There's something about rumors that seems so intangible. Maybe its the fact that they're literally intangible, no more than whispers in the hallways of power instead of cold, hard facts.
In an effort to combat the rumors that Houston is searching for first base candidates specifically focused in the NL East, here's a look at first base candidates in the entire National League. Thursday, we'll do the same for the American League to see if we find any probable targets that make more sense than the current Houston roster.
First up, the National League East:
Probable starter: Freddie Freeman
Other names: Mark Hamilton
Probable starter: Garrett Jones
Other names: Greg Dobbs, Ty Wigginton
New York Mets
Probable starter: Ike Davis
Other names: Lucas Duda, Brandon Allen, Matt Clark
Probable starter: Ryan Howard
Other names: John Mayberry, Jr., Kevin Frandsen
Probable starter: Adam LaRoche
Other names: Tyler Moore, Brock Peterson
The funny thing about the NL East is it seems there are at least two starters who could be had for the right price. Don't you think the Phillies would flip Ryan Howard in a heartbeat if Houston took on most of that contract? Not that they would, mind you, but it seems that Howard is available.
Ditto Ike Davis. Seems the Mets would trade him if the right deal came along, but they'd also start him if no deal presents itself. The intriguing non-roster name with them is Brandon Allen, who hasn't hit in four big-league trials, but could be waived by the end of the spring. Plus, he's a lefty, so he fits into a platoon with Guzman.
Am I also correct in saying no one wants a return engagement with Ty Wigginton?
Onto the NL Central, a surprisingly sparse division for first basemen.
Probable starter: Anthony Rizzo
Other names: None
Probable starter: Joey Votto
Other names: Neftali Soto
Probable starter: Juan Francisco
Other names: Mark Reynolds, Lyle Overbay
Probable starter: Gaby Sanchez
Other names: None
Probable starter: Matt Adams
Other names: Allen Craig, Xavier Scruggs
Oh, this is where we break Sean's heart. No way the Cards trade Adams for less than a hefty haul, which is not a price Luhnow would be willing to pay. So, he's out. Ditto Craig and every other starter here.
Plus, the NL Central has two of the most unsettled first base situations in the league. Both the Brewers and Pirates are still searching for starters at the position. Or, more accurately, they're searching for upgrades on the starters they have.
While Neftali Soto has some intriguing upside, being blocked by Votto and possessing some power, he doesn't really profile into this team's blueprint. He doesn't walk a ton, doesn't have huge power and strikes out a fair amount. That sounds like late-career Carlos Lee to me.
No, the guy who really is fascinating is Xavier Scruggs, who was a non-roster invitee of the Cardinals this season. Drafted in the 19th round out of UNLV in 2008, Scruggs would be a Luhnow guy who's a little old to be a prospect. He's already 25 and hasn't played above Double-A. But, Scruggs does walk a ton and has really nice power.
The problem is that if Houston wanted to hand the keys over to a prospect who might not be ready, they might as well promote Jon Singleton. Also, Scruggs bats from the right side, so he couldn't platoon with Guzman.
Finally, the NL West:
Probable starter: Paul Goldschmidt
Other names: Matt Tuiasosopo, Nick Evans, Mike Jacobs
Probable starter: Justin Morneau
Other names: Ben Paulson
Probable starter: Adrian Gonzalez
Other names: Scott Van Slyke, Clint Robinson
Probable starter: Yonder Alonso
Other names: Kyle Blanks, Tommy Medica, Cody Decker
Probable starter: Brandon Belt
Other names: Mike Morse, Jeff Arnold
Ahh, remember when Houston was "in" on some of the guys in the NL, like Mike Morse? Those were the days. Now, they're lucky to scrounge someone half as good as Morse or Corey Hart for a steeper price.
Still, there's some good depth here. The Diamondbacks seem like they'll lose a first baseman or two off their roster or non-roster invite list before the spring is done. Anyone up for Mike Jacobs? Nope, didn't think so.
I've always been high on Kyle Blanks, but at this point, he seems like a less successful Chris Carter. No thanks. Tommy Medica would also be a nice pickup, but he has little high-level experience and the Padres probably want to hang onto a young guy like that, unless Houston traded them a big-league piece.
Other than the names we discussed on Tuesday, the only ones that stand out here are guys like Mike Jacobs or Scruggs. Jacobs is at least a left-hander and could be waived at the end of the spring, thus being free to acquire by the top waiver position Astros. But, waiting on a team to waive a guy leaves the position perilously thin in the meantime.
Anyone on this list you'd like to see Houston get? Anyone stand out from the crowd? Anyone better than Houston's current group?