It’s Hot Stove season, and MLB.com is keeping track of all the latest free agent and trade rumors right here.
Cano on the go?
Nov. 26: Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has already traded away catcher Mike Zunino and ace James Paxton since the final out of the World Series, so one would figure Seattle will keep dealing to kickstart its rebuilding effort.
But moving another franchise cornerstone, Robinson Cano, may prove more difficult. In a story for The Athletic, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reports that the Mariners are “actively trying” to trade Cano this offseason, and have already engaged in discussions with the Yankees and Mets about a deal. The problem lies in Cano’s contract; he’s still owed $120 million over the next five seasons and owns a full no-trade clause. Cano also is not far removed from the 80-game suspension he served last season for violating MLB’s joint drug policy.
Cano would probably make the most sense in pinstripes, again, if he does wind up going anywhere. A return to the Bronx might be one locale that convinces the veteran to waive that no-trade clause, and of course the Yankees have more financial resources than most other teams. Rosenthal reported that the Mariners and Yankees touched upon a trade involving Cano and outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury — who is still owed $47.2 million in the next two seasons and also possesses a no-trade clause — earlier this offseason, but those talks stalled after the Yankees wanted the Mariners to throw in additional cash. The Yankees worked hard to get under the competitive balance tax, and so it would seem unlikely that they would take on the lion’s share of Cano’s remaining money when he would probably need significant at-bats as a designated hitter — a position Giancarlo Stanton already frequents.
Rosenthal adds that the Mets are an even more unlikely suitor, considering that their front office is penciling in Jeff McNeil at second base and top prospect Peter Alonso at first in the years to come. The only way Cano goes to Queens, in Rosenthal’s eyes, is if Seattle takes on the money owed to Cano and throws in a top prospect — and Seattle already owns one of the worst farm systems in baseball.
Put simply, the Mariners are motivated to trade Cano. But while saying goodbye to a star of his caliber would be hard, it may be even tougher to find a new home for the star slugger.
Giants reportedly open to Bumgarner trade talks
Nov. 26: One of Farhan Zaidi’s pressing tasks as the Giants’ new president of baseball operations was to figure out his plan for ace Madison Bumgarner, and a report by MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi indicates that the Giants are willing to engage with other teams in trade talks involving the ace and postseason hero, with sources telling Morosi that the Phillies and Brewers are among the teams that have had “at least preliminary dialogue” regarding Bumgarner.
The Giants are reportedly asking for at least one high-end pitching prospect in a trade involving Bumgarner, and the Phillies could potentially offer 24-year-old righty Zach Eflin or a top-three pitching prospect in Sixto Sanchez (No. 1) or Adonis Medina (No. 3). Eflin was reportedly involved in trade talks for Paul Goldschmidt, and Medina was in a potential package for Manny Machado. In a trade with Milwaukee, the Giants could pursue Brandon Woodruff or Corbin Burnes, who played college ball at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, Calif., in the greater Bay Area.
The Braves have also reportedly checked in about Bumgarner, but there aren’t any active trade talks or optimism about a deal, though Atlanta certainly appears to have the top pitching prospects to move the needle with an offer. A trade to Atlanta would bring Bumgarner closer to his home state of North Carolina.
If Zaidi doesn’t find a suitor for Bumgarner in the coming weeks, the 29-year-old ace is sure to draw plenty of interest at the Trade Deadline.
How Donaldson’s reported deal with Braves impacts other free-agent 3Bs
Nov. 26: The Braves appear to be on the verge of the first major free-agent signing this offseason, as MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reports Atlanta has reached an agreement with third baseman Josh Donaldson on a one-year, $23 million deal, pending a physical. Donaldson will earn the same salary he collected via arbitration in 2018, when he slashed .280/.400/.520 with the Indians, who acquired him from the Blue Jays while he was out with a strain in his left calf.
Although it’s only for one year, Donaldson’s massive salary for next season certainly stands out as he tries to re-establish his reputation as a dominant slugger, and it gives Atlanta a potentially imposing top of the lineup with Donaldson hitting alongside Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman.
This also sets a bar for the other free-agent third basemen, chief among them Mike Moustakas, albeit with some caveats involved considering that Donaldson’s deal will last just one year. Moustakas, who has paired at least 20 homers with 80 RBIs in each of his last three full seasons, can now bring Donaldson’s contract as leverage to the negotiating table. He’s also free of the qualifying-offer constraints that impacted his free agency last winter, when he didn’t sign with the Royals until mid-March.
Cardinals considering Moustakas; what other options exist?
Nov. 26: With Josh Donaldson officially off the market after signing with the Braves, the Cardinals will have to turn elsewhere if they still want to improve at third base and add a power bat to the middle of their lineup. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reports that Mike Moustakas is on the Cardinals’ radar, but the Brewers and other teams also have possible interest.
Moustakas was one of the high-profile victims of a tepid free-agent market last season and ultimately returned to the Royals on a one-year deal before his trade to Milwaukee, where he hit .256/.326/.441 in 54 games. But this offseason, Moustakas was ineligible for a qualifying offer, having already received (and declined) one last year, so the Cardinals or other suitors wouldn’t be subject to a Draft pick penalty for signing the third baseman.
