Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Here are 7 under-the-radar free agents

MLB.com @RichardJustice

We're approaching one of the most interesting parts of any free-agent season. This is when teams are rewarded for their smarts rather than their resources, for having personnel people who recognize players with a certain skillset that can be utilized and polished.

Some of the best free-agent deals are the ones that get almost no attention at the time. The Brewers signed lefty Wade Miley to a Minor League contract last offseason, and he helped get them to within a game of the World Series.

We're approaching one of the most interesting parts of any free-agent season. This is when teams are rewarded for their smarts rather than their resources, for having personnel people who recognize players with a certain skillset that can be utilized and polished.

Some of the best free-agent deals are the ones that get almost no attention at the time. The Brewers signed lefty Wade Miley to a Minor League contract last offseason, and he helped get them to within a game of the World Series.

Dodgers infielder Max Muncy is another example; likewise, Red Sox reliever Ryan Brasier. So while we're largely focused on the big names, there's loads of other talent at much lower prices.

Yes, there's some risk in signing a player that's less of a sure thing. But the investment is far less. Let's take a look at seven under-the-radar free agents:

(Note: Miley did not make this list. He's no secret.)

1. Jed Lowrie, 2B
This guy isn't a secret, either, and he probably will see his value develop as a crowded second-base market thins out. He's 34 years old and coming off a season in which he had an .801 OPS and 4.9 fWAR. He was well above league average in hard-hit rate (40.1 percent) and wRC+ (122). He's a solid defensive player as well.

Video: Beane hopes A's are able to re-sign Jed Lowrie

2. Anibal Sanchez, RHP
He jump-started his tenure with the Braves in 2018 by harnessing a cutter he threw almost a quarter of the time. He's a consummate pro with a relentless work ethic who spent three seasons trying to find the magic of '13, when he led the AL with a 2.57 ERA. Because he's 34 years old, he may not command more than a one- or two-year contract.

Video: Anibal Sanchez becomes a free agent in 2019

3. Evan Gattis, DH
Gattis' 139 home runs the last six seasons are tied with Chris Carter for 31st in the Majors. His .476 slugging percentage is 37th. Gattis has done all of this while placing 119th in plate appearances. That's because when he's good, he's astonishingly good. During one stretch for the Astros last season, he hit 19 home runs in a 62-game stretch. But there are also some long dry spells in there. Some team is going to find plenty to like, and no one should be surprised if he's a significant contributor.

4. Shawn Kelley, RHP
He had a microscopic 0.780 WHIP in 19 games for the A's after being released by the Nationals, and he has had a sub-3.00 ERA in three of the last four seasons. Two Tommy John surgeries have not limited him to any great degree since he has appeared in 50-plus games in five of the last six seasons.

5. Nick Markakis, OF
The veteran had one of his best seasons at 34 in 2018, with 43 doubles and an .806 OPS. He played in his first All-Star Game and helped the Braves win the NL East for the first time in five years. His market may not gain traction until Bryce Harper and perhaps A.J. Pollock are signed.

6. Tony Sipp, LHP
He had a huge bounce-back season for the Astros, appearing in 54 games with a 1.034 WHIP and 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings. Left-handed hitters batted .191, righties .209. Because Sipp's previous two seasons weren't nearly as good, there's a question of where his deal will end up in terms of both dollars and years. But he's capable of contributing to a winning team.

Video: Sipp talks positive 2018 season with Astros

7. Clay Buchholz, RHP
The 34-year-old showed again last season that when he's healthy, he's a top-of-the-rotation pitcher: 16 starts, 2.01 ERA for the D-backs. But his season ended on Sept. 13 with an arm injury. He's the type of pitcher the A's have gotten a great return on in recent years.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.

Clay Buchholz, Evan Gattis, Shawn Kelley, Jed Lowrie, Nick Markakis, Anibal Sanchez, Tony Sipp

Source: Braves no longer pursuing Realmuto trade

Braves, Marlins have not discussed catcher since Tuesday
MLB.com @mlbbowman

MIAMI -- While Atlanta has continued to be linked to J.T. Realmuto rumors, a source said Saturday night the Braves exited the Winter Meetings with the understanding there will not be any further reason for them to discuss trading for the Marlins' All-Star catcher.

Though the Braves signed Brian McCann in November, they continued to monitor Realmuto's market just to get a sense of what it might eventually take to land the coveted catcher. But the source indicated the Braves and Marlins have not had any discussions since Tuesday, which was the second day of the Winter Meetings.

