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December 22, 2015

Rumor Roundup

On the Dodgers' No. 2 Starter

by Daniel Rathman

Dodgers still fishing for Jose Fernandez

Just about all of Andrew Friedman’s pitching plans have gone awry to this point in the offseason, and as Christmas approaches, none of Zack Greinke, Aroldis Chapman, or Hisashi Iwakuma is in line to wear Dodger blue on Opening Day. But while the Dodgers might have grown a little more desperate in their efforts to patch the void left by Greinke’s departure and otherwise upgrade their pitching staff, it doesn’t appear that they’re desperate enough to meet the Marlins’ asking price on Jose Fernandez.

FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi confirmed early Monday that negotiations between Los Angeles and Miami, which date back weeks, are still ongoing. Names like Corey Seager, Joc Pederson, Julio Urias, and Jose De Leon are no doubt involved, and word that the Marlins want five or six “great young players” means that it might take three of those to bring the 23-year-old ace to L.A. Absent the specifics of the Dodgers’ overtures, it’s impossible to say how close they’ve come, though it is worth noting that, based on Morosi’s reports, the Marlins haven’t hung up on them just yet.

The Dodgers still have several free-agent options available to them, including a left-hander with whom Friedman is intimately familiar. But if USA Today’s Bob Nightengale has it right…

Five finalists identified for Scott Kazmir
...the Dodgers aren’t among the handful of clubs favored to land him. Instead, Nightengale hears that Scott Kazmir might be joining the Athletics, Cardinals, Nationals, Orioles, or Royals. Given the depth of the Dodgers’ coffers, it takes just one phone call to change a free agent’s heading, but the report Monday morning suggests that Kazmir isn’t far off from a decision.

The 31-year-old was excellent with the A’s last year before fading down the stretch in Houston. That trade might now help the southpaw, because it left him free of the vices of rejecting a qualifying offer. Our advanced statistics viewed the 2015 version of Kazmir as a league-average starter, with a 3.89 DRA and a 100 cFIP, the sort of pitcher who might see a substantial chunk of value eaten away if a first-round pick had been added to his price tag.

Oakland might the most intriguing landing spot of the lot for Kazmir, in part because he was previously there for a season-and-a-half. The A’s have already added Rich Hill and Henderson Alvarez to their rotation, but both are little more than low-cost fliers, just as likely to flop as they are to help Billy Beane’s squad to contend or to become flipable deadline assets. Room can be made for Kazmir on Bob Melvin’s starting staff, which currently features Jesse Hahn, Kendall Graveman, Chris Bassitt, Hill, and Aaron Brooks as healthy options behind Sonny Gray.

Mets taking their time in search of lefty-hitting outfielder
If the season opened today, the Mets would line up with Michael Conforto in left field, Juan Lagares in center field, and Curtis Granderson in right. That’s a right-handed hitter flanked by two lefties, with another lefty, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, in reserve. The trouble with Nieuwenhuis is that while he’s a lefty who can play center, he’s not much of a hitter, with a .232/.306/.389 slash line through 693 major-league plate appearances. And while Lagares, best known for his fielding, can hold his own against southpaws (.273/.333/.438 in 132 trips last season), he can scarcely touch fellow righties (.253/.271/.328); the 26-year-old fits best on the short end of a platoon where he’d pick up additional innings and at-bats as a defensive replacement when the Mets are ahead.

Hence, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick says the front office is mulling over the available left-handed-hitting outfielders, specifically Denard Span, Will Venable, and Alejandro De Aza. Span, the lone true center fielder of the group, is the top choice here, but he’s recovering from hip surgery and reportedly seeking a multi-year deal. With Scott Boras as his agent, the former National will be in no rush to join their NL East rivals.

The Mets, too, are in no hurry. Their alternatives, Venable and De Aza, have scarcely been mentioned in rumors this winter.

Venable scuffled in San Diego and was even more putrid after a trade to Texas, batting .182/.325/.227 in 82 trips despite the more-favorable hitting environment. He’s a reasonable rebound bet and a potentially average defender in center, but there are enough warts here for the Mets to keep their options open before tendering a major-league offer.

De Aza, who spent time with the Red Sox, Orioles, and Giants, put up an acceptable .286 TAv against right-handed pitching but would be a drag defensively. The Mets could compensate for that deficiency with Lagares’ fielding prowess, but the 31-year-old isn’t the sort of player anyone sprints to sign, either.

Without a desirable Plan B, the Mets have no reason not to wait out Span’s market, in hopes that Boras eventually relents on his demand of a multi-year guarantee. A one-year deal with incentives that helps Span to reestablish his value might be his best bet this offseason, with the outfield submarket one of the few in which supply outstrips demand.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

Related Content:  Los Angeles Dodgers,  New York Mets

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