The 30-year-old Moustakas would add a left-handed bat to a righty-heavy St. Louis lineup and hit 28 homers in 2018, one year after hitting a career-high 38 in 2017, when he was named to his second All-Star team. Moustakas and the Brewers had a $15 million mutual option for 2019, but he declined his half to seek his long-term contract in a market in which he is now the top third baseman following Donaldson’s signing.
MLB.com’s Joe Trezza also lists Moustakas as a possibility among Donaldson alternatives but also considers some less apparent scenarios. Though he briefly flirts with the idea of moving Paul DeJong to third and going after Manny Machado or one of the available free-agent shortstops, he considers it unlikely and instead examines a possible move for Paul Goldschmidt, who could be signed to an extension (as the Cardinals like to do) while Matt Carpenter moves to third base.
Should the Astros consider this surprise catching target?
Nov. 26: Brian McCann is a member of the Atlanta Braves, Kurt Suzuki is headed to our nation’s capital, Mike Zunino is on the move to Tampa Bay and Jeff Mathis has a newly minted multiyear deal. The catcher market is moving quickly, and if the Astros hope to upgrade behind the plate without paying a premium for Yasmani Grandal or assembling a loaded trade package for J.T. Realmuto, the MLB Tonight analysts think that Houston should engage in trade talks with the Royals for Salvador Perez and Whit Merrifield.
“Sal Perez is the perfect fit, for me, for that ballpark and for that club,” former general manager Dan O’Dowd said.
O’Dowd and analyst Bill Ripken value Perez for not only his longevity and well-documented ability to work with pitchers, but also his power, feeling that a move to Minute Maid Park could unlock 30-homer power for the 28-year-old backstop, who has hit 27 homers in each of the last two seasons — while playing his home games at Kauffman Stadium instead of at Minute Maid Park, with the short Crawford Boxes in left field.
The Royals are mired in a deep rebuild, and with only three years remaining on Perez’s contract, he might not still be a Royal when the team is ready to emerge as a contender, which might persuade Kansas City to consider trade possibilities. For what it’s worth, O’Dowd doesn’t think that Realmuto will eventually be moved, as he expects the Marlins’ asking price to be too high for anyone to consider a trade.
Could tweak on mound add intrigue to this pitcher’s free agency?
Nov. 26: Lance Lynn doesn’t have the track record or the overwhelming stuff to be considered among the upper echelon of starting pitchers available in free agency, but as MLB.com’s Mike Petriello explores, a recent change to his game has produced some results that might give teams seeking innings-eating arms a reason to take a longer look at the 31-year-old right-hander.
According to a July article by the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Lynn, who had the highest walk rate among pitchers with at least 100 innings at the time of his trade to the Yankees, moved closer to the third-base side of the pitching rubber on a July road trip to Toronto and made other minor tweaks to his mechanics, which upped the percentage of his fastballs against right-handers that were in the strike zone or on the edge from 68 percent to 82 percent. He made one start with the Twins at that release point before his trade to New York.
After he moved to the Bronx, he struck out 38 right-handed hitters and only issued one walk, with a decreased slugging percentage by opposing righties, a lower hard-hit rate and a higher ground-ball rate. His strikeout rate soared to above league average, and his walk rate also lowered to better than league average. As Petriello further explores, the numbers show a different Lynn that took the mound in New York when taking a closer look than simply his 4.14 ERA with the Yankees.
Petriello cautions that this doesn’t mean that Lynn will pitch like this over a full season, and also notes that there wasn’t a marked improvement against lefties. But he posits that for teams looking for value arms, like the A’s and Rays, Lynn might serve as a “solid, low-upside back-end starter.”
Where do the Braves go from here?
Nov. 26: The Braves made the biggest free-agent splash of the offseason so far by signing Josh Donaldson, but as MLB Network insider Joel Sherman notes, the Braves weren’t necessarily targeting a third baseman at the start of the offseason. With that said, the Donaldson signing filled their desire for a middle-of-the-order bat and freed up Johan Camargo to move to a super-utility role, bolstering the bench — another area of need for Atlanta.
Camargo already plays second base, third base and shortstop, and Sherman reports that the Braves now hope to work him out at first base and potentially the corner outfield during Spring Training to best situate the 24-year-old to keep getting regular at-bats and become Atlanta’s version of Marwin Gonzalez. But with the Braves now reportedly focused on bolstering the corner outfield and the pitching staff, does that make Camargo a potentially appealing trade chip?
Sherman proposes a trade with the Yankees involving Camargo moving to the Bronx to play shortstop while Didi Gregorius is sidelined with injury, and then staying on in a super-utility role, which proves particularly valuable come the postseason, where the Yankees look to be involved. The Braves would receive Clint Frazier, the Yankees’ former No. 2 prospect, who has a high ceiling but has struggled with injury. Frazier could address Atlanta’s need in the corner outfield with the departure of Nick Markakis to free agency.
Ultimately, Sherman predicts that the Braves will hold on to Camargo and spend some of their excess funds on acquiring a corner outfielder in free agency.
