Winter Meetings Links
I'll start first with the only two big league deals signed today, the White Sox and RHP Felipe Paulino and the Indians and 1B David Cooper, both on one-year deals. Paulino is the more interesting of the two and signed for $1.75 million with a $4 million option for a second year that has a $250,000 buyout. He was a league average starter for over 300 innings 2009-2011 but had a poor ERA heavily influenced by high BABIP and low strand rates. His elbow popped early in 2012 and he returned late in 2013, throwing 27.1 innings in the minors. This is a nice low-cost gamble for the White Sox with the option to reap some reward if Paulino regains his form, something a minor league deal couldn't do, like when the Indians ended up only getting one year of a Scott Kazmir renaissance before he left via free agency. Cooper is a little easier to break down and terms weren't available on his deal. While he is a former first round pick out of Cal, he's a little too stiff to hit for enough average to be a regular in the big leagues. He has a solid eye and above average power, but his AAA numbers have been propped up by hitter friendly parks and fringy pitching while Cooper also had a recent health scare, with a career-threatening spinal injury.
I've already written a good bit about David Price and there's been some new chatter on him today, but nothing substantial. Seattle is still the leader as the most logical choice for a number of reasons and it looks like right now Rays GM Andrew Friedman is negotiating the best package he can get, as it's leaking out that there's some concern in Tampa about RHP Taijuan Walker and 2B Nick Franklin, with one report saying the Rays prefer SS Brad Miller to Franklin.
Texas and the Dodgers are the two other threats here, with Texas clearly having the pieces to get it done, with SS Jurickson Profar the coveted trade piece. The Dodgers would have to clean out their system, with the top four prospects (3B Corey Seager, OF Joc Pederson, RHP Zach Lee, LHP Julio Urias) possibly all needing to be involved for Tampa to ignore an immediate need for an MLB-ready pitcher in the deal.
The quiet force involved in this and many other negotiations is not-yet-posted Japanese RHP Mashiro Tanaka. The Yankees are his most likely destination, but the new posting system levels the playing field a bit and the Dodgers, Mariners, Rangers and others could all be in play for the only other frontline arm available this off-season. Not every club will get an arm and the ones that don't have moves in their back pocket they'll be forced to make as backup options.
If you scroll through all the various trade rumors from the last week, you'll notice almost all of them are younger bats being on the trade block, some of them surprising names. Many teams, maybe a majority, are shopping for pitching and are putting out feelers now to see what their pieces are worth to the industry and what they may fetch in return before they gamble on a free agent arm. Domonic Brown, Adam Lind, Logan Morrison and others all fit in this bucket while cheaper veterans like Bronson Arroyo and Bartolo Colon are moving closer to deals. Clubs are price-shopping their young bats around the league before pulling the trigger on veteran arms, while the more expensive options will be consolation prizes for the Tanaka/Price sweepstakes: A.J. Burnett, Matt Garza and Ervin Santana.
The Diamondbacks are one of the few teams with arms to spare and the Angels are one of a few clubs (like the White Sox and Mets, tossing Daniel Murphy, Ike Davis and Chris Sale out as names that are available for the right price) that are looking to shake things up. The latest reports have LA looking for Tyler Skaggs and Trevor Cahill in a Trumbo deal while the D'Backs are debating whether to trade for a corner bat or sign one, with Shin-soo Choo appearing to be the main target; significantly more expensive in salary and a superior player, but not costing any players in exchange.
Lastly, to clear something up, I'm not buying the reports of Chris Sale actually being available. Beyond the follow-up reports with quotes from executives saying they still feel like he isn't available (and others telling me the same), this stinks of a marketing ploy. Two off-seasons ago when Kevin Towers got the D'Backs GM job, he basically let all of baseball know Justin Upton was available but it became clear the asking price was so high, he wasn't actually available (after a down season, he was traded, so Towers wasn't completely disingenuous). Especially as a guy new to the GM chair after a long layoff, this let Towers both see what Upton's market value was, but also see how every other club felt about their top pieces and start conversations that could lead to other trade talks and potentially light a fire under his star player. Matt Kemp is in a similar situation this off-season.
In the White Sox case, Sale is well-compensated and under contract for six years, so complaining about his name being floated in his next contract negotiation isn't a concern. That said, Chicago needs to have a creative, nothing-is-too-outside-the-box approach to a mini-rebuild and getting every GM on the horn is a good way to keep abreast of what's happening in the league. If you think every team already knows what's out there and available at all times, just look at the industry being blind-sided by last week's Doug Fister trade for evidence that any conversation is positive.
Tweet of the Day: Joel Sherman tweets the Giants are "intrigued by Brett Gardner". Well maybe if Brian Sabean asks Gardner to the prom, he could know for sure.