The MLB hot stove season is going strong, and speculation is heating up across baseball. Here is what our writers are hearing today:
Crasnick's take: Ben Zobrist is on a fact-finding mission this week in conjunction with his free agent search. The versatile, veteran switch-hitter is currently visiting suitors on the East Coast and will make a trip to the West Coast later this week, according to a source. The Dodgers, Nationals, Mets and Giants are all teams with an active interest.
As the price for Zobrist continues to rise (to 3-4 years and $15-17 million annually, by some estimates), it appears that the Kansas City Royals don't have much of a shot at bringing him back in 2016. The Cubs and Cardinals both like Zobrist, but both teams have a lot of balls in the air and might not have the playing time to accommodate him unless they can make some moves to create at-bats.
There's enough interest in Zobrist -- and he's done enough personal research -- that it won't be a surprise to see him pick his new team by the winter meetings in Nashville next week.
Forget the theory that Jeff Samardzija will be the bargain of the offseason. Teams talking with him say he's claiming to have $100M on table— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) December 2, 2015
Stark's take: Clubs speaking with Samardzija and his agent, Adam Katz, are laughing at the rumblings that he can be had for something like $65 million for four years or $80 million for five. Samardzija figures to get less than the $110 million for five years that Jordan Zimmermann got from Detroit. But teams in the pitching market say they've been told he's already been offered a nine-figure deal by at least one club, and they expect his market to pick up after Zack Greinke signs. Samardzija has been linked to a number of teams - most prominently the Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants and New York Yankees.
Yesterday, Magic Johnson said owner Mark Walter is involved in the Zack Greinke talks, which could indicate a more serious pursuit.— Mark Saxon (@markasaxon) December 2, 2015
Saxon's take: The Los Angeles Dodgers' front office, led by Andrew Friedman, Farhan Zaidi and Josh Byrnes, has tended to take a dim view of mega-contracts for starting pitchers. All three, of course, come from smaller-market teams, but the philosophy transcends their history and is ultimately founded on a risk-reward analysis. Rarely do nine-figure deals work out well for the team that signs them, especially when the deals are for pitchers.
The fact that owner Mark Walter is getting involved -- Friedman recommends a course of action and Walter makes the final call, advised by team president Stan Kasten -- could make it more likely the Dodgers will make a decision based on emotion and pay Zack Greinke the top dollar he is seeking. The number of years will be more important than the number of dollars. It would be surprising if the Dodgers go beyond five years (and somewhere in the range of $150 million), but if they do, chalk it up to Walter's guiding hand.
Sources indicate the Yankees have no plans to react to the Red Sox signing David Price. They are still looking more at the trade market.— Andrew Marchand (@AndrewMarchand) December 2, 2015
There are three main reasons for this plan:
1. The Yankees have internally come to the conclusion that long-term deals for players in their 30s don't work out in the end.
2. The Yankees are above the luxury tax, so any new money is taxed at a 50 percent rate.
3. The team wants to get younger.
So if the Yankees are going to make a move, it will most likely be via the trade market, with a starting pitcher on the top of their agenda. They might have to be patient on that front, though, because as one executive reasoned, the free-agent deals probably need to get done first.
Crasnick's take: The Houston Astros continue to pursue all avenues in their search for a lockdown closer. Sources confirm they've had discussions with the Phillies about Ken Giles and that Philadelphia focused on young starting pitchers Lance McCullers Jr. and Vincent Velasquez in the talks. The Phillies would probably have an extremely difficult time prying McCullers loose, as he's considered a big part of the Astros' rotation moving forward.
Houston is also believed to be engaged in talks with the Tampa Bay Rays on relievers Brad Boxberger and Jacob McGee. Although the Astros have checked in on Aroldis Chapman and Mark Melancon, sources say GM Jeff Luhnow would prefer a younger closer with more years of contractual control. One source familiar with the Astros' thinking says that owner Jim Crane is a big fan of Chapman. But Chapman is one year away from free agency and would require a huge haul of talent in return, so there are some significant challenges to Houston and Cincinnati teaming up on a deal.
CLE/SF talked about possible Carlos Carrasco deal, with CLE asking about Brandon Belt and Joe Panik. Those discussions then faded.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 2, 2015