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Puig's emphatic HR inches LA closer to pennant

MLB.com @ToddZolecki

MILWAUKEE -- Yasiel Puig silenced Miller Park and gave the Dodgers an enormous boost in their push to clinch the National League pennant on Saturday night, driving a two-out, three-run homer in the sixth inning to extend Los Angeles' lead over the Brewers to 5-1 in Game 7 of the NL Championship Series.

Puig knew it was out right away, flipping his bat and celebrating as he rounded the bases. The biggest statement of the game to that point came just a half-inning after Chris Taylor preserved what was a one-run lead at the time for the Dodgers with a lunging catch at the left-center-field wall, robbing Christian Yelich of a game-tying extra-base hit for the third out.

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MILWAUKEE -- Yasiel Puig silenced Miller Park and gave the Dodgers an enormous boost in their push to clinch the National League pennant on Saturday night, driving a two-out, three-run homer in the sixth inning to extend Los Angeles' lead over the Brewers to 5-1 in Game 7 of the NL Championship Series.

Puig knew it was out right away, flipping his bat and celebrating as he rounded the bases. The biggest statement of the game to that point came just a half-inning after Chris Taylor preserved what was a one-run lead at the time for the Dodgers with a lunging catch at the left-center-field wall, robbing Christian Yelich of a game-tying extra-base hit for the third out.

View Full Game Coverage

Tweet from @MLB: When Puigs fly. 😳#Game7 pic.twitter.com/gBHXLAF656

That drama followed an early outburst at the plate for the Dodgers. Brewers fans might despise Manny Machado a little more after he bunted for a single on a 3-2 pitch in the second inning and Cody Bellinger followed with a two-run home run to right-center field. The mammoth blast handed the Dodgers a 2-1 lead.

Video: NLCS Gm7: Bellinger demolishes a 2-run homer on FS1

Machado, who was booed heavily and went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in Game 6, worked a full count before dropping a bunt toward third base and beating the throw for a single. It was the first bunt for a single on a 3-2 count since Norichika Aoki for the Royals on May 29, 2014.

Machado flew to first with a 29.1 ft./sec. sprint speed, his fastest tracked sprint speed of the season. He averaged 26.3 during the season.

Tweet from @MLB: His fastest home-to-first time of the season (3.96 seconds).Just call him Manny Hustle. 😏 pic.twitter.com/eSa9aU9UTW

Bellinger then mauled a 2-2 fastball down the middle of the plate from Brewers right-hander Jhoulys Chacin. The ball left Bellinger's bat at 107.2 mph and traveled a projected 425 feet, according to Statcast™.

Yelich opened the scoring a half-inning earlier, drilling a homer to right-center field off Walker Buehler. Chacin allowed a Puig double immediately after Bellinger's homer but then settled down to complete the inning with no further damage.

Todd Zolecki has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Yasiel Puig

Taylor robs Crew of tying run with must-see grab

MLB.com @ToddZolecki

MILWAUKEE -- Chris Taylor started Game 7 of the National League Championship Series at second base, but he made a fantastic, run-saving catch in deep left-center field to end the fifth inning on Saturday at Miller Park.

Lorenzo Cain stood on second base with two outs when Dodgers left-hander Julio Urias entered the game to face Brewers right fielder and National League MVP Award favorite Christian Yelich. Yelich ripped a 0-2 fastball to left-center field. The ball left his bat at 97.8 mph, according to Statcast™, and looked like a sure-fire extra-base hit.

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MILWAUKEE -- Chris Taylor started Game 7 of the National League Championship Series at second base, but he made a fantastic, run-saving catch in deep left-center field to end the fifth inning on Saturday at Miller Park.

Lorenzo Cain stood on second base with two outs when Dodgers left-hander Julio Urias entered the game to face Brewers right fielder and National League MVP Award favorite Christian Yelich. Yelich ripped a 0-2 fastball to left-center field. The ball left his bat at 97.8 mph, according to Statcast™, and looked like a sure-fire extra-base hit.

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But Taylor, who moved from second to left when Enrique Hernandez pinch-hit for Joc Pederson in the third, ran down the ball. He sprinted 85 feet and reached up with his glove at the last moment to make that catch before sliding onto the warning track. The catch ended the inning and preserved the Dodgers' 2-1 lead.

Todd Zolecki has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Chris Taylor

You won't believe what kind of ring sidelined Sale

Red Sox ace jokes about reason for hospital stay during ALCS
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

BOSTON -- Perhaps no member of the Red Sox benefited more from the team wrapping up the American League Championship Series in five games than ace Chris Sale, who spent a night in a hospital with a stomach ailment.

As for the specifics of his medical issue, Sale clearly didn't want to get into it, deflecting that line of questioning with a joke.

BOSTON -- Perhaps no member of the Red Sox benefited more from the team wrapping up the American League Championship Series in five games than ace Chris Sale, who spent a night in a hospital with a stomach ailment.

As for the specifics of his medical issue, Sale clearly didn't want to get into it, deflecting that line of questioning with a joke.

World Series presented by YouTube TV, Game 1: Tuesday, 8:09 p.m. ET on FOX

:: World Series schedule and results ::

"I had irritation from a belly button ring, just constantly taking it in and out, causing irritation and got a rash down there," quipped Sale.

All kidding aside, Sale said, "Doctors and nurses over at [Massachusetts General Hospital] were awesome. Things happen, you handle them and keep moving forward."

For the first time since his hospital stay, Sale got back on the mound on Saturday and threw a bullpen session in preparation for his expected start in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday at Fenway Park.

"Yeah, I've been able to run around, get some workouts in, threw a bullpen today," said Sale. "We're back on track and back to normal."

Just as in the final two months of the regular season, when Sale pitched just 17 innings due to left shoulder inflammation, the Red Sox were able to prevail without him in the ALCS. Sale's only performance was his disappointing start in Game 1 -- Boston's only loss of the series. He went to the hospital later that night.

"Yeah, I'll get a couple more throwing days in," said Sale. "I didn't have any part to do with it, our team played great. Gives everyone around here a couple extra days. These guys are grinding hard. We get to go through a few workouts, get our feet under us and get ready to go."

Dress for the Fall Classic: Shop AL Champs gear

Given Sale's competitive nature, his lack of involvement in the Red Sox's ALCS conquest will give him even more desire to make a big impact in what will be the first World Series of his career.

"We can't wait," said Sale. "This is what we worked hard for all year, to play in the World Series. You show up to Spring Training, that's the goal. That's what we talked about all year. From Day 1, everyone in here, [manager Alex Cora], the coaching staff, has talked about getting to the World Series. We're all excited. You can talk to everybody in here, we've all grinded, worked hard, we're here and have an opportunity to win the last game of the year, and that's as good as it gets."

Video: Cora on defensive alignment, Betts at second base

Wright in play
Knuckleballer Steven Wright is in the discussions for the World Series roster, Cora confirmed on Saturday.

Wright was on the AL Division Series roster, but he had to be removed the morning after Game 1 due to recurring inflammation in his surgically repaired right knee.

Sox want J.D. in each WS game; Betts to 2B?

Though Wright is scheduled to have arthroscopic surgery once the season ends, he recently threw a bullpen session in hopes of being a participant in the Fall Classic.

"He has to go through a few things," said Cora. "I heard he feels good about it. He threw a bullpen the other day, but tomorrow probably -- we'll talk to him first and see where he's at. And if he feels he can contribute, then he has to go through a few tests."