MIAMI -- While Atlanta has continued to be linked to J.T. Realmuto rumors, a source said Saturday night the Braves exited the Winter Meetings with the understanding there will not be any further reason for them to discuss trading for the Marlins' All-Star catcher.

Though the Braves signed Brian McCann in November, they continued to monitor Realmuto's market just to get a sense of what it might eventually take to land the coveted catcher. But the source indicated the Braves and Marlins have not had any discussions since Tuesday, which was the second day of the Winter Meetings.

Hot Stove Tracker

Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos voluntarily chose to attend Liberty Media budget meetings in Denver on Wednesday. The meetings had been scheduled for more than a month and Anthopoulos went to the Winter Meetings with the assumption he would make an early exit from the four-day event. But he would have likely stayed in Las Vegas had he been involved in serious negotiations regarding Realmuto or any other potential target.

The Braves pursued Realmuto last offseason, before this year's Trade Deadline and at the beginning of this offseason. But once the Marlins asked for Ozzie Albies and made it clear they would need at least one high-value MLB-experienced asset in return, the Braves moved forward by signing McCann to a one-year, $2 million deal.

Because of the small financial commitment attached to McCann's deal, the Braves have some wiggle room to alter their current plan to open the season with Tyler Flowers and McCann serving as their catching duo.

With the division rival Mets standing as one of the teams making a strong push for Realmuto, it made sense for the Braves to at least continue to monitor whether they could eventually strike a deal with a package that included some of the top prospects from their talent-filled farm system.

The Braves have the capability of providing a rich, prospect-laden offer. But for now, it appears they have turned their attention away from Realmuto.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, J.T. Realmuto

Would Harper take less money to sign with Yanks?

MLB.com

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

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

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

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

Would Harper take less money to play for the Yankees?
Dec. 15: Bryce Harper grew up idolizing Mickey Mantle, and in fact has said he wears No. 34 because the digits add up to Mantle's No. 7. Now that he's one of the top two free agents on the market, expected to command a long-term deal in the neighborhood of $300 million to $400 million, would he take less over a shorter period of time to join the Yankees?

MLB Network Radio's Jeff Joyce and Jim Memolo discussed the notion Saturday, with Joyce suggesting Harper could sign a short deal and then "prove himself" in New York before inking a longer-term deal to stay in the Bronx. 

Though he's coming off a down year at the plate by his lofty standards, Harper still drew an MLB-high 130 walks and launched 34 home runs. He's a six-time All-Star, the 2012 National League Rookie of the Year and '15 Most Valuable Player. And he's only 26 years old.

"How bad does he really want to be a Yankee?" Joyce asked. "Does that overweigh getting the biggest contract of all-time? Does he go to his agent and say, 'Just get me there. Just get me to the Yankees. Doesn't have to be $300 million. I'll take a shorter deal ... If he really wants to be a Yankee that bad, can't you see them trying to find a way to get that done?"

Tweet from @MLBNetworkRadio: Will Bryce Harper join the Imperial March? @JeffJoyce19 and @jimmemolo lay out the path. #Yankees pic.twitter.com/oFJvAZZ927

White Sox reportedly have spending limits for Harper, Machado
Dec. 15: The White Sox like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado and are hoping to make one of them the centerpiece of their roster as they emerge from a rebuilding period, but it remains to be seen if the club will actually be among the top bidders for the two superstars.

A source tells ESPN's Buster Olney that Chicago is unwilling to make a record-setting offer to either player.

"The interest of the White Sox is more measured and modest than frenzied, and within more conventional financial bounds," Olney wrote Saturday for ESPN+ (subscription required).

That might not be enough for either player to choose the White Sox, especially with the team unlikely to be a serious contender in 2019 -- even with a big free-agent splash.

As MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal wrote for The Athletic (subscription required) last week, "the prevailing assumption in the industry is that [agent] Scott Boras wants to set new benchmarks with Harper's free-agent deal, whether in total guaranteed salary, average annual value or -- preferably -- both." One would assume Machado's agent, Dan Lozano, wants to do the same, or at least come close.

Rosenthal also recently broke down why signing Harper or Machado would be out of character for White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who has never given out a bigger contract than the six-year, $68 million deal Jose Abreu signed in October 2013.

The 'Updated Harper Destination Power Rankings'
Dec. 13: If you were hoping there'd be some resolution to the Bryce Harper sweepstakes by the end of the Winter Meetings -- you know, since they were held in his hometown of Las Vegas this year -- well, sorry to disappoint.