Could Astros make a play for Syndergaard?
Nov. 26: With Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton reaching free agency and Lance McCullers Jr. out for 2019 due to Tommy John surgery, the Astros are on the hunt for a starting pitcher. Meanwhile, there’s been plenty of trade buzz surrounding Mets flamethrower Noah Syndergaard, so could there be a match here?
MLB Network Radio analysts Steve Phillips and Eduardo Perez debated this, with the theoretical deal centered on Syndergaard to Houston for Forrest Whitley, MLB Pipeline’s top overall pitching prospect who reportedly was off limits in James Paxton talks.
The Astros would have to weigh the fact that Syndergaard gives a win-now club an immediate boost by teaming with fellow top-of-the-rotation arms Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole … versus the fact that Whitley is a nearly big-league ready 21-year-old righty who’s already pitched at Double-A and dominated in the Arizona Fall League this year.
Still just 26, Syndergaard comes with three more years of club control, and while he’s battled injury issues in his first four MLB seasons, he also could be another in a long line of pitchers the Astros help take the next step to stardom. This isn’t necessarily even an actual trade rumor, but it’s fun to debate nonetheless.
A Goldy-Greinke package?
Nov. 26: The D-backs, like the Mariners, likely will begin rebuilding in 2019, and trade talks involving star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt have begun to pick up steam. MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal ponders in a story for The Athletic whether Arizona would be willing to pair Zack Greinke — who is owed $95.5 million over the next three seasons — with Goldschmidt in a potential mega-deal (subscription required) to completely clear its books moving forward.
Multiple sources told Rosenthal that such a deal is unlikely, as the D-backs want to maximize the potential prospect return they can get for Goldschmidt. But Rosenthal reports that the Cardinals have internally discussed pitching a deal to Arizona in which they would take both stars and opt to take on Greinke’s contract instead of parting with some of their top prospects. There would be roadblocks, however, beginning with the fact that St. Louis is one of 15 teams on Greinke’s no-trade list, per Rosenthal. Arizona also could face backlash from its fans if it dumped its two biggest stars in one fell swoop.
A Greinke-Goldschmidt deal would shake up the sport and instantly boost the Cardinals’ chances in the National League, but for now such a deal is far from reality. And St. Louis isn’t the only team checking in with Arizona — The Athletic’s Jayson Stark reported Monday that the Phillies have also called about a potential Goldschmidt deal. Philadelphia was forming a package around right-handed starter Zach Eflin, says Stark, but talks stalled when the Phillies tried to include first baseman Carlos Santana, who’s owed more than $40 million over the next two years.
Realmuto, Kluber among stars who could be swapped
Nov. 26: It’s still very early on, but free-agent signings have been a slow go so far this offseason. The trade market, however, has been keeping the Hot Stove season pretty warm at least, thanks to the Yankees’ acquisition of lefty James Paxton for prospects and the Rays getting catcher Mike Zunino from the Mariners in a return involving Mallex Smith. What other big-name players on the trade block could fire up some headlines?
MLB.com’s Richard Justice runs through a list of seven stars who fit just that bill, and perhaps the two biggest are Marlins backstop J.T. Realmuto and Indians ace Corey Kluber.
On the former, Justice writes: “This one appears to be a matter of when, not if, as the Marlins listen to offers for a 27-year-old catcher who might be the best in the game. However, the Marlins need to be careful about overplaying their hand. Realmuto is two years from free agency and reaching the point where the return will start to go down. The Marlins surely have gotten an accurate assessment of his value by now.” In fact, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro runs through what Miami might be looking for in a return for Realmuto.
As for Kluber? Justice sounds a little less optimistic that Cleveland actually would sell its two-time Cy Young Award winner — unless some suitor comes in with an overwhelming offer. That’s certainly possible, given Kluber’s outstanding performance (2.85 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 10.1 K/9 since 2014) and team-friendly contract ($13 million in 2019, $13.5 million or a $1 million buyout in ’20 and $14 million or a $1 million buyout in ’21). But it also means any team making a pitch for Kluber is going to have to pay handsomely in prospects and/or young Major League talent. More >
Another team out on Grandal?
Nov. 26: It’s still very early in the Hot Stove season, so not many big-name free agents have found new homes yet. One position that has had quite a bit of movement, though, is catcher.
Mike Zunino was traded from the Mariners to the Rays. Kurt Suzuki inked with the Nationals. Jeff Mathis signed with the Rangers. And on Monday, Brian McCann returned to the Braves on a one-year deal, likely taking away another potential destination from Yasmani Grandal.
With each new trade and signing in this game of catcher musical chairs, it becomes more clear that many teams that entered the offseason with a need behind the plate so far have preferred to address that area on the cheap — rather than pay up for Grandal, who arguably is the top option on the open market, along with Wilson Ramos.
The difference between those two is that Grandal is tied to Draft-pick compensation for turning down the one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer from the Dodgers; Ramos is not. That likely will impact Grandal’s market — some clubs may not want to lose a Draft pick and the corresponding signing bonus pool slot — as well as the amount of money he gets. Not to mention, other proven veterans, like Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado, remain readily available, too.
