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Rumors: Harper, Machado, Corbin, Keuchel

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

Projecting Harper's next contract
Nov. 14: While superstar slugger Bryce Harper is primed to cash in this offseason, he may have several options to consider when it comes to the length of his next contract, which Sports Illustrated's Emma Baccellieri covered in an article for si.com on Tuesday.

The most likely option would seem to be what Baccellieri terms "The Lifetime Deal," a 10-year contract in the neighborhood of $350 million.

These types of deals are risky for the signing team, as the Angels and the Mariners have found out after inking Albert Pujols and Robinson Cano, respectively. But as Baccellieri points out, Pujols was 31 years old and Cano 30 when they signed. Harper is only 26, giving him a better chance to make a long-term contract pay off.

Harper could also consider a shorter-term deal with a higher average annual value (AAV). Baccellieri proposes a four-year, $170 million contract that would blow away the record for AAV, which is held by Zack Greinke at $34.4 million.

Taking that one step further, Harper could sign a one-year deal for $45 million, betting on his ability return to MVP form in 2019 before entering free agency again next offseason. This would obviously be risky for the outfielder, as he could have a down year or suffer an injury, but he might consider it if the offers he receives aren't much better than the one he reportedly rejected from the Nationals (10 years, $300 million) on the final day of the regular season.

Betances wants Yankees to sign Machado
Nov. 14: As the Yankees consider whether to make a run at free-agent infielder Manny Machado, one New York player gave the potential move his full endorsement Tuesday.

"I think he'll put us over the top," Yankees reliever Dellin Betances said. "We were short last year. Things could have gone our way, but they didn't. Adding a guy like that would help any team. Our lineup is already impactful, so adding a guy like that would be pretty crazy."

Betances and Machado were teammates for the Dominican Republic in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, and they have plenty of experience as opponents from Machado's years with the Orioles.

"I played with him in the Classic and got a chance to develop a good relationship with him over the years, playing against him," Betances said. "I'm hoping that we get him. I'm keeping close tabs on it. It's not my decision, but that would be a big piece for the team. We have a good team, but adding a guy like that, that can play at a high level and has played at a high level for quite some time, we would be great."

Trout needs help. Can Corbin provide it?
Nov 14: With Mike Trout under control for just two more seasons, the clock is ticking for the Angels to build a competitive team around him. With that in mind, MLB.com's Richard Justice puts the club third on his list of teams that could spend big in free agency this offseason.

Justice writes that Los Angeles needs "pitching, pitching and more pitching," and the best starter on the market is arguably Patrick Corbin, making the left-hander a realistic target.

Given their recent history with pitchers undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Angels may be hesitant to pursue Corbin, who had the procedure in 2014. Dallas Keuchel would probably be a safer option, but the Angels can't really afford to be conservative as they try to close the gap between themselves, the Astros and the A's.

With Garrett Richards entering free agency after undergoing Tommy John surgery last season, and Shohei Ohtani also recovering from his own Tommy John procedure, the Angels need an ace. Los Angeles can't lean too heavily on any of the top six pitchers on its current depth chart, as all have dealt with significant injury problems.

Are Reds willing to pay up for a top free-agent starter?
Nov. 14: The Reds need pitching and are expected to spend aggressively this offseason, but MLB.com's Richard Justice writes that the contract demands of Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel -- arguably the top two starters on the market -- may be out of Cincinnati's "comfort zone."

Justice notes that the Reds could sign multiple starters, but they may look at less expensive pitchers. Nathan Eovaldi, J.A. Happ and Charlie Morton stand out as attractive options from the second tier.

Another factor that might deter the Reds from pursuing Corbin or Keuchel is the fact that they'll need to surrender a Draft pick to sign either pitcher after both rejected qualifying offers. Given the state of the team, adding a big-name starter won't make Cincinnati an instant contender, but signing two reliable arms would help.

Would a Corbin/Donaldson duo be a better buy than Harper?
Nov. 14: The Phillies and the Cardinals placed first and second on MLB.com's list of teams that are ready to spend big this offseason, with Richard Justice noting that both clubs would be a great fit for Bryce Harper. But Justice also mentions a potential alternative for both teams -- signing Patrick Corbin and Josh Donaldson.

MLB Network insider Jon Heyman projects Harper will sign for $330 million over 11 years, giving him an average annual value of $30 million. Agent Scott Boras is believed to be asking for upwards of $400 million, and there's a good chance Harper will end up making at least $35 million per year.

Per Heyman's projections, the Corbin/Donaldson duo would cost $38 million on average, with Corbin landing a five-year contract for $100 million and Donaldson signing for $36 million over two seasons.

There are risk factors associated with both approaches, but signing Corbin and Donaldson may have more short-term upside than using that money on Harper alone. Corbin was worth 6.3 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in 2018, per FanGraphs, while Donaldson averaged 6.9 WAR per season from '13-17. If the Phils or Cards got the best versions of Corbin and Donaldson, it could put them over the top in their respective divisions.

Will Bumgarner be in a new uniform by Spring Training?
Nov. 13: This past season, teams that called the Giants about a Madison Bumgarner trade were told that he was not available, with San Francisco placing great importance on the left-hander's legacy, according to Buster Olney in an article for ESPN+ (subscription required).

But Olney argues that the club must at least consider dealing Bumgarner this offseason, with the southpaw starting to show signs of regression and set to hit the free-agent market in a year.

As Olney notes, Bumgarner's fastball velocity and OPS against his four-seamer are going in the wrong direction, as is his hard-hit rate, and it's questionable whether San Francisco should offer him a long-term contract extension. Meanwhile, trading Bumgarner may be the Giants' best chance to replenish a lackluster farm system.

Olney considers new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi the right person to make a tough decision about Bumgarner, as the former Dodgers general manager has no ties to the Giants' three World Series-winning clubs and can fairly assess Bumgarner's future without being swayed by his past.

Olney also writes that Bumgarner may still be viewed as an attractive trade target by many teams because of his track record and the fact that he requires only a one-year obligation for $12 million.

Yanks would be logical fit for Murphy
Nov. 13: The Yankees are in fine-tuning mode with their lineup, but with the unexpected timeline of Didi Gregorius' return from Tommy John surgery, the club all of a sudden has a left-handed, pull-power void. MLB.com's Matt Kelly makes the argument that Daniel Murphy could fit that bill splendidly, while also outlining other factors that make Murphy and the Yanks a strong match on paper. 

5 reasons why Yankees should sign Murphy

Murphy might be an economical solution in dollars and years, would bring a hitting acumen to the Yanks' young stars and could even serve as insurance at first base for Greg Bird, who has yet to hit his stride, and Luke Voit, who may need to still prove himself as an everyday player. 

No stranger to the New York spotlight, Murphy has been a poster boy for the launch-angle era, which could prove valuable with the short porch in right at Yankee Stadium. As Kelly notes, from 2016-17, only 10 left-handed hitters recorded a higher rate of pulled fly balls and line drives, per Statcast™, and Murphy hit .642 when putting those balls in play.

Kelly also points out that after a sluggish start to his 2018 season -- Murphy missed the first two and a half months while recovering from right knee surgery last offseason, then hit .188 over his first 21 games -- Murphy slashed .328/.365/.506 over his last 70 games for a 132 weighted runs created plus (wRC+) -- the exact same in that stretch as Manny Machado, whom the Yanks are also reportedly targeting. 

Murphy will turn 34 years old on April 1, has proven to be defensively inferior to most everyday second basemen, and was limited to just 91 games last year. But his October-laden resume, affordability and veteran impact might make him a strong fit in the Bronx. 

Would the Yanks trade Andujar to make way for Machado?
Nov. 13: While it's unclear exactly where Manny Machado falls on the Yankees' offseason wish list, a big splash by New York can't be ruled out, especially after the club just watched the rival Red Sox win their fourth World Series title since 2004. The Yanks certainly have the money to afford the 26-year-old, and the club is doing "extensive" background work on him, according to a report from The Athletic (subscription required).

Of course, improving the starting rotation remains the Yankees' top priority. General manager Brian Cashman has made it known he's looking to add two starting pitchers, and signing Machado may lower New York's chances of inking one of the top hurlers on the free-agent market, such as Patrick Corbin.

Still, there is a way for Cashman to possibly acquire Machado and multiple high-end starters, as Joe Rivera of the Sporting News points out. The Yankees could do so by dangling third baseman Miguel Andujar in a trade for an ace, and then sign a mid-market free agent such as J.A. Happ.

Andujar finished second to Shohei Ohtani in the American League Rookie of the Year Award voting after hitting .297 with 27 homers and 92 RBIs in 2018, but he struggled defensively to the point where there are questions about his long-term viability at the hot corner.

If New York trades Andujar, Machado could slot in as the club's starting third baseman, with Gleyber Torres shifting to shortstop until Didi Gregorius is ready to return from Tommy John surgery.

Granted, the Yanks wouldn't have to trade the 23-year-old Andujar to make room for Machado. They could play Machado at shortstop while Gregorius is out, leaving Andujar at third base and Torres at second, or move Andujar across the diamond to first. But dealing Andujar may be the best way for the Yankees to get Machado and still acquire the ace starting pitcher they covet.

