It’s Hot Stove season, and MLB.com is keeping track of all the latest free agent and trade rumors right here.
Yankees get Paxton. What’s next?
Nov. 19: For The Yankees, the arms race may have just begun. New York acquired southpaw James Paxton in a blockbuster involving Justus Sheffield — their No. 1 prospect — and two other Minor Leaguers on Monday evening. Don’t expect general manager Brian Cashman to stop there in his search for starting pitching.
Even after re-signing lefty CC Sabathia, Cashman has said all offseason that his goal is to address the rotation by bringing in not one, but two big-name pitchers. So who could be next?
MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi checks in to note that The Yankees — who also have been linked to the biggest names on the open market in Bryce Harper and, especially, Manny Machado — still are very much eyeing free agent Patrick Corbin, as well as fellow lefty J.A. Happ, whom they acquired in a midseason trade in 2018.
ESPN’s Buster Olney speculates the same, suggesting that The Yankees now may look to spend money in free agency (rather than swap any more young talent) to shore up the rotation.
In other words, the Paxton trade could be just the start of what looks like a big offseason for Cashman and The Yankees.
Will the Mariners continue to sell?
Nov. 19: Reports during the General Managers Meetings suggested the Mariners could be on the verge of trading away their most-prized big leaguers in an effort to rebuild — or “re-imagine” — the roster with an eye toward the future. The trade of backstop Mike Zunino to the Rays was the first domino to fall, and Monday’s blockbuster swap of ace left-hander James Paxton to The Yankees signals that general manager Jerry Dipoto — one of the most trade-happy execs in baseball — is moving forward with a new direction.
Seattle, in fact, may be looking at a “full-blown sell-off” as ESPN’s Buster Olney notes.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports and MLB Network insider Jon Heyman are hearing the same: The Mariners’ timeline has shifted from trying to contend in 2019 to more like 2021 now.
The natural question is: What other trade chips does Seattle possess after shipping off Zunino and Paxton? It’s unlikely there would be much of a market for high-salary players like Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager and Dee Gordon, unless the Mariners are willing to pay down their contracts considerably. And Heyman reported during the GM Meetings that the club would prefer to hang onto star closer Edwin Diaz, breakout outfielder Mitch Haniger and lefty Marco Gonzales. Dipoto said Monday, after the Paxton swap, that more or less remains to be the case, according to MLB.com’s Greg Johns.
The Mariners’ biggest remaining piece, then, might be infielder Jean Segura, who has been productive (.304/.341/.415 with 10 homers and 20 steals last season) and is signed to a five-year, $70 million pact through 2022 with a $17 million option for ’23. The 28-year-old, however, does have a no-trade clause, which complicates matters some.
MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi reports that The Yankees asked about Segura before honing in on Paxton.
What does Suzuki’s signing mean for the catcher market?
Nov. 19: The Nationals have been consistently mentioned as a potential suitor for the top catchers on the free-agent and trade markets, but they may be out of the running for Yasmani Grandal, Wilson Ramos and J.T. Realmuto after agreeing to a two-year contract with Kurt Suzuki on Monday. MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand first reported the agreement, and sources told MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal that the contract will pay Suzuki $10 million — $4 million for 2019 and $6 million for 2020.
Suzuki formed a productive catching tandem with Tyler Flowers for the Braves over the past two seasons, with both players splitting playing time fairly evenly. In that span, Suzuki recorded a 118 OPS+, putting him one point behind Realmuto, Buster Posey and Willson Contreras for the MLB lead among catchers (min. 500 plate appearances).
Suzuki played 122 games with the Nationals over 2012-13, and MLB Network insider Jon Heyman notes that they loved the veteran’s makeup and receiving ability the first time they had him.
Washington has other needs to address and is unlikely to invest more of its resources in the catching position after inking Suzuki. That removes one potential competitor for Grandal, Ramos and Realmuto. There are still plenty of clubs in need of a catcher, but few contenders are expected to make improving at the position as much of a priority as The Nats did, which could cool the catcher market some.
