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The case for each NL Rookie of the Year finalist

MLB.com

The National League Rookie of the Year Award race was tightly contested, with the three finalists each turning in an outstanding campaign worthy of recognition. Two slugging outfielders, the Braves' Ronald Acuna Jr. and the Nationals' Juan Soto, dazzled us with their prodigious power, and the Dodgers' Walker Buehler overpowered opposing hitters with 100-mph heat. Each shined in big moments for their respective clubs, making the choice for the Jackie Robinson NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2018 a difficult one. With the announcement of the winner coming Monday at 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network, here's a look at the case for each finalist.

Ronald Acuna Jr., Braves
Acuna entered the All-Star break as an NL Rookie of the Year Award underdog and exited the season as a down-ballot NL MVP Award candidate. Christian Yelich (5.4) was the only NL player to produce a better second-half WAR (FanGraphs) than Acuna (3.4), whose 171 Weighted Runs Created Plus after the break ranked third in the NL. As Atlanta's heralded outfielder hit .322 with 19 homers and a 1.028 OPS in the second half, he significantly influenced the Braves' charge toward an unexpected division title that Soto's Nationals were predicted to win.

The National League Rookie of the Year Award race was tightly contested, with the three finalists each turning in an outstanding campaign worthy of recognition. Two slugging outfielders, the Braves' Ronald Acuna Jr. and the Nationals' Juan Soto, dazzled us with their prodigious power, and the Dodgers' Walker Buehler overpowered opposing hitters with 100-mph heat. Each shined in big moments for their respective clubs, making the choice for the Jackie Robinson NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2018 a difficult one. With the announcement of the winner coming Monday at 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network, here's a look at the case for each finalist.

Ronald Acuna Jr., Braves
Acuna entered the All-Star break as an NL Rookie of the Year Award underdog and exited the season as a down-ballot NL MVP Award candidate. Christian Yelich (5.4) was the only NL player to produce a better second-half WAR (FanGraphs) than Acuna (3.4), whose 171 Weighted Runs Created Plus after the break ranked third in the NL. As Atlanta's heralded outfielder hit .322 with 19 homers and a 1.028 OPS in the second half, he significantly influenced the Braves' charge toward an unexpected division title that Soto's Nationals were predicted to win.

Video: Darling on Acuna Jr.'s NL ROY candidacy

Soto (3.7 WAR, 22 homers, .923 OPS, 146 wRC+) and Acuna (3.7 WAR, 26 HR, .917 OPS, 143 wRC+) produced similarly impressive season stats. Speed differentiates the capabilities of these two phenoms.

Per Statcast™, Acuna's Sprint Speed (29.6 feet per second) ranked 18th among all Major Leaguers. Soto ranked 286th at 27.2 feet per second. The Braves outfielder stole 16 bases and had +4 Outs Above Average. The Nationals' 19-year-old phenom swiped just five bags and had -4 OAA.

Acuna debuted on April 25 and the Braves won seven of the first eight games of his career, going from 3 1/2 games out to 1 1/2 games up in the NL East during that span. The 20-year-old left fielder endured some growing pains and missed a month when he sprained his left anterior cruciate ligament on May 27. But his presence was certainly felt during the second half. Atlanta turned a half-game deficit into a two-game lead as it went 12-4 while Acuna tallied an MLB-best nine homers and a 1.357 OPS from July 31-Aug. 15.

-- Mark Bowman

Walker Buehler, Dodgers
Less than three years after the Dodgers selected him 24th overall in the 2015 MLB Draft, Buehler made his first career start on April 23. The 24-year-old right-hander tossed five scoreless innings to open a tremendous rookie campaign in which he posted a 2.62 ERA with 151 strikeouts and 37 walks over 24 appearances (23 starts). His ERA was the best among rookie pitchers with a minimum of 100 innings pitched, as was his ERA+ of 148.

Buehler's finest performance came on Sept. 14 against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium, a crucial game for the Dodgers as they entered the day 1 1/2 games behind the Rockies in the NL West with two weeks to go in the regular season. Buehler threw eight scoreless innings, yielding two hits while walking two and striking out nine in a 3-0 Los Angeles victory.

Video: Darling on Buehler being a finalist for NL ROY

In Buehler's next start, he faced the Rockies with the Dodgers holding a 1 1/2-game division lead over Colorado on Sept. 19. Buehler gave up two unearned runs on three hits while walking one and fanning 12 as the Dodgers padded their advantage in the standings with a 5-2 victory at Dodger Stadium.

Buehler was at his best when the Dodgers needed it most, posting a 1.58 ERA over the final two months of the season as Los Angeles won its sixth consecutive NL West title with a victory over Colorado in a tiebreaker at Dodger Stadium on Oct. 1. Buehler started that game as well, delivering 6 2/3 scoreless frames.

-- Manny Randhawa

Juan Soto, Nationals
The question was posed to Soto at the end of a brief slump. Well, the closest thing to a slump anyway, during his historic rookie season. How had he broken out of his skid while continuing to avoid any prolonged slumps in his first taste of the big leagues? He smiled and answered, "Just keep doing Juan Soto things."

It became the slogan for each impressive feat Soto accomplished during perhaps the greatest season by a teenager in MLB history. His 22 home runs this season tied Bryce Harper for the second most by a teenager. Soto drew more walks and owned a higher on-base percentage than any teenager ever. He set records for OPS, wRC+ and wOBA for any player before their 20th birthday.

Video: Reynolds on Soto's NL ROY candidacy

The Nationals never anticipated Soto would be this good this quickly. But a combination of injuries in the Majors and Soto's dominant performance in the Minors led them to accelerate his promotion in May. Soto never looked back. He led all NL rookies in on-base percentage, OPS, RBIs and walks, and ranked second in homers. He is the first rookie since Albert Pujols in 2001 to compile a slash line of at least 290/.400/.500 and the only teenager to do so.

Soto's resume is not just impressive against rookies. His .406 on-base percentage and .923 OPS ranked second and third among all NL hitters with a minimum of 490 plate appearances. And Soto did it all at 19 years old.

-- Jamal Collier

Ryu only player to accept qualifying offer

Six others reject one-year, $17.9 million deals
MLB.com @mattkellyMLB

Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu took the qualifying offer -- a one-year contract worth $17.9 million (the mean salary of MLB's 125 highest-paid players). He will become only the sixth player among the 80 to receive offers since 2012 to accept. None of the other six free agents who received offers accepted them.

Teams had to extend prospective free agents a qualifying offer by Nov. 2. Those players had 10 days to either accept the offer or reject it in search of a multiyear deal out in the market, and the deadline for that decision was today at 5 p.m. ET.

Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu took the qualifying offer -- a one-year contract worth $17.9 million (the mean salary of MLB's 125 highest-paid players). He will become only the sixth player among the 80 to receive offers since 2012 to accept. None of the other six free agents who received offers accepted them.

Teams had to extend prospective free agents a qualifying offer by Nov. 2. Those players had 10 days to either accept the offer or reject it in search of a multiyear deal out in the market, and the deadline for that decision was today at 5 p.m. ET.

In the six previous offseasons in which this system has been in place, only five (Brett Anderson, Jeremy Hellickson, Colby Rasmus, Neil Walker and Matt Wieters) of 73 players had accepted the qualifying offer.

The rules regarding Draft pick compensation for signing players who rejected QOs changed after the implementation of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement prior to the 2017 season, and the penalties for signing such players are less strict.

Qualifying offer rules explained

Here are the seven free agents who received the qualifying offer last week, and what Draft compensation their 2018 teams stand to receive if the players sign elsewhere.

Astros -- LHP Dallas Keuchel: Pick after Competitive Balance Round B

D-backs -- LHP Patrick Corbin and OF A.J. Pollock:
A) If either player signs for at least $50 million: Pick between 1st round and Competitive Balance Round A
B) If either player signs for less than $50 million: Pick after Competitive Balance Round B

Dodgers -- C Yasmani Grandal and LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu: Pick after Competitive Balance Round B
Ryu was the only player to accept the qualifying offer, so he'll stick with Los Angeles on a one-year deal.

Nationals -- OF Bryce Harper: Pick after Round 4

Red Sox -- RHP Craig Kimbrel: Pick after Round 4

Compensation for losing players who reject qualifying offers
The current Collective Bargaining Agreement rules state that if the team that loses the free agent is a revenue-sharing recipient, based on its revenues and market size, then the selection -- if and only if the lost player signs for at least $50 million -- will be awarded a pick between the first round and Competitive Balance Round A of the 2019 MLB Draft. If the player signs for less than $50 million, the compensation pick for those teams would come after Competitive Balance Round B, which follows the second round.

The following 16 teams currently qualify for these picks: A's, Braves, Brewers, D-backs, Indians, Mariners, Marlins, Orioles, Padres, Pirates, Rays, Reds, Rockies, Royals, Tigers and Twins.

If the team that loses the player does not receive revenue sharing and did not exceed the luxury-tax salary threshold the previous season, its compensatory pick will come after Competitive Balance Round B. The value of the player's contract doesn't matter in this case. The 12 clubs that fall into this category are the Angels, Astros, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Mets, Phillies, Rangers, White Sox and Yankees.

If the team that loses the player went over the luxury-tax threshold, the compensation pick will be placed after the fourth round has been completed (as with the previous scenario, it doesn't matter how much the player signs for). The only two clubs that exceeded the threshold in 2018 are the Nationals and Red Sox.

Penalties for signing players who reject QOs
Any team that signs a player who has rejected a qualifying offer is subject to the loss of one or more Draft picks. However, a team's highest first-round pick is exempt from forfeiture, which is a big change that went into effect with the new CBA. Three tiers of Draft-pick forfeiture -- based on the financial status of the signing team -- are in place to serve as a penalty for signing a player who rejected a qualifying offer:

• A team that exceeded the luxury tax in the preceding season will lose its second- and fifth-highest selections in the following year's Draft, as well as $1 million from its international bonus pool for the upcoming signing period. If such a team signs multiple qualifying-offer free agents, it will forfeit its third- and sixth-highest remaining picks as well.

Teams that are in this group this offseason: Nationals, Red Sox

• A team that receives revenue-sharing money will lose its third-highest selection in the following year's Draft. If it signs two such players, it will also forfeit its fourth-highest remaining pick.

Teams in this group: A's, Braves, Brewers, D-backs, Indians, Mariners, Marlins, Orioles, Padres, Pirates, Rays, Reds, Rockies, Royals, Tigers and Twins.

• A team that neither exceeded the luxury-tax threshold in the preceding season nor receives revenue sharing will lose its second-highest selection in the following year's Draft, as well as $500,000 from its international bonus pool for the upcoming signing period. If it signs two such players, it will also forfeit its third-highest remaining pick and an additional $500,000.

Teams in this group: Angels, Astros, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Mets, Phillies, Rangers, White Sox and Yankees.

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

Nine stars we could see traded this offseason

MLB.com @RichardJustice

This offseason seems to have a different feel regarding the trade market. That is, big names appear to be in play. Paul Goldschmidt and Corey Kluber. James Paxton and Billy Hamilton. This doesn't mean any of them will be traded.