What if Phillies spend big, but not on Harper or Machado?
Nov. 26: The Phillies have become almost the default favorite to land one or both of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado — by far the two biggest names on the free-agent market — this winter. But what if the franchise, which has plenty of money to spend, goes another route?
MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi considers just that possibility in his latest column, reporting the following: “The Phillies aren’t waiting on decisions from Harper and Machado as the team ambitiously pursues upgrades to its roster, people in the industry told MLB.com Monday. In fact, the sources said it’s possible the Phillies will sign multiple free agents before Harper or Machado agree to terms.”
Between the number of appealing free agents this offseason and the Phillies’ wide-ranging roster needs, it’s not out of the question at all that the club could spread the wealth around, rather than hone in on one massive purchase.
The (ahem) money quote from Phillies general manager Matt Klentak on all of this? “It’s always been a matter of when — and not if — the Phillies were going to spend again.” It also looks like it’s a matter of “who” in this case.
Will non-tender deadline affect Brewers’ offseason plans?
Nov. 26: “This is likely going to be a different-looking offseason for us,” Brewers general manager David Stearns said before Thanksgiving. “That doesn’t mean it’s going to be any less impactful or that we’re not going to be involved in as many conversations, but it’s going to be a different-looking offseason for us. And that’s OK.”
In his Inbox on Tuesday, Brewers beat reporter Adam McCalvy interpreted that to mean that the Brewers wouldn’t go out of their way to be aggressive for the big names going into the Winter Meetings, but the door would be open to a big move if it presented itself.
So, with the core that took the Brewers to the National League Championship Series locked up for next season (and beyond), what could the next few weeks look like in Milwaukee? As McCalvy explores, some of it will have to do with some decisions that the Brewers will need to make leading up to Friday’s non-tender deadline.
For example, if the Brewers choose to non-tender Jonathan Schoop, who is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to make $10.1 million in arbitration but hit .202/.246/.331 following his midseason trade to Milwaukee in 2018, Milwaukee could be in the market for a second or third baseman, and McCalvy has previously floated the idea of Mike Moustakas and the deep second-base market as options. In his Inbox, he expects a “less than 50 percent” chance of Moustakas returning to Milwaukee, and also identifies Brewers No. 7 prospect Mauricio Dubon as an option at second in the middle of the season.
Another question is at catcher, with Manny Pina and Erik Kratz both arbitration-eligible and several options in free agency already having signed with other teams. McCalvy notes that the Brewers won’t score a discount for J.T. Realmuto despite the presence of Christian Yelich on the team. He identifies a pair of former Brewers (Martin Maldonado, Jonathan Lucroy) on the market and also mentions Christian Bethancourt, now a Minor League free agent.
This free-agent reliever could be an alternative to Kimbrel
Nov. 26: By just about any measure and metric, Craig Kimbrel looks like the best reliever on the open market, at least when it comes to his career to date. But that’s only going to drive up his asking price, and some teams seeking late-inning arms might prefer to spend less.
There are a number of available back-of-the-bullpen relievers with setup and/or or closing experience, which could impact Kimbrel’s market this winter. In fact, there’s one such pitcher who compares favorably based on a selection of 2018 statistics, as MLB Network’s “Hot Stove” show points out …
Kimbrel: 62 1/3 IP, 2.74 ERA, .565 OPS, 13.9 K/9
Player B: 77 1/3 IP, 2.43 ERA, .509 OPS, 13.0 K/9
Who is this mystery reliever? Click below to find out.
Who does Kikuchi compare to?
Nov. 26: With a number of big names on the open market, it’s easy to forget that some of the more worthwhile signings this winter will wind up being the more underappreciated, lesser-known available options.
MLB Network’s “Hot Stove” show identified a few overlooked players among this crop of free agents who could have an impact in 2019, and one name in particular stands out. Yusei Kikuchi of Nippon Professional Baseball’s Seibu Lions is slated to be posted on Dec. 3, and the lefty could be a diamond in the rough.
In a quick comparison, some of Kikuchi’s stats over the last three seasons look similar to those of right-hander Miles Mikolas, who also pitched in Japan before returning to The Show and making the All-Star team in 2018 with the Cardinals. From 2016-18 with the Lions, Kikuchi posted a 42-17 record, a 1.51 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP through 494 1/3 innings.
Kikuchi, 27, is one of Japan’s best pitchers and would be among the top available arms, joining the likes of Dallas Keuchel, Patrick Corbin and J.A. Happ. Once he’s posted, all 30 clubs will have 30 days to negotiate with Kikuchi. The club that signs him will need to pay a release fee, which is determined by the value of his contract — 20 percent of the first $25 million, 17.5 percent of the next $25 million and 15 percent of the total guaranteed value exceeding $50 million.
A number of teams have already been linked to Kikuchi, who recently signed with agent Scott Boras. MLB Trade Rumors projects him to ink a six-year, $42 million deal with the Padres. Other clubs said to be interested include the Phillies, Dodgers and Red Sox.
Could Nats find their next starter via trade?
Nov. 26: With new catcher Kurt Suzuki in tow, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo may be feeling less pressure to empty his prospect chest in a trade for Marlins backstop J.T. Realmuto. And if that’s the case, Rizzo could be freed up to deal for a starting pitcher to pair with aces Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, writes Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post.
Janes notes that Rizzo hasn’t traded for a starter with significant big league experience since he sent Robbie Ray and two other players to The Tigers for Doug Fister in 2013. While the Nationals have been linked to top free-agent starters like Patrick Corbin, Nathan Eovaldi and Dallas Keuchel, all three pitchers are about to enter the second halves of their careers. Rizzo and the rest of Washington’s front office have done their due diligence on tracking the trade market, says Janes, and so they could be involved in any number of deals involving stars like Noah Syndergaard, Corey Kluber or Madison Bumgarner. The Nationals could also try to acquire Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman or the Yankees’ Sonny Gray while their stocks are down, though Janes speculates that Rizzo is aiming a bit higher in any potential trade.
Washington could have the prospects to pull off a big trade, though Janes reports that top youngsters Victor Robles and Juan Soto are essentially untouchable, and Rizzo is unlikely to trade infielders Carter Kieboom (the Nationals’ No. 2 prospect) and Luis Garcia (No. 3) at the same time. Still, the Nationals have identified a hole in their rotation that Gio Gonzalez once occupied, and Rizzo might find a more attractive option in the trade market as opposed to free agency.
Orioles keeping an eye on Kinsler
Nov. 26: The Orioles are “monitoring the market” for free-agent second baseman Ian Kinsler, sources told MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi on Monday. That said, Baltimore is prioritizing more pressing needs, like the club’s managerial search.
The 36-year-old Kinsler won a Gold Glove at second base this season and helped the Red Sox to a World Series win, although his offensive production dropped off to a career low. Kinsler hit .240/.301/.380 with 14 homers and 16 stolen bases in his 128 games with the Angels and Boston. Kinsler’s OPS+ was just 87 — meaning he was 13 percent worse than league average offensively — the lowest mark in his 13 big league seasons. But he could provide a stabilizing veteran presence on a rebuilding Orioles team.
It’s a little unclear where Kinsler would fit on the O’s, who already have Jonathan Villar at second base after acquiring him from the Brewers on July 31. If they did sign Kinsler (or any other second baseman), one possibility might be playing Villar at shortstop and Tim Beckham at third base.
Duquette: Yankees should make room for Harper
Nov. 25: Bryce Harper remains available to the highest bidder, and the Yankees would appear to be in position to spend for him now that they’re under the competitive balance tax. But with no clear spot for Harper in the Yankees’ current outfield alignment, the Bryce-Bronx connection doesn’t appear to be a perfect fit.
Except that doesn’t really matter, says MLB.com’s Jim Duquette. In an interview with MLB Network Radio, Duquette stated the Yankees should forget positions when a player like Harper is available.
“I think Harper’s a great fit in New York,” said Duquette. “I would not let any of the other outfielders they have get in the way of acquiring him.”
Duquette added that he would have a hard time moving Harper to first base — at least initially — preferring instead to move regular outfielder Brett Gardner to the bench. Duquette also brought up the possibility of dealing outfielder Aaron Hicks into a market starved for quality center fielders (outside of free agent A.J. Pollock) to make room for Harper.
“I’m not letting any of those guys get in the way of signing Bryce Harper,” said Duquette. “If my owner said, ‘Go ahead and do it,’ then Harper is definitely the better fit.”
Harper has been linked to the Bronx for years leading up to his much-anticipated free agency, and while the Yankees haven’t been as overt in their pursuit of Harper as many expected, there’s still plenty of time for the pinstripes to make a power play. Though New York already boasts a strong outfield core of Gardner, Hicks and Aaron Judge — along with Giancarlo Stanton on infrequent occasions — a potential top of the lineup with Judge, Stanton and Harper might prove too much to resist moving those pieces around.
Olney: D-backs “intent” on moving Goldy this offseason
Nov. 25: The mere potential of Paul Goldschmidt’s departure from the D-backs has been a low-key storyline this offseason, but there are indications that potential could indeed become reality.
In his Sunday morning column for ESPN (subscription required), Buster Olney reports that some rival teams think Arizona is “intent on moving” Goldschmidt this offseason via trade before he enters the final year of the long-term deal he signed back in 2013. The D-backs are expected by many to enter a rebuilding phase beginning next season, and the coming weeks offer the franchise a chance to net some value for its perennial All-Star before he potentially hits the free-agent market a year from now.
Goldschmidt, who hit 33 home runs and compiled a .900-plus OPS for the fifth time in the last six seasons in 2018, certainly would represent one of the biggest trade chips this offseason. But Olney notes that his return could be less than what the Orioles got for Manny Machado last summer — five Minor League prospects — because many of the game’s top spenders don’t currently have a hole at first base. The fact that Goldschmidt could still walk next offseason also diminishes his trade value somewhat.
