Balance of power tilts towards NL this winter

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Just not the power itself, because that’s mostly AL bound. But a review of the players switching leagues so far this winter definitely favors the NL, mostly because that’s where the pitching is going.

AL to NL
Cliff Lee – Phillies
Zack Greinke – Brewers
Shaun Marcum – Brewers
Javier Vazquez – Marlins
Kerry Wood – Cubs
J.J. Putz – Diamondbacks
Matt Guerrier – Dodgers

Carlos Pena – Cubs
Orlando Hudson – Padres
Lance Berkman – Cardinals
John Buck – Marlins
Jason Bartlett – Padres
Bill Hall – Astros
Lyle Overbay – Pirates
Ty Wigginton – Rockies
Jose Lopez – Rockies

NL to AL
Pedro Feliciano – Yankees
Hisanori Takahashi – Angels

Adrian Gonzalez – Red Sox
Adam Dunn – White Sox
Josh Willingham – Athletics
Mark Reynolds – Orioles
Tsuyoshi Nishioka – Twins (from Japan)
Russell Martin – Yankees
Miguel Olivo – Mariners
Alcides Escobar – Royals

The AL’s top imports so far are a pair of former Mets relievers and it could enter 2011 missing a full quarter of its top 20 starting pitchers. Lee and Greinke were certainly among the top 10, and Marcum belonged in the next 10. Next is Andy Pettitte, who still might opt to call it a career. Also, there’s Carl Pavano. I wouldn’t really put Pavano in the top 20, but he did go 17-11 with a 3.75 ERA for the Twins last season. He and Lee tied for the AL lead in complete games with seven.

All of that pitching making its way out of the league would seem to be good news for the offensive imports. Gonzalez, Dunn and Reynolds could combine for 110 homers next year. The AL hasn’t lost a whole lot offensively. I hesitated to even include Berkman, who has spent his entire career in the NL outside of two unproductive months with the Yankees. Pena could bounce back and Buck was an All-Star last season, but the hitting side of things definitely favors the AL.

The rest of the winter should belong to the AL as well. The Yankees, Angels and Rangers all appear to have more money to spend than any NL team. It’s unlikely that Adrian Beltre will switch leagues, and bats like Derrek Lee and Adam LaRoche may make their way to the AL. We could also see AL contenders make plays for Carlos Zambrano, Wandy Rodriguez, Ricky Nolasco and others in trade talks.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.