While the Astros are known to be seeking a catcher, the club doesn’t have to rush to sign or trade for one, with so many options still available.
Flowers remains with Atlanta, but the club is believed to be looking for someone to start regularly so it can push the 32-year-old to a more conventional backup role.
Cards president: Team can afford to add a player like Harper
Nov. 19: The Cardinals have been mentioned as a potential landing spot for Bryce Harper, and team president Bill DeWitt III confirmed the club can afford to hand out $300 million or more in free agency, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“We could do it, sure,” DeWitt said. It’s about [considering] putting all our eggs in one basket. We have the payroll room.”
With projected arbitration costs included, Baseball-Reference.com estimates that the Cardinals’ payroll will be $136.9 million in 2019. Even if the Cards sign Harper for $35 million, their payroll wouldn’t be much higher than it was this past season, and they would still be well below the $206 million luxury-tax threshold. St. Louis also has just $75.4 million committed for 2020, $33.4 million for 2021 and $6.67 million for 2022.
The Cardinals have needs in the bullpen, at third base and in the outfield, so they may choose to spread out their resources. But it’s at least financially feasible for the club to sign Harper.
Could the Braves be a surprise suitor for Harper?
Nov. 19: The Athletic’s David O’Brien floated the Braves as a potential suitor for Bryce Harper in a tweet on Monday, but a source quickly quashed that possibility, telling O’Brien that Atlanta is not in on the superstar outfielder.
The reigning National League East champions could benefit from Harper’s power and patient approach, as Atlanta ranked just 19th in homers and finished in a tie for 19th in walk rate this past season. There’s also an obvious need for Harper from a positional standpoint, with right fielder Nick Markakis joining Harper on the free-agent market. And the Braves seemingly have the financial room to sign Harper, with Baseball-Reference.com estimating that they will have an $86 million payroll in 2019, factoring in projected arbitration costs.
But Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos has indicated that he doesn’t foresee the club handing out the type of contract — possibly 10 years for north of $300 million — it would take to sign Bryce Harper, and O’Brien’s source reiterated that point Monday.
Should The Yankees go all-in on this year’s free-agent class?
Nov. 19: By their lofty “World Series or bust” standards, The Yankees haven’t had much success recently. New York hasn’t hoisted the Commissioner’s Trophy since 2009, and even the Orioles have won the American League East more recently than the Yanks.
ESPN’s David Schoenfield thinks Yankees owners Hal and Hank Steinbrenner need to “summon the spirit of their father and go big, ignore the luxury tax, do whatever it takes,” and that means going all-in on this year’s free-agent class.
Schoenfield outlines a five-move plan for The Yankees to become the best team in baseball, starting with signing infielder Manny Machado and left-hander Patrick Corbin.
Schoenfield thinks the Yanks should trade for Mariners southpaw James Paxton to join Corbin in their revamped rotation, noting that Paxton is projected to earn roughly the same amount as Sonny Gray in arbitration. New York can trade Gray and add Paxton without impacting the payroll. That looks prescient now, as The Yankees acquired Paxton on Monday in a blockbuster deal that sent Justus Sheffield — The Yankees’ No. 1 prospect — and two other Minor Leaguers to Seattle.
Move No. 4 in Schoenfield’s plan is to sign Daniel Murphy to start at first base and fill in at second, replacing the Greg Bird/Neil Walker combination. The Yankees gave more than 700 combined plate appearances to Bird and Walker in 2018, and both posted sub-.675 OPS marks. Schoenfield argues the lefty-swinging Murphy would be a great fit at Yankee Stadium, and points out that the veteran’s contact-heavy approach would help to balance New York’s strikeout-prone lineup some.
To cap it all off, Schoenfield has signing Bryce Harper as Move No. 5 for New York. In this scenario, Brett Gardner would become the fourth outfielder, with Giancarlo Stanton remaining the club’s primary designated hitter.