While the superstar outfielder isn't going to be signing before all the managers and front-office executives depart, that doesn't mean no headway was made on the Harper front. Plus, the baseball world still will be plenty focused on Harper -- as well as his chief competitor for a record-setting contract, Manny Machado -- as we hurtle toward the holiday season.

That in mind, here are the latest "Harper Destination Power Rankings," courtesy of MLB.com's Will Leitch.

The Phillies remain atop the list because they "seem absolutely committed to get one of the two superstars on the market," Leitch writes.

The next two teams? That would be the Dodgers and Yankees, neither of whom has much space in their loaded outfields -- at least, not at the moment. But given the resources, spending power and World-Series-title-or-bust goal, both franchises simply cannot be ruled out.

If there's one dark horse in the chase for Harper, it's the White Sox, who Leitch ranks fourth, stating they "might be the most perfect fit in all of baseball for Harper. Their cascades of young talent will be reaching the Majors in the next few years, right as Harper is in his prime. He'll be surrounded by hyper-talented, cost-controlled stars for the next five or six years, in a division that the White Sox could rule well into the next decade."

So ... what's it gonna be, Bryce?

Who is the front-runner for Harper?
Dec. 12: The Phillies? The Yankees? The Nationals? The Cubs? The Dodgers? All of those teams -- and a few more -- have been linked to Bryce Harper so far this offseason. But which club appears to be in the lead to land the superstar slugger in free agency?

"The front-runner right now, believe it or not, is the Chicago White Sox," CBS Sports Network analyst and former MLB general manager Jim Bowden said Wednesday. "They're the team with the checkbook open. They're being very aggressive."

Tweet from @CBSSportsNet: ���The front runner right now, believe it or not, is the Chicago White Sox.���@JimBowdenGM tells @AdamSchein that it���s the White Sox who are in the lead for Bryce Harper's services. #T2S pic.twitter.com/XoXndaF0F2

With the Winter Meetings being held in Harper's hometown of Las Vegas, the White Sox met with Harper at some point, according to Bowden, who reported that the club stressed the strength of its promising farm system. Outfielder Eloy Jimenez, right-handers Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease and Dane Dunning, as well as infielder Nick Madrigal -- the club's top pick in the 2018 Draft -- are among the big-name, high-upside prospects who have reached the Major Leagues or should arrive soon.

Will the White Sox pull off a surprise splurge on Harper with a record-setting contract to push the franchise from rebuilding mode toward contention mode in an AL Central division that could be up for grabs as soon as 2020?

Video: Scott Boras discusses the market for Bryce Harper

Boras not ruling out Yankees, Nats as suitors for Harper
Dec. 12: Yankees general manager Brian Cashman all but ruled out the club as a suitor for free agent Bryce Harper earlier this week, saying that there's "no spot" for the 26-year-old in New York's crowded outfield and that using him at first base "isn't an option," according to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.

And yet, Harper's agent, Scott Boras, isn't ready to say the club is out of the running.

"I've never heard the Yankees say that," Boras said at the Winter Meetings on Wednesday when asked about the team being out on Harper. "It might be that they say things to [the media]. I don't know. I wasn't there.

"As far as the Yankees … you're talking about star players. I go back to Mark Teixeira. The Yankees are very adept; they're smart. If they're going to do something, I think they can earnestly tell you that right now they're not doing it, and have every intention of doing something else when it's best for them to do it. When the nurse walks into the room with the thermometer, the issue is not what the thermometer says that day; the issue is, what's the health of the patient when they're ready to leave the hospital? They're not ready to leave the hospital yet."

Whether it's a smokescreen or not, it benefits Boras for other teams to think the deep-pocketed Yankees are interested in Harper. It's also possible that Cashman's comments were the true smokescreen, as Boras suggested.

The Yankees seem to have a deep outfield, but Jacoby Ellsbury and Clint Frazier played a combined 15 games for the club in 2018 due to injuries, while Brett Gardner experienced a steep decline at the plate (86 OPS+). Aaron Hicks has been productive for New York over the past two years, but he has never played more than 137 games in a season and can become a free agent in a year. And with Giancarlo Stanton's injury history, it would be risky for New York to play him in the field every day. That leaves Aaron Judge as the only "sure thing" among the team's outfielders.

Boras also addressed the Nationals, whose principal owner, Mark Lerner, recently acknowledged that he doesn't expect Harper to be back, only for the club's general manager, Mike Rizzo, to say Washington hasn't "closed the door" on a reunion.

