It’s Hot Stove season, and MLB.com is keeping track of all the latest free agent and trade rumors right here.
Rays, White Sox, Astros shifting focus to Encarnacion, Martinez
Dec. 28: The Twins’ signing of designated hitter Nelson Cruz could have a direct impact on Edwin Encarnacion, as MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi reports that the Rays, White Sox and Astros are shifting their focus from Cruz to Encarnacion. Per Morosi, the Mariners are “increasingly confident” they will be able to trade Encarnacion before Spring Training begins.
Interestingly, the Rays were involved in the three-team deal that sent Encarnacion to Seattle in the first place, acquiring third baseman Yandy Diaz and right-hander Cole Sulser in the transaction while the Indians picked up first basemen Carlos Santana and Jake Bauers and the Mariners received Encarnacion and a Draft pick in Competitive Balance Round B.
Morosi notes that Tampa Bay, Chicago and Houston are also eyeing the Cardinals’ Jose Martinez, who no longer has a regular lineup spot after St. Louis acquired first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.
Martinez is arguably better suited for a DH role anyway, having recorded -6 Defensive Runs Saved in 936 1/3 innings at first base and -13 DRS over 637 2/3 innings in the outfield during his career.
Martinez, 30, is not only younger than Encarnacion, but also four years away from free agency, whereas the 35-year-old Encarnacion has a base salary of $20 million in 2019 and a $5 million buyout on his $20 million team option for 2020. That means it will likely take a much greater package to land Martinez than it will Encarnacion.
What’s the latest on Robertson, Ottavino and Britton?
Dec. 28: Free-agent reliever and Rhode Island native David Robertson has made it known that he would prefer to sign with a team in the Northeast. But there are a couple of factors that may give the Angels a shot at bringing him to Anaheim, as MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi reports: Robertson knows the club’s general manager, Billy Eppler, from their days with the Yankees, and Robertson wants to be a closer, a role the Halos could offer the right-hander.
So it stands to reason that the Angels would show interest in Robertson, as Morosi reports. Los Angeles is in need of experience at the back end of its bullpen. In 2018, the closer duty was spread around among several pitchers, including Blake Parker (14 saves), Keynan Middleton (6), Justin Anderson (4) and Ty Buttrey (4).
The Angels’ main focus so far this offseason has been bolstering a starting rotation that has been decimated by injuries over the past several years, signing right-handers Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill to one-year deals earlier this month. The club’s starting rotation ranked 19th in the Majors last season with a 4.34 ERA, and its bullpen ranked 13th at 3.92.
Robertson, 33, turned in a solid season in ’18, posting a 3.23 ERA over 69 appearances for the Yankees, though it was a step back from a ’17 campaign in which he had a 1.84 ERA over 61 appearances between the White Sox and Yankees.
The Angels could have competition from the Yanks for Robertson’s services, as MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reports that New York is focusing on the bullpen while it waits for the Manny Machado market to play out. Robertson, Adam Ottavino and Zach Britton are all “in play” for the Yankees, according to Heyman, and the club could sign more than one of those pitchers if the price is right.
Morosi reported Thursday that Ottavino is drawing interest from the Red Sox, White Sox and Rockies, for whom Ottavino pitched from 2012-18, among other clubs.
The Red Sox might need a replacement for closer Craig Kimbrel, who’s also a free agent and will command a significantly higher price tag than Ottavino. The White Sox, meanwhile, could bolster a bullpen that’s already added Alex Colome this offseason, as they look to build a contender in an AL Central division that could be wide open in 2019.
And of course, given Ottavino’s success in Colorado, the Rockies would love to have him in their bullpen again next year. Ottavino posted a 2.43 ERA in 75 appearances for the Rockies in 2018, and struck out 112 batters in his 77 2/3 innings.
With another club possibly out of the picture, Brewers remain prominent on Gray
Dec. 28: MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi reports that the Brewers remain prominent in the market for right-hander Sonny Gray, whom the Yankees have put on the trade market this offseason. Milwaukee came one game shy of the World Series last season, despite having its No. 1 starter, Jimmy Nelson, out for the entire year, and relying mainly on Jhoulys Chacin, Chase Anderson, Junior Guerra, Brent Suter, Wade Miley and Freddy Peralta in the rotation.
