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Rumors: deGrom, Syndergaard, Harper, Eovaldi

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

Mets not looking to rebuild; deGrom unlikely to be traded anytime soon
Nov. 18: The Mets are unlikely to consider trading Noah Syndergaard or any of their other starting pitchers unless it is part of a plan to improve the 2019 Major League roster, reports MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in an article for The Athletic (subscription required). Sources tell Rosenthal that the Mets are receiving significant interest in their starters, but the club is not looking to rebuild.

Rosenthal reported Friday that the Padres remain interested in Syndergaard after pursuing a deal for the righty before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline this past season, but San Diego's best assets lie in its stellar farm system. It's unclear if that hurts the Padres' chances of acquiring Syndergaard, given the Mets' desire to contend in 2019. If it did trade one of its starters for high-end prospects, New York would likely look to flip some of them for another asset that can help the 2019 team.

Meanwhile, Rosenthal is told that a trade of National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom is not happening anytime soon, as the Mets will first try to work out an extension with the right-hander, who is under control for two more seasons. Mets COO Jeff Wilpon indicated Friday that discussions with deGrom's new agent could begin next month. New York could look to move deGrom if contract talks are unproductive, but Rosenthal notes the extension process could take months to resolve.

The Mets could also be active on the free-agent market, as new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen promised when he first took the job. Per Rosenthal, a representative for a free-agent starter described the Mets as "very engaged in the marketplace," though another warned not to put too much stock in early free-agent rumblings.

Will Cubs join the fray for Harper?
Nov. 18: Although The Athletic reported earlier in November that the Cubs have "financial concerns that may limit their ability and motivation to make a huge splash this winter," the club may nonetheless be involved in the Bryce Harper sweepstakes.

Dan Bernstein of 670 The Score reported Friday that the Cubs are among the teams that are "in" on Harper with negotiations starting to pick up steam.

Tweet from @Bernstein_McK: .@dan_bernstein reporting that the Bryce Harper negotiations are picking up steam and that the Cubs are among the teams "in" on the free agent right fielder. https://t.co/tJn6KQF40G pic.twitter.com/8UfoUewbBg

Of course, the report should be taken with a grain of salt, as Matt Snyder of CBS Sports noted Saturday. The Cubs may simply be floating this as a misdirection to make other teams think they are involved in the Harper bidding, and to avoid backlash from the fan base. Furthermore, Bernstein isn't a known news-breaker, and his report hasn't been confirmed by any local or national reporters of note.

Baseball-reference estimates the Cubs will have a $208.6 million payroll in 2019, putting them over the Competitive Balance Tax threshold of $206 million and subjecting them to a 20 percent tax on all overages. Teams that exceed the threshold by $20 million to $40 million are also required to pay a 12 percent surtax. The Cubs will likely fall into that range if they sign Harper for north of $30 million.

Still, a major free-agent move wouldn't be out of character for the Theo Epstein-led front office, which has signed Jon Lester, Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, Yu Darvish and Brandon Morrow to expensive contracts over the past four offseasons.

Eovaldi receiving plenty of interest
Nov. 18: Nathan Eovaldi hasn't often performed like an elite starter during his career, but his dominant postseason has teams lining up to sign him. According to a report from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, as many as nine teams could be in on the free-agent righty.

Cafardo names the Brewers, Phillies, Braves, Angels, White Sox, Blue Jays, Giants, Padres and Red Sox as clubs that are interested in Eovaldi, and notes that more could join in on the bidding.

While teams don't hand out big-money contracts based solely on one strong postseason, it was how Eovaldi achieved his stellar results -- regularly flashing 100 mph heat, mixing his pitches and locating like he rarely has in the past -- that likely made so many clubs take notice.

The 28-year-old also turned in a solid regular season, recording a 3.81 ERA with personal bests K/9 rate (8.2) and BB/9 rate (1.6) over 111 innings.

And while Eovaldi's health history -- he's undergone two Tommy John surgeries -- could give some teams pause, his right arm was given a clean bill of health after a routine checkup this past week.

Add it all up and Eovaldi seems poised to cash in, with MLB Trade Rumors projecting he'll receive $60 million over four years.

If Kimbrel is too expensive, could Miller be a closing alternative for Boston?
Nov. 18: The Red Sox agreed to a one-year deal with World Series MVP Steve Pearce on Friday, and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has stated his desire to keep the club intact as much as possible for 2019. Does that mean Boston will re-sign free agent closer Craig Kimbrel?

It's not likely, according to MLB.com's Ian Browne, who notes that with players like American League MVP Mookie Betts and AL Championship Series MVP Jackie Bradley Jr. in line for raises via arbitration, there just may not be room to pay Kimbrel what he is expected to command on the open market. Boston must also reserve some money to re-sign Chris Sale, Xander Bogaerts and possibly Rick Porcello when the three become free agents next year.

In terms of average annual value (AAV), Kimbrel is projected to land a deal similar to those signed by Aroldis Chapman (five years, $86 million), Mark Melancon (four years, $62 million), Kenley Jansen (five years, $80 million) and Wade Davis (three years, $52 million) in recent offseasons.

Anthony Castrovince suggests left-hander Andrew Miller as a potential replacement for Kimbrel. Miller, who pitched for the Red Sox from 2011-14, struggled with injuries last season and did not perform at his typically strong level, but he owns a 2.21 ERA with a 0.94 WHIP and a 13.9 K/9 rate since the start of '12. Kimbrel, meanwhile, has recorded a 1.94 ERA with a 0.89 WHIP and a 14.5 K/9 rate in that same span.

MLB Trade Rumors predicts Miller will sign for $27 million over three years, so he could fit Boston's budget better than Kimbrel.

Despite need for pitching, Rangers could shop Minor
Nov. 18: Although the Rangers are in desperate need of starting pitching, they could consider trading the only hurler who is a lock for the 2019 rotation, according to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in an article for The Athletic (subscription required).

Per Rosenthal, Texas may field offers for Mike Minor, who could be an attractive trade target for clubs that don't want to spend top dollar for a free-agent starter or deal a package of prospects for an ace such as the Indians' Corey Kluber. Minor, who will turn 31 in December, is under contract for $19 million over the next two years.

After missing all of 2015 and '16 due to shoulder problems and pitching exclusively as a reliever in '17, Minor made a return to starting last year. The left-hander recorded a 116 ERA+ with a 1.12 WHIP, though he also yielded the third-most barrels (49) in the Majors, per Statcast™, and allowed 25 homers in 157 innings. There's a chance his trade value won't get any better than it is right now.

As Rosenthal notes, the Rangers are seemingly headed for 90-plus losses with or without Minor, and at his age, the southpaw isn't a foundation piece for the rebuilding club.

Could Brantley reunite with Brewers?
Nov. 18: Last offseason, the Brewers reunited with Lorenzo Cain in free agency years after drafting and then trading him. Could they follow the same path this year with Michael Brantley?

MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince suggests Milwaukee as a suitor for Brantley, despite the club's surplus of outfielders. As Castrovince notes, the threat of positional excess didn't stop the Brewers from acquiring Mike Moustakas and Jonathan Schoop before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline in 2018.

It's not like the Brewers have an offensive juggernaut. Milwaukee ranked 12th in the Majors in runs scored this past season and tied for 20th in contact rate. Brantley, meanwhile, finished first among all qualified hitters in contact rate, so his skill set fits well in the club's lineup.

The Brewers selected Brantley in the seventh round of the 2005 MLB Draft and traded him to the Indians as the player to be named later in their blockbuster deal for CC Sabathia in July 2008.

The outfielder went on to play 10 seasons with the Indians, making three All-Star teams and hitting .295/.351/.430 with 87 homers and 118 steals overall. The Tribe didn't make him a qualifying offer this offseason, meaning teams won't need to forfeit a Draft pick to sign him.

Will a potential TV deal be a factor in whether the Yankees sign Harper?
Nov. 17: Tyler Kepner of the New York Times notes that the Yankees are in negotiations to buy back the YES Network, and that such an acquisition by the franchise may influence whether Bryce Harper ends up in pinstripes next season.

Kepner includes a quote from Harper's agent, Scott Boras, who said, "It's a market within a market that no one's ever talked about." Harper is one of the most exciting players in the game, and his style of play and star power could improve already strong ratings for the YES Network.