Still, if D-backs general manager Mike Hazen is actively shopping Goldschmidt, his phone will be ringing early and often. Olney says the Yankees threw out top pitching prospect Justus Sheffield as a potential trade piece before they used him to acquire James Paxton, and also reports that the Astros could be floating right-hander J.B. Bukauskas (Houston’s No. 8 prospect, per MLB Pipeline) in discussions. Bukauskas was notably involved in the Astros’ Trade Deadline offer for Bryce Harper last summer before Nationals ownership reportedly vetoed the deal. Houston’s offense took a small step back in 2018, thanks in large part to injuries, but installing Goldschmidt at first base would figure to bolster the lineup and allow Yuli Gurriel to play a Marwin Gonzalez-type role by suiting up at multiple positions.
Cards, Mets and Phils have active interest in Miller
Nov. 25: MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi reports that the Cardinals, Mets and Phillies are among several teams showing interest in free-agent reliever Andrew Miller. Morosi adds that Miller isn’t close to signing anywhere at this point, and is waiting for clubs to sort through roster priorities.
Miller, 33, struggled to a 4.24 ERA in 37 appearances for the Indians last season, during which he was on the disabled list three times. From 2013-17, he was among the game’s elite relievers, posting a 1.82 ERA with a 41 percent strikeout rate.
The question this offseason is: will Miller be healthy in ’19? Earlier this month, Dr. David Altchek gave the left-hander a clean bill of health. One of Miller’s representatives, Mark Rodgers, said “Altcheck saw absolutely nothing that would keep him from being the old Andrew Miller.”
Paxton trade shows Cleveland’s high price tag for starters
Nov. 25: The trade of James Paxton to the Yankees represented the first major domino falling in this year’s trade market for starting pitchers, and it might have said as much about the Indians, another team potentially looking to move big-name starters, as it did about the Yankees, writes Paul Hoynes of cleveland.com.
The package that convinced the Mariners to part with the 30-year-old Paxton invovled the Yankees’ No. 1 prospect, Justus Sheffield, another top-30 prospect in right-hander Erik Swanson and a less heralded player, outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams, who hasn’t played above Class A Advanced. Hoynes writes that the Indians could probably have made a similar trade in a move for Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco or Trevor Bauer, as the Indians like Sheffield, whom they initially drafted in the first round of the 2014 Draft but traded to the Yankees to acquire Andrew Miller.
But the Mariners seemed to place higher value in Sheffield, whom the Yankees also reportedly floated in a potential trade package (subscription needed) for Paul Goldschmidt. The package for Paxton effectively set a baseline for what it’ll take for the Indians to part with one of their top arms, and unlike Seattle, which could be embarking on a longer-term rebuild, Cleveland will likely seek a package that will impactfully add to the Major League roster immediately, as it has won three straight division titles in the weak American League Central and has its deep starting rotation mostly intact through 2021.
Like Paxton, Carrasco and Bauer each have two years of team control remaining, with Carrasco owed just shy of $20 million spanning a 2019 contract and a 2020 team option, and Bauer entering his second season of arbitration, during which he’s projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $11.6 million. Kluber comes at a higher price tag but with the most proven record and up to three years of team control, with club options for both 2020 and ’21.
Murphy a sleeper free agent?
Nov. 25: Is veteran infielder Daniel Murphy a sleeper free agent that could help a club at a significantly lower cost than some alternatives on the market? MLB Network Radio analyst and former MLB general manager Jim Duquette thinks so.
“He added that extra bat [for the Cubs after being traded by the Nationals last August], and we all know what kind of hitter he is,” Duquette said on Sunday. “I feel like if you’re looking at a player like Marwin Gonzalez for four years, and you can get Murphy for a year or two … I don’t think he’s going to be nearly as expensive as some of these other guys, and I think he can help you.”
Following offseason knee surgery, Murphy returned to action with the Nationals last June. He struggled early on, hitting .188/.230/.261 over his first 21 games. But he turned things around thereafter, slashing .364/.405/.545 with five home runs over the next 35 games before being traded to the Cubs. With Chicago, he posted an .800 OPS with six homers in 35 games.
Murphy, 33, gained prominence on a national stage when he launched seven postseason home runs while helping the Mets reach the World Series in 2015. He signed with Washington the following offseason, and over the next two years hit .334/.387/.569 with 48 homers.
Could Astros be in on Pollock?
Nov. 25: A.J. Pollock’s list of suitors appears to be wide open as he waits for a team to take a chance on both his talent and his injury history. And now it appears one can throw the Astros into that mix, per ESPN Buster Olney in his Sunday morning column (subscription required).
While the majority of Olney’s column centers on the trade winds swirling around Pollock’s former teammate, Paul Goldschmidt, Olney does mention that the Astros have been active in discussions with several free agents ranked below superstar outfielder Bryce Harper — including Pollock. Houston is expected to be somewhat active this offseason after coming up short in defending its 2017 World Series title.
There would appear to be room in the Astros outfield for Pollock, who would figure to play center field, moving George Springer to a corner spot flanked by Josh Reddick on the other side. Injuries forced Houston to give significant playing time to unproven outfielders Tony Kemp and Kyle Tucker in last year’s stretch run. When healthy, Pollock combines Gold Glove-caliber defense with a capable bat; he seems like the type of two-way player the Astros have valued amid their turnaround in recent years.
