Marlins strongly pursuing LaRoche

Despite locking up Giancarlo Stanton with a record 13-year, $325 million deal, the Marlins seem to be far from done when it comes to spending money this offseason.

The club is reportedly showing a strong interest in free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche, according to ESPN’s Jayson Stark.

Though the Marlins just inked Stanton to his record deal, the contract is heavily backloaded, giving the Marlins some financial flexibility for the immediate future. Stanton will make just $30 million over the first three seasons of the deal, a compromise he was willing to make if it meant increasing the team’s chances to win.

The Marlins certainly seem intent on doing that, setting their sights first on LaRoche, who racked up 26 home runs and 92 RBIs this past season for the Nationals.

LaRoche, 35, averaged 26.3 homers over the past three seasons for the Nats and would figure to provide an upgrade from the .254/.313/.402 batting line put up by Marlins first basemen Garrett Jones, Jeff Baker and Justin Bour this past season. LaRoche, meanwhile, put up a .259/.362/.455 line in Washington.

Aside from the Marlins, the White Sox and Padres have also checked in on LaRoche, according to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. Other teams are reportedly keeping him in mind in the event that a potential trade creates a need at first base.

– Paul Casella

Indians exploring trading Swisher

Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com had a series of tweets on Tuesday, citing a source that indicated that the Indians are exploring a “wide range of options,” including potential trades for Nick Swisher in exchange for “another player with an inflated contract.”

This speaks to due diligence on the part of Cleveland, which inked the 33-year-old Swisher to a four-year contract worth $56 million prior to the 2013 season. Swisher performed admirably in the first year of the deal, but experienced an injury-plagued, career-worst season in 2014. In only 97 games, Swisher hit .208 with eight homers, 42 RBIs and a .608 OPS before undergoing season-ending surgery on both knees.

Swisher is owed $30 million over the next two seasons ($15 million annually) and his deal includes a vesting option worth $14 million for 2017. Similarly, center fielder Michael Bourn is owed $27.5 million over the 2015-16 seasons and has a vesting option worth $12 million for ’17. Both players have underperformed since arriving in Cleveland, so it makes sense for the club to gauge what offers might exist on the trade market.

At this point, Swisher’s position is a bit of an unknown with the Indians. His knees appeared to have a negative impact on his defense at first base and his arm issues in ’13 took right field nearly entirely out of the equation. Swisher can play first and potentially right, but he looks to be a DH at the moment for the Indians, who place a high value on versatility.

Rosenthal mentions players such as Ubaldo Jimenez, B.J. Upton and Ryan Howard in terms of others with inflated contracts around the league who are trade candidates. Rosenthal makes it clear, however, that the Indians might not have interest in those players specifically. Jimenez (owed $38.75 million through 2017) is interesting in the sense that he excelled down the stretch for the Indians in ’13 and Cleveland is looking for rotation depth this winter.

The Indians have some financial flexibility, especially due to the fact that the club features one of the most cost-effective rotations in baseball, but the club is contractually hamstrung on its 25-man roster. In order to make an impact addition this winter, the Tribe would likely need to free up space on the roster via trade. That is why floating Swisher’s name, and likely Bourn as well, makes complete sense for the Indians right now.

–Jordan Bastian

Mariners reportedly made a strong push for Martin

How adamant are the Mariners about finding some right-handed bats to augment their offense? Adamant enough that they might have been willing to shake up their seemingly secure catching spot.

According to a source, the Mariners, surprisingly, were among the finalists who pushed hard for Russell Martin, who eventually agreed to a five-year, $82 million contract with the Blue Jays on Monday.

On the surface, this makes little sense, as the M’s have a very highly regarded young catcher in 23-year-old Mike Zunino. That said, Zunino just finished up his first full Major League season, so he still has quite a bit of growth to accomplish as a Major League hitter (he had a .658 OPS this year). And the free-agent market is thin enough for offense that one could understand the M’s, who have long struggled to lure sluggers to Safeco Field, leaving no stone unturned in their quest for bats. Martin, after all, had an adjusted OPS+ 36 points better than league average in ‘14.

It’s possible the M’s envisioned a scenario in which they would have signed Martin and then taken advantage of a weak catching market to move Zunino, but that is purely speculation.

Anyway, in the end, Martin will be in Toronto, so it doesn’t matter. But this does give some insight into just how hard the Mariners — a team that ranked last in the Majors in weighted runs created and OPS from the right-hand side against both right-handers and lefties — are pushing to improve offensively. They have been linked to free agents Nelson Cruz and Hanley Ramirez, and trade targets such as Matt Kemp and Justin Upton are also possibilities.