Harper has said he wears the No. 34 because the two digits add up to 7, which was the number of his idol, Mickey Mantle. The short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium is certainly an inviting sight for the left-handed slugger, but the Yankees do have a crowded outfield already, and general manager Brian Cashman has said the club's No. 1 priority is starting pitching this offseason.

For the Phillies, is it a choice of Harper and/or Machado ... or Trout?
Nov. 17: The Phillies are viewed as the odds-on favorite to sign at least one (and possibly both) of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. They have the funds. They have the need. They make a lot of sense. But is there a downside to splurging on these free-agent superstars now?

Undoubtedly, Harper and/or Machado would make the Phillies better. But in a story for the New York Post, MLB Network insider Joel Sherman wonders if Philadelphia really is ready for the next step toward contention -- not to mention, the hype and expectations -- that comes with inking such a star.

It's a fair question, mainly because the club's 2018 performance was such a roller coaster. Through early August, the Phillies led the National League East and looked like definite postseason contenders, only to falter to an NL-worst 16-33 record after Aug. 7. Outside of NL Cy Young Award finalist Aaron Nola and maybe young slugger Rhys Hoskins, the players who were supposed to make up the core of the franchise's next contender have struggled to develop at the Major League level.

"Wouldn't the Phillies be better off spending $300 million-ish on Patrick Corbin, Craig Kimbrel, Michael Brantley and Josh Donaldson -- or multiple players of that ilk -- to address a roster in need of upgrading in many spots?" Sherman argues. "That at least keeps them out of the ultra-long-term, big-buck risk that would come with Harper or Machado. And the Phillies have to think a little about future financial flexibility for many reasons, none bigger than that Mike Trout -- who grew up a Phillies fan -- is a free agent in two years."

It's an intriguing approach, especially if Phillies brass doesn't think the club is one star player away right now and would prefer to address multiple areas of the roster while simultaneously taking more time to evaluate players like Odubel Herrera, Maikel Franco, Scott Kingery, J.P. Crawford, Nick Pivetta, Nick Williams and Zach Eflin.

In theory, then, a few of those would take steps in the right direction in 2019 alongside the multiple free-agent reinforcements, setting up the franchise for a run at none other than Trout -- at a time when both he and the Phillies could be in their primes together.

Girardi weighs in on Machado and the Yankees
Nov. 17: Former Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he's "not sure from a financial standpoint where Manny [Machado] is going to be and how it fits within [the Yankees'] plans," according to NJ Advanced Media's Brendan Kuty. "There's no doubt that Manny's a great player, but there's a lot of great players that are out there. This is a pretty strong free agent class."

Girardi, who managed the Yankees for a decade from 2008-17, sounded as though he didn't feel New York necessarily needed to add the superstar infielder, though there is a vacancy at shortstop to open the season as Didi Gregorius recovers from Tommy John surgery. Machado is expected to command more than $300 million on this offseason's free-agent market. Girardi went on to say there are a lot of other good options to augment the Yankees' roster after a 100-win season in 2018.

"There are some pretty good bullpen arms that have experience. There are some pretty good outfielders, good infielders," Girardi said. "That's something that they have to decide."

Finding a match for Keuchel
Nov. 17: Where might former AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel land this offseason? MLB.com's Matt Kelly takes a look at five potential teams that could sign him, and how he'd fit with each. 

The Nationals are a potential fit, Kelly writes, as Washington is coming off a disappointing 80-82 season and has payroll flexibility, particularly if Bryce Harper doesn't return. Adding Keuchel to a rotation headed by Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg would make for what would perhaps be the best trio of starters in the NL.

Kelly also lists the Astros, as Houston could re-sign Keuchel. The left-hander has spent all seven seasons of his career so far with the Astros, so there is the familiarity component. And given Lance McCullers Jr. needing Tommy John surgery and Charlie Morton potentially leaving via free agency, Houston's rotation could certainly use Keuchel back.

Cincinnati is another potential landing spot, as the Reds have indicated they're going to be aggressive this offseason in pursuing starting pitching, potentially trying to sign two established starters. Kelly rounds out the list with the Angels, who will be missing Shohei Ohtani and Garrett Richards in 2019 due to Tommy John surgery, and the Yankees, who have made starting pitching their No. 1 priority this offseason.

Video: Will Yankees pursue pitcher Dallas Keuchel?

Keuchel's high ground-ball rate, coupled with his penchant for inducing soft contact, make him a potentially great fit for the Yankees, particularly at the homer-friendly Yankee Stadium. But New York won't be in any rush to ink the former AL Cy Young Award winner to a deal, according to Mike Rosenstein of NJ Advanced Media.

Rosenstein cites former MLB general manager Jim Duquette's piece for MLB.com on players whose free agencies may linger. Specifically with Keuchel, the left-hander's ground-ball rate, while high, dropped from 61.7 percent in '15, to 53.7 percent last season. In addition, his strikeout rate is down, from 23.7 percent to 17.5 percent over that span. There are also many left-handers on this offseason's starting pitcher market, including Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, Gio Gonzalez and Wade Miley, not to mention potential trade candidates James Paxton and Madison Bumgarner.

Blue Jays deal Diaz. Could Stroman be next?
Nov. 17: With news that the Blue Jays have traded infielder Aledmys Diaz to the Astros for Minor League righty Trent Thornton, what could be next for Toronto?

Thornton, 25, has yet to make his big league debut, but he spent all of 2018 at Triple-A, throwing 124 1/3 innings and posting a 4.42 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP and 122 strikeouts. The fifth-round pick from the 2015 Draft then pitched well in the Arizona Fall League (20 Ks in 15 1/3 IP), so he is more or less Major League-ready.

That could make the Blue Jays more apt to deal from their starting pitching, namely two right-handers whose names have been floated as trade chips: Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez. It appears, though, that the club isn't planning anything any time soon, at least not when it comes to Stroman, according to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi.

Tweet from @jonmorosi: Sources: #BlueJays not engaged in serious trade discussions involving Marcus Stroman with any club, although #Reds are among the teams with some level of interest in him. @MLBNetwork @MLB

While the Reds have shown interest, per Morosi, and we know Cincinnati is in the market for arms, it's possible the Blue Jays would prefer not to move Stroman -- who is under club control through 2020 -- when his value is at its lowest. A right shoulder injury hampered Stroman throughout 2018, leading to the worst performance (5.54 ERA, 1.48 WHIP in 102 1/3 IP) of his five-year career.

Are the Astros preparing to lose Gonzalez?
Nov. 17: Can we read anything into Houston's acquisition of Aledmys Diaz? While it's not a major trade, it does have implications, and it might suggest the Astros are looking to cover themselves in the event that longtime Astros utility player Marwin Gonzalez heads elsewhere via free agency.

The 29-year-old Gonzalez has been a very valuable and extremely versatile player in his seven years with Houston, and the club retains hope of bringing him back, according to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal.

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: For #Astros, acquisition of Diaz is protection in event they lose free agent Marwin Gonzalez. Team still wants to keep Gonzalez. https://t.co/PkSF7J7ynV

The Astros, however, chose not to present Gonzalez -- whose 2018 was solid (.733 OPS) but a step back from his breakout 2017 (.907 OPS) -- with the one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer earlier this offseason. That only helps his free-agent case by not saddling him with Draft-pick compensation, making him more enticing to teams seeking a play-anywhere-on-the-diamond option.

Diaz now is in position to fill that role for the Astros after he bounced back from a poor 2017 to hit .263/.303/.453 with 18 homers while playing all over the infield in his lone year in Toronto.

Video: Justice breaks down Blue Jays sending Diaz to Astros

How likely is it Machado stays at SS when he signs?
Nov. 17: Among the many big questions surrounding Manny Machado's free agency -- where will he sign? how much money will he get? -- is whether or not the the former third baseman will remain at shortstop after switching to that position in 2018.

MLB.com's Andrew Simon examines Machado's defensive performance as a shortstop in 2018. In a nutshell? 

"Not satisfied with being a two-time Gold Glove Award winner at third base, where he was widely recognized as one of the game's best defenders, Machado took a chance moving back to his natural position in 2018," Simon writes. "He had started just 49 games there since his big league debut in 2012, and the transition did not go smoothly. Advanced metrics weren't kind to Machado's performance at short, although his numbers improved considerably after his mid-July trade to the Dodgers."