What would those tests be?

"[Pitchers' fielding practice], simulated game, backing up bases and see how he reacts," Cora said. "We haven't talked to him yet. We'll do that today and see if he feels he can contribute, and then we'll do something tomorrow with that and make a decision. But like I said, we haven't discussed that with him."

Given that Boston's bullpen was on fumes by the end of the ALCS, Wright would be a welcome addition. In September, he allowed one earned run in 13 2/3 innings.

Gagne assists Kimbrel
While reliever Eric Gagne had a disappointing stint with the Red Sox as a trade acquisition for their eventual 2007 World Series championship team, he made an assist to this year's team with a simple text to Cora and then closer Craig Kimbrel.

Gagne noticed that Kimbrel was tipping his slider, allowing the Yankees and Astros to lay off of it in the playoffs. Cora and Gagne were teammates with the Dodgers and Red Sox, and the manager put the former All-Star closer in touch with Kimbrel.

Video: Cora on confidence in Kimbrel

The fix was made in time for Game 5, when Kimbrel looked like his elite self again, striking out two of the four batters he faced.

"I've got a lot of friends around the league, the network is a big one, people are always paying attention, they always text or call and then we run it through the coaching staff, they look at it," said Cora. "Sometimes you get so focused on mechanics that you forget about simple stuff, including me."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, Craig Kimbrel, Chris Sale, Steven Wright

Dodgers expecting to use Kershaw in Game 7

MLB.com

MILWAUKEE -- The Dodgers have been conservative with their handling of Clayton Kershaw this postseason, more inclined to start him on extra rest than short rest. But with their season down to a single game, things are understandably different.

In fact, manager Dave Roberts said that not only is Kershaw available for Game 7 of the National League Championship Series, but Los Angeles' ace is also expected to pitch. The left-hander would be going on two days' rest after an outstanding start in Game 5 at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday.

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MILWAUKEE -- The Dodgers have been conservative with their handling of Clayton Kershaw this postseason, more inclined to start him on extra rest than short rest. But with their season down to a single game, things are understandably different.

In fact, manager Dave Roberts said that not only is Kershaw available for Game 7 of the National League Championship Series, but Los Angeles' ace is also expected to pitch. The left-hander would be going on two days' rest after an outstanding start in Game 5 at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday.

View Full Game Coverage

"It's hard to see a scenario that he's not a part of this game," Roberts said. "And what he could give us, it's hard to -- he's going to go out there and do his pregame and see how he feels. And so for he and I, it's going to be a conversation and how he's throwing the baseball. So there's really no -- I don't really have a number of pitches or innings. But I do see him being a part of this equation."

Kershaw has made five career postseason relief appearances to go along with his 22 starts. Most recently, he threw four innings without allowing a run in Game 7 of last year's World Series, also on two days' rest after a Game 5 start.

Matthew Leach is an editor for MLB.com.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw

Sox want J.D. in each WS game; Betts to 2B?

Cora mulling options for getting Martinez into lineup in NL park, including slotting Mookie in infield
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

BOSTON -- When the Red Sox get to the National League park for Game 3 of the World Series on Friday, they'll have to lose a key position player from the starting lineup.

However, manager Alex Cora made one thing clear on Saturday: J.D. Martinez, Boston's primary designated hitter and top run producer this season will start every game in the Fall Classic. Mookie Betts isn't sitting either, which means either left fielder Andrew Benintendi or center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. would have to come out of the lineup.

BOSTON -- When the Red Sox get to the National League park for Game 3 of the World Series on Friday, they'll have to lose a key position player from the starting lineup.

However, manager Alex Cora made one thing clear on Saturday: J.D. Martinez, Boston's primary designated hitter and top run producer this season will start every game in the Fall Classic. Mookie Betts isn't sitting either, which means either left fielder Andrew Benintendi or center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. would have to come out of the lineup.

World Series presented by YouTube TV, Game 1: Tuesday, 8:09 p.m. ET on FOX

Unless, of course, Cora tries something unconventional and plays Betts at second base. Betts, as you might recall, was a second baseman in the Minors. He also started 14 games there for the Red Sox in 2014 when Dustin Pedroia was injured. And earlier this season -- on Aug. 3 against the Yankees -- Betts made a cameo at his old position for six innings when Ian Kinsler sustained an in-game injury.

Video: NYY@BOS: Betts takes over at 2B after Kinsler injury

Cora chuckled when the topic of Betts playing second in the World Series was the first question at his news conference on Saturday.

Dress for the Fall Classic: Shop AL Champs gear

"That's the first question for the World Series? Wow," said Cora. "I don't know, man. He already played second during the regular season, so there's always a chance, I guess."

:: World Series schedule and results ::

That didn't sound convincing. Yet the first question about it wasn't the last. And, interestingly, Cora left the door open.

"Like I said, we're in the World Series," said Cora. "The conversation was going to come up. One thing for sure, J.D. is going to play. That's clear. So we'll see which alignment is better, which lineup is better and we'll make decisions accordingly."

Betts did spend plenty of time taking grounders at second during Saturday's workout, but he spends time there in pregame drills on most days throughout the season.

Cora hasn't decided yet what alignment he will go with, and part of it will depend on whether the opponent is the Dodgers or Brewers. Kinsler and Brock Holt are the two players who have played second base for Boston in the playoffs.

"We'll see who we play, the matchups. As you guys know, one team relies on starters and the other one relies on their bullpen. So those are the cool conversations that come with where we're at," Cora said. "And I don't mind that. So we'll talk about it today. You're going to see Mookie taking ground balls at second, but he's been doing it the whole season, so do not overreact with it. That's part of his preparation. But we'll talk today. We'll talk about it."

Betts clearly doesn't lack confidence when it comes to his ability to play his old position.

"I was just joking with him, I'm like, 'There's a reason you're the right fielder.' He feels that he's great at second," said Cora. "I don't know. I never saw it. If you ask him, he's like, 'I'm great.' If you ask Pedroia, then he'll say, 'He sucked!' So there's a lot that goes into it. Teams do it differently.

"I saw [Max] Muncy playing second base [for the Dodgers] yesterday. That's the way they do it. We've got some pretty good second basemen. We've got some good outfielders."

Video: WS2018 Gm1: Cora on Betts at 2B, Kimbrel's role

Given all the contact that second basemen can endure, the Red Sox would have some natural safety concerns about their best all-around player risking injury at a position he hasn't played with any regularity in four years.

"That and turning double plays in a big moment, him not playing second base in a while, him being the best right fielder in the league. All that stuff comes into consideration," Cora said.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez

Altuve undergoes right knee surgery

MLB.com @brianmctaggart

HOUSTON -- Astros second baseman Jose Altuve underwent surgery on his right knee, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow announced on Saturday.

Altuve's surgery was to repair a patella (kneecap) avulsion fracture in his right knee, a source told MLB.com. According to the Mayo Clinic website, an avulsion fracture occurs when a small chunk of bone attached to a tendon or ligament gets pulled away from the main part of the bone.

HOUSTON -- Astros second baseman Jose Altuve underwent surgery on his right knee, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow announced on Saturday.

Altuve's surgery was to repair a patella (kneecap) avulsion fracture in his right knee, a source told MLB.com. According to the Mayo Clinic website, an avulsion fracture occurs when a small chunk of bone attached to a tendon or ligament gets pulled away from the main part of the bone.

