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Rumors: Harper, Machado, Bumgarner, Murphy

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.

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

Elias, from Astros, looks like Orioles' GM pick

MLB.com @Britt_Ghiroli

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles, amid a rebuild, have spent their time studying organizations that have built sustainability, used advanced analytics and grown a contender from within. It's to little surprise, then, that the O's landed on Astros assistant general manager Mike Elias as their choice to head the front office.

The news, which first broke Tuesday night, is not official. But Elias, a Northern Virginia native who will be allowed to name a second in command and help reshape the Orioles, will get the position, sources told MLB.com on Wednesday. The move -- which will likely give Elias the title of GM -- provides the top block in a long list of to-do's for Baltimore this offseason.

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles, amid a rebuild, have spent their time studying organizations that have built sustainability, used advanced analytics and grown a contender from within. It's to little surprise, then, that the O's landed on Astros assistant general manager Mike Elias as their choice to head the front office.

The news, which first broke Tuesday night, is not official. But Elias, a Northern Virginia native who will be allowed to name a second in command and help reshape the Orioles, will get the position, sources told MLB.com on Wednesday. The move -- which will likely give Elias the title of GM -- provides the top block in a long list of to-do's for Baltimore this offseason.

Sig Mejdal, a former NASA engineer who recently left the Astros organization after six years as a top analytics guru, could be joining Elias with the Orioles, a source told MLB.com. Houston, World Series champions in 2017, has been lauded for having one of the sharpest front offices in baseball and the O's are in dire need of bridging the gap in the American League East after finishing last with a 47-115 record.

Elias, a 35-year-old Yale graduate, is highly regarded in the baseball industry. He was named the Astros' director of amateur scouting when Jeff Luhnow became GM in December 2011, a role that expanded to overseeing player development and Minor League operations in '16.

A former pitcher who got his start as a scout in the Cardinals organization, Elias is heavily credited for Houston's No. 1 overall selection of Carlos Correa in the 2012 Draft, and he oversaw the subsequent six Drafts. The Orioles will have the No. 1 overall pick in next year's Draft.

The organization parted ways with executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter in early October. Part of the new plan involves a heavy emphasis on scouting and analytics, as well as a foray into the international market, though Baltimore missed out on the top trio of international players during the current signing period.

Elias was among a group of candidates that included front-office minds Ben Cherington, Ned Colletti and Ned Rice, along with Major League Baseball officials Peter Woodfork and Tyrone Brooks. The nature of how seriously each candidate was considered was not immediately known. The interviews were conducted by Lou and John Angelos, sons of chairman Peter Angelos.

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

Baltimore Orioles

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

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.

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.

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

Bullet trains make travel a breeze for MLB stars

Big leaguers using 'Shinkansen' for three-city tour of Japan
MLB.com @alysonfooter

NAGOYA, Japan -- Transporting more than 100 people from city to city in a foreign country isn't easy, but with the help of the fastest high-speed rail in the world, this week's travel schedule was a cinch for the Major League traveling party.

The Japan All-Star Series featured games in three cities -- Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagoya -- but getting from point A to point B to point C required no air travel. Instead, the Major League All-Star team traveled by bullet train, a needle-nosed, lightning-fast mode of transportation that operates as a subway, sort of -- but without the delays, jam-packed train cars and lack of air conditioning that's so common for public transportation in the United States.

View Full Game Coverage

NAGOYA, Japan -- Transporting more than 100 people from city to city in a foreign country isn't easy, but with the help of the fastest high-speed rail in the world, this week's travel schedule was a cinch for the Major League traveling party.

The Japan All-Star Series featured games in three cities -- Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagoya -- but getting from point A to point B to point C required no air travel. Instead, the Major League All-Star team traveled by bullet train, a needle-nosed, lightning-fast mode of transportation that operates as a subway, sort of -- but without the delays, jam-packed train cars and lack of air conditioning that's so common for public transportation in the United States.

View Full Game Coverage

In fact, traveling via bullet train is probably more comparable to an airplane flight than an actual mainstream train, given that the ride is smooth enough to where passengers feel like they're barely moving.

"It feels like you're on the moon," Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez said. "It's so smooth. It's unbelievable how fast it goes. It's amazing."