The likely outcome to all of this, then, may be determined by the biggest question about Machado: Where will he sign? If he were to go to, say, the Yankees, there's a chance he would handle shortstop while Didi Gregorius is sidelined in the wake of Tommy John surgery and then shift to third base upon Gregorius' return. If Machado were to head to, say, the Phillies, maybe he stays at shortstop ahead of youngsters Scott Kingery and J.P. Crawford.

In other words, while Machado clearly is superior at the hot corner, he should be capable of playing either position on the left side of the infield, at least while he's still in his prime years. But if his new team has a bigger need at one spot over the other, expect him to fill that.

Why McCutchen and Pollock are the best fits for Cleveland
Nov. 17: The Indians have made some headlines already for the news that they're at least listening to offers on their elite starting pitchers, like Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer. In addition to rearranging financial obligations allocated to various aspects of the roster, part of the logic for such a move is that the team is in need of an upgrade in one area in particular.

MLB.com's Mike Petriello breaks down Cleveland's lacking outfield, especially now that Michael Brantley is on the open market, and comes up with a number of possible solutions to help improve the position. The best fits? Free agents Andrew McCutchen and A.J. Pollock.

"It's true that McCutchen turned 32 last month, and that he's not the same MVP-caliber player he once was with Pittsburgh," Petriello writes. "But as we investigated recently with Statcast™ data, there's not any tangible evidence of a speed-related decline yet, and McCutchen has remained durable, taking 640 plate appearances each full year of his career. If you liked Brantley's .364/.468 OBP/SLG, well, McCutchen is projected for .363/.461 -- and he's a righty hitter."

As for Pollock? "Cleveland should sign Pollock, who hit an above-average .257/.316/.484 with 21 homers and good defense," Petriello argues. "It should sign Pollock and McCutchen, really, and let Leonys Martin, [newly acquired] Jordan Luplow and the rest fight it out in left field. Pollock is the only true center fielder on the market, and he's right-handed to boot."

In the end, signing both almost certainly won't happen -- not when the Indians are considering dealing pitchers to alleviate some payroll pressure. And Pollock seems less likely, as he's expected to land a larger contract and is tied to Draft-pick compensation after declining the qualifying offer, to boot.

But McCutchen? His durability and on-base skill set could make for a reasonably priced option for a team that needs to worry about both improving its outfield and minding its bottom line. But there are a host of other trade and free-agent ideas, courtesy of Petriello. More >

Familia could be an overlooked free-agent option
Nov. 17: As clubs looking for relief help this offseason survey a market that includes established hurlers like Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Miller, Adam Ottavino, Zach Britton, David Robertson and Joe Kelly, one strong option that may be overlooked is Jeurys Familia. According to MLB.com's Matt Kelly, there are several factors that make the right-hander an attractive option.

"He pitched much more like his former self in a half-season with the Mets (2.88 ERA, 3.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio) before helping to fortify Oakland's outstanding bullpen down the stretch [in 2018]," Kelly writes. "And now, as Familia enters free agency for the first time, he could end up netting a larger contract than people might expect."

Video: Jeurys Familia enters free agency before 2019

Kelly notes that while there were question marks surrounding Familia as he began the '17 season on the suspension list after violating MLB's personal conduct policy, and then missed most of the summer with an arterial clot in his pitching shoulder, he had a very strong '18 campaign. Familia remains relatively young (29 years old), has no Draft pick compensation attached to his free agency, showed his durability again last season, and keeps the ball in the ballpark.

As for some potential suitors for the right-hander, Kelly suggests the Red Sox, Angels, Twins, Braves and Phillies could benefit from signing Familia.

Astros join the race for Realmuto
Nov. 17: The Astros need a catcher after letting Brian McCann and Martin Maldonado hit free agency. The initial expectation, it seemed, was that the 2017 World Series champions would look to bring in a backstop like Yasmani Grandal or Wilson Ramos via the open market. But Houston also could consider the trade route -- meaning arguably the best catcher in baseball.

In fact, the Astros have engaged the Marlins in trade talks for J.T. Realmuto and "remain a viable destination" for him, MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reports.

Tweet from @jonmorosi: #Astros remain a viable destination for Realmuto despite the high price tag, in part because #Marlins prefer not to trade him within the division to the #Braves, who are actively looking for a catcher. @MLB @MLBNetwork

Morosi points out that the Marlins continue to insist on either outfielder Kyle Tucker or right-hander Forrest Whitley -- Houston's top two prospects and Nos. 5 and 8 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 list -- as part of any offer. That's a steep price, but Realmuto is coming off his best year yet (21 HR, .825 OPS), is in his prime at age 27 and under club control through the 2020 season.

The Astros also are seeking a starting pitcher to help fill the voids left by free agents Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton, as well as Lance McCullers Jr., who will miss all of 2019 after Tommy John surgery. The club is eyeing the trade market to that end, too, according to Morosi. Put simply, the Astros might be very active and rather creative this winter.

Video: Marlins could use J.T. Realmuto as a trade piece

Harrison: "My agent has gotten quite a few calls."
Nov. 17: Josh Harrison joined the free-agent ranks earlier this offseason when the Pirates chose to pay $1 million to buy out his contract rather than pick up his $10.5 million option for 2019. That decision wasn't altogether surprising after the 31-year-old hit .250/.293/.363 while being limited to 97 games in 2018 due to a fractured bone in his left hand from being hit by a pitch in mid-April.

Coming off a disappointing campaign often makes for a tough go on the open market. Harrison, though, expects to have some opportunities this winter. "I would say that my agent has gotten quite a few calls," Harrison said in an interview with MLB.com, "and he's been letting me know people are interested."

At this stage of his career, the veteran's versatility is his biggest selling point. Having played primarily second base the past three seasons, Harrison does have extensive experience at the hot corner and also has seen time in the corner outfield positions, too. "I'm game for anything," Harrison said. "If a team wants me to [play one position], I'm game. If a team wants me to bounce around ... that's how I got my first shot [in the Major Leagues]."

That mindset should help Harrison find a home somewhere in 2019, as clubs are placing an increased emphasis on versatility and roster flexibility.

Video: Harrison discusses offseason, his versatility

5 potential fits for Dallas Keuchel

Ground-ball specialist is one of the most coveted free-agent starters
MLB.com @mattkellyMLB

Only 13 pitchers have thrown 750 innings with a sub-3.30 ERA over the last five seasons, and one of them, Dallas Keuchel, is now a free agent.

Keuchel matured through Houston's lean years and then helped anchor their rotation through three postseason runs and a World Series title. Now, it's time for Keuchel to cash in, but the southpaw's market has yet to fully take shape. We know every team could use a quality starter; the question is which ones will pony up the money for one of Keuchel's caliber. The general consensus for Keuchel's new contract is somewhere around four years and $80 million, making him the second-most expensive pitcher after Patrick Corbin. There's also Draft-pick compensation tied to Keuchel since he rejected the Astros' one-year qualifying offer.

Only 13 pitchers have thrown 750 innings with a sub-3.30 ERA over the last five seasons, and one of them, Dallas Keuchel, is now a free agent.

Keuchel matured through Houston's lean years and then helped anchor their rotation through three postseason runs and a World Series title. Now, it's time for Keuchel to cash in, but the southpaw's market has yet to fully take shape. We know every team could use a quality starter; the question is which ones will pony up the money for one of Keuchel's caliber. The general consensus for Keuchel's new contract is somewhere around four years and $80 million, making him the second-most expensive pitcher after Patrick Corbin. There's also Draft-pick compensation tied to Keuchel since he rejected the Astros' one-year qualifying offer.

Teams are paying for the future, of course, and Keuchel's upcoming 31st birthday on New Year's Day will be a consideration. When projecting Keuchel's next few seasons, here's what stands out:

Keuchel is still a master of weak contact …
Statcast™ classifies three types of batted balls as "poor contact" most favorable to pitchers, and only six starters induced a higher rate of such contact in 2018 than Keuchel. Most of those balls were "topped" (hit straight into the ground), and Keuchel has finished within the league's top 10 starters in that category in each of Statcast™'s first four seasons. Keuchel racks up grounders, and he also limits home runs; his .77 homers allowed per nine innings since '14 is sixth-best among that same group of starters with 750-plus innings.

… But there are some warning signs
Keuchel is still a ground-ball specialist, but as MLB.com's Mike Petriello recently noted, no full-time starter suffered a bigger decline in his grounder rate from 2017 to '18 than Keuchel (though his MLB-best 68 percent rate two years was off the charts). Keuchel has never been a power pitcher with his high-80s sinker, but his strikeout rate also fell off by nearly 4 percent last year. He's a pitcher who's made a living on hitting his spots, but the lefty's margin for error will likely get smaller as time goes on.