Altuve, a six-time All-Star and 2017 American League Most Valuable Player, battled through a knee injury for much of the second half of the season and the playoffs. Altuve injured his knee sliding into second base in July in Colorado and was hobbled since.

Altuve is expected to make a full recovery and be ready for Spring Training, the team said.

Coming off an MVP season in which he won his third batting title, Altuve hit .316 this year with 13 homers and 61 RBIs in 137 games. It was the first time since his first full season in the Major Leagues in 2012 that he didn't play in at least 150 games.

Altuve hit .276 with four homers and 15 RBIs in his final 127 at-bats after coming off the disabled list on Aug. 21 and batted .286 in the AL Division Series this year against Cleveland and .250 in the AL Championship Series against Boston, which ended with a 4-1 loss to the Red Sox on Thursday.

Astros manager AJ Hinch said Thursday that Altuve, who was the designated hitter in Games 3-5 of the ALCS, would have been on the disabled list had it been the regular season.

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, Jose Altuve

Yelich homer opens scoring in Game 7

MLB.com

MILWAUKEE -- That power stroke? Christian Yelich couldn't have picked a better time to find it again.

Quiet for much of the National League Championship Series, Yelich powered the Brewers to an early lead in Game 7 on Saturday by rocketing a solo home run off Walker Buehler in the first inning. The homer was Yelich's first of the series, and his first since Game 1 of the NL Division Series against the Rockies.

View Full Game Coverage

MILWAUKEE -- That power stroke? Christian Yelich couldn't have picked a better time to find it again.

Quiet for much of the National League Championship Series, Yelich powered the Brewers to an early lead in Game 7 on Saturday by rocketing a solo home run off Walker Buehler in the first inning. The homer was Yelich's first of the series, and his first since Game 1 of the NL Division Series against the Rockies.

View Full Game Coverage

Milwaukee sprinted into the postseason largely on the back of Yelich, whose monster second half propelled him to the front of the race for the NL Most Valuable Player Award. He hit 36 home runs in the regular season and led all NL hitters in batting average, slugging percentage and OPS.

Tweet from @MLB: What slump? #Game7 pic.twitter.com/Os8N41Gc40

But Yelich cooled off following his postseason-opening homer against Colorado, and entered play on Saturday hitting .167 with five walks across 29 plate appearances in this series. His homer gave the Brewers a 1-0 advantage, and the early lead they were looking for, although it evaporated when Cody Bellinger took Jhoulys Chacin deep in the top of the second to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead.

Tweet from @Brewers: The MVP makes it 1-0 in the bottom of the 1st! #OurCrewOurOctober pic.twitter.com/vLdNhDPiPv

Yelich earned his homer. The 98.4-mph fastball from Buehler was the hardest pitch Yelich has homered on in his career, according to Statcast™. The resulting liner squeaked over the wall in right-center, just beyond the reach of a leaping Yasiel Puig.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

Milwaukee Brewers, Christian Yelich

Sources: Marlins set to sign Mesa brothers

MLB.com @JoeFrisaro

MIAMI -- The Marlins are expected to announce the signings of Victor Victor Mesa and Victor Mesa Jr., sources told MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez on Saturday. Victor Victor is expected to sign for more than $5 million, and Victor Jr. is expected to receive a bonus near $1 million.

MIAMI -- The Marlins are expected to announce the signings of Victor Victor Mesa and Victor Mesa Jr., sources told MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez on Saturday. Victor Victor is expected to sign for more than $5 million, and Victor Jr. is expected to receive a bonus near $1 million.

Tweet from @JesseSanchezMLB: Sources: @Marlins expected to announce the signing of Victor Victor Mesa and Victor Mesa Jr. in a press conference on Monday in Miami. Victor Victor is expected to sign for more than $5 million and Victor Jr. expected to sign for a bonus near $1 million. pic.twitter.com/C4msvEm6vI

Without giving specifics, the Marlins announced a news conference with chief executive officer Derek Jeter and president of baseball operations Michael Hill for Monday. Jorge Ebro of El Nuevo Herald reported on Saturday that the brothers passed their physicals.

The Marlins have aggressively pursued the pair of international free agents as well as pitcher Sandy Gaston.

Video: Top International Prospects: Victor Victor Mesa, OF

Jeter and Hill have spent the week in Arizona, attending the Marlins' organizational meetings and attending Arizona Fall League games.

The Marlins and the Orioles each have about $6.6 million of international bonus pool money, the most of any MLB teams.

Victor Victor Mesa, 22, is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the top international prospect available. His brother, Victor Mesa Jr., is a promising 17-year-old.

According to their social media accounts, the Mesa brothers are currently in Miami. On Saturday, Victor Mesa Jr., posted on Instagram a photo of himself with former Marlins All-Star third baseman Mike Lowell. The photo was taken in Miami.

Instagram from @victormesajr10: A legend of baseball 🙏⚾️ #mikelowell

And on Friday night, Victor Victor Mesa posted a photo on Instagram of himself and his brother sitting in the Marlins' clubhouse. The two held the Cuban flag, and behind them were white Marlins jerseys, sporting their names and the No. 32.

Instagram from @victorvictormesa: 5 de octubre 2018Representando 🇨 #victorvictormesa

The picture was taken on Oct. 5 when the Mesa brothers and Gaston held their showcase for more than 75 scouts at Marlins Park.

The Marlins have made it clear they intend to be aggressive on the international market, and already this month, the organization made three trades to increase its international bonus pool money.

On Tuesday, Miami traded Minor Leaguers Adonis Giron and Brayan De Paula to the Astros for $500,000 of international money. The deal followed up an Oct. 6 trade that sent pitching prospect Ryan Lillie to the Reds for $750,000 international dollars, and on Oct. 10, reliever Kyle Barraclough was sent to the Nationals for $1 million.

Entering October, the Marlins had about $4.3 million of international bonus pool money, and they have now greatly improved their chances to make major international free agent signings.

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.

Miami Marlins

Machado controversy not expected to affect value

MLB.com

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

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

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

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

Machado's controversial week not expected to impact value to free agent suitors
Oct. 20: Milwaukee fans at Miller Park weren't all too happy to see impending free agent Manny Machado in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series after his controversial week, and they made their displeasure known with a hearty round of boos as Machado stepped to the plate, which turned to cheers when Wade Miley struck Machado out swinging. Machado was seen gesturing to the crowd as if to egg them on as he walked into the dugout following the strikeout.

After hitting a solo homer and two-run single in Game 1 and following that up with a 2-for-3 showing in Game 3, Machado cooled down over the course of the week, going 1-for-12 with two walks (one intentional) in Games 4, 5 and 6.

That week, of course, also included the incident in which Machado clipped Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar's foot while running through first base, prompting Christian Yelich to call Machado a "dirty player," and his interview with MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in which Machado called hustling not his "cup of tea."

But through all of the controversy, Machado is still one of the most tantalizing talents in baseball entering free agency at the young age of 26, and as MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi points out, Machado's 175 homers through his age-25 season ranked fifth all-time among infielders, behind only Alex Rodriguez, Eddie Mathews, Jimmie Foxx and Orlando Cepeda.

Video: NLCS Gm6: Machado on Game 6 loss, handling the boos

Those accomplishments, as well as Machado's bounceback defense with the Dodgers, his positional flexibility and his contact rate, make it difficult for the controversy to move the needle on his free agency significantly -- a high-ranking club executive told Morosi that the impact to Machado should be "minimal," with agreement from others around baseball.