During the postseason, manager Craig Counsell utilized an “opener” at various times, which generally proved successful in the absence of a true ace.
Gray, meanwhile, had a rough 2018 campaign with New York, posting a 4.90 ERA in 30 appearances (23 starts). The season prior, he had a 3.55 ERA over 27 starts between the A’s and Yankees, and his career mark is 3.66, making the 29-year-old a bounce-back candidate in ’19.
Morosi reports the Reds, who were in the mix for Gray earlier this offseason, have “faded somewhat” given their recent additions via trade of starters Tanner Roark and Alex Wood.
Phillies not willing to go five years for Kuechel
Dec. 28: Phillies owner John Middleton famously said earlier in the offseason that the organization may be “a little stupid” in how it spends its money, bolstering the notion that Philadelphia is going all-out to land one of the two premier free agents on the market, Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. But the club could use upgrades in other areas as well, including the starting rotation.
MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi reports that the Phillies are pursuing free-agent lefty Dallas Keuchel, but aren’t willing to meet the former American League Cy Young Award winner’s preference for a five-year contract. Philadelphia currently has a strong one-two punch at the top of its starting rotation, with southpaw Aaron Nola and right-hander Jake Arrieta. But behind those two, there is inconsistency and limited experience in Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez and Zach Eflin.
Keuchel, who turns 31 on New Year’s Day, posted a 3.74 ERA over 34 starts for the Astros in 2018. He was an All-Star for the second time in his career in ’17, bouncing back from a mediocre and injury-shortened campaign the prior season by posting a 2.90 ERA over 23 starts. Since his brilliant season in ’15, when he won the Cy Young Award, Keuchel has seen his fastball velocity diminish, although his ground ball rate remains high, making him an attractive option, particularly in hitter-friendly ballparks like Citizens Bank Park.
Philadelphia is not the first team to reportedly balk at the contract length Keuchel is looking for. The Nationals and Reds also showed interest, but backed off given the five- to six-year deal Keuchel wanted.
When it’s all said and done, could Nationals still end up re-signing Harper?
Dec. 28: Bryce Harper has generated plenty of buzz this offseason, as he and fellow 26-year-old superstar Manny Machado headline the current free-agent class. But after Harper has been linked to several teams, including the Dodgers, Phillies, White Sox and even Yankees, will he end up re-signing with the Nationals?
Washington reportedly made Harper a 10-year, $300 million contract offer, which he declined. In his latest Inbox, MLB.com’s Jamal Collier answered fan questions, including one about whether the Nats still have a shot to bring Harper back even if it means going over the luxury tax threshold.
“I believe the two sides will at least re-engage at some point, otherwise the Nats could have closed the proverbial door on Harper already,” Collier writes. “As far as the luxury tax, yes the Nationals would prefer to remain under that threshold after exceeding it the past two seasons. However, according to Forbes, the grand total the Nationals owe for exceeding the luxury tax in 2018 is $2,386,097. I would not let that hold me up from signing Harper.”
The window certainly remains open for the two sides to come to an agreement, and it will be intriguing to watch how it all develops given that Harper has known no other franchise since making his Major League debut at age 19 in ’12.
Castrovince: Indians unlikely to trade Kluber or Bauer
Dec. 28: As Indians ace Corey Kluber continues to be mentioned in trade rumors, MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince has heard from his sources with the team that neither Kluber nor Trevor Bauer is likely to be dealt at this point.
“Things are always in movement this time a year, we know that, there’s always one phone call that can be made and change everything,” Castrovince said Thursday on MLB Network. “But obviously this club, they cleared a lot of money in trading Yan Gomes and Yonder Alonso and that Edwin Encarnacion deal where some money moved around. As far as the 2019 payroll is concerned, [the Indians saved] somewhere in the realm of $18 million to $21 million.
“Not that that could necessarily cure all that ails this club, they need help in the outfield, they need help in the bullpen. But in a market that’s pretty saturated with relievers, it could help them quite a bit this winter, that money they moved around. It could prevent them from having to move Kluber or Bauer, unless it’s a deal that’s an absolute home run for them.”
Former MLB general manager Jim Bowden also weighed in on the situation Thursday on MLB Network Radio.
Bowden thinks a Kluber deal makes a lot of sense for the Indians, if they can add multiple young players who can help them stay atop the American League Central for the long term — as could be the case in a deal with the Padres, like MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi previously reported.
“If I can sit there and get four pieces that can help me win for the next five years in a division where everybody’s rebuilding, I’m going to do it,” Bowden said. “Because I’m going to win anyway. I can trade Kluber and I’m going to win the division anyway. That’s how I view it.”
But Bowden predicts that, come Opening Day in 2019, Kluber will be on the mound for the Tribe.
“That doesn’t mean I want to trade him. That doesn’t mean I’m going to trade him,” Bowden said of Kluber. “And if I was a betting guy right now — I’ll be honest with you — I think Kluber will pitch Opening Day, [Trevor] Bauer will pitch Game 2, [Carlos] Carrasco Game 3, [Shane] Bieber Game 4, and Indians fans will be happy.”
What’s holding up the market for second basemen?
Dec. 28: The free-agent market for second basemen this offseason is saturated with several prominent names, like DJ LeMahieu, Jed Lowrie, Brian Dozier, Neil Walker, Marwin Gonzalez and Josh Harrison. So why isn’t it moving? According to former MLB general manager Jim Duquette, who appeared on MLB Network to discuss the matter Friday, there are multiple factors playing into the slow pace.
“When you look at the teams that were in the playoffs last season, and you look at their production at second base, seven of the teams were below average in productivity if you just use wins above replacement as a guideline,” said Duquette.
“When you look at all that and see Colorado got to the postseason, the Dodgers — they had the least productive second base productivity, and they obviously got to the World Series — you look at teams like Washington, Milwaukee, I think when you look at all that and say, ‘We can get to the postseason, we don’t need to have an impactful offensive player at second base, there isn’t a ton of impact there anyway.’ So I think all of those things combined is why we’re sitting here with the market the way it is right now.”
With respect to individual free agents, Duquette said he sees the Nationals and Cubs as the two best fits for Lowrie at this time, and thinks Gonzalez may be holding up the market as other players wait to see what type of deal he gets.
Will Kimbrel land in Philadelphia?
Dec. 28: The Phillies have money to spend, and many expect the club to put said money toward a pursuit of Manny Machado and/or Bryce Harper. But if those players truly aren’t enamored with the city of Philadelphia, as MLB Network insider Joel Sherman reported this week, the club will need to turn to Plan B and a Plan C, and it seems the Phils’ alternative options could include Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel.
Keuchel is on the team’s wish list, according to MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi, though Philadelphia has been unwilling to meet the left-hander’s demand for a five-year contract. Meanwhile, MLB.com’s Richard Justice reports that the feeling inside the industry is that the Phillies are going to sign Kimbrel. What’s unclear, though, is how long Philadelphia is willing to go with a Kimbrel contract, as the All-Star closer’s initial ask was for a six-year deal. More >
This is how the Cubs can land Harper
Dec. 28: While the Cubs’ payroll restrictions could prevent them from pursuing Bryce Harper, Phil Rogers of Forbes that there are two ways for the club to make it work.
The first is to eat enough of Jason Heyward‘s salary to make it worthwhile for a team to trade for the 29-year-old outfielder. The second option would involve the Cubs paying the luxury tax in 2019 before trimming the payroll to avoid the steep penalties levied against teams that exceed the threshold in consecutive years. More >
Padres remain engaged on Realmuto
Dec. 27: Corey Kluber apparently isn’t the only big name the Padres are currently targeting in a trade, as MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi reports that San Diego has continued to have discussions regarding Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto.
Morosi notes that if the Padres are successful in landing Realmuto, they could turn around and trade backstop Austin Hedges for pitching. The club’s current catching situation includes Hedges and No. 3 prospect Francisco Mejia (No. 26 overall), who was acquired from Cleveland for Brad Hand and Adam Cimber this past season. More >
More likely to land Harper: Dodgers or Cubs?
Dec. 27: While the market for Bryce Harper is still unclear, MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi reports that there’s “still about a half-dozen teams on some level of interest with Harper,” and the Dodgers and the Cubs are the two potential suitors currently drawing the most buzz.