"I've talked to Nationals ownership a great deal," Boras said, per MLB.com's Jordan Bastian. "I have a very clear understanding, as does Bryce, of their position. We've always had a great relationship and we'll continue to have a great relationship. I think when they say the door is open, I would certainly pay attention to what they're saying."

Phils get McCutchen -- but they're not out on Harper
Dec. 11: The Phillies' first key free-agent acquisition of the Winter Meetings wasn't for Harper. It was for another outfielder -- Andrew McCutchen -- whom they landed Tuesday on a three-year deal. But Philadelphia wants to be a major player in free agency this offseason, so adding McCutchen doesn't take the club out of the running for Harper.

Per MLB.com's Todd Zolecki, the Phillies are still involved in both the Harper and Manny Machado sweepstakes.

Tweet from @ToddZolecki: Told the McCutchen deal does not remove the #Phillies from Manny Machado and Bryce Harper sweepstakes. Phils might not feel as pressured to spend stupid money to get them, however. Remains to be seen.

That echoes an earlier report from MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal that McCutchen's signing wouldn't preclude Philadelphia from adding another outfielder. That outfielder could be Harper; it could be someone else (say, Michael Brantley).

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: Both @MattGelb and I are hearing same from multiple sources. Told addition of McCutchen would NOT preclude #Phillies from signing another outfielder, whether it���s Harper or someone else. https://t.co/ToylyfCwL7

If it seems like going after Harper on top of McCutchen might make the Phillies outfield too crowded, don't worry. Rosenthal also suggests that getting McCutchen could lead Philadelphia to move one of its younger outfielders in a trade.

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: Agreement with McCutchen opens up #Phillies to possibility of trading a younger OFer. Sixto Sanchez, the #Phils��� top pitching prospect, also has been involved in numerous trade discussions, sources say.

On the other hand, signing McCutchen could also be a sign that the Phillies are focusing more on Machado over Harper, as far as marquee free-agent targets. NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury noted that possibility.

What would it take for Harper to land in LA?
Dec. 11: As agent Scott Boras continues to sell Bryce Harper as a player who can make a LeBron James-like impact, both on and off the field, could the 26-year-old outfielder follow in the NBA superstar's footsteps and head to Los Angeles?

It's certainly not out of the question, though it remains unclear if the Dodgers plan to make an aggressive play for the free agent. The contract that Harper is expected to command would be out of character for the Andrew Friedman-led Dodgers front office, which hasn't handed out more than $93 million to any one player despite consistently maintaining a high payroll.

As MLB Network insider Joel Sherman noted in a column for the New York Post on Tuesday, Los Angeles is hesitant to tie up a large portion of its future payroll, which could reduce its flexibility as the retooling Giants and D-backs become serious contenders in the National League West again within the next few years.

But Sherman still envisions a scenario in which Harper lands with the Dodgers.

"Again, it takes dominoes falling," Sherman writes. "Manny Machado would sign with the Phillies; the Nationals, Cardinals and Yankees really would continue to have no interest in Harper; and the only substantial long-term offers would come from someplace like the White Sox. In that scenario, could Harper instead pivot to accept a four-year deal from the Dodgers for a record annual amount and, say, an opt-out after two years to get back into free agency either after his age-27 or -29 season?"

It may also take a trade or two to clear room for Harper in Los Angeles, as the Dodgers have a deep outfield. ESPN's Buster Olney reports that the club has talked to other teams about moving two players from the group of Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson and Cody Bellinger, though there has been no indication that those discussions are connected to Harper.

Tweet from @Buster_ESPN: Dodgers have talked to other teams about moving two outfielders among the group of Kemp, Puig, Pederson, Bellinger, and as they look to re-shape payroll, they are also are prepared to move starting pitchers Rich Hill and Alex Wood.

Can White Sox capitalize on opportunity to land Harper?
Dec. 11: The possibility of the White Sox winning the Bryce Harper sweepstakes "seemingly is growing more realistic," according to Ken Rosenthal's latest column for The Athletic on Tuesday (subscription required). But the question remains, would owner Jerry Reinsdorf be willing to break the bank?

As the Winter Meetings enter their second day, Rosenthal lays out the factors the White Sox have going for and against them. In their favor: other suitors dropping out on Harper, and financial flexibility. Not so much in their favor: the size and type of the deal Harper wants.