Video: Free agent landing spots for Cruz, Keuchel, Miller

So, despite some minor signs of erosion, Keuchel is still someone who's proven he can eat innings, keep the ball in the yard and take the ball in big games. Which teams have the strongest combination of need and willingness to spend on that kind of starter?

1. Nationals
Both MLB Trade Rumors and a panel of MLB Network Radio experts picked Washington as Keuchel's most likely landing spot, and it's easy to see why. First, Keuchel is represented by superagent Scott Boras, who has negotiated a handful of big signings with Nationals ownership in the past. Washington went over the competitive balance tax in 2018, but figures to have payroll flexibility this winter with a handful of names -- including, potentially, Bryce Harper -- coming off the books. If Harper doesn't return to Washington, there's a chance the Nationals could have room to sign both Keuchel and Corbin.

We've seen the Nationals try to build around stacked rotations in the past, so adding Keuchel to Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg would be a page from their own playbook. Washington will be plenty motivated after underwhelming to an 80-82 record last season.

2. Astros
A return to Houston is probably the best outcome for Keuchel, seeing as he'd be returning to a World Series contender and the team he's known his entire career. Keuchel also appears plenty comfortable pitching in Minute Maid Park (which may be turning into a pitcher's park), seeing how he owns a career 3.09 ERA and has held hitters a .635 OPS there as opposed to 4.27 and .747 marks on the road.

Video: ALCS Gm3: Keuchel allows 2 earned over 5 innings

With Lance McCullers Jr. sidelined by Tommy John surgery and Charlie Morton potentially departing via free agency, the Astros' rotation suddenly isn't as big a strength as it was (to an historic degree) in 2018. Bringing Keuchel back -- for slightly more average annual value than the one-year, $17.9 million Houston already offered him -- could help the reigning AL West champs keep that strength intact.

3. Reds
It's no secret the Reds need significant help in their rotation: No Cincinnati starter has paired at least 150 innings with a sub-3.50 ERA since Johnny Cueto and Alfredo Simon in 2014, and there's a good chance neither of those former Reds throw a single pitch next season. Cincinnati has tried to develop starters from within in recent years, but Anthony DeSclafani's injury troubles and Luis Castillo's regression last season marked the organization's latest setbacks in those efforts.

The Reds need to go out and acquire pitching talent if they hope to compete soon, and there's indications that new general manager Nick Krall and president of baseball operations Dick Williams will be aggressive this offseason. Keuchel's expected contract may be a tad out of Cincinnati's comfort zone, but inking the left-hander would help the Reds show their fans (and potentially other free agents) that they're serious about taking the next steps. Keuchel's propensity for grounders also makes him an ideal free-agent target for homer-happy Great American Ball Park.

4. Angels
The same reasons the Angels should be players for Zack Greinke via trade apply here with Keuchel. Los Angeles hasn't found starters who can take the ball every fifth day, and Keuchel has averaged 190 innings over the past five seasons while never missing time for anything more than a pinched nerve in his neck. Ace Garrett Richards is already out for 2019 after receiving Tommy John surgery, and the Angels' innings leader last year, Andrew Heaney, compiled a 4.15 ERA that was exactly league average. Shohei Ohtani just underwent Tommy John surgery, too, and likely won't pitch again until 2020.

With two years left to convince Mike Trout to stay in Anaheim, the clock is ticking for the Angels to return to the postseason. They can't do that without a quality frontline starter.

Video: MIN@HOU: Keuchel tosses 6 scoreless innings, fans 6

5. Yankees
There's certainly a need from the Yankees' perspective, given their desire to add a pair of starters through free agency. Much like with Cincinnati, Keuchel's skillset could help him thrive at an extreme hitter's park. In fact, we've already seen him do it: In seven career starts at Yankee Stadium (including two in the postseason), the lefty owns a 2.68 ERA with 50 strikeouts, 10 walks and zero home runs allowed. That's about as brilliant a Bronx resume as any opponent could compile, and the pinstripes could upgrade their rotation by taking away a pitcher who's tormented them through the years.

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

New York Yankees, Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Angels, Houston Astros, Dallas Keuchel

Together again? Potential Hot Stove reunions

MLB.com @castrovince

More than 50 million Americans are expected to travel at least 50 miles for the Thanksgiving holiday this year. That's a lot of people going great distances to have turkey and stuffing with their weird uncle and to prove you can go home again.

Sometimes baseball's Hot Stove season provides a different sort of homecoming -- a reuniting of players with clubs they've played for previously. Here are 11 such reunions (not straight-up re-signings) that could conceivably happen this offseason.

More than 50 million Americans are expected to travel at least 50 miles for the Thanksgiving holiday this year. That's a lot of people going great distances to have turkey and stuffing with their weird uncle and to prove you can go home again.

Sometimes baseball's Hot Stove season provides a different sort of homecoming -- a reuniting of players with clubs they've played for previously. Here are 11 such reunions (not straight-up re-signings) that could conceivably happen this offseason.

Patrick Corbin or Zack Greinke (trade) to the Angels
The Angels drafted Corbin in 2009, but traded him to Arizona the following year in the Dan Haren deal. They traded for Greinke as a rental in the 2012 playoff push. With the Angels in serious need of pitching help, either of these guys would give them a big improvement in durability and reliability.

Cost is the rub. Greinke's due to make north of $100 million over the next three seasons, and Corbin's probably the top arm in the open market. Don't you hate when family members fight over money?

Video: Craig Kimbrel enters free agency for 2019 season

Craig Kimbrel or Charlie Morton to the Braves
Kimbrel's contract that just expired was the extension he signed with the Braves in 2014. His trade to the Padres in 2015 was a big part of the Braves' rebuild project that's now complete. Atlanta isn't expecting to wade into the deepest waters of the free-agent relief market, but we've seen costs and approaches evolve over time.

If the Braves look for a veteran presence in the rotation, a return for the less-expensive Morton might be more feasible. He was drafted by Atlanta and debuted with it in 2008 before getting moved to Pittsburgh in a 2009 trade for Nate McLouth.

Video: Wilson Ramos enters free agency this offseason

Wilson Ramos to the Nationals
Ramos' torn ACL near the end of the 2016 season ended an otherwise stellar free-agent walk year in Washington. The following offseason, he signed with the Rays, and the Nats brought in Matt Wieters.

In the two years since, the Nats have had the lowest OPS (.609) from the catching spot of any team in baseball. So they could benefit from bringing back their old backstop.

Video: Gio Gonzalez enters free-agent market for 2019 season

Gio Gonzalez to the A's
Gonzalez came of age with the A's and was an All-Star for them in 2011 before, in true A's fashion, they dealt him to the Nats.

All these years later, Gio's a veteran lefty capable of stabilizing the back end of a rotation. He's an affordable fit for an A's team that suffered a wave of injuries in the rotation this year.

Video: Nathan Eovaldi enters free agency in 2019

Nathan Eovaldi to Yankees
Eovaldi pitched for the Yanks in 2015-16 before coming back to bite them in the 2018 American League Division Series. Though his '16 season was cut short due to Tommy John surgery, Eovaldi has credited Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild with helping him improve his preparation and pitch mix.

Video: Ottavino enters free-agent market after strong season

Adam Ottavino or Joe Kelly to the Cardinals
St. Louis needs bullpen help, and Ottavino and Kelly are two attractive options in the open market. Maybe a return for one or both is in the … wait for it … Cards.

Kelly spent two and a half years on the Cards' pitching staff as a starter and reliever and was part of a high-profile trade to the Red Sox. Ottavino's history with the Cards was briefer. They drafted him 30th overall in 2006, and he pitched 22 1/3 bad innings for them in 2010 before he went to the Rockies on waivers in 2012.

Video: J.A. Happ enters the 2019 free agent market

J.A. Happ to the Astros
Either of Happ's 2018 teams -- the Yankees and Blue Jays -- could bring him back. But what about the Astros, for whom he pitched from 2010-12?

Houston fans didn't see the best of Happ. He went 18-28 with a 4.84 ERA in 59 starts. But that was before his late-career reinvention in Pittsburgh.