As for who has the best chance to sign Harper between the two teams, Morosi is going with the Dodgers, for the simple reason that Los Angeles has already made the move to clear both roster spots and financial flexibility. Currently, the Cubs are not a fit for Harper financially or roster-wise, and they will likely have difficulty moving Jason Heyward, Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood, who are three of their highest paid players for 2019. More >
Machado and Alonso golf together in Miami
Dec. 27: We’ve all heard that many a business transaction has been conducted over a round of golf. And while it may be just some holiday time with his brother-in-law, superstar free agent Manny Machado was with Yonder Alonso and two others playing golf in Miami on Thursday. The White Sox acquired Alonso earlier this month, sparking speculation as to whether it was a move designed to help Chicago land Machado.
In an Instagram post Thursday, Alonso posted a photo of the four golfers, along with the hashtags #GreatTimes, #Golf, #TheBoys, and #305. Was there some recruiting happening between holes on the course? We don’t know. But the White Sox are seen as one of the major players in the Machado Sweepstakes, with the payroll to spend big and a bright future ahead. Machado, 26, is expected to garner a contract in the neighborhood of $300 million this offseason.
Machado hasn’t received formal contract offers yet
Dec. 27: While Manny Machado met with the White Sox, Yankees and Phillies over a four-day span from Dec. 17-20, his decision reportedly won’t come until after the new year, and now it’s clear why.
According to MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi, Machado has not received a formal contract offer from any of those teams, because the infielder was more interested in learning about each organization first and determining how he fits with each club. Machado and his agent are expected to discuss financial terms with the three teams once the calendar flips to 2019. More >
Will Astros, Rays look elsewhere after missing out on Cruz?
Dec. 27: Nelson Cruz, one of the biggest free-agent bats on the market, agreed to a deal with the Twins on Thursday. So what does that mean for the two teams who missed out on Cruz — the Astros and Rays?
Both Houston and Tampa Bay had made “competitive offers” for the veteran slugger, MLB Network insider Jon Heyman noted Thursday. Cruz would have been an excellent fit with either club.
The Astros already have one of the deepest lineups in baseball, but a hitter like Cruz might have helped put them over the top as they chase a second championship in three years in 2019. And for a Rays team looking to build on a surprise 90-win season in 2018, Cruz would have been a major upgrade on offense at a reasonable cost.
But now they’ll have to look elsewhere. Cruz was the main power-hitting, designated-hitter type free agent available, but there are some other options out there if the Astros or Rays want to pursue them. Sluggers like Mike Moustakas, Mark Reynolds, Lucas Duda and Logan Morrison are unsigned, for example, if Houston and Tampa Bay are looking for someone in the Cruz mold.
Harrison drawing significant interest
Dec. 27: Although the free-agent market for second basemen is robust, Josh Harrison is drawing interest from at least eight teams, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman.
These teams include the Nationals, Reds, Rangers, Giants, Brewers, Yankees, Dodgers and Phillies, though Heyman notes that the latter three may only jump in if other pursuits don’t work out.
Harrison isn’t the best offensive option on the market, but he has shown the ability to field multiple positions at an above-average level and may require only a one-year contract, whereas Jed Lowrie, DJ LeMahieu and Brian Dozier are likely seeking multi-year deals.
While most of the aforementioned clubs are probably considering Harrison for a utility role, the Nationals and Brewers could use him as their starting second baseman for a year until middle-infield prospects Carter Kieboom and Keston Hiura are ready.
The Yankees, meanwhile, could plug in Harrison at second base, with Gleyber Torres at shortstop, until Didi Gregorius returns from Tommy John surgery, though they are unlikely to consider this option unless Manny Machado signs elsewhere.
Even after signing Cruz, are Twins poised to make more moves?
Dec. 27: The Twins reportedly landed veteran slugger Nelson Cruz on Thursday to be their designated hitter, adding more power after already claiming C.J. Cron — who hit 30 homers last season — off waivers, and signing Jonathan Schoop to a contract after he was non-tendered by the Brewers. But could the Twins add even more to narrow the gap with the Indians in the American League Central? According to Jeff Joyce of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM, they have the wherewithal to do so.