Two teams that could have been major players for Harper, the Yankees and Nationals, appear to have dropped out of the running, based on comments from Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and Nats owner Mark Lerner in the last few days. And sources have told Rosenthal that another pair of teams that looked like potential landing spots, the Cubs and Cardinals, are also not engaged in pursuit of the superstar outfielder. Teams like the Dodgers and Phillies will likely go after Harper, per Rosenthal, as well as others, but the White Sox look like they might see less competition than they could have.

Rosenthal also notes that no other team has a more favorable payroll situation to making room for Harper. The White Sox have just over $50 million committed for 2019… and just over $5 million committed for 2020. In 2021 and '22, they have just one player under contract, shortstop Tim Anderson.

So they're in prime position to make a marquee signing, especially in a wide-open American League Central. But to actually get Harper, they'd need to hand out a deal the likes of which the franchise never has before.

The White Sox's largest contract ever awarded is Jose Abreu's six-year, $68 million deal signed in 2013. Reinsdorf does not typically give free agents big contracts, and on top of that a source told Rosenthal that Reinsdorf has privately expressed doubt that his club will win the bidding war for Harper. Plus, Harper also likely wants a deal with multiple opt-outs, which would mean the White Sox risking him leaving just as they were poised to contend.

But Chicago's owner has surprised before -- Rosenthal cites his "stunning" signing of Albert Belle to a five-year, $55 million deal in November 1996 -- and now would be the perfect time to do it again.

Does Harper fit with Yankees?
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.

Tweet from @Feinsand: Asked about Bryce Harper, Brian Cashman rattled off the names of his six outfielders and said there���s no spot. Reiterated that playing Harper at first base isn���t an option for the Yankees.

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.

Tweet from @BryanHoch: Cashman said that at no point this winter did he talk about getting an outfielder. ���The Harper stuff, I���m surprised you���re still asking.���

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."

Tweet from @MLBNetworkRadio: Mike Rizzo: "We haven't closed the door on Bryce Harper."Plot: [Thickens]#Nationals GM at the #WinterMeetings: pic.twitter.com/I5Aq4SzQiP

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.

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.

Crowded Yankees outfield may be obstacle to Harper signing
Dec. 9: The Yankees are among the rumored destinations for Bryce Harper, and while they plan to meet with the free-agent star, there may be some obstacles to any potential signing.

New York is reportedly questioning if there's a place for Harper due to their surplus of outfielders -- including Giancarlo Stanton, who's due to earn $25 million-$32 million per year through 2027 -- per MLB Network insider Jon Heyman. The Yankees are also in the mix for shortstop Manny Machado, who seems to be a more natural fit given Didi Gregorius will miss much of the 2019 season recovering from Tommy John surgery.

The club is said to be prioritizing acquiring another starting pitcher, even after the James Paxton trade, and the price to acquire Harper may prove too high, as Heyman also said New York is unwilling to offer Machado the $300 million contract both he and Harper are rumored to be seeking or perhaps exceed. Harper already turned down a reported 10-year, $300 million offer to remain in Washington, D.C.

Still, the Yankees are among the few teams with the financial means to sign a marquee free agent like Harper. And with Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner publicly acknowledging he doesn't expect Harper to return to the club, the pool of teams that would conceivably add a free-agent contract the size of Harper's to their payroll has shrunk by one.

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 revealing 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.

White Sox selling Harper and Machado on a bright future
Dec. 8: The White Sox are willing to break the bank to land Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, but it may take more than cash to get one of those players to sign on the dotted line. Chicago also offers one of the biggest media markets in sports, but even that might not be enough.

As a 10-season postseason drought hangs over the franchise, the White Sox will need to sell Harper and Machado on the idea that World Series championship contention is right around the corner as their talent-rich farm system -- led by top prospect Eloy Jimenez (No. 3 overall, per MLB Pipeline) -- continues to bear fruit.

Granted, adding Harper or Machado might not make the White Sox instant contenders, even in the underwhelming American League Central.

The club has major needs on the pitching staff, especially with No. 2 prospect Michael Kopech (No. 19 overall) set to miss all of 2019 following Tommy John surgery, and it's unclear when No. 3 prospect Dylan Cease (No. 25 overall) and No. 6 prospect Dane Dunning (No. 59 overall) will be ready to contribute to the Major League rotation.

But general manager Rick Hahn thinks other players are clued-in enough to understand what the White Sox are building toward.

