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November 26, 2013

Rumor Roundup

Beltran to the Bronx?

by Daniel Rathman

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Carlos Beltran is Yankees’ top target
General manager Brian Cashman nabbed his first free agent last week, when Brian McCann agreed to a five-year, $85 million hitch with the Yankees that includes a vesting option for the 2019 season. If Cashman has his way, Beltran will soon join McCann in the Bronx.

Mark Feinsand, who covers the Yankees for the New York Daily News, heard from multiple sources that the 36-year-old Beltran is the club’s first-choice outfielder in a market that also includes Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury. All three outfielders declined qualifying offers, but the Yankees already surrendered the 18th-overall pick to sign McCann, and they will recoup a sandwich-round selection when Curtis Granderson finds a new home.

A three-win player in 2013, Beltran may not be significantly cheaper than Choo and Ellsbury from an average annual value standpoint, but he should settle for a shorter-term commitment. Beltran was underpaid during his two seasons with the Cardinals, earning just $26 million over the duration of a deal that he signed on December 23, 2011, and he is now seeking a three- or four-year pact, per Yahoo’s Tim Brown.

Feinsand believes that Cashman is still bound by the $189 million luxury-tax threshold, which limits the annual salary that he can commit to whichever outfielder he adds. Cashman must leave room in the budget to re-sign Robinson Cano and fortify the starting rotation, and both tasks could prove pricey in what is shaping up to be a player-friendly winter.

Blue Jays eyeing Jeff Samardzija, keeping tabs on free-agent starting pitchers
If the regular season started today, the Blue Jays’ rotation would feature R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow, J.A. Happ, and a fifth starter from a list that likely includes Todd Redmond, Esmil Rogers, and Drew Hutchison, who returned from a year-long Tommy John surgery rehab late last year. That crew won’t cut it in the American League East, so general manager Alex Anthopoulos is hoping to add a reliable arm.

Anthopoulos has reached far and wide in the first few weeks of free agency; in fact, if the GM himself is to be believed, no available starter has evaded the search. ESPN’s Jim Bowden interviewed Anthopoulos over the weekend and was told that Matt Garza is among the Jays’ many targets. And he is not the only 2013 Cub on Anthopoulos’ mind.

According to Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago, the Blue Jays are among the clubs that have expressed interest in trading for fellow right-hander Jeff Samardzija. Levine’s source went so far as to say that Anthopoulos is “putting together [a] package of young players,” seemingly placing the Blue Jays ahead of the pack if there is in fact a race to acquire the 28-year-old. Samardzija, who has been worth just under three WARP in each of the past two seasons, took home $2.64 million in 2013 and is in line for a raise as he enters his second year of arbitration. He could become a free agent after the 2015 season.

The Blue Jays parted with multiple top prospects, most notably right-hander Noah Syndergaard and catcher Travis D’Arnaud, to pry Dickey away from the Mets last winter. A deal for Samardzija is unlikely to raze the farm quite as much as that now-questionable, blockbuster did—but Anthopoulos would have to dig deeper into a system in which many of the most intriguing prospects have yet to solve A-ball. Hence, even if Levine’s source is correct in suggesting that the Blue Jays are moving more quickly than their competitors in the Samardzija bidding, Anthopoulos may struggle to cobble together the best offer.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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