Are the Giants better off signing multiple players instead of Harper?
Nov. 13: The Giants could have between $30 million to $40 million to spend this offseason, and they have been connected to free agent Bryce Harper. However, as Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports points out, Farhan Zaidi, San Francisco's new president of baseball operations, may prefer to spread out the club's resources to fill multiple needs.

When Zaidi was the Dodgers' general manager under president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, the team never gave out any contract totaling more than $80 million, opting instead to focus on building a deep roster.

Pavlovic notes that the Giants need a starting pitcher, an outfielder and a utility man, and he suggests signing J.A. Happ, Nick Markakis and Marwin Gonzalez for what MLB Trade Rumors projects will be a combined $33 million in 2019. None of the three is expected to require a long-term commitment, whereas Harper is believed to be seeking a 10-year deal.

As Pavlovic writes, Harper would certainly make the Giants flashier, but signing multiple players to less expensive deals could be the better route to take.

Phillies may need Harper's personality as much as his bat
Nov. 13: With money to spend and a desire to contend as soon as next season, the Phillies are considered the favorites to sign Bryce Harper. And while the Phils would certainly benefit from adding Harper's bat to their lineup, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports writes that the slugger's personality could be just as important.

Although Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins are strong building blocks, Salisbury argues that Harper would provide Philadelphia with a much needed face of the franchise to energize the fan base and help fill Citizens Bank Park.

While the Phillies made a leap this past season, winning 14 more games than the previous year, they ranked just 17th in average attendance at 27,318. In 2008, when Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels were in their primes and the club won the World Series, the Phils averaged 42,254 fans per game, ranking fifth overall.

Salisbury also writes that Harper's "competitive sneer" will rub off on the rest of Philadelphia's roster, giving the club a much-needed edge as it tries to keep pace with the up-and-coming Braves in the National League East.

The Twins need a DH. Will they go after Cruz?
Nov. 13: Minnesota was starved for production out of its designated hitter spot throughout all of 2018. The Logan Morrison signing was a flop, and the revolving door of Joe Mauer, Robbie Grossman, Tyler Austin and Eddie Rosario down the stretch didn't fare well, either. Twins DHs combined for a .682 OPS and 15 homers last season, topping only the Tigers in those categories among American League teams.

With the large salaries of Mauer, Ervin Santana, Lance Lynn, Morrison and Brian Dozier now off the books, the Twins have plenty of payroll flexibility to work with for 2019. Brandon Warne of Zone Coverage thinks that the Twins will use that money to sign Nelson Cruz to bring some much-needed stability to the DH position, at least in the short term.

Tweet from @Brandon_Warne: Abbreviated #MNTwins Blueprint v.III:Trade for Carlos SantanaSign Nelson CruzSign Jose Iglesias Sign Garrett Richards/Trevor CahillSign David RobertsonWin the AL Central.

Warne sees Cruz as the "perfect bridge" to Austin, Miguel Sano or Twins No. 7 prospect Brent Rooker, as the 38-year-old would give Minnesota's lineup an immediate influx of elite power without commanding a lengthy commitment.

That's not to mention Cruz's connection to Minnesota's front office -- Twins general manager Thad Levine and Cruz spent eight years together with the Rangers during Levine's lengthy stint as Texas' assistant general manager.

Deciding between Brantley and Pollock
Nov. 13: When it comes to choosing the second-best free-agent outfielder -- that is, the No. 2 option after Bryce Harper -- the decision could come down to Michael Brantley and A.J. Pollock. As is, there are a number of similarities between the two as veterans north of 30 years old who possess top-of-the-lineup skills and solid defensive ability but also come with a history of missing time.

Ryan Fagan of The Sporting News weighs the choice between Brantley and Pollock, making the case for each by breaking down various aspects of their games, including the fact that Pollock was offered -- and declined -- the $17.9 million qualifying offer, thus saddling him with Draft-pick compensation. The verdict?

"Teams will roll the injury dice to sign either guy," Fagan writes. "Pollock has the higher upside, but for a team that is loathe to part with any draft pick, Brantley might be the better bet."

Who's your pick: Kimbrel or Ottavino?
Nov. 13: Thanks to his elite track record of 333 saves in eight-plus seasons as a closer, Craig Kimbrel is going to get paid very handsomely this offseason, with Aroldis Chapman's five-year, $86 million contract and Kenley Jansen's five-year, $80 million deal serving as high-end benchmarks for what Kimbrel, MLB's active saves leader, might expect.

But is Kimbrel the free-agent reliever that will provide the most value to his team moving forward? Michael Clair of MLB.com's Cut4 doesn't think so. Instead, he argues that suitors for Kimbrel should be clamoring for the services of Adam Ottavino.

It might sound crazy given Kimbrel's history, but Clair considers it to be just that: history. To make his case, Clair points to some peripherals that suggest that Kimbrel, now entering his 30s, might be in for a regression. Not only did the hard-throwing righty's walk and homer rate rise in 2018, but his FIP also rose to a career-high 3.13 and he lost over a mile per hour on his fastball from '17.

On the other hand, Ottavino is trending up, having worked hard after an abysmal 2017 season to remake his approach and arsenal, emerging on the other side with a career-best ERA (2.43) and strikeout rate (13 K/9) in '18, a season that rivaled that of Kimbrel -- despite Ottavino playing his home games at Coors Field. (For the record, Ottavino actually pitched better in Denver, with opposing batters registering a .418 OPS against him at Coors.)

Now, as both of these pitchers know, one-season blips happen, and Kimbrel is both more proven and 2 1/2 years younger than Ottavino. Kimbrel took a step back in 2016 but rebounded with arguably the best season of his career in '17. Ottavino is only one year removed from a disastrous 5.06 ERA and 6.6 BB/9 walk rate.

But as a non-closer, Ottavino is more accustomed to being flexible in relief and pitching longer outings when needed, which is more in line with the modern trend of bullpen usage. And given that Kimbrel's price and contract length will likely be driven up by aggressive bidding, Ottavino could still provide better value without requiring as steep of a commitment.

Predicting a Paxton blockbuster
Nov. 13: The noise around the possibility of a James Paxton blockbuster trade continues to grow. The Mariners, after all, already have dealt catcher Mike Zunino as the start of what appears to be a "reimagining" of the roster heading into 2019. As TJ Cotterill of the Tacoma News Tribune writes: "And reimagining life without Paxton doesn't appear to be a matter of if, but when."

Paxton, who just turned 30 earlier this month, is coming off his best season yet, having established career highs in innings (160 1/3), strikeouts (208) and strikeouts per nine (11.7). Combine that with two more years of club control, and it's no surprise that a number of teams are interested in adding him as a top-of-the-rotation type of arm.

Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs looks at Paxton's progression from talented-yet-frustrating pitcher a few years ago to the burgeoning ace he became in 2018. His conclusion? "Paxton is one of those guys every team would want in a short series. He's one of those guys every team would want in a one-game playoff. James Paxton is a potential difference-maker in the rotation."

Given that Seattle's farm system is among the weakest in baseball and that the club's timeline for winning may no longer sync up with their control over Paxton, a trade would make sense -- and the return in young Major Leaguers and/or prospects could be massive. Not to mention, there are plenty of contenders loaded with young talent and holes in their rotation (read: Yankees, Astros, Braves, Phillies and Brewers) who already have been linked as possible landing spots for Paxton.

Corbin, Keuchel unlikely to be hurt by Draft-pick baggage
Nov. 13: While some players who rejected the qualifying offer in years past have had trouble finding suitors due to the Draft-pick compensation attached to them, MLB.com's Mark Feinsand doesn't think that will be a problem for Patrick Corbin or Dallas Keuchel.

As Feinsand notes, the market for left-handed starters has shrunk considerably, with Clayton Kershaw re-signing with the Dodgers, David Price deciding not to opt out of his contract with the Red Sox, Hyun-Jin Ryu accepting the qualifying offer from Los Angeles and CC Sabathia re-signing with the Yankees on a one-year deal.

Corbin and Keuchel are arguably the only members of the top tier among all free-agent starters this offseason, J.A. Happ's reliability and Nathan Eovaldi's strong postseason notwithstanding. If any free-agent pitcher gets a nine-figure deal, it's unlikely to be anyone besides Corbin or Keuchel.

Could Realmuto replace Grandal in LA?
Nov. 13: When Yasmani Grandal declined the $17.9 million qualifying offer, he likely bid farewell to the Dodgers. That puts the club in position to look for catching depth to team with Austin Barnes -- or perhaps a major upgrade behind the plate, if it so chooses.

MLB Network insider Peter Gammons discussed the possibility of LA making a play for the highly sought-after J.T. Realmuto: "The team that I keep hearing about ... is the Dodgers."

Video: Dodgers could be a possible destination for Realmuto

As Gammons points out, top catching prospects Keibert Ruiz and Will Smith might be a year away from helping the Dodgers -- or even could be a part of a package sent to the Marlins for Realmuto. And given LA's outfield depth, the club also could consider parting with someone like Joc Pederson, who is just 26 years old and isn't due to hit free agency until after the 2020 season, or Alex Verdugo, an outfield prospect who is ready for The Show.

The late-season reemergence of lefty Julio Urias, who missed most of 2017-18 after shoulder surgery, gives an already deep Dodgers pitching staff even more options, especially after Clayton Kershaw re-signed and Hyun-Jin Ryu accepted the qualifying offer. In other words, LA's front office could have more freedom to deal from its surplus of young, controllable arms as a way to entice Miami.

