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Ian Kinsler Rumors
The Blue Jays almost finalized trades that would've seen them acquire Ian Kinsler from the Rangers and Brett Anderson from the Athletics earlier this winter, but both deals ended up as "near-misses," Sportsnet's Shi Davidi reports.
Kinsler, of course, was part of the offseason's biggest blockbuster to date, when he was traded to the Tigers in exchange for Prince Fielder and $30MM. Before that deal occurred, however, the Jays' proposed swap for the second baseman fell through due to Kinsler's partial no-trade clause that allowed him to block deals to up to 10 teams. It's unknown what the Jays would have given up for Kinsler, though I would guess it would've been on a much lesser scale than Fielder; it wouldn't have made much sense for Toronto create another hole in the lineup by dealing the likes of Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion.
The Jays had long been rumored to be suitors for Anderson and they discussed a trade with the A's that would've sent Sergio Santos to Oakland in return for the southpaw. Anderson's extensive injury history, however, ended up dimming Toronto's interest and Anderson was instead traded to the Rockies in December. Interestingly, the Jays also had Santos tabbed to go to the Rangers as part of a potential three-team deal in November that was scuttled when another player in the deal failed his physical.
Second base and the starting rotation were the Blue Jays' two biggest areas of need going into the offseason, so had these two would-be deals gone through, GM Alex Anthopoulos' winter shopping could have essentially been complete. With January almost over, however, the Jays are still looking for rotation upgrades and a Ryan Goins/Maicer Izturis platoon is still penciled into the keystone position.
There's been an overwhelming amount written on last night's blockbuster trade that sent Prince Fielder and $30MM to the Rangers in exchange for second baseman Ian Kinsler and the remaining $62MM on his contract, and we'll round up reactions and ripple effects from the trade here with one more post on the mega-deal…
- The Rangers are still willing to include Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar in the right trade, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Rosenthal speculates on a trade that could send Andrus or Profar to St. Louis or a Profar package to entice the Rays to part with David Price.
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post wonders if shedding Kinsler puts the Rangers in the market for Robinson Cano. Texas could trade Andrus or Profar and make a run at the lifetime Yankee. Sherman also points out that the move at least opens a window for Jhonny Peralta to return to the Tigers as a third baseman — a situation that wasn't possible 48 hours ago.
- If the Tigers' new windfall allows them to lock up Max Scherzer to a multiyear contract, it'd be bad news for the Red Sox, writes Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. That scenario decrease Jon Lester's competition on next year's free agent market, making him that much more difficult to re-sign. Bradford opines that the Sox should try to beat the Tigers to the punch and work out a new deal with Lester sooner rather than later.
- ESPN's Buster Olney looks at the winners and losers of the trade in an Insider-only piece, noting that there are many of each. The Tigers top Olney's list of nine winners, while the 2014 Rangers come in at No. 8 on that list. Olney lists the 2016-20 Rangers as losers in the deal, noting that they'll be paying a premium for Fielder's decline. Olney spoke with three evaluators from uninvolved teams, and all three like the deal for Detroit. While the consensus is that the Tigers came out ahead, none of the three condemned the deal for Texas.
- Olney's colleague, Keith Law, writes that in a baseball sense, he'd rather roll the dice on Fielder than Kinsler, who has shown real signs of decline (Insider subscription required). Law writes that both teams win in the sense that they can clear an everyday spot for their top prospect. While Fielder is a good bet to rebound in 2014, in Law's opinion, he's also more likely to become an overpaid player that isn't worth a roster spot than Kinsler.
- Dave Cameron of Fangraphs loves the trade for Detroit, as they escape the burden of Fielder's contract and replace him with a player Cameron feels will post a similar WAR total in 2014. Plus, he adds, the $76MM savings would be enough to potentiall add Curtis Granderson and Joe Nathan to the fold. "Kinsler, Granderson, and Nathan, or Prince Fielder? These aren’t even close," writes Cameron.
- Cameron also analyzed the deal from the Rangers' point of view, and while he's not as quick to heap praise on Texas, he understands the thinking and doesn't consider it a loss for the team. GM Jon Daniels found a good way to move Kinsler and add a first baseman, and opened up a hole for someone who is expected to become a very good player, says Cameron, "…But it was an expensive trade to make, and no team has unlimited resources."
- Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet examines what the trade means for the Tigers, the Rangers, the free agent market and Scott Boras. Nicholson-Smith says that while it's easy to see why Fielder appealed to the Rangers and he makes their team better, the move is a "clear win" for Dombrowski.
- The trade affords both team a fresh start and the ability to move on from a pair of misplaced players, writes Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus (subscription required). While second basemen tend to age poorly and Fielder's average fly-ball distance is dropping, both can still be productive players in their new environments, says Miller.
- Kinsler's agent, Jay Franklin, told Rosenthal that news of the trade was like "getting smoked on the left side of the head" but in a good way. Kinsler is excited for the move and says winning is the most important thing to him. While he didn't want to be traded, he could see the writing on the wall that he may not be in the team's long-term plans, writes Rosenthal.
- MLBTR's Tim Dierkes looked at the trade earlier today and examined the multiple needs addressed for each team in the deal. He also wonders if there was a cheaper way for the Tigers to get out from Fielder's contract, such as re-signing Omar Infante and trading Fielder plus $42MM for a cheaper, more controllable player.
- Our own Jeff Todd also weighed in on how the deal impacts the long-term payroll outlook for each team and how it impacts other aspects of the trade and free agent markets. The front-loaded nature of the Rangers' existing contract structure made the Rangers an ideal candidate to take on Fielder's deal, in Jeff's opinion.
In case you missed it — or, perhaps, thought the headlines were fantasy baseball musings rather than a real thing — the Tigers and Rangers consummated a rather substantial trade last night. The clubs swapped the big contracts owed Prince Fielder and Ian Kinsler, with $30MM also heading to Texas. In sum, then, the Rangers have added $76MM in salary, and each team has plugged a hole that it might otherwise have addressed in free agency.
While the ultimate impact on the fortunes of the two ballclubs involved will not be known for some time, the broader effects on the free agent and trade market will be sizeable and immediate. Here are some initial thoughts on what that might look like:
Reduction In Demand
First and foremost, both of these big-spending clubs have now filled major vacancies without a single new dollar being committed to the market. And it is entirely possible that neither of those clubs has opened a new hole through the deal, which is probably a big reason why it got done: top prospect Jurickson Profar will step in at second for Texas, while Detroit has internal options to account for its corner infield jobs (including, potentially, its own highly regarded prospect in Nick Castellanos.) If that is indeed the case, the deal is probably bad news for free agents generally, because it takes two premium, high-paying potential jobs off the market.
The impact is even more pronounced because neither Kinsler nor, especially, Fielder were sure things to be dealt this off-season. And tens of millions of dollars figured to be spent on the spots that each will now occupy. The point shouldn't be overstated — after all, Kinsler could well have ended up taking over at first for Texas, and there are still plenty of openings to be filled — but it will have some impact, especially when it comes time for agents to play serious bidders off of one another to drive high prices or prop up low ones. After already seeing international free agents take away possible new homes, guys like Omar Infante and Mike Napoli probably have lost a potential landing spot, and with it some leverage.
Except For Corner Outfielders?
On the other hand, one particular group of free agents could stand to benefit: top corner outfielders. Both the Tigers and Rangers entered the off-season with a need at the corner outfield, as MLBTR's Steve Adams and Charlie Wilmoth respectively explained. Now, those clubs have found a way to address one need without coming out of their collective pocket. In theory, that should mean more money is free on the market to be spent on outfielding needs.
Enhancing the impact is the fact that multiple mid-tier options — Marlon Byrd, David DeJesus and David Murphy — have already come off the board at fairly substantial prices, setting a high floor. And those signings may not have drastically reduced demand: the Phillies could well still be in on top outfielders, and the Indians were, as Charlie noted, far from certain to spend at the corner outfield coming into the off-season (meaning that Murphy does not really take an obvious, pre-existing landing spot away from free agents). Four of the top twenty open-market players (per MLBTR's Tim Dierkes) are expected to defend the flanks of the outfield, and that already-well-regarded group could see a boost.
A potential corner outfield boom probably requires the Fielder-Kinsler dancemates actually to be buyers in that market. Having made a deal out of left field, are these two clubs now more or less likely — as a practical matter — to spend on left field? While there are arguments in both directions, I think both Texas and Detroit will keep the wallets open for the corners.
You might pencil in the Tigers to apply their cash windfall to a Max Scherzer extension instead. But with a roster begging for another shot or three at a World Series victory, the organization seems relatively unconcerned with limiting short-term payroll. (Indeed, this deal will not help Detroit much in that regard.) Instead, the payroll flexibility needed by GM Dave Dombrowski and co. is in the long run: Fielder promised to be a major drag and an impediment to keeping players like Scherzer and Miguel Cabrera in Motown. But the Tigers should have little problem keeping free future cash for Scherzer while still aggressively pursuing Torii Hunter's mirror image in left field — a strong veteran who figures to land a short- or mid-length deal.
Of course, nothing is decided, and Dombrowski could chase a third baseman or keep Cabrera there while deploying Castellanos in the outfield. But the thin market at the hot corner and Miggy's recent injuries, age, and defensive limitations keep the smart money on a new addition in left.
Meanwhile, the Rangers added salary, which would seem to be a significant drag on outfield spending. But the net payroll impact of $76MM is less than the team would have likely committed to a premium free agent, and the cost was a player that had become expendable. More importantly, because the length of Fielder's deal is the biggest factor in the cost difference, the added dollars mostly impact the payroll further down the line. The Rangers were one of those clubs whose future obligations were fairly front-loaded, making the salary flip relatively easy to stomach in the long run. And in the short run, Texas should remain just about as flexible as it was already.
With first base filled, the corner outfield and catcher are the two clear areas where GM Jon Daniels can most easily add value over the in-house options. Indeed, Daniels noted that the club still intends to add another bat. With the aforementioned Murphy now in Cleveland, the Rangers may at this point be even more likely to spend in the outfield than they were before the deal, when a shift of Kinsler to left was at least a hypothetical possibility.
Shifting Trade Winds
This unexpected blockbuster could also impact several other rumored swaps. With Fielder's remaining seven years off the books, extending (or re-signing) Scherzer now looks a lot more feasible from Detroit's perspective. Indeed, Dombrowski acknowledged that keeping the newly-minted Cy Young winner is now "more possible going forward." As MLBTR's Zach Links noted, that makes speculation that Scherzer might be dealt seem less plausible.
Further, a major premise of the rumors linking the Rangers to star trade chips like David Price and Giancarlo Stanton was the possibility of packaging Profar, a centerpiece that few other organizations could match. But with his name now scratched into the middle infield dirt at Arlington, Texas may no longer have the trump card — or, perhaps more importantly, the desire and ability to deal from depth — that made it a seeming market-driver for premium trade acquisition targets. (Of course, even if Profar's new starting gig has some impact on Tampa's ability to drive up the trade value of Price, the lack of a competing front-line starter in Scherzer would more than compensate.)
Finally, with Kinsler finding a new home in a pretty unexpected place, teams that might have targeted him as a keystone option will have to look elsewhere. Of course, as Dave Cameron of Fangraphs notes, Howie Kendrick and Brandon Phillips still seem available by trade. So there is only the slightest silver lining here for Infante, who as Zach reported will not return to Detroit. If the Yankees bring back Robinson Cano, as expected, the market may be devoid of big-spending, win-now competitors for his services.
Ultimately, there is little question that yesterday's trade will have major ripple effects on how the puzzle pieces end up falling in place. While it is impossible to forecast with any confidence exactly what the impact will be, this deal makes for a fascinating shift of the market at the outset of the off-season.