Angels pursuing pitching, including Eovaldi and Happ
Nov. 25: Angels general manager Billy Eppler reportedly went into the offseason looking to add “reliability” on the pitching staff, and MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi reports that the Angels are actively seeking both starters and relievers on the market, with interest in free agents Nathan Eovaldi and J.A. Happ, but it’s not clear that they will have a good chance to sign either pitcher.
The Angels were in the middle of the pack in ERA among American League rotations, with the seventh-best ERA in the Junior Circuit, but the 805 1/3 innings pitched by Angels starters were the lowest in the AL (among non-Tampa Bay teams), and they lose Garrett Richards to free agency and Shohei Ohtani‘s pitching arm to Tommy John surgery in 2019. Given the relative youth and inexperience of their starting rotation, the Halos could use a steadying influence like Eovaldi or Happ to anchor the group.
But Eovaldi is one of the biggest names on the market after his successful second half in Boston and postseason heroics, with the Red Sox, Yankees, Giants and Nationals among the teams thought to be interested in the hard-throwing 28-year-old. As for the veteran Happ, the Yankees are reportedly interested in a reunion, with additional interest from at least five other teams, according to Morosi — including the Astros, Brewers and Phillies.
Jones says he wants to play four to five more years
Nov. 25: For the first time in his career, center fielder Adam Jones is a free agent. He told MASN’s Roch Kubatko during a charitable event in Baltimore on Sunday that he hasn’t heard from the Orioles since the end of the season, but that he still has “a lot of gas left in the tank.”
“I want to play at least four or five more years, because at the end of the day my boys are starting to understand what’s going on with me and they’re proud of Daddy,” Jones said. “So it’s cool to go out there and work hard with them, and they’re able to come work out with me now.”
Jones, 33, is a five-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove Award winner who has hit .278/.318/.456 with 266 home runs in 13 seasons, 11 of them with Baltimore. He slashed .281/.313/.419 with 15 homers — his lowest home run output since ’10 — in 145 games last season.
Which stars rumored to be on trade block should stay put?
Nov. 25: These days, the buzz is filled with new trade rumors surrounding Noah Syndergaard and Paul Goldschmidt, and they certainly make for animated discussions and intriguing storylines during the Hot Stove season. But would it make more sense for them to simply stay put? That’s what Richard Justice argues in his latest column for MLB.com, in which he names the Mets hurler and D-backs cornerstone among seven players who shouldn’t be moved this offseason.
In Syndergaard’s case, Justice argues that a trade would net interesting prospects, but would only make sense if the Mets were embarking on a complete rebuild. Given the quality of Thor’s stuff and his three remaining years of team control, Justice argues that he should be part of a rotation that should be the strength of a potentially quick surge back into contention, especially given incoming general manager Brodie Van Wagenen’s stated desire to win now. As for Goldschmidt, Justice guesses that the slugger would be open to an extension in Arizona due to his deep roots in the Phoenix community, and should retire as a D-back.
Justice also argues that the Giants should add to their core and try to contend for another National League West title instead of dealing Madison Bumgarner, and division foe Nolan Arenado should remain the franchise face for the Rockies. Similarly, he feels that the Reds should build around Eugenio Suarez instead of moving him as they seek pitching help, and Trevor Bauer is too valuable to leave Cleveland as it hopes to contend for another division crown. Finally, he believes Edwin Diaz should be the face of Seattle’s franchise and might not draw as much of a return as the Mariners would hope, given the increasing acceptance around the league that relievers are volatile investments.
Will the Yankees trade Stanton to make room for Harper or Machado?
Nov. 24: The Yankees were admittedly stung by the Red Sox winning the World Series after dispatching New York in the American League Division Series and later the Astros in the AL Championship Series. But will they make what some might consider a drastic move in trading slugger Giancarlo Stanton to open up a spot for Bryce Harper or Manny Machado?
According to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo, don’t count that possibility out.
“Obviously it’s a massive contract, but if the Dodgers ever felt they needed to do something splashy, Stanton isn’t that far-fetched, since that’s one team to which he would likely approve a trade,” writes Cafardo. “Nor would it be far-fetched if the Giants wanted a big hitter to give their staggering offense a jump start, or if the Phillies decided to include Stanton on their list of superstars to acquire.”
Cafardo also notes that with $260 million left on his contract, Stanton would be cheaper to acquire for a club like the Dodgers, Giants or Phillies than signing Harper or Machado, who are each expected to command between $300 million and $400 million this offseason.
The Yankees made a blockbuster trade last offseason with the Marlins to acquire Stanton, who was coming off an NL Most Valuable Player campaign in 2017, in which he belted 59 home runs. He didn’t fare as well in his first season in the Bronx, slashing .266/.343/.509 with 38 homers.
In terms of choosing whether to sign Harper or Machado should such a scenario arise, the positional need for New York would suggest Machado, since shortstop Didi Gregorius will still be recovering from Tommy John surgery when the ’19 season begins.
Nearly 10 years after facing similar decision, Holliday weighs in on Arenado
Nov. 24: Perhaps more than any player in Rockies history, Matt Holliday knows better than anyone what the weight of Nolan Arenado’s impending free agency next offseason — and Arenado’s decision-making process leading up to it — will mean for the star third baseman.