The market as a whole -- not individual front offices -- will ultimately dictate Machado's overall value come free agency, meaning that as long as interest from other clubs holds steady, his ultimate contract shouldn't be too highly affected by all the recent news.

Braves unlikely to make bids for Machado, Harper
Oct. 19: While the Braves may have at least $60 million to address their multiple needs, which include a catcher, a corner outfielder, bullpen depth and a frontline starter, they may take a cautious approach to the free-agent market to avoid deals that hinder them down the road.

"We're not going to just walk in the store and buy because we have money in our pockets," Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "If we don't find the right deal with something we like, there's still other opportunities to shop. There could be opportunities next season. If you start signing guys to big, long deals, if you feel good about the deal, you do it now. I wouldn't force a deal right now that would limit you in years from now."

As a result, the Braves are unlikely to make competitive offers for Manny Machado or Bryce Harper. Rather, the club is more likely to be aggressive on the trade market as it looks to take another step forward after winning the National League East in 2018.

"I don't think with our club, with what we have, that the value is going to be there in the free-agent market," Anthopoulos said. "It doesn't mean it won't. We'll certainly explore it. But if I could sit here in the middle of October, I'd say it's more likely we go the trade route. It's not ideal to give up young assets, but it's also not ideal to do a deal you don't believe in -- that may look good for a year or two, and then in years three, four and five, it does not." More >

Yankees expected to pursue Machado after Gregorius undergoes Tommy John surgery
Oct. 18: With Didi Gregorius recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, the shortstop position is now an unexpected question mark for the Yankees. The speculation, of course, is that Gregorius' injury may only increase the Yankees' interest in impending free agent Manny Machado, who was already expected to be on the club's offseason radar as a potential option at third base.

And as MLB Network insider Jon Heyman notes in an article for Fancred Sports, there's good reason for that speculation. New York has tried to land Machado before, and Machado's interest in joining the Yankees was documented back in August, when Heyman reported that people close to the slugger were suggesting that the club was his first choice in free agency.

Machado, a two-time Gold Glove Award winner at the hot corner, struggled defensively at shortstop with the Orioles this season (-18 defensive runs saved), but he has been much improved since joining the Dodgers in a July trade (6 DRS).

And while Machado's lack of hustle has been a topic of conversation during the postseason, teams may be willing to overlook that problem given his immense talent.

Gregorius has been worth 8.7 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) over the past two seasons, per FanGraphs, so the Yankees aren't going to be in a hurry to move on from him. But the shortstop can become a free agent next offseason, and signing Machado would give the Yankees extra leverage in contract negotiations with Gregorius, as well as insurance in case his recovery from Tommy John surgery doesn't go smoothly.

The Yankees could also sign Machado and then work out an extension with Gregorius to secure the left side of their infield into the next decade, but they would need to trade or find a new position for third baseman Miguel Andujar.

Another possibility, if New York doesn't land Machado this winter, could be Giants second baseman Joe Panik, who is expected to be on the trade market, according to Heyman. Panik, who was an All-Star in 2015 and won a Gold Glove Award in '16, has been beset with injuries much of the last few seasons. But he turns 28 at the end of the month, and is under team control for another three years. The Yankees could have him at second with Gleyber Torres at shortstop. Panik would also provide a left-handed bat to replace the left-handed-hitting Gregorius in the Yankees lineup, which is heavily right-handed.

Granted, the rotation is arguably a greater area of need than the offense, with Luis Severino struggling in the second half and CC Sabathia, J.A. Happ and Lance Lynn hitting free agency. Adding a starter such as left-hander Patrick Corbin, who is expected to be one of the Yankees' free-agent targets, according to another report from Heyman, may be the club's top priority.

But as Heyman points out, the Yankees could be in position to sign multiple top free agents, considering they won't be subject to the luxury-tax repeat-offender penalty after staying under the threshold in 2018.

Phillies set to make run at Machado, Harper
Oct. 18: Will Manny Machado and Bryce Harper join forces in Philadelphia? According to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman in an appearance on "The Rundown" on Thursday, the Phillies are prepared to pursue both players, and many expect them to come away with at least one.

"People around baseball are going to be surprised if [the Phillies] don't get at least one of these two players, and maybe both," Heyman said.

Heyman had a similar report back in September, writing for Fancred Sports that multiple rival executives believed that the Phillies could land both superstars.

However, as Heyman pointed out Thursday, it could ultimately be tough for any team to pull that off, as both players are looking to break the bank in free agency. Furthermore, any club looking to sign either player will have plenty of competition.

Video: Heyman on Mariners, Phillies free agent rumors

Cashman has no comment on Machado's lack of hustle
Oct. 17: Since news broke that shortstop Didi Gregorius would need to undergo Tommy John surgery -- he had the procedure Wednesday -- speculation has increased about the Yankees' intention to pursue Manny Machado in free agency.

Meanwhile, Machado has drawn some negative attention for his lack of hustle in the NLCS vs. the Brewers. Although Machado's name wasn't specifically mentioned, Brian Cashman was asked about the situation when the Yankees general manager called into "The Michael Kay Show" on Wednesday.

"If somebody is an otherworldly talent that doesn't run hard to first base all the time, would that be somebody the Yankees would want to put in their clubhouse?" Kay asked.

Cashman, though, wouldn't take the bait.

"Boy, you're really good at what you do," Cashman said, good-naturedly. "You're trying to Jedi mind trick me into answering a question that would put me into the abyss at MLB."

Machado, Grandal on opposite tracks in postseason
Oct. 16: One run of postseason games might not outweigh the full body of work of the regular season, but it leaves an impression. And two of the Dodgers' key free-agents-to-be, Manny Machado and Yasmani Grandal, have been trending in opposite directions this October.

Machado, one of the two marquee names hitting the market this winter along with Bryce Harper, has been heating up. After a slow-ish start to the playoffs -- which still included the decisive two-run homer in the Dodgers' Game 2 NLDS win over the Braves -- the superstar shortstop has three multi-hit efforts and a pair of home runs in his last four games. In the NLCS, Machado is 5-for-11 with a homer and a double (although there have been questions about his hustle after he didn't run hard on a groundout in Game 2).

Grandal, on the other hand, has struggled offensively and behind the plate. He's hitting just .136 this postseason (3-for-22) with one homer. But Grandal's defense has been the most visible issue. He's had two nightmarish games in the NLCS, both of which have resulted in the Dodgers replacing him with Austin Barnes for the following game.

In Game 1, a one-run loss, Grandal has two errors and two passed balls -- becoming the first catcher in postseason history with multiple errors and multiple passed balls in the same game. Barnes then started Game 2. Grandal returned for Game 3, but had another tough night in another Dodgers loss. He couldn't block a wild pitch in the sixth inning, which brought home a run for the Brewers, and he had a passed ball in the eighth. After that, Barnes will start Tuesday's Game 4.

That's now two straight postseasons Grandal has lost playing time to Barnes. Last year, Barnes started 13 of the Dodgers' 15 playoff games at catcher, including all seven World Series games, compared to just two starts for Grandal.

Even after Grandal's impressive 2018 regular season -- he hit the second-most home runs among catchers (24) and the third-highest wRC+ (125, meaning he was 25 percent better than a league-average hitter) -- that's not what potential suitors want to see in October out of a free-agent target, especially one who could be an important signing at a critical position.