Finally, while I will not offer any take on the merits of the deal for the two teams involved, I would like to offer some further perspective on its impact to their balance sheets. In some ways, the clubs have swapped positions in terms of future financial obligations. With $30MM reportedly set to head south over 2016-20 (presumably, in equal installments), the deal results in the following changes to the clubs' respective guaranteed contract obligations from 2015 onward (information courtesty of Cot's Baseball Contracts):
To visualize the shifts, look at these charts of the future commitments:
The Rangers and Tigers shook up their lineups and payrolls Wednesday night, as the Tigers sent slugger Prince Fielder and $30MM to Texas for second baseman Ian Kinsler. Here's my take from each team's point of view.
Kinsler, 32 in June, slipped offensively to .266/.334/.418 over the last two seasons. Is he still above average defensively at second base? A stat like UZR says no, while The Fielding Bible's defensive runs saved says yes. In fact, The Fielding Bible's panel of ten experts considers Kinsler the sixth-best defensive second baseman in the game, with half of the panel ranking him fourth or better. Out of the five players who topped Kinsler defensively, he outhit all except Dustin Pedroia and Ben Zobrist in 2013. Kinsler might not be the player he was in his mid-20s, which is normal, but he's still close to a top ten second baseman.
Kinsler also has four years and $62MM remaining on his contract, and in a sabermetric sense, he has a decent chance of returning that much value. Wins above replacement puts a large premium on playing a position like second base decently, as it should, but I don't think the market of 29 other MLB teams viewed Kinsler as a $15.5MM player for each of the next four years. When the market undervalues your asset, the best move is to keep it, but the Rangers have Jurickson Profar. 21 in February, Profar is MLB-ready and highly regarded around the game, and the Rangers intend to slot him in as their regular second baseman. The upside is huge, but there's no guarantee he'll be as good as Kinsler over the next couple of years. He will, however, play at the league minimum.
In Kinsler, the Tigers get a second baseman to replace Omar Infante, who is currently a free agent. GM Dave Dombrowski indicated last night that Infante was as good as gone regardless of this trade, which is surprising. Even a three-year, $30MM contract for Infante would have been acceptable value, and the Tigers had that option available to them. It seems likely the Tigers' motivation in last night's trade was more about getting out from Fielder's contract than acquiring Kinsler. Fielder is signed through 2020, and with a seven-year, $168MM commitment, the fact that the Tigers had to send $30MM to the Rangers to trade him for a neutral-value asset suggests Fielder had significantly negative trade value.
If the deal was mostly about payroll flexibility, did the Tigers have better options to achieve it? Could they have signed Infante for $30MM and included $42MM to send Fielder packing for a different, cheaper player such as a quality late-inning reliever? Such a move could have afforded the Tigers over $90MM in new payroll flexibility, rather than the $76MM they added. They still would have seen the benefit of moving Miguel Cabrera across the diamond. However, trading Fielder for a reliever or something similar would have been a tough sell to fans, and even at Jayson Werth money for Fielder it's not as if the Tigers would have found a dozen suitors.
Fielder will play next year at age 30, and had a seven-year, $168MM commitment remaining. With a disappointing platform year and a draft pick cost attached, could agent Scott Boras have gotten him that contract this offseason? Add in the fact that Fielder seems much closer to a permanent DH role than he did two years ago, and I think Boras would have fallen short. It's more plausible that Fielder could have gotten $138MM over seven years, though, and the Rangers didn't have to give up a draft pick. Plus, even if they overvalue power, the free agent and trade markets didn't offer a first baseman like Fielder this offseason. Fielder's off-year was about as good as Mike Napoli's 2013 season, which might be Napoli's peak. Fielder was an elite hitter as recently as 2012, and the Rangers expect him to bounce back closer to that level in 2014.
Fielder serves as a big offensive upgrade for the Rangers at first base, though it's likely they lose offense at second base if they go with Profar. They've still got flexibility at an outfielder corner, catcher, and designated hitter to add more offense. I wonder if Brian McCann becomes less viable for them, as the oft-cited general plan to move McCann to DH around the fourth year of his contract may be hampered by the Rangers' need to put Fielder there.