– Anthony Castrovince

Dodgers targeting A. Ramirez

The Dodgers are “aggressively pursuing” a trade for White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez, according to a tweet from USA Today’s Bob Nightengale.

The Dodgers are expected to let incumbent shortstop Hanley Ramirez depart via free agency and they are reportedly now setting their sights on A. Ramirez. The White Sox shortstop has a favorable remaining contract, as he’s owed $10 million next season and has a $10 million club option for 2016.

He’s coming off a strong all-around season in which he posted a .273/.305/.408 line with 15 home runs, 74 RBI and 21 steals. Alexei Ramirez also presents a much more durable option than the oft-injured Hanley Ramirez, as the White Sox shortstop has played at least 156 games in five straight seasons and never less than 136 over his seven years in the big leagues.

The trade rumors also seem to indicate that the Dodgers aren’t ready quite yet to hand over the shortstop reins to Erisbel Arruebarrena, the club’s current backup.

– Paul Casella

Cubs planning conservative approach

The Cubs missed out on one of the top-tier free agents – catcher Russell Martin, who signed a five-year, $82 million contract with the Blue Jays — on Monday, and they’re prepared for that process to repeat itself with other players, as well.

While many people – fans and media included – are pinning high hopes on the Cubs to make a big splash this winter, the inter-organizational thinking is quite a bit more conservative. The Cubs will certainly do their due diligence at the top of the starting pitching market, for example (they were reportedly meeting with Jon Lester on Tuesday), but, according to a Major League source, they are generally leery of the top-of-the-market prices and more inclined to abstain.

The Cubs do plan to make meaningful additions (a reunion with Jason Hammel, for instance, remains possible), but they know that their young position players are going to need time to develop at the big-league level, particularly in a division as deep as the NL Central (a division that became even more difficult Monday, when the Cardinals acquired Jason Heyward). They also know that next winter’s free-agent pitching class (which could include David Price, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and old friend Jeff Samardzija, among others) could be even deeper than this year’s, so there could be value to patience.

 –Anthony Castrovince

Orioles may listen to trade offers for Norris, Jimenez

The Orioles could consider trading away right-hander Bud Norris this offseason, according to a tweet from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.

Rosenthal mentions in the same tweet that the club is also reportedly drawing “moderate interest” on veteran starter Ubaldo Jimenez.

Norris is projected to make $7.8 million via arbitration this offseason, according to MLBTradeRumors.com, and the O’s could ultimately decide to move him and spend that money elsewhere. Norris is coming off a solid 2014 campaign in which he posted a 3.65 ERA, but he is scheduled to become a free agent following next season.

As for Jimenez, the O’s may be ready to bail after he notched an unsightly 4.81 ERA over 125 1/3 innings in the first year of a four-year, $50 million contract. Baltimore would certainly have to eat a substantial amount of Jimenez’s remaining contract in order to strike a deal, but the O’s may be more than willing to do that if they can find a trade partner.

– Paul Casella

Braves to meet with Lester, other moves still possible

The Braves may not be done retooling their rotation just yet, as they are reportedly expected to meet with free agent Jon Lester at some point this week, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney.

At least six teams have expressed interest in Lester, who also has scheduled meetings with the Cubs and Red Sox — the two favorites to land the left-hander at this point. That said, the Braves could be prepared to make a serious run at Lester considering their rotation needs, though they would likely need to make additional moves to make it happen.

Along with acquiring a quality starter in Shelby Miller in Monday’s trade with the Cardinals, the move also freed up approximately $11 million on next year’s payroll. In addition, the Braves could still be willing to move other big-name players, such as Justin Upton and Evan Gattis, according to MLB.com’s Mark Bowman.

If the Braves indeed find a new home for one or both of those players, they could use some of that money they would save toward signing Lester.

Despite acquiring Miller on Monday, Atlanta is certainly still in the market for another starter. The Braves’ 2015 rotation currently consists of Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, Mike Minor and Miller. As for the fifth spot, the club as of right now would likely be choosing between Brandon Beachy or Kris Medlen — both coming off their second Tommy John surgeries. David Hale is another option, though he seems better suited for a long-relief role.

The Braves are by no means the favorite to land Lester at this point, but it certainly seems as if Monday’s trade could have been the beginning of a busy offseason in Atlanta.