All it means is that lots of executives are -- to use Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto's word -- reimagining their rosters. Whether the D-backs would really trade the cornerstone of their franchise -- well, friends, that's where the rubber meets the road. If you're looking for Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, you won't find him here. He's going to lead a later list: "Nine players who would shock the world by not being traded." For this one, let's consider nine who could be dealt:

This offseason seems to have a different feel regarding the trade market. That is, big names appear to be in play. Paul Goldschmidt and Corey Kluber. James Paxton and Billy Hamilton. This doesn't mean any of them will be traded.

All it means is that lots of executives are -- to use Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto's word -- reimagining their rosters. Whether the D-backs would really trade the cornerstone of their franchise -- well, friends, that's where the rubber meets the road. If you're looking for Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, you won't find him here. He's going to lead a later list: "Nine players who would shock the world by not being traded." For this one, let's consider nine who could be dealt:

1. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, D-backs
Sure, the D-backs have to listen. Goldschmidt is 31 years old and a year away from free agency, and even though he has deep roots in the Phoenix community, business is business. In seven full seasons, he has averaged 37 doubles, 29 home runs and a .934 OPS. No player has ever represented a franchise better on the field and off than this one. Goldschmidt would be a massive get for any club.
Possible destinations: Cardinals, Yankees, White Sox

Video: Goldschmidt takes home fourth Silver Slugger Award

2. Madison Bumgarner, LHP, Giants
Another trade that once seemed inconceivable is one new Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi must consider. Bumgarner is a year from free agency after averaging 19 starts the past two seasons. Let's say he would bring two Major League-ready prospects. The Yankees would offer that, right? The Braves might as well. Would that get San Francisco back to the postseason quicker than holding onto Bumgarner, signing him to an extension and seeing him go to the Hall of Fame as a Giant?
Possible destinations: Yankees, Braves

Video: LAD@SF: Bumgarner K's 6 over 6 frames in final start

3. James Paxton, LHP, Mariners
This is the guy who'll test Dipoto's reimagining of his roster. Paxton is 30 years old and coming off a season in which he made 28 starts with a 1.098 WHIP and 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings. He's under team control for two more seasons and is expected to make about $8 million in 2019. If the goal is to manage the payroll and replenish the farm system, moving Paxton could do it.
Possible destinations: Braves, Yankees, White Sox, Astros

Video: TEX@SEA: Paxton records 200th strikeout of 2018

4. Corey Kluber, RHP, Indians
Maybe the time is right as the Indians look to add youth and get the payroll under control. First, there's the money part of it. Kluber has one more guaranteed season at $17 million plus two team options. His numbers did slip a bit in 2018, and he'll be 33 just after Opening Day. On the other hand, Kluber is still the very definition of an ace: 215 innings in 2018 with a 2.89 ERA and a 0.991 WHIP. He has averaged 218 innings and 32 starts the past five seasons.
Possible destinations: Yankees, Nationals, Braves

Video: Kluber among finalists for 2018 AL Cy Young Award

5. Scooter Gennett, 2B, Reds
The Reds seem certain to trade for pitching and seem willing to discuss both Gennett and Hamilton, who are both a year from free agency. Gennett will make around $9 million in his final arbitration year, and while second base isn't a position in demand, Gennett's .357 OBP should be.
Possible destinations: Dodgers, Red Sox, Brewers

Video: PIT@CIN: Gennett lays out to make a great stop

6. Wil Myers, 3B/OF, Padres
For now, the Padres are still trying to make it work. Myers moved from first to the outfield and then third base after the signing of Eric Hosmer. If San Diego can acquire a third baseman, Myers would move back to the outfield. But the Padres are loaded there, too. Probably a better option is to trade him to a team that would put him back at first base. Given that Myers has four years at $16 million per season remaining on his contract, it will take some creativity. But he has averaged 29 home runs and 29 doubles in his past two full seasons, which should make him attractive.
Possible destinations: Yankees, Mets, Orioles

Video: SF@SD: Myers clobbers a 2-run home run to center

7. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Rockies
Arenado is the very definition of a franchise player, on the field and off. If you're looking for a case for the Rockies to trade him, there's just one. Arenado will make around $25 million in his final arbitration year before free agency, and if Colorado hopes to sign him to a long-term extension, it'll have to look at alternatives. Best bet is that the Rockies do not trade him and eventually get his name on the dotted line.
Possible destinations: Braves, Padres, Cardinals

Video: Arenado wins fourth career Silver Slugger Award

8. Corey Dickerson, OF, Pirates
Dickerson's power numbers were down, but his overall value was up, in part because he won his first Gold Glove. He'll make around $7 million in arbitration, and if the Pirates are looking for value, this might be the best time to listen to offers.
Possible destinations: Giants, A's

Video: Dickerson clears hurdles en route to Gold Glove

9. Brad Boxberger, RHP, D-backs
The free-agent market is so flush with relievers that it might require patience to find a value trade for a 30-year-old who was removed from the closer role in September. But at a time when every team is attempting to add more bullpen depth, there's going to be a market for a fastball/changeup specialist who averaged 12 strikeouts per nine innings.
Possible destinations: Red Sox, Cubs, Braves

Video: ARI@SD: Boxberger fans Reyes, strands winning run

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.

Nolan Arenado, Brad Boxberger, Madison Bumgarner, Corey Dickerson, Scooter Gennett, Paul Goldschmidt, Corey Kluber, Wil Myers, James Paxton

The case for each AL Rookie of the Year finalist

MLB.com

The 2018 American League Rookie of the Year Award winner will be announced Monday at 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network, and with a two-way sensation the likes of which we haven't seen since Babe Ruth, along with two Yankees sluggers being the finalists, the results -- like the race -- will be intriguing. Shohei Ohtani electrified Major League Baseball by making the transition from Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball and living up to the hype as a flame-throwing right-hander and a middle-of-the-order slugger. Meanwhile, Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres helped fuel the Yanks to a 100-win season with historic campaigns of their own. Here's a look at the case for each finalist.

Miguel Andujar, Yankees
Stepping up after an early-season injury to Brandon Drury, Andujar grabbed hold of the Yankees' starting third-base job and never looked back, becoming the first rookie third baseman in Major League history to tally at least 40 doubles and 25 homers.

The 2018 American League Rookie of the Year Award winner will be announced Monday at 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network, and with a two-way sensation the likes of which we haven't seen since Babe Ruth, along with two Yankees sluggers being the finalists, the results -- like the race -- will be intriguing. Shohei Ohtani electrified Major League Baseball by making the transition from Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball and living up to the hype as a flame-throwing right-hander and a middle-of-the-order slugger. Meanwhile, Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres helped fuel the Yanks to a 100-win season with historic campaigns of their own. Here's a look at the case for each finalist.

Miguel Andujar, Yankees
Stepping up after an early-season injury to Brandon Drury, Andujar grabbed hold of the Yankees' starting third-base job and never looked back, becoming the first rookie third baseman in Major League history to tally at least 40 doubles and 25 homers.

The 23-year-old Andujar swiftly established his presence as an extra-base hit machine, raking 47 doubles to break Joe DiMaggio's single-season franchise record for rookies (44 in 1936) while equaling Boston's Fred Lynn ('75) for the most by an AL rookie.

Batting .297 with 27 homers and 92 RBIs across 149 games, Andujar led all Major League rookies in hits (170), doubles, RBIs, extra-base hits (76) and multihit games, while tying for first in homers and ranking second in runs (83) and batting average. One of the Yanks' most consistent offensive performers from wire to wire, Andujar's on-field success was rewarded with a pair of AL Rookie of the Month selections, honored in June and August.

-- Bryan Hoch

Video: Andujar among finalists for AL Rookie the Year

Shohei Ohtani, Angels
Nicknamed the Babe Ruth of Japan, Ohtani lived up to the lofty expectations that were thrust on him, emerging as one of the most dynamic talents in baseball. For the first two months of the season, Ohtani dominated as a right-handed pitcher and a left-handed slugger, though his two-way endeavor was ultimately derailed by a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow that required Tommy John surgery following the conclusion of the 2018 season.

Ohtani, 24, posted a 3.31 ERA with 63 strikeouts over 51 2/3 innings before his elbow trouble prematurely ended his season as a pitcher. Even after receiving his Tommy John surgery recommendation, Ohtani continued to hit in September, and he finished the season batting .285 with a .925 OPS, 22 home runs, 61 RBIs and 10 stolen bases in 367 plate appearances with the Angels. The Ruth comparisons proved astute, as Ohtani and the Bambino are the only players in MLB history to hit 15 home runs and pitch 50 innings in a single season.

In addition to the historical component, Ohtani also compiled a 3.8 WAR, according to FanGraphs, the highest among the AL Rookie of the Year Award finalists. He's already taken home the Rookie of the Year honors distributed by Baseball America and Baseball Digest, which could serve as precursors to the BBWAA's iteration of the award.

-- Maria Guardado

Video: Can Shohei Ohtani still win AL Rookie of the Year?

Gleyber Torres, Yankees
Widely celebrated as one of the game's most promising prospects, the 21-year-old Torres earned a selection as an AL All-Star in his rookie season, when he batted .271 with 24 home runs and 77 RBIs in 123 games.

Torres ranked second among Major League rookies in RBIs and fourth in home runs, including seven homers that came with two men on base. He is one of nine rookies in franchise history to hit 20 homers in a season, joining Gary Sanchez (2016), Aaron Judge ('17) and Andujar ('18) in having achieved the feat over the past three seasons.

Torres has already earned a spot alongside some of the bold-faced names in franchise lore; he owns the third-most career homers by a Yankee prior to his 22nd birthday, trailing only Mickey Mantle (57) and Joe DiMaggio (29). The Yankees went 17-3 in the 20 games he started at second base immediately following his recall from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He made his Major League debut on April 22, and he was named the AL's Rookie of the Month for May.

-- Bryan Hoch

Video: Torres is a finalist for AL Rookie of the Year

Yankees' Machado research is 'extensive'

MLB.com

Manny Machado has been one of the game's best players since debuting in 2012, and he is set to cash in as a first-time free agent this offseason.

Below, you will find a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the infielder.

Manny Machado has been one of the game's best players since debuting in 2012, and he is set to cash in as a first-time free agent this offseason.

Below, you will find a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the infielder.

Yankees doing "extensive" background work on Machado
Nov. 12: It's still a little murky how strong the Yankees' pursuit of Machado will actually be. But they're definitely doing their due diligence.

According to The Athletic's Jayson Stark (subscription required), the Yankees have been doing "particularly extensive" background work on Machado, even beyond the typical amount of background information teams routinely seek about potential free-agent or trade targets.

Sources told Stark that Yankees manager Aaron Boone, front-office members and scouts are all among those who "calling around" about Machado.

The superstar shortstop remains a clear fit for the Yankees, with Didi Gregorius out indefinitely as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.