Manny Machado

Machado's bunt 1st of its kind since 2014

Prior to Game 4 of the NLCS, Dodgers shortstop Manny Machado brushed off questions about his perceived lack of hustle by saying that wasn't the type of player he was. "I'm not the type of player that's going to be 'Johnny Hustle,'" he said.

Perhaps that was all part of a ruse on Machado's part, however. In his first at-bat of Saturday's NLCS Game 7, Machado laid down a bunt and hustled down the line for a single. Hello, Manny Hustle:

Trade bait? These players could be

All four LCS teams had highest share of production from swaps
MLB.com @mike_petriello

There's more than one way to build a contending team, obviously. Just look at how the four clubs that reached the League Championship Series this year constructed their rosters.

They can all point to successes in the Draft, both high picks (like first-rounders Walker Buehler and Andrew Benintendi) and low (11th-rounder Joc Pederson or 33rd-rounder Tyler White). They've hit it big by spending in free agency, like with J.D. Martinez or Lorenzo Cain. They all have plenty of examples of little-noticed minor moves that ended up producing surprising breakout stars, like Jesus Aguilar, Justin Turner or Max Muncy, and they've all found gems on the international market, either professionally (like Hyun-Jin Ryu and Kenta Maeda) or as amateurs (like Xander Bogaerts, Jose Altuve and Yasiel Puig).

There's more than one way to build a contending team, obviously. Just look at how the four clubs that reached the League Championship Series this year constructed their rosters.

They can all point to successes in the Draft, both high picks (like first-rounders Walker Buehler and Andrew Benintendi) and low (11th-rounder Joc Pederson or 33rd-rounder Tyler White). They've hit it big by spending in free agency, like with J.D. Martinez or Lorenzo Cain. They all have plenty of examples of little-noticed minor moves that ended up producing surprising breakout stars, like Jesus Aguilar, Justin Turner or Max Muncy, and they've all found gems on the international market, either professionally (like Hyun-Jin Ryu and Kenta Maeda) or as amateurs (like Xander Bogaerts, Jose Altuve and Yasiel Puig).

The point is that there's no one right way to do this. You have to add talent any way you can, and the best teams take those players and make them better. But there is one common thread running through these four clubs, one that could inform you about what to expect in the upcoming Hot Stove season. Each of them added about a third of their team value this year via trade. Each of them has found more value in trade than they have in free agency. 

Think about the names we're seeing on the final four clubs acquired via trade. When we point out that huge names Justin Verlander, Chris Sale, Christian Yelich, Gerrit Cole, Josh Hader, Craig Kimbrel, Rick Porcello, Manny Machado, Chris Taylor, Travis Shaw, Corey Knebel, Rich Hill and Mike Moustakas all initially landed with their current club via trade, we're just scratching the surface -- there's also Ryan Pressly, Joe Kelly, Enrique Hernandez, Brock Holt, Steve Pearce and so many others.

In fact, if you look at breakdowns of the different avenues of how each team acquired production this year (expressed in Wins Above Replacement), you can see that for each of our final four teams -- and Major League Baseball as a sport -- the largest share of 2018 production was procured via trade.

Obviously, free agency still has a big role. Cain and Martinez are probably the two largest success stories of teams being aggressive and spending for free agents from last offseason (as we attempted to point out at the time), and the final four have also benefited from Jhoulys Chacin, David Price, Mitch Moreland, Josh Reddick, Joe Smith, Hector Rondon and others. This offseason, Machado, Bryce Harper and Patrick Corbin are going to get enormous contracts -- and they're going to deserve them.

But the once-historic 2018-19 free-agent class no longer looks quite so dynamic, thanks to age and injury. When we look back at last offseason, some of the biggest moves ended up coming via trades -- Yelich and Cole, but also Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Andrew McCutchen, Stephen Piscotty, Matt Kemp, Corey Dickerson, Joey Wendle and Dee Gordon. At least part of the reason is access to younger stars, since baseball has been trending towards youth for years.

All of which is to say that while we focus on Harper and Machado this offseason, the most interesting action might not be in who signs McCutchen, Andrew Miller, Zach Britton or Adam Jones. It might be in who makes the best trade, like Milwaukee did for Yelich. Here are 15 potential names to keep in mind.

C J.T. Realmuto, Marlins
Ever since the Marlins tore it down last offseason by trading Stanton, Yelich, Ozuna and Gordon, the question has been whether they'd continue by trading Realmuto (.277/.340/.484, 21 home runs), who has two seasons left before free agency and is probably the best all-around catcher in the game. It would be nice if Miami could build around him, but if it can't sign him to an extension, we're going to hear his name in many rumors.

Video: Frisaro on Marlins' offseason plans for Realmuto

Working in the Marlins' favor is that the state of catching in the game right now is weak, with many clubs needing a boost, and likely top free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal has done himself no favors with his high-profile struggles in the postseason. Wilson Ramos and Jonathan Lucroy are available as well, but neither is of Realmuto's caliber.

Possible fits: Rays, Red Sox, Nationals, Astros, Rockies, Brewers, Braves

SP Madison Bumgarner, Giants
This can't happen until the Giants name a new general manager, and in some ways it's difficult to envision the new hire arriving and immediately trying to move such an iconic player. Then again, the reason San Francisco even needs a new GM in the first place is that it has finished last and fourth in the past two years. Since the 2016 All-Star break, only the Orioles and White Sox have fewer wins. Change is coming -- and Bumgarner becomes a free agent after 2019.

Video: LAD@SF: Bumgarner K's Kemp to avoid early damage

Possible fits: Yankees, Braves, Angels, Astros, Brewers, Nationals

3B Nolan Arenado, Rockies
We'll admit that the Rockies don't seem likely to want to move Arenado, especially since their weak offense was already an issue even with him, and their main goal ought to be a long-term extension to keep him in Denver alongside Charlie Blackmon, Trevor Story, and a good young starting rotation for many years to come. That said, he's entering his final year before free agency, and if they can't reach an agreement, they might not want to simply watch him leave next offseason -- and young Ryan McMahon is ready now.

Possible fits: Phillies, Braves, Indians (if Jose Ramirez plays second), Cardinals, Angels

Video: NL WC: Arenado robs Bryant on remarkable diving stop

1B Paul Goldschmidt, D-Backs
1B Jose Abreu, White Sox
1B Brandon Belt, Giants
1B/RF Jose Martinez, Cardinals
1B Carlos Santana/Justin Bour, Phillies

Let's toss in all of these first basemen together, for one very big reason: the list of free-agent first basemen this offseason is grim. Pearce, Lucas Duda and Matt Adams have their uses, but there might not be a single starting quality first baseman out there. If you want one, you'll need to get one via trade.

In some cases, these are strong hitters in their 30s entering the final years of their contracts (Goldschmidt, Abreu). In others, it's the Phillies desperately needing to move one or both of Santana or Bour to allow Rhys Hoskins to come back to first from the outfield, improving the defense. The Cardinals would do well to find an American League home for the defensively challenged Martinez, while the Giants, if they decide to move Bumgarner, might just want to do it all and trade the constantly underrated Belt too.

Possible fits: Red Sox, Angels, Mariners, Yankees, Twins, Rockies

LF Kyle Schwarber, Cubs
Yes, Schwarber will forever be a legend in Chicago because of what he did in the 2016 World Series, but there was an argument to trade him that offseason, and there remains one today, especially since the firing of hitting coach Chili Davis seems unlikely to be the only change made to what ended up being an unsatisfying offense.