“I think one of the intriguing things about the Twins that a lot of people have not paid attention to is their payroll flexibility that they have going into this year,” Joyce said. ” … They were able to shed a ton of payroll, especially the Joe Mauer contract, $23 million there. Ervin Santana, they said goodbye to him, that’s $13 million there. You started with Brian Dozier there last year, $9 million, Logan Morrison [at] $5.5 million. They shed around $50 million in payroll and they don’t have one — not one — guaranteed contract [on the books after next season].”
It remains to be seen if the Twins are aggressive in further upgrading the roster during the rest of this offseason, but they certainly appear to have the potential to shake things up in the AL Central.
Will ‘desperate teams’ offer the most for Harper and Machado?
Dec. 26: The biggest storyline this offseason is the free agency of two 26-year-old superstars in Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Where will they end up? MLB Network insider Joel Sherman makes a guess in an article for the New York Post: the teams that offer the most money. Sherman writes that those clubs, the “desperate teams” in the mix, are the Phillies and White Sox.
Both clubs have given indications they may open the coffers wide for Harper or Machado, with Phillies owner John Middleton famously saying the organization might be “a little stupid” about how it spends its money this winter, and with Chicago’s 82-year-old owner Jerry Reinsdorf wanting to win another World Series in his lifetime.
Sherman believes Philadelphia and Chicago will be where Harper and Machado end up, though he doesn’t know which player will be in which city. He also notes the involvement of other clubs, particularly the Dodgers and Yankees. The Dodgers could persuade Harper to head west to a World Series contender in a city of stars, and the Yankees need a shortstop to open the season because Didi Gregorius will still be recovering from Tommy John surgery, making the Bronx a potential destination for Machado. Playing for the Yankees is reportedly Machado’s preference.
Sherman goes on to add that not only do Machado and Harper both prefer the Yankees — though New York hasn’t shown much interest in Harper — “word is neither player particularly likes Philadelphia.”
Britton has a unique quality among free-agent relievers
Dec. 26: In an era where more and more pitchers are abandoning or cutting back on the two-seam fastball, MLB.com’s David Adler notes that free-agent left-hander Zach Britton has actually increased his sinker usage. A career-high 92.1 percent of his pitches in 2018 were sinkers, the highest rate in MLB. Britton also got great results from the pitch: only 20.7 percent of the hard-hit balls he yielded from July onward were hit in the air.
Adler writes that Britton’s penchant for ground balls makes him an ideal candidate for several teams that play in hitter-friendly parks, including the Astros, Red Sox and Yankees, three American League powerhouses that will again jockey for supremancy in ’19. Not only is Britton’s sinker effective at limiting contact to the ground, but it’s hard to hit in the first place. Adler writes that the left-hander’s whiff rate with the pitch from the start of July through the end of the regular season was an MLB-high 32.1 percent.
It remains to be seen which club plucks Britton off the free-agent market, but one thing is for certain: his track record would play well in ballparks that yield the most home runs. More >
How will Didi’s timetable impact the Yanks’ shortstop pursuit?
Dec. 26: Even as the Yankees continue to be among the frontrunners to land Manny Machado, MLB Network Radio analyst Eduardo Perez thinks the Bronx Bombers should keep in mind that they already have a star shortstop who will be back eventually.
“I wouldn’t give up on Didi Gregorius coming back [healthy],” Perez said Wednesday. “Everybody talked about, ‘Who’s gonna take over for Derek Jeter? Who’s gonna do it?’ Didi Gregorius was able to handle the pressure there. He’s that left-handed bat in that lineup there. There’s not a mystery if he’s gonna hit or not at Yankee Stadium. There’s not a mystery if he can handle the media in New York.
“That’s what I like about guys when they prove themselves in the pinstripes. Sometimes you have to pay to make sure you know you’re gonna get a product that can continue to play under that scrutiny.”
If the Yankees are confident Gregorius can return from his Tommy John surgery and contribute for a significant portion of the 2019 season, that could of course dictate their pursuit of shortstop options in free agency. They’d only need a stopgap, not a long-term solution.