I'm sure Boras will have plenty to say about this deal. He probably would suggest the Rangers righted a wrong in acquiring Fielder, since they were not able to finish a free agent deal with him two years ago (perhaps due to objections from Nolan Ryan). While the move creates more opportunity for the Tigers to do a historic pitching contract with another Boras client, Max Scherzer, I think that matters to the agent only in that he can count the Tigers as a more viable suitor once Scherzer reaches free agency after the 2014 season.
The Tigers didn't just get a talented second baseman in exchange for Prince Fielder, they got a whole lot of money (an estimated $76MM) to spend elsewhere. The question now becomes, what will they do with their new found financial flexibility? I asked Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski if the trade could lead to a long-term deal for star pitcher Max Scherzer.
"It makes it perhaps more possible. As we've talked about in the past, we have a lot of stars on our club, They're well paid stars and under any circumstances, even with an owner like Mike Ilitch, you can only be in a position where you have so many of those types of players," Dombrowski told reporters on this evening's conference call. "Does it make it probable? I can''t say that. But it makes it more possible going forward."
As Rangers GM Jon Daniels explained in his conference call earlier this evening, Dombrowski said that the deal came together at lightning speed with the first serious phone call taking place Tuesday afternoon. However, it would seem that the wheels started turning for the Tigers front office earlier than that. Dombrowski said that the Rangers made it clear at the GM Meetings that they were more interested in trading Ian Kinsler than fellow second baseman Jurickson Profar and were looking for a middle-of-the-order bat.
The arrival of Kinsler and the departure of Fielder will lead to a lot of change in the Detroit infield. While Dombrowski isn't exactly sure who will go where – Miguel Cabrera, he says, isn't a lock to go to first base in 2014 – Omar Infante is almost certainly out of the picture. However, even without the trade, it sounds like Infante was destined to change uniforms anyway.
"In Infante's case, I can't say 100%, but with the acquisition of Kinsler, we're not in a position to add a second baseman … that was most likely the case before [anyway] because we were looking to go younger with Hernan Perez," said the Tigers GM.
Kinsler will man second base, but for how long? When asked if the 31-year-old can play the position for years to come, Dombrowski sounded optimistic about his ability to maintain his first step and range. He acknowledged that it could be an issue that is revisited down the line, but Kinsler figures to stay at second base for "the next couple years or maybe longer."
With the trade talks happening in less time than it takes to plan a weekend vacation, some elements were rushed. Dombrowski got the greenlight from Ilitch Wednesday afternoon and it didn't sound as though it was a lengthy conversation. Dombrowski also wanted to get the chance to chat with Fielder as the deal was being completed, but he didn't get the opportunity. Fielder is on vacation in the Bahamas and was away from his phone when Dombrowski called to let him know the trade was official. With a full voicemail inbox, the two wound up exchanging texts with Dombrowski thanking him for his time in Detroit and wishing him the best in Arlington.
9:41pm: Texas has announced the completion of the trade.
8:23pm: Detroit will be sending $30MM to Texas, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. With that cash, Texas will effectively be paying Fielder $138MM over seven years. From the Tigers' side of things, they'll have a total savings of $76MM.
7:21pm: The Tigers have agreed to trade Prince Fielder to the Rangers for Ian Kinsler, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. There's no word yet of another player being involved in the swap, but the Rangers will get cash back in the deal, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas News (on Twitter). The deal's lone remaining hurdle would appear to be approval from the commissioner's office.
The Rangers were in the mix for Fielder when he was on the open market a couple years ago before the Tigers signed him to a nine-year, $214MM deal. Fielder took a step back in 2013, posting a .279/.362/.457 slash line as opposed to the .287/.393/.538 batting line he posted in his previous eight campaigns. For all of the concern over his conditioning, Fielder sure has been durable - the slugger has missed just one regular season game in the last five seasons.
Aside from giving Texas a five-time All-Star with a big bat, the deal would have the added benefit of opening up second base for Jurickson Profar. Kinsler's name has been on MLBTR quite a bit in recent months thanks to the Rangers' middle infield logjam and lack of quality second base options available on the open market outside of kingpin Robinson Cano. The veteran has spent his entire career with Texas, hitting .273/.349/.454 across eight big league seasons. While not on the level of Fielder's deal, the 31-year-old has a pretty decent-sized contract himself as he is guaranteed $62MM through 2017.
FIelder has a limited no-trade clause as a part of his contract and it turns out that Texas was on his no-trade list, but he apparently waived it to help facilitate the deal. Moving Fielder's deal, or at least a sizable chunk of it, could help free up the cash necessary to work out a new contract with star pitcher Max Scherzer. There has been talk in recent weeks of the Tigers shopping the 2013 AL Cy Young Award winner (or fellow pitcher Rick Porcello), but it's conceivable that Detroit can now come to the table with enough breathing room to satisfy agent Scott Boras. There's also the possibility of locking up Miguel Cabrera, whose eight-year, $152MM+ deal expired after 2015.
The trade figures to have a pretty serious domino effect on the free agent market. The Tigers won't be bringing Omar Infante back to Detroit now that they've addressed their second base need with Kinsler. The Rangers, meanwhile, have first base taken care of and their pursuit of a reunion with Mike Napoli is likely through. If Texas is really ready to shake things up, they could theoretically move Jurickson Profar to make way for top free agent Robinson Cano.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Tigers and Rangers gave us the first blockbuster trade of the offseason tonight when they agreed to swap Prince Fielder + $30MM for Ian Kinsler. Here's a look at the latest reactions and fallout from the mega-deal..
- The Rangers might not be done yet. A source tells Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter) that the Rangers still want to add another bat. GM Jon Daniels & Co. could continue their pursuits of free agents such as Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Nelson Cruz, and others.
- Nolan Ryan being out of the picture in Arlington probably removed a big roadblock in agent Scott Boras finally getting Fielder to Texas, opines Tim Dierkes of MLBTR (via Twitter). The Rangers had serious interest in the slugger when he was a free agent two years ago, but some members of the front office weren't as high on him.
- The $30MM sent from Detroit to Texas effectively takes Fielder's contract down to $138MM over seven years for the Rangers, but Dave Cameron of Fangraphs (via Twitter) argues that the same money and years could have netted them Jacoby Ellsbury or McCann and another piece. Overall, Cameron sees the deal as a win for the Tigers.
- Fielder is a steal at $138MM over seven years as he might be demanding as much as Robinson Cano if he were on the open market right now, opines Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter).
- The Tigers were motivated to make the deal in part because of concerns that MIguel Cabrera couldn't play third base anymore due to injuries and a lack of mobility, tweets Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com.
- Passan (Twitter links) suggests that one way to look at the deal is that the Rangers would have been paying Kinsler $62MM over the next four years and with the cash considerations they're getting, they'll only be giving Fielder $4MM more over that span. Of course, they'll also be paying the slugger $24MM in his age 34, 35, and 36 seasons beyond that period.
- The Tigers were worried about how Fielder would age and about freeing up cash, but Cabrera did win two MVPs with Fielder hitting behind him, notes Jayson Stark of ESPN.com (via Twitter).
- Even though the Tigers are likely out on Omar Infante, there are still plenty of options out there for him, Tim tweets.
- Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter) wonders if the Rangers can still make a play for David Price.
- Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com looks at what Fielder's arrival in Texas will mean, including a bump up for Jurickson Profar.
The Rangers and Tigers are discussing a blockbuster deal that would send Prince Fielder to Texas for Ian Kinsler, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com has learned. One person involved in the talks called it a “possibility.”
The dollar amount of Fielder’s contract isn’t the only potential hurdle in getting such a deal done. Fielder holds a limited no-trade clause, but it isn’t known if it includes the Rangers.
The Rangers were in the mix for Fielder when he was on the open market a couple years ago before the Tigers signed him to a nine-year, $214MM deal. Fielder took a step back in 2013, posting a .279/.362/.457 slash line as opposed to the .287/.393/.538 batting line he posted in his previous eight campaigns. For all of the concern over his conditioning, Fielder sure has been durable – the slugger has missed just one regular season game in the last five seasons.