For The Yankees to pull this off, the Steinbrenners would need to be willing to exceed the $206 million luxury-tax threshold by a significant margin, which isn’t out of the question. Before staying under the threshold in 2018, New York paid the tax in every year from 2003, when the system was put in place, to 2017.
Phillies have lots of money and lots of options
Nov. 19: One very popular opinion this offseason involves the Phillies going hard after the two biggest names on the free-agent market, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Could they get one or (gasp!) even both? Sure. But should they?
ESPN’s Buster Olney points out just how little money the Phillies have tied up in future obligations, allowing them the freedom to spend big this winter — and runs through five paths for them to do so.
The primary path, of course, is the aforementioned popular belief that Philadelphia will land one — or maybe even both — of Harper and Machado. Olney cautions, though, that while it might be exciting for the club to go after both, the franchise would have to consider the worst-case scenario if they do: “What happens if one or both signings don’t work out, because of injury or performance problems?”
“Bringing in Harper or Machado is just the start of things,” Chris Russo said on his “High Heat” show on MLB Network, before also noting that such a move would give the Phillies a chance to seize the headlines during a winter in which the Eagles are struggling to defend their Super Bowl title.
As for the alternative approaches Olney touches on, the Phillies instead could focus their attention on pitching, targeting one of Patrick Corbin, Nathan Eovaldi or Dallas Keuchel to improve a rotation that tired down the stretch in 2018. Or they could look into acquiring a back-of-the-bullpen arm (Craig Kimbrel? Andrew Miller? Zach Britton?) to add a veteran presence to a unit that was both promising and lacking in experience last season.
The Phillies have the means and resources to get a lot done to boost their club back into postseason contention. It’s a matter of the front office, led by general manager Matt Klentak, choosing a direction and executing the plan.
Donaldson’s chances at a worthwhile multi-year deal
Nov. 19: Once expected to rival Bryce Harper and Manny Machado as one of the premier players on the free-agent market, Josh Donaldson’s stock dropped precipitously after an injury riddled 2018 in which shoulder and calf ailments limited him to just 52 games.
That has led to speculation that the 2015 American League MVP might be better served to settle for a one-year contract in order to rebuild his reputation with a healthy, productive season — then take another shot at the open market. How likely is that for the soon-to-be 33-year-old?
“Actually, a one-year deal might be his preference,” MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal said on the “Hot Stove” show. “He’s a guy who’s very proud, very competitive, and he might say at age 33, ‘I’m going to go out and prove myself over the course of a full season, and then really crush it next year.’ “
Rosenthal finished the thought this way, however: “I do expect, because of who he is, what he’s done … he’s going to do OK, and get enough interest for a multi-year deal and enough quality in that deal to accept it.”
The question, then, might become just how many years — and for how much money — such a deal would need to be to entice Donaldson to sign. After all, he might have been able to justify pushing for a nine-figure contract had this past season been anything close to his performance level from 2013-17. Given his age and injury history, he might struggle to find suitors willing to offer in the neighborhood of $50 million.
Which team is the ideal fit for Corbin?
Nov. 19: In looking at the market for free-agent starter Patrick Corbin on Monday, SB Nation’s Grant Brisbee named The Yankees as the likeliest landing spot for the left-hander, but not the ideal one.
Brisbee writes that the perfect fit for a high-risk, high-reward free agent such as Corbin is a team that is either on the fringes of contention or expected to be in the middle of a division battle in 2019, a young team that can expect costs to remain low in the next few years, and a team that hasn’t had much success developing homegrown starters.
In Brisbee’s opinion, all of that criteria applies for the A’s, though it’s questionable whether the small-market club is willing to hand out the type of contract Corbin is expected to command.
Brisbee offers up the Brewers as another potential suitor and predicts Milwaukee will sign the left-hander to a five-year, $90 million contract, with a top-of-the-rotation starter being the club’s one glaring need.