"You have to understand these guys are professionals, and they understand deep nuances about each individual franchise," Hahn said, according to MLB.com's Scott Merkin. "From a macro standpoint, the idea of potentially being part of a winner in Chicago has very broad appeal.

"From a nuanced standpoint, the chance to be part of the White Sox organization based upon what our future looks like, futures that these players are familiar with and understand having either seen personally some of these young players play or video or talked to other players about them, it's something that they buy into."

While Chicago is likely planning for Jimenez to take over in left field at some point next season, Harper would fit perfectly into the right-field vacancy created when the club non-tendered Avisail Garcia, and the 26-year-old would also give the White Sox a strong left-right tandem of Harper and Jose Abreu in the middle of the order.

Do Phillies prefer Harper or Machado?
Dec. 7: Bryce Harper or Manny Machado? Manny Machado or Bryce Harper? The Phillies, with all the money they have to spend this offseason, are in on one or the other -- maybe even both. While they recently traded for infielder Jean Segura from the Mariners, they even more recently missed out on splurging on lefty Patrick Corbin, so the possibility that they could land Harper and/or Machado likely only increased.

But if forced to choose between the two superstars of this free-agent market, does the club have a preference? MLB.com's Todd Zolecki weighs exactly that question. His answer?

"There are indications Philadelphia prefers [Machado] over Harper. Now, Machado is not an iconic player like Harper. He is not as accomplished a hitter as Harper. But he is one of the game's greatest talents and he also plays a premium position. It is why Machado has a career 33.8 WAR, while Harper has a career 27.4 WAR, according to Baseball-Reference. If the Phils can convince Machado to play third base -- his best position -- they will have one of the best left sides of the infield in baseball for years. Oh, Machado could come at a lower price than Harper, too."

MLB Network insider Jon Heyman is hearing otherwise, though, writing Thursday for Fancred Sports that Harper "is believed to be their top target." However, a confidant of Harper thinks the outfielder is "lukewarm on Philly, as a city, anyway."

If that's the case, then perhaps Machado is the more likely option, whether the Phillies prefer Harper or not. 

Could Cubs be lurking for Harper?
Dec. 4: Despite their perceived financial limitations and with many other clubs in the market for Harper, it's long seemed destined that the Cubs will make at least some push to acquire the six-time All-Star. 

Harper has been connected to the Cubs for some time. He is close friends with Kris Bryant, has a dog named Wrigley and has made various social media quips in recent years poking at his perceived allure for potentially playing on the North Side.

In an article published on Monday for The Athletic (subscription required), Patrick Mooney outlines the logistics for why Chicago will at least check in on Harper soon, particularly with the Winter Meetings beginning on Sunday in Harper's hometown of Las Vegas. 

"Knowing the personalities involved and how they operate, it wouldn't make sense for [president of baseball operations Theo] Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer to decline the opportunity to get some face time with a superstar player, or for super-agent Scott Boras to exclude a big-market team like the Cubs from the negotiations," Mooney writes. 

Epstein has made bold deals in years past when he's explicitly outlined intentions to avoid such moves. After a last-place finish in 2014, he signed Jon Lester to a six-year, $155 million deal. He also shelled out $184 million to Jason Heyward the following offseason for a nine-year contract, and $126 million over six years to Yu Darvish last year. 

Video: Cubs may need to adjust roster to fit Bryce Harper

But the Cubs' financial framework for 2019 is much different than in years past. Mooney outlines that the Cubs already have committed roughly $160 million to 13 players next year, nearly an additional $40 million in projected arbitration raises, with a $13 million earmark for player benefits and an estimate of $5-10 million in what he describes as the "Trade Deadline fund" that the front office holds in reserve. That all puts the Cubs around $220 million in payroll, per Mooney, which is in line to exceed the Competitive Balance Tax that is set for $206 million for 2019.  

Yet despite all of the signs indicating the Cubs won't be in the market for Harper, the club doesn't seem inclined to stand pat -- especially after losing the division lead that it held nearly all season to the Brewers in Game 163 and the NL Wild Card Game against the Rockies at home.  

"Epstein's aggressive style and competitive nature also won't let him bring back essentially the same group of players and hope for different results," Mooney writes. 

Rumors: Indians less likely to move Kluber, Bauer

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

It's Hot Stove season, and MLB.com is keeping track of all the latest free agent and trade rumors right here.

Free agents, by position
Free agents, by team

It's Hot Stove season, and MLB.com is keeping track of all the latest free agent and trade rumors right here.