Video: Jeurys Familia enters free agency before 2019

Jeurys Familia to the Mets
The Mets just traded Familia to the A's in July, but we can't go with the "family reunion" theme without including a guy named Familia. And Aroldis Chapman can attest to the fact that a closer getting dealt from a New York team doesn't preclude him from rejoining that team a few months later.

The Mets are trying to rebuild their bullpen, and Familia seemed to figure some things out working with Dave Eiland in a bounceback 2018.

Video: Andrew Miller set to enter free agency in 2019

Andrew Miller to the Red Sox
The Boston bullpen is where the light flipped on for Miller after he flamed out as a starter. He ditched his changeup, sharpened his slider and became a late-inning force. But he became good just as the Red Sox went bad, and they dealt him to the Orioles midseason in 2014.

With the Sox looking for a more affordable closing option than Kimbrel, it might be Miller Time in Boston again.

Video: Corey Kluber on the importance of consistency

Corey Kluber (trade) to the Padres
Eight years after acquiring Kluber from the Padres at a time when he was a relatively minor prospect, the Indians are willing to listen to offers for the two-time Cy Young Award winner.

This reunion idea is a reach, because the Padres probably shouldn't be going all-in on a pitcher who, while under contractual control for three more seasons, will be 33 years old and making $17 million in 2019. But they do have a deep farm system, ownership is itching to turn a corner (see last year's Eric Hosmer contract), and general manager A.J. Preller has turned in some surprise blockbusters in the past.

Video: Brantley enters free agency after All-Star season

Michael Brantley to the Brewers
Another reach, because the Brewers have a ton of bodies in the outfield and at first base. Of course, the threat of positional excess hasn't scared them off in the last calendar year, so maybe there's a creative way to make this work.

What we know is that the Brewers were a middle-of-the-pack offensive club that ranked in the lower-third in contact percentage in '18. So Brantley's high-contact skillset applies, all these years after the Brew Crew moved him as the "player to be named" in the swap for CC Sabathia.

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.

At least 9 teams reportedly in on Eovaldi

MLB.com

One of the best Trade Deadline additions any team made in 2018, Nathan Eovaldi posted a 3.33 ERA over 12 regular-season appearances (11 starts) with the Red Sox before shining in the postseason for the World Series champions. Having boosted his stock considerably, Eovaldi should draw significant interest on the free-agent market.

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

One of the best Trade Deadline additions any team made in 2018, Nathan Eovaldi posted a 3.33 ERA over 12 regular-season appearances (11 starts) with the Red Sox before shining in the postseason for the World Series champions. Having boosted his stock considerably, Eovaldi should draw significant interest on the free-agent market.

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

Eovaldi receiving plenty of interest
Nov. 18: Nathan Eovaldi hasn't often looked like an elite starter during his career, but his dominant postseason has teams lining up to sign him. According to a report from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, as many as nine teams could be in on the free-agent righty.

Cafardo names the Brewers, Phillies, Braves, Angels, White Sox, Blue Jays, Giants, Padres and Red Sox as clubs that are interested in Eovaldi, and notes that more could join in on the bidding.

While teams don't hand out big-money contracts based solely on one strong postseason, it was how Eovaldi achieved his stellar results -- regularly flashing 100 mph heat, mixing his pitches and locating like he rarely has in the past -- that likely made so many clubs take notice.

The 28-year-old also turned in a solid regular season, recording a 3.81 ERA with personal bests K/9 rate (8.2) and BB/9 rate (1.6) over 111 innings.

And while Eovaldi's health history -- he's undergone two Tommy John surgeries -- could give some teams pause, his right arm was given a clean bill of health after a routine checkup this past week.

Add it all up and Eovaldi seems poised to cash in, with MLB Trade Rumors projecting he'll receive $60 million over four years.

Should the Giants invest in Eovaldi?
Nov. 15: Nathan Eovaldi helped his stock tremendously with a great postseason performance for the Red Sox, and several teams are reportedly interested in signing the hard-throwing right-hander this offseason. But given his injury history, is he worth the risk, especially for a team that has a pair of high-priced starters that have been injured often, like the Giants?

San Francisco gave free agent Johnny Cueto a $130 million contract prior to the 2016 season, and Jeff Samardzija a $90 million deal the same offseason. Both missed most of the 2018 season with injuries, and Cueto will be out for part of 2019 after Tommy John surgery. Will the club take a gamble on Eovaldi?

"Eovaldi checks off a lot of those boxes that made guys like [Rich] Hill attractive to the Dodgers," writes NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic. "When Eovaldi is right, he's dominant, and he certainly showed in the postseason that he's a selfless teammate -- something that's important to [new Giants president of baseball operations Farhan] Zaidi and to the holdovers in the Giants' front office.

" ... Any pitcher with Eovaldi's injury history might scare them off from the start. [But] with the Dodgers, Zaidi wasn't scared off by injuries. They took big swings to try to add rotation depth, and Eovaldi certainly would fit with Zaidi's past pursuits."

Eovaldi's right arm gets clean bill of health
Nov. 15: While some front offices may be wary of free agent Nathan Eovaldi's health, especially after the right-hander just went through a taxing postseason, his doctor gave him a glowing review following a routine visit Tuesday.

"To me, he's over Tommy John surgery and he's over revision Tommy John surgery," Dr. Christopher Ahmad, the Yankees' team physician who operated on Eovaldi's elbow and forearm in 2016, told NBC Sports Boston. "And I would consider him in the same category of somebody who has a healthy arm, and whatever worry I have about that player, I have the same or less for Nate."

As Ahmad noted, Eovaldi has undergone two Tommy John surgeries during his career, the second one coming in 2016. This past season was his first since that second procedure, and he threw 111 innings during the regular season.

Eovaldi possesses incredible velocity, averaging 97.2 mph with his four-seam fastball in the regular season and nearly 99 mph in the playoffs, getting it as high as 101.6 mph, per Statcast™, which puts extra stress on his arm.

The 28-year-old was used in a variety of roles during the postseason, and he made three appearances in the span of four days during the World Series, the final one a 97-pitch outing on one day of rest. However, he appears to have come through no worse for the wear.

"Sometimes subtle features can be picked up that the ligament's acting a little weak, like small bone spurs forming often can be a sign that the ligament is a little loose or acting weak," Ahmad said. "Bone spurs form to compensate. No bone spurs. And even coming off an extended postseason, he didn't have any muscle problems like muscle strain patterns. So essentially, his elbow checked out as well as it could be after having a second-time Tommy John surgery."

Which teams could benefit most from Eovaldi's elite fastball velocity? 
Nov. 14: A number of clubs could be targeting Nathan Eovaldi this winter because the hard-throwing hurler stands out from the rest of the free-agent class -- which includes Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel and J.A. Happ -- with his velocity. His fastball averaged 97.1 mph last season, which ranked third among regular starters behind only Luis Severino and Noah Syndergaard. He hit triple digits 10 times, more than any other regular starter.

MLB.com's David Adler speculates five potential landing spots for the 28-year-old veteran, idenifying the Brewers, Giants, D-backs, Padres and A's as clubs that not only need a starter, but could use a starter with Eovaldi's velocity.

The Giants, for instance, didn't have any starters with league-average fastball velocity in 2018 and had the lowest rate of fastballs throwing at 95 mph or greater in the Majors (0.4 percent). More >

Will it be back to Boston for Eovaldi?
Nov. 14: When a team trades for an impending free agent midseason and both parties proceed to have undeniable success the rest of the way, well, it's easy to keep coming back to the conclusion that the two sides will reunite to see if they can't repeat what worked so well. Especially in the case of the Red Sox and Eovaldi, who was such a key ingredient in the club's World Series title.

No wonder, then, that the majority of MLB Network Radio's on-air talent predicts that Eovaldi will re-sign with the Red Sox.

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

It does make sense in many ways, too. Not only did Eovaldi flourish with Boston -- he posted a 3.33 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP in 54 regular-season innings, then a 1.61 ERA and a 0.81 WHIP in 22 1/3 frames in the postseason -- but the flame-throwing right-hander also would provide a different look for a rotation that has a trio of southpaws in ace Chris Sale, David Price and Eduardo Rodriguez. Steady veteran Rick Porcello is the only righty in the projected rotation with any real big-league experience as a starting pitcher, and he's due to become a free agent after the 2019 season.

In other words, bringing back Eovaldi could be a move for next season and beyond when it comes Boston filling out its otherwise lefty-heavy rotation.