In 2008, Holliday was entering the prime of his career and on the cusp of free agency. Unable to reach a contract extension with Colorado, the club traded him to the A’s one year before he hit the market in a deal that brought back right fielder Carlos Gonzalez and closer Huston Street. Holliday was traded from Oakland to St. Louis the following July, then re-signed with the Cards long-term when he became a free agent.
Some have speculated that same fate could await Arenado before the non-waiver Trade Deadline in July should the club fail to reach a long-term agreement with the four-time All-Star. Arenado, who could receive a $200 million offer, regardless of where he signs, has publicly maintained that he wants to play for a contender. General manager Jeff Bridich has expressed that the club hopes to sign Arenado long-term.
“If [Arenado] wants to stay in Colorado, then it must be someplace where he is comfortable with the management and the front office,” Holliday told Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post. “He has to have the confidence to where they are going to be able to give him a chance to win, year in and year out. Plus, he has to make sure he finds a place where he’s personally happy and can focus on the things he wants to focus on.”
The Rockies are coming off consecutive postseason berths for the first time in franchise history. In Arenado’s six seasons, the club has built a nucleus of homegrown pitching talent (drafting and developing Kyle Freeland, Tyler Anderson and Jon Gray among others), splashed in free agency (spending $106 million on its bullpen last winter) and made long-term commitments to veterans Charlie Blackmon and Ian Desmond.
Colorado even brought back Holliday on a Minor League contract in July to add a veteran presence and bolster what had been an underachieving lineup. Arenado leaned on Holliday greatly during his two months with the club.
“It’s a little bit scary thinking about going somewhere else, especially when you have been someplace for five-plus years,” Holliday said. “You try to listen to the people you hire and you try to listen to your family and you try to make the best decision.
“It was a very difficult situation for the six months from the time I turned down the contract [reportedly for four years and $72 million] to the time I was traded. You want it to work out with where you are, but you also owe it to yourself to see what your market value is as you get closer to free agency. It’s a tough spot for players and it’s a hard decision. One of the hardest you’ll ever have to make.”
Arenado, Rendon, Bumgarner among stars who could be traded
Nov. 24: The 2019-20 free-agent class likely won’t get anywhere close to the hype this year’s crop has received, but there are still some big names poised to hit the open market, and many could be traded next summer, if not this offseason.
On Friday, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand took a look at 10 soon-to-be free agents who are candidates to be dealt before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline in 2019, ranking them from most likely to least likely.
Feinsand placed Nolan Arenado at the latter end of the spectrum, as the Rockies are poised to contend next season and have expressed interest in working out a contract extension with the All-Star third baseman. But if those efforts fall short and Colorado finds itself on the fringes of the postseason or out of the race in 2019, it could look to deal him for a haul similar to the five-player package the Orioles got from the Dodgers for Manny Machado this past July.
One of Arenado’s third-base peers — Anthony Rendon — also made Feinsand’s list, though Rendon’s chances of getting dealt may ultimately depend on whether the Nationals re-sign Bryce Harper. With big-money contracts for Harper, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg on the books, Washington would likely have trouble signing Rendon to an extension and could try to trade him.
Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner’s name has been floated in trade rumors this offseason, but San Francisco could wait to move him and hope that he bounces back after dealing with two fluke injuries — a sprained left shoulder suffered in a dirt-bike accident and a fractured left pinky caused by a line drive in Spring Training — during the past two years.
See who else made Feinsand’s list here.
Steinbrenner still hoping for ‘face to face’ meeting with Machado
Nov. 24: In an interview with the YES Network that will air in full Monday, Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner reiterated his desire for an in-person meeting with Manny Machado, so he and general manager Brian Cashman can determine if the free-agent infielder is a fit for New York.
At the Owners Meetings earlier this month, Steinbrenner called Machado’s now-infamous “Johnny Hustle” comments “troubling” and said he wanted to “sit down with him face to face and ask him, ‘Where did this come from? What was the context around the entire interview? Was there a point you were trying to [make]? How do you justify it?'”
Steinbrenner’s latest interview with the YES Network was filmed before MLB.com’s exclusive interview with Machado this week in which he addressed the controversial comments he made to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in an article for The Athletic last month. However, it’s doubtful Machado’s explanation changed much. Steinbrenner is going to want to meet with Machado no matter how many clear-the-air interviews the 26-year-old gives.
“There needs to be a sit down before we’re comfortable,” Steinbrenner told the YES Network’s Meredith Marakovits.
MLB Network Radio’s C.J. Nitkowski considers Steinbrenner’s comments to be a “warning shot” to Machado.
“There’s already a reaction and he’s not even a Yankee,” Nitkowski said. “And so the idea that says, ‘Hey you may have this uniform on one day,’ they want to make sure he understands that it’s a privilege to put on those Yankee pinstripes, and understand that [Yankees] fans already have an opinion about it right now. They would welcome you with open arms, but basically [Steinbrenner is saying], ‘Don’t pull any of that crap here.'”