On the other hand, it’s not like Gregorius would preclude the Yankees from signing Machado. While Machado prefers to play shortstop, he’s been a premier defensive third baseman for most of his MLB career and could always go back to the hot corner when Gregorius came back. And while the Yankees like Miguel Andujar‘s bat in the lineup, his defense was poor in his rookie season (although Perez also said Wednesday that he doesn’t think New York should give up on Andujar at third). Andujar’s presence shouldn’t block a Machado signing, given Machado’s elite ability.
Harper ‘likes’ Hollywood, but are Dodgers a fit?
Dec. 26: Are the Dodgers the favorites to land free agent Bryce Harper? That question was posed by MLB’s official Instagram account, and the post has racked up more than 127,000 likes as of Wednesday morning, including one from @bharper3407 — yep, that’s none other than Harper himself.
Perhaps Harper is just stirring the pot, but it’s not farfetched to think the outfielder would have the Dodgers at the top of his wish list. Los Angeles represents one of the biggest markets in sports, the Dodgers are coming off back-to-back World Series appearances and the club can offer Harper the record-breaking contract he seeks. L.A. also is close to Las Vegas, Harper’s hometown.
Harper to the Dodgers is a rumor that’s been gaining steam after Los Angeles traded outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp to the Reds last week, but there are several factors that could keep the club out of the Harper sweepstakes.
The first is the luxury tax. If the Dodgers want to stay under the $206 million threshold, which they reportedly do, they won’t have the payroll space for Harper — especially if the club is looking to stick to a shorter-term deal with a higher average annual value, as has been suggested. The Dodgers will have even less room if they complete a trade for Indians ace Corey Kluber.
“I think it’s sort of foolish that they’re so concerned about the luxury tax when they haven’t been to this point,” MLB Network Radio host Mike Ferrin said. “Now when they really do have a chance to be built for sustained success and try and win World Series when they’ve been to two in a row … now they’re gonna start to roll back the financials a bit? Doesn’t make a whole lotta sense to me.”
While the Andrew Friedman-led Dodgers front office has consistently maintained a high payroll, it hasn’t been known for splurging on any one player. In fact, $93 million is the largest contract the club has handed out during Friedman’s tenure. There likely won’t be a 10-year, $300 million offer coming from the Dodgers, which is another reason why they might not have a great chance to land Harper.
Finally, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that the club is seeking a right-handed bat to balance its lefty-heavy lineup. Signing the left-handed-hitting Harper would increase the Dodgers’ imbalance without addressing catcher and second base — Los Angeles’ two biggest areas of need.
After addressing rotation, are Reds still in mix for Keuchel?
Dec. 26: The Reds entered this offseason focused on improving and deepening their rotation, which makes Dallas Keuchel a potential target. Whether Cincinnati actually would meet Keuchel’s asking price, however, always was a question, and the club no longer is as desperate for starters after trading for Tanner Roark and Alex Wood.
Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams made it clear the team is still in search of upgrades, so Keuchel can’t be ruled out. But he isn’t the only free agent who would improve a rotation that posted the sixth-worst ERA (5.02) in MLB a year ago, especially if the club isn’t looking to pony up for a five- or six-year contract approaching nine figures, as MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon writes.
There are plenty of less expensive options available, such as Gio Gonzalez, Derek Holland and Wade Miley. The Reds have also been connected to trade targets such as the Indians’ Corey Kluber, the Blue Jays’ Marcus Stroman and the Yankees’ Sonny Gray.
MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi reported earlier this month that the Reds were among the teams showing interest in Miley, who recorded a 2.57 ERA for the Brewers under the tutelage of pitching coach Derek Johnson in 2018. Johnson is now in that same position for the Reds.
While none of those free-agent pitchers might be as good of a fit for the Reds as Keuchel, signing one of them could be more in character for a club that isn’t known for spending big money on free agents.
Examining a potential Braves reunion for Kimbrel
Dec. 26: It’s fun to imagine perennial All-Star Craig Kimbrel — easily the top name on the free-agent market among relievers — returning to the Braves to pitch for the team with which he started his impressive big league career, especially now that Atlanta has returned to contender status as the reigning NL East champs and needs late-inning help. But is it realistic?
