Choo, Colon, Price among top names who could be on move at winter meetings
ORLANDO — Amid last week’s flurry of signings, many people wondered if the winter meetings in Orlando, Fla., would be comparatively devoid of action. So far, that’s been the case, though it will be a few days before we’ll get a final verdict. In the meantime, there’s a fair bit of buzz regarding the possible movement of a number of players, not all of whom are free agents.
What follows is a quick look at half a dozen players of note who appear as though they could change teams by the end of the meetings on Thursday. There’s no guarantee that they will — Hot Stove heat often yields smoke but no fire — but this is a best guess based upon various reports. The players are listed alphabetically.
Shin-Soo Choo, free agent
Choo, the top free agent remaining from among the Reiter 50 – SI.com’s annual ranking of the top 50 free agents, as compiled by Ben Reiter – has no shortage of suitors, and Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal suggested via Twitter on Monday evening that things were reaching a “critical stage.”
The Rangers and Diamondbacks have been most closely connected to the 31-year-old on-base machine, a Scott Boras client who could land a seven-year deal in the range of those of Jayson Werth ($126 million) and Jacoby Ellsbury ($153 million). The Mariners have also been linked to Choo, whom they signed out of South Korea back in 2000. The M’s certainly need to upgrade their outfield production — the top returning outfielder on their roster, Michael Saunders, hit .236/.323/.397 last year – but they may be looking for someone less pricey. It appears far less likely that the Tigers, Giants and Reds, three other teams mentioned by Rosenthal in connection to Choo late last week, are willing to go into nine-digit territory.
Bartolo Colon, free agent
The 40-year-old righty, 14th on the Reiter 50, is coming off his strongest season since his 2005 AL Cy Young-winning campaign, having delivered a 2.65 ERA over 190 1/3 innings with a 4.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio for the A’s. He’s said to be seeking a deal north of $10 million a year, possibly for two years. The Orioles, Mariners and Blue Jays are among those said to be in pursuit, with his price tag probably out of range for the cash-strapped Mets, who met with him on Monday.
It’s worth noting that FanGraphs’ Jeff Zimmerman identified Colon as the pitcher most likely to hit the disabled list next year, which makes sense due to his age and injury history; he’s served time on the DL in each of the past three years, not to mention his 2006-10 wilderness years.
Nelson Cruz, free agent
The Rangers are interested in bringing back the 33-year-old Cruz, who is 10th on the Reiter 50. He’s been with Texas since 2006 and hit .266/.327/.506 with 27 homers in 109 games in 2013 before serving a 50-game Biogenesis-related suspension. However, they’re said to be only willing to go to two years, while he’s seeking three — which at the very least means that his price point will be far below that of Choo.
The Mariners and Orioles have also been in discussions with Cruz, according to Rosenthal. Seattle needs help in the lineup to support Robinson Cano and the team still has money to spend, whereas Baltimore is on a much tighter budget that last week led it to trade potential $10 million closer Jim Johnson to the A’s.
Logan Morrison, Marlins
Morrison was limited to just 178 games and a combined .236/.321/.387 line over the past two years due to September 2012 surgery to repair the patellar tendon of his right knee. He is likely to be traded this week, particularly now that the Marlins have signed Garrett Jones to a two-year, $7.75 million deal. Morrison hit a combined .259/.351/.460 with 25 homers in 2010 and ’11 but 23 of those homers came in the latter year, his only season with more than 100 games played.
Now 26 years old, he’s arbitration eligible for the first time, and while he’d make less than Jones, the combination of his three years of club control and his still-extant upside should bring back something in trade. As many as seven teams are said to be interested in him, according to Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun-Sentinel, with the Blue Jays, Brewers, Rays and Pirates most prominently connected to Morrison though Pittsburgh’s interest is said to be “mild.”
David Price, Rays
It’s no secret that the Rays are considering dealing Price, who has two more years of club control but is becoming increasingly difficult to fit within their limited payroll given that he’s due a raise beyond his 2013 salary of $10.1 million. The latest buzz, via Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, has the Rangers, Dodgers and Mariners as the leading suitors. Particularly now that it has signed Cano, Seattle is expected to push for Price, who would pair with Felix Hernandez to give the Mariners a 1-2 punch that could rival any in the game. That said, general manager Jack Zduriencik told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he doesn’t expect to trade top pitching prospect Taijuan Walker, and Tampa Bay is said to be more interested in shortstop Brad Miller instead of second baseman Nick Franklin, the player most directly affected by the Cano signing.
The Dodgers have made their interest known, opening up the possibility of a rotation with a trio of Cy Young winners (Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke being the others), though as the Los Angeles Times‘ Dylan Hernandez put it, they “don’t plan to aggressively pursue Price.” Los Angeles may not have the right prospects to satisfy the Rays; two of its top three minor leaguers, shortstop Corey Seager and pitcher Julio Urias, are still teenagers, years away from helping a big league club. Meanwhile, near-ready centerfielder Joc Pederson may be in limbo until L.A. decides how to break up its outfield logjam. The Rangers, who would pair Price with Yu Darvish, could build a package around offense-minded second baseman Rougned Odor, who reached Double A as a 19-year-old in 2013.
Mark Trumbo, Angels
A thumper who has hit 95 homers over the past three years, the 29-year-old first/baseman/outfielder could be on the move in an effort to upgrade the Angels’ rotation, as he represents their best trade chip and is said to be drawing “heavy traffic” according to general manager Jerry Dipoto. The Angels are said to be deep in talks with the Diamondbacks, who have a surplus of starting pitching with more on the way including top prospect Archie Bradley. Bradley is not going anywhere, but Trevor Cahill and Tyler Skaggs (originally drafted by the Angels in 2009 and traded in the Dan Haren deal a year later) are two pitchers who have been discussed, though the chances are said to be “zero” that Arizona would part with both. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Keith Law reported hearing the possibility of a three-team deal in which the White Sox would get centerfielder Adam Eaton, the Angels would get Hector Santiago and the D-backs would get Trumbo.
Arizona may represent an odd fit for Trumbo given that the presence of Paul Goldschmidt would force him to the outfield, where he has a reputation as a subpar defender. That said, Trumbo’s history according to both Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating suggest that he’d be at most a few runs below average per year at the corner.