Aside from giving Texas a five-time All-Star with a big bat, the deal would have the added benefit of opening up second base for Jurickson Profar. Kinsler’s name has been on MLBTR quite a bit in recent months thanks to the Rangers’ middle infield logjam and lack of quality second base options available on the open market outside of kingpin Robinson Cano. The veteran has spent his entire career with Texas, hitting .273/.349/.454 across eight big league seasons. While not on the level of Fielder’s deal, the 31-year-old has a pretty decent-sized contract himself as he is owed $57MM through 2017.
Let's take a look at the latest from Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, who's out with a new column of rumors from around the majors:
- A trade of second baseman Ian Kinsler or shortstop Elvis Andrus increasingly looks "inevitable" given the Rangers' crowded infield. "Some team is going to get a good middle infielder from the Rangers. The only question is which one," Rosenthal writes. It's unlikely, however, that the club packages infielder Jurickson Profar with other young players in a deal for a star such as David Price or Giancarlo Stanton. Rosenthal's sources say the Rangers want to keep their farm system stocked.
- Matt Garza's elbow shouldn't scare off potential suitors. Though he missed much of 2012 with an elbow issue, officials with both the Cubs and Rangers tell Rosenthal that the righty wasn't treated for elbow issues at all in 2013.
- There's mutual interest in a new deal between Southern California native Jason Vargas and the Angels, but Rosenthal's sources say the team is already examining other options and could move on from the left-hander if negotiations drag. Vargas may ultimately have to leave money on the table if he wants to remain with the club.
- The Orioles are at least considering options for a backup catcher, as Matt Wieters managed just a .628 OPS against lefties last season. Rosenthal notes that the O's could seek to move Wieters and target a replacement such as Jarrod Saltalamacchia, as Wieters is unlikely to agree to an extension. However, trading him now would be selling low.
- Baltimore will also have to consider how they'll approach J.J. Hardy's impending free agency. Though Rosenthal writes that the Orioles' front office eventually aims to move Manny Machado to shortstop, it also views Hardy, who becomes a free agent after next season, as critical to the club.
- Executives from other teams are surprised at rumors that the Tigers are listening on Max Scherzer. Shipping Scherzer elsewhere and then losing Anibal Sanchez to an injury would be a major hit to the team's rotation.
- The Diamondbacks continue to wait for a reply from Dave Duncan on whether he will take their pitching coach job.
Earlier today, Steve Adams profiled Rangers free agent Nelson Cruz. The outfielder, who missed 50 games in 2013 thanks to his ties to the Biogenesis clinic, should find a healthy market this winter with many teams in need of offense. Ultimately, Steve writes that Cruz could land a three-year, $39MM deal in free agency. Here's the latest out of Arlington..
- The Rangers have let other teams know they are willing to at least talk about one of their middle infielders — Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler, or Jurickson Profar — in any trade discussions that come up this offseason, writes MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan. Industry sources say the club doesn't feel a sense of urgency to move any of the three, but they're keeping an open mind as they have other areas of need to address. Texas has also made it clear to other teams they are not trying to dump Kinsler's salary and they won't pick up any part of the contract in order to facilitate a deal.
- After re-signing catcher Geovany Soto yesterday, Rangers GM Jon Daniels stated to reporters that Soto was expected to be the team's primary catcher in 2014. However, Brian McCann's agent, B.B. Abbott of Jet Sports Management, tells Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he doesn't think the signing precludes McCann from going to the Rangers. Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest pointed out yesterday (on Twitter) that Daniels made similar comments after signing Soto last season before going out and signing A.J. Pierzynski.
- Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News argues that the Soto signing actually makes a McCann signing more likely for the Rangers, as they now have a competent catcher to split time with McCann. Grant writes that the best way for McCann to match or surpass Yadier Molina's five-year, $75MM deal is to recognize the health risks associated with catching and accept a role in which he could start 70 games or so behind the plate plus another 70-80 games at DH.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.