Ross Stripling might make sense among those with big-league experience and success, while prospects like Dustin May and Mitchell White are high-upside youngsters near the top of a strong Dodgers system who could reach the Majors in the next year or so.

Despite two seasons of success, could Lowrie be a value buy?
Nov. 13: After posting 8.5 WAR (per FanGraphs) over the last two years, is it still possible that Jed Lowrie might actually be undervalued by the contract that he'll ultimately sign this offseason?

Emma Baccellieri of Sports Illustrated considers Lowrie to be a potential "value buy" in free agency, as she writes in an article in which she lists the switch-hitting second baseman among the available players that could provide the "biggest bang for their buck."

She points to Lowrie's relatively advanced age (34 years) and robust injury history (significant time missed in two of the last four seasons) as reasons why he might not get a contract that will truly reflect his on-field potential in the coming years. Baccellieri also cites Lowrie's increasing launch angle (following the A's recent trend), his resultant low ground-ball rate and his high hard-hit rate (37.6 percent per Statcast™, fourth among American League second basemen with 150 batted balls) as reasons to believe that Lowrie's recent success is an indication of a changed approach that will lead to continued future production.

Are the White Sox clearing space for free-agent stars?
Nov. 13: The White Sox are actively shopping right fielder Avisail Garcia, according to a report from MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, which may be part of an effort to clear space for Bryce Harper.

Tweet from @Feinsand: According to a source, the White Sox are actively trying to trade Avisail Garcia. There���s a sense within the industry that Chicago will non-tender Garcia if they���re unable to deal him.

With Jose Abreu at first base, Daniel Palka and Matt Davidson likely to split at-bats at the designated-hitter spot, and top prospect Eloy Jimenez potentially taking over in left field soon, the White Sox will have nowhere for Garcia to play if they sign Harper.

Garcia has battled persistent injury problems during his career, and he's proven to be an unremarkable offensive performer (lifetime 101 wRC+) as well as a subpar defender (lifetime -26 Defensive Runs Saved as an outfielder). And although he was worth 4.2 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in 2017, per FanGraphs, his production was boosted by great batted-ball fortune (.392 BABIP). Over the rest of his career, he has tallied exactly zero WAR.

MLB Trade Rumors projects Garcia will earn $8 million in 2019, his final season of arbitration eligibility. However, Feinsand reports that there is a "sense within the industry that Chicago will non-tender" him if it can't work out a trade.

Trading or non-tendering Garcia would also give the White Sox the additional option of shifting Tim Anderson to the outfield to make room for Manny Machado at shortstop, though Chicago also has an opening at third base if Machado is willing to move back to that position.

Does Brantley to the Braves make sense?

MLB.com

Although he's battled his share of injury problems, Michael Brantley has proven to be a well-rounded player throughout his career, and he enters free agency after hitting .309 with 17 homers, 76 RBIs, 12 steals and only 60 strikeouts over 143 games this past season.

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

Although he's battled his share of injury problems, Michael Brantley has proven to be a well-rounded player throughout his career, and he enters free agency after hitting .309 with 17 homers, 76 RBIs, 12 steals and only 60 strikeouts over 143 games this past season.

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

Why Brantley to the Braves makes sense
Nov. 14: The Braves have two of their three outfield spots locked up, thanks to defensive wizard Ender Inciarte in center field and NL Rookie of the Year Ronald Acuna Jr. in one corner. But Atlanta is in the market to fill free agent Nick Markakis' position in right field. The club has been linked to longtime Indians left fielder Brantley, who is among the best players on the open market and coming off one of his healthiest and most productive seasons.

It almost seems like a perfect fit, doesn't it? That could be why the on-air talent at MLB Network Radio is predicting Brantley to the Braves this offseason.

Tweet from @MLBNetworkRadio: 🚨🚨 FREE AGENT PREDICTIONS 🚨🚨The @MLBNetworkRadio team says:Brantley ������ #BravesCorbin ������ #YankeesEovaldi ������ #RedSoxGrandal ������ #AstrosHapp ������ #YankeesHarper ������ #NationalsKeuchel ������ #NationalsKimbrel ������ #BravesMachado ������ #PhilliesPollock ������ #Mets pic.twitter.com/zXhhCHEFXi

Brantley offers a lot of what Markakis provided in his four years in Atlanta: solid on-base skills at or near the top of the lineup, good contact-making ability, capable defense in the corner outfield with a strong arm and a veteran presence. At 31 years old, Brantley is the same age now that Markakis was when he made his way to the Braves, too.

Brantley's offensive and defensive tools also could allow Atlanta to shift Acuna both in the lineup and in the outfield, if the club so chooses. While the phenom's rookie campaign took off when he was moved to the leadoff position, his power bat could be better served hitting second, third or fourth to give him more opportunities with a strong leadoff hitter on base. In that sense, Brantley checks a lot of boxes.

Deciding between Brantley and Pollock
Nov. 13: When it comes to choosing the second-best free-agent outfielder -- that is, the No. 2 option after Bryce Harper -- the decision could come down to Brantley and A.J. Pollock. As is, there are a number of similarities between the two as veterans north of 30 years old who possess top-of-the-lineup skills and solid defensive ability but also come with a history of missing time.

Ryan Fagan of The Sporting News weighs the choice between Brantley and Pollock, making the case for each by breaking down various aspects of their games, including the fact that Pollock was offered -- and declined -- the $17.9 million qualifying offer, thus saddling him with Draft-pick compensation. The verdict?

"Teams will roll the injury dice to sign either guy," Fagan writes. "Pollock has the higher upside, but for a team that is loathe to part with any draft pick, Brantley might be the better bet."

Despite OF questions, the Indians are unlikely to bring back Brantley
Nov. 12: With 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.

Could the Rockies be the 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 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 American League 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.

Brantley reportedly has offers from three teams
Nov. 9: The Indians didn't choose to make Brantley the $17.9 million qualifying offer a week ago, and a report by Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com indicated that the 31-year-old outfielder will likely sign a deal with another club in free agency.

In fact, Hoynes reports that Brantley already has offers from three teams: the Braves, the Phillies and the White Sox. And the bidding for the corner outfielder -- the best on the market, non-Bryce Harper division -- probably isn't done yet. For example, the Cubs are likely out on Harper because of their lack of payroll flexibility but could still use an effective bat near the top of their lineup. When healthy, that's exactly what Brantley has been for Cleveland out of the No. 2 spot in the order.

The market for Brantley also benefits from the fact that the lack of a qualifying offer means that whichever team signs him will not be subject to Draft pick forfeiture. The Braves have emerged as a team with both vested interest in landing a corner outfielder and the payroll flexibility to make a move for Brantley. MLB Trade Rumors predicts that Brantley will end up with Atlanta on a three-year, $45 million deal.

Moreover, it would be surprising if the Phillies or White Sox would land Brantley at such an early stage of the offseason, since both are among the teams most interested in Harper, and there hasn't been any indication that the sky-high bidding for Harper will resolve itself with any expediency.

Braves are eyeing Brantley and Ramos?
Nov. 8: With Nick Markakis and Kurt Suzuki free agents, the Braves are in the market for a corner outfielder and possibly a catcher to team with Tyler Flowers. Could they look to replace a pair of dependable veterans with two others?

"Brantley is one of the few free-agent outfielders they've targeted so far," MLB.com's Mark Bowman reports of Atlanta's search for an outfielder. "There's a possibility they could go the trade route to fill this need, but for right now, [Brantley] is the [free agent] that has some traction."

Brantley, 31, is coming off one of his healthiest and best seasons (.309/.364/.468) and offers flexibility because he can play either left or right field, depending on what the Braves want to do with Ronald Acuna Jr. Given Brantley's contact and on-base skills (.351 career OBP), Bowman also speculates Atlanta could use him as the leadoff hitter while moving Acuna -- who flourished in that role in the second half -- to a better spot for driving in runs.

Another reason the Braves likely prefer Brantley above other options? He doesn't come with any Draft-pick compensation after Cleveland declined to present him with a qualifying offer.

As for Ramos, general manager Alex Anthopoulos told Bowman: "We do need a corner outfielder, and we do need somebody else to catch with Flowers." While Atlanta has been linked often to Marlins backstop J.T. Realmuto, the cost of acquisition via prospects and/or young controllable players would be very steep, particularly since a number of other clubs are after Realmuto, too. As a free agent, then, Ramos could be something of a fallback option, as a dependable offensive player who won't require a package of prospects.

Michael Brantley

Players who didn't win awards, but deserved to

MLB.com @castrovince

Like every other element of the entertainment business, MLB is awash in awards.

There are awards for pitching prowess, defensive deftness and straight-up slugging. There is a trophy given to guys who give to the community. There is an honor designated for designated hitters. There are rewards reserved for rookies and relievers. And perhaps the most valuable award of all is the one that goes to the Most Valuable Player in each league.

Like every other element of the entertainment business, MLB is awash in awards.

There are awards for pitching prowess, defensive deftness and straight-up slugging. There is a trophy given to guys who give to the community. There is an honor designated for designated hitters. There are rewards reserved for rookies and relievers. And perhaps the most valuable award of all is the one that goes to the Most Valuable Player in each league.