A big gap between Harper and Machado?
Nov. 12: In a piece for The Athletic, Cliff Corcoran ranks the best under-28 free agents of all-time. It's interesting to see where the top two free agents on this year's market land. Manny Machado is ranked third, behind only Alex Rodriguez (2000) and Barry Bonds (1992). Bryce Harper is all the way down at 11th out of 13 players, ahead of Carlos Beltran (2004) and Goose Gossage (1977).

"The math projects [Machado] to be worth 5.2 bWAR in his age-26 season, but he has been a six-win player in four of the last six seasons (I'm counting his 5.7 bWAR this year given his uncharacteristic struggles in the field), so he could very well exceed that projection," writes Corcoran.

With respect to Harper, Corcoran cites his inconsistency at the plate and injury history, pointing out his 1.5 WAR (Baseball Reference) in 2016, and 1.3 WAR last season.

"What was supposed to be the monster free agency to end all free agencies is instead a confusing mixed bag of impressive accomplishment and confounding underperformance," Corcoran writes.

Should Cubs choose Machado over Bryant? Brisbee thinks so.
Nov. 11: SB Nation senior baseball writer Grant Brisbee decided to chime in on the Machado debate with a lengthy column in which he debates the advantages and disadvantages of several teams' pursuits of the 26-year-old shortstop, including the Yankees, Phillies, White Sox, Dodgers, Cubs and Padres.

In his search for an ideal fit for Machado, Brisbee considers four factors: extra money to spend, a fan base that needs a jolt, a robust farm system that can allow them to subsidize a superstar for the coming years, and a young team.

"We need the Padres. Machado needs the Padres. The Padres need Machado," Brisbee writes.

Brisbee points to the Eric Hosmer contract as an example of the Padres making an expensive, long-term investment in a player that could play a key role on a future team in contention, but concedes that Machado playing his home games in Petco Park remains a long shot. He ultimately concludes that he expects Machado to sign a 10-year, $330 million contract to play for the Cubs.

He doesn't feel that it's a coincidence that Kris Bryant trade rumors are gaining steam now, when Machado is also on the market. He writes that for the Cubs, it could be a matter of committing $300 million to a 29-year-old Bryant after the 2021 season versus making a similar commitment to a 26-year-old Machado right now -- and also reaping the benefits of whatever top prospects they would gain in a trade involving Bryant.

Would Harper or Machado be enough for Phillies to contend?
Nov. 10: In hopes of contending next year, the Phillies are expected to make a run at big-name free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado this offseason. But Jonah Keri of CBS Sports argues that adding one of those players might not be enough to spark a postseason run in 2019.

As Keri points out, the last three World Series winners -- the Cubs, the Astros and the Red Sox -- all had a strong core in place before adding to it in free agency. The Phils, though, have a ton of question marks after Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins.

Philadelphia's roster isn't barren, but Odubel Herrera and Cesar Hernandez are coming off poor second halves, Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez and Zach Eflin haven't proven to be consistent rotation options, and neither J.P. Crawford nor Scott Kingery have lived up to expectations as former top prospects.

Keri writes that signing Harper or Machado -- potentially for $400 million -- should be part of a larger free-agency plan that involves adding relief help as well as a starting pitcher. Keri names J.A. Happ and Charlie Morton, who has expressed his desire to be close to his wife's family's Delaware home, as potential options.

Meanwhile, Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer notes that this offseason could get tricky for the Phillies, with the markets for Harper and Machado potentially playing out slowly as their agents -- Scott Boras and Dan Lozano, respectively -- try to land the longest and most lucrative deal possible. As Lauber writes, neither agent is going to want his client to be the first of the two to sign, instead preferring to let the other player set the market. Moreover, the longer each player's free agency endures, the more likely it is that other teams will join the bidding.

Phillies general manager Matt Klentak has indicated that he won't wait around for Harper or Machado if he has a chance to improve the team.

"We're not going to forgo opportunities early in the offseason because we're waiting on something else," Klentak said this past week during the General Managers Meetings in Carlsbad, Calif. "If there are good opportunities for us to improve our club now or in the coming weeks or months that make sense for us, we will do it."

Will Yankees make competitive bid for Machado?
Nov. 10: While the Yankees continue to be connected to both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News does not think the club is a likely suitor for either player.

Madden wrote Saturday that New York "will monitor the Manny Machado sweepstakes, if only because he has previously expressed a desire to play for the Yankees and his market may be more limited than you might think."

But teams such as the Phillies are expected to offer more than $300 million for Machado, and Maddon doesn't expect New York will want to saddle itself with another potential albatross after being burned by the Alex Rodriguez and Jacoby Ellsbury deals.

Said one former big league executive: "All you have to know with Machado is he says he's no 'Charlie hustle' or whatever before he even gets the money. What's he going to do AFTER he gets the money, when he's got the security and nobody can talk to him? For me, he'd be toxic. To give that guy 10 years? That's one bad contract waiting to happen."

Meanwhile, Madden considers the Harper-to-the-Yankees dream to be "dead," noting that New York has no interest in spending another $250 million or more on an outfielder.

Madden writes that the Yanks' priority instead is "to add at least two more proven quality frontline pitchers," and he predicts that after staying under the luxury-tax threshold in 2018, New York "will not be out-bid for Patrick Corbin" or J.A. Happ, if they choose to pursue them.

Murti: No matter what Yanks say, don't count them out on Machado or Harper
Nov. 9: The Yankees say that they're focused on starting pitching this offseason. The Yankees say that they're not interested in Bryce Harper. The Yankees say that Machado is a back-burner item. WFAN Yankees beat reporter Sweeny Murti says to ignore all that.

"They tell everybody right now that they have no level of interest in these guys, but that doesn't mean anything at this point in time," Murti said in a Friday interview on MLB Now.

Murti goes on to explain that he feels that the Yankees are distancing themselves because they're not willing to pursue 12-year or 14-year deals with Machado or Harper, but if they remain on the market and New York feels that they can fill holes on the roster, he "guarantees" that the Yankees are still part of the equation.

"I will never believe a guy like Harper or Machado is not a Yankee until I see him holding up another jersey and wearing another cap at the podium," Murti said.

Murti pointed to the Yankees' past signings of Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira as examples of pursuits in which New York distanced itself at the start before ultimately choosing to pull the trigger on both. And Murti also feels the Yankees have more of a need than they would indicate at shortstop with the uncertainty around Didi Gregorius, pointing to the time in 2013 when Derek Jeter's injury necessitated them scrambling to find Luis Cruz to fill the gap.

With that said, this time could be different, with the Yankees finally having dropped below the luxury tax threshold after 15 straight years of being penalized, and owner Hal Steinbrenner reportedly reluctant to make another significant commitment.

Will last year's acquisition of Stanton cost Yankees Harper or Machado?
Nov. 9: The Yankees made a blockbuster move to acquire slugger Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins last offseason, also taking on $265 million remaining on his contract after Miami agreed to pick up $30 million in the trade. Did that acquisition make it unlikely New York could land one of this year's prized superstars, Bryce Harper or Manny Machado?

It did, according to SNY's John Harper (no relation), who argues that Stanton's no-trade clause, coupled with Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner's aversion to putting another giant contract on the franchise's payroll, makes the chances of Harper or Machado landing in the Bronx slim to none. The Yankees have also made it very apparent their first priority this offseason is starting pitching.

Who is the better investment: Harper or Machado?
Nov. 9: With both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado expected to command a long-term contract valued at more than $300 million this offseason, the question arises: which young superstar is the better investment?

ESPN's Bradford Doolittle takes a shot at answering that question, and he comes to the conclusion that Harper is the better bet. In a nutshell, Harper has more value offensively, and Machado has more value defensively, but Doolittle sees the offensive advantage Harper brings to the table outweighing Machado's superior defensive ability.

Obviously, these types of decisions are subject to many other factors, including positional need, for the different clubs that may pursue the two sluggers. But in a vacuum, Doolittle sees a Harper mega-deal paying off more than one for Machado.

What does the future hold for Harper and Machado?
Nov. 9: Since being drafted first and third overall, respectively, in the 2010 MLB Draft, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado have become two of the biggest stars in baseball. And regardless of where the two players land in free agency this offseason, the signing clubs will surely be hoping they'll be as good or better over the next decade.

History paints a positive picture about what teams might be able to expect, with some exceptions.

According to FanGraphs, Harper and Machado have each generated roughly 30 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in their careers. To determine potential future outcomes for the duo, MLB.com's Andrew Simon took a look at 43 players who each also recorded between 20-40 WAR through their age-25 seasons and have seen at least 10 years pass since then.

Breaking down WAR totals from their age 26-35 seasons, Simon found Willie Mays (92.2 WAR), Barry Bonds (79.1) and Hank Aaron (75.7) to be the cream of the crop, and seven players -- Rickey Henderson (62.1 WAR), Carl Yastrzemski (58.2), Frank Robinson (57.9), Eddie Mathews (56.7), George Brett (53.7), Albert Pujols (51.8) and Cal Ripken Jr. (50.9) -- qualified as all-time greats. Simon put an additional 16 players in the superstars group.

Fifteen players were productive for a while, but injuries and/or age typically caught up to them, with David Wright serving as a representative example. On the lower end of the spectrum, Simon lists Jim Ray Hart (4.0 WAR) and Grady Sizemore (1.4) as the worst-case scenarios. Sizemore posted 27.2 WAR over his first four full seasons, ranking fourth in the Majors, behind only Pujols, Chase Utley and Alex Rodriguez. But due to injuries, the outfielder barely collected 1,000 at-bats between 2010-15, and he played his final season in '15 at age 32.

Yankees not all-in on Machado, but remain opportunistic
Nov. 8: The Yankees will be tied to Machado for as long as he's available, because, well, they're the Yankees and have the payroll to give him his long-term deal, and Machado is a generational talent that fills a short-term need at shortstop. But according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, New York is more fixated on acquiring two starting pitchers this offseason and Machado is currently a "back-burner item."

With only Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka and now CC Sabathia appearing to be locked into rotation spots for 2019, that's a more pressing need than breaking the bank for a shortstop, and with the Yankees finally falling below the luxury tax threshold in 2018, the Steinbrenners might be loath to give up payroll flexibility by locking up a long-term commitment to Machado alongside the 13-year deal already owed to Giancarlo Stanton.

Sherman indicates that the most likely path for the Yankees is, indeed, adding two starters and a temporary replacement for Gregorius. But he also points out that after 2008, when Sabathia and Mark Teixeira were available to cement a championship contender, the Steinbrenners were convinced to make the commitment. The same thing happened with Tanaka prior to the 2014 season.

So with the Yankees, it's never say never, as they've shown that they're not averse to changing their plans when the market dictates it. And as Andy Martino of SNY point out, the market might still be shaping up for the Yankees to make an opportunistic push for Machado.

If the Phillies win the competition for Bryce Harper, as would be suggested by recent reports, Machado could lose perhaps his most aggressive suitor. And while the White Sox or a mystery team could still choose to go all-in on the shortstop, the Yankees could swoop in if the market cools enough to drive the asking price to a more reasonable level.