Eovaldi ranked fifth-best FA by Sporting News
Nov. 13: Eovaldi's postseason heroics assuredly helped his free-agent stock, but given how this market has long been touted to be one of the best in history, would it be a stretch to say that Eovaldi is among the five best players available? Ryan Fagan of Sporting News suggests as much in a list of 79 free agents he ranked recently, with Eovaldi coming in at No. 5, behind Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Patrick Corbin and Josh Donaldson

"Eovaldi isn't just here because of his stellar World Series," Fagan writes. "He had similar dominant stretches in the regular season, and that type of triple-digit mph late in starts is intoxicating. And like Corbin, he's only 29."

Indeed, of 235 starting pitchers who threw a four-seam fastball in the sixth inning or beyond, Eovaldi's 96.9 mph average trailed only Luis Severino (98.0 mph) and Noah Syndergaard (97.0 mph), according to Statcast™. While Eovaldi likely won't be used in the capacity he was in the postseason -- coming out of the bullpen for both abbreviated and extended stretches -- Eovaldi showed that, even in a year that he came back from his Tommy John surgery, that he still possesses some of the game's most elite velocity for a starting pitcher.

Video: ALCS Gm5: Eovaldi fans Bregman with 101.6-mph heater

What does recent history say about the contract Eovaldi should expect?
Nov. 12: Eovaldi is one of the most intriguing arms on this offseason's market thanks to his postseason heroics, but even just a few months ago, when the hard-throwing right-hander was acquired by the Red Sox at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, he was a high-upside arm with electric stuff but was on pace to post an ERA over 4.00 for the fourth straight season. It was only after he moved to Boston and made various adjustments that he saw extended success and his stock soared down the stretch.

But as the Boston Globe's Alex Speier points out, that might simply have been considered overperformance in a small sample size in the past, but these days, with teams increasingly focused on the promise of future performance and potential, those few months of elite performance with the Red Sox will be enough to land him a lucrative contract.

But just how lucrative? Speier examines a pair of similar cases in the recent past -- Rich Hill of the Dodgers and Tyler Chatwood of the Cubs -- to estimate the dollar figure that Eovaldi might be looking at.

After the Red Sox signed Hill out of independent ball in 2015 and the left-hander posted a 1.55 ERA down the stretch, he landed a prove-it deal with Oakland and locked down a three-year, $48 million deal as a 36-year-old after the 2016 season given just over a year of proven success. Meanwhile, Chatwood landed a three-year, $38 million contract with the Cubs based on his relative youth and track record of success on the road, among other factors, despite his 4.69 ERA in his final year with the Rockies.

With Eovaldi a surer bet than Chatwood and the 28-year-old having pitched 111 innings in 2018, nearly identical to Hill's 110 1/3 successful innings in 2016, the precedents suggest that Eovaldi, eight years younger than Hill at the time, should be in line for a floor of three years and $40 million or four years and $52 million. And it's not hard to imagine Eovaldi approaching Hill's average annual value of $16 million per year despite his injury history, meaning that a best-case scenario could be around four years and $65 million.

Could this potential blockbuster trade add a surprise suitor for Eovaldi?
Nov. 11: It will likely take an offer of seismic proportions to convince the Cubs to part with star third baseman Kris Bryant. Could a package involving Noah Syndergaard do the trick?

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

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

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

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

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

Could the Nationals be a dark-horse suitor for Eovaldi?
Nov. 10: While it's believed that the Red Sox are interested in bringing back free agent Eovaldi, the market for the right-hander could be robust. In fact, in an article for The Athletic (subscription required) on Thursday, Jim Bowden listed 14 teams that could be in on Eovaldi this offseason.

The Red Sox and the Yankees are on there, as are the rebuilding Reds and White Sox, who both are reportedly planning to spend aggressively in free agency to improve their pitching staffs.

Then there are the dark horse candidates, with the Nationals standing out as one of the more interesting possibilities.

Washington's primary focus is re-signing Bryce Harper, but if Harper departs, the club may not necessarily look for replacements on the free-agent market, as it has Juan Soto, Victor Robles, Adam Eaton and Michael A. Taylor in the fold. Instead, the Nats could use some of the resources they have earmarked for Harper to improve other areas of the roster, including the catching position and the rotation.

The Nationals already have a substantial amount invested in the starting staff, and they may want to avoid handing out another $100 million or more to a pitcher with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg on the books, making Eovaldi a more likely target than Patrick Corbin or Dallas Keuchel.

Nathan Eovaldi

How Marwin became the FA every team needs

MLB.com @RichardJustice

Marwin Gonzalez appears to be a hot commodity in this free-agent market, and the people who have watched him play or called him a teammate these last seven seasons with the Astros couldn't be happier about that. They're not happy that he may have played his last game for Houston, but they're thrilled for Gonzalez, who has made himself a terrific player with hard work and smarts and a relentless will to succeed.

In Houston, Gonzalez is about as beloved as almost any player during a four-year run that has produced three postseason appearances and a World Series trophy in 2017. He's that player you tell your kid he or she ought to emulate -- the one who puts the team first, the consummate pro, the good teammate.

Marwin Gonzalez appears to be a hot commodity in this free-agent market, and the people who have watched him play or called him a teammate these last seven seasons with the Astros couldn't be happier about that. They're not happy that he may have played his last game for Houston, but they're thrilled for Gonzalez, who has made himself a terrific player with hard work and smarts and a relentless will to succeed.

In Houston, Gonzalez is about as beloved as almost any player during a four-year run that has produced three postseason appearances and a World Series trophy in 2017. He's that player you tell your kid he or she ought to emulate -- the one who puts the team first, the consummate pro, the good teammate.

Latest Hot Stove buzz

Gonzalez's enduring Astros legacy will be that he hit the most important home run in the 57 seasons the franchise has been in business. That was on Oct. 25, 2017, in the top of the ninth inning of Game 2 of the World Series.

With the Astros a strike away from going down, 0-2, in the Fall Classic, Gonzalez hit a Kenley Jansen fastball over the center-field wall to tie a game his team would win in 11 innings. Without it, there's probably no World Series parade in Houston a few days later.

Video: Must C Clutch: Gonzalez's homer ties game in 9th

In this free-agent market, some fans will wonder where Gonzalez fits with their favorite team. Sure, they like the guy and appreciate how important he has been to the Astros. They just see their own lineup as set enough that there may not be enough playing time for Gonzalez.

And that's the thing about Gonzalez. At this time of the year, we try to figure out where the best free agents might fit, from Manny Machado playing shortstop for the Phillies to Bryce Harper in left for the Cardinals.

That's impossible to do with Gonzalez. He fits everywhere. He makes every team better.

Need an outfielder? Gonzalez can cover you there. Second base? Shortstop? First? He can check those boxes, too. As his best friend, Jose Altuve, told MLB.com's Brian McTaggart last week, "You have a problem, you call Marwin."

Or as Astros pitcher Lance McCullers Jr., said last summer, "You can make the case he's one of the best players in the league."

Or as his manager the last four seasons, AJ Hinch, said, "That's so valuable to have a guy who can play anywhere."

And Gonzalez is willing to do that. And he understands that part of his value is his versatility and his ability to produce regardless of where he's playing. Last season, he started 65 games in left field, 29 at shortstop, 21 at first base, 19 at second and two at third.

Historical context: Gonzalez is the first player in Major League history to have four seasons with at least 10 games at four positions; left, short, first and second.

Offensively, Gonzalez is one of the best. In 2017, he was sixth in the American League in OPS (.907) and wOBA (.382) and 18th in wRC+ (144).

Gonzalez had a tough first half in 2018. But in the second half, he bounced back and was 14th in the AL in wRC+ (134), 17th in wOBA (.362) and 19th in OPS (.844). He then hit .333 with two doubles, two home runs and nine RBIs in eight postseason games.

Video: MLB Tonight talks Marwin's impact on the Astros

Gonzalez has a voracious appetite to get better, picking the brains of a string of teammates, from Carlos Beltran in 2017 to Altuve and others in '18.

Another part of Gonzalez's legacy is that the best stretch of baseball the Astros have had began with the purchase of the team by Houston businessman Jim Crane in 2011 and Crane's hiring of Jeff Luhnow to run baseball operations.

Luhnow had been on the job only a couple of days when he made his first transaction: acquiring Gonzalez, a Rule 5 Draft choice, from the Red Sox for pitcher Marco Duarte.

