01/28/2013 10:00 AM ET
The Week Ahead: It's getting to be 'go time'
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
Justin Upton has gone to Atlanta. Mike Napoli is finally with Boston. Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse are still free agents.
Those were some of the developments -- and non-developments -- over the past seven days, but as we look ahead to the week that will bring along February, the month in which pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, we realize it really is "go time" now.
Trucks packed with everything from balls to bats to elliptical machines will be departing big league cities for their temporary spring homes. Camps begin the week after next.
A number of fan festivals were recently held and the excitement is ramping up. Supporters of all 30 Major League teams are busy trying to figure out how the general managers and skippers might be setting up rosters. Some teams still have some work to do in the remaining days to shore up their starting lineups and benches.
And Bourn and Lohse, the top remaining available position player and pitcher among free agents, respectively, are still out there. Both are Scott Boras clients, and both were believed to be seeking multiyear deals worth at least $10 million a year before the winter began. Now they'll have to look for the best deal as the hours wind down so they can report to a camp on time.
Where will Bourn go? Well, the Mets were mentioned, but their level of engagement is a mystery because Major League Baseball's Collective Bargaining Agreement states that the Mets' highest pick in the upcoming First-Year Player Draft, the 11th overall, is not protected for teams pursuing free agents who received qualifying offers from their previous teams. Only the first 10 clubs in that category would not lose their selection if they signed Bourn.
The Mets are believed to be pursuing a ruling that would allow them to keep that pick if they signed Bourn or another similar free agent, arguing that the only reason they have the No. 11 pick is because the Pittsburgh Pirates were given the No. 9 selection because their first-round pick last year, pitcher Mark Appel, did not sign.
The Mariners and Orioles seem to be possible landing places for the multi-talented, 30-year-old Bourn. But so many questions remain. Will Bourn have to take a one-year deal? Are Seattle or Baltimore willing to make a three- or four-year deal worth around $50 million or $60 million?
And what about Lohse? He went 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA and pitched a career-high 211 innings for the St. Louis Cardinals last year. It's possible that teams have shied away from offering him big years and money because he's 34 years old, but it's also possible that he's coming into his prime a bit later than most pitchers.
On Sunday, Brewers owner Mark Attanasio was asked if he'd consider supplementing his starting rotation with the veteran right-hander and be willing to part with big bucks and a Draft pick, and he didn't say no.
"I think you have to look at the whole picture," Attanasio said. "We've given up picks before, and when we got CC [Sabathia] and we got Zack [Greinke], we gave up more than Draft compensation -- we gave up ready-to-go young players. This season, we're mindful of the fact that if we do add some pieces, we may have to give up some young players.
"There's always a chance. Again, it's a function of size of contract, length of contract. Kyle had a phenomenal two seasons the last two seasons. We just have to see if that fits in our overall scheme."
As for trade winds, they seem to have died down. Upton, long the focus of speculation, was shipped out of Arizona, bringing the D-backs a nice package of prospects from the Braves and setting up the feel-good story of spring, with Justin and his brother, B.J., making up two-thirds of a potentially imposing outfield with emerging star Jason Heyward.
"Now that it is a reality, we're both just happy," Justin Upton said, referring to himself and his brother. "I think that is what we got out of the conversation, that we're both happy with where we are. It's kind of surreal right now. But once we get into camp and get going, I think everything will settle in."
Other players are hoping to have that stability. Veteran closer Brian Wilson is one, and according to Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette on MLB Network Radio, the Mets, who observed a throwing session by Wilson earlier this month, might take another look at him this week.
Other relievers available on the dwindling market include Jose Valverde and Francisco Rodriguez. Starters Joe Saunders and Daisuke Matsuzaka are still out there. Ditto for hitters Kelly Johnson, Carlos Lee, Travis Hafner, Juan Rivera and Freddy Sanchez, among others.