The winter meetings have been a disappointment thus far, but as we head into the final day, which usually consists of little more than the Rule 5 draft and team executives boarding planes out of town, there is still plenty of grist for the rumor mill. Here's the latest on the top free agents and trade targets as well as the other available players whose names were heard most often in Orlando on Wednesday.
Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Free Agent
The Texas Rangers seem to be the club in the lead on Choo right now. They have been publicly pessimistic about their chances of signing him, but that could be posturing. Per Yahoo!'s Jeff Passan, Choo has a seven-year offer on the table (the Rangers deny that it's from them), and he may sign with the first team to give him an eighth year.
Stephen Drew, SS, Free Agent
Things have been quiet with regard to the top remaining free agent shortstop on the market, despite fellow top shortstop Jhonny Peralta singing early. The Red Sox, who have said they'd like to retain Drew, and the Mets are two teams with known interest. Per the Boston Herald's Scott Lauber, Drew's agent, Scott Boras, says he has several offers, but some are "contingent upon [the] offering team making other moves."
Matt Garza, RHP, Free Agent
The market for Garza's services picked up on Wednesday with the Angels a potential front-runner. The Twins are among the other teams with reported interest. The Diamondbacks have been mentioned in connection with Garza, but they appear to have shifted their priorities elsewhere, preferring not to give a long contract to anyone other than their top target (see below). Arizona seems more likely to try to trade for another starter than to give Garza the deal he wants.
After a media feeding frenzy over a potential Kemp trade on Tuesday (guilty), the Dodgers told his agent, Dave Stewart, on Wednesday that they "have no plans" to trade Kemp. General manager Ned Colletti told MLB Network "the highest team on him is us."
David Price, LHP, Rays
The Mariners, Giants and Blue Jays are among the teams that have spoken to the Rays about a trade for Price. None seem to have gotten very far in their talks, but the Mariners appear the most willing to part with key prospects.
Ervin Santana, RHP, Free Agent
There has been precious little heat on Santana, likely owing to the delay in Masahiro Tanaka's posting, but Minneapolis-based reporter Darren Wolfson says the Tigers, who traded fellow right-handed starter Doug Fister for pennies on the dollar last month, are "in" on him. I'm dubious.
Masahiro Tanaka, RHP, Golden Eagles
When and if Tanaka is eventually posted, the Diamondbacks pledge to be a major contender for his services, something they can plan for more easily now that they know their posting bid will be the $20 million maximum. Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports that Tanaka is the team's primary focus right now. WSCR's Bruce Levine says the Cubs will also be involved.
According to CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman, the Yankees turned down a trade proposal from the Reds, who offered All-Star second baseman Brandon Phillips for outfielder Brett Gardner. That decision makes sense on its face, Gardner is not only two years younger than Phillips, but was just plain better in 2013, hitting .273/.344/.416 to Phillips' .261/.310/.396. By Baseball-Reference.com's wins above replacement, Gardner was more than twice as valuable as Phillips, totaling 4.2 WAR to Phillips' 1.6, and though arbitration eligible this winter, he will likely make less than half as much as Phillips' $11 million salary in 2014.
Beyond that, the obvious stumbling block for any Phillips trade is the $50 million he is owed over the next four seasons, which the Yankees likely see as another $12.5 million against their 2014 payroll as measured by the competitive balance tax. In addition to that, Phillips has no-trade protection as a five-and-10 player and reportedly wanted his salary increased before he would approve such a trade. If Phillips takes the same stance with regard to any trade, the only way Cincinnati will be able to unload him will be to eat a great deal of his salary, which was likely the case to begin with, as well.
Bronson Arroyo, RHP, Free Agent
One day after Arroyo's agent said he was expecting an offer from the Reds, the Reds said they expected Arroyo to sign elsewhere.
John Axford, RHP, Free Agent
Axford, who was non-tendered by the Cardinals, could wind up closing again in 2014. He reportedly has offers on the table from the Orioles and Indians and is also high on the Cubs' list of potential closers. As reported on Wednesday, the Orioles are also in advanced discussions with Grant Balfour, making them the least likely destination for Axford of those three teams.
Grant Balfour, RHP, Free Agent
Balfour has a two-year offer on the table from the Orioles, according to MASN Sports' Roch Kubatko.
Nelson Cruz, OF, Free Agent
Raul Ibañez, OF, Free Agent
Though he'll be 42 in June, had a .300 on-base percentage over the last three years and is a terrible outfielder, Ibañez has plenty of interest. The Angels, who just opened their designated hitter spot by trading Mark Trumbo, are reportedly in the lead.
Omar Infante, 2B, Free Agent
James Loney, 1B, Free Agent
Justin Masterson, RHP, Indians
Despite rumors that he was available, Masterson was informed by manager Terry Francona on Tuesday that he would not be traded.
According to Comcast SportsNet's Jim Salisbury, the lack of interest in a trade for Pabelbon isn't due to the Phillies' lack of trying.
Drew Pomeranz, LHP, A's
Per Rosenthal, the A's see former starting prospect Pomeranz, one of two pitchers acquired from the Rockies for Brett Anderson on Tuesday, as a potential replacement in the bullpen for lefty Jerry Blevens, whom Oakland traded to the Nationals on Wednesday. Pomeranz made four relief appearances for the Rockies in September, all of a full inning or more, allowing just a single and a walk while striking out six in five innings.
Max Scherzer, RHP, Tigers
Yahoo!'s Passan reports that Scherzer "can be had" in a trade. The Tigers are far more likely to extend him than trade him, however, and just because Detroit is listening on Scherzer doesn't mean its asking price isn't astronomical. Given the lack of movement thus far on Price, who is far more likely to be traded, there would seem to be few teams who could make a Scherzer trade worth the Tigers' while.
Jose Veras, RHP, Free Agent
Delmon Young, 1B?, Free Agent
In Other News: The Blue Jays have signed 37-year-old former major leaguer Tomo Ohka to a minor league contract. Ohka returns to the Blue Jays, for whom he made 10 starts in 2007, as a knuckleball pitcher and will get to pick the mind of the best active knuckleballer in the game, R.A. Dickey. Ohka hasn't pitched in the majors since 2009 or in Nippon Professional Baseball since 2011, when he went 0-6 with a 6.89 ERA for the Yokohama Bay Stars, but his comeback is an easy one to root for come the spring. Given the eccentricities of his new primary pitch and Dickey's own career path, there's a real possibility it is a successful one.