1. Jordan Zimmermann to the Cubs
For all the makeover-ing that the Cubs did this winter and for the fact that they’re currently listed as the third wagering choice to win the World Series, their offseason shopping list amounted to Jon Lester, Miguel Montero, and Dexter Fowler. But man, if they and the Nationals had gone through with the rumored deal for Jordan Zimmermann. What a 1-2, and what an opening week against the Cardinals.
Who knows what would have been different for Max Scherzer. It’s unlikely that they would have paid more had Scott Boras come to the negotiating table against a National team that actually needed a starter. How much more is there to pay? Maybe they couldn’t have gotten the backload in there. But still, with Zimmermann being a free agent after this season, it looks even more like a good match of trade partners. —Zachary Levine
2. Troy Tulowitzki to the Yankees…
I guess it would have been the most Yankees move ever. After Derek Jeter's retirement, the Yankees were left without a recognizable shortstop on their roster. (Don't. Just don't.) And it just so happened that one of the best shortstops in baseball, who is entering his age-30 season, but is signed to a contract that might just be "too big" for a "small market" like "Colorado." Tulo has pretty consistently a 5.0-plus-win player over the past few years, while Jeter functioned at or below replacement level. The Yankees would be getting a full-on five-win upgrade by acquiring Tulo, and we'd be talking about how brilliant they were for doing so. Except, like a lot of Yankees rumors, there never seemed to be any discussion of what the Rockies would get back for the face of their franchise or why they would want to trade away one of the most valuable players in the game. It always seemed to be a rumor that was created on the assumption that the Yankees get to do whatever they want, and so when it met the realities of actual baseball, it fizzled. The Yankees instead made an entirely reasonable trade for Didi Gregorius. But I can see the allure. There are only a handful of moves like this, especially involving position players, that are a) within the realm of possibility and b) that would make this big a difference for one team. It would have led to hours of #Hottakes, and given us all something to do during the dreary months before spring training. —Russell A. Carleton
3. …or the Mets
I guess it would have been the most-un-Mets move ever. After acquiring Michael Cuddyer right after the opening bell of Hot Stove Season, the Mets were left with surprising expectations for the rest of the winter, and a supposed dedication to expanding their payroll. It just so happens that one of the best shortstops in baseball, entering his age-30 season, is signed to a contract that might just be "too big" for a "small market" like "Colorado." Tulowitzki has been a pretty consistent 5.0-plus win player over the past few years, and the Mets' other options at short included Wilmer Flores, a former prospect not really known at all for his defense or offense or anything else, really. Unlike the Yankees, there was plenty of speculation as to what could go back to Colorado (or a mythical third team!) for Tulo, but nothing ever really moved beyond a "he-said" situation.
Of course, if the Mets had actually landed Tulo, it would have led to days and days of #hottakes, and we could have all wondered if maybe they could crawl out of the basement behind that bat and the strong pitching. —Kate Morrison
4. Matt Kemp to the Mariners
Perhaps the only thing more remarkable than Jack Zduriencik’s appetite for right-handed power hitters has been his administration’s inability to acquire any good ones. It’s certainly not for lack of trying: He’s looked to the farm, but none of Alex Liddi, Mike Wilson, and Greg Halman could make enough contact to stick. In Michael Pineda, Zduriencik dealt one of the league’s best young hurlers for some thump in the form of Jesus Montero. He bent over backwards to get Jason Bay’s aging bat in the lineup and even rostered Wily Mo Pena for long enough to get these far-flung fans an unexpected souvenir. More recently, he’s drafted Mike Zunino, D.J. Peterson, and Alex Jackson, all of whom carry 6 grades in future power. The future remains bright for the latter trio, but prior to this past offseason, Zduriencik’s efforts to add a powerful right-handed hitter had been for naught.
Enter the Ned Colletti-less Los Angeles Dodgers. Already overcrowded in the outfield, the emergence of Joc Pederson during the 2014 season all but forced LA’s new regime to trade from surplus. The Mariners, with money to spend and a lineup spot to fill, were a natural trading partner, and strong rumors of a potential Matt Kemp-to-Seattle deal graced headlines for months. Though Zduriencik reportedly dangled shortstop Brad Miller and agreed to absorb roughly half of the $107 million Kemp is owed through the end of his contract, the Dodgers held out for more.
Ultimately, the Dodgers asking price grew too high, and the Mariners backed out of trade talks. Soon after, Kemp was dealt south to San Diego, quieting some of the offseason’s loudest rumors. —Brendan Gawlowski
5. Cole Hamels to the Rangers
Cole Hamels has been one of the few hot commodities on the trade market that didn't switch teams this offseason. At one point, Hamels was such a hot commodity that MLB Trade Rumors dedicated an entire post to updates on rumors involving the veteran lefty. In fact, Ruben Amaro, Jr. saying that he didn't expect Hamels to be moved was a newsworthy event given the amount of smoke billowing around Philadelphia.
Still, Cole Hamels to the Texas Rangers was one of the more interesting rumors to float about. Before consummating a trade with Milwaukee for Yovani Gallardo, the Rangers and Phillies had in-depth conversations around the framework for a Hamels trade, according to Jon Morosi. Ken Rosenthal would add that the money owed to Hamels became a sticking point in the negotiations.
