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December 27, 2012

Rumor Roundup

Thursday, December 27

by Daniel Rathman

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Wednesday was a quiet day on the Hot Stove, with the Red Sox dotting some i’s and crossing some t’s, but most other teams still recovering from their eggnog hangovers. Here’s a look at a couple of stories that broke the silence.

Rangers continue to hunt for offensive upgrades
Not long after general manager Jon Daniels introduced A.J. Pierzynski as his team’s new primary catcher, he hinted to reporters that another addition to the lineup is in the works. Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest quoted Daniels as saying, “It’s a decent chance we’ll look to add somebody,” though the eighth-year GM did not offer any details.

About two weeks ago, I wrote that although many relevant free agents and trade candidates had already settled into their 2013 digs, Daniels had no shortage of lingering options to upgrade his roster. Since then, the Rangers have secured one of their then-rumored targets (Pierzynski), but watched another (Nick Swisher) agree to terms with the Indians. A handful of free-agent choices and a variety of trade options are still viable, with just 47 days left before the team’s pitchers and catchers report to Surprise, Ariz. for spring training.

Michael Bourn and Adam LaRoche are the big-ticket bats looking for new homes, and on the trade market, Jason Kubel represents one possibility—although Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan threw a wrench into that idea last week. Daniels has a plethora of controllable, high-ceiling players at his disposal, and even if shortstop Jurickson Profar is deemed untouchable, corner infielder Mike Olt or a lower-level prospect could headline a return package. The ability to shift second baseman Ian Kinsler to first, thereby creating a spot for Profar in the 2013 lineup or making room for a newcomer, should enable Daniels to cast a wider net in his search.

Adam LaRoche still talking with Red Sox
Speaking of LaRoche, if he creeps to the top of Daniels’ wish list, the Rangers will find themselves in competition with at least two teams—the Nationals and the Red Sox—for his services. According to SB Nation Boston’s Jen Royle, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington has not closed the door on LaRoche, who appeared in six games for the Sox on his way from Pittsburgh to Atlanta during a chaotic 2009 trade deadline. The first baseman’s agent, Mike Milchin, meanwhile, is not flinching on his demand of a three-year deal.

Earlier in the day, Royle tweeted that a different source told her that LaRoche would prefer to stay with the Nationals, but a few weeks ago, the 33-year-old told Boston Globe beat writer Nick Cafardo that he “loved hitting at Fenway Park,” so the winner of this race may well be the first team to tack on a third year to its offer. More intriguing than its implications for the LaRoche market, though, is its window into the ongoing saga between the Red Sox and Mike Napoli, who agreed to a three-year, $39 million deal with Boston at the Winter Meetings, yet has still not been added to the roster.

If the Red Sox were to sign LaRoche, they would almost certainly do so with the intention of making him their everyday first baseman, with some combination of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, David Ross, and Ryan Lavarnway accounting for most of the starts behind the plate. Napoli might have seen sporadic playing time at catcher, but his injury history—including the hip issue that was flagged during his ill-fated physical—suggests that a complete transition to first would eventually have been in order. Thus, although the afore-linked story by Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal suggests that the deal is not “in danger of falling apart,” it must be—otherwise Cherington would have no reason to pursue LaRoche.

And if the pact with Napoli is indeed broken, then the Red Sox might become the favorites to land LaRoche, with $39 million back in their budget for his desired three years. In that scenario, CSN Washington’s Mark Zuckerman believes that Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo would have no reservations about moving forward with Michael Morse, whose lumbering frame hinders his range in the outfield (-2.4 FRAA) and might fit better at first. 

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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