And yet, for all this awarding, some really good seasons are victims of atrophy (as in, "without trophy").

Complete MLB awards coverage

So here's an All-Star squad of guys who had seasons worth celebrating, even if they don't have the hardware haul to show for it. While many markets have awards handed out by the local media, we're focused here on players who didn't win a Gold Glove Award, Silver Slugger Award, Hank Aaron Award or Reliever of the Year Award, and -- this is important -- weren't finalists for either the Baseball Writers' Association of America awards or the MLB Players Association's Players Choice Awards. (We're leaving out all finalists both to demonstrate the depth of awesomeness that occurred in 2018 and because of the fundamental fact that the Cy Youngs, MVPs and Players Choice Award winners had not been announced, as of this writing.)

Let's award the awardless!

C: Yasmani Grandal, Dodgers
Some people were surprised Grandal just turned down the $17.9 million qualifying offer after a postseason in which he lost significant playing time to Austin Barnes. Remember, though, that Grandal was probably the second-most-productive catcher in baseball in 2018, behind National League Silver Slugger winner J.T. Realmuto.

In fact, if you look at Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+), which takes the league average and park effects into account in measuring a player's overall offensive impact, Grandal's 125 mark (or 25 percent better than average) was only one point below that of Realmuto. He also graded out as one of the game's best pitch-framers.

Video: LAD@CIN: Grandal fires perfect throw to nab Schebler

1B: Matt Carpenter, Cardinals
Carpenter was probably in the pole position of the NL MVP Award race as recently as mid-August, but both he (.558 OPS) and the Cards (12-15) fell apart in September. He wound up finishing outside the top three in the MVP voting, and Paul Goldschmidt won the NL Silver Slugger.

Still, we shouldn't forget Carp's homemade salsa-fueled midseason surge, which helped propel St. Louis out of the standings abyss. In the three-month span from May 16 to Aug. 15, he slashed .326/.430/.707 with 30 homers in 365 plate appearances.

Video: Must C Classic: Carpenter slugs 3 homers, 2 doubles

2B: Whit Merrifield, Royals; Scooter Gennett, Reds
Normally, I'd pick one guy or the other, but, if the whole point here is to highlight guys untouched by award season and the cases are fairly equal, why not salute both of these surprise seasons? (Bonus points, of course, for their names being Whit and Scooter.)

Though he logged most of his time at second, Merrifield was the do-everything, play-everywhere asset for the Royals. He led the Majors in hits (192) and stolen bases (45), and Baseball Reference's calculation had him 10th among American League position players in Wins Above Replacement (5.5). That's why a bunch of teams are trying to trade for him.

If you thought Gennett would turn back into a pumpkin after his four-homer game in 2017, you (like me) were wrong. He posted career-bests in batting average (.310) and OBP (.357), and Silver Slugger winners Jose Altuve and Javier Baez were the only qualified second basemen with a higher wRC+ mark than his 125.

Video: Must C Carom: Gennett barehands deflection for out

SS: Manny Machado, Orioles/Dodgers
So much of the 2018 story revolved around Machado, from his Spring Training shift to his original position at shortstop to the All-Star Game intrigue that surrounded his move from Baltimore to L.A. to all the October attention on his (lack of) hustle and other antics on the NL Championship Series and World Series stages to his high position in the Hot Stove hierarchy. But they don't have an award for Best Performance in a Drama, so Machado will have to settle for the hundreds of millions of dollars that await him in free agency following his best season (poor guy). All told, Machado had a career-high .905 OPS and 107 RBIs with a career-high-tying 37 homers. And his defense did improve with the Dodgers.

Video: Must C Combo: Machado belts 2 homers to lead Dodgers

3B: Alex Bregman, Astros
Jose Ramirez's late-season fade and shift to second base were not enough to yank him out of the top three in the AL MVP voting or the top spot in the AL Silver Slugger voting at the hot corner. So Bregman's big breakout in 2018, which included a .286/.394/.532 slash with a Major League-high 51 doubles and an AL-high 5.94 Win Probability Added mark, did not earn him an award.

That said, already this offseason, Bregman has crashed a fan's wedding and given a waitress a $500 tip after her home was burglarized, so he might be trending toward 2019 Roberto Clemente Award consideration.

Video: Must C Clutch: Bregman's first career walk-off homer

OF: Lorenzo Cain, Brewers; Brandon Nimmo, Mets; Mitch Haniger, Mariners
He's not the first or the last, but the bottom line is that Cain, a robber of many would-be home runs, was himself robbed in the Gold Glove Awards, as his plus-20 Defensive Runs Saved mark (tied for first among outfielders) and 11 assists (tied for second) and 2.4 dWAR (first) did him no favors. Clearly, though, between the glove and the .395 OBP and the 30 steals, the veteran center fielder was an impactful pickup for the first-place Brew Crew.

Nimmo entered the year as the Mets' fourth outfielder and left it as their most valuable position player. His .404 OBP was second only to that of Joey Votto. His 149 wRC+ was second in the NL only to likely NL MVP Award winner Christian Yelich. He also graded out positively on the defensive side with five Outs Above Average, according to Statcast™. This is a complete player.

You can say the same about Haniger, who only built upon the all-too-brief, injury-shortened 2017 sample that made him such an intriguing trade acquisition for the Mariners. Haniger stayed healthy this year and posted a .285/.366/.493 slash line with 26 homers and 38 doubles. Yelich and Nimmo were the only NL outfielders with a higher wRC+ then Haniger (138).

Video: NLCS Gm2: Cain leaps to rob a homer from Freese

DH: Khris Davis, A's
With no awards or All-Star appearances despite three straight seasons with north of 40 homers, Davis qualifies as one of the more underrated players in the game. And though he has somehow managed to log a .247 batting average in four consecutive seasons (c'mon, find me a more fun stat than that), he took his game to a new level in '18, with a career-best 48 homers and 128 RBIs to help power the A's to a playoff spot. Problem is, Hank Aaron Award and Silver Slugger winner J.D. Martinez was simply better in the DH department this year.

Video: OAK@LAA: Davis crushes his 48th homer in the 1st

Starting pitcher: Trevor Bauer, Indians
Like that of Chris Sale, Bauer's trajectory toward the top end of the AL Cy Young Award discussion this year was thwarted by an August injury. Sale, though, is at least a finalist for Outstanding Pitcher in the Players Choice Awards (and he got to record the final out of a World Series, which, you know, is better than any actual award or mention in this column).

So here's to Bauer, who was struck by a comebacker that fractured his fibula on Aug. 13, was third in the Majors among pitchers in WAR, Fielding Independent Pitching and strikeouts, and second only to Sale in ERA. Bauer finished with a 2.21 ERA and an AL-best 2.44 FIP and 0.5 homers-per-nine mark. His 198 ERA+ was a career-best by 89 points.

The Astros' Gerrit Cole (2.88 ERA and MLB-best 12.4 Ks per nine) and the Rockies' Kyle Freeland (whose 2.85 ERA included a near-miraculous 2.40 ERA at Coors Field) would also be worthy of the starting assignment for our All-Awardless squad.

Video: PIT@CLE: Bauer K's 10 in 2-hit gem vs. the Pirates

Relief pitcher: Blake Treinen, A's
If Treinen had won the Mariano Rivera AL Reliever of the Year Award instead of the Mariners' Edwin Diaz, it would have been difficult to argue against it. That's no knock on Diaz, whose 57 saves were the second-highest single-season total in MLB history, but Treinen was every bit -- if not more -- effective. He was the first pitcher in history to record 30 saves and 100 strikeouts with an ERA less than 1.00. His 0.78 ERA was the fourth-lowest all-time for a pitcher with at least 55 innings, and his 0.83 WHIP in 80 1/3 innings was also remarkable.

Josh Hader was a no-doubt selection for the Trevor Hoffman NL Reliever of the Year, but his Milwaukee teammate Jeremy Jeffress or the Rockies' Adam Ottavino, both of whom had 0.99 WHIPs in north of 70 innings of work, deserve a shoutout here.

Video: OAK@LAA: Treinen retires Young Jr. to earn the save

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.

7 teams most likely to make big free-agent moves

MLB.com @RichardJustice

Let's say up front that there's nothing more fun than telling other people how to do their business. For one thing, we have no skin in this game. We can recommend a team spends $200 million on a player, and if it doesn't work out, no fuss, no muss.

Yes, this is an inexact science. While there is a time for teams to be aggressive regarding big-ticket free agents, positive results are not guaranteed. If there was ever a time when teams could shell out enough money to buy a postseason berth, that time has passed. That's true of the Royals and Astros, but it's true of the Yankees and Red Sox, too.

Let's say up front that there's nothing more fun than telling other people how to do their business. For one thing, we have no skin in this game. We can recommend a team spends $200 million on a player, and if it doesn't work out, no fuss, no muss.

Yes, this is an inexact science. While there is a time for teams to be aggressive regarding big-ticket free agents, positive results are not guaranteed. If there was ever a time when teams could shell out enough money to buy a postseason berth, that time has passed. That's true of the Royals and Astros, but it's true of the Yankees and Red Sox, too.

Latest Hot Stove rumors

The Red Sox opened the checkbook for David Price and J.D. Martinez, but if their player development system hadn't delivered Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, et al., the 2018 World Series trophy would be elsewhere.

