Thursday, December 23, 2010

What To Watch For

So far, we’ve looked at the happenings in the offseason up to this point. Now, we’ll go through a few as-of-yet unresolved situations that will be interesting to watch as they play out over the remainder of the offseason.

Beltre, others remain unsigned
There are only a few top free agents remaining on the market, with Adrian Beltre foremost among them. The Angels have seemingly been Beltre’s most consistent suitors throughout the offseason, but earlier this week reports surfaced that the Halos’ had made their best offer to Beltre, at around 5 years and $70 million, then pulled that offer when Scott Boras decided to look elsewhere for employers for Beltre. The Angels are still considered the frontrunner for Beltre, but the Rangers and a number of other teams could still be in play. Other interesting free agents still on the market include Rafael Soriano, who has been connected to both the Angels and Rangers as well as Washington, Toronto, Baltimore, the Yankees, the White Sox, and others. My guess would be that the Angels will be out on Soriano after picking up Scott Downs and Hisanori Takahashi, but Soriano is still on a lot of different teams' radars. Finally, while the pitching market has thinned out considerably (and it didn’t exactly start strong), Carl Pavano remains unsigned and is currently the best option out there for teams looking for rotation help. The Twins remain the favorites to resign Pavano, but the Rangers, Pirates, and Nationals could also be in the mix, as were the Brewers before they acquired Zack Greinke. It will be especially interesting to see whether the Rangers and Angels try to make a splash later in the offseason, as both were expected to be big spenders (the Rangers in an attempt to keep Cliff Lee, and the Angels as suitors for big bats like Beltre and Carl Crawford) and neither have made any moves bigger than Los Angeles’ 3-year, $15 million deal for Scott Downs.

Matt Garza moving?
With the Greinke deal complete, Matt Garza of the Rays is now the most prominent starter rumored to be on the trading block. His name came up over and over again at the Winter Meetings, and with the free agent pitching market somewhat bare, teams that missed out on Cliff Lee and Greinke could (and likely have) come calling on Garza. He’s controllable until 2013, and while he doesn’t have the starpower of Lee or Greinke, he’s a young asset who wouldn’t put a huge dent in a team’s budget. The Cubs and Rangers have shown up quite a lot in Garza rumors, and the Nats have been in on just about every pitcher available this offseason, so Chicago, Texas, or Washington could be possible destinations for Garza. The Mets may also be involved.

Market for reclamation project starters remains in flux
Though most of the starting market has dried up, one group of potential high-upside starters remain unsigned. The large group of “reclamation projects,” guys with injury or consistency issues but a proven track record of strong major league performance, remains one of the most interesting stories of the offseason. The group, led by Brandon Webb, includes Jeff Francis, Erik Bedard, Justin Duchscherer, Chien-Ming Wang, Jeremy Bonderman, Chris Young, and others. So far, Bedard and Wang are only ones who have signed, inking a one-year, non-guaranteed contract. Expect the Rangers to be players for most of these high-upside starters, with teams attempting to sign them to short-term, incentive-laden deals. The Mets, Cardinals, Cubs, Pirates, and others could also get involved.

We’ll try to keep an eye on these stories as they get resolved. In the meantime, we’ll pick back up with the best free agent fits for each team as next time I’ll take a look at the New York Mets’ Perfect Pickup.

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