Video: CIN@CHC: Schwarber's homer leads to limbo in 'pen

While Schwarber did improve his defense somewhat, he's turned out to be more of a good player than a great one, with large career platoon splits (.349 OBP/.509 SLG vs righties, just .300 OBP/.308 SLG vs lefties) and probably better suited to some time at DH in the AL -- especially if the Cubs can get pitching in return. He still has three more years left before free agency.

Possible fits: Astros, Rays, Twins, Mariners (if free agent Nelson Cruz departs)

RF Nicholas Castellanos, Tigers
Speaking of corner outfielders who rely far more on slugging value than defense, Castellanos has one more year before free agency, and he just hit .298/.354/.500 with 23 home runs for Detroit. (Along with negative-25 Outs Above Average, the lowest mark in the game.) The rebuilding Tigers are unlikely to contend in his final year, and he would also fit best on an AL team looking to add some slugging and has DH time available. 

Possible fits: Astros, Rays, Twins, Mariners

2B Scooter Gennett, Reds
2B/OF Whit Merrifield, Royals
2B Cesar Hernandez, Phillies

Need a second baseman? There are actually decent options in the free-agent market -- DJ LeMahieu, Jed Lowrie, Brian Dozier or Daniel Murphy -- but teams might also be interested in this younger trio, who are team-controlled for one (Gennett), two (Hernandez), or four (Merrifield) years. 

Video: CLE@KC: Merrifield singles to take MLB lead in hits

If it's power you want, Gennett turned himself from a light-hitting Brewer into a slugging Red, putting up a line of .303/.351/.508 and 50 home runs over the past two years. Merrifield doesn't have that power, but he's stolen 79 bases in 2017-18 and can also play the outfield, to go with his .296/.347/.449 line. Hernandez has spent the past three years as a league-average bat, setting a career-high with 15 homers in 2018, and the Phillies might be motivated to make room to get Scott Kingery back to his natural second-base position.

Possible fits: Dodgers, Indians, Nationals, Red Sox, Twins, Rockies

SP Jon Gray, Rockies
Finally, a change-of-scenery starter. Gray looked like he'd be the next Rockies ace, but he's clearly been surpassed by Kyle Freeland and German Marquez, and he didn't even make Colorado's National League Division Series roster. It's not even about Coors Field in Gray's case, because his career splits are about even. It's that he's been so up and down in his short career that he was even sent to the Minors last summer, yet still had a strikeout rate (24.6 percent) as high as Noah Syndergaard or Clayton Kershaw.

Gray wouldn't come cheaply, because he's still young, talented and would come with three more years of control before free agency. Then again, this could be a good avenue for the Rockies to add the offense or relief pitching they badly need, and a team like the Astros might do wonders to bring out the best in Gray.

Possible fits: Astros, Twins, A's, Brewers, Cubs, Nationals, Mariners

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

Gio bringing positivity to Crew despite injury

Doctors expect southpaw's left ankle sprain to heal in 2-3 weeks
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

MILWAUKEE -- How tough was it on Gio Gonzalez after an ankle injury relegated him to observer status in the National League Championship Series?

"It's not tough anymore. Are you kidding? This is awesome," Gonzalez said after the Brewers forced a Game 7 and a chance to go to the World Series. "That's what I was kicking myself about. I didn't want to be that distraction."

View Full Game Coverage

MILWAUKEE -- How tough was it on Gio Gonzalez after an ankle injury relegated him to observer status in the National League Championship Series?

"It's not tough anymore. Are you kidding? This is awesome," Gonzalez said after the Brewers forced a Game 7 and a chance to go to the World Series. "That's what I was kicking myself about. I didn't want to be that distraction."

View Full Game Coverage

:: NLCS schedule and results ::

Gonzalez required a change of perspective after suffering a left high ankle sprain in the second inning of Game 4 in Los Angeles. He declined to comment after the game, a 13-inning Brewers loss that necessitated a roster move the next day. When the Crew added Zach Davies in Gonzalez's place, it made him ineligible for the rest of the NLCS -- and for the World Series should Milwaukee advance.

Gonzalez didn't find out about the second half of that rule until the next day, adding to his disappointment.

"It's unfortunate what happened, but it's time to move past that stage," Gonzalez said. "It's not about me. There is a bigger picture. We're here."

Team doctors told Gonzalez his injury would require two to three weeks to heal, and while he anticipates a faster injury, an MLB doctor concurred with the diagnosis and approved the Brewers' roster request. Such procedures are in place to prevent teams from manipulating the roster midway through a series; changes are only allowed in the event of legitimate injuries.

For Gonzalez, 33, it meant he had almost certainly thrown his final pitch for the Brewers. Acquired on Aug. 31 in a trade with the Nationals, he will be a free agent after the season, and the Crew's depth of young pitchers makes a reunion unlikely.

Gonzalez joined other injured players like catcher Stephen Vogt as chief cheerleaders.

Video: Fran Charles discusses Zach Davies being added

"I'm here to keep the music going, keep guys upbeat, keep things as normal as possible," Gonzalez said. "If there's a celebration, I'm riding a scooter out there to be part of it."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Milwaukee Brewers, Gio Gonzalez

Rumors: Mesa brothers, Grandal, Miley, Morton

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

As the postseason concludes, Hot Stove season begins. MLB.com is keeping track of all the latest free agent and trade rumors right here.

• Complete list of free agents this offseason 

As the postseason concludes, Hot Stove season begins. MLB.com is keeping track of all the latest free agent and trade rumors right here.

• Complete list of free agents this offseason 

Mesa brothers expected to sign with Marlins
Oct. 20: The Marlins are expected to announce the signings of Cuban outfield prospects Victor Victor Mesa and Victor Mesa Jr. in a news conference Monday in Miami, according to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez.

Victor Victor Mesa, 22, will receive a more than $5 million signing bonus, and his 17-year-old brother will sign for nearly $1 million, per Sanchez.

The Marlins have about $6.6 million of international bonus pool money and have made clear they intend to be aggressive on the international market this winter. Victor Victor Mesa is ranked as the top international prospect on the market, per MLB Pipeline.

Miami has also been linked to Cuban right-hander Sandy Gaston, but it's unclear if it will be able to sign all three players. More >

Instagram from @victorvictormesa: 5 de octubre 2018Representando 🇨 #victorvictormesa

Will Grandal's struggles boost market for Ramos?
Oct. 20: There are going to be a slew of teams in the market for a catcher this offseason, possibly including playoff hopefuls like the Dodgers, Rockies, Rays, Brewers, Red Sox, A's, Astros, Braves, Phillies and Nationals.

Even in light of his well-documented struggles this postseason, Dodgers backstop Yasmani Grandal should still be one of the most highly coveted catchers in free agency -- though any loss to Grandal's stock from his October performance figures to benefit Wilson Ramos, the other premier catcher on the market entering 2019.

The 29-year-old Grandal could hardly have drawn up a worse postseason to cap his walk year. After going 1-for-13 with five strikeouts in the NL Division Series against the Braves, Grandal was 2-for-8 with five strikeouts in his two NLCS starts, but more concerningly, he had three passed balls in those two starts and also committed two errors in Game 1, when he became the first catcher in postseason history with multiple errors and multiple passed balls in a game.

Video: NLCS Gm 3: Grandal discusses defensive performance

For the second straight postseason, Grandal finds himself losing significant playing time to Austin Barnes, who started Games 4, 5 and 6 behind the plate. Last season, Barnes started 13 playoff games, including all seven World Series games, and Grandal started only two. That's concerning in Grandal's last showcase before hitting free agency, but it's worth noting that Grandal is still coming off a regular season in which he posted a career-best full-season OPS+ (121), with his 24 homers and .241/.349/.466 slash line all near his career highs.

Ramos, a year older than Grandal, was sidelined for part of the 2018 season with a hamstring injury and missed his first career All-Star Game start as a result, but posted a .337/.396/.483 slash line for the Phillies in 33 games following his return from injury, capping a season with a career-best 130 OPS+.

The other factor that might slightly increase Ramos' appeal is that due to his midseason trade from the Rays, he's not eligible for a qualifying offer from the Phillies before he hits free agency, whereas Grandal is a solid candidate for a qualifying offer (reportedly valued at $17.9 million for 2019) from the Dodgers. If Grandal were to reject a qualifying offer, the team signing him would forfeit one or more Draft picks, while a Ramos signing would not be subject to such a penalty.

Machado's controversial week not expected to impact value to free agent suitors
Oct. 20: Milwaukee fans at Miller Park weren't all too happy to see impending free agent Manny Machado in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series after his controversial week, and they made their displeasure known with a hearty round of boos as Machado stepped to the plate, which turned to cheers when Wade Miley struck Machado out swinging. Machado was seen gesturing to the crowd as if to egg them on as he walked into the dugout following the strikeout.

After hitting a solo homer and two-run single in Game 1 and following that up with a 2-for-3 showing in Game 3, Machado cooled down over the course of the week, going 1-for-12 with two walks (one intentional) in Games 4, 5 and 6.

That week, of course, also included the incident in which Machado clipped Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar's foot while running through first base, prompting Christian Yelich to call Machado a "dirty player," and his interview with MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in which Machado called hustling not his "cup of tea."

But through all of the controversy, Machado is still one of the most tantalizing talents in baseball entering free agency at the young age of 26, and as MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi points out, Machado's 175 homers through his age-25 season ranked fifth all-time among infielders, behind only Alex Rodriguez, Eddie Mathews, Jimmie Foxx and Orlando Cepeda.

Video: NLCS Gm6: Machado on Game 6 loss, handling the boos

Those accomplishments, as well as Machado's bounceback defense with the Dodgers, his positional flexibility and his contact rate, make it difficult for the controversy to move the needle on his free agency significantly -- a high-ranking club executive told Morosi that the impact to Machado should be "minimal," with agreement from others around baseball.

The market as a whole -- not individual front offices -- will ultimately dictate Machado's overall value come free agency, meaning that as long as interest from other clubs holds steady, his ultimate contract shouldn't be too highly affected by all the recent news.

As MLB Network insider Jon Heyman noted in an article for Fancred Sports, the Yankees should be firmly in play for Machado, especially with Didi Gregorius' recent Tommy John surgery. New York has tried to land Machado before, and Machado's interest in joining the Yankees was documented back in August, when Heyman reported that people close to the slugger were suggesting that the club was his first choice in free agency.

Heyman also said in an appearance on "The Rundown" on Thursday that the Phillies are prepared to pursue Machado and fellow uber-free agent Bryce Harper, and many expect them to come away with at least one.

"People around baseball are going to be surprised if [the Phillies] don't get at least one of these two players, and maybe both," Heyman said.

Miley continues surprising 2018 with solid Game 6 start
Oct. 20: Wade Miley might not be one of the premier names on the free agent market this offseason, but he's made a big splash this postseason due to both his solid work on the mound and his unorthodox usage in manager Craig Counsell's unique pitching plan. Couple that with his strong regular season, and he could be a solid option in free agency for teams looking for rotation depth and a veteran presence.

The left-hander hadn't allowed a run in three postseason "starts" prior to his NLCS Game 6 start on Friday, when he went 4 1/3 innings and allowed two runs -- a leadoff homer and RBI double by David Freese -- while striking out four and walking two.

Video: NLCS Game 6: Wade Miley discusses forcing a Game 7

Earlier in October, he pitched 4 2/3 shutout innings at Coors Field to clinch the NLDS for the Brewers and followed that up with 5 2/3 shutout innings of two-hit ball in NLCS Game 2 at Miller Park. Though he faced a first-and-second, two-out jam in the second inning, he induced a foul pop from Freese before retiring the next seven batters in order.

The Brewers might not have been in the postseason at all had it not been for Miley, who helped stabilize the flux in Milwaukee's starting rotation by going 5-2 with a 2.57 ERA in 16 starts, mostly from July on, after he was signed to a Minor League contract in the offseason. Gio Gonzalez will also hit free agency for the Brewers whenever their 2018 season comes to an end.

Morton, Keuchel among Astros' key free agents
Oct. 19: After their hopes of back-to-back World Series titles were dashed by the Red Sox in the ALCS, the Astros now turn their attention to an offseason in which they have a number of key free-agent decisions to make.

The rotation could have a different look next season, with Charlie Morton and Dallas Keuchel entering free agency. Morton has pondered retirement, but he indicated that he'd like to continue his career after Thursday's season-ending loss.

"I'd love to keep playing, I'd love to be an Astro," Morton said, per Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle. "I'd love to be part of this again. Ultimately, it's not really up to me. It's not solely up to me."

Tweet from @Chandler_Rome: Charlie Morton, who is 34 and a pending free agent: ���I���d love to keep playing, I���d love to be an Astro. I���d love to be part of this again. Ultimately, it���s not really up to me. It���s not solely up to me.���

If Morton decides he wants to come back for one more season, he might be open to accepting a one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer to finish his career with Houston. Keuchel, though, is expected to seek a multi-year deal.

Houston does have several internal options who could step into the rotation if needed, including Brad Peacock, Collin McHugh, Josh James and top prospect Forrest Whitley.

On the other side of the ball, the Astros' don't have to worry about losing anyone from their core of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman and George Springer, but utility man Marwin Gonzalez is set for free agency. Houston could look to bring Gonzalez back, as his ability to play all over the diamond while providing above-average offensive production (112 wRC+ from 2014-18) makes him an important part of the roster.

The Astros are also expected to have some turnover at the catching position, with Martin Maldonado headed for free agency and Brian McCann's $15 million club option unlikely to be picked up. Evan Gattis will be a free agent as well, though he made just two appearances behind the plate in 2018. The Astros will probably let Gattis walk, opening up more at-bats for Tyler White at designated hitter in 2019.

To address their need at catcher, Houston could pursue Yasmani Grandal or Wilson Ramos in free agency, or explore a trade for the Marlins' J.T. Realmuto.

What will Indians' outfield look like in 2019?
Oct. 19: With Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall set to hit the open market, the Indians have question marks at all three starting outfield spots for next season. As a result, Brantley is a logical candidate to receive the $17.9 million qualifying offer, in the opinion of MLB.com's Jordan Bastian.

After getting just 101 games and 1.4 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), per FanGraphs, from Brantley over 2016-17, the Indians nonetheless exercised his $12 million option for '18. The move worked out, as Brantley made the All-Star team and produced 3.5 WAR. Brantley also recorded 10.0 WAR from '14-15, so his '18 production wasn't out of the blue.

