Jose, CarGo enticing to holiday shoppers
Marlins, Rockies hold valuable trade chips; Maeda set to meet suitors
With only four days until Christmas, there are still so many questions.
The week ahead takes us right to the last full week of the year, and while gifts pile up under trees and a famous heavyweight with a white beard gets ready for a global sleigh ride, the teams of the big leagues continue to stuff their 40-man stockings with care.
So before all the fun moves back to the North Pole for a while, let's peruse five questions that people are waiting with Christmas-morning anticipation to unwrap by the end of the week back here in these continental United States of Baseball.
1. Which way, Jose?
While Zack Greinke, David Price, Johnny Cueto, Hisashi Iwakuma and others have been taken off the board in the middle of one of the hottest markets for starting pitching in recent memory, one of the premier arms in the game is still being mentioned as a possible trade piece. And if a deal were to happen, division standings could be directly affected.
That someone is Marlins young ace Jose Fernandez, who looked healthy in his abbreviated 2015 return from Tommy John surgery and looms as a rotation-changer at the age of 23. Fernandez went 6-1 with a 2.92 ERA in 11 starts last season and has 336 strikeouts in 289 Major League innings.
The Marlins would likely get a huge package of prospects for Fernandez, but Miami also has said it is not particularly interested in dealing him. That sentiment was offered by team president David Samson to MLB.com recently, although he said he'll always listen to offers.
"In order to trade anyone, you want to feel like you're getting better, both now and in the future, and no one presented anything for Jose that would do that," Samson said. "I don't think anyone could.
"I guess the only way you would ever remove an ace is if you think you're getting several pieces back that collectively are better. But again, you evaluate that, and it's hard to find. But you'd say that about any player."
2. What will the Blue do?
One of the teams that probably wouldn't mind seeing Fernandez take the ball every fifth day is the Dodgers, who saw their 2015 co-ace, Greinke, depart for Arizona via free agency, then saw another person of interest, Cueto, sign with division-rival San Francisco. They also saw a trade for Reds closer Aroldis Chapman dissolve because of legal issues relating to a pending domestic issue, and they backed out of a deal with Iwakuma because of a failed physical, and then saw that right-hander go back to the Mariners.
In other words, Los Angeles wants at least one pitcher and more. Now the question is who they'll get and how they'll pull it off.
The latest scuttlebutt has the Dodgers inquiring about the potential availability of Rays right-hander Jake Odorizzi. The Dodgers have a bevy of prospects but haven't been successful in making the desired big-splash connection in free agency or trade. New manager Dave Roberts is preaching patience, so maybe we won't see any action until the New Year. Then again, it's baseball. You never know.
"I love the core of the nucleus of players on the 25-man roster as it stands now, and I think it's impressive for the group not to be reactionary," Roberts said.
"It's not that we're sitting on our hands. Guys are working hard to better the club, but I don't believe [in forcing] something. There's a lot of time between now and Opening Day. It's proven that just because you win the offseason doesn't mean you win the postseason."
3. Let's Maeda deal?
That brings us to the guy who might eventually be the most intriguing free-agent pitcher of all -- Japanese ace Kenta Maeda. Maeda is still property of the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of Nippon Professional Baseball, but he has been posted and the bidding on the right-hander is expected to begin soon.
Not surprisingly, Maeda reportedly has already flown to Los Angeles, where he will start meeting with teams. The Dodgers play in Los Angeles, so that figures to be a good fit there. There's no way of knowing how Maeda might fare in the Majors, but a few things working in his favor are his age (he turns 28 in April), his track record in Japan (career 2.39 ERA; 15-8 with a 2.09 ERA and 175 strikeouts in 206 1/3 innings in 2015) and the fact that Masahiro Tanaka did well with the Yankees upon signing prior to the 2014 season.
That adds up to some major money for Maeda as soon as he signs.
4. Where might CarGo?
If Fernandez qualifies as the most enticing pitcher who may or may not be dealt any time this winter, it's possible that Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez fits the bill on the position-player side of things. The Rockies dealt shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to Toronto at last year's Trade Deadline and could be willing to part with Gonzalez, who's owed $37 million over the next two years.
The Rockies want pitching, and they've been linked to Odorizzi as well as others. If they don't give up Gonzalez to get one or two arms, they could part with less expensive outfielders Charlie Blackmon or Corey Dickerson. All three have been mentioned in trade talks.
Another team that might be in on Gonzalez is the Nationals, who are looking for an impact left-handed bat to give protection for reigning National League MVP Bryce Harper. A dark horse contender could be the Royals, who have attractive Minor League pitching pieces.
5. Who else is out there?
There's plenty more where that came from. Outfield seems to be the most plentiful position from which to select prime free agents, with Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Gordon, Justin Upton, Denard Span and Dexter Fowler still available and all looking for lucrative deals. Infield is well-represented, with shortstop Ian Desmond, second basemen Daniel Murphy and Howie Kendrick, and third baseman David Freese still out there.
And starting pitching has tons of options, from the still-pretty-expensive (Wei-Yin Chen, Mike Leake, Yovani Gallardo and Scott Kazmir) to the buy-low-with-big-incentive (Tim Lincecum, Cliff Lee, Doug Fister) strategies.
Everything's in play. It's Christmastime, after all. Holiday cheer -- and baseball dealing -- is in the air.