It’s a copycat sport. Just look at the trend of two-headed hitting coaches. And the Jurassic Deals (Red Sox-Dodgers, Blue Jays-Marlins) in which big names and big contracts changed hands.
Is there another one of those deals to be made at the annual Winter Meetings, which start Monday in Nashville? There are certainly teams that want and need to make splashes — Kansas City and Boston, to name two.
The top two impact free agents — outfielder Josh Hamilton and righthander Zack Greinke — are there to be had. A good pitcher like James Shields, Jon Lester, R.A. Dickey, and Gavin Floyd could be traded.
Let’s take a look at what teams may be looking to do:
The trick for Dan Duquette is to make the Orioles viable for a second straight season, make sure they are more than a one-year wonder. It’s hard to tell whether Duquette will get the green light from owner Peter Angelos on spending for a talent like Hamilton (whose Virginia home is closer to Baltimore than any other major league city). So far, the signs are that he has not. Duquette needs a bat for the outfield and/or DH and is looking at Nick Swisher, Cody Ross, Ryan Ludwick, Shane Victorino, and Delmon Young, among others. He’s also in need of a front-line veteran starter and will likely dabble with Anibal Sanchez, Edwin Jackson, and others.
In the old days, the Red Sox were typecast as a team that went after righthanded pull hitters to put in Fenway: Jimmie Foxx, Walt Dropo, Dick Stuart, Tony Conigliaro, Rico Petrocelli, Ken Harrelson etc. Guess what. These are the good old days. Jonny Gomes is here, and Mike Napoli has been a target along with Ross. At least Adam LaRoche and Swisher are somewhat of a deviation. Veteran scout Bob Schaefer said of Swisher (who has a half-dozen teams interested), “If he played first base every day, he’d be one of the best first basemen in baseball.” Stephen Drew could be a possibility at shortstop. The Sox will also explore a starter; Brandon McCarthy, Ryan Dempster, Kyle Lohse, and Francisco Liriano are among those they’ve contacted.
Rick Hahn has taken over as GM from Kenny Williams, who was somewhat of a gambler. We’ll see what Hahn’s approach is. The White Sox have moved on from A.J. Pierzynski (so far), but he still fits them so well. Hahn needs to purge a big contract (maybe Floyd) in order to bring back Kevin Youkilis at third or bring in a catcher.
The Indians have a few chips to deal, such as right fielder Shin-Soo Choo, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, righty Justin Masterson, and closer Chris Perez, but whether they actually do it or not depends on the return. They are trying to give new manager Terry Francona somewhat of a competitive team to work with. But they might be tempted to try a complete do-over and trade all of their most attractive established players. Choo, like Jacoby Ellsbury, is hard to deal because he is entering his free agent season.
Dave Dombrowski insists he’s not interested in Rafael Soriano, but he must solve his closer problem. He insists for now the job will belong to rookie Bruce Rondon. Suffice to say Dombrowski will be looking for relievers, perhaps another starting pitcher, and if he can improve his shortstop defense, he’ll do it and trade Jhonny Peralta.
The Astros will try to add a DH to make them AL-ready, and they’ll likely consider old friend Lance Berkman if he’s willing to play there for short money. Longtime Astro Carlos Lee also is a free agent. They are trying not to deal shortstop Jed Lowrie or second baseman Jose Altuve, but they’ll listen if a team is willing to overpay.
This seems to be the Royals’ moment. They have excess hitting and could turn it into much-needed pitching. They have added Jeremy Guthrie and Ervin Santana to the rotation, but that doesn’t excite the masses who want a true No. 1. They appear willing to move phenom Wil Myers for an established pitcher like Shields, Lester, or even Dickey. They’re also involved in free agent Sanchez.
Dan Haren, Santana, and possibly Greinke are gone from the rotation, so they need to replenish there; you’ll likely see them in on guys like Jackson and Sanchez. They dealt one-time closer Jordan Walden to the Braves for Tommy Hanson. They have hitters like Kendrys Morales (entering the final year of his contract) who could fill power needs on other teams in exchange for bullpen or rotation help.
The Twins have told teams inquiring about Joe Mauer that he is unlikely to be available, but they haven’t indicated the same for Justin Morneau. After the Denard Span deal made room for Ben Revere in center, the Twins are looking to deal for pitching. They are finding some of the free agents expensive, but they’ve looked into Jackson, Brett Myers, Lohse, and McCarthy. They could use some middle-infield help.
Minus Russell Martin and Soriano, general manager Brian Cashman has been content to sign up some of his pitchers (Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, and Hiroki Kuroda). He said last week that he wanted to lie back a tad while the market settled down, as he found some of the prices a little high. He is looking for an outfielder and another bullpen piece; don’t discount names like Michael Bourn, Victorino, Ludwick, and Ross. They need a catcher. And while they disavow their interest in Pierzynski, he would hit a few homers at Yankee Stadium, wouldn’t he? When pulling the ball, as Bill Chuck points out, Pierzynski hit .417 with 20 homers and a .907 slugging percentage last season.
The A’s probably won’t do much with their roster. They could lose McCarthy in free agency, but they seem to have ready replacements with a bevy of young pitchers. They may need a solution at shortstop after letting Drew head into free agency and could upgrade at third base, where Josh Donaldson projects as the starter with Brandon Inge gone to free agency.
GM Jack Zduriencik is liking his team and wants to add to it to bring it into contending status in the division. Zduriencik has been in on Napoli, Swisher, Young, and Ludwick as he looks to add power, especially with the fences being moved in at Safeco Field. He’ll also add a starter and more to his bullpen. First baseman/outfielder Mike Carp will likely be used as trade bait.