Bullet trains -- known in Japan is Shinkansen -- travel at around 200 mph, quadruple what a New York subway reaches at its highest speed. Bullet trains are used for long-distance travel between cities, they're also utilized by the locals as a commuter rail network meant largely for business travelers with shorter travel requirements.

And, get this, New Yorkers -- the average delay of a bullet train? Thirty-six seconds.

Yes. Seconds.

"It's cool how they combine the train aspect with the subway system schedule," said Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins, who experienced bullet trains for the first time last year while vacationing in China. "Everything runs on time. They seem to have it figured out over here."

Video: Eugenio Suarez on the amazing Japanese fans

The trip from Tokyo to Hiroshima, a distance of 420 miles, took four hours on the bullet train. Nagoya, located between the two cities, required 250 miles of traveling, and it took about two hours.

Latest comeback gives Japan series win vs. MLB

During a normal road trip for a Major League team, it can take two hours just from the time the game ends to the plane actually taking off, never mind the hours of flying involved.

Bullet trains, currently unavailable in the United States (though California's efforts are ongoing), have received an enthusiastic review from everyone involved with the current All-Star tour through Japan.

And they wouldn't mind seeing it abundantly available in the States.

"When I first heard about it, I kind of expected it to be like a roller coaster," Royals infielder Whit Merrifield said, adding that he had prior experience riding bullet trains during overseas vacations. "But it's really smooth. You didn't know how fast you were going until you looked outside.

"I don't mind flying. But with how easy is to travel around on the bullet train, it's probably the easiest travel I've ever done."

Astros pitcher Collin McHugh, an experienced world traveler, finds public transit systems one of his favorite things to explore when he's in a foreign country -- "to figure out what it is, and how to take it," he said. Thanks to the Japan trip, he can mark another transportation mode off the list.

"I live in Atlanta and Houston. so there's a not a ton of options when it comes to [public transit]," he said. "So I enjoy it when we get to do something like this."

The players surveyed agreed that California makes sense as a state that could benefit from a bullet train system, given how large it is and how many big cities are located there.

The Dallas-Houston commute was also mentioned, as was Cincinnati-Cleveland (that suggestion came from Suarez).

But others are thinking bigger picture, such as Hoskins, who's all in favor of a Northeast-Midwest bullet-train commute and beyond.

"New York to Chicago, Chicago to Dallas. Dallas to San Francisco, L.A.," he said. "Some of those longer trips. Seems easy to me."

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.

Is signing Harper best use of Giants' resources?

MLB.com

After a seven-season tenure with the Nationals that included a National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, an NL MVP Award in 2015 and six All-Star nods, Bryce Harper is now a free agent for the first time.

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

After a seven-season tenure with the Nationals that included a National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, an NL MVP Award in 2015 and six All-Star nods, Bryce Harper is now a free agent for the first time.

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

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.

Are 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.

Are White Sox trying to clear space for free-agent stars by shopping Garcia?
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.

Harper rejects Nationals' qualifying offer
Nov. 12: Bryce Harper has rejected the Nationals' one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer, as was expected. The 26-year-old superstar is expected to receive a long-term contract somewhere in the $300 million-$400 million range. Since he was made a qualifying offer, any club that signs him will be required to send Washington a selection after the fourth round of next year's MLB Draft.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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."

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 Harper. The Yankees say that Manny 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.

Should teams be concerned about Harper's poor defensive metrics?
Nov. 9: Free-agent outfielder Bryce Harper is coming off a poor year from a defensive standpoint, recording -12 Outs Above Average, per Statcast™, and -26 Defensive Runs Saved. But former MLB general manager Jim Bowden of The Athletic doesn't think that should matter much to potential suitors.

While Bowden said he doesn't think Harper will ever be one of the top defensive outfielders in baseball, he also doesn't consider him to be a liability on that side of that ball, and the 26-year-old can more than make up for any defensive shortcomings with his performance at the plate.

"I'm signing [Harper] for the bat and I'm putting him in the category of Barry Bonds, where I think he's a 1.000 OPS guy that can be a 150 OPS+ guy coming home," Bowden said Friday on MLB Network Radio. "And I think prime years, I think we're going to see 40 homers a year, depending on the ballpark that he signs with."

Tweet from @MLBNetworkRadio: Jim Bowden (@JimBowdenGM): If you don't want to sign Bryce Harper because he had a subpar year defensively, then you're doing it wrong. pic.twitter.com/XXbpgXKI3B

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.