Dodgers, Mets unlikely to pursue Machado
Nov. 8: Machado himself already hinted that a reunion with the Dodgers would be unlikely after he posted a thank-you message to the Dodgers and their fans on Instagram following the World Series. Now, a return to Los Angeles seems even more unlikely after a Thursday report by the Los Angeles Times that shortstop Corey Seager will likely be ready for Spring Training after undergoing Tommy John surgery in April and a hip operation in August.

Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman confirmed to the Los Angeles Times at the General Managers Meetings that Seager will return as a shortstop, meaning that the Dodgers' infield is simply too crowded for Machado. Justin Turner and David Freese can both play third base, and though Turner could move to first, that would block Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy from regular playing time.

The Mets, on the other hand, do have a clear fit for Machado, with a need for a powerful right-handed bat in the middle of their lineup and struggling hitters in Todd Frazier and Amed Rosario installed on the left side of the infield. They've maintained that they're in win-now mode under the reign of new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen.

But a source told Matt Ehalt of NorthJersey.com that the Mets are not expected to pursue Machado, with Van Wagenen's focus after the GM Meetings instead centered around finding relief pitching, a catcher and outfield options this offseason. According to Ehalt, the Mets would prefer to make several impactful acquisitions instead of a franchise-altering commitment to someone like Machado.

Where will Machado sign?
Nov. 8: That's a pretty simple question with a much less simple answer. Manny Machado, after all, would make every team in baseball better, but not every team can both afford and fit him into its roster.

So the friendly folks at Cut4 broke out the Free Agent Matrix to analyze which clubs are best positioned to target the star shortstop (or third baseman). The favorites? Well, sure, it's the Phillies and Yankees, who both have lots of money to spend and a need on the left side of their infields. But there are a few dark horses in this race, too. Wanna see who they are? Of course you do. (And c'mon, you also wanna lay eyes on the well-designed matrix, which covers all 30 teams.)

Oh, and while you're there, go ahead and vote for which team YOU think will land Machado.

Showalter, Britton on Machado's mentality
Nov. 7: A portion of the coverage surrounding Manny Machado's free agency has been focused on the superstar's personality and mentality in the wake of a few highly publicized on- and off-field gaffes related to his lack of hustle and questionable dirty play (i.e., running over Jesus Aguilar's foot and sliding aggressively into second base). The big question: How much will that impact Machado's market, if at all?

Video: NLCS Gm4: Machado on altercation with Aguilar

In a story for the New York Post, MLB Network insider Joel Sherman discussed Machado with Buck Showalter. The money quote from Showalter, who managed Machado for the first six-and-a-half seassons of the star's career in Baltimore:

"Manny loves baseball, but who knows what happens when someone gets this kind of [financial] commitment. Will it make him more driven or more lackadaisical with that kind of commitment? No one is smart enough to know that. What I know is that his talent plays. There is no doubt he will listen if he respects you. Are there going to be times you have to define reality to him? Yes."

Meanwhile, former longtime teammate Zach Britton -- a free agent himself this offseason -- made supportive comments about Machado in an appearance on MLB Network Radio. "I know the guy he is in the clubhouse and the guy he is off the field, and that guy overshadows any of the stuff people may see on TV," Britton said. "He's a really good guy and a really good teammate."

Tweet from @MLBNetworkRadio: Zach Britton: Manny Machado's postseason antics should not overshadow the type of player he is. #Dodgers #Orioles pic.twitter.com/k69ekMl3Y4

Character certainly is something teams take into account when considering acquiring players, especially ones who are likely to cost upward of $300 million over a long-term deal like Machado is expected to get. While there might be some questions in this vein about Machado, he's also one of the very best players in the sport, and having a former manager and teammate back him up is a positive sign.

Phils not ruling out Machado over character concerns
Nov. 7: The Phillies have been long linked to Machado (and Bryce Harper, for that matter), but after the superstar shortstop's skirmishes in the postseason, speculation surfaced about whether Philly -- or any club, for that matter -- would have concerns over Machado's character when contemplating giving him a lucrative contract. 

Phils GM Matt Klentak wouldn't speak directly about Machado when asked about such assertions at the GM Meetings on Tuesday, but he did offer more clarity on where the club might stand on the matter. 

"We have to factor in everything," Klentak told MLB.com's Todd Zolecki. "I'm being vague because I don't want to address that particular player, as you can tell. But it's something that we will incorporate into our decision-making process, whether it's a superstar player or a complementary player or whether it's extending an internal player, whether it's a Minor League free agent, whether it's hiring a staff member. We really do a thorough assessment of the individual. We're going to evaluate that, and the decision might be to not sign that person. But it really comes down to the balance of all the factors. It's not that complicated."

Tweet from @MLBNetworkRadio: The hot stove season is here. If your favorite team is thinking about signing Manny Machado, how worried are you about the character concerns? pic.twitter.com/Ddsx219bXe

Phils don't seem afraid of Machado's baggage

The Phillies, who were prominently linked to Machado ahead of last season's non-waiver Trade Deadline, are on a short list of favorites to land the 26-year-old. But given Machado's exploits in the postseason -- tripping over Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar's foot and claiming that he's not "Johnny Hustle" -- speculation has surfaced if those behaviors will affect his free-agent stock. 

In 2017, Machado was accused of purposefully sliding hard into Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, which allegedly prompted Boston to throw at Machado on purpose in retaliation. Machado then lashed out in an expletive-laden rant in response during a TV interview when asked about the matter. In 2016, Machado tussled with Yordano Ventura when the former Royals starter intentionally threw at him. And in 2014, Machado was suspended five games for tossing a bat into the A's infield in what was perceived retaliation for Josh Donaldson, then with Oakland, sliding hard into Machado at third prior. 

Video: Must C Confrontation: Machado's mad charge at Ventura

All of this has been brought to light given that Machado has been touted to earn a contract in exceess of 10 years and $300 million by some pundits. 

"When we are evaluating players, we do our best to evaluate the total player, everything that player brings to the table," Klentak said. "Offense, defense, baserunning, their makeup and work ethic, their age, their health histories and a couple other things. We factor in all of those characteristics into how we evaluate the player. We make roster and contract decisions accordingly.

"It's unlikely you're going to find a player that's elite in every single one of those areas. If you do, he's probably not going to be a free agent. Sometimes you have to pick and choose what you're willing to bet on."

Will Padres trade Myers to make room for Machado?
Nov. 6: There have been several big market teams linked to Manny Machado, but what about the Padres? After all, they did land one of the top free agent hitters last offseason in Eric Hosmer, as they sought a veteran clubhouse leader to add to a mix of young players. San Diego was mentioned as one of the top three suitors for Machado by MLB Network Radio analyst and former MLB general manager Jim Duquette.

Sources tell MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal that the Padres could look to move Wil Myers, who is two years into the six-year, $83 million extension he signed in January 2017, to clear salary as the club looks to address its needs at third base and in the rotation.

According to Rosenthal in an article for The Athletic (subscription required), the Padres are comfortable with Franmil Reyes in left and Hunter Renfroe in right, and they have Hosmer entrenched at first base, leaving Myers without an obvious place to play. Myers did start 36 games at the hot corner in 2018, but he didn't show enough defensively to suggest he can be a long-term option at the position (though, in fairness, he was put there on short notice and with no prior experience). 

It's unclear whether Padres general manager A.J. Preller and the rest of the San Diego front office will pursue the biggest names on the market, but as he told Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union Tribune, the General Managers Meetings provide an opportunity to gauge the field.

"You just want to leave there with as many answers and a clear sense of what's realistic and what's probably not going to line up free agent-wise and trade-wise," Preller said. "You find out 'This is what it's going to cost' and 'This is what it's going to be in terms of a trade.' … We are definitely prepared. We've put together target groups, different game plans. You start to work your way through them."

Manny Machado

Rumors: Greinke, Machado, Cano, Harper

The latest MLB free agent and trade rumors for Hot Stove season
MLB.com

It's Hot Stove season, and MLB.com is keeping track of all the latest free agent and trade rumors right here.

Free agents, by position
Free agents, by team

It's Hot Stove season, and MLB.com is keeping track of all the latest free agent and trade rumors right here.

Free agents, by position
Free agents, by team

Could D-backs make Greinke available?
Nov. 12: With the free-agent market for starting pitchers not particularly deep, the D-backs might be able to benefit by making Zack Greinke available via trade, The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal suggests (subscription required). In fact, Rosenthal writes, Greinke might end up being the second-most attractive starting pitcher available this offseason, behind only teammate Patrick Corbin (who's now a free agent).

Greinke is 35, has had to deal with diminishing velocity over the past few seasons and is signed to an expensive contract -- he has three years and $104.5 million remaining on his six-year, $206.5 million deal that runs through 2021. But a selling point for the D-backs, per Rosenthal, would be their willingness to ease the financial burden on a prospective trade partner, whether by including cash or taking on another player's unfavorable contract.

And in Greinke's favor: his continued effectiveness and ability to adjust -- he had a 3.21 ERA and 199 strikeouts in 207 2/3 innings this season, after posting a 3.20 mark with 215 strikeouts in 202 1/3 innings in 2017.

Rosenthal notes that the D-backs haven't come out and said they want to trade Greinke, but the time might be right, with Corbin and A.J. Pollock free agents and Paul Goldschmidt a trade candidate since he's set to hit free agency next year.

Yankees doing "extensive" background work on Machado
Nov. 12: It's still a little murky how strong the Yankees' pursuit of Manny Machado will actually be. But they're definitely doing their due diligence.

According to The Athletic's Jayson Stark (subscription required), the Yankees have been doing "particularly extensive" background work on Machado, even beyond the typical amount of background information teams routinely seek about potential free-agent or trade targets.

Sources told Stark that Yankees manager Aaron Boone, front-office members and scouts are all among those who "calling around" about Machado.

The superstar shortstop remains a clear fit for the Yankees, with Didi Gregorius out indefinitely as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.

Is there a trade market for Cano?
Nov. 12: Even if the Mariners want to rebuild, they might not be able to pull off deal for all their big-contract players, including Felix Hernandez, Kyle Seager and Robinson Cano.

Cano, for one, has several factors working against him, as Rosenthal notes (subscription required). He's 36, and has five years is signed to a 10-year, $240 million contract that runs through 2023. Cano has full no-trade protection. He might have to move from second base to first base/designated hitter in the near future, much less valuable positions. And teams will likely be leery of Cano's suspension this past season for violating MLB's Joint Drug Agreement.

Rosenthal thinks that Cano's preference would be to return to the Yankees, with whom he spent his first nine Major League seasons before signing with Seattle entering 2014. A deal between the two clubs might include, for example, Jacoby Ellsbury, who has another big contract -- the Mariners would likely have to take on such a contract to have a chance at moving Cano. But he notes that the two teams might not really have any reason to make such an exchange.

Are Phillies shopping Santana to clear room for Harper?
Nov. 12: According to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in an article for The Athletic (subscription required), a rival executive said the Phillies are "shopping the hell" out of first baseman Carlos Santana, who signed a three-year, $60 million contract with Philadelphia last offseason.