Astros reportedly make an offer to Morton
Nov. 19: With Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton becoming free agents and Lance McCullers Jr. undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Astros have three rotation spots to fill for 2019. One of them could be taken by a familiar face, with USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reporting that Houston has made an offer to Morton. Per Nightengale, the offer is a one-year deal with an option for 2020.
Morton had two strong seasons with the Astros, going 29-10 with a 3.36 ERA, a 1.18 WHIP and a 10.4 K/9 rate after signing a two-year, $14 million contract in November 2016.
The right-hander reportedly pondered retirement during the 2018 season, but he indicated after the Astros’ ALCS loss to the Red Sox that he was interested in returning to Houston.
The Astros extended a one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer to Keuchel but not Morton this offseason. Keuchel rejected the offer, and many expect him to sign elsewhere.
Reggie Jackson weighs in on Machado-Yankees
Nov. 18: Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said earlier in the week that free agent superstar Manny Machado‘s comments during the postseason regarding his lack of hustle were “troubling.”
Hall of Fame slugger Reggie Jackson, whom The Yankees signed as a free agent back in 1976, spoke to Wallace Matthews of the New York Daily News, saying that Machado’s lack of hustle “ain’t gonna play here [in New York].”
“I was a pretty good player and I ran hard every single at-bat,” Jackson continued. “It takes talent to run fast, but it doesn’t take talent to run hard. Effort is the least we can ask of ourselves.”
Jackson did take some flak from manager Billy Martin for not running hard after a ball hit by the Red Sox’s Jim Rice in a 1977 game, turning a single into a double. An incensed Martin pulled Jackson from the game, leading to a heated argument between the two in the dugout, during which they almost came to blows.
“I only ask one thing of my players,” Martin said afterward. “Hustle. If said they hustle for me, they can play for me. I told them in Spring Training. I had a meeting. I told them you play only one way, to win. You play hard and give your 100 percent best. If you don’t hustle, I don’t accept it. If a player shows up the club, I show up the player.”
Machado is expected to command a contract somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 years and $300 million or more. The Yankees will open the 2019 season with their starting shortstop, Didi Gregorius, out of action as he recovers from offseason Tommy John surgery. That puts Machado in play for the vacancy, especially considering New York won 100 games in ’18 but still finished eight games behind the eventual World Series champion Red Sox, who also defeated the Yanks in the American League Division Series.
Mike Trout to … the Braves?
Nov. 18: The Angels have only reached the postseason once during the Mike Trout era, back in 2014 when they were swept in the American League Division Series by The Royals. As arguably the game’s greatest player gets closer to free agency — he’ll be a free agent following the 2020 season — the franchise must decide whether to stand pat entering ’19, sign him to an extension, or trade him.
The thought of trading Trout may be unthinkable to some, but MLB Network analyst Ron Darling was asked what Los Angeles should do, and responded with an eyebrow-raising proposal.
“I would say stand pat if they start strong, just because of the [Shohei] Ohtani factor, but if they get off to a slow start, I think you’ve gotta knock on the Braves’ door,” Darling said. “Give them a call and say, ‘Empty out your farm system, and we’ll give you Mike Trout.'”
The Braves have one of the best farm systems in baseball, and are already stocked with young talent at the big league level to complement All-Star Freddie Freeman as Atlanta enters the ’19 season as the defending National League East champion. Adding Trout to the mix, given the Braves’ trajectory, could vault them into World Series contention.
Harper in Houston, and for less than $300 million?
Nov. 18: Several Sports Illustrated writers made their predictions for where Bryce Harper would sign this offseason, and for how much. One of the out-of-the-box guesses came from Connor Grossman, who went with the Astros for $280 million over eight years, with an opt-out after 2020.
“I don’t think Harper and Scott Boras are going to find a deal that meets their liking in both length and dollars,” writes Grossman. “[Yankees general manager] Brian Cashman won’t be swooping in with a 10-year, $400 million miracle. So they’ll have to ‘settle,’ which in this case means breaking the average annual value record, joining an uber-talented team and leaving open the possibility of hitting free agency again at 28.”
As for the Astros not being widely considered among the favorites to land Harper (like the Phillies and Yankees), Grossman cites the Angels’ surprise signing of Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $254 million deal in 2011, as well as the Mariners inking Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million contract in ’13, as examples of what can happen when you least expect it. A lineup featuring George Springer, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and Harper would be all the more formidable for a club a year removed from winning the World Series.
MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported earlier this month that Houston had a deal in place to acquire Harper at last season’s non-waiver Trade Deadline, but it was nixed by Nationals ownership.
Mets not looking to rebuild; deGrom unlikely to be traded anytime soon
Nov. 18: The Mets are unlikely to consider trading Noah Syndergaard or any of their other starting pitchers unless it is part of a plan to improve the 2019 Major League roster, reports MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in an article for The Athletic (subscription required). Sources tell Rosenthal that the Mets are receiving significant interest in their starters, but the club is not looking to rebuild.
Rosenthal reported Friday that the Padres remain interested in Syndergaard after pursuing a deal for the righty before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline this past season, but San Diego’s best assets lie in its stellar farm system. It’s unclear if that hurts the Padres’ chances of acquiring Syndergaard, given the Mets’ desire to contend in 2019. If it did trade one of its starters for high-end prospects, New York would likely look to flip some of them for another asset that can help the 2019 team.
Meanwhile, Rosenthal is told that a trade of National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom is not happening anytime soon, as the Mets will first try to work out an extension with the right-hander, who is under control for two more seasons. Mets COO Jeff Wilpon indicated Friday that discussions with deGrom’s new agent could begin next month. New York could look to move deGrom if contract talks are unproductive, but Rosenthal notes the extension process could take months to resolve.
The Mets could also be active on the free-agent market, as new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen promised when he first took the job. Per Rosenthal, a representative for a free-agent starter described the Mets as “very engaged in the marketplace,” though another warned not to put too much stock in early free-agent rumblings.
According to SNY’s Matthew Cerrone, one underrated free agent that may fit very well into the Mets’ plans is second baseman DJ LeMahieu. Van Wagenen has stated his desire to upgrade the middle infield, and LeMahieu has won Gold Glove Awards each of the last two seasons. He’s also a very good contact hitter and likes to go to the opposite field, which Cerrone notes would be a good quality at Citi Field.
Are the D-backs making the right move by exploring markets for Greinke and Goldy?
Nov. 18: The D-backs are reportedly shopping Zack Greinke, and possibly first baseman Paul Goldschmidt as well. If that pair is available, it injects a former Cy Young Award winner and a perennial MVP candidate into the trade market. But given where Arizona is, is it wise to begin a rebuild? The Arizona Republic’s Kent Somers thinks so.
“The 2019 team might not be any better even if Goldschmidt and Greinke return,” Somers writes. “Pitcher Patrick Corbin and outfielder A.J. Pollock are likely to leave via free agency, and the team still needs another power hitter to pair with Goldschmidt and David Peralta. … If the Diamondbacks are as serious about building a winner as they say, this is the time to make difficult decisions, such as parting with Goldschmidt, one of the most productive and popular players in team history. … As distasteful as trading him might be, it’s the only realistic way for a team with the Diamondbacks’ budget to contend.”
Greinke is 35 and has more than $100 million remaining on his contract, which could complicate efforts to trade him. Trading Goldschmidt, however, could bring in quite the haul in terms of prospects for Arizona. The 31-year-old first baseman is a six-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove Award winner, and has a team-friendly contract that expires after the 2019 season.
Which teams could give the Indians the best return in a starter trade?
Nov. 18: Cleveland is reportedly open to dealing one of its top starting pitchers for salary relief, but given that the Indians remain in position to be a top American League contender, they’ll need to find a team that can give them at least some impact help to the Major League roster, with outfield being Cleveland’s most pressing need.
With that in mind, Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com examined the teams that might give the Indians the most fitting return for Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco or Trevor Bauer. He named The Yankees, Astros, Brewers, Padres and A’s as possible trade partners.
The Yankees are still looking to add starting pitching, and have a Major League-ready arm in No. 1 prospect Justus Sheffield, who was in Cleveland’s system before he was sent to New York in the Andrew Miller trade. Outfielder Clint Frazier was also a part of that trade and could move back to the Indians. In a deal with Houston, pitchers Josh James and Forrest Whitley would make sense for Cleveland, as would outfielders Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez — each of the Astros’ top four prospects is at or nearing the Major Leagues.
The Brewers have a clear need in the rotation, and Hoynes suggests 2017 breakout outfielder Domingo Santana or No. 2 prospect Corey Ray as possible return for the Indians. Or perhaps the Indians might make another blockbuster deal with the Padres and set their sights on 26-year-old outfielder Hunter Renfroe, who has hit 26 homers in consecutive seasons. The low-payroll A’s would likely be a long shot, but with salary relief, they might be enticed to listen to offers involving Jesus Luzardo, their top prospect, who pitched his way up to Triple-A in 2018.
Will the Cubs join the fray for Harper?
Nov. 18: Although The Athletic reported earlier in November that the Cubs have “financial concerns that may limit their ability and motivation to make a huge splash this winter,” the club may nonetheless be involved in the Bryce Harper sweepstakes.
Dan Bernstein of 670 The Score reported Friday that the Cubs are among the teams that are “in” on Harper with negotiations starting to pick up steam.
Of course, the report should be taken with a grain of salt, as Matt Snyder of CBS Sports noted Saturday. The Cubs may simply be floating this as a misdirection to make other teams think they are involved in the Harper bidding, and to avoid backlash from the fan base. Furthermore, Bernstein isn’t a known news-breaker, and his report hasn’t been confirmed by any local or national reporters of note.
Baseball-reference estimates the Cubs will have a $208.6 million payroll in 2019, putting them over the Competitive Balance Tax threshold of $206 million and subjecting them to a 20 percent tax on all overages. Teams that exceed the threshold by $20 million to $40 million are also required to pay a 12 percent surtax. The Cubs will likely fall into that range if they sign Harper for north of $30 million.
Still, a major free-agent move wouldn’t be out of character for the Theo Epstein-led front office, which has signed Jon Lester, Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, Yu Darvish and Brandon Morrow to expensive contracts over the past four offseasons.
Eovaldi receiving plenty of interest
Nov. 18: Nathan Eovaldi hasn’t often performed like an elite starter during his career, but his dominant postseason has teams lining up to sign him. According to a report from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, as many as nine teams could be in on the free-agent righty.
Cafardo names the Brewers, Phillies, Braves, Angels, White Sox, Blue Jays, Giants, Padres and Red Sox as clubs that are interested in Eovaldi, and notes that more could join in on the bidding.
While teams don’t hand out big-money contracts based solely on one strong postseason, it was how Eovaldi achieved his stellar results — regularly flashing 100 mph heat, mixing his pitches and locating like he rarely has in the past — that likely made so many clubs take notice.
The 28-year-old also turned in a solid regular season, recording a 3.81 ERA with personal bests K/9 rate (8.2) and BB/9 rate (1.6) over 111 innings.
And while Eovaldi’s health history — he’s undergone two Tommy John surgeries — could give some teams pause, his right arm was given a clean bill of health after a routine checkup this past week.
Add it all up and Eovaldi seems poised to cash in, with MLB Trade Rumors projecting he’ll receive $60 million over four years.
Is the trade market the way to go for teams seeking starting pitching?