So with the free-agent marketplace having opened, let's look at seven teams that seem to be in a position to think big:

1. Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies are so close to being a playoff team. That's what we learned during a 64-49 start last summer. That they finished so poorly should not take away from the strides they made. This is that rare time in a franchise's history when it has both the financial flexibility and the justification to be aggressive. Would signing Bryce Harper and Manny Machado -- or, say, Josh Donaldson and Patrick Corbin -- guarantee anything? Absolutely not. But it certainly would close the gap in the National League East.

Latest Harper free-agent rumors

Video: Hoskins on potential pairing with Harper, Machado

2. St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals would be poised to make some noise this offseason even if they hadn't missed the postseason three straight years -- or, to put it another way, even if they hadn't finished behind the Cubs three straight years. Beyond that, it's time. All those gifted young players -- Jordan Hicks, Tyler O'Neill, Harrison Bader and lots of others -- give St. Louis a foundation from which to build. Harper? Sure, he'd be a great fit. Donaldson? Corbin? Yes to both.

Should Cardinals overhaul the infield?

Video: Harper, Donaldson's possible fit in St. Louis

3. Los Angeles Angels
The Halos have one of the best players in baseball history in the prime of his career and have not won a playoff game in his seven seasons. Mike Trout is 27, so the clock is ticking. He's also two years removed from free agency. As difficult as the American League West is -- with the 103-win Astros and 97-win Athletics -- the Angels have to add pitching, pitching and more pitching. There's plenty of it out there. This is the time to go for it.

Who will be dealt? Each team's top trade chip

Video: Eppler discusses 2019 Angels, new skipper Ausmus

4. San Francisco Giants
The Giants were once seen as a big-time player for Harper and still might be. But the hiring of Farhan Zaidi as president of baseball operations may signal a change, not a retreat so much as a different approach to allocating resources. His background is with the A's and Dodgers, two teams that pride themselves on efficiency and roster depth and flexibility. No team's offseason will be more interesting than this one as Zaidi attempts to shore up his new roster around Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey to see if the window of opportunity can remain open another year or two.

Zaidi to cast a wide net in bolstering Giants

Video: Rosenthal on Zaidi, Harper from the GM meetings

5. New York Mets
The Mets have too much starting pitching to do anything except be active this offseason. This is a market deep in relievers, so new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen needs to load up, signing at least two. Three would be even better. More challenging will be finding a catcher and keeping his fingers crossed that Yoenis Cespedes is back from two heel surgeries early next season.

Van Wagenen ready to 'charge forward' as Mets GM

Video: Brodie Van Wagenen discusses Mets' offseason plans

6. Chicago White Sox
The White Sox have accumulated so much prospect talent that winning seems inevitable at some point in the next season or two. That timetable has been delayed because of injuries to players like outfielders Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, but things can turn quickly as the top talent approaches the upper level of the Minor Leagues, and it seems to be the right time to upgrade the big league roster in preparation for the kids' arrival.

10 Rookie of the Year candidates for 2019

Video: Merkin on White Sox interest in Harper, Machado

7. Cincinnati Reds
It's not a question of whether the Reds will be aggressive this offseason. They will be. At least, they hope to be and will pursue starting pitching in both trades and free agency. Don't be surprised if Cincinnati signs multiple starters. Even if the contract demands of Corbin and Dallas Keuchel are out of the Reds' comfort zone, there are plenty of other options.

Can Reds add high-end pitchers to rotation?

Video: Winker discusses offseason, praises Reds teammates

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.

These 3 teams could be perfect fits for Greinke

Veteran righty would be highly attractive target on trade market
MLB.com @_dadler

With the free-agent market light on front-end starting pitchers -- there's Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel, Nathan Eovaldi and not a whole lot behind them -- an interesting trade possibility has been floated this week: Could the D-backs move Zack Greinke?

The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal suggested the idea on Monday (subscription required), writing that Greinke might be one of the most attractive starters available, alongside his Arizona teammate Corbin. Greinke's reliable production -- he had a 3.21 ERA and 199 strikeouts in 207 2/3 innings in 2018, and a 3.20 ERA and 215 strikeouts in 202 1/3 innings the year before -- could make him a valuable addition to any number of teams looking for a proven starter to help lead their staff.

With the free-agent market light on front-end starting pitchers -- there's Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel, Nathan Eovaldi and not a whole lot behind them -- an interesting trade possibility has been floated this week: Could the D-backs move Zack Greinke?

The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal suggested the idea on Monday (subscription required), writing that Greinke might be one of the most attractive starters available, alongside his Arizona teammate Corbin. Greinke's reliable production -- he had a 3.21 ERA and 199 strikeouts in 207 2/3 innings in 2018, and a 3.20 ERA and 215 strikeouts in 202 1/3 innings the year before -- could make him a valuable addition to any number of teams looking for a proven starter to help lead their staff.

Latest Hot Stove rumors

Yes, Greinke is 35 and has a big contract -- three years and $104.5 million remaining through 2021 -- but that might lower the required return. And on top of that, per Rosenthal, the D-backs are willing to reduce the financial burden for a trade partner. Three years of Greinke, especially at a reduced cost, would be an enticing bet for the right teams. Compared to a similar salary over four or five years for Keuchel, or having to spend nine figures for Corbin on the strength of one breakout year -- not to mention the fact that signing Keuchel or Corbin would carry a Draft pick cost, since both players rejected qualifying offers -- they might even prefer it.

Here are three teams that would be interesting fits for Greinke.

Astros
Houston could lose both Keuchel and Charlie Morton to free agency, and Lance McCullers Jr. will miss all of 2019 after Tommy John surgery. The Astros have gotten a lot out of Keuchel and Morton, and could try to bring them back, but Greinke would be a great match.

The Astros are one of the best teams at using analytics to get the most out of their pitchers -- they've done it with Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Morton and others. Greinke is one of the most studious pitchers in baseball, embracing data and using it to his advantage.

Greinke wins 5th straight Gold Glove Award

Greinke's ability to adjust has kept him pitching at a high level even with diminished velocity over the past few years (his fastball averaged 89.6 mph in 2018, and 90.7 mph in '17). He throws his fastball lower in the zone than he used to; he throws his eephus-like slow curve more, and to great effect; he uses his changeup more often in right-on-right matchups.

Video: COL@ARI: Greinke K's Arenado swinging on eephus

Greinke has excellent command, especially with his fastball-slider combination he throws down and away to right-handed hitters, and his fastball-changeup combo he offers down and away to lefties. That makes him one of the best pitchers at getting hitters to chase out of the zone -- his 31.4 percent chase rate induced in 2018 ranked 14th among starters, and his 32.6 percent mark in '17 was sixth best. Greinke's velocity might not jump back up, but his exceptional knowledge of the craft makes him the kind of pitcher the Astros embrace.

The Yankees
The Yankees want to add multiple starters this offseason, and they are targeting arms who can pitch alongside Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka. They've been linked to Corbin, and Keuchel seems like a good fit, too. Greinke still might be the best-suited of the three to put on the pinstripes.

For one, Greinke is much more established than Corbin, who was excellent in 2018 and '13 but doesn't have the sustained success in between. The Yankees are also an immediate World Series championship contender, so Greinke's age isn't the same issue for them as an up-and-coming team like the White Sox. Greinke's proven he can pitch in a big market, and the Yanks want to avoid another Sonny Gray situation, as they shop Gray after his ongoing struggles in New York. Greinke's run with the Dodgers from 2013-15 was one of the best of his career -- he went 51-15 with a 2.30 ERA in 92 starts.

And there's one interesting factor at play when comparing Greinke to Keuchel: The Yankees' infield defense is a huge question mark, and Keuchel is a heavy ground-ball pitcher. Miguel Andujar's struggles at third base were bad enough that he was removed for defense in playoff games. Gleyber Torres didn't rate well defensively, either. New York's strongest defender, Didi Gregorius, will miss a lot of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery. Compare that to the trio that played behind Keuchel in Houston: Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve. The Astros allowed a .232 batting average on ground balls in 2018, the sixth lowest of any team, while the Yanks allowed a .261 average, the fifth highest.

Greinke gets more outs in the air and via strikeout -- he's struck out 25.2 percent of the batters he's faced over the past two seasons, compared to 19.1 percent for Keuchel.

Video: Greinke, Ahmed take home Gold Gloves for D-backs

The Angels
Here's a dark-horse candidate. The Angels don't have as loaded a farm system as some other teams, but they're much improved from where they stood just a few seasons ago. If Greinke falls in their price range with his age and contract status, maybe they could put together a package. The fit is perfect.

Greinke is exactly the type of pitcher the Halos need: a durable workhorse. The Angels' pitching staff has been ravaged by injuries in recent seasons. Their ace, Garrett Richards, is a free agent and already out for 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Shohei Ohtani won't be a two-way player again until '20 after having Tommy John surgery himself.

Greinke has made 30-plus starts and pitched 200-plus innings in four of the past five seasons, and he can anchor a staff. The chief free-agent options -- Corbin, Keuchel and Eovaldi -- all have spottier injury histories.

Video: Greinke named Wilson Defensive POY at pitcher

The Halos want to contend now. They've still only made the playoffs once in Mike Trout's career, and they don't want to squander their chance as he enters the second-to-last year on his contract. They have enough pieces to push for a playoff spot. They've traded for Greinke once before in 2012. Maybe they'll try to do it again.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.