MLB.com’s Mark Bowman doesn’t think so, at least not while Kimbrel continues to seek a historic (and even unprecedented) contract for a reliever, something in the range of $80 million to $100 million over five or six years.
“There’s a good bet [Kimbrel will] top the $17.33 million average annual value Wade Davis received last year, when he signed a contract that included the highest AAV ever given to a reliever,” Bowman writes. “But six months shy of his 31st birthday and coming off a year in which he posted a 4.57 ERA after the break and struggled during a portion of the postseason, Kimbrel won’t get a six-year deal and may have to settle for something less.
“Quite frankly, because of the years and dollars, Kimbrel has not even been on the Braves’ radar. If we reach a point where he has to accept a three-year deal, then it might be time to at least think about a potential return to Atlanta. But that would only stand as a possibility if the Braves still have enough remaining financial flexibility after addressing needs to add a frontline starter and an outfielder.”
As is, the Braves have made it clear they are not interested in long-term deals in free agency at the moment, choosing instead to build from within their strong core and supplement with contracts like the one-year pact that secured Josh Donaldson to play third base. If Atlanta were to make a play for a free agent for, say, three or four years, it’s more likely the target would be an everyday position player (A.J. Pollock perhaps?) rather than a reliever who won’t make as much of an overall impact.
Why Dodgers are unlikely to bring back Grandal
Dec. 26: On one hand, the Dodgers are seeking a catcher to team with Austin Barnes and have been linked to Marlins star J.T. Realmuto in trade rumors. That’s why L.A. still could find a way to bring back Yasmani Grandal, even though he declined the qualifying offer at the outset of the offseason.
On the other hand, however, the club doesn’t seem interested in locking up the position for the long term, because youngsters Keibert Ruiz and Will Smith — two of the top catcher prospects, according to MLB Pipeline — could find their way to Los Angeles by 2020. That may be one of two key reasons why Grandal is unlikely to return, as MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick explains.
Grandal “already turned down a one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer from the Dodgers because he seeks a multiyear payday, reportedly somewhere around five years and $75 million,” Gurnick writes. “He’s not getting that from the Dodgers, who have four quality catching prospects in the system, led by Will Smith and Keibert Ruiz, and only need a short-term bridge. Grandal’s postseason defensive meltdown aside, he’s the most attractive free agent at his position this offseason. The Dodgers also are in line to pick up a compensatory Draft pick if he signs with another club, added incentive for the Dodgers not to re-sign him unless his market tanks and he becomes a bargain.”
In addition to having Ruiz and Smith in the wings, that last point also is worth remembering. As a team that has had a strong farm system for a number of years now, the Dodgers clearly value the chance to recoup a Draft pick if Grandal signs elsewhere. (This is part of the reason why the club also was willing to extend the qualifying offer to effective but injury-prone lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu, who accepted.)
Although the market for Grandal has been somewhat slow to develop while Realmuto rumors have been the hot topic at this position so far, it’s unlikely Grandal ultimately would wind up seeing his free agency fall apart to the point where he circles back to the Dodgers on a short-term deal for one or two years.
Brewers, Nats among clubs in play for Lowrie
Dec. 26: One Jed Lowrie suitor pretty much came off the board when the A’s acquired Jurickson Profar from the Rangers last week, but even with a robust market for free-agent second basemen, two teams continue to be linked to Lowrie, specifically.
The Brewers have checked in on Lowrie, as MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy writes. That could be a solid fit for both player and club, as the 34-year-old would join a contender, and Milwaukee likely would not need to go beyond a couple of years to land the veteran. That could be enticing for a team with second baseman Keston Hiura as it’s top prospect.
The Nationals also have reached out to Lowrie, according to MLB.com’s Jamal Collier. They seem to be the most active team when it comes to targeting an upgrade at the keystone, as 35-year-old Howie Kendrick — coming off a torn Achilles tendon injury that limited him to 40 games in 2018 — currently is penciled in at the position. Washington also has been connected to DJ LeMahieu, Marwin Gonzalez and Josh Harrison. Similar to the Brewers, the Nats also may prefer a shorter-term deal, as they also have a youngster who could provide help at second base in the not-too-distant future in Carter Kieboom, their No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline.