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Yanks GM: There's 'no spot' for Harper in New York's outfield
Dec. 10: The Yankees continue to be mentioned as a team that could be a fit for Bryce Harper, but could the club actually fit Harper?
When asked about the superstar, Yankees GM Brian Cashman said there's "no spot" for him in New York's crowded outfield and that deploying him at first base "isn't an option," according to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.
Indeed, with incumbent starters Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks, as well as returning options Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Clint Frazier as backups, the club is more than set in the outfield. And while the topic of Harper as a first baseman has been floated by his agent, Scott Boras, that possibility doesn't appear to interest Cashman, despite the Yankees relying on the still-unproven Luke Voit and Greg Bird at the position.
If that wasn't a forceful enough take on Harper, Cashman followed up by saying, "I'm surprised [the media is] still asking" about the team's interest, as MLB.com's Bryan Hoch relayed.
Kluber trade talks have 'intensified'
Dec. 10: Indians ace Corey Kluber has been expected to be among the most-discussed names during the Winter Meetings, and on Day 1, trade talks for the right-hander are already picking up, according to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi. Per Morosi, the Dodgers are one of the teams involved as discussions have "intensified."
Cleveland is believed to be fielding offers for both Kluber and Trevor Bauer after signing Carlos Carrasco to a three-year extension last week.
The club is reportedly hoping to trim payroll while still remaining competitive in an underwhelming American League Central, and Los Angeles could be a perfect trade partner given the club's outfield depth. With Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall departing via free agency, the outfield is a major question mark for the Indians at this point.
Morosi reports that the Dodgers' top prospect, outfielder Alex Verdugo (No. 32 overall, per MLB Pipeline), is part of the discussions between Cleveland and Los Angeles.
Morosi names the Yankees and Brewers as potential landing spots for Kluber as well, as both teams have highly ranked outfielders in their farm systems.
Kluber and Bauer are arguably more attractive than any of the remaining starters on the free-agent market. Kluber is signed for $17 million in 2019 with club options for 2020 ($17.5 million, $1 million buyout) and 2021 ($18 million, $1 million buyout). To put the value of Kluber's deal in perspective, the Red Sox just signed Nathan Eovaldi for roughly $17 million per year over four years. Meanwhile, Bauer is two years away from free agency.
Per MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal's latest article for The Athletic (subscription required), a rival executive who has been in contact with the Indians said Cleveland is open to trades in which it would attach Kluber or Bauer to a highly paid player such as Jason Kipnis or Edwin Encarnacion as a way to shed another inflated contract.
Are Yankees in on Machado, out on Harper?
Dec. 10: With a need at shortstop and a crowded outfield, the Yankees may be in the mix for Manny Machado but not so much for Bryce Harper. If it's a choice between Machado and Harper, it appears New York would lean toward the former -- and might, in fact, be out on the latter, as MLB.com's Bryan Hoch noted after GM Brian Cashman said Harper isn't a fit in their loaded outfield or at first base.
The question, then, becomes whether the typically deep-pocketed Yankees are serious enough about Machado to meet what is expected to be an asking price in the range of $300 million. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported that the Yankees plan to meet with Machado but won't necessarily pony up to that extent.
New York is among the few teams with the financial means to sign Machado to a long-term deal, and it has an immediate need at shortstop, where Didi Gregorius will miss a chunk of next season recovering from Tommy John surgery. To that end, it's not a surprise that Cashman said he has spoken with Machado's agent, Dan Lozano, according to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.
Heyman also reported that although New York is "pursuing" Machado, the club is considering other candidates to address its need in the infield, including Reds trade chip Scooter Gennett and versatile veteran free agents Marwin Gonzalez and Josh Harrison.
Heyman listed the Phillies, White Sox and potential mystery clubs as the Yankees' primary competitors for Machado. And even after trading for James Paxton, the Yankees are still looking to add to their rotation, which has been said to be their priority over pursuing Harper or Machado.
Yankees have scouted Kikuchi 'extensively'
Dec. 10: The Yankees continue to focus on addressing their rotation, perhaps even more so after missing out on Patrick Corbin and Nathan Eovaldi last week. But with those two big names off the board, is there a new pitcher the club is turning its attention toward?
One candidate could be Yusei Kikuchi, the recently posted left-hander who has been one of the best arms in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball the past several seasons. In fact, GM Brian Cashman said the Yankees have scouted Kikuchi "extensively" and even talked to agent Scott Boras about him, according to MLB Network insider Joel Sherman.
New York already has re-signed CC Sabathia and traded for fellow lefty James Paxton from the Mariners, so Kikuchi would be the third southpaw to join the club's rotation just this offseason. While Kikuchi has been linked to a number of National League teams, including the Giants, Padres and Dodgers, the Yankees could be an appealing landing spot for him because of the success Masahiro Tanaka -- another longtime NPB star -- has had in the Bronx.
The 27-year-old Kikuchi has a fastball that sits in the 92-94 mph range and can touch 96, and he also features a sharp slider that gets swings and misses. In eight years pitching in NPB, Kikuchi has gone 73-46 with a 2.77 ERA in 158 games (153 starts), totaling 903 strikeouts in 1,010 2/3 innings. He's been especially impressive over the last three seasons, going 42-17 with a 2.51 ERA in 71 starts, including 497 strikeouts in 494 1/3 innings. Kikuchi did, however, spend time on the disabled list with left shoulder stiffness in 2018 and has dealt with shoulder issues over his career.
Phillies have had ongoing dialogue with Happ
Dec. 10: After losing Patrick Corbin to the division-rival Nationals, the Phillies have turned their attention to other options, including J.A. Happ. According to Jayson Stark of The Athletic, Philadelphia has had "ongoing dialogue" with Happ in recent days.
The Phillies have a long shopping list, as Stark notes, but a left-handed starter is believed to be high on that list. Philadelphia's rotation skews right-handed, and only two southpaws -- Adam Morgan and Ranger Suarez -- have started a game for the club since Cole Hamels was traded to the Rangers in 2015.
As they were with Corbin, the Phillies are competing with the Yankees for Happ, though George A. King III of the New York Post reported Monday that New York is looking to sign Happ for two years, while the 36-year-old is seeking a three-year deal. If the Phillies are willing to go to three years, it could be enough to nab Happ.
Brewers interested in Murphy, re-signing Moustakas
Dec. 10: The Brewers' search for a second baseman could lead them to free-agent Daniel Murphy, whom the club is reportedly interested in, a source told The Athletic's Robert Murray [subscription required]. The club is also interested in retaining third baseman Mike Moustakas, per Murray.
Last month, the Brewers non-tendered second baseman Jonathan Schoop, whom they acquired at last year's Trade Deadline, after he underperformed in his half-season with the club. His departure left a hole at second base, but it's a deep position in free agency with DJ LeMahieu, Josh Harrison, Jed Lowrie, Asdrubal Cabrera, Ian Kinsler among the options. The current in-house options are Hernan Perez and Tyler Saladino.
If they signed Murphy, it'd likely be on a short-term deal with top prospect Keston Hiura climbing the Minor League ranks. Although there are concerns about his defense, Murphy hit .299/.336/.454 in 91 games with the Nationals and Cubs last season.
As for the interest in bringing back Moustakas, who joined Milwaukee last year via trade, Murray said talks are on-going and that the Brewers will face competition from the National League Central-rival Cardinals.
"It's possible," a source told Murray about re-signing Moustakas. "But far from done."
Mets still in on Realmuto, but will deal happen?
Dec. 10: The Mets remain in on J.T. Realmuto -- and the Marlins' asking price might even be lower than what it was at the start of the offseason -- but New York still might opt for a cheaper, free-agent option to address its catching need.
According to a report from MLB Network insider Joel Sherman on Monday, new Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen is determined to pursue the best players available -- and Realmuto is maybe baseball's best all-around catcher, besides being a perfect fit for the Mets in particular.
The Mets were listed among the seven teams MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported as having the best chance to land Realmuto, along with the Dodgers, Padres, Astros, Phillies, Yankees and Braves.
But even so, the Mets swinging a trade for Realmuto is seen as a long shot internally. To get him, it would likely cost at least one of the Mets' core young players -- Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo or Amed Rosario. Instead, Sherman suggests that signing a free agent like Martin Maldonado -- who doesn't hit like Realmuto, but would be a huge defensive upgrade from the Mets' current catchers -- as a more likely route.
But don't rule out a Realmuto trade, whether to the Mets or another interested team. Per Sherman, it might not take as much to land Realmuto as previously expected -- outside executives have the sense the Marlins will move him but don't want to pull the trigger too quickly.
A lower price isn't the same as a low price, though. According to SNY's Andy Martino, teams that are in on Realmuto still see the Marlins' asking price as high, with the 27-year-old only under team control for the next two seasons. But Martino thinks the Marlins may end up with no choice but to move Realmuto, while they can still maximize the value they get back for him.
Video: DiComo on possibility of Mets trading for Realmuto
Which teams might be in on Keuchel?
Dec. 10: The market for free agent Dallas Keuchel is still a bit hazy as the Winter Meetings get underway in Las Vegas.
MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported Monday that the Braves, Phillies and Reds are the top three teams in on the left-hander, but MLB.com's Mark Bowman has heard something different. Per Bowman, the Braves have not had discussions regarding Keuchel. And MLB.com's Mark Sheldon previously reported that the Reds' interest in Keuchel was being overblown.
It's possible the connection between Keuchel and the Braves was floated by Keuchel's representatives to get the Phillies to up their offer. Philadelphia is reportedly in on the 30-year-old after missing out on Patrick Corbin, who signed with the Nationals.
Meanwhile, the Yankees are focusing their attention on J.A. Happ rather than Keuchel, but Heyman speculates that the club could jump in on Keuchel if they miss out on Happ.
According to George A. King III of the New York Post, there is "industry buzz" that the Yanks would like to sign Happ to no more than two years, while the left-hander is believed to be looking for three.
New York was also unwilling match the lengthy contracts given to Corbin and Nathan Eovaldi, causing those pitchers to sign elsewhere. It's possible the same could happen with Happ.
Video: Braves remain heavily interested in Keuchel
Do rival execs think Syndergaard can be had?
Dec. 10: Last week, at the press conference welcoming Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano to Flushing, Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen said it would take a "very special circumstance" to even think about trading Noah Syndergaard.
As the Winter Meetings begin Monday in Las Vegas, it seems that other teams think the same.
The New York Post's Joel Sherman writes that executives from potential suitors who have spoken to the Mets about Syndergaard believe it would take an "extraordinary" return to land him. According to Sherman, the current sense is that the Mets are highly unlikely to part with Thor.
Teams that have inquired about Syndergaard include the Padres, Rockies, Brewers, Dodgers and Astros, according to Sherman. The 26-year-old would be a fit for nearly any team thanks to his elite talent and years of control -- Syndergaard won't be a free agent until 2022.
But the Mets want to contend now, and having Syndergaard in their rotation in 2019 is probably the best avenue toward that goal. Sherman points out that if New York ends up being out of contention come July, they could always put him on the market before the Trade Deadline. Thanks to Syndergaard's three years of control, he could still impact several playoff races, and Sherman thinks his value might even be higher in July if he pitches well during the first half of 2019 and there aren't a lot of other top-end starting pitching options available.
Rizzo: Nats not closing door on Harper
Dec. 10: Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner's candid interview with 106.7 The Fan on Friday drew widespread publicity, as Lerner acknowledged that the reported 10-year, $300 million offer Bryce Harper rejected at the end of the regular season was "the best we can do," and indicated that he didn't expect the free-agent outfielder to be back.
And yet, a reunion between Harper and Washington is a possibility that Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo isn't ruling out.
"We haven't closed the door on [Harper]," Rizzo said Monday on MLB Network Radio. "He's a big part of our franchise. He's near and dear to my heart personally, and professionally he's a great player."
The Nats have been one of the busier teams this offseason, acquiring Patrick Corbin, Trevor Rosenthal, Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes, and it's unclear if the club will still be open to giving Harper $300 million should the 26-year-old come back to the negotiating table. But with rivals such as the Phillies expected to be among the bidders for Harper, it is better for the Nats if other teams think Washington might still be in.
Video: High Heat: Nats not closing door on Harper reunion
Red Sox GM doesn't anticipate 'big expenditure' at closer
Dec. 10: The Red Sox would like to have free-agent closer Craig Kimbrel back, but given the right-hander's contract demands -- he's reportedly seeking a six-year deal -- the club is exploring other options.
GM Dave Dombrowski said he doesn't anticipate a "big expenditure" for the closer's role, according to MLB.com's Ian Browne, who took that further by saying it "would be a miracle" if Kimbrel came back.
Part of that is because Boston has to worry about next offseason when Chris Sale, Rick Porcello and Xander Bogaerts can become free agents, and 2020, when Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. are set to hit the open market. Bringing back Kimbrel could make it tough to re-sign some of those other players.
So who could the Red Sox target for the back of their bullpen? David Robertson and Adam Ottavino are believed to be high on Boston's wish list, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman.
Joe Kelly is also a free agent, which could leave the Red Sox's relief corps without two key contributors from the club's championship run. Much like Nathan Eovaldi, Kelly bolstered his free-agent stock with a strong postseason, recording a 0.79 ERA with 13 strikeouts and only one walk over 11 1/3 innings. Kimbrel had his share of struggles during the playoffs, but he's been one of the top closers in the game for eight years and is poised to cash in this offseason, even if he doesn't get six years.
Robertson and Ottavino, on the other hand, will cost less than Kimbrel, and Boston could comfortably insert either one into the closer's role in 2019. That said, the Red Sox will have fierce competition for both pitchers, with MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reporting that at least a half-dozen teams are showing interest in Robertson, including the rival Yankees -- with whom Robertson has spent the majority of his career. Per Feinsand, the Yanks are also believed to be interested in Ottavino, a New York native.
Boston is also competing with multiple teams for Kelly's services, including the Dodgers, Mets and White Sox, as Rob Bradford of weei.com reported Monday.
Which contenders might pursue Greinke? And will Arizona trade anyone else?
Dec. 10: The D-backs have already traded Paul Goldschmidt. Will Zack Greinke be next?
The veteran right-hander's 15-team no-trade list might make it difficult for Arizona to find a trade partner. But there are also some notable teams who have shown interest in Greinke before, and aren't on the list.
Two of those teams: the Astros and Nationals, per a report from MLB Network insider Jon Heyman on Monday. On the other hand, teams like the Phillies, Cardinals and Dodgers are on Greinke's no-trade list -- with the list seen as a "major impediment" to a deal.
The Astros could be a good fit for Greinke, if the interest is still there. That's both from a need standpoint, as Houston could lose both Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton in free agency, and from a philosophy standpoint -- the studious Greinke and the data-driven Astros seem like they'd mesh. The Nationals wouldn't be as clear a match, since they've already signed the top free-agent starter on the market (and Greinke's former teammate), Patrick Corbin.
Meanwhile, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reports that the D-backs are drawing trade interest in virtually all of their players after dealing Goldschmidt, but the club is telling other teams that it isn't interested in a teardown.
Per a tweet from USA Today's Bob Nightengale, several teams who checked in on Robbie Ray were told the left-hander isn't available.
Harper to the Cards still a long shot
Dec. 10: The Cardinals got one elite bat in Paul Goldschmidt. Bryce Harper could push them to another level. But as exciting as a lineup anchored by Harper and Goldschmidt would be, that scenario remains unlikely, according to a report from The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal on Monday (subscription required).
Rosenthal cites St. Louis' roster inflexibility as a chief obstacle to signing Harper, even though the Cards might have the payroll flexibility to give the superstar outfielder the type of long-term deal he's looking for.
For one thing, the Cardinals have $49.5 million tied up in Dexter Fowler over the next three seasons, and Rosenthal calls Fowler "virtually impossible to trade" after Fowler struggled through injuries and poor performance in 2018.
Another option to make room for Harper would be to try to move Marcell Ozuna, but he'd also be difficult to trade. Ozuna just had a right shoulder procedure this offseason, and he's also likely to make a sizeable salary in his last year of arbitration before hitting free agency next offseason. Rosenthal shoots down the idea of St. Louis simply cutting ties with Ozuna and eating the money as unreasonable -- both based on how the organization typically acts and because there's a solid chance Ozuna returns healthy and hits like he did in his All-Star 2017 season, when he clubbed 37 homers for the Marlins.
There is one outfielder the Cardinals might reasonably trade: Jose Martinez. But Martinez doesn't slot in as a starter anyway, and his cheap salary could mean St. Louis keeps him around as a bat off the bench.
Rather than an all-out pursuit of Harper, Rosenthal thinks the Cardinals' priority will be to sign a top left-handed reliever like Andrew Miller or Zach Britton.
Castellanos drawing interest from Braves, Dodgers, others
Dec. 10: Don't want to break the bank on Bryce Harper or go after A.J. Pollock? Nicholas Castellanos could be the answer. The Tigers outfielder is drawing interest on the trade market, according to a report from MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi on Monday. The Braves and Dodgers are among the teams to have checked in.
Castellanos hit .298/.354/.500 with 23 home runs and 89 RBIs in 2018. His .854 OPS was the highest of his six Major League seasons. Castellanos is in his final year of arbitration eligibility, and is set to become a free agent after the 2019 season, which could lead the Tigers to move him.
Castellanos can also play third base if needed -- he spent the majority of his time at the hot corner from 2014-17 before moving to right field full-time in 2018.
Multiple clubs interested in Belt
Dec. 10: The Giants started their offseason with a big move last month when they brought in Farhan Zaidi to be their president of baseball operations. Since then, however, the club has been relatively quiet on the rumor front, likely because Zaidi and Co. are in the process of charting a course for 2019 and beyond.
One big topic related to the Giants is whether they will deal longtime ace Madison Bumgarner. It appears a new trade chip also may be surfacing in Brandon Belt. A number of teams have touched base with San Francisco about the 30-year-old first baseman, who is available, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale.
With a .266/.356/.455 career line and 124 OPS+, Belt has been productive when healthy over his eight years in the Majors, but he's battled various injuries and has played only 216 games the past two seasons. That, along with Belt's contract -- he's signed for $16 million per year through 2021 and has a 10-team limited no-trade clause -- suggests the Giants may be looking to save some salary by moving on from him.
Nats on the hunt at the keystone
Dec. 10: The Nationals need a second baseman, and they're casting a wide net across the free-agent market.
Among the names on their list: DJ LeMahieu, Marwin Gonzalez and Josh Harrison, according to a report from MLB Network insider Jon Heyman on Monday.
That's interesting, because it means the Nats could either go after a prototypical second baseman like LeMahieu, or more of a versatile, super-utility type to fill the position like Gonzalez or Harrison.
The Washington Post's Chelsea Janes notes that Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo has said the team has made contact with LeMahieu's agent. She adds that Washington also loves Gonzalez, who became a key cog for the Astros playoff teams of the last two seasons, and has likely also contacted his agent, Scott Boras.
Is Gennett available in a trade?
Dec. 10: While sources told MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal that the Reds are looking to trade second baseman Scooter Gennett, MLB.com's Mark Sheldon has heard differently. Per Sheldon, Cincinnati is not actively shopping the 28-year-old.
After being claimed off waivers by the Reds in March 2017, Gennett has become an All-Star in Cincinnati, slashing .303/.351/.508 with 50 homers over the past two seasons. But Gennett projects to earn a sizable raise in arbitration this year and can become a free agent next offseason, making a trade conceivable.
As Rosenthal notes in his latest story for The Athletic (subscription required), moving Gennett would open up a spot for top prospect Nick Senzel (No. 6 overall, per MLB Pipeline) to play and allow the club to pursue other possibilities, including signing utility man and Cincinnati native Josh Harrison. It would also free up more money for the team to spend on the rotation, its primary area of need.
However, the return for Gennett could be limited at a time when veteran second basemen such as Jed Lowrie, DJ LeMahieu, Daniel Murphy, Brian Dozier and Ian Kinsler are all available.
Angels more active than anticipated on free-agent market
Dec. 10: The Angels are seeking rotation upgrades and have been more engaged than anticipated on the top free agents, according to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in an article for The Athletic (subscription required).
Major League sources told Rosenthal that the club made "quiet runs" at Patrick Corbin and Nathan Eovaldi before they signed with the Nationals and Red Sox, respectively.
The Angels could now turn their attention to Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, J.A. Happ and Yusei Kikuchi, among others, according to Rosenthal.
Keuchel's reliability could be especially enticing for the team, given the injury histories of its current rotation options, which include Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs, Nick Tropeano and JC Ramirez, but not Shohei Ohtani, who won't pitch in 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in October.
Miller drawing 'legitimate interest' from at least nine teams
Dec. 10: The relief market could pick up steam during the Winter Meetings, as MLB.com's Mark Feinsand wrote Monday, and Andrew Miller is one of the bullpen arms whose market appears to be robust.
According to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in an article for The Athletic (subscription required), at least nine teams are showing "legitimate interest" in Miller, seemingly indicating that clubs aren't holding the left-hander's injury-plagued and underwhelming 2018 season against him.
Miller made three trips to the disabled list with three different injuries (left hamstring strain, right knee inflammation, left shoulder impingement) in 2018 and finished with a 4.24 ERA, a 1.38 WHIP and a 29.2 percent strikeout rate. But teams are evidently putting more stock in his performance from 2012-17, a span in which he recorded a 2.01 ERA with a 0.89 WHIP and a 39.6 percent strikeout rate while filling a variety of relief roles.
According to Feinsand, the Yankees and Red Sox could target Miller, and SNY's Andy Martino reports that the Mets, Phillies and Cardinals have shown interest as well. Mets manager Mickey Callaway was previously Miller's pitching coach in Cleveland, which may give them an edge.
Yankees discussing Gray trade with Padres, Reds
Dec. 10: With the Winter Meetings kicking off in Las Vegas, the Yankees and Padres reportedly remain engaged in discussions about New York right-hander Sonny Gray, according to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi.
Gray would fit the Padres' need to fill out their rotation, which doesn't have any spots guaranteed for next season. San Diego has also been linked to Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard and were reportedly in on Nathan Eovaldi before he re-signed with the Red Sox.
The Reds, another rebuilding team that is known to be looking for veterans to upgrade its rotation, have also discussed Gray with the Yankees. However, MLB Network insider Joel Sherman reports that Cincinnati balked at New York's request for outfielder Taylor Trammell, who is the club's No. 2 prospect (No. 17 overall), per MLB Pipeline.
The Yankees acquired Gray from Oakland prior to the 2017 non-waiver Trade Deadline with hopes of him solidifying their starting rotation. But now they're looking to deal the 29-year-old after he struggled in 2018 with a 5.56 ERA through 21 starts before he was pulled from the rotation and left off the Yankees' postseason rosters.
Gray is up for arbitration this offseason and is scheduled to hit free agency in 2020. A change of scenery could benefit the righty, who only three years ago turned in a stellar All-Star campaign. In 2015, he won 14 games, posted a 2.73 ERA and hurled three complete games (two shutouts) in 31 starts with the A's, finishing third in American League Cy Young Award voting.
These are the four primary suitors for Cruz
Dec. 10: Although Nelson Cruz became a free agent more than a month ago, his market doesn't seem to have changed all that much. According to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, the Rays, Astros and Twins are in on the slugger, and the White Sox possibly could be as well.
All along, those clubs have been viewed as four of the likelier suitors for the slugger, whose role as a full-time designated hitter limits the number of teams that could realistically sign him. The list became even smaller when his former team, the Mariners, opted to rebuild.
Of those suitors, the Rays have been linked to Cruz more than any other team, as the club has an opening at DH after waiving C.J. Cron(who was claimed by the Twins), seeks a right-handed slugger and can fit Cruz into its modest budget. The club has maintained a "running dialogue" with Cruz, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
It's uncertain how aggressive Minnesota will be when it comes to Cruz, as La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reportedthat the club prefers to rotate multiple players at the DH spot in 2019. Neal noted that the Twins could still pull off a surprise by signing the 38-year-old, but only if the price is right. To that end, MLB.com's Do-Hyoung Park reports there is "mutual interest" between the Twins and Cruz, who could provide a different look for an offense that hit 166 home runs (fourth fewest in the AL) in 2018.
The Astros and the White Sox, meanwhile, also have an opening at DH, but the latter may view Cruz only as a fallback option if it can't land a bigger-name free agent.
Dodgers could heavily influence outfield market
Dec. 9: The outfield market has been stagnant so far this offseason, but the Dodgers could have a hand in getting it moving during the Winter Meetings. According to ESPN's Buster Olney, Los Angeles has several outfielders available for trade, including Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson and Matt Kemp, and may also be engaged on free agents such as Bryce Harper and A.J. Pollock.
While this isn't the first time the Dodgers have been linked to Harper, it's still unclear if the club plans to make an aggressive play for the superstar free agent. The contract that Harper is expected to command would be out of character for the Andrew Friedman-led Dodgers front office, which has consistently maintained a high payroll but hasn't handed out more than $93 million to any one player.
Two sources initially told Yahoo Sports that Dodgers co-owner Magic Johnson was part of a group of representatives from the franchise that met with Harper in Las Vegas, the outfielder's hometown and the site of the Winter Meetings, though Johnson later insisted that no such meeting took place.
The Dodgers have notable depth in the outfield, with Puig, Pederson and Kemp joining Cody Bellinger, Chris Taylor, Enrique Hernandez, Alex Verdugo and Andrew Toles as potential options for 2019. Signing Harper (or Pollock) would almost certainly lead to one or more trades involving some of those players, as Bill Plunkett pointed out in an article for the Orange County Register on Sunday.
MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reported in late November that the Dodgers were trying to acquire Indians ace Corey Kluber for a package centered around Puig and potentially Alex Wood, but MLB Network insider Jon Heyman noted in his latest "Inside Baseball" column for Fancred Sports that such an offer isn't going to be enough.
Per Heyman, multiple teams have asked about Bellinger, but rivals say the Dodgers are "hesitant" to include him in any trade. The Indians are likely one of those teams, and the Marlins may be another, as Los Angeles has discussed a deal for Miami catcher J.T. Realmuto.
Boras' handbook compares Harper to LeBron James
Dec. 9: Agent Scott Boras is known for compiling expansive free-agent handbooks extolling his clients' achievements and qualities, and his book on Bryce Harper sounds like a doozy.
According to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, the document Boras has been giving to Harper suitors is 118 pages and features comparisons both predictable and provocative, an example of the latter being LeBron James.
"My goal in this thing is to let teams know what they're getting," Boras said. "That's why we brought in the LeBron comparisons. A lot of people don't know what he's done by the age of 25, and how that compares to what LeBron James did at 25. You get a very clear path on how hard it is to achieve a standard of excellence in an arena where you're both No. 1 picks, both rookies of year, both MVPs, and set a standard that no one can meet.
"The way to articulate this in true business form is look at the Nats' franchise. It was worth $480 to $500 million before he got there, and now it's worth more than $2 billion. TV ratings have tripled.
"Every GM in baseball wants him because he fills a need, but the owners are pursuing Bryce Harper because they know he can also make them a billion dollars over a period of years."
Per Nightengale, teams haven't made formal bids to Harper yet, nor is Boras making specific contract demands.
"The only thing we know for sure," one GM said, "is that he's looking for more than 10 years and $300 million."
Of course, 10 years and $300 million is what the Nationals reportedly offered at the end of the regular season, and Harper rejected it, prompting Nats owner Mark Lerner to indicate that he didn't think Harper would be back in a candid interview with 106.7 The Fan on Friday.
"Well, when we met with them and we gave them the offer, we told them, 'This is the best we can do.' We went right to the finish line very quickly,' Lerner said. "And we said, 'If this is of interest to you, please come back to us and we'll see whether we can finish it up.' But we just couldn't afford to put more than that in and still be able to put a team together that had a chance to win the NL East or go farther than that."
Added Lerner: "If he comes back [to the negotiating table], it's a strong possibility that we won't be able to make it work. But I really don't expect him to come back at this point. I think they've decided to move on. There's just too much money out there that he'd be leaving on the table. That's just not Boras' MO to leave money on the table."
Harper and Machado negotiations could drag beyond Winter Meetings
Dec. 9: Those hoping the free-agent odysseys of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado will reach their respective conclusions during the Winter Meetings may be disappointed.
According to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in an article for The Athletic (subscription required), the history between agents Scott Boras and Dan Lozano could be a major factor in negotiations stretching well beyond this week.
Boras, who represents Harper, used to rep Machado as well before losing him to Lozano in 2011 -- the same year Alex Rodriguez, another former Boras client, joined Lozano. As a result, Boras may have extra motivation to get Harper the bigger deal between this offseason's top two free agents.
"The prevailing assumption in the industry is that Boras wants to set new benchmarks with Harper's free-agent deal, whether in total guaranteed salary, average annual value or -- preferably -- both," Rosenthal writes. "Therefore, he will want Machado to sign first, securing the negotiating equivalent of 'last licks,' in which he would step to the plate knowing the number to beat. Boras' track record also indicates he would be willing to go to extra innings, moving at his own pace, stretching talks into January, if necessary."
But as Rosenthal points out, Machado isn't necessarily going to sign quickly. While Lozano isn't the same type of showman as Boras, outdueling his counterpart has to at least be on his mind in some capacity, and Machado is reportedly receiving interest from at least six teams, including the Yankees, Phillies and White Sox.
Meanwhile, Rosenthal notes that some rival agents and club executives think the market for Harper will be limited, given the bar Boras is believed to be setting. "It's Philly bidding against Philly," one agent said of the Harper sweepstakes.