A variety of three-, four- and even five-team trades are in play at the winter meetings, mostly involving the same clubs and same principal players, according to major-league sources.
The clubs: Arizona, Cleveland, Texas and Tampa Bay.
The principal players: Diamondbacks right fielder Justin Upton, Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, Rays right-hander James Shields and, most likely, Texas prospects.
One proposed deal, according to sources, would send Upton to Texas and Cabrera to Arizona, with Cleveland likely receiving a package of young talent, possibly including Texas infielder Mike Olt (Tampa Bay would not be part of that particular trade).
None of the deals was close as of early Wednesday morning, and none is likely to come to fruition, considering the difficulty of putting such trades together, sources said.
In fact, the number of players and prospects under discussion is so vast, some club officials involved in the talks are not even certain which combinations are alive and which are not.
The motivations, though, are fairly clear.
The Rangers want Upton. The Diamondbacks want a shortstop. The Indians want to turn expensive veterans such as Cabrera into younger pieces and the Rays want to trade a pitcher for a hitter.
However, all of the teams involved are talking to other clubs, and the Rangers also are pursuing the two biggest free agents, outfielder Josh Hamilton and right-hander Zack Greinke.
The signing of either player could force Texas to shift direction in trade talks — the return of Hamilton, for example, would reduce the possibility of the Rangers trading for Upton.
Traditional two-team deals also are possible, sources said — the Indians, for example, have discussed sending Cabrera to the Diamondbacks, and the Rays have discussed sending Shields to the Rangers.
Will any of the above happen? At this point, it cannot be said that any trade is likely. But there is no limit to the proposals that teams exchange at the meetings. And sometimes, a blockbuster is the result.