so yet.” (See the movie Wag the Dog, in which a spin doctor draws attention to an imminent war with Albania by publicly asserting that there’s no imminent war with Albania and we don’t know how these rumors get started.) This is a fun unconsummated rumor precisely because it has been active for such a long time, thanks mainly to the endless Alex Rodriguez saga. As long as A-Rod’s story continues, the Headley rumor probably will, too. The Yankees would be likely to get their man from San Diego only if Bud Selig and his cohort get theirs. But Headley’s WARP plunge last season doesn’t exactly make him a prize pony anymore. —Adam Sobsey

2. Josh Hamilton to the Red Sox
The fallout from the Josh Hamilton signing was enough to merit its own post at MLBTR: "ESPN's Buster Olney wonders if the Rangers could now pursue free agent backstop A.J. Pierzynski," check; "Frisaro also thinks Miami could be a trade match with the Angels as Peter Bourjos has been on the Marlins' radar for a while," nope; "Hamilton's signing could increase interest in other free agent outfielders like Swisher and Cody Ross, thus possibly pricing the Phillies out of the market," maaaybe. But perhaps the most interesting fallout is that the Red Sox didn't sign him.

Remember that? The Red Sox made a run at Hamilton but wouldn't offer him more than three years. If we assume that they would have offered him the same AAV over those three years, and that they would have spent as much on free agents last winter, then which of these Red Sox would never have been working on their beards this fall?

Best case, they skip Dempster, Drew and Ross ($25.85 million) and take only a 1.1-WARP hit. Worst case, they don't sign Victorino, Uehara, Napoli and Ross ($25.35 million) and lose 8.1 WARP in the exchange. More realistically, probably Victorino and Drew or Gomes and Drew? Seems most realistic. No Victorino and no Drew is a 5.3-WARP hit. The Red Sox won 97 games. The AL Wild Cards each won 92 games, and the Rangers missed the playoffs with 91 wins. So, probably with 100 percent certainty, we can say that the Red Sox would have won 91.7 games and it would have been madddddness.

(Note: in this scenario, the Angels use the $25 million to finance Boondock Saints 3, so no crying for them.) —Sam Miller

3. Yankees Coax Chipper Jones Out of Retirement
After Alex Rodriguez and Kevin Youkilis went down with injuries, I pictured Chipper Jones playing third base in pinstripes. I died laughing. I am dead. I am contributing to this article from beyond the grave. It's hilarious up here! Turns out Ty Cobb and Cool Papa Bell are not only teammates, but great friends and they have a hit reality show. I never would have been able to tell you about it if Chipper Jones hadn't come out of retirement to play third base for the Yankees.

There's a unique charm bestowed on Hall of Fame-caliber players who spent their entire season for one career, but there's no shame in Smoltzing it with the Red Sox and Cardinals for a year. And yes it's only hard to imagine [player X] in [uniform Y] until said player starts wearing the new logo, then it's no big deal. However, Chipper Jones and a year of New York media would be a delightful gift-giving geyser. The quotes. The New York Post headlines. He would get in arguments with subway passengers every week and there would be Instagram pics. Have you seen Crocodile Dundee? Basically that, only they're brandishing baseball bats instead of knives. —Matt Sussman

4. Mets Court Michael Bourn, "Will Spend" to Upgrade Outfield
General manager Sandy Alderson was determined to bolster his lineup last offseason by adding a right-handed-hitting outfielder who could bat in the middle of the order. Names like Ryan Ludwick and Cody Ross were floated. Some thought that Angel Pagan, who was traded to the Giants before the 2012 campaign, might return to Queens. And though the Mets were looking for a righty swinger, they came within a vesting option of snatching Michael Bourn away from the Indians and surrendering their first-round pick.

In the end, the Mets hardly spent anything. All Alderson did was sign Marlon Byrd to a minor-league deal worth $700,000 if he earned a major-league job. The deal was struck on February 1. Two months to that day, Byrd was the starting right fielder, batting fifth in Terry Collins' lineup and kicking off an unexpectedly productive season with a 2-for-5 opener.

For those $700,000, the Mets got 2.7 WARP. They kept their first-round selection—which was bumped out of the protected top 10 by the Pirates' failure to sign Mark Appel—and used it on high-school first baseman Dominic Smith. And they eventually landed infield prospect Dilson Herrera from the Pirates in exchange for Byrd and catcher John Buck.

The darker side of the equation saw the Mets hand some 1,300 plate appearances to the likes of Eric Young, Juan Lagares, Andrew Brown, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Collin Cowgill, Rick Ankiel, and Mike Baxter, who combined for an on-base percentage well south of .300. But Alderson also saved $48 million over four years and added a couple of intriguing position-player prospects to his farm system, which was and still is loaded with high-end pitchers. Best of all, Lagares—a defensive wizard in center—outperformed Bourn, providing the Mets with 2.0 wins above replacement compared to the 1.1 that Bourn contributed to the Indians' cause.

