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Lots of notes from today in what could be a really hopping Winter Meetings. We've broken this up into Astros news, free agent signings and then rumors. Hope you enjoy.
The team linked to Norris is, not surprisingy, Kansas City. The Royals, however, have been linked to almost every pitcher out there, including James Shields and R.A. Dickey, and have been for weeks. We've already talked about a possible Norris fit in KC, but I guess news gets recycled in the Winter Meetings.
Two thoughts on possible trades involving Norris. What if Houston did a Billy Butler for Norris deal, straight up? They'd get an automatic DH who is still young and would instantly be the best hitter on the team. KC could need to open up some roster flexibility to play Wil Myers, so moving a guy who can only DH and maybe play some first could help there. I don't think this is realistic, but it's an interesting fit.
My second fit is with Boston, who has a blocked prospect in Ryan Lavernaway, who could catch badly and DH for Houston, is 25 going on 26 next August and is seemingly out of a job thanks to Mike Napoli's addition to the Red Sox. If the BoSox are looking for pitching help, might they turn to Norris, who could even be converted to their bullpen?
Jim Bowden, writing for ESPN Insider, identifies one player from each team that might get traded. For the Astros, he picks Brett Wallace, over much better options like Jed Lowrie, Wesley Wright and Wilton Lopez. Why?
The Astros have top prospect Jonathan Singleton almost ready to take over at first, and Wallace has never put together his offensive potential, which he might actually reach when he's traded to what will be the fifth team of his career.
Bowden identifies the Indians, Rays, Mariners and Orioles as possible destinations for Wallace. But, given that Jeff Luhnow has gone on record recently saying he's "a Brett Wallace guy," it seems highly unlikely he gets moved now. In fact, it makes much more sense for Houston to hang onto Wallace and let Singleton force his way up to the majors, rather than just handing him a job.
No surprise here, as Jon Heyman gets some attention this morning for saying something Brian T. Smith had been reporting for weeks, that Houston is looking for a designated hitter. Heyman threw some names out there, which, again, were not surprising.
Heyman cites Lance Berkman, Travis Hafner If He Stays Healthy and Carlos Pena (Please No). We talked about Hafner as a possibility when looking at free agent DH production, so it wasn't a big reach to see his name here, but Smith's refutation of both Pena and Hafner were pretty great on Twitter. Nicely played, Brian T., nicely played.
In his nightly media session with the two Houston reporters in town for the Winter Meetings, Luhnow again said that he's not going to move shortstop Jed Lowrie unless he gets a mint. I'm guessing that involves a major league pitcher who is cost controlled and very good along with a good position prospect. Add in the muddled market for shortstops and it just doesn't look like it's worth it to trade Lowrie this winter. If I keep saying that over and over, it may turn true.
In that same session, we find out that Luhnow expects to make a deal this week. I'd expect that to be for Wilton Lopez and not something crazy we haven't figured out yet, but with Luhnow, you never know...
The free agent catcher/designated hitter/first baseman signed on Monday for three years, $39 million. That's not a bad AAV of $13 million, but it seems a bit pricy for the Astros. Once it seemed like the Red Sox and Yankees entered the picture for Napoli's services, though, I'm not sure Houston ever had a chance, even if they were interested in the first place.
The Drunken Sailors did it again, giving Joakim Soria, who would have looked great in an Astros uniform next year, a two-year, $8 million contract with a team option for a third year. Soria won't even a chance to close in Texas, and once Neftali Feliz comes back, he might even be the seventh inning guy. It's like the Rangers don't care about anyone else's feelings...
The Houston native was linked to the Astros so many times in his career that it seems like he'd already played here for about three years. As it is, Loney is a little like Brett Wallace offensively, never really living up to his prospect hype in the majors. The Rays got him on a bit of a steal, signing him for one year at $2 million with another $1 million in possible incentives. I think Loney's deal will go a long way to setting the bottom end of the DH market.
This wasn't really an option we'd discussed for the Astros, but the journeyman starter re-signed with the San Diego Padres for one year and $3 million. This is encouraging, as I can imagine Houston finding some bargains like this (or cheaper) a little later in the offseason when they finally get around to signing free agents.
The center field market just got more and more shallow. First, B.J. Upton comes off the board and now Angel Pagan re-signs with the Giants for four years and $40 million. Pagan had a great season, but he's not in Michael Bourn's league as a defender and hasn't produced as long as the Flyin' Hawai'ian, so I wonder if this will just drive up the prices everywhere else.
This deal also will leave the Phillies scrambling for an answer at center field, which could lead them to overpay for Michael Bourn.
The Nationals also inked two lefties in Bray and Duke. While the Astros weren't likely interested in either, it takes a few more lefties off the market, which could create a market for one Wesley Wright.
The tippy top of the pitching market appears to be Zack Greinke, who is drawing interest from lots of big players, but supposedly has a preference for playing in the National League. That makes the two LA teams the favorites right now to sign him, with the Dodgers considered in the lead.
Greinke will set the market for starting pitchers and it would seem he will need to reach a deal before teams decide to fall back on Plan Bs like R.A. Dickey or Bud Norris. Which means the likelihood of Norris getting traded this week is low.
Things have been moving in interesting ways on LaRoche. At first, it appeared that the Denard Span trade meant that LaRoche would be leaving Washington. Then, it seemed that LaRoche may be pricing himself out of the Nats plans.
But, a market for him hasn't appeared. The O's, who might have been interested, seemingly are out on him. That means that Washington could bring him back at a reasonable deal. What does that mean for Houston? Michael Morse could be available for the right price. Maybe for Wilton Lopez?
