With second baseman Robinson Cano bolting for Seattle and third baseman Alex Rodriguez facing a probable suspension, the New York Yankees need to find some help for their infield. They are more likely to fill that need via trade than free agency, according to Buster Olney of ESPN.
New York's current roster boasts Derek Jeter and Brendan Ryan at shortstop and Mark Teixeira at first base. Beyond that, though, the team's only other options are Eduardo Nunez and recent free-agent signing Kelly Johnson, both of whom profile better as backups than everyday starters. Nunez has been worth more than a win below replacement level over his four-year career by the measures of both Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs; Johnson is a year removed from being an everyday second baseman after playing primarily left field for the Rays last season, and has posted a collective .307 OBP over the last three seasons.
The dearth of quality free agent infielders, combined with the Yankees' desire to keep their payroll below $189 million in a period of skyrocketing prices on the open market, could lead the team to the trade market to find help. New York has recently been mentioned in the same breath as Cincinnati second baseman Brandon Phillips, and the Atlanta Braves made it known early in the offseason that Dan Uggla is available in a trade, although the Yankees have not been connected to him at all. Seattle's Nick Franklin may also be available now that he has been displaced by Cano.
The remaining free agent pool includes options such as Omar Infante at second base and Juan Uribe at third base. However, both players could be expensive after putting up productive seasons for playoff teams.
Billy Hamilton likely to take over CF, leadoff spot for Cincinnati Reds
With free agent Shin-Soo Choo likely out of the Reds' price range, it looks likely that Billy Hamilton is the leading candidate to replace him in center field and atop the lineup, according to Mark Sheldon of MLB.com.
Hamilton got a cup of coffee in the majors last year as a September call-up and immediately flashed the game-changing speed that is his calling card. He went 7-for-19 with four infield hits and stole 13 bases in 14 attempts, with seven of those swipes coming as a pinch runner. Hamilton stole 75 bases in 123 games last season in Triple-A. Defensively, he shifted from shortstop to center field in 2012 and has reportedly taken well to his new position.
Said general manager Walt Jocketty, via Sheldon:
General manager Walt Jocketty conceded that Choo would be out of his club's price range. "It's going to be very difficult for us with the amount of money that's out there," Jocketty said. "[Hamilton] would be our leadoff hitter if we went to Spring Training tomorrow."
Reds' president/CEO Bob Castellini also weighed in, via Sheldon:
"We better be looking at Billy Hamilton. He'll be up to it. Don't count him out,"
If Choo does leave the Reds, then the most obvious fits for him seem to be the Rangers, Mariners, or Tigers, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports also sees the Giants as a possible destination.
Athletics, Rockies discussed Brett Anderson trade
Oakland is likely looking for an upgrade at catcher or second base in a win-now deal for Anderson, although that is not necessarily a strict requirement. Anderson has top-of-the-rotation potential, but injuries have limited him to 22 appearances, only 11 of them starts, over the last two seasons. With the A's clearly stating that they are going all-in for 2014, they seem willing to cash in on the left-hander's potential if it nets them an upgrade in the short-term. However, Rosenthal reports that talks with Colorado are unlikely to start back up again, so Oakland will need to find a different suitor. Anderson is owed $8 million next season and has a $12 million option for 2015.
In other A's news, the team continues to get nowhere in regards to their proposed relocation to San Jose, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Word has come out that the league denied the team's request to relocate as far back as June 17, but Slusser reports that the denial was not a rejection but rather a notice that the proposal was insufficient and needed to have information added to it.
Wily Mo Pena signs in Japan, Eric Thames in Korea
Slugging outfielder Wily Mo Pena will return to Japan's NPB for a third season, according to Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sports Net. Pena spent the last two seasons with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, but will now play for the Orix Buffaloes on a $1.5 million contract. The former major league slugger swatted 21 home runs for the Hawks in 2012, but managed only one long ball in 55 games during an injury-plagued 2013 campaign.
Meanwhile, outfielder Eric Thames will spend 2014 with the NC Dinos of the Korean Professional Baseball League, reports Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. Thames split the 2013 season primarily between the Triple-A affiliates of the Seattle Mariners and Baltimore Orioles, finishing with a .799 OPS and 10 home runs in 98 games. He last played in the majors for the Mariners in 2012, and he has a career OPS of .727 with 21 home runs in 181 major league games. Thames was claimed off of waivers by the Houston Astros in September, but will instead look to build up his value overseas.
Orioles sign Francisco Peguero
Peguero had been in the San Francisco Giants' organization since 2006, and was named the #98 prospect in baseball prior to the 2012 season by MLB.com. However, he never stuck with the major league club and was the victim of a numbers game in November when he was designated for assignment to make room for new additions. The Orioles apparently hope that a change in scenery will bring out the talent that Peguero has shown at times in his minor league career.