Nov. 18: On MLB Network Radio’s “The Front Office” on Sunday, former MLB general managers Jim Duquette and Jim Bowden discussed the availability of starting pitchers this offseason. Specifically, they discussed the trade market, and whether it’s the better way to go for teams looking for starters.
“I think the best starting pitchers right now are on the trade market,” Bowden said. “Noah Syndergaard is available, the Mets are listening on him. They want Major League-ready guys. There’s Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco of Cleveland, James Paxton of Seattle. I think you have to follow up with [Giants president of baseball operations] Farhan Zaidi about [Madison] Bumgarner, which makes five. Zack Greinke could be available in Arizona, so that makes six. … It’s nothing against Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel, good pitchers. But as far as top-of-the-rotation guys, I don’t view any of [the starters on the free agent market] as top — they’re maybe No. 2 or No. 3 guys. These other guys are No. 1 guys.”
Duquette also mentioned some teams that might have a good shot to land some of the premier starters on the trade market, primarily because their farm systems are among the best in baseball. They include the Braves, Yankees, Padres and White Sox. He also said that he felt Syndergaard and Paxton will “likely be moved.”
If Kimbrel is too expensive, could Miller be a closing alternative for Boston?
Nov. 18: The Red Sox agreed to a one-year deal with World Series MVP Steve Pearce on Friday, and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has stated his desire to keep the club intact as much as possible for 2019. Does that mean Boston will re-sign free agent closer Craig Kimbrel?
It’s not likely, according to MLB.com’s Ian Browne, who notes that with players like American League MVP Mookie Betts and AL Championship Series MVP Jackie Bradley Jr. in line for raises via arbitration, there just may not be room to pay Kimbrel what he is expected to command on the open market. Boston must also reserve some money to re-sign Chris Sale, Xander Bogaerts and possibly Rick Porcello when the three become free agents next year.
In terms of average annual value (AAV), Kimbrel is projected to land a deal similar to those signed by Aroldis Chapman (five years, $86 million), Mark Melancon (four years, $62 million), Kenley Jansen (five years, $80 million) and Wade Davis (three years, $52 million) in recent offseasons.
Anthony Castrovince suggests left-hander Andrew Miller as a potential replacement for Kimbrel. Miller, who pitched for the Red Sox from 2011-14, struggled with injuries last season and did not perform at his typically strong level, but he owns a 2.21 ERA with a 0.94 WHIP and a 13.9 K/9 rate since the start of ’12. Kimbrel, meanwhile, has recorded a 1.94 ERA with a 0.89 WHIP and a 14.5 K/9 rate in that same span.
MLB Trade Rumors predicts Miller will sign for $27 million over three years, so he could fit Boston’s budget better than Kimbrel.
How will Lowrie need to perform to be ‘worth’ his next contract?
Nov. 18: Will Jed Lowrie, set to turn 35 years old, suffer a regression at the plate next season? The peripherals of the switch-hitting second baseman suggest that his production could be sustainable in future years, but Devan Fink argues in an analysis piece for Beyond the Box Score that Lowrie will be well worth the cost, even if he does take a step back as a hitter.
Fink cites some trends in Lowrie’s hitting that others have also pointed out recently, including Lowrie’s aversion to hitting ground balls and increasing trend in his hard-hit rate, to suggest that even if he does regress as a hitter, it shouldn’t be significant. He also points to Lowrie’s recent performance — the second baseman’s 8.5 WAR (per FanGraphs) over the last two seasons is second-most among available free agents, behind only Manny Machado (8.8) and ahead of Bryce Harper (8.3).
But the crux of Fink’s argument lies in Lowrie’s superior defense, which sets a relatively high floor for his value as compared to other free-agent second basemen. Lowrie was worth 7.1 runs above replacement as a defender last season, giving him nearly a WAR’s worth of defensive value. Based on MLB Trade Rumors’ projection of a three-year, $30 million deal for Lowrie and the estimated $8 million per WAR that FanGraphs uses for free agents, Fink writes that Lowrie’s defense alone goes a long way in making him “worth” his contract, even if he regresses as a hitter to near league average.
