You want established pitching? Then you will pay through the nose for it.
That’s the precedent set by the deals that transpired before Christmas: The Rangers won the posting bid for Japanese star Yu Darvish for $51.7 million, the Reds acquired Mat Latos from the Padres for four prospects, the Nationals gave up four prospects for Oakland lefty Gio Gonzalez, and the Diamondbacks gave up three prospects for A’s righthander Trevor Cahill.
A look at what’s left for teams to go after at each position:
1. Matt Garza, Cubs - The next “prize.’’ Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have to feel that Garza is the best available pitcher out there, so the return must be at least what the A’s got for Gonzalez. They have three options: status quo, sign him to a John Danks-type multiyear deal, or trade him for a boatload of much-needed prospects. We get the feeling Epstein will deal him, and teams such as the Red Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays, and perhaps even Orioles would have to be interested. Don’t rule out the Tigers, either.
2. Wandy Rodriguez, Astros - He’s 32 (older than the guys who have been dealt recently) but still a viable option for a contending team looking for a middle-of-the-rotation guy. Yes, it’s a lot of money ($25.5 million guaranteed), but the Astros are willing to take on some of that for prospects.
3. Roy Oswalt, free agent - Willing to take a one-year deal? Where do I sign up? Great fit for a contending team like the Red Sox or Yankees. Back concerns have kept some teams away.
4. Wade Davis, Tampa Bay - The Rays would deal him for offense. Pretty good pickup: a pitcher who has been battle-tested in the AL East and is still young.
5. Edwin Jackson, free agent - Sure, his walks drive you crazy, but his 97-mile-per-hour heater is still impressive, and he’ll give you innings. He’s a guy you never want to overpay or extend in years.
6. Jeremy Guthrie, Orioles - Dan Duquette has listened to a few overtures, but nothing has driven him to deal Baltimore’s most experienced pitcher yet.
7. Hiroki Kuroda, free agent - The former Dodger still has some desire to stay out West. The Rockies have interest. Kuroda would be a good fit in Boston, where Bobby Valentine’s experience with Japanese pitchers would help. The Yankees are interested.
8. Joe Saunders, free agent - He was nontendered by the Diamondbacks, who are still trying to get him back. A lot of teams are in the hunt. His fly ball/line drive numbers and current demand of three years scare some at Fenway.
9. Ryan Dempster, Cubs - The Cubs would love to move the 34-year-old and his $14 million paycheck (or part of it). He has pitched more than 200 innings four straight years but his 4.80 ERA and 1.448 WHIP last season aren’t appealing.
10. Brett Myers, Astros - Two-hundred-plus innings for two straight years. Durable and not afraid to take the ball. Good fourth or fifth guy. Astros are willing to munch on some of the $11 million salary.
11. Bartolo Colon, free agent - As a fifth guy, he has some value. His refurbished arm - which produced velocity up to 97 m.p.h. - was impressive. Still knows how to pitch.
12. Tim Wakefield, free agent - How do you know when a knuckleballer is done? There’s something to be said - as his agent, Barry Meister, pointed out - about changing leagues.
Others: Javier Vazquez (if he doesn’t retire), Jamie Moyer, Brad Penny, Jeff Francis, Rich Harden, Joel Pineiro, Jon Garland, Livan Hernandez, Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Paul Maholm, Clay Hensley. Interesting rehab types: Scott Kazmir, Ben Sheets, Brandon Webb.
1. Ryan Madson, free agent - The top free agent closer, he was originally looking for a four-year, $44 million deal from the Phillies. The Red Sox and Angels are keeping the dialogue open.
2. Andrew Bailey, A’s - Still available, but the price has been prohibitive. The Red Sox have had numerous conversations.
3. Matt Thornton, White Sox - The former closer is best suited as a set-up man. For a stretch, he was at the top of the heap for lefty relievers.
4. Carlos Marmol, Cubs - He is likely to draw interest from teams like the Red Sox.
5. Grant Balfour, A’s - He had a good year with 62 appearances, a 1.032 WHIP, a 5-2 record, and a 2.47 ERA. AL East battle-tested. Sixth- or seventh-inning guy who competes hard.
6. Francisco Cordero, free agent - He pitches as if his hair is on fire, but he went 37 for 43 in save chances, had a 1.019 WHIP, and held righthanded hitters to a .159 average. He is 36, but to get him for a year or two would be a good sign. The Red Sox and Rays have talked to him.
7. Mike Gonzalez, free agent - Can be an enigma. Inconsistent but experienced.
8. Luis Ayala, free agent - Good sinker, and someone who can suck up middle innings. Need someone to throw a double play grounder? Ayala is good for that.