Arizona Diamondbacks, Zack Greinke

Cy Young Awards: Making a case for each finalist

MLB.com

The National League East provided much of the Senior Circuit's pitching star power during the 2018 season, ultimately producing all three of the finalists for the NL Cy Young Award. While Max Scherzer of the Nationals has won the honor in each of the past two seasons and Phillies ace Aaron Nola led the NL in pitching WAR during a true breakout campaign, they could be facing an uphill battle this year against Jacob deGrom of the Mets, who posted historic numbers despite taking the mound for a non-contending team that didn't give him much help in amassing pitcher wins.

With the 2018 NL Cy Young Award winner set to be revealed in Wednesday's 6 p.m. ET announcement on MLB Network, here's a look at the case for each of the finalists.

The National League East provided much of the Senior Circuit's pitching star power during the 2018 season, ultimately producing all three of the finalists for the NL Cy Young Award. While Max Scherzer of the Nationals has won the honor in each of the past two seasons and Phillies ace Aaron Nola led the NL in pitching WAR during a true breakout campaign, they could be facing an uphill battle this year against Jacob deGrom of the Mets, who posted historic numbers despite taking the mound for a non-contending team that didn't give him much help in amassing pitcher wins.

With the 2018 NL Cy Young Award winner set to be revealed in Wednesday's 6 p.m. ET announcement on MLB Network, here's a look at the case for each of the finalists.

AL Cy Young Award: A case for each finalist

Jacob deGrom, Mets
The case for deGrom as Cy Young is not particularly difficult to make; he was, statistically, the best pitcher in the NL.

Many baseball fans, when discussing matters of pitching, value ERA above all else. deGrom's 1.70 mark not only led the NL by a wide margin, it was MLB's sixth lowest among qualifying pitchers since the league lowered the mound to its current height in 1969. deGrom also ranked second in the NL in innings and strikeouts. He set Major League records for consecutive quality starts and consecutive starts of three or fewer runs.

Prefer advanced metrics? deGrom's league-leading ERA+, which is adjusted for league and ballpark factors, ranked 24th among qualified starters in Major League history. He led all MLB pitchers in WAR, whether your preferred calculation is fWAR, bWAR, RA9-WAR or Baseball Prospectus' WARP. According to Statcast™ data, deGrom led NL pitchers in barrels per plate appearance and expected on-base percentage, both weighted and unweighted. Simply put, pitching is about run prevention, and no one was better at that than deGrom.

There are really only two arguments against him. One is that deGrom did all this for a Mets team that was never in a pennant race -- a fact that voters sometimes take into consideration, even though it's not a ballot criterion. The other is that, due to the Mets' 23rd-ranked offense by runs scored and 28th-ranked bullpen by ERA, deGrom finished with a personal record of 10-9. Wins and losses have long since fallen out of vogue with the bulk of the BBWAA's constituency, but a few voters will surely punish him for that record.

The rest? They'll reward deGrom for what was statistically one of the greatest seasons by any pitcher in the last half century.

-- Anthony DiComo

Video: Darling makes case for Jacob deGrom to win Cy Young

Aaron Nola, Phillies
Nola, 25, went 17-6 with a 2.37 ERA in 33 starts. He ranked second in the NL in ERA, opponents' OPS (.570) and barrels per plate appearance (3.0 percent); third in innings (212 1/3) and wOBA (.251); fourth in wins and FIP (2.97); fifth in strikeouts (224) and opponents' batting average (.197); sixth in average exit velocity (85.9) and eighth in hard-hit percentage (31.0 percent).

Nola finished with a 10.5 pitching WAR, according to Baseball Reference. deGrom finished second (9.6). Historically, Nola's WAR puts him in rare company. It ranks 18th in baseball in the past 100 seasons. It is the highest by any pitcher since Randy Johnson's 10.7 in 2002. The Mets' Dwight Gooden is the only NL pitcher in the past 100 years to post a better WAR during or before his age 25 season. Gooden posted a 12.2 WAR in 1985.

Nola's 19 starts allowing four or fewer hits are three more than any other Phillies pitcher since the mound moved to 60 feet, 6 inches, in 1893. Nola and Hall of Fame right-hander Grover Cleveland Alexander are the only Phillies pitchers since at least 1908 with 200 or more strikeouts and an opponents' batting average of .200 or lower.

-- Todd Zolecki

Video: Nola among finalists for NL Cy Young award

Max Scherzer, Nationals
"Strikeouts are sexy," Scherzer once said, a statement that encapsulates his bid for a third consecutive Cy Young award. Scherzer scoffs at the notion of "pitching to contact," believing strikeouts are the best way to show his dominance as a pitcher over the opposing hitter. In 2018, Scherzer paced the NL with 12.24 strikeouts per nine innings and 300 strikeouts overall, becoming the fifth pitcher since 2001 to reach that plateau. Even during an era in which strikeouts are higher than ever, few have reached that mark.

Scherzer will be going for his fourth Cy Young Award overall, including an American League Cy Young Award he won in 2013 with the Tigers to go along with his awards in the past two seasons with the Nats. Another win would put Scherzer in even more rarefied territory, but deGrom will enter this announcement as the favorite. Scherzer's 2.53 ERA is good, but it doesn't approach deGrom's historic 1.70 mark, which makes him the favorite. But Scherzer holds an advantage in a few other categories, including WHIP (0.91), innings (220 2/3) and wins (18), all of which paced the NL.

Even after winning Cy Young Awards in the past two seasons, Scherzer made it a goal for himself to get better. At the age of 34, he continues to do so, putting himself in position to potentially win his third straight award.

-- Jamal Collier

Video: Reynolds breaks down Max Scherzer's Cy Young chances

Washington Nationals, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies

Trades could fulfill Blue Jays' search for depth

Toronto may look to solidify rotation in early offseason deals
MLB.com @gregorMLB

TORONTO -- The market for free-agent starters likely won't be settled any time soon, and that's one reason the Blue Jays are expected to spend the early stages of the offseason scouring for trades.

Toronto won't be in the mix for the top group of starters reportedly on the block. Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Madison Bumgarner, James Paxton and others of similar pedigree don't seem like realistic candidates, but a secondary tier will undoubtedly emerge in the coming weeks.

TORONTO -- The market for free-agent starters likely won't be settled any time soon, and that's one reason the Blue Jays are expected to spend the early stages of the offseason scouring for trades.

Toronto won't be in the mix for the top group of starters reportedly on the block. Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Madison Bumgarner, James Paxton and others of similar pedigree don't seem like realistic candidates, but a secondary tier will undoubtedly emerge in the coming weeks.

Pitchers with one year of control remaining -- such as New York's Sonny Gray and Pittsburgh's Ivan Nova -- could be of interest. Arizona's Robbie Ray is another possibility, while some of the bounce-back candidates include Kansas City's Danny Duffy and Tyler Chatwood of the Cubs.

The Blue Jays have the flexibility required to be creative. They have the available resources to add a starter through free agency, the depth in the Minor Leagues to facilitate a deal and some intriguing pieces -- particularly in the infield -- at the big league level who could be shopped to fill areas of need.

With the annual Winter Meetings less than a month away, here's a closer look at what the Blue Jays have to offer up:

Video: TB@TOR: Diaz, Gurriel Jr. combine for a smooth DP

IF Aledmys Diaz
The Blue Jays bought low on Diaz last offseason when they acquired him for Minor League outfielder J.B. Woodman. Injuries to Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson opened the door for Diaz to play more often than expected, and he responded with a career-high 18 home runs in 422 at-bats. Diaz also proved capable of handling shortstop and third base, and there's little doubt he could handle second in a pinch as well. The 28-year-old Diaz regained value this year, and he's not eligible for free agency until after the 2022 season. Toronto has too many infielders, so something has to give.

Video: TB@TOR: Travis plates Jansen with a single to right

2B Devon Travis
Travis' 2018 season was a bit of a mixed bag. The big positive was that he stayed healthy for the first time in his career, and he appeared in 103 games despite a lengthy stint in the Minors. The downside is that Travis underperformed with the bat and slashed .232/.275/.381. That's not going to get it done, but this is the same player who posted at least a .785 OPS in back-to-back seasons in '15-16. Other teams might be looking to buy low, and while Travis might not net much of a return on his own, he could be packaged with others.

Video: TOR@SEA: Drury pulls RBI double down the line in 9th

IF/OF Brandon Drury
On the surface, it would be unusual for the Blue Jays to shop Drury just a few months after acquiring him from the Yankees. The 26-year-old remains under club control for the next three years, so he's an option for the present and the future. There are a lot of reasons to keep him, but Drury's versatility might be a luxury the Blue Jays don't need. Toronto is flush with options around the infield, and he is exactly the type of player that contending teams love to have. If a reliable arm with similar control is offered up for Drury, it would be hard for the Blue Jays to say no.

