The Rundown: MLB in London, Price Sitting Pretty, Lots of Smoke in FA Talks

Having only recently roused myself from a tryptophan coma, I can only imagine the effort it took you to shake off your own torpor and dive into this Rundown. As such, I’m going to keep it short here.

MLB in Europe?

Accoording to FOX’s Jon Morosi, Major League Baseball is working toward an agreement to hold a regular-season series in London as early as 2017. This is pretty significant news on several fronts, not the least of which is MLB’s potential to grow into new markets. Europe isn’t a hotbed of baseball activity, but gaining access to new viewers and providing a live product to existing ones could be very good for baseball.

These talks also show that MLB isn’t content to sit on its laurels stand on tradition. All the other North American sports leagues have played games in Europe, but this is more than simply the tail end of a game of Follow the Leader. Commissioner Rob Manfred has already announced an in-network streaming deal, and this move is another step in the evolution of his sport.

No teams have been announced, but one must assume the first series will include a pair of East Coast teams. If forced to wager a guess, I’d say the Yankees and/or Red Sox would be involved. The flights are shorter and the teams have a bit more cachet with viewers whose knowledge of the sport in general, and MLB in particular, is a bit lacking. If you want to gain entry into a new market, it’s best to do so with brands people are already aware of.

Demand for Price in no short supply

This isn’t really surprising, but Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Cubs, Cardinals, Red Sox, Dodgers, and Giants have all shown major interest in David Price. Any of us could have assembled those usual suspects, but that’s not to say Rosenthal is being lazy here. Actually, in laying out the dynamics of this particular arm race, he provides a little food for thought in terms of where the ace might end up.

The Red Sox, then, might be the toughest sell for Price, given the complexities of his past relationships with their fan base and biggest star, David Ortiz. By contrast, the Cubs and Giants could hold particular appeal.

The Cubs project a fun vibe with their youthful roster and spirited manager, Price’s old skipper in Tampa Bay, Joe Maddon. The Giants, under manager Bruce Bochy, long have had one of the strongest clubhouse cultures in the game.

As I wrote recently, “Price probably does not consider the Red Sox his first choice. But if the Sox outbid the Cubs by say, $30 million, hello Boston.”

It probably is more complicated than that — major leaguers love playing in St. Louis, which is about a five-hour drive from Price’s home in Nashville, Tenn., and the Dodgers would offer Price the chance to reunite with his former GM, Andrew Friedman, and play for their new manager, the energetic, upbeat Dave Roberts.

Okay, so that still isn’t really saying much, but it sounds as though the Cubs have a leg up…if they’re willing to pay up. I’m just not sure they want to commit the type of cash it may take to lure the lefty to Wrigley.

Where there’s smoke there’s fire

There have been lots of little moves here and there, but the smoke from the hot stove has yet to yield fire. Ben Zobrist continues to be the subject of much interest, with the Cardinals apparently reaching out now too. And Peter Gammons had a veritable cornucopia of information about where several names might end up.

Ken Rosenthal and Tom Verducci both speculated that David Price will end up with the Red Sox. They are not along. From last Friday to Tuesday I heard the same thing from a half-dozen GMs, one of whom said “I just think that Dombrowski loves him and he is part of the job Dave took.” Hey, Dombrowski’s manager in Detroit, Brad Ausmus, called Price “the best pitching teammate I’ve ever been around,” a thought seconded by Joe Maddon. Another NL GM Tuesday speculated “Boston will go $30-40M above anyone else.”

Price has been understandably humorous on Twitter. Some feel he is uneasy about Boston, but David is so sophisticated, so talented and so intelligent he will make the best of any situation. Rosenthal and Verducci made well-thought guesses on Price’s whereabouts. I have thought the same thing for nearly a week, but that is not a “the deal is close” thought. Sift through five days of calls and there is a lot of John Lackey and Alex Gordon to the Cubs speculation. A split on Zack Greinke and Jordan Zimmerman to either the Dodgers or Giants. One GM speculated that the Cardinals could pass on Jason Heyward, sign Price and bridge to their next generation of big-time young pitchers, including the suspended Alex Reyes, who one baseball man calls “the best pitching prospect I’ve seen in a year.”

Wow, that’s a lot to digest. It’s still all a big shell game at this point, with the biggest names (Price, Heyward) setting the tone in terms of how the rest of this mess falls into place. I know a lot of you don’t like the idea of Lackey in Chicago, but this isn’t the first time we’ve heard the possibility. Heck, it’s not even the second or third. And with talk of Shark’s possible return, you have the think the team is planning on the possibility of not landing Price.

It’ll almost be disappointing to see an end to all this speculation, as this is just such a fun time for baseball fans. Trying at times, sure, but exciting to the nth degree.

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