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Friday, November 11, 2011

The First Rumors From the Hot Stove League

The hot stove league is in full effect, with free agents beginning the annual rites of visitation and haggling with prospective suitors. Already a number of interesting rumors have popped up regarding possible interest between players and teams. It is still too early to say if these rumors will turn into reality, but is the perfect time to chew over the scenarios and see if they make sense. 

Rumor One- Red Sox Interested in Carlos Beltran: As a Red Sox fan and as a baseball fan, I think this is a good idea and I like the possibility of adding Beltran to the outfield mix. Now that Boston has rid themselves of J.D. Drew, they are looking at finding a full-time right fielder. Youngsters like Josh Reddick and Ryan Kalish could be the answer, but a team like the Red Sox should jump on getting a veteran like Beltran if they can. Boston is built to win now, which is not always conducive to developing young talent.

Beltran would add versatility to a Red Sox lineup that was heavily left-handed this past season. He is a switch hitter, but unlike most players who hit from both sides of the plate, there is not a great deal of difference in his splits. For his career he has a .280 batting average with a .485 slugging percentage from the left side of the plate, and has hit .293 with a .528 slugging percentage from the right.

About to enter his 15th major league season, and having experienced injuries in recent years, Beltran would flourish most in a situation where he does not have to be the focal point of the team. In Boston he would be a nice fit in the six or seven spot in the order, and could be spelled by Kalish and/or Reddick. He would also be adequate defensively in right, which would at least replicate what Drew gave them. If the Red Sox can get Beltran on a reasonable two or three year contract, they should jump on the chance.

Rumor Two- Marlins Interested in Jose Reyes: This one is a real head scratcher. The Marlins are traditionally a team that operates on a shoestring budget and rely on cultivating young talent to keep their team competitive. Reyes, who has been extremely injury prone for the past three seasons, is sure to demand a contract that is at least in the 75-100 million dollar range, which would be totally out of character for the Marlins. 

When healthy, Reyes is a dynamic offensive shortstop, with an excellent bat and a top base stealer. He is slightly below average in the field, which is a trend sure to continue downward as he ages. Obviously he also plays the same position as the Marlins’ current best player, Hanley Ramirez. Ramirez has already publicly announced he would welcome a position change, but since he is essentially a more powerful version of Reyes, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to move him elsewhere. Ramirez is also well known for being a head case, and it would not take much to put him out of sorts.

The Marlins have indicated that their pursuit of Reyes is to add a franchise cornerstone to put on display when they open their new stadium in 2012. Their desire to put butts in the seats is understandable, but they should not make any rash decisions when it comes to choosing who to throw their money at. Name recognition will draw fans for only so long. It is winning that create large and faithful crowds.

Reyes would be appealing to the significant Latin community in the Miami area, but if he continues his pattern of injuries, that appeal won’t help much if he is not on the field. It appears that the Marlins’ are interested in Reyes because they believe that they have to get somebody; anybody, and it might as well be him. The smart choice would be to carefully evaluate their marketing strategy against their roster needs, and pursue free agents accordingly. 

Sacrificing is the key to winning and financial success. Even if it means the Marlins don’t sign any major free agents for the upcoming season, they should wait and make sure they get the right player(s) before handing out big contracts. That might do them much good in 2012, but it could deeply impact them for years after.

Rumor Three- Yankees Interested in C.J. Wilson: This news item is hardly a surprise. It is no secret that the Yankees are desperate to upgrade their starting rotation for next year. There are no Cliff Lee’s on the market like last year, so New York will do due diligence to find a pitcher or two who they think they can slide somewhere behind C.C. Sabathia and shore up their rotation.

Signing with the Yankees would be a good choice for Wilson. There are serious doubts that he could stand up as a number one starter, and seems more suited to be slotted as a number two or three. He is looking for a big contract, and the Yankees have the wherewithal to offer him more than anyone else. Wilson would be able to get the money he wants with New York, but would not be facing the pressure of being the team’s top starter. It sounds like a promising match for both sides and will be interesting to see how it plays out. 

It won’t be long before the first dominoes of free agency start to fall, and in short order deals will start getting done all over baseball. Just from surveying the inaugural rumors it is clear that some teams have entered the off-season with a plan, while others are just trying to get free agents’ attention, and make their mark on the landscape. Chaos will reign and dollars will rain. In the end, some free agents will be the catalyst for their team to move in the right direction, and others will become albatrosses for years to come. I can’t wait to see what unfolds. 


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