Video: BOS@TOR: Stroman fans 4 over 7 terrific innings

RHP Marcus Stroman or Aaron Sanchez
It might seem counterintuitive to acquire pitching by dealing away one of the only high-ceiling arms left, but Toronto needs to be open-minded. Stroman and Sanchez have just two years of control remaining, and their timelines don't match up with that of the rebuilding Blue Jays. Despite all of that, a trade this offseason seems somewhat unrealistic because both pitchers are coming off injury-plagued seasons and their values have taken a hit. Expect Toronto to shop these two next summer, and when it eventually happens, young controllable pitching will be the ideal return.

Prospect capital
The Blue Jays have a slew of prospects who are eligible for next month's Rule 5 Draft. The only way to guarantee protection is by placing them on the 40-man roster, but with four vacancies, there won't be enough room for everyone. Outfielder Forrest Wall and right-handed pitchers Jacob Waguespack, Hector Perez, Jordan Romano, Jon Harris, Patrick Murphy, Yennsy Diaz and Jackson McClelland are some of the names who fall into this category. One option is packaging a couple of these prospects along with a higher-ranked player in the search for big league pitching.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays, Aledmys Diaz, Brandon Drury, Devon Travis

10 prospects who have stood out in the Fall League

MLB.com

The final week of the Arizona Fall League provides an early opportunity to reflect on some its top players and performances. The MLB Pipeline crew has been present for more games this year than ever before, with our team alternating stints covering up to two games per day throughout the six-week season. While my two-week tour of AFL recently came to an end, many of the players that I saw while in Arizona left an indelible impression.

Here are thoughts on some of them, both hitters and pitchers, who stood out the most. And for those wondering about the omission of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., MLB Pipeline's No. 1 prospect and clearly the best player in the Fall League, and Forrest Whitley, MLB Pipeline's top-ranked pitching prospect, please understand that this article is designed to take a deeper dive, looking at impressive AFL performances by prospects who don't carry the hype and widespread fanfare such as the aforementioned names.

The final week of the Arizona Fall League provides an early opportunity to reflect on some its top players and performances. The MLB Pipeline crew has been present for more games this year than ever before, with our team alternating stints covering up to two games per day throughout the six-week season. While my two-week tour of AFL recently came to an end, many of the players that I saw while in Arizona left an indelible impression.

Here are thoughts on some of them, both hitters and pitchers, who stood out the most. And for those wondering about the omission of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., MLB Pipeline's No. 1 prospect and clearly the best player in the Fall League, and Forrest Whitley, MLB Pipeline's top-ranked pitching prospect, please understand that this article is designed to take a deeper dive, looking at impressive AFL performances by prospects who don't carry the hype and widespread fanfare such as the aforementioned names.

Daz Cameron, OF, Tigers' No. 8
Cameron was raw and viewed as a developmental project when the Astros selected him in 2015. Flash forward three years and the 21-year-old outfielder's game has really rounded into form in the AFL after a regular season in which he reached three levels, including Triple-A. Though the approach leaves something to be desired, Cameron has cleaned up his swing while also advancing his spin recognition to the point where he now consistently puts together good at-bats, consistently finds the barrel and is able to tap into his above-average raw power.

Tweet from @GoldenSombrero: After falling behind 0-2, #Tigers Daz Cameron worked the count full, fouled off a bunch of pitches and then unloaded on this 2-R HR @MLBPipeline pic.twitter.com/FeihHB4qVO

Jon Duplantier, RHP, D-backs' No. 1 (No. 80 overall
Duplantier turned in one of the Fall League's better starts on Nov. 6, when he racked up nine strikeouts and recorded over 32 percent of his 51 strikes via swings and misses. The right-hander held his velocity throughout the start, topping out at 97 mph while sitting consistently at 94-95, and used the fastball to effectively set up his secondary pitches. What impressed me in this particular outing, however, was his feel for creating separation between his low-80s curveball, a more vertical-breaking pitch, and his power slider at 85-88 mph. 

Tweet from @GoldenSombrero: #Dbacks Jon Duplantier allowed a two-out 2B (to Taylor Trammell) but struck out the side (all swinging) in the first inning. Here���s his K of Peter Alonso on an 87 mph slider @MLBPipeline pic.twitter.com/CmoOSsJPJP

Nico Hoerner, SS, Cubs' No. 6
The Cubs' 2018 first-rounder's inexperience has been a non-factor in the AFL, where he's hit .321 and looked like a player straight out of Double-A, and one possibly even on the cusp of the Majors. That's not to say that Hoerner will springboard up the ladder in such fashion in 2019 -- but he certainly could. At the plate, he has a knack for barreling the ball to all fields, can handle velocity and adjust to secondaries, and he has more juice in his bat than you'd expect. His arm stroke is a little stiff at shortstop, but it plays up because he creatively finds ways to achieve a good slot, has sound footwork and consistently follows his throws with his body. He's a very, very solid ballplayer. 

Tweet from @GoldenSombrero: More loud contact by #Cubs Nico Hoerner. Dude barrels everything. pic.twitter.com/BUV21SyKxV

Connor Jones, RHP, Cardinals' No. 30
Jones seems poised to jump on the fast track to the Majors as a reliever in 2019 just as Jordan Hicks did after his eye-opening AFL turn last year. Jones, like Hicks, had worked mostly as a starter before the AFL, where he's shown dominant stuff in short bursts with an upper-90s heater and plus breaking ball. It's a dynamic pairing that could have him logging key innings out of the Cardinals' bullpen next season.

Justin Lawrence, RHP, Rockies' No. 17
Lawrence blew the save in the Fall Stars Game, but anyone watching in person or at home saw a guy with premium big league-caliber stuff and movement. Working from a low three-quarters slot, Lawrence dials up a 96-99 mph two-seamer with late, darting arm-side life that nets him both whiffs and ground balls. He pairs his heater with a hard, late-breaking slider at 82-84, and together they give the right-hander a two-pitch mix that will be a clean fit in a big league bullpen, likely sometime in '19.

Tyler Nevin, 3B/1B, Rockies' No. 11
In my first look at Nevin he enjoyed his first career two-triple game, with exit velocities of 105.8 and 101.2 mph, as part of a 3-for-4 game. What's more, he hit both triples to the opposite field. I didn't get a look at Nevin again until Nov. 3, when he was just 1-for-4 but also produced 100-plus-mph exit velocities in all four trips to the plate, including three at 104-plus. Right now, at age 21, Nevin still is more hit over power. However, it's easy to envision the 6-foot-4, 200-pounder tapping into his plus raw power during games moving forward, which also would help to offset any concerns about his long-term defensive home.

Video: MSS@SRR: Nevin puts glove on display in Fall League

Nate Pearson, RHP, Blue Jays' No. 4 (No. 90 overall)
After leaving his 2018 debut after just 1 2/3 innings with a fractured right ulna that he suffered on a comeback line drive, Pearson was understandably rusty early in the AFL, showing little feel for repeating the arm action on his triple-digit fastball, and even less so with his secondary offerings. He turned the corner in the Fall Stars Game, when he absurdly (and legitimately) topped out at 104 mph while striking out the side, and he was brilliant in his subsequent start, tossing four perfect frames while mixing an elite heater with a plus slider and above-average curveball. Between the two outings, he showed the highest ceiling of any pitcher I saw this fall. 

Video: EAST@WEST: Pearson flashes 101 mph+ with regularity

Luis Robert, OF, White Sox No. 4 (No. 44 overall)
Robert still has a ways to go in terms of his approach, plate discipline and pitch recognition, but his pure tools and overall ceiling are both tantalizing. His bat speed is among the best in the Fall League, which speaks to his high average there despite a pull-heavy approach that has him hunting fastballs and consistently well out in front of most pitches, and he showed at least above-average wheels on both sides of the ball. Meanwhile, that he's started getting to his raw power during games -- like he did on Nov. 8, when he hit a ball that still hasn't landed (see below) -- is a significant development for Robert, who failed to jump the yard in 50 regular-season games but possesses enormous strength and explosiveness in his 6-foot-3, 185-pound frame.

Tweet from @GoldenSombrero: #WhiteSox Luis Robert with an absolutely mammoth home run. Good lord. Nobody on the field moved. Make sure your volume is turned up. @MLBPipeline pic.twitter.com/OuukA6mfEV

Cole Tucker, SS, Pirates' No. 5
Few players made a greater impression on me than Tucker, and not just because he hung around on the field after every day game, signing autographs and chatting with fans until there was no one left. He's a good dude. He's a quick-footed, plus defender at shortstop with a plus, versatile arm and great feel for crashing on balls in front of him. It's not like Tucker picks up scratch hits at the plate, either. He hits the ball hard -- he hit a triple with a 109.1 mph exit velo in one of my looks -- and does so across the entire field, especially from the left side of the plate. He's less advanced as a righty, but still puts together strong at-bats and makes solid contact. Altogether, it's the profile of an above-average regular at shortstop. 

Tweet from @GoldenSombrero: Another knock for Cole Tucker #Pirates @MLBPipeline pic.twitter.com/gz77RLC4aR

Daulton Varsho, C, D-backs' No. 5
Varsho takes impressively loud batting practice. He compensates for being undersized with a combination of strength and athleticism (including above-average speed) that fuels his profile as a dual-threat backstop. That he's spent most of the AFL leading off for Salt River is a testament to his advanced eye and patient approach -- qualities that also portend a potential 55-hit/55-power future.

Tweet from @GoldenSombrero: #Dbacks Daulton Varsho BP pic.twitter.com/y0CcU9elpq

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.

