Winter meetings preview: NL teams

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Here’s a quick look at what the National League teams could be trying to do this week in Indianapolis.
Arizona – The Diamondbacks should have some money to spend, and they need a starter, a setup man, a first baseman and a closer. They probably won’t do any long-term deals, though, and they may well wait to bargain hunt late in the offseason. In the meantime, they’ll see if a Chris Snyder trade will fill one of the holes.
Atlanta – GM Frank Wren needs to move a starting pitcher, preferably Derek Lowe. That’d free up some money to use on an outfielder and/or a first baseman. Kelly Johnson is another a trade possibility, though he’ll likely be non-tendered. Ryan Church may be in the same boat. The Braves are also crossing their fingers hoping that free agent Rafael Soriano doesn’t accept arbitration prior to Monday’s deadline.
Chicago – Because of GM Jim Hendry’s need to do things in order, the Cubs have to trade Milton Bradley before really starting their offseason. It’s possible he’ll come off the books this week, allowing Hendry to go get the center fielder he wants (Mike Cameron?). The Cubs also need a second baseman and some rotation depth.
Cincinnati – The Reds would have much more room to maneuver if they could deal Francisco Cordero, Aaron Harang or Bronson Arroyo, but there’s little reason to think any will go this week. GM Walt Jocketty would surely like to improve at shortstop and likely in the outfield, but he may be stuck with the current lineup until a pitcher goes.
Colorado – There figures to be one last push to move Garrett Atkins before the non-tender deadline, but it’s doubtful anything will come of it. The Rockies can spare an outfielder, probably Brad Hawpe, in their hunt a starter to replace Jason Marquis. Also, they’ll know Monday night whether Rafael Betancourt will accept arbitration to stick around as a setup man. If he leaves, they’re expected to target LaTroy Hawkins.
Florida – As usual, the Marlins are shedding arbitration-eligible players. Jeremy Hermida is already gone, and Matt Lindstrom, Dan Uggla and Renyel Pinto likely will follow. The Marlins should get an outfielder at some point, allowing them to return Chris Coghlan to the infield. They could also use an innings-eater for the rotation.
Houston – The Astros need to rebuild their bullpen on a budget, which could mean finding cheaper replacements for Jose Valverde and Hawkins. At least the infield market is shaping up better for them now. They might re-sign Miguel Tejada to play third and find a bargain option to pair with Kaz Matsui at second (Ronnie Belliard?).
Los Angeles – The decision not to offer arbitration to Randy Wolf showed just how deep the Dodgers’ financial troubles run. Fortunately, the club doesn’t have too many needs; a starting pitcher is a must, but Blake DeWitt is an option at second base if the belt has to be tightened another notch. A Juan Pierre trade could help, but it’s highly unlikely that GM Ned Colletti would be able to shed much salary in such a deal.
Milwaukee – The Brewers are going cheap in center field and behind the plate, so they should have plenty of money to upgrade their rotation. Ideally, they’d land two reliable starters from the group of free agents. Wolf should top their list now that he’s not going to require draft-pick compensation. They’ll also be in the market for a setup man, and they’d like to re-sign utilityman Craig Counsell, who could be the next infielder off the board.
New York – Who knows? The Mets need a left fielder, a catcher, a first baseman, at least one starting pitcher and perhaps a setup man. Still, trading Luis Castillo and upgrading at second seems to be the top priority. As many holes as they have, it’d make sense to spread the wealth around rather than focus on Roy Halladay, John Lackey, Matt Holliday or Jason Bay.
Philadelphia – With third base taken care of, the aggressive Phillies are now focused on finding a setup man and fallback closer in case Brad Lidge fails to rebound. Ex-Tigers Brandon Lyon, who is also a target of the Yankees, and Fernando Rodney are two possibilities.
Pittsburgh – The Pirates seem determined to spend some cash, even though it could result in Jeff Clement being blocked. Xavier Nady, Rick Ankiel and Hank Blalock are a few of the players on their list. They’ll also consider trading Zach Duke, Matt Capps and Ryan Doumit, preferably for young pitching. Shortstop would be a nice position for an upgrade, but there just isn’t much available there. Tampa Bay’s Reid Brignac is one possible exception.
St. Louis – It’s been a slow developing winter for the Cardinals, as their finances are tied up in their bid to retain Holliday. If Holliday stays, they’ll almost certainly have to settle for cheap replacements at third base and in the rotation. If he exits, then they could sign Mark DeRosa or Miguel Tejada to play third and attempt to bring back Joel Pineiro for the rotation. Unfortunately for them, it’s doubtful the situation will be resolved this week.
San Diego – With Jed Hoyer still settling into his new role as the Padres’ GM, the team’s plans are unclear. There’s little chance of either Adrian Gonzalez or Heath Bell being traded this week, but Kevin Correia and Kevin Kouzmanoff might be possibilities. The Padres will keep their eyes open for a center fielder (Coco Crisp?) and cheap rotation help.
San Francisco – The Giants don’t appear prepared to jump into the bidding for one of the big free agents. They have cash to buy a first baseman, a catcher and an outfielder, but it appears as though they’ll look for guys willing to sign one- or two-year contracts. Perhaps GM Brian Sabean will surprise and move Jonathan Sanchez for long-term help at an infield corner or the outfield.
Washington – The Nationals’ biggest needs are in the rotation and the bullpen and they could land big-name free agents for both spots, but it shouldn’t happen this week. A Josh Willingham trade is a possibility for the meetings. The Nats will also try to find a defensive-minded shortstop, allowing them to send Ian Desmond back to the minors for the start of the year.

MLB may introduce “tacky” baseballs in 2018

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 25: Baseballs sit in the St. Louis Cardinals dugout prior to a game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on April 25, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by David Welker/Getty Images)
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Jeff Passan of Yahoo has an interesting report today. MLB and Rawlings are developing a new baseball. It will have a tacky surface on the leather, allowing pitchers to get a better grip without having to resort to sunscreen and rosin and pine tar and stuff. Substances which, in theory, are for grip but which are really used by pitchers to doctor the ball, with MLB and opposing hitters mostly looking the other way.

They tested the new balls in the Arizona Fall League last year and Passan talks to a couple of the pitchers who used the ball. More testing would be required, though, so we’re not likely to see the new balls until at least 2018.

As you know, baseball players love change, so I’m sure we won’t hear another thing about the ball and its introduction will go off seamlessly.

Wait. It’ll still have seams. You know what I mean.

Here we go: Tim Tebow reports to Mets camp

PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - SEPTEMBER 20: Tim Tebow #15 of the New York Mets speaks at a press conference after a work out at an instructional league day at Tradition Field on September 20, 2016 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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The first few days of spring training have been pretty quiet. Guys are going about their business and games are being played, but we haven’t had any news or controversy or silliness or anything fun like that. That’s about to change, however, as Tim Tebow has arrived at Mets camp.

Tebow, a non-roster invite, arrived at the Mets facility in Port St. Lucie, Florida this morning and, unlike every other non-roster invite, had a press conference. You may be surprised to learn that he’s in great shape, is excited to get going and wants to improve steadily each day.

The plan for Tebow is to be a part of the minor league camp, not the major league one, so he’s not going to be as visible at workouts as you might expect. He will be playing in some major league spring training games, however, at least until we get deeper into spring training, after which you’d assume that veterans and players with a real shot of making the big club will play longer.

In the meantime, you can buy Tebow shirts. But not Curtis Granderson ones, it seems: