Rumors, reports and rumblings from Nashville

JackZSome interesting late-night chatter regarding the Mariners last night out of the Winter Meetings here in Nashville, though always wise to remember that rumors and reports often come out for a reason.

Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports reported that the Mariners met personally with Josh Hamilton on Sunday night. And Jon Heyman of CBS Sports had a Tweet saying the Mariners and D-backs had met Monday night, with outfielder Justin Upton “on the menu.”

What to make of all that? The simple answer is that, yes, the Mariners are looking at everyone who can swing a bat at these Meetings. They’re kicking the tires. They’re doing their due diligence. They know their offense needs an infusion from a veteran run producer in the middle of the lineup and they’d love to add that piece.

But will it be Hamilton? Upton? Billy Butler? Mike Morse? Wil Myers? Who knows.

Rumors are fun, but they’re also worth wondering about. The D-backs have been talking about trading Upton for two-plus years now, but they want a huge return. They’ve been listening to offers since 2010 and have yet to pull the trigger.

They’ve got four good outfielders and conceivably could be talked into dealing from that strength, but probably would prefer to deal Jason Kubel. Of course, Kubel wouldn’t bring the same return as Upton, a two-time All-Star at age 25 who is under contract for three more years at a reasonable $34 million.

The D-backs’ biggest need is for a shortstop and they’d like a Major League ready one, not a prospect. The Mariners have a strong prospect in Nick Franklin, but the 21-year-old might still be a year away.

Arizona doesn’t particularly need pitching, which is the Mariners’ area of strength, but of course every team welcomes quality arms. Is there a deal possible? Might be a tough fit for the D-backs and Mariners, but what if the Indians got involved in a three-way deal? Cleveland is shopping two-time All-Star shortstop Asdrubral Cabrera and is interested in prospects.

So maybe something can be worked out. Or maybe this is all just Winter Meetings chatter. One never really knows until teams actually do the deal.

Here’s a good read by MLB.com columnist Anthony Castrovince about Upton’s odd situation in Arizona and why he’s been subject of so many trade rumors.

Then there is Hamilton. Jack Zduriencik rarely talks about specific free-agent players or sheds significant light on his team’s pursuits, but he was pretty frank two weeks ago in telling me the Mariners likely weren’t going to be in on Hamilton this offseason.

He said then that you never say never, but  “at the end of the day, when you gauge the market, you have to be realistic about where it will end up. And there’s a strong possibility that one will exceed where we’re at.”

So has anything changed? Has Hamilton’s market shifted enough that he might be open to a shorter-term deal than the kind that figured to scare Zduriencik away two weeks ago?

Or is Hamilton just doing whatever he can to create a better market and kick-start negotiations elsewhere? Players and agents always benefit by having teams think other teams are interested and, better yet, bidding for their services.

Teams prefer to fly under the radar for the exact opposite reason. Remember all the talk about the Tigers interest in Prince Fielder last offseason? No, you don’t, because the Tigers didn’t openly talk about Fielder until they swooped in and signed him.

That’s why Winter Meetings rumors are fun, but should be taken in perspective. This much I can say: The Mariners are looking at all kinds of options to improve their offense, both big and small.

I wrote last week about the potential interest in left fielder Jason Bay, the former slugger cut loose by the Mets with $34 million still on his contract. And Mike Salk of ESPN 710 Seattle tweeted last night that a source indicated something might be close there.

Bay would come cheap, a very low-risk type signing with limited expectations. Think Oliver Perez, a reclamation-type project.

But Bay isn’t going to quench the thirst for a big-impact bat. He’d be more of an interesting project who might be a platoon right-handed hitter if he can solve his recent woes, but wouldn’t be the guy you planned on rebuilding around at this point in his career. And while he lives in the Seattle area and went to Gonzaga, Bay might also be interested in returning to Boston, where he had success before.

So what comes of all this, as usual, we’ll have to wait and see. Maybe news comes today. Or maybe we continue to wait. That’s how it works at the Winter Meetings.

1 Comment

Jason Bay? I wonder if Jack Cust is still available, too. How about Jose Vidro or Raul Ibanez?

Sign Hamilton, extend Felix. The M’s will be in the hunt in 2013.

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