Per Rosenthal, the Phillies want to move Rhys Hoskins back to first base. While that makes strategic sense from a defensive standpoint -- Hoskins recorded -19 Outs Above Average, per Statcast™, and -24 Defensive Runs Saved in left field this past season -- Philadelphia may also be trying to clear space on the payroll and in the outfield for free agent Bryce Harper.

Santana's deal included a $10 million signing bonus, leaving him with a base salary of roughly $35 million over 2019-20, and he has a $500,000 buyout on his $17.5 million club option for '21. The Phillies will likely need to send some cash to move the 32-year-old, who hit .229/.352/.414 with 24 homers and 86 RBIs over 161 games in the first year of his contract.

Philadelphia has been consistently connected to Harper this offseason and could conceivably afford to sign him without moving Santana, but doing so would likely mean putting promising right fielder Nick Williams on the bench or giving Santana more playing time at third at the expense of Maikel Franco.

Tigers could trade Castellanos this offseason; might Astros be interested?
Nov. 12: Nicholas Castellanos has one more season left before he can become a free agent, and the Tigers don't expect to contend anytime soon. According to Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press, that makes Castellanos a prime candidate to be moved this offseason, especially with the club's July 2017 trade of J.D. Martinez still fresh in general manager Al Avila's mind.

As Fenech points out, the Tigers didn't consider trading Martinez before his final season of free agency, as the club wasn't in rebuilding mode yet. Once Detroit opted to move him, it had limited suitors for the slugger and ended up taking an uninspiring three-player package from the D-backs.

The problem for the Tigers is that Castellanos' defensive shortcomings may deter teams from trading for him. The 26-year-old, who was a third baseman before changing positions late in 2017, ended his first full season as an outfielder with an MLB-worst -25 Outs Above Average, per Statcast™.

And while Castellanos is a good hitter whose underlying metrics suggest he has room to grow, he hasn't yet proven to be on Martinez's level, which means he doesn't stand out much from the myriad of productive outfield options currently on the free-agent market.

Fenech mentions the Astros as one potential suitor for Castellanos, as they may still be looking for an outfielder after reportedly coming close to trading for Bryce Harper this past season. Per Fenech, Houston also made an offer for Castellanos before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. The Astros have openings in left field and at designated hitter with Marwin Gonzalez and Evan Gattis becoming free agents.

Tweet from @anthonyfenech: One team who could be a fit for Castellanos: The Astros, who made an offer for him before the July 31 trade deadline last year.

How will Rizzo address Nats' needs this offseason?
Nov. 12: Although the Nationals want to bring back Bryce Harper, the club has other holes to plug, and earmarking a substantial portion of their payroll for a potential Harper reunion could have dire consequences if the team waits too long and the 26-year-old signs elsewhere.

According to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in an article for The Athletic (subscription required), one agent offered a theory about Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo's offseason approach, predicting that Rizzo will aggressively try to address the team's needs, then leave it up to ownership to make the final decision on Harper if the outfielder is still available.

As Rosenthal points out, Rizzo must proceed as if Harper is not returning after the slugger reportedly rejected a 10-year, $300 million offer from the Nats on the final day of the regular season.

Rosenthal also notes that any upgrades the Nats make could make the team more appealing to Harper and persuade him to re-sign, which would be a win-win scenario for Rizzo.

Will Donaldson headline Cardinals' offseason pursuits?
Nov. 12: The Cardinals may pursue free-agent third baseman Josh Donaldson to upgrade their offense, but Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch argues that the veteran comes with too much uncertainty to be relied upon as the club's marquee addition this offseason.

Donaldson has a lofty ceiling, as he slashed .285/.387/.559 with 111 homers from 2015-17, winning the American League MVP Award in the first year during that span.

But Donaldson will turn 33 years old in December and is coming off a season in which he played just 52 games due to right shoulder and left calf injuries.

Although Frederickson thinks Donaldson would be well-received by the fan base as St. Louis' new starting third baseman, he writes that it "would seem a bit thin" if the slugger was "the Cardinals' sole big move for the lineup."

Will Reds trade for Gray?
Nov. 12: The Reds are in the market for starting pitching, and Cincinnati's new pitching coach, Derek Johnson, was Sonny Gray's college pitching coach at Vanderbilt. Is there a reunion in the cards?

MLB.com's Mark Sheldon answered that question in his most recent Inbox, writing that it would, indeed, be a good match. But the Yankees are looking for starting pitching as well, meaning they might ask for right-hander Luis Castillo. That might be too much of an ask for Cincinnati. Nevertheless, Sheldon adds that he would be shocked if the Reds didn't at least check in with New York on Gray.

Gray struggled in 30 appearances (23 starts) for the Yankees last season, posting a 4.90 ERA. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has indicated the club is looking to move on from the 29-year-old right-hander, saying last month that "to maximize his abilities, it would be more likely best [for him to be] somewhere else."

Despite outfield questions, Indians unlikely to bring back Brantley
Nov. 12: With Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall hitting the open market, the Indians have question marks at all three starting outfield spots for next season.

But after a strong -- and healthy -- 2018 season put him in position to receive a lucrative multi-year offer, the 31-year-old Brantley is seemingly unlikely to return to an Indians club that is reportedly shopping some of its veterans for short-term financial relief and younger, cheaper assets.

In fact, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that there is "nearly a zero chance" of the Tribe re-signing Brantley.

With no qualifying offer attached to Brantley, new teams won't be forced to surrender a Draft pick to sign him. As a result, there could be a robust market for the veteran, especially among clubs that need a corner outfielder but aren't in on Bryce Harper. The Braves, the Phillies and the White Sox have reportedly already made offers to Brantley.

A big gap between Harper and Machado?
Nov. 12: In a piece for The Athletic, Cliff Corcoran ranks the best under-28 free agents of all-time. It's interesting to see where the top two free agents on this year's market land. Manny Machado is ranked third, behind only Alex Rodriguez (2000) and Barry Bonds (1992). Bryce Harper is all the way down at 11th out of 13 players, ahead of Carlos Beltran (2004) and Goose Gossage (1977).

"The math projects [Machado] to be worth 5.2 bWAR in his age-26 season, but he has been a six-win player in four of the last six seasons (I'm counting his 5.7 bWAR this year given his uncharacteristic struggles in the field), so he could very well exceed that projection," writes Corcoran.

With respect to Harper, Corcoran cites his inconsistency at the plate and injury history, pointing out his 1.5 WAR (Baseball Reference) in 2016, and 1.3 WAR last season.

"What was supposed to be the monster free agency to end all free agencies is instead a confusing mixed bag of impressive accomplishment and confounding underperformance," Corcoran writes.

Ryu will 'most likely' accept qualifying offer
Nov. 12: Hyun-Jin Ryu is expected to remain with the Dodgers, as a source tells MLB.com's Mark Feinsand that the free-agent lefty will "most likely" accept Los Angeles' one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer.

Tweet from @Feinsand: Nothing official yet, but source says Hyun-Jin Ryu will "most likely" accept the $17.9 million qualifying offer from the Dodgers by today's 5pm ET deadline.

The deadline for qualifying-offer decisions is Monday at 5 p.m. ET, and Ryu was one of seven players to receive said offer. Ryu may be the only one to accept it, with Bryce Harper, Patrick Corbin, Craig Kimbrel, Dallas Keuchel, Yasmani Grandal and A.J. Pollock likely to decline.

Feinsand's report is not exactly surprising. Ryu recorded a 1.97 ERA in 2018, but he again missed substantial time due to an injury. The left-hander has thrown just 213 2/3 innings since the beginning of '15, and he might have trouble finding a lucrative multi-year offer on the open market, especially because new teams would need to forfeit a Draft pick to sign him.

Could poor defense of free-agent competitors help Lowrie's market?
Nov. 12: While the free-agent market for second basemen is deep this offseason, Jed Lowrie stands apart from many of his counterparts -- and not solely because of his bat.

Lowrie isn't an elite defender, but he isn't likely to hurt a team with his fielding, which gives him an edge over some of the alternative free-agent options.

Mark Simon took a look at six players whose free-agent markets could be hindered by their poor defense in an article for The Athletic (subscription required), and the list included three second basemen: Asdrubal Cabrera, Daniel Murphy and Brian Dozier.

Cabrera has made the majority of his defensive appearances at shortstop during his career, but he's played there just 76 times over the past two seasons, and his lifetime Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) mark as a shortstop is -56. The veteran isn't likely to be courted as a shortstop by most teams, but his defense at second base isn't much better.

In 2018, Cabrera's -17 DRS at second base ranked second to last among those with at least 500 innings at the position. Murphy was last with -18 DRS, and Dozier was three spots behind Cabrera with -8. Lowrie recorded 1 DRS with a 6.1 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) in '18, while Cabrera, Murphy and Dozier had negative UZR marks.

Meanwhile, neither DJ LeMahieu or Ian Kinsler was anywhere close to Lowrie in terms of offensive production this past season, mitigating the defensive advantage they have over the 34-year-old Lowrie.

Arenado for Bryant? Hear this out.
Nov. 11: The rumors were flying earlier in the week about whether the Cubs would really entertain the idea of trading former NL MVP Kris Bryant. Former MLB general manager Jim Bowden, in a piece for The Athletic (subscription required), examines the idea, concluding that the likelihood of Bryant beginning the 2019 season anywhere but Wrigley Field is very low. Nevertheless, he suggests that for "the right deal," a swap could make sense for Chicago, and the organization may think hard about making it happen.

One of those "right deal" scenarios is -- brace yourself -- a swap of third basemen with the Rockies. That's right, trading Bryant for Nolan Arenado, who has one year remaining before he becomes a free agent. Bowden writes that such a deal could allow "the Cubs to try to extend Arenado instead, while the Rockies would have an extra two years of control of Bryant."

Arenado, an NL MVP finalist this year, has an .886 OPS (121 OPS+) with 186 home runs over six Major League seasons, along with six Gold Glove Awards at the hot corner. Bryant was the '15 NL Rookie of the Year before winning MVP honors the following season as he helped the Cubs win their first World Series title in 108 years. Though injuries hindered him last season, he remains one of the premier sluggers in the game, with a .900 OPS (137 OPS+) with 107 homers in 559 games.

Bryant has the aforementioned two years of team control remaining, while the Rockies will try to extend Arenado before he hits free agency. The prospect of a swap, while perhaps unlikely, is very intriguing nonetheless.

Should Cubs choose Machado over Bryant? Brisbee thinks so.
Nov. 11: SB Nation senior baseball writer Grant Brisbee decided to chime in on the Manny Machado debate with a lengthy column in which he debates the advantages and disadvantages of several teams' pursuits of the 26-year-old shortstop, including the Yankees, Phillies, White Sox, Dodgers, Cubs and ... Padres.

In his search for an ideal fit for Machado, Brisbee considers four factors: extra money to spend, a fan base that needs a jolt, a robust farm system that can allow them to subsidize a superstar for the coming years, and a young team.

"We need the Padres. Machado needs the Padres. The Padres need Machado," Brisbee writes.