Momentum building toward Paxton blockbuster

MLB.com

The already robust market for left-handed starters grew deeper when reports emerged that the Mariners are willing to trade "just about anyone" this offseason, including 30-year-old ace James Paxton, who will immediately become one of the most highly desired arms on the market. He was 11-6 with a 3.76 ERA and a career-high 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings in 2018, when he also became the second Canadian to throw a no-hitter with his effort in Toronto on May 8.

Below you will find a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the left-hander.

The already robust market for left-handed starters grew deeper when reports emerged that the Mariners are willing to trade "just about anyone" this offseason, including 30-year-old ace James Paxton, who will immediately become one of the most highly desired arms on the market. He was 11-6 with a 3.76 ERA and a career-high 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings in 2018, when he also became the second Canadian to throw a no-hitter with his effort in Toronto on May 8.

Below you will find a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the left-hander.

Predicting a Paxton blockbuster
Nov. 13: The noise around the possibility of a Paxton blockbuster trade continues to grow. The Mariners, after all, already have dealt catcher Mike Zunino as the start of what appears to be a "reimagining" of the roster heading into 2019. As TJ Cotterill of the Tacoma News Tribune writes: "And reimagining life without Paxton doesn't appear to be a matter of if, but when."

Paxton, who just turned 30 earlier this month, is coming off his best season yet, having established career highs in innings (160 1/3), strikeouts (208) and strikeouts per nine (11.7). Combine that with two more years of club control, and it's no surprise that a number of teams are interested in adding him as a top-of-the-rotation type of arm.

Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs looks at Paxton's progression from talented-yet-frustrating pitcher a few years ago to the burgeoning ace he became in 2018. His conclusion? "Paxton is one of those guys every team would want in a short series. He's one of those guys every team would want in a one-game playoff. James Paxton is a potential difference-maker in the rotation."

Given that Seattle's farm system is among the weakest in baseball and that the club's timeline for winning may no longer sync up with their control over Paxton, a trade would make sense -- and the return in young Major Leaguers and/or prospects could be massive. Not to mention, there are plenty of contenders loaded with young talent and holes in their rotation (read: Yankees, Astros, Braves, Phillies and Brewers) who already have been linked as possible landing spots for Paxton.

Video: James Paxton could be a part of a blockbuster trade

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.

Video: Justice talks Paxton, McHugh's preparation for 2019

Yankees checking in on All-Star starters
Nov. 9: The Bronx Bombers are known to be looking for two quality starters in addition to ace Luis Severino, righty Masahiro Tanaka and veteran CC Sabathia, who signed a one-year deal earlier this week. That search includes the trade market, where MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reports the Yankees are among a presumably large number of teams who have contacted the Mariners about talented southpaw Paxton.

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: #Yankees among teams that have spoken to #Mariners about a trade for LHP James Paxton, sources tell The Athletic. Paxton has two years of control left and is projected by @mlbtraderumors to earn $9M in arbitration next season. NYY also on free-agent LH starters Corbin, Happ, etc.

Paxton, who turned 30 on Tuesday, represents one of the biggest names on the market now that Seattle has made it known that several of its stars could be available this winter. The lefty features both elite stuff (he struck out nearly one-third of the hitters he faced and threw a no-hitter against Toronto last season) and team control for prospective buyers, as Rosenthal notes, over the next couple seasons. Fellow MLB Network insider Jon Heyman also reported Friday that the Yankees also met with the Indians during this week's General Managers Meetings about possible trades for Cleveland aces Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco.

With varying reports about New York's interest in headliners Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, the Yankees could pivot instead toward making their rotation one of the game's best in 2019.

James Paxton

5 reasons why Yankees should sign Murphy

Free agent's bat could help pinstripes' offense
MLB.com @mattkellyMLB

Didi Gregorius' Tommy John surgery sent a ripple through the Yankees' offseason plans, creating a hole at shortstop and fueling speculation that New York could be front-runners for free-agent superstar Manny Machado.

But with Hot Stove reports painting a murky picture of the Yankees' interest in Machado, it's worth considering alternatives. Gleyber Torres could shift over to his natural position, but New York would still have a spot to fill in its infield. As the Yanks aim to stay under the competitive balance tax (CBT), one former crosstown rival could be a logical, cost-effective choice for 2019: Daniel Murphy.

Didi Gregorius' Tommy John surgery sent a ripple through the Yankees' offseason plans, creating a hole at shortstop and fueling speculation that New York could be front-runners for free-agent superstar Manny Machado.

But with Hot Stove reports painting a murky picture of the Yankees' interest in Machado, it's worth considering alternatives. Gleyber Torres could shift over to his natural position, but New York would still have a spot to fill in its infield. As the Yanks aim to stay under the competitive balance tax (CBT), one former crosstown rival could be a logical, cost-effective choice for 2019: Daniel Murphy.

There are obvious caveats: Murphy will turn 34 in April, he's not far removed from microfracture knee surgery and his second-base defense remains poor. But the Yankees are in the fine-tuning stages; outside of filling holes in their rotation (which they'll likely do through free agency), the Bronx Bombers can pay more attention to addressing the edges of their roster.

Here are five reasons why adding Murphy could be a low-risk win for the pinstripes:

He could serve as insurance for Greg Bird and Luke Voit
Murphy rates as one of MLB's worst defenders at second base, and his mobility figures to become even more limited. But the Yankees' first-base situation is relatively the same as when the Nationals placed Murphy on the waiver wire last August.

Video: Luke Voit on 2018 success with the Yankees

Bird has struggled to both stay on the field and produce once he's on it, while Voit still needs to prove he's an everyday player despite a white-hot finish to 2018. The Yankees could either go with Ronald Torreyes or sign a cheaper free agent like Ian Kinsler, Josh Harrison or Neil Walker to play second base, and then have Murphy platoon with Voit or share time with Bird and DH on the side. None of these options are perfect from a defensive standpoint, but the Yanks just slugged their way to 100 wins while allowing the Majors' fifth-highest average on ground balls. There's no obvious way for New York to turn that around with Gregorius sidelined and Miguel Andujar returning to third base, so it may as well try for an offensive upgrade.

A short porch awaits in right field
Murphy's approach is well known: He's looking to pull the ball in the air. From 2016-17, only 10 left-handed hitters recorded a higher rate of pulled fly balls and line drives, per Statcast™, and Murphy hit .642 when putting those balls in play. The Yankees, meanwhile, have seen their own left-handed batter tailor his swing to the short right-field porch at his home park.

Tweet from @darenw: Didi Gregorius with his 89th career home run... Let's take a moment to appreciate his pull tendency. pic.twitter.com/5F9jjUeP4P

Statcast™ says Murphy has pulled 53 of his 69 home runs since the 2015 All-Star break. While he went the other way on air balls much more last season, that could be due to reduced leg strength as he recuperated from surgery. With a full winter of rest and rehabilitation, there's a good chance Murphy could attack Yankee Stadium -- whose right-field foul pole is much closer to home than Nationals Park or Wrigley Field -- the same way Gregorius did.

He was better in 2018 than you may recall
It was easy to look at Murphy's .188 average in his first 21 games last summer and write him off. But as the Nationals faded from contention, Murphy heated up. Beginning July 8, Murphy hit .328/.365/.506 over his last 70 games for a 132 weighted runs created plus (wRC+), which happened to be the exact same as Machado. It's a small sample, but Murphy's .348 expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA) -- which approximates how a hitter should fare based on his walks, strikeouts and quality of contact -- suggested he was still well above league average at the plate.

Video: CHC@CWS: Murphy leads off the game with a home run

His resume fits the October spotlight
Mets fans need no reminders of Murphy's torrid run in October 2015, when he set a postseason record by homering in six straight games. Including his subsequent runs with the Nationals and Cubs, Murphy owns a career .986 postseason OPS -- good for 11th-best all time among players with 100 postseason plate appearances. Any contender, including the Yanks, would gladly sign up for that.

Murphy has thrived in October because his game is suited for postseason at-bats. Even in a hamstrung 2018, he still finished among the league's top 25 in both overall and two-strike contact rate, per Statcast™. Murphy also owns an .878 OPS with two outs since the start of 2015. The Yankees just watched the Red Sox, their biggest rival, bully their way to a title by grinding out every at-bat, and Murphy could help New York replicate that mindset in '19.

He's thrived in New York before
Murphy became a Mets hero in 2015, and then tormented his former club each time he went back to Queens. His 85 at-bats as a visitor since the start of '16 includes a .341 average, 15 extra-base hits and six home runs -- all amid a chorus of boos from the Citi Field crowd.

Video: WSH@NYM: Murphy pulls a clutch 2-run single to right

Murphy's track record suggests he'd be just fine returning to the New York market, but the spotlight wouldn't be on him as a Yankee. Sluggers Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton would gobble up the headlines, likely leaving Murphy free to do his thing in the bottom half of the order. Plus, Murphy could pass on some of his hitting acumen to young teammates like Andujar and Torres like he has in the past.

The Yanks don't necessarily need to make the biggest splashes this offseason, but with Boston's juggernaut returning in 2019, they also can't stand still. Adding Murphy -- whom FanGraphs projects will earn a two-year deal with an average annual value between $9 million to $14 million -- wouldn't break the bank. But it could be a move that pays off big next October.

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