Free agents, by position
Free agents, by team

After recent trades, Indians now less likely to move Kluber, Bauer
Dec. 15: The Indians have been expected to trade either Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer at some point this offseason, but the club's recent moves make that less likely.

According to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, Cleveland won't be as motivated by financial concerns after trading Yan Gomes, Edwin Encarnacion and Yonder Alonso. The Tribe trimmed roughly $18 million from its 2019 payroll through those deals.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: After trading Edwin, Yonder and Gomes, word is Indians won���t be as ���motivated��� by financial concerns now. Translation: Kluber and Bauer more likely to stay.

Looking to cut costs, Cleveland entered this offseason with a willingness to listen to offers for many of its top players, including Kluber, Bauer and Carlos Carrasco.

After the Indians signed Carrasco to a three-year contract extension, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported that the club was "increasingly motivated" to move either Kluber or Bauer, and trade talks for Kluber picked up steam during the Winter Meetings, per a report from MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi.

If the Indians don't move Kluber or Bauer in the coming weeks, they have the option of revisiting trade discussions down the road. Kluber has club options for $17.5 million in 2019 and $18 million for 2020, while Bauer is two years away from free agency.

Would Harper take less money to play for the Yankees?
Dec. 15: Bryce Harper grew up idolizing Mickey Mantle, and in fact has said he wears No. 34 because the digits add up to Mantle's No. 7. Now that he's one of the top two free agents on the market, expected to command a long-term deal in the neighborhood of $300 million to $400 million, would he take less over a shorter period of time to join the Yankees?

MLB Network Radio's Jeff Joyce and Jim Memolo discussed the notion Saturday, with Joyce suggesting Harper could sign a short deal and then "prove himself" in New York before inking a longer-term deal to stay in the Bronx. 

Though he's coming off a down year at the plate by his lofty standards, Harper still drew an MLB-high 130 walks and launched 34 home runs. He's a six-time All-Star, the 2012 National League Rookie of the Year and '15 Most Valuable Player. And he's only 26 years old.

"How bad does he really want to be a Yankee?" Joyce asked. "Does that overweigh getting the biggest contract of all-time? Does he go to his agent and say, 'Just get me there. Just get me to the Yankees. Doesn't have to be $300 million. I'll take a shorter deal ... If he really wants to be a Yankee that bad, can't you see them trying to find a way to get that done?"

Tweet from @MLBNetworkRadio: Will Bryce Harper join the Imperial March? @JeffJoyce19 and @jimmemolo lay out the path. #Yankees pic.twitter.com/oFJvAZZ927

Alonso is headed to the White Sox. Is Machado next?
Dec. 15: The White Sox have officially acquired first baseman Yonder Alonso from the Indians in exchange for Minor League outfielder Alex Call.

Alonso, 31, hit .250/.317/.421 with 23 home runs in 145 games for the Tribe last season, on the heels of an All-Star campaign split between the A's and Mariners, in which he slugged .501 with 28 homers in 142 games. He has an $8 million salary for 2019, and a $9 million club option for '20, with a $1 million buyout.

Alonso is also the brother-in-law of free-agent superstar Manny Machado, who is reportedly scheduled to meet with the White Sox in a matter of days. Chicago has been rumored to be interested in adding Machado to a club that will soon see top talent from the farm system coming into the big leagues. Adding his brother-in-law to the roster may enhance the organization's chances at landing one of the premier talents in the game. More >

White Sox not planning to trade Abreu
Dec. 15: The White Sox just acquired a new first baseman, but that doesn't mean they are looking to move their old one.

While the club officially acquired Yonder Alonso from the Indians on Saturday, USA Today's Bob Nightengale reports that the club has "no intention" of dealing Jose Abreu.

Tweet from @BNightengale: Jose Abreu is staying in Chicago. The #Whitesox have no intention trading him

Abreu, 31, can become a free agent a year from now, and the White Sox are likely at least a year away from contending, even if they make a big splash in free agency. Trading Abreu makes sense on paper, but the team seems to value his clubhouse presence perhaps as much as his on-field contributions.

Abreu and Alonso will likely rotate between first base and designated hitter, leaving Daniel Palka with an uncertain role. The 27-year-old flashed strong power as a rookie (27 homers in 449 plate appearances), but he struck out 34.1 percent of the time and logged -11 Defensive Runs Saved. The White Sox may look to limit Palka's playing time in the outfield, whether they acquire Bryce Harper or not. Harper is one of Chicago's top targets, along with Manny Machado.