Gonzalez was 22 at the time, and he would be with the Astros for every step of their rebuild, from back-to-back 100-loss seasons in 2011-12 to 100-win seasons in 2017-18.

Now, both sides seem prepared to move on. The Astros acquired infielder Aledmys Diaz from the Blue Jays on Saturday to be their super utility player as Luhnow attempts the balancing act of keeping his team competitive while maintaining payroll flexibility.

We all become accustomed to seeing players change teams. For plenty of Astros fans, the first time they see Gonzalez wearing a different uniform is going to be a jolt to the system. They view him as one of their own. And isn't that the greatest compliment a player can receive?

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.

Houston Astros, Marwin Gonzalez

Don't expect Ichiro to stay long at your party

Ichiro has been around baseball long enough that he always seems to know the right thing to say or do at a particular moment. That proved to be the case at NPB saves leader Hitoki Iwase's retirement ceremony. 

While everyone else was dressed up to celebrate the occasion, Ichiro made a surprise entrance in a baseball cap and jumpsuit to deliver a retirement gift to Iwase:

Walk-off home run, injury end AFL title game

Braves prospect hits game-winning homer, injures himself celebrating
MLB.com @wboor

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Peoria Javelinas are back-to-back champs.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Peoria Javelinas are back-to-back champs.

:: Complete coveraege of the 2018 AFL championship game ::

Braxton Davidson (Braves) lifted the Javelinas to a 3-2 win over Salt River with a walk-off homer in the 10th inning of Saturday's Arizona Fall League championship game.

"Indescribable," Buddy Reed, the Padres' No. 13 prospect, said of the homer, the second walk-off (Mike Hessman, 2001) in Fall League title game history. "Braxton comes up, last man up, we all said he was going to do something special, hits a walk-off homer. Rolls his ankle, unfortunately, but it was huge."

With one out in the 10th Davidson crushed a 2-1 pitch deep over the right-field wall. He immediately knew it was gone and bat flipped, but hurt himself rounding the bases and was helped off the field and eventually taken to a local hospital to check for a possible left-foot fracture.

Video: SRR@PEJ: Davidson suffers apparent injury on walk-off

The blast capped a late-inning comeback for the Javelinas, who trailed 2-0 entering the ninth. Peoria had plenty of opportunities to score, but couldn't come up with the big hit, stranding runners in each of the first four innings and ultimately left 12 men on base.

In the ninth, the offense finally came through.

Ian Miller (Mariners) led off the frame with a walk and Lucius Fox (Rays) followed with a double. Miller came around to score on a wild pitch and Brewers top prospect Keston Hiura tied the game up with a single.

Video: SRR@PEJ: Miller, Hiura key rally to tie the game

"With this team we know we're capable of putting up runs any inning regardless of the score, it shows how resilisnt we are, how in the game we are, to be able to pull it out and win," Hiura, who was named the league's MVP prior to the game, said.

An inning later, Davidson, who hit a career-high 20 homers in the regular season and finished tied for first with six homers in the AFL, put the game away.

"It just says a lot about his work ethic, coming here he had a lot to work on - he told us he had a lot to work on and he proved everybody wrong, everyone that doubted him," Reed said. " ... It's unbelievable, I'm so happy for him."

Video: Buddy Reed on Peoria's walk-off win over Salt River

Before the late-inning fireworks Salt River starter Jordan Yamamoto -- who fired four scoreless frames, despite not having his best stuff -- kept Peoria offensive in check, just as he'd done to nearly every offense he'd faced in the AFL.

"I struggled a little bit," Yamamoto said after issuing five walks in four innings. "I got into deep counts, walked a lot of guys. I don't usually do that, but hey, it's part of the game. I've got to find a way to get out of it."

Video: Jordan Yamamoto on Fall League Championship

Once Yamamoto left the game, it was more of the same for the Javelinas. Peoria left one runner on base in the seventh and two in the eighth, but ultimately none of it mattered.

"You hear all our guys saying never give up, we're the Javs and like everybody said, we did what we had to do, we came back," Reed said. "It's not about how you start as everybody talks about, it's how you finished and we finished strong."

William Boor is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor.

Astros acquire infielder Diaz from Blue Jays

Versatile vet viewed as Marwin replacement
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

HOUSTON -- The Astros appear to have found a replacement for free-agent infielder Marwin Gonzalez by completing a trade on Saturday to acquire infielder Aledmys Diaz from the Blue Jays in exchange for Minor League right-hander Trent Thornton.

Diaz, an All-Star with the Cardinals two years ago, has played primarily shortstop but has also spent significant time at third base, in addition to making a few appearances in left field and at second base. In 130 games for the Blue Jays last season, he hit .263 with 26 doubles, 18 homers, 55 RBIs and a .756 OPS.

HOUSTON -- The Astros appear to have found a replacement for free-agent infielder Marwin Gonzalez by completing a trade on Saturday to acquire infielder Aledmys Diaz from the Blue Jays in exchange for Minor League right-hander Trent Thornton.

Diaz, an All-Star with the Cardinals two years ago, has played primarily shortstop but has also spent significant time at third base, in addition to making a few appearances in left field and at second base. In 130 games for the Blue Jays last season, he hit .263 with 26 doubles, 18 homers, 55 RBIs and a .756 OPS.

"He's got some versatility, got some power and can do a lot of things," Astros president of baseball operations and general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "It seems like it's an opportunity for us to improve our team. We're dipping into prospect depth, but if there's one area we probably have some surplus, it's in the upper-level pitching area."

Video: Justice breaks down Blue Jays sending Diaz to Astros

Diaz, 28, and fellow Cuban, Yuli Gurriel, figure to move around the infield next season -- providing the versatility Gonzalez did. Gonzalez, who played all four infield spots and left field, is a free agent and is expected to play elsewhere next season. Diaz gives the Astros three players who can play shortstop, including starter Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman.

"We're so early in the offseason, it's hard to really say what our final roster is and who's going to play where," Luhnow said. "There's still plenty of potential moves to come. But this is a guy we felt -- both offensively and defensively, and the age and profile -- really fit well with our team."

A native of Santa Clara, Cuba, Diaz made the National League All-Star team as a rookie in 2016, batting .300 with 28 doubles, 17 homers, 65 RBIs and an .879 OPS in 111 games for the Cardinals. He was traded to the Blue Jays following the '17 campaign.

Luhnow said several clubs inquired about Thornton throughout last season. A fifth-round Draft pick in 2015, he went 9-8 with a 4.42 ERA in 24 games (22 starts) for Triple-A Fresno this season. He also fanned 20 batters and allowed four walks in 15 2/3 innings for Scottsdale in the Arizona Fall League.

Thornton was among the players who needed to be added to the Astros' 40-man roster by Tuesday or risk being lost in next month's Rule 5 Draft. Houston's 40-man roster is at 35 players, which means it will add more Minor League players early next week. Pitchers Rogelio Armenteros and Riley Ferrell and catcher Garrett Stubbs are among those who could be added.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Houston Astros, Aledmys Diaz

Cutch, Pollock could be fits for the Tribe

Steamer projections have Cleveland's outfield tied for 27th
MLB.com @mike_petriello

This past season, the baseball world headed into the year figuring that the lack of depth in the Cleveland outfield might be a problem. While Michael Brantley's strong .309/.364/.468 season was a pleasant surprise, the Indians outfield as a group ranked just 22nd in the Majors, at negative-1.8 Wins Above Replacement. It was expected to be weak, and it was. 

Now, start from there and look to 2019. Brantley is a free agent. So are Lonnie Chisenhall, Melky Cabrera, Rajai Davis, and Brandon Guyer, while Bradley Zimmer's right shoulder injury may cost him much of 2019. Right now, the starting Cleveland outfield looks to be some combination of Greg Allen, Jason Kipnis, Leonys Martin, Tyler Naquin, and newly acquired Jordan Luplow, and if it sounds like that's still not enough, it's probably not. Looking at the 2019 Steamer projections, they are essentially tied with the Rockies for the fourth-weakest projected outfield value.

This past season, the baseball world headed into the year figuring that the lack of depth in the Cleveland outfield might be a problem. While Michael Brantley's strong .309/.364/.468 season was a pleasant surprise, the Indians outfield as a group ranked just 22nd in the Majors, at negative-1.8 Wins Above Replacement. It was expected to be weak, and it was. 