The loss of B.J. Upton means the Rays are in the market for a corner outfielder with pop. They have pitching chips like Shields, Wade Davis, and perhaps even Jeremy Hellickson to use, and obvious trade partners such as Kansas City (Myers or Alex Gordon). They could also sign a couple of hitters. Ross, Ludwick, Colorado’s Michael Cuddyer, and Arizona’s Jason Kubel would likely be on their list of targets. They need a catcher. Pierzynski, an Orlando resident, would be a good fit. If they trade Shields, they’d love to be able to fill two or three needs in one deal for him.
One thing the Rangers need to consider if they move on from Hamilton: Since he joined the club in 2008, the Rangers are 359-276 (.565) with him in the lineup and 86-89 (.491) when he’s out. They are in on Greinke, Sanchez, and every other major pitcher out there, including Shields, and would discuss Lester as well. If they lose Hamilton, they’ll be looking for a major hitter (they’ve talked to Swisher) and a catcher (another possible destination for Pierzynski).
The Jays made their ginormous splash in the 12-player deal with Miami. They have a lot of pieces now in place, but would like to add a starting pitcher. The White Sox seem like a prime trade partner, with Floyd a good No. 4 or 5 starter, and Toronto has catching depth to deal (J.P. Arencibia). They’re likely in on Dempster (a Canadian) for their fifth-starter spot.
You never know when Kevin Towers will strike with something big. He has Justin Upton to dangle (and maybe even Kubel, who hit 30 homers last season) but won’t deal him unless he’s offered a major starting pitcher and/or shortstop or third baseman. Towers will chip away at those needs at the meetings.
The Braves let Michael Bourn go to free agency and signed B.J. Upton, a righthanded hitter with power. They have pitching to deal if they want to go after a third baseman, but it appears much of their team is set. They nontendered righty Jair Jurrjens and traded Hanson for Walden to add depth to an already solid bullpen. There has been some talk about Hamilton, but after the Upton signing, that would appear to be a long shot. They’re considering Ross, Ludwick, and Victorino.
The Cubs would like to continue selling off parts like Alfonso Soriano and perhaps Matt Garza (when he’s healthy) and closer Carlos Marmol in an effort to keep rebuilding in a Nationals kind of way. They would like to reap benefits from the draft, too. Their strategy will be to delete rather than add.
The Reds spent a bundle to re-sign Jonathan Broxton, which likely moves Aroldis Chapman to the rotation. They could add to their bullpen and would like to either sign the very productive Ludwick or replace him with another righthanded bat (Young?). But their team appears to be set.
The Rockies could be in trade mode on Cuddyer for the right return. They obviously need pitching. Nobody ever speaks about something huge where they would deal franchise shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, but in this time of big deals and disassembling teams, who knows? The Red Sox and Diamondbacks would be eager suitors if that were the case.
For the team that wants everything, they are likely not through. They have met with Greinke and would appear to be the front-runners to land him. They will likely add two starting pitchers and a third baseman (Youkilis?) if they identify Hanley Ramirez as their shortstop. They can’t be ruled out of Hamilton, though they would have to deal Andre Ethier to make it happen. Ethier would have plenty of suitors, including the Red Sox.
They’ve purged the team pretty well, so now will they rebuild some pieces? They’ve added Juan Pierre and say slugger Giancarlo Stanton will be their right fielder. Major League Baseball and Marlins fans aren’t pleased with owner Jeffrey Loria. You wonder if this team will get sold soon.
Hamilton is linked here because of his relationship with hitting coach Johnny Narron, who was his life coach in Texas. The Brewers never replaced Prince Fielder per se, and after leading the NL in runs last season, they didn’t need to. What they do need is more bullpen help and another starter. Owner Mark Attanasio is capable of loosening the purse springs at any time to spring something big like Hamilton.
The David Wright signing showed some commitment by Mets owners, and Cy Young winner Dickey is on deck. They will either commit to him long-term or make him available in a deal (the market would be strong). The Mets need to foster some goodwill, but instead of adding, it appears they’re going to try to subtract someone like Johan Santana and eat some of the money. They will seek a low-cost center fielder (Nate McLouth might fit that description). A return of Angel Pagan is possible but unlikely.
The Phillies have been fairly quiet, which leads you to think they could pop something big. Hamilton has been linked to them, though their scouts say no. But their scouts haven’t always known what GM Ruben Amaro is thinking. They say they won’t trade Cliff Lee, but don’t be shocked if they do. They need a third baseman and an outfielder; they have interest in Pagan. Bourn and Youkilis could be in their sights. They could swoop in for Swisher.
The Pirates added Russell Martin to help their catching defense and work with their pitching staff. They have more to do, in the way of a bat and bullpen help. This is 20 years without a winning team. Need to get it done this season.
They could be the least active team, because other than losing Berkman, they are pretty much intact. What they had was good enough to get to the NLCS even without the injured Berkman. They’re definitely dealing from a position of strength. It’s nice not to have to do anything.
We don’t know much about what the Padres are capable of doing from a financial standpoint after the new owners purchased the team for $800 million. Would they put themselves on the map with a Hamilton deal? Greinke? Probably not. Hard to compete in the NL West with the Giants’ stronghold and the Dodgers willing to outspend everyone.
The champions want to re-sign World Series MVP Marco Scutaro and add a corner outfielder and center fielder. There has been chatter about Ichiro Suzuki, Victorino, and Bourn. The rotation returns unless they entertain a deal for Tim Lincecum. Injured closer Brian Wilson would like to stay, and we’ll see if the feeling is mutual. Otherwise the Giants should be relatively quiet.
The Nats finally got their leadoff hitter in Span from the Twins, so now it appears they’ll focus on the bullpen unless they can land the ultimate prize: Greinke. If they lose LaRoche, they’ll move Michael Morse to first base. Or they could enhance their offer to LaRoche, keep him, and shop Morse.Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.