9. Brad Lidge, free agent - Could he help as a set-up man or seventh-inning guy? Lots of wear and tear. Have to be careful.
10. Hong Chih Kuo, free agent - For a low base and incentives, why not? The former Dodger isn’t healthy very often, and last year was his worst, with an anxiety disorder and arthroscopic elbow surgery in late October. But we’ve seen what he can do when healthy, and if you can get some of that back . . .
Others: Kerry Wood, Fernando Rodney, Joel Zumaya, Dan Wheeler, Andy Sonnanstine, Darren Oliver, Juan Cruz, Chad Qualls, Jamey Wright, Mark Hendrickson.
1. Yoenis Cespedes, free agent - The Marlins are being very aggressive, and the Nationals are right behind them. The Phillies are always sneaky, and the Cubs, Red Sox, and Yankees appear intrigued by his tools.
2. B.J. Upton, Rays - The rumors with the Nationals have been endless.
3. Coco Crisp, free agent - His injury past hurts his value, but he’s still fast, has more power, and is a very good outfielder. The Cubs have some interest. He would seem a fit for the Nationals or Rangers.
4. Nick Swisher, Yankees - GM Brian Cashman has fielded a ton of calls on Swisher, who is in the final year of his deal, but doesn’t believe he’ll move him.
5. Peter Bourjos, Angels - Mike Trout is on the way, and Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter have the corners, so where does Bourjos go? Could be a good fit for the Nationals.
6. Kosuke Fukudome, free agent - He never lived up to the hype coming from Japan to the Cubs, but he is a serviceable platoon outfielder who plays decent defense.
7. Andruw Jones, free agent - He can still hit lefthanded pitching and can still defend. He is not the Gold Glover he once was but still has those instincts.
8. Cody Ross, OF, free agent - The Giants’ postseason hero has power and could be a good right fielder or platoon player for a team like Boston.
Others: Ryan Ludwick, Juan Pierre, Jason Michaels, Austin Kearns.
1. Prince Fielder, free agent - The Rangers are still believed to be the favorites to land him. The Cubs deny any interest, as does Seattle. The Nationals are very active and seem to have a lot of money to spend. If Duquette can persuade Peter Angelos, perhaps the Orioles might get involved.
2. Mark Trumbo, Angels - With Albert Pujols on board and Bobby Abreu the DH, last season’s Rookie of the Year candidate could be available. The Angels are discussing a move to third or the outfield, but they also appear to be gathering data on deals.
3. Anthony Rizzo, Padres - With Yonder Alonso on board (part of the Latos deal), Rizzo is suddenly expendable. He had a tough time in the big leagues last season, with 46 strikeouts in 128 at-bats and just a .141 average after a monster year at Triple A Tucson. The Cubs, Rays, Astros, and Pirates would have interest.
4. Carlos Pena, free agent - He can still hit some bombs and play defense. He swings and misses too much, and the Cubs have been lukewarm on re-signing him. A possible return to Tampa Bay?
5. Casey Kotchman, free agent - He had a good offensive season as Tampa Bay’s first baseman, and is a good glove man, but he provides little pop from a position that often requires it.
6. Derrek Lee, free agent - He finished up with the Pirates, who would like to re-sign him.
1. Ryan Theriot, free agent - Played second base for a championship team in 2011.
2. Carlos Guillen, free agent - Not an everyday player, but a good veteran bat and presence if he stays healthy and you can move him around.
3. Brooks Conrad, free agent - An extra who can play second.
1. Hanley Ramirez, Marlins - The Marlins say Ramirez will switch to third, making way for Jose Reyes. We’ll see. There’s no doubt they continually field calls on Ramirez, because it can be very tough for a player to give up playing shortstop. It was tough for Michael Young. Not as tough for Alex Rodriguez. It’s going to be tough for Ramirez.
2. Orlando Cabrera, free agent - The old standby still believes he’s a full-time player, but he probably won’t get the chance unless a team suffers an injury.
3. Ronny Cedeno, free agent - Fits defensively for a second-division team on a temporary basis.
1. Wilson Betemit, free agent - A good low-ball/fastball-hitting batter vs. righthanders with some power. Could fit as a platoon player at third or first.
2. Eric Chavez, free agent - Did Chavez do anything last season to prove that he can play more than part-time? The former Gold Glover continued to have injury problems (broken bone in his foot) and played in only 58 games.
1. Jason Varitek, free agent - It doesn’t appear that he’ll have a role with the Red Sox unless he accepts a minor league invitation. The Cubs and Astros may have interest.
2. Pudge Rodriguez, free agent - He is aiming to get his 3,000 hits (he is 156 shy). The Astros have expressed some interest.
3. Chris Snyder, free agent - Back issues hurt him with the Pirates, who declined a $6.75 million option. He is still only 30, but you’d have to be assured of his health after back surgery.
1. Johnny Damon, free agent - Great presence on a team. The Rays may re-sign him. The Orioles also have interest.
2. Jorge Posada, free agent - If he doesn’t retire as a Yankee, he will likely be someone’s full-time DH/part-time catcher.
3. Vladimir Guerrero, free agent - He has had a great career, but his power numbers went down last season in Baltimore (13 homers), though he still hit .290. Orioles manager Buck Showalter thinks Guerrero can still help someone.
4. Hideki Matsui, free agent - All of Japan is wondering whether anyone will take him on. The 37-year-old former Yankee star is still capable of playing some defensively, but his production has slowly decreased.
5. Raul Ibanez, free agent - Declined quite a bit last season in Philadelphia, but the feeling is he can still hit.
Apropos of nothing
1. Wish the Nationals or Brewers would move into City of Palms Park; 2. Which brings me to the head-scratcher: Why do the Indians train in Arizona when most of their fans would rather go to Florida?; 3. It’s going to be strange to visit Jupiter, Fla., and not see Tony La Russa and his friend Bill Parcells; 4. Hope Jorge Posada retires as a Yankee; 5. Can’t wait to see Tampa Bay’s late moves.
Updates on nine
1. Joel Zumaya, free agent - It’ll be interesting to see which team takes a chance on him. We wrote last week that he threw well for scouts in Houston, but an AL GM said, “Our doctors don’t think he would pass the physical based on what they see.’’
2. Sean Marshall, LHP, Reds - It’s been written here for weeks that the Cubs aren’t going after big-name free agents, and the trading of Marshall, one of the premier lefties out there, to the Reds for 24-year-old lefty Travis Wood and others shows that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are building this from the ground up.
3. Dan Duquette, GM, Orioles - He is looking for bullpen help, a DH, and starting pitching, though he is at the mercy of owner Peter Angelos’s pursestrings. The Orioles are constantly mentioned as possible Prince Fielder suitors, but under their current budget, no chance.
4. Ben Cherington, GM, Red Sox - To clarify what seems to be a misperception: The Cubs agreed not to purge the Sox staff of major talent for three years, but the actual Epstein compensation - a “significant’’ player - remains on the table. It appears the teams will address the issue after making the bulk of their offseason moves.
5. Bobby Valentine, manager, Red Sox - Surprising that he got to choose only one of his coaches, Jerry Royster. When a manager “inherits’’ coaches - especially a bench coach - it often doesn’t work out.
6. Mike Maddux, pitching coach, Rangers - He has done a great job since coming over from Milwaukee, and is facing two big projects: converting Neftali Feliz into a starter and introducing Yu Darvish into the majors - if Darvish gets signed. Japanese pitchers are a challenge because of language and cultural differences, differences in workout regimes, the size and feel of the ball. Often, pitching coaches have tried to change too much of a Japanese player’s routine. That’s what happened, in part, with Daisuke Matsuzaka.
7. Bob McClure, pitching coach, Red Sox - His influence could lead to the acquisition of Royals closer Joakim Soria, someone the Sox have had their eye on and a pitcher McClure helped develop. Soria has struggled at times, and now the Royals have obtained Jonathan Broxton.
8. Carlos Beltran, OF, Cardinals - The only thing baseball people don’t buy about Beltran going to the Cardinals is the possibility that he will move to center field when Allen Craig comes back from his injury. “He probably feels most comfortable in center than the corners, but with his legs, it’s going to be tough on him,’’ said a National League talent evaluator. The Red Sox were in on Beltran for a while, but once the price started to rise to $12 million-$13 million, it got difficult. In terms of offense, no, he is not Albert Pujols, but he is at least 70 percent of him when healthy.
9. Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals - When to spring him loose in the majors? That’s the question the Nationals will be struggling with. “There are people in their organization who think he should make the team out of spring training,’’ said one talent evaluator from another team. Washington GM Mike Rizzo is going to be a bit more cautious and let him develop. The Nationals could be a dominating team in the not-too-distant future, though giving up Brad Peacock in the Gio Gonzalez deal may not look as good two years from now.
From the Bill Chuck files: “The decline of Bobby Abreu continued last season, as his batting average over the last four years has gone from .296 to .293 to .255 to .253; 2011 was also his first full season with fewer than 10 homers (he had 8).’’ Also, “No non-pitcher with less than 300 hits has struck out more than Kelly Shoppach. The new Sox catcher has 289 hits and 489 whiffs.’’ . . . Happy birthday to Hideki Okajima (36) and Rickey Henderson (53).