Moreover, Bastian thinks the Indians could pursue free agent Andrew McCutchen if Brandon Guyer's $3 million option isn't picked up. Guyer's primary role was to platoon against southpaws, and he posted a 120 wRC+ in those situations this past season, compared to a 34 mark vs. righties. McCutchen performed well vs. lefties (128 wRC+) and righties (118 wRC+) in '18, so he wouldn't need to be held to a strict platoon role. More >

Trading Myers a potential option for Padres this offseason
Oct. 19: With first baseman Eric Hosmer signed to a long-term deal and Franmil Reyes and Hunter Renfroe staking claim to the corner-outfield spots, the Padres don't have an obvious position for Wil Myers in 2019.

San Diego has an opening at third base, but Myers struggled defensively in limited action at the position this past season. Although Myers could improve as he gains more experience at the hot corner, he likely brings the most value to the club as a left fielder.

As a result, MLB.com's AJ Cassavell expects general manager A.J. Preller to explore a trade this offseason that would clear some of the outfield logjam.

Dealing Myers makes the most sense for the small-market Padres, but his contract -- Myers is owed $74 million from 2019-22, with most of that coming in the latter three years -- could be a deterrent. San Diego would also be selling low, as Myers played just 83 games this past season. Thus, Preller might have to trade Reyes or Renfroe instead to fix the situation.

"We'll get into the offseason and talk about what's the best configuration for our club," Preller said. "We have some depth at different positions that I'm sure will be discussed with other teams as well. ... [We'll] figure out what's the best mix." More >

Could Rockies look to trade Gray?
Oct. 19: The Rockies' rotation was surprisingly a strength of the team in 2018, with Kyle Freeland and German Marquez enjoying breakout seasons, but Opening Day starter Jon Gray was a disappointment.

Although he fanned 183 batters, Gray allowed more earned runs than anyone in the National League (98), posting a 5.12 ERA over 172 1/3 innings. His FIP was much lower at 4.08, mirroring a career trend (lifetime 3.68 FIP, 4.65 ERA).

The right-hander has shown flashes of ace potential in four big league campaigns, but he hasn't put it all together yet, and his future role is a major question mark for Colorado.

According to Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post, the Rockies didn't act on the inquiries they received about Gray before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. But with Gray's tantalizing stuff and three remaining years of team control, the trade requests aren't likely to go away this offseason. And after Gray was left off the NLDS roster, Colorado might be more open to dealing him this time around.

Braves could be active on trade market, may take cautious approach to free agency
Oct. 19: While the Braves may have at least $60 million to address their multiple needs, which include a catcher, a corner outfielder, bullpen depth and a frontline starter, they may take a cautious approach to the free-agent market to avoid deals that hinder them down the road.

"We're not going to just walk in the store and buy because we have money in our pockets," general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "If we don't find the right deal with something we like, there's still other opportunities to shop. There could be opportunities next season. If you start signing guys to big, long deals, if you feel good about the deal, you do it now. I wouldn't force a deal right now that would limit you in years from now."

Atlanta, though, could be active on the trade market, as the club has significant prospect depth from which to deal. Exploring a trade for Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto could be a top priority.

Of course, that doesn't mean the Braves should be completely ruled out as potential suitors for some of the top free agents on the market. While they are unlikely to make offers to Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, they could target left-hander Patrick Corbin, or potentially seek a reunion with closer Craig Kimbrel. Both hurlers would fill needs for the club.

Atlanta also hasn't ruled out re-signing right fielder Nick Markakis or catcher Kurt Suzuki, though they would prefer to add a surefire starting catcher so Tyler Flowers can move to a backup role.

"I don't think with our club, with what we have, that the value is going to be there in the free-agent market," Anthopoulos said. "It doesn't mean it won't. We'll certainly explore it. But if I could sit here in the middle of October, I'd say it's more likely we go the trade route. It's not ideal to give up young assets, but it's also not ideal to do a deal you don't believe in -- that may look good for a year or two, and then in years three, four and five, it does not." More >

Cardinals eyeing left-handed relievers
Oct. 19: The bullpen was a weak spot for the Cardinals in 2018, even with the emergence of flamethrowing Jordan Hicks and a strong campaign from Bud Norris, who was signed to a Minor League contract before the season. The left side was particularly troublesome, and as a result, St. Louis is expected to make improving that area a priority this offseason.

The free-agent market will have several options who fit that bill, including Andrew Miller, Zach Britton, Tony Sipp and Justin Wilson.

In recent years, the Cardinals haven't done well when giving Major League deals to free-agent relievers. In fact, St. Louis committed a total of $68.25 million combined to Jonathan Broxton, Greg Holland, Luke Gregerson, Brett Cecil and Seunghwan Oh for a cumulative WAR of 0.3.

But president of baseball operations John Mozeliak indicated that the club's lack of past success in that area won't be a deterrent in the coming months.

"We did choose to [be aggressive in that market] a few years back, and it has not been a home run. We get it," Mozeliak said. "That's not going to create some paralysis for us now. We understand the volatility of it. And trying to get it right is what we're going to continue to do." More >

Kimbrel delivers first scoreless appearance of 2018 postseason in ALCS Game 5
Oct. 19: The Red Sox beat the Astros, 4-1, in ALCS Game 5 on Thursday to win the American League pennant and advance to the World Series, with closer Craig Kimbrel throwing a scoreless ninth inning to earn the save.

Video: ALCS Gm5: Red Sox win the American League pennant

It was Kimbrel's first scoreless appearance of the entire postseason. Although he is 5-for-5 in save chances, the right-hander has allowed five runs over 6 ⅓ innings while yielding six hits, six walks and two hit batsmen in this year's playoffs. With Kimbrel struggling on a big stage, it's fair to wonder how much he has hurt his stock with free agency upcoming after the season.

Kimbrel has long been one of the most dominant closers in baseball, and he had another strong campaign in the 2018 regular season. However, he also showed some signs of regression, posting a career-high 3.13 FIP with a 3.1 K/BB ratio (1.42 FIP, 9.0 K/BB ratio in '17).

Recent history may also give teams pause when it comes to the size of Kimbrel's next contract, as the lucrative deals given to big-name closers such as Kenley Jansen, Aroldis Chapman, Wade Davis and Mark Melancon in the past few offseasons haven't gone as well as the signing clubs likely hoped they would.

Still, most teams will likely view Kimbrel as the best available option among the free agents with closing experience, and given the ever-growing importance of relievers in today's game, there shouldn't be a shortage of clubs interested in his services -- especially if he can rebound in the Fall Classic.

Will Realmuto be with Marlins in 2019?
Oct. 18: J.T. Realmuto's future with the Marlins has been a persistent storyline since the club began its rebuild by dealing Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon last offseason, and that's unlikely to change during the coming months.

Realmuto, who will be 28 years old on Opening Day in 2019, has two more years of arbitration eligibility remaining, and as MLB.com's Joe Frisaro notes, the Marlins will likely need to present him with a path to contention within that timeframe to convince him to sign a long-term deal.

According to Frisaro, the Marlins will try to do that this winter but are also expected to explore trade scenarios for the backstop to keep their options open.

Realmuto made the All-Star team for the first time in 2018, hitting .277 with a personal-best 21 homers, 74 RBIs and .825 OPS. He also posted a 38 percent caught-stealing rate -- 10 percentage points above the MLB average -- and allowed just eight passed balls in 951 innings behind the plate.

The Nationals, Astros, Phillies, Red Sox, A's and Rockies are among the contenders that could be in the market for a catcher, though the Marlins' asking price will likely remain lofty. More >