Brisbee points to the Eric Hosmer contract as an example of the Padres making an expensive, long-term investment in a player that could play a key role on a future team in contention, but concedes that Machado playing his home games in Petco Park remains a long shot. He ultimately concludes that he expects Machado to sign a 10-year, $330 million contract to play for the Cubs.

He doesn't feel that it's a coincidence that Kris Bryant trade rumors are gaining steam now, when Machado is also on the market. He writes that for the Cubs, the decision is between committing $300 million to a 29-year-old Bryant after the 2021 season versus making a similar commitment to a 26-year-old Machado right now -- and also reaping the benefits of whatever top prospects they would gain in a trade involving Bryant.

Astros targeting familiar foe
Nov. 11: Could Mariners ace James Paxton pitch for another American League West club in 2019?

Count the Astros among the teams talking to Seattle about a potential trade for the southpaw, per MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal, who calls the market for Paxton "active." The Yankees were also identified as a party in contact with the Mariners about Paxton earlier this week, meaning there could be an arms race developing between AL superpowers for what would be an impact arm.

Paxton has fared well against Houston, posting a 2.89 ERA across 12 career starts against the division foe. Houston's rotation was historically good in 2018, but could look a little different with Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton both entering free agency and Lance McCullers Jr. out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Justin Verlander is also entering the final year of his deal in his age-36 season, and so adding an emerging front-of-the-rotation arm like Paxton -- who does not become a free agent until the end of the 2020 season -- could help Houston stay ahead of the curve.

Seattle would likely want a significant haul (especially from a successful division rival like the Astros) for Paxton, who threw his first no-hitter and struck out a career-high 208 batters last season.

Would the Mets part with Thor to bring Bryant to New York?
Nov. 11: It will likely take an offer of seismic proportions to convince the Cubs to part with star third baseman Kris Bryant. Could a package involving Noah Syndergaard do the trick?

SNY's Danny Abriano thinks that a swap of the hard-throwing Mets star for Chicago's former National League Most Valuable Player Award winner would make sense for both sides. And as he goes on to explain, if such a dramatic deal were to unfold, the impact could make ripples around the league, possibily even impacting the free-agency pursuits of high-end starters like Patrick Corbin and Nathan Eovaldi.

Why would it make sense for the Cubs? Abriano thinks that despite all of the high-profile names in Chicago's starting rotation, there is still a need for a true ace on the staff. He points to Jon Lester's diminishing numbers, Yu Darvish's inconsistent health and the inability of Jose Quintana and Kyle Hendricks to consistently pitch at an ace-caliber level as examples of why Syndergaard might be a good addition on the North Side.

Meanwhile, the Mets have a need for a right-handed power bat that could slot in at third base, and with New York reportedly not interested in pursuing Manny Machado, Bryant could offer a tantalizing alternative. Since Bryant hasn't yet hit free agency, if the Mets aren't willing to pay Bryce Harper or Machado to add a franchise-altering face, the Cubs third baseman could offer an outside-the-box solution.

With that said, if the Mets felt confident enough in Bryant's shoulder health to part with Syndergaard, they would likely seek a high-upside arm to bolster their rotation. Though Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco or James Paxton could make sense as trade options, the prospect cost of acquiring one of those arms -- in addition to whatever prospects the Mets might send to Chicago to sweeten the Bryant deal -- might be prohibitive.

So in that case, the Mets might join the fray for Corbin, Eovaldi, Dallas Keuchel or other top starters in free agency. Though the bidding for Corbin and Keuchel are expected to be pricey with the Yankees in tow, new Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen has expressed that New York remains in win-now mode, and it wouldn't be a surprise if the Mets were aggressive in free agency.

Altuve says he will be ready for spring, addresses Gonzalez free agency
Nov. 11: Jose Altuve said Sunday that he expects to be "120 percent" ready by the start of Spring Training after undergoing surgery to repair a patella avulsion fracture in his right knee last month. The Astros' star second baseman, who's currently in the early stages of rehab, injured his knee sliding into second base in July.

Utility man Marwin Gonzalez filled in for Altuve at second base when Altuve was limited to designated hitter in the American League Championship Series and made 24 starts at the position in the regular season. If Altuve isn't ready or is limited to begin next season, Gonzalez may not be an option for Houston as he's currently a free agent.

"I don't think there's a single team in MLB that doesn't like Marwin," Altuve said. "For me, he's the savior. You have a problem, you call Marwin. That's one of the reasons why it's going to be really hard to get him back because he's in such high demand right now."

Altuve's words echo previous reports that Gonzalez has been a hot commodity on the open market. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported last week for Fancred Sports that nearly every MLB club has at least some level of interest in the versatile 29-year-old, who played every position besides catcher and pitcher this season.

The Astros opted not to extend a $17.9 million qualifying offer to Gonzalez, so they won't receive Draft compensation if he signs elsewhere.

Video: Altuve on Astros' free agents, 2019 season 

Will Corbin return to the franchise that drafted him?
Nov. 11: Sure, the Yankees appear to be the favorite to land left-hander Patrick Corbin at this point, but according to MLB.com's Free Agent Matrix, there could be other serious players in the mix, including the Angels. It was the Angels that drafted Corbin in the second round of the 2009 Draft, but they traded him to the D-backs before he made his big league debut.

The Angels could definitely use an upgrade in their rotation, particularly with Shohei Ohtani unable to pitch next season after having Tommy John surgery. With Ohtani, Mike Trout and Corbin, perhaps Los Angeles could finally get back to the postseason. Corbin would be coming full circle, and it would make for a very intriguing move.

Rosenthal: Harper was very nearly an Astro
Nov. 10: The coming weeks will determine whose uniform Bryce Harper wears next, but the superstar outfielder very nearly switched uniforms at last season's Trade Deadline. 

In a story published Saturday for the The Athletic, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal revealed that the Astros had a deal in place for Harper leading up to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline before Nationals ownership rejected the move, per Major League sources. The Astros, without Harper, were ultimately unable to defend their 2017 World Series title as they fell to the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series.

Rosenthal reports the proposed trade would have sent right-handed pitcher J.B. Bukauskas, the Astros' eighth-ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline, to Washington along with two other Minor League players for Harper. One of those two players could have been catcher Garrett Stubbs, Houston's No. 15 prospect, who was brought up in discussions between the two clubs. That kind of haul would offer significantly more value to the Nationals than their current compensation if Harper rejects their qualifying offer and signs with another team: A pick after the fourth round of the 2019 MLB Draft, per the current rules in MLB's Collective Bargaining Agreement. The Nationals' potential compensation is lower than 28 of the other 29 Major League clubs (with the Red Sox being the other exception) because they exceeded the $197 million competitive balance threshold (CBT) in '18.

The Nationals informed teams that Harper was available in the days leading up to the non-waiver Deadline as their NL East hopes began to wane, but general manager Mike Rizzo informed the Washington Post on the morning of the Deadline via text that "Bryce is not going anywhere." Harper then rejected the Nationals' 10-year, $300 million contract offer at the close of the regular season, per the Post.

Bukauskas, 22, missed the first three months of 2018 due to a slipped disc, but returned to compile a 2.14 ERA in 59 combined Minor League innings while ascending to Double-A. Stubbs hit .310 and posted an .836 OPS across 84 games for Triple-A Fresno last season. 

Braves unlikely to bid on Kimbrel?
Nov. 10: Although pitching-staff usage continues to change, and fans just witnessed another postseason in which traditional starting pitchers were effectively utilized out of the bullpen in high-leverage situations, the era of the designated closer doesn't seem to be going anywhere.

NBC Sports' Evan Drellich asked a handful of top executives their views on the closer's role, and most were in favor of having a specific pitcher handle the ninth inning, at least during the regular season, which is good news for free-agent righty Craig Kimbrel.

"We'd like to have somebody pitch the ninth inning," Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said. "I don't know what your idea of traditional is, but, we do like somebody to close the game...That designated guy."

While Kimbrel is expected to reject the one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer he received from the defending World Series champions, Boston could look to bring him back on a multi-year deal.

However, based on general manager Alex Anthopoulos' comments, the Braves -- a club that has been mentioned as a favorite for Kimbrel -- may not be as interested in the righty as many assumed they would be.

"What I basically said about pursuing high level, expensive relievers with term and significant AAVs: I don't know that makes a lot of sense for us to allocate the dollars available to that position," Anthopoulos said. "Doesn't mean that there won't be a day that we do it. Or if the value lines up -- right now for this current offseason, we haven't, we don't plan to go spend significant dollars and significant years on a reliever. And that doesn't take anything away from the great relievers that are out there. I just think we have other areas we need to address."

Is Pollock a good gamble?
Nov. 10: Center fielder A.J. Pollock has had an injury history that will make teams think twice about the free agent this offseason, but could he be a good gamble for certain clubs? MLB.com's Andrew Simon breaks it down, and given Pollock's value both offensively and defensively when he's healthy, there are several clubs that may take a chance with a potentially big payoff. They include the Indians, Rockies, Mets, Phillies and Mariners.

Simon notes that "on one hand, the injury-plagued Pollock has collected 500 plate appearances in a season only once in his career, during a breakout 2015. On the other hand, his average of 3.3 WAR per season since '13 balloons to 5.9 per 650 plate appearances." Defensively, Pollock has well-above-average sprint speed at 28.2 feet/second, as well as plus-6 Outs Above Average, per Statcast™.

The Reds have money and need pitching. Will they make a bid for Keuchel?
Nov. 10: The Reds will be active this offseason, and their primary need is pitching, writes the Cincinnati Enquirer's John Fay. Does that mean they'll take a run at top-tier starters on the market, like former AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel? The Athletic's Jim Bowden thinks so, including Keuchel on a list of free agents the Reds may target.

Fay reports the Reds, who have finished in fifth place in the NL Central in four consecutive seasons, have a significant amount of money to spend this offseason, though they won't say exactly how much. "Bob Castellini said the payroll [may] be the highest ever," Fay writes. "It was $101.3 million last year. The guess here is it goes to at least $120 million and possibly to $130 million."

Fay argues that given Cincinnati's recent history when it has signed free agents to big contracts, it wouldn't be wise of the club to commit to a long-term deal with one of the top-tier starters. He suggests they look for multi-inning relievers instead, given the rise of bullpenning around the game.

Could Rockies be right fit for Brantley?
Nov. 10: In his piece for The Athletic outlining needs and potential free agent targets for all 30 clubs, former MLB general manager Jim Bowden lists outfielder Michael Brantley as a potential fit for the Rockies. Colorado general manager Jeff Bridich has stated that the club's offense will be the focus during this offseason, and with both Carlos Gonzalez and Gerardo Parra on the free agent market, offense in the form of an outfielder would make sense. 

Brantley has spent his entire 10-year Major League career in the AL with the Indians, but spacious Coors Field and the thin air of Denver could be very inviting for a hitter of his caliber. Though he's never been a 30-plus home run hitter, Brantley has always had a penchant for extra-base hits, leading the AL in doubles with 45 in just 137 games for the Tribe in 2015. With the large gaps between outfielders at Coors Field, Brantley could certainly use that to his -- and the Rockies' -- advantage.

Beltre's decision on retirement could come soon
Nov. 10: Adrian Beltre's decision on whether to continue playing or hang up his cleats for good could come "within a week or so," a source told Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported earlier this week that the 21-year veteran is leaning toward retiring.

Beltre, who will turn 40 on April 7, believes he still has the ability to keep playing, but it's believed that he has aspirations to play for a contending club. Beltre had been linked to rumors ahead of last season's non-waiver Trade Deadline -- notably to the Braves and Red Sox -- but no deal wound up manifesting. He would still be a strong fit for Atlanta, which is in need of a third baseman until touted prospect Austin Riley (the club's fifth-ranked prospect, per MLB Pipeline) is Major League ready. 

Video: TEX@SEA: Beltre hugs teammates after being pulled

"We know he is a guy who will perform at well above Major League average," Beltre's agent, Scott Boras, said at the GM Meetings this week, per Grant. "We fully expect teams to express interest in that. I will leave it to Adrian on when to direct me to advance or not on that interest."

The Rangers finished in last place last season and are on the cusp of a rebuild. General manager Jon Daniels, who signed a multiyear contract extension in June, has said that he plans to outline a specific map for Beltre's role should he return and present it to the third baseman soon. 

With NL contenders having financial uncertainty, should Mets spend?
Nov. 10: The Mets are reeling in rejuvenation. As the GM Meetings conclude, the talk of the baseball world -- aside from the Bryce Harper and Manny Machado sweepstakes -- surrounded New York's hire of Brodie Van Wagenen to run its front office. A renewed sense of optimism, a roster that, at full strength, has the potential to go toe to toe with any club in the National League East, and the possible regression of the NL powerhouses might create an environment for the Mets to be aggressive this winter. 

The New York Post's Joel Sherman makes an argument that this offseason's market might be conducive for the Mets to be spenders. The Cubs and Dodgers are both believed to be out on some of the blue-chip free agents in an effort to trim payroll, and within a wide open NL East, New York could be right back in the hunt with the right acquisitions. 

Sherman points out that the Mets only have Jay Bruce, Yoenis Cespedes and David Wright on their 2020 payroll and have no players signed for '21. The Phillies are the only NL club that has been prominently linked to spending big this winter, along with the Braves and Cardinals, but to a lesser degree. Sherman has made the case that the Mets should sign Machado, though that currently appears unlikely. 

The trade market could also be where the Mets make a splash. Sherman speculates that San Diego, with its No. 1 farm system, might be a strong partner given the club's pressures to emerge from their multiyear rebuild soon and win again. The Padres' pipeline is loaded with pitching depth, though much of it is not yet Major League ready. 

The Mets have the talent to be active in the trade market, the financial flexibility to sign high-profile free agents and the ambition to return to relevancy in the immediate future. 

Would Harper or Machado be enough for Phillies to contend?
Nov. 10: In hopes of contending next year, the Phillies are expected to make a run at big-name free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado this offseason. But Jonah Keri of CBS Sports argues that adding one of those players might not be enough to spark a postseason run in 2019.

As Keri points out, the last three World Series winners -- the Cubs, the Astros and the Red Sox -- all had a strong core in place before adding to it in free agency. The Phils, though, have a ton of question marks after Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins.

Philadelphia's roster isn't barren, but Odubel Herrera and Cesar Hernandez are coming off poor second halves, Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez and Zach Eflin haven't proven to be consistent rotation options, and neither J.P. Crawford nor Scott Kingery have lived up to expectations as former top prospects.

Keri writes that signing Harper or Machado -- potentially for $400 million -- should be part of a larger free-agency plan that involves adding relief help as well as a starting pitcher. Keri names J.A. Happ and Charlie Morton, who has expressed his desire to be close to his wife's family's Delaware home, as potential options.

Meanwhile, Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer notes that this offseason could get tricky for the Phillies, with the markets for Harper and Machado potentially playing out slowly as their agents -- Scott Boras and Dan Lozano, respectively -- try to land the longest and most lucrative deal possible. As Lauber writes, neither agent is going to want his client to be the first of the two to sign, instead preferring to let the other player set the market. Moreover, the longer each player's free agency endures, the more likely it is that other teams will join the bidding.

Phillies general manager Matt Klentak has indicated that he won't wait around for Harper or Machado if he has a chance to improve the team.

"We're not going to forgo opportunities early in the offseason because we're waiting on something else," Klentak said this past week during the General Managers Meetings in Carlsbad, Calif. "If there are good opportunities for us to improve our club now or in the coming weeks or months that make sense for us, we will do it."

Cutch could offer quality alternative to Harper
Nov. 10: The reality is that only one team will land Bryce Harper, and so prospective buyers will need to consider other options to fill their holes in the outfield. In a column for ESPN posted Saturday (subscription required), Buster Olney points out that Andrew McCutchen could prove to be a quality, cost-effective alternative to the the superstar headliner.

McCutchen, while not the hitter he was while capturing NL MVP honors in 2013, still works pitchers into deep counts and gets on base at a high clip, earning the trust of both Giants manager Bruce Bochy and Yankees manager Aaron Boone to hit at the top of their lineups as the leadoff man. He also remains a universally recognized teammate and leader at the big league level. At age 32, McCutchen is unlikely to receive a deal any longer than three years based on recent market trends, and so teams can hope for a handful more productive years from a versatile outfielder without being tied up in a long-term commitment as they would with a superstar like Harper or Manny Machado.

Olney lists the Braves as a possible fit, considering their need for a right-handed bat and the possible departure of free agent Nick Markakis, who just captured his first Silver Slugger Award. Olney also mentioned the Phillies (whose young lineup showed a need for more patient at-bats in 2018) and the Dodgers (who could potentially trade right fielder Yasiel Puig this winter) as logical candidates, while also not ruling out a return to the Giants or a pair of AL Central up-and-comers in the Tigers and Twins.

Could Harper captivate Chicago like Sammy Sosa?
Nov. 10: Bryce Harper or Manny Machado? Manny Machado or Bryce Harper? The White Sox would likely be thrilled to sign either player this offseason, but if they had to pick just one, who would it be?

In the opinion of Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times, it should be Harper.

Morrissey argues that while Machado may be the more consistent player, Harper is more compelling and would be the most magnetic baseball personality in Chicago since Sammy Sosa.

And although the White Sox are hoping to put their rebuild into overdrive this offseason, Morrissey contends that owner Jerry Reinsdorf should first be concerned about filling Guaranteed Rate Field, where a captivating personality and prodigious talent like Harper would be a significant draw.

Is the Harper-to-the-Yankees dream dead?
Nov. 10: As he prepares for an offseason in which he'll be heavily promoting Bryce Harper behind closed doors, agent Scott Boras spent some time this week talking up his client in public. When he wasn't touting Harper as a "generational player" who is worth "$400 million to $500 million" in true value, Boras was trumpeting Harper's ability to help a team at first base.

The Daily News' Bill Madden thinks the latter proclamation was a last-ditch effort by Boras to keep alive an idea the agent has held for quite some time -- that Harper will sign the biggest contract in baseball history with the Yankees.

But Madden considers the Harper-to-the-Yankees dream to be "dead," noting that New York has no interest in spending another $250 million or more on an outfielder.

Madden writes that the Yanks' priority instead is "to add at least two more proven quality frontline pitchers," and he predicts that after staying under the luxury-tax threshold in 2018, New York "will not be out-bid for Patrick Corbin" or J.A. Happ, if they choose to pursue them.

Per Madden, the Yankees aren't closing the door on Manny Machado, but they may be unwilling to saddle themselves with another potential albatross after being burned by the Alex Rodriguez and Jacoby Ellsbury deals.

Said one former big league executive: "All you have to know with Machado is he says he's no 'Charlie hustle' or whatever before he even gets the money. What's he going to do AFTER he gets the money, when he's got the security and nobody can talk to him? For me, he'd be toxic. To give that guy 10 years? That's one bad contract waiting to happen."

deGrom's future unclear as agent becomes GM

Ace 'willing to explore' extension as Van Wagenen settles in
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

NEW YORK -- As Brodie Van Wagenen navigated the Mets' general manager interview process earlier this month, he stayed in close contact with Jacob deGrom and his other clients at CAA. Unwilling to blindside deGrom with the news that he might change jobs, Van Wagenen kept his star client updated on what was happening.

Shortly after Van Wagenen became GM, divesting himself of all interests in CAA and forfeiting the chance to represent deGrom in contract negotiations, he chatted again on the phone with his ex-client.

NEW YORK -- As Brodie Van Wagenen navigated the Mets' general manager interview process earlier this month, he stayed in close contact with Jacob deGrom and his other clients at CAA. Unwilling to blindside deGrom with the news that he might change jobs, Van Wagenen kept his star client updated on what was happening.

Shortly after Van Wagenen became GM, divesting himself of all interests in CAA and forfeiting the chance to represent deGrom in contract negotiations, he chatted again on the phone with his ex-client.

"Have you talked to my agent?" deGrom recalled asking him.

"I don't know who that is," Van Wagenen deadpanned.

"Yeah, me neither," deGrom said, laughing.

For now, deGrom is still working out that detail, as he tries to determine how Van Wagenen's move to the Mets' front office might affect him. Back in July, Van Wagenen was vocal in saying the Mets should either sign deGrom to a long-term deal or trade him. Like most around baseball, deGrom is unsure if his agent's career change will facilitate either of those things. (Van Wagenen has language written into his contract that he cannot fight deGrom in arbitration, among other limitations, given the nature of their past dealings.)

"That's what I'm still trying to wrap my head around over this past week, week and a half," deGrom said in a telephone interview. "I've had conversations with him since then, and they've been good. It's still a little confusing for me, I guess."

Upon leaving the GM Meetings last Friday in Carlsbad, Calif., Van Wagenen expressed interest in locking deGrom up to a long-term deal. But the two sides have not engaged in negotiations, which is nothing new for deGrom (and nothing abnormal for this point in the offseason). Ex-GM Sandy Alderson never approached deGrom about a contract extension during his tenure, despite the pitcher's interest in making something happen.

"I've remained steadfast that I think he's tremendous," Van Wagenen said. "I'd love to try to keep him if it's possible. We'll explore that in the coming weeks."

deGrom's position has not changed since the end of the season.

"I think anybody is open to an extension if it's right for you and your family," said deGrom, who is under team control through the 2020 season, at which point he will be 32 years old. "Nothing is guaranteed in this game until you sign that deal or hit free agency and sign a deal there. You just have to sit down and, at the end of the day, look at what's right for you and your family and kind of make a decision based upon that.

"I really do enjoy playing in New York. The fans have treated me great. I enjoy taking the mound at Citi Field in front of them, and it's rare that a guy spends his career with one team. If that was something that they wanted to do, and me and [my wife] Stacey felt like it was the right move for us, then we'd be willing to definitely explore that."

No matter what happens this offseason, deGrom will enter next year in an enviable position. MLB Trade Rumors projects his salary to jump from $7.4 million to $12.9 million, after he went 10-9 with a 1.70 ERA. He is an overwhelming favorite to win the National League Cy Young Award, which the Baseball Writers' Association of America will announce Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network.

Although deGrom knows he stands an excellent chance of taking home the award, he remains anxious for the announcement.

"That was a goal of mine," deGrom said. "I've said it for the past couple of years -- you win a Cy Young Award, you were probably the best pitcher in your league that year. Yeah, I'm nervous. It's something that I've set as a goal, and [I] would definitely like to win it."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.

New York Mets, Jacob deGrom

Compton academy gets boost from golf outing

Hunter, Matthews co-host event in Newport Beach for 2nd straight year
MLB.com

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- Much of the Southern California baseball community gathered at Newport Beach Country Club on Monday to help support the next generation of athletes coming up behind them.

A number of former and current Major Leaguers took to the links for this year's Celebrity Golf Invitational, which benefits the MLB Youth Academy in Compton, Calif. Former All-Stars Torii Hunter and Gary Matthews Jr. co-hosted the event at the Newport Beach Country Club for a second consecutive year.

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- Much of the Southern California baseball community gathered at Newport Beach Country Club on Monday to help support the next generation of athletes coming up behind them.

A number of former and current Major Leaguers took to the links for this year's Celebrity Golf Invitational, which benefits the MLB Youth Academy in Compton, Calif. Former All-Stars Torii Hunter and Gary Matthews Jr. co-hosted the event at the Newport Beach Country Club for a second consecutive year.

Hunter assumed hosting duties for the annual fundraiser from Hall of Famer Frank Robinson beginning in 2016, and partnered with Matthews, his former Angels teammate, in '17. Proceeds from the event will support the academy through the nonprofit Major League Baseball Youth Foundation.

"It's something that's near and dear to my heart," Hunter said. "Everything they have to offer at the academy is something that I stand for."

The MLB Youth Academy in Compton aims to expand baseball's reach in communities where kids might not otherwise have access to the facilities, equipment and instruction required to play the sport. The facility spans 20 acres of the Compton College campus and features multiple playing fields, training areas, batting cages and pitching mounds. It offers free year-round baseball and softball instruction as well as educational resources and programs such as SAT and ACT prep courses and tutoring.

Since the Compton academy opened its doors in 2006, more than 500 of its student-athletes have gone on to play collegiate softball or baseball and more than 160 have been drafted by MLB clubs, including last year's No. 2 pick, Hunter Greene, the Reds' third-ranked prospect (No. 22 overall), per MLB Pipeline. Greene, who started going to the academy when he was 7 years old, attended Monday's event but couldn't play because he's rehabbing an ulnar collateral ligament sprain this offseason.

"I remember I was looking down on him, now he's looking down on me," said Ken Landreaux, a former All-Star outfielder who won a World Series with the Dodgers in 1981 and has been an instructor at the academy since it opened. "You don't ever want to forget where you started. Life's a cycle. They've gotten a helping hand, and hopefully they turn around and they present a helping hand."

Like many academy alumni, Greene jumped at the opportunity to support the place that was so important to his development. The academy has now produced several Major Leaguers -- including the Yankees' Aaron Hicks and Kyle Higashioka, the Mets' Dominic Smith, the A's Khris Davis and the Phillies' J.P. Crawford and Vince Velasquez -- and they maintain an active presence at the facility and in the community.

"For me, it's really easy to give back because it's the people I care about, that I love and appreciate, who helped me get here," said Greene, who fondly recalled playing alongside several future big leaguers as a child. "To be around those guys and be able to get that mentorship at that age when I was young, it helped me not just to be a good baseball player, but a good person as well."

"To whom much is given, much is expected," said Trayce Thompson, who went to the academy as a teenager. A Southern California native, Thompson played two seasons with the Dodgers from 2016-17 and is currently a free agent after splitting the 2018 campaign between the A's and White Sox.

"You're supposed to give back and do what you can to help kids out, especially the kids at the academy. Most of them aren't as fortunate as I was growing up with my dad [former NBA player Mychal Thompson] being who he was. I try to give back as much as I can, because I remember when I was a kid -- the gesture goes really far."

The Compton academy was the first such facility built by MLB, and seven more have since opened in Cincinnati, Dallas, Gurabo (Puerto Rico), Houston, Kansas City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Three more are in development in New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

"I think [the academy] sends a strong message that we care," said former Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who touted his foursome with Red Sox bench coach Ron Roenicke, former Dodgers teammate Mickey Hatcher and Yankees bullpen coach Mike Harkey as the team to beat. "This is one piece of the pie. We've got to continue to grow and continue to give kids opportunities all over the country. ... We need to build fields, we need to go out there and get kids excited about baseball."

Video: Scioscia talks retirement, Angels on High Heat

Others in attendance included MLB executive vice president of baseball and softball development and former Angels general manager Tony Reagins; MLB vice president for youth and facility development, director of the Compton academy and former Angel Darrell Miller; and former Major Leaguers Kenny Lofton, Chuck Finley, Bob Boone, Garret Anderson, Shawn Green, Mark Gubicza, Derrek Lee, Vince Coleman, Dmitri Young, Gary Matthews Sr., Darren Oliver, Jerry Hairston Jr., Jerry Hairston Sr., Brett Tomko and Sergio Santos.

"All the guys that are here, they want to be here. We didn't beg them," Hunter said. "They wanted to come here because there's some fruit coming out of the academy and they see the fruit. People want to be a part of something great."

Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.

Emotional Mauer officially retires at Target Field

MLB.com @RhettBollinger

MINNEAPOLIS -- In typical Joe Mauer fashion, he began his retirement press conference at Target Field by spending more than 10 minutes thanking those who helped him along the way instead of talking about himself and his illustrious 15-year career with the Twins.

Mauer, 35, fought back tears as he thanked family members, high school coaches, Twins executives, including Terry Ryan, Bill Smith, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, former Twins managers Paul Molitor, Ron Gardenhire and Tom Kelly and teammates such as Justin Morneau, Corey Koskie and Glen Perkins. It was an emotional day for Mauer, but he made sure to point out it's not a goodbye, as the St. Paul native plans to remain in the Twins' organization in some capacity.

MINNEAPOLIS -- In typical Joe Mauer fashion, he began his retirement press conference at Target Field by spending more than 10 minutes thanking those who helped him along the way instead of talking about himself and his illustrious 15-year career with the Twins.

Mauer, 35, fought back tears as he thanked family members, high school coaches, Twins executives, including Terry Ryan, Bill Smith, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, former Twins managers Paul Molitor, Ron Gardenhire and Tom Kelly and teammates such as Justin Morneau, Corey Koskie and Glen Perkins. It was an emotional day for Mauer, but he made sure to point out it's not a goodbye, as the St. Paul native plans to remain in the Twins' organization in some capacity.

Video: Mauer retires from the Twins after playing 15 seasons

"Oftentimes, retirement press conferences can feel like a farewell, but for me this one doesn't," Mauer said. "I may not be suiting up to play any more ballgames, but the beauty of being from Minnesota is that I don't have to say goodbye to all the people today with whom I've become family. You'll always be a part of me, and I can't thank you enough for supporting me. My career wouldn't be what it was without you guys."

Mauer said he wasn't most proud of his unprecedented three batting titles as a catcher, his 2009 American League Most Valuable Player Award, his six All-Star appearances, five Silver Sluggers and three Gold Gloves, but of the relationships he was able to build along the way.

Mauer, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 Draft, lived up to the expectations and more, according to those who knew him best, including owner Jim Pohlad, president Dave St. Peter and Ryan.

St. Peter said four words come to mind when it comes to Mauer -- respect, history, class and family.

"To say the least, the Minnesota Twins have been incredibly blessed to have Joe Mauer as part of the franchise for 18 years," St. Peter said. "I think his longtime teammate Michael Cuddyer said it best last week when he couldn't think of a single person who represented an organization, a city, a community and a state better than Joe Mauer."

Video: CWS@MIN: Minnesota shows Mauer love in final game

Mauer was a local legend growing at Cretin-Durham High School, as Ryan and Molitor said they first saw Mauer play as a 13-year old and he struck out just once in his high school career. Mauer thanked Ryan for taking a chance on him in the 2001 Draft that also featured Mark Prior, Mark Teixeira, among others, but Ryan said it was Mauer who deserves the credit.

"He's a tremendous human being," Ryan said. "He checked every box you'd ever want to check."

And while Mauer was more of a quiet leader and didn't show much emotion on the field, he still had a deep passion for the game and for winning.

"Joe's fire was as deep and burned as furiously as any athlete I ever played with," Molitor said. "He just had a way to be able to protect it outwardly for the most part because he knew consistency was a big part of our game in terms of how you handle yourself. Don't ever doubt for a second that Joe wanted to win more than any other player out there."

Mauer won batting titles in 2006, '08 and '09, winning the MVP Award in '09, when he led the AL in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Morneau, who also won an MVP Award with the Twins in '06, said it was incredible to hit after him in the lineup.

"He was as special of a hitter as there ever was," Morneau said. "He didn't chase pitches. He didn't swing at a pitch he didn't like. He seemed to find the barrel every time he swung. And as good as he was, he did it as a catcher. And that's why I think he should be in the Hall of Fame."

After his MVP season, Mauer signed an eight-year, $184 million contract that kept him in Minnesota for his entire career. He sustained a career-altering concussion in 2013 that forced him to move to first base and after enduring another concussion this May, Mauer decided to retire to spend more time with his family. Mauer and his wife, Maddie, have twin daughters and another child on the way in the next few days.

Video: Pohlad talks Mauer's final game with Twins, career

"It's a day of mixed emotions, for sure, for our family, the Twins organization and Twins fans, but it's obviously it's a day that had to come," Pohlad said. "I'll never forget the spring of 2010. My family and I were in Cambodia, and there were discussions about Joe's contract. When I came back, Joe shook my hand and told us he would always give us his best. I never doubted him. I'm sad for the organization, but I'm happy for Joe, Maddie and his entire family. It's a new era, and I wish him all the best."

Mauer retires as Minnesota's all-time leader in doubles and is second in hits behind Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett. Mauer is also second all-time among Twins players in Wins Above Replacement, only trailing Hall of Famer Rod Carew, per Baseball Reference. He's also one of only 22 players to ever win an MVP while playing an entire career of at least 15 years with one team and every other player on that list is in the Hall of Fame.

Sox coach calls Mauer best left-handed hitter he's ever seen

"It means everything," Mauer said. "I never wavered where I wanted to be. This is where I wanted to be. My grandparents got to come to every home game. I can't think of any big leaguer who ever had that with their grandparents at every home game. Think about that, with 81 home games every year. They missed a dozen home games over 15 years. I don't know if you guys caught on, but one thing that was always special was I would tip my cap and that was for my grandparents. It was a little thing to show them how much it meant to be there every game. This is a special place for me and I'm proud to wear just one uniform."

How should Mauer spend his time in retirement?

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

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