The Winter Meetings in San Diego habe begun and the rumors are beginning to trickle in, but it appears that many are of the same belief, and that is that the free agent market is on hold until Jon Lester decides where he is signing. There were four teams rumored to be in on him: Dodgers, Cubs, Giants and Red Sox, but as of earlier this afternoon, Lester had narrowed his choices down to the Cubs and Giants. Or so they say.
You see, Lester's agents, the Levinson brothers, could be using the Ken Rosenthal's and Jon Heyman's of the world to get the two teams that 1. need him the most (Red Sox), and 2. have the most cash to invest in the free agent market (Dodgers) to up their offers for Lester. Maybe the reports are truthful, but Lester's agents are just doing their job to get Lester the best deal available. The current offers are rumored to be in the 6 year, $140+ million range, but some are saying that one team may bid up to $150 million. Joel Sherman from the New York Post opines that Lester will end up with a 7 year, $165 million deal.
It should be interesting. We should hear soon as there are reports that Lester will decide by tomorrow at the latest. Time will tell.
If Lester signs with any of the National League teams, his value improves, as he would be leaving the league with the designated hitter to join the league that does not have the designated hitter. Should he sign with either the Dodgers or Giants, I might consider moving him into my top 5 starters for 2015, as he would be moving into the NL West, the division that is home to three pitchers parks in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego.
I will be updating my starting pitcher rankings after Lester signs and some of the other pitchers sign or get traded.
Once Lester signs, we could see a flurry of trades and signings. One pitcher who is rumored to be dealt this offseason is A's starter Jeff Samardzija. The current rumor has him going to the White Sox. Here is Jeff Passan from Yahoo:
Sources: If the White Sox do deal for Jeff Samardzija, return would be Marcus Semien and prospects. A's would slot Semien in at shortstop.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 9, 2014
Samardzija to the White Sox for Semien and prospects? That would be a pretty good return for one season of Samardzija. Semien own solid plate discipline skills and has some pop and speed, and would slot in as the A's starting shortstop. Playing every day, I could see Semien putting up double digit power and stolen bases in 2015. Between AAA and the big leagues, Semien hit 21 home runs and stole 10 bases last season. In 2013, between AA, AAA and the big leagues, Semien his 21 home runs and stole 26 bases, so the potential is there.
Samardzija's value would take a minor hit, leaving the pitcher-friendly park in Oakland to US Cellular field, a hitter-friendly environment. But the move would be a huge indication that the White Sox feel they can contend in 2015, and I can't disagree. They signed first baseman Adam Laroche earlier this offseason to improve their lineup. Should they deal for Samardzija, I feel they will then go out and sign or trade for an established closer. They have been rumored to be in on former Yankee closer David Robertson, but there are some lesser names out there on the free agent market, including Sergio Romo. Francisco Rodriguez, Jason Grilli, Rafael Soriano and possible trade target Jonathan Papelbon.
I am very surprised that we have not heard more rumors about teams interested in former Tigers ace Max Scherzer. Then again, his agent is the best in the business, Scott Boras. Boras usually waits out the Winter Meetings and usually does his negotiating with team owners rather than GMs and front office types. One would assume that the losers in the Lester sweepstakes will move onto Scherzer, but Scherzer will likely command a bigger contract than Lester, and owns one of the more funky deliveries in the game. I don't put too much stock in the delivery issues, as Scherzer has proven he can be one of the best starting pitchers in the game over the last few seasons.
Which team will get involved with Scherzer? Well, a recent report indicated the Yankees will definitely be involved. Surprise, surprise. The Yankees have a few question marks in their starting rotation with CC Sabathia being on the downside of his career and Masahiro Tanaka who may need Tommy John surgery. But, how many long term contracts can you hand out to starting pitchers?
Should Scherzer sign with the Yankees, he could be more prone to giving up the long ball, but he will continue to be a dominant starting pitcher for the next several years as well. Should he return to the Tigers, which is a real possibility, his value remains the same, and that is as a top 5 starting pitcher in 2015.
Another team who has been linked to Scherzer is the Nationals, but they won't get involved unless they deal one of Jordan Zimmermann or Doug Fister. The link to the Nationals is due to the fact that the Nationals GM Mike Rizzo was with the Diamondbacks when they drafted Scherzer, so there's that.
Should the Tigers sign Scherzer, they could deal one of their starting pitchers, either David Price or Rick Porcello. The Red Sox have been rumored to be interested in dealing Yoenis Cespedes for Porcello, a deal that would negatively impact the fantasy values of both players involved.
I imagine the Yankees, Dodgers and Cubs would be at the top of the list of teams interested in dealing for Price. The Cubs would make the most sense as they need an ace to sit atop their starting rotation, and they have the cash to invest in him long term. In addition, they just hired Price's former manager, Joe Maddon, to manage the Cubs for the next five seasons,
That's it for now, but there are loads of others players to discuss, and I will do my best to get to them over the next few days.