4 Stories To Watch At The Winter Meetings
Image courtesy of Gary A. Vaquez, USA Today (Yu Darvish)1) Darvish Market Heats Up
In late November, Jim Bowden reported that there were six teams legitimately "in" on free agent starter Yu Darvish. It's reasonable to believe the Twins are one of those teams. Thad Levine, who has ties to the right-hander from his days in Texas, has called Darvish a priority.
The 31-year-old makes plenty of sense as a fit for Minnesota. He'd fulfill their need for a frontline starter, and as one of the game's best strikeout pitchers, he aligns with the organization's growing emphasis on missing bats. But can the Twins swing it financially?
Signing Darvish will likely require an investment roughly three times larger than the one Terry Ryan made in Ervin Santana, who became the franchise's biggest free agent splurge ever ($54 million) three years ago. But it's not like such commitments are unprecedented for the Twins; they did pony up $184 million to lock up Joe Mauer one year ahead of his free agency, and that contract is on the verge of expiring.
The problem is that even if Levine is prepared to come to the table as a serious bidder, he'll face stiff competition for arguably the most coveted free agent on the market. However, it is worth noting that a few of the big-market heavy hitters seem limited or less urgent in their pursuit.
The Yankees would be hard-pressed to go all in on Darvish after taking on Stanton's $250 million contract. The Dodgers must save up with an eye on re-signing Clayton Kershaw, who can opt out of his deal after next year. The Cubs appear to be focusing their attention on another free agent starter, Alex Cobb.
2) Rays Trade Talks
Speaking of Cobb, Tampa doesn't appear to have any intention of trying to bring him back, and in fact, it sounds like a bit of a fire sale might be in the works. Bob Nightengale of USA Today wrote the following: "The Rays, who have seen the disparity grow even greater in the AL East with Stanton coming aboard, are listening to anyone and everyone."
It was reported earlier this offseason that the Twins had discussed Jake Odorizzi with the Rays, and plenty of other intriguing names could be in play. Their closer Alex Colome led the American League in saves this season and has three years remaining of team control.
And of course, their ace Chris Archer would be the prize of all prizes. Can Levine muster an offer to make that happen?
If it means giving up four of the team's top ten prospects, should he?
3) Cole in the Stocking?
Another noteworthy trade target is Pittsburgh's Gerrit Cole. The Twins have reportedly shown interest in the righty, who could conceivably slot ahead of Santana as Minnesota's No. 1 starter. He's two years away from free agency and in his prime at age 27. Because of these facts, Cole won't come cheaply, but he's more realistic than Archer.
4) Rule 5 Rumblings
The Rule 5 draft will take place on Thursday morning, giving teams around the league an opportunity to poach unprotected players from other organizations. The Twins have a few prospects who are candidates to get taken (I have a suspicion someone's going to grab Nick Burdi and stash him on the DL while he rehabs from Tommy John Surgery), but they also have flexibility to acquire someone, with four open spots on the 40-man roster.
J.J. Cooper of Baseball America listed his top five Rule 5 candidates and, unsurprisingly, the first three are relief pitchers. Burch Smith, Mason McCullough and Cale Coshow all have big fastballs, and could be impact additions.
It also bears noting that Justin Haley, Minnesota's Rule 5 pick from a year ago, is once again available. He pitched very well at Pawtucket after being returned to the Red Sox organization this past summer, posting a 2.66 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in seven starts.