Johnny Cueto tops the list as the key player to watch at the Winter Meetings, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes in his latest Inside Baseball piece. Several big-market clubs have already checked in on Cueto and the Dodgers may hold particular interest since they considered trading for Cueto at the deadline last summer but held off out of a desire to keep their top prospects. Heyman’s piece was written before the news of Zack Greinke’s deal with the Diamondbacks broke, so it stands to reason that the Dodgers’ interest could be even greater with Greinke off the board. The Cardinals, Heyman reports, haven’t checked in on Cueto, as the righty “had a rough relationship with Cardinal Nation while starring in Cincinnati.”
Here are some of the hot stove highlights of Heyman’s lengthy news roundup…
- The Giants may pursue not one but two pitchers now that they’ve missed out on Greinke. San Francisco is “believed to have big money to spend” and they’ve been connected to such names as Mike Leake and Jeff Samardzija.
- The Rangers are receiving a lot of interest in many of their top relievers, including closer Shawn Tolleson, Jake Diekman, Sam Dyson and the newly-acquired Tom Wilhelmsen.
- The Rangers’ shopping list includes a right-handed bat for lineup balance and a starting pitcher likely to fill out the back of the rotation. Texas is also looking for a young catcher. Earlier this week, the Rangers were said to be working on a deal to add a catcher but no trade materialized.
- Pedro Alvarez has received calls from five teams, including the Indians, since being non-tendered by the Pirates earlier this week.
- Another non-tendered Alvarez, former Marlins righty Henderson Alvarez, is also drawing a lot of interest on the open market, with 10 teams checking in. Though 2015 was a lost year for Alvarez due to injuries and he may miss some time in 2016 in the wake of shoulder surgery, it’s no surprise that Alvarez is a hot commodity given his track record.
- The Marlins’ desire to trade Marcell Ozuna is well-known, though Heyman notes that one obstacle is Miami’s lack of a ready-made replacement in center field. In a tweet from this morning, Heyman wonders if Dexter Fowler could be pursued since Fowler was formerly tutored by new Miami hitting coach Barry Bonds. There hasn’t yet been any sign that the Marlins are interested in Fowler, however.
- Speaking of Marlins trades, closer A.J. Ramos and third baseman Martin Prado have both drawn interest but Heyman figures the team isn’t too likely to part with either player.
- A few teams called the Dodgers to ask about Yasiel Puig’s availability but the Dodgers aren’t keen on selling low on the outfielder. The team intends to “try to reach him” and inspire Puig to return to his old form. The Dodgers are more likely to trade Carl Crawford or Andre Ethier if they do decide to move an outfielder, though dealing either could be hard given the crowded outfield market (not to mention both players’ salaries).
- Daniel Murphy was connected to the Dodgers this offseason but he “doesn’t appear to be at the forefront” of the team’s plans at the moment.
- The Mets seem to be more serious about adding a platoon partner for Juan Lagares in center field rather than sign an everyday center fielder like Fowler or Denard Span.
- Brett Gardner’s name has surfaced in trade rumors this winter but “there isn’t currently any traction for a trade” between the Yankees and any other teams.
- The Yankees are another team monitoring the free agent pitching market and New York “may be laying in the weeds” to make its move on Samardzija or Wei-Yin Chen.
- Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar would be a fit with the Cubs but there is “nothing to that one at the moment.” It’s hard to see Toronto dealing the defensively-spectacular Pillar given how their next best center field option (Dalton Pompey) is still unproven at the Major League level and struggled badly when given the everyday job last April.