The fun part of the Rangers and Phillies discussing Hamels is that the Rangers certainly have the prospect firepower to make a move for a pitcher of Hamels' caliber. Obviously these trade talks get sticky with Texas seemingly unwilling to move their intriguing prospects AND cover the remaining $96 million on Hamels' contract (not counting the fact that his 2019 option could vest for $24 million, making his contract five years, $120 million instead of four years, $96 million).
Seeing Cole Hamels pitch in Texas would have been fun. It certainly would have been a challenge for the talented pitcher to adapt to the American League and a new club. It's a shame that the trade fell through this offseason, though there is still time for Hamels to be moved at some point in the coming seasons. It will certainly be interesting to see what kind of trade is made for Hamels, if he is ever moved that is. —Jeff Long
6. Melky Cabrera back to the Giants
The Giants have shown a penchant for rewarding the players who help them to championships in recent years. In 2012, Melky Cabrera paved the way for the team's division crown with an All-Star season. But that season ended early, with a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs and subsequent reports that Cabrera tried to dodge the ban by creating a fake website. The Giants went the distance without Melky and told him to hit the road.
He did, to Toronto, where he scuffled through an injury-marred 2013 but bounced back in 2014, contributing 2.9 WARP to the Blue Jays' cause. After that, when Pablo Sandoval ditched San Francisco for Boston, the Giants cast a wide net to find offensive upgrades, eventually going small with Casey McGehee and Norichika Aoki. Given the way the sides parted, it was somewhat shocking to learn that the aforementioned net was wide enough to include Melky:
Would #SFGiants be open to Melky reunion?Source says they expressed interest, despite Melky’s 2013 PED suspension when he was with team.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 4, 2014
Rumors of a possible reunion lasted for about two weeks, before the White Sox snatched Cabrera for $42 million over three years, presumably more than the Giants were willing to pay. But had the Giants ponied up, it would've been interesting to see how Cabrera fit back into a clubhouse where the 2012 MVP criticized him for making "a bad decision" and another leader, Hunter Pence, was quick to "move on." —Daniel Rathman
7. A.J. Preller was trying to sign Pablo Sandoval to the Padres
And trade for Yoenis Cespedes, and Jason Heyward, and Jay Bruce, and every other player who could help the league's worst offense. This isn’t so much a rumor that fizzled as a reaction to a rumor that fizzled. You probably remember where you were when you heard that the Padres were looking to become contenders this year:
Padres said to be aggressively looking for hitters who can help them contend for NL West title immediately.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 1, 2014
Most likely, furiously trying to come up with an appropriate snark about it. This one was pretty good!
ONLY NEED NINE. RT@Buster_ESPN Padres said to be aggressively looking for hitters who can help them contend for NL West title immediately.
— Stephen Rodrick (@stephenrodrick) December 1, 2014
There were signs that Preller was serious, such as the mid-November report by Ken Rosenthal that Preller was “all over the map” and had “had baseline discussions on 200 players.” Two hundred! If you assume there are maybe 40—50?—free agents one could have baseline discussions on, that means he’d talked about 150 different trade targets. That is an incredible number. And there were signs that no matter how serious he was, it wouldn’t matter—as late as the middle of the winter meetings Padres beat writers were able to note that he hadn’t actually done anything. But more than anything, there was (to me; to you? Probably to you) a feeling that Preller’s Padres were so far away that they couldn’t possibly do much more than sign a couple players a year or two earlier than the Padres would actually need them. There was no way they’d add the two, three, even four impact hitters that this lineup would need to project as a Wild Card team. I didn’t know such an offseason was possible, and then lo and behold, it was. The rumor that the Padres were a silly joke fizzled. —Sam Miller
8. Nationals trading Stephen Strasburg
There’s no such thing as too much good starting pitching, right? Even so, the signing of Max Scherzer has made the Nationals almost unimaginably stocked. The odd man out, last year’s no. 5 starter and most likely 2015’s swingman, is Tanner Roark—who’s posted a career 2.70 ERA in a full season’s worth of starts.
Early offseason rumors about the Nationals focused on Jordan Zimmermann. But after the Scherzer signing, another name was whispered—Stephen Strasburg’s. Scott Boras has waved off chatter that Stras wants out of the District, and it would be a pretty stunning development for the Nats to ship off one of the true centerpieces of the rebuilt franchise.
To get Strasburg, a team would have to give up a pretty fair package. (Strasburg has two years left of team control and is set to make $7.4 million this year.) One of the teams most mentioned as a possible destination for #37 was Boston, which of course has the young talent to be able to make such a move. I have to admit being a little surprised at the stubborn pushback from Red Sox fans—including from some thoughtful analysts—at the idea of parting ways with Mookie Betts for two years (at least) of premium starting pitching.
Still, this one, from a random Redditor, has gotta take the cake:
My mistake. 26 is over the hill, so the free agent market should really be looking for people who are “young” and “have room to grow,” unlike Strasburg. Maybe Mo’ne Davis is available? —Dan Rozenson