– Paul Casella

Sandoval in Boston to meet with Red Sox

Third baseman Pablo Sandoval took his free-agent tour to Boston on Monday, arriving at Logan Airport in the afternoon and telling local news channel WHDH-TV that he is “excited” for a visit the Red Sox. Sandoval is in town with his agent, Gustavo Vazquez, and his older brother, Michael.

“Pablo is a winner,” Vazquez told the network. “The Boston Red Sox need a winner right now, and I think Pablo can be a good fit over here.”

The Sox are believed to be one of two favorites to land Sandoval, along with the Giants, the team with which Sandoval spent his first seven big league seasons. The Padres recently joined the White Sox and Blue Jays as other teams known to have expressed interest in the 28-year-old switch hitter.

“It could be Red Sox, it could be any other uniform,” Michael Sandoval said of his brother’s options. “The good part of this is he’s got a chance to explore his value on the market and see who can really appreciate him and his work.”

Pablo Sandoval joked that he was “on vacation” and “just visiting the city” but acknowledged the lobbying role of Red Sox slugger David Ortiz.

“I love being in this situation,” he said. “David’s a good guy. I’ve been through a lot this winter with the commercial stuff and all of that. He’s a great guy.”

Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said last week that he met with Vazquez during his time at the GM Meetings in Phoenix.

“[Sandoval's] one of many that we’re talking to. I’d rather not comment on exactly who we might meet and who we might not, but he’s one guy we have interest in,” Cherington said.

In a tweet Monday, MLB.com’s Ian Browne cautioned against drawing any conclusions from Sandoval’s visit.

Sandoval is a career .294/.346/.465 hitter and batted .366 this postseason as he helped the Giants to their third championship in five years.

– Andrew Simon

Blue Jays interested in Lester, Miller

Despite signing top free agent catcher Russell Martin on Monday, the Blue Jays are apparently far from done this offseason. The Jays are reportedly still interested in Jon Lester, one of the top starting pitchers on the market, according to WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford.

The club is also believed to be actively pursuing marquee reliever Andrew Miller, according to a tweet from Sportsnet’s Jeff Blair.

The Jays remain a bit of a darkhorse candidate to sign Lester, who is scheduled to meet with the Cubs on Tuesday. Lester’s also expected to meet with the Red Sox in the near future, making the Cubs and the Red Sox the current obvious favorites. That said, at least four other teams, including the Jays, have expressed interest.

Pursuing Lester certainly makes sense from Toronto’s standpoint. The Jays are more than familiar with Lester from his nine seasons with the AL East rival Red Sox and the three-time All-Star would give them another durable arm at the top of their rotation.

Toronto already has six starters — Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey, Marcus Stroman, Drew Hutchison, J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada — in the mix for 2015, but the Jays were likely planning to move at least one starter anyways in an attempt to shore up their other needs. Bringing Lester into the mix would likely just result in Toronto packaging two starters into the same trade or making two separate moves entirely.

As for Miller, the Jays’ interest doesn’t come as much of a surprise, given the fact that at least 22 teams have reportedly reached out to Miller’s agent already. Toronto could pursue Miller as its next closer, with last year’s closer Casey Janssen likely to depart via free agency.

The Jays are by no means the verge of signing either player at this point, but the move to already land Martin indicates they are certainly willing to be big players in the free-agent market this offseason.

– Paul Casella

Sandoval in Boston

Pablo Sandoval arrived at Boston’s Logan Airport on Monday afternoon for a recruiting visit with the Red Sox, who will be one of his main suitors in free agency. It had been reported late last week that Sandoval would be coming to Boston this week, and a Boston television affiliate, Channel 7, got exclusive video footage of him upon arrival.

It is still very early in the free-agent process for Sandoval, who is expected to meet with several teams. It won’t truly be known what shape Sandoval’s negotiations will take until he meets with the San Francisco Giants, the team the third baseman has won three World Series championships with in the last five years.

The Giants have stated they would like to meet with Sandoval later in the process, after he has met with other teams.

Sandoval could help give the Red Sox the type of production they badly need from the left side of the plate. Aside from David Ortiz, Boston’s lineup is almost all right-handed. Sandoval is a switch hitter, but is stronger from the left side. The Red Sox also haven’t had much production at third base the last two seasons, and Sandoval could certainly change that.

Sandoval, who is 28 years old, could be seeking a contract of five or six years.

He has spent his entire career with the Giants, hitting .294 with 106 homers, 462 RBIs and an .811 OPS.

Ian Browne

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