The first pitchers and catchers are set to report to spring training on February 12 and the World Baseball Classic is set to begin just a few weeks later. Needless to say, baseball is right around the corner.†
†As such, the Hot Stove season is slowly drawing to a close. However, there is still plenty to be done for some teams and a very limited time for them to get it done.
†††††††There is still a significant pool of solid free agents left on the open market including†Kyle Lohse,†Michael Bourn,†Rafael Soriano,†Shaun Marcum, and†Joe Saunders. While Saunders and Marcum are decent rotation additions, the big news is that Lohse, Bourn, and Soriano have yet to find teams. Of course, that revolves more around the fact that all three were offered and turned down qualifying offers, meaning any team signing them forfeits a draft choice, in addition to likely having to top the $13 million in the qualifying offer in order to get a deal done. That is a major deterrent in this day and age, when building your club through the draft has become a staple and middling free agents have become way over-priced.
†††††††One option that has presented itself to the pitching market is right-hander Javier Vasquez, who did not pitch at all in 2012. The 36-year-old has been scouted by the Nationals, the Red Sox, the Blue Jays, and other teams looking to add a veteran arm to the rotation. Scouts are reporting that Vasquez is looking good at this stage and he is looking to land with a contender. However, buyer beware; Vasquez has a career 3.99 ERA in the National League, but that jumps up to 4.65 in the American League, where he got knocked around pretty well as a member of the Yankees and White Sox.
†††††††There is a lot of talk about the Houston Astros and their move to the American League, complete with new uniforms. However, the team is stopping their spending on the new threads, and is likely to enter the American League with the smallest payroll in baseball; somewhere in the range of $22 million. This is a team that could challenge the 1962 Mets for the modern day record of 120 losses in a single season.
††††††The Cleveland Indians have been a pleasant surprise this winter, signing both†Nick Swisher†and†Brett Myers, while getting a solid return in†Trevor Bauer†in exchange for†Shin-Soo Choo. Swisher is the type of clubhouse presence this young team needs and Bauer is a great young arm should he harness his attitude. Myers may even be an intriguing addition to their rotation in 2013. No word yet though if Myers is dragging his wife, kicking and screaming to Cleveland.
††††For all the talk about†Justin Upton†and the Diamondbacks possibly moving him, the real prize is in South Florida. Giancarlo Stanton is still the big fish on the trade market and would command the ultimate in prospect packages to land him. The Mariners have a deep farm system with quality arms (Taijuan Walker,†Danny Hultzen, and†James Paxton) and a solid shortstop prospect in†Nick Franklin, and they could get a deal done for Stanton. That said the price for Upton will only come down if the Marlins openly declare they are shopping their big bat.
††††††††Lance Berkman†may not be quite ready to hang it up just yet. The 36-year-old known as Big Puma and Fat Elvis was considering retirement after another season of injuries. However, he has backtracked on that recently and is considering playing in 2013 after all. The Rangers are said to be looking him over and Houston is also looking for a DH for next season.† He could be a solid buy-low candidate for someone hoping that he brings the 2011 Berkman back.
†††††The Angels signing of†Josh Hamilton†reeked of desperation from a team that failed to land the pitching help they truly wanted. However, it is actually a smart move to pad the line-up around Albert Pujols. Sure, he is only one season into a 10-year, $254 million contract, but the Angels were wise to bet that Pujols is not likely to be the machine he was during the first 10 seasons of his career and that he is likely closer to the player he was in 2011 and 2012. Thatís not to say that isnít good enough, as Pujols was still worth a 9.7 bWAR during that time, but heís no longer the offensive force that can carry a team on his back the way he was in St. Louis. Now a duo of Hamilton and Pujols, thatís a different story.