MLB Free Agency: Updating the 10 Hottest Rumors on the Market

Seth JohanssonCorrespondent IFebruary 16, 2012

MLB Free Agency: Updating the 10 Hottest Rumors on the Market

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    With most teams' pitchers and catchers reporting to camp in less than six days, the free-agent market is draining quickly. Even so, there are still a number of impact players waiting to be signed and important roles waiting to be filled.

    And while the free-agent madness surrounding Cuban defector Yoennis Cespedes has finally quelled after his signing with the Oakland A's last week, fellow countryman Jorge Soler now appears poised to be the next Cuban defector to call MLB his home.

    Here are the latest updates for the 10 hottest rumors still cooking on the very late MLB offseason hot stove.

Interest in Jorge Soler Swells as Free Agency Looms

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    The Latest

    Numerous rumors abound for Cuban defector, Jorge Soler, whose imminent free agency has seemingly sprung out of nowhere after fellow Cuban Yoennis Cespedes signed with the Oakland A's last week.

    According to Ken Rosenthal, scouts suggest that Soler's 6'3", 205-pound frame and power are most comparable to the Miami Marlins' Mike Stanton, so with an ever-shrinking free-agency market, interest in Soler is understandably sky high.

    The Yankees, Orioles, White Sox, Marlins, Phillies, Cubs and Blue Jays have all reportedly expressed interest in the 19-year-old outfielder, with the Cubs emerging as perhaps his most eager suitor—that is, they have spent the most time scouting him.

     

    Outlook

    As Soler has yet to actually become a free agent, he and his agent would be wise not to commit themselves to a specific team before the actual bidding commences. But with spring training beginning in less than one week, they won't have too long to wait.

    Until Soler can actually begin receiving offers from clubs, it's nearly impossible to predict who has the inside track on his signing. Strictly a gut feeling tells me the Blue Jays may pursue him most aggressively after whiffing on a number of high-profile, free-agent prizes this winter.

    Soler may represent their last chance to snag an impact player before the season gets under way.

Roy Oswalt Remains Unsigned

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    The number of prospective teams looking to possibly add Roy Oswalt before spring training is quickly evaporating. Rumors in recent weeks of Oswalt joining the St. Louis Cardinals have become all but mere grumblings this week, and one of the few teams that may have the budget to add Oswalt, the Texas Rangers, already have their five-man rotation set.

    Despite a suspect rotation, reports say the Kansas City Royals—and specifically GM Dayton Moore—have no interest in Oswalt because "it just doesn't fit," opting instead to move forward with their young staff and see what they've got.

    While that certainly sounds like small-market jargon for "we don't want to pay him," you can't really blame the Royals for not wanting to risk a (comparatively) big pay-day on a 34-year-old pitcher with possibly chronic back problems.

     

    Outlook

    With Cincinnati Reds' GM Walt Jocketty reaffirming they've been out of touch with Oswalt's agents, the last remaining suitors appear to be the St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Red Sox and the Texas Rangers.

    While it's no secret Oswalt would prefer to pitch in the Midwest, something is going to have to give in order for a team (most likely the Cardinals) to sign him. Although Oswalt has openly contemplated retirement, the most likely scenario will see Oswalt lower his contract requirements to join the Cards. The Rangers just don't appear to have a need for him at this point.

A's Still Looking to Add Manny Ramirez

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    Although the A's initial interest in Manny Ramirez was highly scrutinized by fans and baseball's talking heads alike, over the last few weeks, it has looked increasingly likely that the A's are actually going to sign the 39-year-old free agent.

    While the Blue Jays and Orioles also showed some mild interest in Manny, in recent weeks, their interest has waned. The A's, meanwhile, have remained interested and now appear to be front runners for his services in 2012.

     

    Outlook

    Now, just a few days before spring training officially begins, the A's appear poised to make an offer to Ramirez, who will have to serve a 50-game suspension at the start of the 2012 season.

New York Yankees DH, the Most Compelling Free-Agent Void

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    Just days before New York Yankees' pitchers and catchers report to spring training, the Yankees lineup is still without its full-time DH in place. What's the hold up, you ask? Well, the delay may be two-fold:

    First, there are a ton of free-agent, left-handed bats on the market, which has enabled the Yankees to effectively have their pick from an ever-deepening pool of available, albeit aging players.

    Secondly, whatever money the Yankees may save from a possible trade of AJ Burnett may be used in the signing of whomever they choose to be their free-agent DH. In this case, the Yankees may be waiting to move Burnett before signing their de facto DH.

     

    Outlook

    In any case, the list of names connected with the Yankees as their next possible DH is long.

Vladimir Guerrero Wants the New York Yankees

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    As the market on Vladimir Guerrero appears to be shrinking, which is probably due to his rather high asking-price of $5 million per year, Guerrero has made it known that he would like to play DH for the New York Yankees in 2012.

     

    Outlook

    The Yankees have appeared decidedly less excited about the prospect of Guerrero in pinstripes, as they have been seeking a left-handed bat to add to their already left-hand-heavy lineup, to presumably sneak a few more cheap bombs over Yankee Stadium's right-field porch.

    But there's hope for Guerrero in 2012 yet, as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports that the Philadelphia Phillies are in search of a right-handed, big bat to pinch hit and occasionally play the outfield.

    Although there is no shortage of right-handed, aged outfielders on the market either, Guerrero appears to be the best (and most healthy) of the bunch left.

The New York Yankees Want Raul Ibanez

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    Like Vladimir Guerrero (and the remaining boatload of potential DH's saturating the current free-agent market right now), there has been little interest in Raul Ibanez around the league. Little interest, of course, except for the New York Yankees who are looking for the aforementioned left-handed designated hitter to anchor their lineup in 2012.

     

    Outlook

    For now, it's rumored that Ibanez presents the most likely fit for the Yankees, as Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui have both had runs in New York already. Also, the Yankees appear to favor Ibanez's glove over Matsui's and Guerrero's, and Damon's price tag may be too rich for the Yankees' blood.

    Wow, I didn't think I would ever say that.

No Market for Hideki Matsui or Magglio Ordonez

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    The cases of Hideki Matsui and Magglio Ordonez almost perfectly parallel each other. Both can still hit a little, but aside from that, they can't do much else.

    Both veterans have lost considerable speed—though neither had very much, even in their primes—so that they are rendered practically useless defensively, and therefore appear useful only for pinch-hitting or designated hitting duties. And for that level of specificity—at their price range—there is just not a huge market.

     

    Outlook

    While the A's have been rumored to have very mild interest in Matsui, the same sort of middling interest has been thrown around for Ordonez too. With Manny Ramirez looming, the A's seem disinterested in both Matsui and Ordonez at this point, but the Philadelphia Phillies may have some interest in a right-handed pinch-hitter who, as I mentioned before, can also play the outfield on occasion.

    Ordonez would fit the bill more there, but again, with a hitter like Vladimir Guerrero also available, Ordonez may end up being the odd man out.

Scott Kazmir "Auditions" in Houston for MLB Scouts

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    There's an article on semantics begging to be written here about the word "audition" and what exactly that means as opposed to the term "work out." Regardless, Scott Kazmir participated in an "audition" for MLB scouts on Wednesday morning in Houston.

    For reasons not provided, both the Cincinnati Reds and Houston Astros reportedly said they have "no interest" in watching Kazmir throw.

    When Kazmir, who hasn't pitched in the major leagues since the beginning of the 2011 season, last saw a major league mound, he pitched 1.2 innings, surrendering five earned runs, two walks and hit two batters.

    His play in the Pacific Coast League for the Los Angeles Angels' minor league affiliate Salt Lake Bees in 2011 was equally grizzly. In five games, Kazmir amassed a 17.02 ERA, 2.74 WHIP and hit six batters. Needless to say, he also went 0-5.

    I guess after that kind of performance, an "audition" is all you're going to get.

     

    Outlook

    While potential interest in Kazmir is, well, minor—to say the least—Andy Martino of the New York Daily News tweets that the New York Mets, the team that originally drafted him back in 2002, may have some interest in bringing him back 10 years later. Regardless of whether or not he is actually signed, his price is sure to be way less than the Angels signed him for back in 2009.

Will Edgar Renteria Find a Home for 2012?

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    Based on his consistent play with the Cincinnati Reds last year, it would seem that Edgar Renteria is still capable of being an everyday shortstop in the major leagues.

    Although there may not be any teams left looking for a shortstop that would utilize him as such, Jon Heyman tweets that Renteria would be a good fit with the Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs or Houston Astros.

     

    Outlook

    Whether any of those teams have actually expressed any interest in Renteria is another question altogether. Although there were rumors that the Tampa Rays had interest in Renteria back in January, the eventual signing of Jeff Keppinger squelched those interests.

    For the Brewers, Cubs or Astros, however, Renteria would be well suited for a part-time role where he could be utilized for pinch hitting, late-inning defensive replacements or the occasional spot start. In any case, Renteria has made it clear he wants to play in 2012. If he's willing to be flexible with his salary, he should eventually garner interest from some team.

Johnny Damon Headed into Spring Training as Free Agent

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    Johnny Damon is one of the more surprising free agents still available at this point in the offseason, as he has the ability to fill multiple holes in a prospective team's lineup. For his age, he still hits, runs and fields pretty well.

    However, rather bizarrely, interest has reportedly tapered around the league due to prevailing impressions that Damon has changed his approach at the plate, becoming more aggressive in hopes of eclipsing the 3,000-hit mark, which could position him for a possible Hall of Fame bid at the end of his career.

     

    Outlook

    Whether the assertions about Damon's changes to his offensive approach are actually true or not will eventually become immaterial. The A's cited Damon's rather hefty price tag as the reason they dropped out of the running for his services, but Damon would prove to be better suited as the New York Yankees designated hitter over Raul Ibanez, who doesn't hit or run as well as Damon at this point in his career.