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Hot stove about to get red hot
So the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters announced Monday night that the Texas Rangers submitted the highest bid for Yu Darvish.
But you're still waiting for someone — maybe the Cubs — to sign Prince Fielder.
You want more action.
My advice: Be patient. The Hot Stove will sizzle in short order.
“Everyone tells me they have trades in the works,” one player agent said Thursday. “There are tons of moving parts.”
The desire to complete one’s holiday shopping by Dec. 24 is not unique to mall-goers. Thirty general managers feel the same way. And they are browsing in aisles we can’t see.
Undeniably, this has been one of the busiest weeks on the baseball calendar. It’s just that the business is taking place in a less public setting than, say, the Hilton Anatole in Dallas.
Fielder and Darvish are the lone remaining players who could command nine-figure commitments from their new teams. Once they sign — if they sign, in the case of Darvish — a cascade of moves will follow, particularly on the trade market.
So here’s a rundown of the five most intriguing sellers, along with my recommendation of the best trade partners for them.
Marlon Byrd, CF: There hasn’t been much trade buzz surrounding Byrd, which is hard to figure. Byrd is entering the last year of his contract, and prospect Brett Jackson should be ready to start in center field for the Cubs in 2013. The Nationals, looking far and wide for an everyday center fielder, could be a fit; Washington has good organizational pitching depth, which is precisely what the Cubs need. The Marlins are an intriguing possibility, if they trade Hanley Ramirez and move Emilio Bonifacio to third base. The Reds, Giants, Cardinals and Mariners could upgrade in center field this offseason.
Matt Garza, RHP: Few available pitchers can match Garza’s track record in the American League East. For that reason, he’s particularly appealing to the Red Sox, Yankees and Blue Jays. The Cubs are maintaining a high price on Garza — and rightfully so. He’s still two seasons away from free agency. Particularly if the Cubs sign Fielder, Garza could be the ace of a postseason-caliber rotation in 2013.
Alfonso Soriano, LF: It’s the contract that never seems to end, and the Cubs must eat millions to move it. If Soriano were a free agent right now, the soon-to-be-36-year-old would be fortunate to get the three-year, $21 million contract Josh Willingham signed with the Twins. But Soriano’s megadeal will provide him $54 million over the same three seasons. You do the math. Soriano, who has a full no-trade clause, makes the most sense for the Mariners or Indians — teams that need offense but have struggled to lure free-agent bats.
Carlos Zambrano, RHP: He’s erratic. He’s enigmatic. He’s coming off the worst season of his career. And yet Zambrano should be motivated, in what amounts to a contract year. Which manager has the best chance to keep Zambrano focused? Miami’s Ozzie Guillen, of course.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
John Danks, LHP: Danks is a dream pitcher for the Yankees, a left-hander who has had success pitching in a smallish American League ballpark. He could be the replacement for Andy Pettitte that the Yankees have yet to find. If the Yankees’ farm system is as good as they say, then they should be able to put together a package to entice White Sox GM Kenny Williams. The Reds, Royals, Rangers, Rockies and Twins also are looking to upgrade their starting rotations.
Gavin Floyd, RHP: If the Red Sox can’t trade for Garza or Gio Gonzalez, Floyd may be their next-best option. He has excellent numbers at Fenway Park — 3-0, 2.84 ERA, 25 1/3 innings — albeit in a small sample size. The question is whether Williams likes any of Boston’s young outfielders enough to build a package around one of them.
Carlos Quentin, OF: It’s been almost nine years since Quentin was selected in the first round of the 2003 draft, and yet there is plenty of debate in the game about his true value. Is he the MVP candidate we saw in 2008? Or someone with ordinary power for a corner outfielder, helped by playing half his games at a hitter-friendly park? The Mariners or Giants may have the greater need, but the Reds, Indians or Red Sox can offer better hitting environments. The fact that Quentin will become a free agent after 2012 could hinder his value.