Now, start from there and look to 2019. Brantley is a free agent. So are Lonnie Chisenhall, Melky Cabrera, Rajai Davis, and Brandon Guyer, while Bradley Zimmer's right shoulder injury may cost him much of 2019. Right now, the starting Cleveland outfield looks to be some combination of Greg Allen, Jason Kipnis, Leonys Martin, Tyler Naquin, and newly acquired Jordan Luplow, and if it sounds like that's still not enough, it's probably not. Looking at the 2019 Steamer projections, they are essentially tied with the Rockies for the fourth-weakest projected outfield value.

That might still be good enough to win a fourth straight American League Central, given the state of the other four teams. But as we saw in the postseason, when Cleveland put up a historically weak offensive performance, it's going to need a little more if it's going to get past the Red Sox, Yankees, or Astros. It's going to need some bats.

"That's an area that we will have to spend a lot of time addressing," said Chris Antonetti, the Indians' president of baseball operations, said in October regarding the outfield. "Some of it depends on how we align our returning players. Also, obviously, it will be impacted by substantial departures."

Fortunately for the Indians, this is not an unsolvable problem. Bats are available. Sure, it'd be nice to simply say "go get Bryce Harper," and they should, but you could say that for every team, and 29 of them aren't going to end up signing Harper. The floor here is low enough that even some moderately priced signings and trades could pay some large dividends. We have some ideas.

Quickly, let's start with what they have.

Video: Leonys Martin signs 1-year deal after illness in 2018

Lots of lefty hitters. Kipnis, Naquin, Martin and Zimmer are all lefties, while Allen is a switch-hitter. This is partially what fueled the sensible trade for the right-handed Luplow; as Antonetti said, "he complements our roster really well."

A potentially strong defender in center. Thanks to a frightening infection, Martin only got into six games for Cleveland after being acquired from Detroit, but he should be ready to go in 2019. If he is, he's a good defender, putting up +21 Outs Above Average in the last three years, though he's strictly a platoon option, as he's hit just .234/.278/.334 against lefties.

It's a start. Naquin, Allen and Luplow all have potential, and you can hold out some hope for Kipnis, because even though he's suffered through two straight below-average seasons, he was at least a league-average hitter in the second half -- though he may be a better fit on another roster. But basically the Indians have five fourth outfielders, and if you have too many outfielders, you don't have enough.

Cleveland definitely needs one outfielder. We argue that it's really two, preferably righty or switch-hitting. Where can it look? So many places.

The best free-agent fit: Andrew McCutchen

It's true that McCutchen turned 32 last month, and that he's not the same MVP-caliber player he once was with Pittsburgh. But as we investigated recently with Statcast™ data, there's not any tangible evidence of a speed-related decline yet, and McCutchen has remained durable, taking 640 plate appearances each full year of his career. If you liked Brantley's .364/.468 OBP/SLG, well, McCutchen is projected for .363/.461 -- and he's a righty hitter.

He's expected to get a two- or three-year deal at a reasonable price, so he wouldn't bust any budget. Put him in right field, add two or three wins. Easy. 

Video: Andrew McCutchen set to hit free agency

The less-likely-but-still-good free-agent fit: A.J. Pollock

Cleveland should sign Pollock, who hit an above-average .257/.316/.484 with 21 homers and good defense. It should sign Pollock and McCutchen, really, and let Martin, Luplow and the rest fight it out in left field. Pollock is the only true center fielder on the market, and he's right-handed to boot. Adding Pollock and McCutchen would be something like a six-win boost; while his injury history is real, Martin is a fantastic backup option.

The Indians won't do this, probably, because Pollock received the qualifying offer from Arizona and is looking for a sizable deal that Cleveland probably isn't going to offer, at least not in conjunction with McCutchen. This is how you rebuild an outfield, though.

Other free-agent righties: Adam Jones and Carlos Gomez have had plenty of success in the past, but they are now more second-tier options who may not be obvious upgrades. Others who hit from the left side like Nick Markakis and Carlos Gonzalez probably won't work here.

There's more to life than free agency, however. What about trades? There's just so many places to look. 

The once (and future?) Cleveland prospect: Clint Frazier

After some scary concussion issues, Frazier's future has become a little less certain, but we're almost obligated to include Cleveland's first-round pick in 2013 here. With all the smoke about how the Tribe may trade a starting pitcher and how the Yankees desperately need one, it's almost difficult to imagine a trade between the two sides that doesn't include Frazier, among other pieces. Still only 24, Frazier just needs a place to play -- and a little better fortune on the health front.

The blocked power-hitting Brewer: Domingo Santana

In 2017, Santana had a breakout age-24 campaign for Milwaukee, slamming 30 homers to go with a .278/.371/.505 line. In 2018, he spent most of the year in the Minors, though that says a lot more about the arrivals of Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich than it does him.

In 2019, he's projected to be a league-average bat, and he's still just 26. This has seemed like a decent fit for a while, and the cost would likely be reasonable.

Video: PIT@MIL: Santana goes back to back with a solo homer

The slugging Tiger if you don't care about defense: Nicholas Castellanos

In 2018, Castellanos continued his breakout by hitting .298/.354/.500, which made him one of the 30 best qualified hitters in the game, similar to Javier Baez or Francisco Lindor. As far as the glove goes, well, he was a good hitter. With just one year of control remaining, the trade demand couldn't be that high; even with the negative defense, he was still a three-win player in 2018. Maybe Edwin Encarnacion can play a little extra first base and open up a DH start or two each week. 

The Dodgers players they can't find enough room for: Joc Pederson and Alex Verdugo

OK, both of these guys are lefties. That's not ideal. We get it. But if you're assuming that perhaps Kipnis gets moved, or Zimmer isn't healthy, or that a new addition just takes time away from Naquin or Allen anyway, it's not that big of a deal. Pederson is a platoon-only bat these days, but he's quietly been a good one: He hit .248/.321/.522, a line that was 26 percent better than average, with 25 home runs.

Verdugo made his Major League debut in 2017, but he still remains the No. 1 Dodgers prospect at MLB Pipeline because he's been able to get only 111 plate appearances thanks to the overstuffed outfield; he doesn't even turn 23 until May, and he hit .329/.391/.472 in Triple-A in 2018. 

The inevitable Padres trade: Hunter Renfroe and Wil Myers

Cleveland and San Diego got together on the Brad Hand / Adam Cimber / Francisco Mejia deal this summer, and it feels like a fit here, too. We keep hearing rumors about the Padres trying to be aggressive for starting pitchers, and they seem to have more outfielders than they know what to do with, with these two (no, we're not considering Myers a third baseman), Franmil Reyes, Manuel Margot, Franchy Cordero, Travis Jankowski and on and on.

Renfroe just had an above-average slugging season (.504) and has a cannon arm. Myers has rarely lived up to his immense promise, but he's had four straight average or better hitting seasons in San Diego, and average or better is an upgrade in a Cleveland corner -- assuming, of course, the Padres pay down some of his deal to move him. (They probably would.)

Video: ARI@SD: Renfroe crushes a pinch-hit, game-tying homer

The unlikely-but-fascinating star trades: Mitch Haniger and Kevin Kiermaier

OK, let's have some fun. The Mariners may or may not be open for business, but they already traded Mike Zunino and are expected to deal James Paxton, so you can rule nothing out. Over the past two years, Haniger has hit .284/.361/.492 with 42 homers and above-average right-field defense; he's basically been Michael Conforto. He wouldn't come cheaply -- this would require one of the good young starters -- but he's an easy three-to-four win upgrade.

Kiermaier, meanwhile, may be the best defensive center fielder in the game, though he's coming off an injury-plagued season that was his worst at the plate. At his best, he's a league-average bat with an elite glove, which makes him a borderline star. The Rays have Austin Meadows, Guillermo Heredia and Tommy Pham all capable of playing center; they would surely consider it if it netted them a pitching upgrade. 

* * *

This is hardly a full list, obviously. We've been trying to put together a Kyle Schwarber-to-Cleveland deal for years, though as a lefty possible DH, it might not fit as well now. Mix and match any of the names above, really. Sign McCutchen and trade for Verdugo. Sign Pollock and trade for Renfroe. Do it however you like. No matter how you go, there are upgrades out there -- and they're needed. The current group just isn't enough.

Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com and the host of the Statcast podcast.

Cleveland Indians