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Thursday's MLB winter meetings trade and free-agency buzz

The MLB winter meetings are on, and rumors are swirling across baseball. Here is what our writers are hearing today:

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Eddie Matz's take: The Washington Nationals need an outfielder. They also need a left-handed bat. And a leadoff hitter. Jason Heyward could be all three rolled into one. So we shouldn't be asking, "Why are the Nats suddenly going for a Hey ride?" Instead, we should be wondering why they weren't on the wagon sooner.

If we learned anything from last year's Max Scherzer signing, it's that you should never count the Nationals out on anything or anyone. The Lerner family has deep pockets, but if you look at it closely, their pockets don't actually need to be all that bottomless to make a play for Heyward. Sure, he'll fetch a contract well into the nine digits, maybe even as much as $200 million if you believe the hype. But with Jordan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, Denard Span and Doug Fister all gone thanks to free agency, and Jayson Werth's hefty contract disappearing after 2017, there's space to spend.

Heisting Heyward and plugging his three-time Gold Glove in at center field would allow Michael Taylor to return to being the roving fourth outfielder (his role as a rookie until Span got hurt), a gig that would allow him to get more seasoning before eventually taking over for Werth in left. More importantly, it would give a right-handed Washington lineup (Bryce Harper is the only lefty in the projected 2016 lineup) some much-needed balance.

There's a perception that Heyward is a five-tool player with perhaps too much pop for the top of the order, but in reality, the power tool seems to be sputtering -- only once in the past five seasons has he hit more than 14 home runs. That's not a knock on Heyward; it's merely supporting evidence that batting leadoff, where he has already made 126 starts in his career, is a perfectly fine fit for him -- at least until rookie speedster Trea Turner is ready to grab the keys to the kingdom.


Stark's take: The Royals already have a third baseman (Mike Moustakas), but with Alex Gordon and Alex Rios both on the free-agent market, they do need two corner outfielders. So it wasn't a surprise to hear they talked to the Reds. The surprise was that Kansas City didn't just call about Jay Bruce. It also had interest in Todd Frazier, who has played only 13 big league games in left field, though he did play 178 games in left in the minor leagues.

A deal seems unlikely because the Reds are asking such a high price for Frazier -- teams that have asked about him have said the Reds wanted their top pitching prospect and top position-player prospect in return. So for the Royals, that would presumably mean giving up both shortstop Raul Mondesi and pitcher Miguel Almonte. And since other clubs said Kansas City has been reluctant to part with either, let alone both, it's difficult to envision a deal for Frazier going through. Nevertheless, it shows how aggressive and creative the Royals could be in addressing their outfield needs.


Crasnick's take: The Marlins have yet to trade Marcell Ozuna despite a flurry of rumors saying he might be on the move this offseason. That's partly the result of the team's high asking price. Clubs that have approached Miami about Ozuna say the Marlins are looking for a young pitcher with No. 1-2 stuff and potential. So when the Marlins and Mariners talked, Miami was thinking Taijuan Walker and Seattle was thinking more along the lines of Roenis Elias or Nate Karns as the return piece.

The Marlins even discussed Ken Giles with the Phillies. But they think Ozuna has a chance to be a 30-homer-a-year center fielder, and they had no interest in moving him for a reliever who might contribute 60-70 innings per season. Relations between Ozuna's agent, Scott Boras, and Miami management have been strained. But the Marlins appear resolute in their refusal to cut the asking price on Ozuna.


Crasnick's take: After sending first baseman Adam Lind to Seattle in exchange for three minor leaguers, the Brewers are considering a variety of options in their search for a replacement. Pedro Alvarez, the son-in-law of Milwaukee bench coach Pat Murphy, is the most prominent name on the list. He posted back-to-back 30-homer seasons with Pittsburgh in 2012-2013, but his shaky glove and rising salary prompted the Pirates to non-tender him last week. The Brewers are in a position in which they can stay in touch with several candidates, wait for someone to come in at a reasonable price and then swoop.

First base isn't the only position that new Milwaukee general manager David Stearns needs to shore up. The Brewers are also looking for an upgrade at third, where Yadiel Rivera and Jason Rogers are listed at 1-2 on the depth chart.


Stark's take: For now, the Braves have Ender Inciarte penciled in as their center fielder and leadoff man for next year. But if we've learned anything about GM John Coppolella and President of Baseball Operations John Hart, it's that they're open to almost any move.

Teams that have asked about Inciarte say they've been told that Atlanta at least will listen -- but the Braves aren't likely to move him unless they're offered a deal they can't turn down.


Eddie Matz's take: The Rule 5 draft is over, which means the winter meetings are over and that, short of an 11th-hour shocker, the Orioles will leave Nashville without Chris Davis on their roster. That doesn't mean the reigning home run king won't sign with Baltimore, but based on GM Dan Duquette's comments over the past couple days, it sure seems as if the team is ready to move on.

Heading into this week, despite the team's obvious need in the outfield, it seems unlikely that Baltimore will add a blue-chip name like Alex Gordon, Yoenis Cespedes or Justin Upton, since the club typically doesn't spend big in free agency. But if owner Peter Angelos is willing to pay out $150 million-plus for Davis, then there's a sporting chance that Angelos is open to giving nine figures (or close to it) to someone else. Then again, they could just put the money -- most of it, anyway -- back in the safe and pick up a low-cost, less sexy outfield alternative (see: Joyce, Matt).

Either way, it's looking more and more as if recent acquisition Mark Trumbo, who plays both outfield and first base, will be spending most of his time next season on the dirt instead of the grass.