Despite needing pitching, the Rangers could shop Minor
Nov. 18: Although the Rangers are in desperate need of starting pitching, they could consider trading the only hurler who is a lock for the 2019 rotation, according to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in an article for The Athletic (subscription required).
Per Rosenthal, Texas may field offers for Mike Minor, who could be an attractive trade target for clubs that don’t want to spend top dollar for a free-agent starter or deal a package of prospects for an ace such as the Indians’ Corey Kluber. Minor, who will turn 31 in December, is under contract for $19 million over the next two years.
After missing all of 2015 and ’16 due to shoulder problems and pitching exclusively as a reliever in ’17, Minor made a return to starting last year. The left-hander recorded a 116 ERA+ with a 1.12 WHIP, though he also yielded the third-most barrels (49) in the Majors, per Statcast™, and allowed 25 homers in 157 innings. There’s a chance his trade value won’t get any better than it is right now.
As Rosenthal notes, the Rangers are seemingly headed for 90-plus losses with or without Minor, and at his age, the southpaw isn’t a foundation piece for the rebuilding club.
Could Brantley’s contact rate land him back with the Brewers?
Nov. 18: Last offseason, the Brewers reunited with Lorenzo Cain in free agency years after drafting and then trading him. Could they follow the same path this year with Michael Brantley?
MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince suggests Milwaukee as a suitor for Brantley, despite the club’s surplus of outfielders. As Castrovince notes, the threat of positional excess didn’t stop the Brewers from acquiring Mike Moustakas and Jonathan Schoop before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline in 2018.
It’s not like the Brewers have an offensive juggernaut. Milwaukee ranked 12th in the Majors in runs scored this past season and tied for 20th in contact rate. Brantley, meanwhile, finished first among all qualified hitters in contact rate, so his skill set fits well in the club’s lineup.
MLB.com’s Daniel Kramer further explored Brantley’s extreme contact tendencies, noting that Brantley has made contact on 91.2 percent of his swings in his career, the seventh-highest mark among qualified hitters in that span. Moreover, Brantley’s 4.8 percent whiff rate in 2018 on pitches in the zone was also, by far, the lowest among qualified hitters. That’s led to his 9.5 percent strikeout rate in 2018 being MLB’s second-lowest.
With that in mind, Kramer also suggests the Braves, Rockies, Cubs, Phillies and White Sox as destinations. Atlanta could hit Brantley leadoff to serve as an upgrade to Nick Markakis and set the table for Ronald Acuna Jr. Colorado has outfield holes, and Brantley’s contact ability could play well at spacious Coors Field. The Cubs could gain a true leadoff hitter, while the White Sox could gain a veteran upgrade to their weak outfield bats. Philadelphia has reportedly already made Brantley a contract offer.
What are the pros and cons of The Yankees signing Keuchel?
Nov. 18: Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has made it known he’s looking to add two more starting pitchers this offseason, and free agent Dallas Keuchel is among the many potential fits. In an article for sny.tv Saturday, Chris Carelli broke down the pros and cons of New York signing the left-hander.
Carelli touts Keuchel’s reliability in the regular season and success in the postseason, and he points out that the southpaw’s high ground-ball rate (lifetime 58.8 percent) makes him a good match for homer-happy Yankee Stadium.
But Carelli also notes that The Yankees need a top-of-the-rotation starter, and Keuchel may not be a “slam-dunk option for the anticipated cost,” which could potentially be as much as $100 million.
There’s also a chance Keuchel has already peaked, as he’ll turn 31 in January. The lefty showed some signs of regression in 2018, recording a 6.7 K/9 rate (8.0 from 2015-17) with his lowest ground-ball rate (53.7 percent) since 2012.
Carelli believes The Yankees should view Keuchel only as a fallback option if they can’t sign Patrick Corbin or trade for James Paxton.