Carlos Lee, 1B: In the right situation, Lee could be the Comeback Player of the Year. His contract — one year, $18.5 million — isn’t as bad as you think. He won’t be with the Astros after 2012, with first baseman of the future Jonathan Singleton on the way. Lee, 35, has incentive to produce as he’s preparing to hit the open market. New general manager Jeff Luhnow could entice a team like the Indians if he pays half of the contract. Lee could become a popular target after Fielder signs. One complication: Lee has a full no-trade clause.
Brett Myers, RHP: Luhnow’s best move with Myers may be to wait and hope that he reestablishes some value before the July trade deadline. His ERA jumped from 3.14 in 2010 to 4.46 this year, so most American League clubs probably view him as a fourth starter — at best. The Twins are one team to watch — if not now then perhaps during the season. They wanted him at the 2010 trade deadline and play in a bigger ballpark. (Of note, Myers’ $10 million club option for 2013 is guaranteed with 25 starts in 2012, as long as he doesn’t end the season on the disabled list.)
Wandy Rodriguez, LHP: His name was popular in July and August, and it will be a surprise if he’s still an Astro after the trade deadline in 2012. Rodriguez’s contract is reasonable, based on his age (32), left-handedness, and four consecutive seasons with an ERA of 3.60 or lower. It would be a big leap from the worst team in baseball to the AL East pressure cooker, so maybe the Reds, Rockies or Royals would be better destinations. One thing to keep in mind: He’s due $23 million over the next two seasons, and his $13 million club option for 2014 becomes a player option if he’s traded. (Also, the ’14 option vests if he throws 180 innings in ’13.)
Andrew Bailey, RHP: The Red Sox have been mentioned as a Bailey suitor from the start, and they remain interested in acquiring a closer even after trading for Mark Melancon. But the Reds are interested in Bailey and have more power-hitting prospects to offer. The Rays, with their stable of starting pitching prospects, also are pursuing Bailey.
Gio Gonzalez, LHP: The Blue Jays and Rangers are known to have submitted posting bids for Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish. The team that doesn’t win the rights to negotiate with Darvish will likely become the front-runner to acquire Gonzalez. Both clubs are rich in position player prospects, which is what the A’s need. Texas prospect Mike Olt would likely be of interest to the A’s, who are seeking a third baseman of the future. The interest in Gonzalez has been so intense that it would be a shock if Oakland does not trade him. The Red Sox, Reds, Mariners, Mets, Marlins, and Nationals have at least inquired on the left-hander.
Kurt Suzuki, C: A’s general manager Billy Beane is listening on just about anyone, including his starting catcher. The problem is that few teams are still looking for a No. 1 backstop this offseason. Beane’s best move with Suzuki will be to wait until another team’s catcher is injured during the year.
SAN DIEGO PADRES
Jason Bartlett, SS: Bartlett is available, but the Padres may have a difficult time moving him this winter. He’s coming off his worst full season in the majors, so it will be hard for teams like the Mariners, Giants or Braves to justify paying his $5.5 million contract in 2012. And his $5.5 million option for ’13 will become guaranteed with 432 plate appearances in ’12. The Padres may need to eat some money to move him.
Chase Headley, 3B/LF: Headley might be the Padres’ best trade commodity, unless they decide to move one of their young starting pitchers. His power numbers would jump with a move away from Petco Park, and the Tigers have interest in him. San Diego would like to acquire a future everyday shortstop, but it’s not clear if Detroit is prepared to offer one.
Orlando Hudson, 2B: Hudson’s OPS has dropped for third straight seasons, and he’s at an age (34) when middle infielders tend to decline. Hudson is set to earn $5.5 million during the coming season, and he will need to post monster numbers for the Padres to pick up their end of an $8 million mutual option for 2013. There isn’t much of a market for second basemen this offseason, as evidenced by Kelly Johnson’s decision to accept Toronto’s arbitration offer. The Padres’ best hope might be for the Rockies to look outside the organization after evaluating internal options during spring training.
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