The 2010 free agency "Hot Stove" is beginning to heat up.  The GM Meeting are currently going on in Orlando and we have already seen one major trade (Dan Uggla) made with much more to come.  Here is a quick recap of signings that have occurred, trades made, and other rumors that are becoming more than just "dust in the wind."

  • Esteban German has signed a minor league contract to return to the Rangers organization.  Don’t underestimate the significance of bringing him back for the “Dog Days of Summer.”  Also David "Big Papi" Ortiz has guaranteed that Vladimir Guerrero will be returning to the Texas Rangers.  Usuaully my sources are a little bit more credible with this info, but thought everyone would enjoy that "Hot Stove" update. 

 

  • Four teams have contacted free agent right-hander Brandon Webb…Dodgers, Pirates, Twins, and oh yeah the Rangers.  Also look for the Nationals, Reds, and Cardinals to get involved at some point.

  • St. Louis Cardinals have resigned Jake Westbrook to a 2-year contract with a mutual option for 2013, guaranteed $16.5MM

  • The Florida Marlins and Atlanta Braves completed their trade late last night.  The Braves get 2B Dan Uggla, and the Marlins receive UTIL Omar Infante and LHP Mike Dunn.  I'm still having a difficult time fully understanding this ordeal: two weeks ago the Marlins offered Uggla, who is in his early 30s, a 4-year, $48MM extension and he completely rejected it.  Not sure if Uggla simply wants out of Florida, which I can understand, or he wants more than the extension offered.  My analysis is based on the fact that I don’t know the details of that extension (guaranteed money, no trade clause, etc.), but in my opinion Uggla is taking a big risk here.  He is bypassing a chance for roughly $12MM a year for the next four years which would lead him, probably, out of his prime years.  Uggla must think he can do better, on his side is the fact that there aren’t too many “elite” 2B in baseball, that are going to be available, and if he has a good year this season, he could capitalize big time on that (like $15-18MM a year).  But if he struggles, and his numbers have been down a little bit, then this move could backfire big time.  He would then likely find himself in a situation where we would be looking for a one-year incentive based contract to re-establish himself.  This is a risk, but like I said, maybe he just wants to be on a team that could win and win now.

  • In the same day the Marlins have agreed to terms with free agent catcher John Buck, this was made directly possible due to the release of Uggla’s salary.  Buck will sign a 3-year, $18MM contract.

  • Red Sox top two targets so far this offseason are 3B Adrian Beltre and C/1B Victor Martinez, but yesterday at the GM Meetings they made it clear that these weren’t must have players.  Stating that they would not go over a 4-year, $52MM contract for Beltre and a “similar limit” for V-Mart as well.

 

  • Oakland A’s open the Adrian Beltre bidding with a 5-year, $45MM initial offer, so Boston might have to go with the $13MM a year to talk Beltre away from the West Coast.

 

  •  The Yankees, along with the Red Sox have inquired about the possibility of trading for D’Backs OF Justin Upton.  The Yankees interest seem to be as part of their Plan B.  Plan B being if they don’t sign Cliff Lee, they have then talked about trading an OF (Swisher, Granderson, or Gardner) for a starting pitcher, and report that teams have inquired about all three.  Then the Yankees would trade for the services of Upton to fill the voided outfield spot.

  • The Detroit Tigers are nearing a three-year contract worth $16.5MM (plus up to another $1M a year in incentives) with reliever Joaquin Benoit.  Yes, former Ranger and Ray reliever, has come cheap, but apparently is about to have a big splash as the contract “is in the final stages of discussion.”

  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports has stated that he believes remaining top starting pitchers Carl Pavano and Jorge de la Rosa will both wait until Cliff Lee signs before they begin to listen to offers.  The idea here is that both players could get more money from a team more desperate to sign a front-end starter who missed out on Lee.  My opinion, that is the smartest thing they could possibly do and I have no idea why Hiroki Kuroda didn’t do that.

 

  •  Red Sox and Reds have both confirmed that Jonathan Papelbon and Francisco Cordero are on the trade market and that both clubs "are willing to kick in some of the money to get deals done." 

 

  •  The first Pujols idea might have been floated out…no official confirmation on this but I have read that the initial offer could be an 8-year, $240MM (meaning the Cards would be paying him $30MM a year).  Put that in perspective, A-Rod signed a 10-year, $275MM with the Yankees.

 

All this brings me to the main topic…Rangers pitching.

There seems to be work being done on two avenues at the same time, the last two times Daniels and his staff did this they landed players like Cliff Lee and Neftali Feliz – Elvis Andrus.  Ok, so now I have your attention.

Front 1) The Rangers did have Chuck Greenberg, Nolan Ryan, and Jon Daniels fly out to Arkansas and meet Cliff Lee, his wife, and his agent on Monday.  But don’t read too much into that, it was simply a “hey, we have a chartered jet and can be in the neighborhood for lunch.  Want to meet.”  We have all done that, right….HAHA!!  The lunch meeting was simply a check-in lunch and to get the ball rolling, just like Cashman and the Yanks did the week before.  However I will say that it is comforting to be able to send one of the greatest pitchers of all-time to meet a guy who could and wants to achieve similar status.  But again, don’t expect any “real” news about the Cliff Lee Sweepstakes before Thanksgiving. 

Front 2) Acquiring a pitcher via trade.  There are three options here, but honestly I think only one worth talking about.  At least until the Marlins come off their high horse and realize they NEED to trade Josh Johnson, because come free agency the guy is long gone from Florida, and the Mariners decide that their days of King Felix reign are numbered.  However I don’t see them trading us another top tier pitcher for a while, no matter how sweet we can make it.  So that brings us to Zack Greinke.  If you follow Ranger writers and bloggers, you have heard this name brought up multiple times since the end of 2008 with multiple package pieces to acquire him. 

Here’s the deal with Greinke, he is under control through 2012, he has a no-trade clause to 15 teams through the end of 2011, he is owed $27MM the next two years, the Royals have one of the top farm systems in baseball but are still looking to get their hands on some more young pitching, Greinke has vividly expressed his desire to NOT pitch in a huge market (New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston), and I guarantee you that come Opening Day 2013 Zack Greinke will NOT be on the mound for the Royals.

Therefore take all the facts and it comes to one simply solution, the Royals trading of Greinke to the Rangers is a good marriage for both sides.  However making this happen isn’t easy, and it will cost us, probably, (1) a Major League ready starting pitcher, (2) another top tier pitching prospect in AAA or AA, (3) 1 tier-one or 2 tier-two hitting prospects, and (4) a low level, low risk, high ceiling pitching prospect.  This is something, along with the attempts to sign Lee that should be watched very closely and come the Winter Meetings in early December if these talks begin to heat up, it very well could happen.  My opinion is that at some point in 2011 Greinke is a Ranger, if not during the offseason, it’ll happen before July 31st.  So with that in mind, let’s get the conversation started KC…(1) Derek Holland, (2) Martin Perez or Wilmer Font or Michael Schlact, (3) Julio Borbon or Engel Beltre / Miguel Velasquez or Craig Gentry / Jurikson Profar, (4) Robbie Erlin or Miguel de la Santos.

Stay tuned…