Coming off a Cy Young performance and with the Mets suffering through financial woes, it appears that the 38-year old Dickey is on the market. He's likely behind Greinke on the pitching priority list, but a team like the Royals could prefer to deal with the Mets rather than try to bring back Greinke.
As with everyone who has been mentioned today, the Dodgers are involved. The Red Sox also apparently were in on him, but the Mets wanted a haul that included Tim favorite Jackie Bradley Jr. Like with Greinke, if Dickey gets dealt, that will help Houston calibrate the market for Bud Norris.
On the downside, it appears that the shortstop trade market won't be headed up by Lowrie, as the Marlins are shopping Yunel Escobar. What's more, it appears that Oakland may have a match with them to fill their need at the spot after Stephen Drew hit the open market.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Giants general manager Brian Sabean can check two big boxes off his winter to-do list.
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — While waiting to find out whether there will be more talks with Josh Hamilton, the Texas Rangers agreed to a two-year contract with free-agent reliever Joakim Soria and reached a deal to keep catcher Geovany Soto.
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Well, I guess it was a bad camera angle or some Photoshop work because Jeter clearly isn't fat.
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The Miami Marlins are apparently shopping Yunel Escobar, but the team may also have to ship away Ricky Nolasco as well. According to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick, Nolasco's agent Matt Sosnick reports that his client would like to be traded from the Marlins.
"Ricky and I have spoken a lot since the end of the season," Sosnick said. "Just watching the way the offseason has transpired for the Marlins and the moves they've made, he and I agree that he would probably be better served playing somewhere else. If he had his druthers, he would pitch for somebody other than the Marlins in 2013 and beyond."
Sosnick declined to comment on whether Nolasco made an official request to the Marlins to be traded.
Unlike the push to deal Escobar, I think it would be the correct decision to trade Ricky Nolasco at this stage. Nolasco has only one season remaining in his three-year extension signed before 2011, and at $11.5 million, he is an expensive pitcher who is no longer very effective. For years now, Nolasco teased the Fish with great peripherals, and even though he has 3.74 FIP over the last three seasons, his ERA has hovered around 4.50 each year with no sign of improvement despite what seemed like a change in approach in 2011.
At this rate, there is a high probability that Nolasco will not improve on his poor track record from the last four years. The Marlins would be wise to get out from underneath his salary and pick up pieces to add to either their minor league depth or immediately assist them at the major league level. Provided the team does not send any of Nolasco's remaining salary, the club should be happy with any menial return.
The problem is the precedence it continues to send within the organization, especially if the team will not opt to spend the savings elsewhere. If the Marlins send all of Nolasco's salary away, the team's financial commitments in 2013 will total $25 million, and that is without trading Escobar. The team could go as low as $20 million before pre-arbitration and Ryan Webb push that up to about $30 million, and that includes $10 million that was sent to cover players heading to Toronto. It would also leave the Marlins with a fairly empty roster that is somehow worse than the current one, leaving the on-field product even more barren. None of this can help with the fence-mending with Giancarlo Stanton.
Yes, the Marlins should trade Ricky Nolasco. But the terrible precedence the team has already set and its effect on the club's best player will only get worse if the Marlins decide to not add any salary.
Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera is going to play for Venezuela in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
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It seems the Miami Marlins are either uninterested or unimpressed with Yunel Escobar as the team's short-term solution at third base. There have been rumors since the mega-trade with the Toronto Blue Jays that the Marlins would trade Escobar, and it seems that is exactly what the team is considering during the first day of the winter meetings. This according to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com:
#marlins are actively shopping Yunel Escobar— Joe Frisaro (@JoeFrisaro) December 3, 2012
While I do not believe this is a good idea, you can understand why the Marlins would at least entertain this option. If a team evaluates Escobar from an upside standpoint, they could see a potentially very good player making very little through his remaining three years of team control, only one of which is guaranteed. This holds significant trade value if the acquiring team is evaluating Escobar as a player on the rebound from a down season rather than a faltering product.
There is also the positional value that Escobar holds for other teams that he does not hold for the Marlins. The Fish are playing Adeiny Hechavarria at shortstop and moving Escobar to third base, but for other teams, they would be acquiring him as at least a league-average defender at shortstop. To the Marlins, he has unknown or questionable defensive value, but most talent evaluators likely think of Escobar as a better defender at a more difficult and harder-to-fill position. In that respect, he is worth less to the Fish than he would be to other teams.
Still, the Marlins would not necessarily be trading him with this in mind rather than simply dealing him because he is making $5 million next season. Even though he has only one guaranteed year left and the Marlins are now down to a payroll of less than $40 million, the team may still look to cut costs, and at this level, we know the Marlins can make money from revenue sharing and central fund cash. There cannot be a question of crying poor at this payroll level, with or without Escobar on board.
Friend of Fish Stripes Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun-Sentinel tweets that at least two teams are interested.
#Marlins in trade talks with at least two teams involving Yunel Escobar.— Juan C. Rodriguez (@JCRMarlinsbeat) December 3, 2012
If the Marlins do make a trade, one has to hope the team is not selling low on a very talented player who has had two bad seasons between multiple very good years. It was only two seasons ago that Escobar had a four-win campaign for the Blue Jays. As a Marlins fan, while you may not like the idea of moving more salary from an already bargain-bin team, the more concerning problem about this potential trade is the Marlins selling too low coming off of a down year and not getting the best value for Escobar.
EDIT: Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that the Tampa Bay Rays are pursuing Escobar and that the Oakland Athletics are also in the mix.
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Catcher Geovany Soto is staying with the Texas Rangers, agreeing Monday to a $2.75 million, one-year contract.
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