By Cliff Corcoran
December 06, 2012

Wherever Josh Hamilton lands could have a big impact on the rest of the top free agents. (Ian Halperin/UPI/Landov) Wherever Josh Hamilton lands could have a big impact on the rest of the top free agents. (Ian Halperin/UPI/Landov)

With the Winter Meetings winding down on Thursday and team and player representatives preparing to depart Nashville, the top two free agents on the market remain unsigned, and two of the players who have drawn the most heat with regard to a potential trade are still with their 2012 teams. Here, then is a look at the latest rumors concerning the five players who drew the most heat this week without generating any actual action.

1. Zack Greinke

The Dodgers and Rangers are rumored to be the leading bidders for Greinke, the former Cy Young winner who split last season between the Brewers and Angels. Given the spending power of the two teams in the lead for his services, it is believed that Greinke could very well land the richest pitching contract in history, surpassing the $161 million over seven years that CC Sabathia received from the Yankees after the 2008 season.

The Dodgers seemed like they were closing in on the 29-year-old righty earlier in the week, but Scott Miller of CBS Sports tweeted early Thursday morning that there was a “growing feeling among Dodgers people” that Greinke might be leaning toward the Rangers because “if he really wanted” to sign with the Dodgers, he could have done so already. Joel Sherman of the New York Post pointed out on Twitter that Greinke’s wife, Emily Kuchar, is a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader and thus might be pushing Zack toward Arlington, though that could be a red herring, as Kuchar is a Florida native who only spent two years in Dallas.

2. Josh Hamilton

The incumbent Rangers appear to be in the lead here was well. Team president Nolan Ryan told the media on Tuesday that “I wouldn’t say there’s not a chance” that the team could sign both Hamilton and Greinke, though principle owners  Bob Simpson and Ray Davis would have to approve the resulting payroll increase. The latest rumor had the Rangers offering Hamilton a four-year deal but refusing to add a fifth year. Meanwhile, the Mariners have emerged as the primary challenger for Hamilton’s services. However, Hamilton seems to prefer to return to Texas and has even said that he will give the Rangers the opportunity to match any other team’s offer.

This all suggests to me that Hamilton, who will turn 32 in May, has found the market far less enthusiastic than he had expected and is merely using the Mariners to keep the Rangers honest. Still, the possibility exists that signing Greinke could force the Rangers to bow out on Hamilton. If that happens, it will be interesting to see if Hamilton broadens his search beyond Seattle.

3. Justin Upton

The hot rumor this week concerned a blockbuster three- or four-team trade based around the Diamondbacks trading rightfielder Upton to the Rangers and receiving shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera from the Indians with, perhaps, Rangers prospect Mike Olt going to Cleveland and the Rays, Royals, and Mariners all being thrown around as a potential fourth team in the deal. Of course, everything I have read about this potential monster concludes with something along the lines of “the four-team blockbuster appears unlikely to happen.” Still, the takeaway from these rumors is that the Rangers, should they land Greinke but lose Hamilton, are indeed targeting Upton but are willing to get creative to avoid sending Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar to Arizona in order to land him.

4. R.A. Dickey: The trade rumors swirling around Dickey were so hot that when he appeared on The Daily Show on Tuesday, Mets fan Jon Stewart’s opening line was that Dickey might be the first guest he ever had who was traded while he was talking to him. Those rumors have been lacking in specifics, however. Word had it that the Mets asking price of, as general manager Sandy Alderson put it, “a difference maker," was too high for most teams given that the return was a 38-year-old knuckleballer.

Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reported on Wednesday that Alderson was “sitting on at least one acceptable deal,” but preferred to work out a contract extension with Dickey, who has a $5 million option for the 2013 season that was picked up in October. In the same piece, Martino reported Dickey’s asking price as an additional two years and $26 million. The Mets are not expected to meet that, but Dickey does want to stay in New York and the trade option gives the team some leverage. It now seems that an extension is more likely than a trade, particularly with the Mets having targeted nearer-term success with their extension for David Wright.

5. Michael Bourn: With B.J. Upton, Angel Pagan and Shane Victorino all having signed (with the Braves, Giants and Red Sox, respectively), Bourn is the top free agent centerfielder on the market for teams not willing to spend big money on Hamilton. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that the Rangers and Mariners have been rumored to be eying Bourn as an alternative to Hamilton. However, the pursuit of Hamilton by those two teams could leave room for the Phillies to sneak in and land Bourn. Bourn, who turns 30 later this month, started his career with Philadelphia in 2006 but was traded to Houston for Brad Lidge the next year before establishing himself as a major league regular, which he subsequently did with the Astros.

-- By Cliff Corcoran

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