A big-ticket bat would not have turned the 74-88 club into a 2013 contender, but signing Byrd, retaining the 11th-overall pick, and acquiring Herrera brightened the Mets' long-term outlook. Alderson once again faces the same challenges he wriggled out of last winter, but he is equally well or better positioned to meet them. —Daniel Rathman

5. Alex Rodriguez to the Marlins
Last October, there were actual rumors of a trade that would send Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez (also known as "A-Rod") to the Florida Marlins (also known as the "Miami Marlins"). Allegedly, the asking price was "Really, you want him? Seriously?" This was before the Marlins made their "big surrender" trade, but Hanley Ramirez, who had been playing third for them was already in Dodger Blue, so there was an opening for him. In a weird way it made sense. A-Rod already had a deep sense of connection to the Miami area (and at the time, we didn't realize how deep that was!) The Marlins were still basking in the glow of a new stadium and the general feeling that they were going to continue being aggressive in the free agent market with signings like Jose Reyes and Mark Bur... Ber... Bueh... the guy who used to pitch for the White Sox. And A-Rod had already been pinch hit for in the 2012 ALCS, and it was assumed that his days as a Yankee were numbered. But once his health recovered, there would be nothing stopping him from regaining at least some of the productivity that he had become known for. For a team less worried about salary efficiency and more worried about making a splash, A-Rod would have worked quite nicely.

Imagine the 2013 season playing out if this had happened. The Marlins were notable for having no discernible story line. Imagine if they had obtained the single biggest walking story line going in baseball. The Yankees ended up having a season that defied the odds, mostly without A-Rod's help. Joe Girardi's ragtag bunch of cast-offs (in pinstripes?) stayed within shouting distance of a playoff spot for most of the year, and Mariano Rivera had a well-deserved farewell tour. Imagine if those stories could have been the focus of the summer in the Bronx without the distraction of the Biogenesis scandal and... well, A-Rod. —Russell A. Carleton

6. Giancarlo Stanton to the Mariners
The Seattle Mariners haven’t had a 40-home-run hitter since 2000, when their star shortstop had 41. It seems like ever since that dude (whoever he was) left town, the M’s have been searching for offense. Adrian Beltre, Richie Sexson, and Chone Figgins each have taken turns failing to live up to gaudy contracts. What’s a franchise to do?

The Mariners got serious in the 2012 offseason. They moved in the fences at Safeco Field, bringing the left-center power alley in by 12 feet. They traded for Michael Morse and signed Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay—aging or aged outfielders who play atrocious defense but offered glimpses of productivity with the bat.

What if it didn’t have to be that way? What if Seattle could get its hands on a premier power hitter before he even reached his prime? Well, apparently the Mariners front office started whispering about a deal for Giancarlo Stanton. Between him, Kyle Seager, Justin Smoak, Jesus Montero (in theory), Kendrys Morales, and two of the three old outfielders, the Mariners could have been a moderately dangerous lineup. Even without Stanton, they finished 20th in team slugging, up from dead last in MLB in 2012. With him, they’d be solidly middle of the pack. (Hey, this is progress.)

Seattle had attractive prospects it could have dealt, like Taijuan Walker and Danny Hultzen. Still, a deal would have been a longshot. Contrary to the beliefs of many Internet commenters, it would have taken a pretty extraordinary deal to pry Stanton from Miami. Nonetheless, I think it would have been satisfying to see a Mariners offseason acquisition that was more than a one-year desperation heave for runs. —Dan Rozenson

7. Stephen Drew to the Cardinals
Is it possible that Stephen Drew could have been on the opposite side of the diamond in the World Series playing for the other team in red? It was a thin shortstop market last winter and the Cardinals were one of several teams linked to the free agent shortstop. In the end, the Red Sox signed Drew for one season and the Cardinals had to rely on Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso as Rafael Furcal’s recovery from a torn ligament in his elbow led to surgery before the season even started.

Drew signing with the Cardinals would have led to a number of dominoes falling differently. The Red Sox might have been more likely to start the year with Jose Iglesias at shortstop and wouldn’t have had a tailor-made insurance policy for Will Middlebrooks when Middlebrooks struggled. Xander Bogaerts might have been called up earlier for Middlebrooks, instead of Iglesias. It’s also entirely possible that Iglesias doesn’t get moved to Detroit and that the Tigers would have sought shortstop help from elsewhere after Jhonny Peralta’s suspension. —Mike Gianella

8. Justin Upton to the Mariners
This offseason doesn’t quite have anything like the Upton trade rumors to keep us warm as we gather ‘round the Hot Stove, not until David Price trade rumors get going in earnest. I never understood the need to trade Upton. When word of the trade with the Mariners came across the wire, it made some good, clean sense, but then we heard that Upton invoked his no-trade clause to stamp out the Taijuan Walker-headlined package, and sadness washed over D’Backs fans while Mariners fans rejoiced.

Walker would’ve been headed to the desert with Nick Franklin, Charlie Furbush, and Stephen Pryor in a really sharp deal for Arizona. With the benefit of hindsight, Upton’s cancelation of the deal hurts even more, as the actualized pieces of the deal—Furbush and Pryor—could’ve helped shore up a mediocre bullpen. Well, Furbush could have. Pryor lasted just seven appearances before tearing a right-shoulder muscle, but maybe it wouldn’t have torn had he been a Diamondback.

Walker, the prize of the trade, had a fantastic season across the upper minors and even made an impressive 15-inning MLB debut while Franklin put up a near-league-average 412 PA at second base. His emergence could have opened trade possibilities for Aaron Hill, who would’ve fetched a pretty penny given his position and contract, at the deadline. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be, as Upton rejected the Northwest and ended up in Atlanta with his brother. —Paul Sporer

Related Content:  Rumors,  Offseason,  Hot Stove

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