Keuchel may sign late in offseason
Dec. 15: Patrick Corbin and Nathan Eovaldi are off the market, and Charlie Morton and J.A. Happ have reportedly agreed to deals as well, which means Dallas Keuchel is clearly the biggest name remaining among free-agent starters. But the left-hander may not be finding his next team anytime soon.

According to Dennis Lin of The Athletic, Keuchel isn't expected to sign until late in the offseason. Lin reports that the Padres are interested in the southpaw, but his asking price is prohibitive for San Diego. The same likely goes for many other teams.

Tweet from @dennistlin: The Padres have interest in Dallas Keuchel, according to sources, though the asking price is currently prohibitive (likely so for most teams). Keuchel, a Scott Boras client and the top free-agent starter left, isn���t expected to sign until late in the offseason.

Keuchel could be this offseason's version of Jake Arrieta, who entered free agency after the 2017 campaign and didn't sign until March 2018, when he landed with the Phillies on a three-year deal for $75 million -- well below what he was reportedly seeking initially.

The similarities between the two pitchers are striking. Both are Scott Boras clients who won Cy Young Awards in 2015 but showed some signs of decline before hitting the free-agent market. Arrieta rejected a qualifying offer from the Cubs, so Philadelphia had to forfeit a Draft pick to sign him. Teams will need to do the same to add Keuchel, who rejected a qualifying offer from the Astros in November.

Video: MLB Tonight on the Padres' interest in Keuchel

Mets have talked Castellanos with the Tigers
Dec. 15: While it was reported Friday that the Mets are still serious about acquiring free-agent center fielder A.J. Pollock, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports New York has had discussions with the Tigers about right fielder Nicholas Castellanos.

Castellanos, 26, is entering his final year of arbitration eligibility and MLB Trade Rumors projects he will make $11.3 million in 2019. He had his best offensive season in '18, slashing .298/.354/.500 with 23 homers in 157 games for Detroit. He is not a particularly good defensive outfielder, but he can also play third base.

Tweet from @anthonyfenech: The Tigers have talked with the Mets about Castellanos, I���m told. The asking price is high, among other words and phrases, according to multiple teams who have spoken with them.

White Sox reportedly have spending limits for Harper, Machado
Dec. 15: The White Sox like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado and are hoping to make one of them the centerpiece of their roster as they emerge from a rebuilding period, but it remains to be seen if the club will actually be among the top bidders for the two superstars. A source tells ESPN's Buster Olney that Chicago is unwilling to make a record-setting offer to either player.

Read the latest Harper rumors here and the latest on Machado here.

Nationals may be narrowing second base options
Dec. 15: As they continue to search for their next second baseman, the Nationals may not pursue the top end of the market, according to the Washinton Post. Though they have spoken with DJ LeMahieu's representatives, according to the report they will likely seek less expensive options to fill the role, such as Brian Dozier, Josh Harrison or Jed Lowrie.

LeMahieu won a batting title with the Rockies in 2016, and in eight Major League seasons, has a .298/.350/.406 slash line (92 OPS+). He's an excellent defender at second, having won three Gold Glove Awards. While he could command a fairly large contract at age 30, Dozier, Harrison and Lowrie could all be strong temporary solutions. 

Dozier, 31, struggled last season after posting a 130 OPS+ with 76 homers over the two prior years. In '18, he hit .215/.305/.391 with 21 home runs in 151 games between the Twins and Dodgers. Harrison, 31, is a two-time All-Star but since a breakout season in '14, his OPS+ is 92. He brings defensive versatility, though, which could be a plus. Lowrie is the oldest of the group, at 34. But his last two seasons have been the best of his career; from '17-18, he hit .272/.356/.448.

Phillies eyeing Minor -- but for what role?
Dec. 15: The Phillies are pursuing a trade for Rangers left-hander Mike Minor, two sources told Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer, but it's unclear where they would use him. Philadelphia is targeting starters and relievers, and Minor happens to be someone with recent experience in both roles.

Minor was a starter with the Braves over the first five seasons of his career, but after missing all of 2015 and 2016 with left shoulder problems, he signed with the Royals and became a full-time reliever in 2017.

The southpaw was excellent pitching out of the bullpen, recording a 2.55 ERA with a 1.02 WHIP and a 10.2 K/9 mark. He averaged 94.7 mph with his four-seam fastball, and yielded an outstanding .249 xwOBA with the pitch, per Statcast™.

Despite that success, Texas used Minor as a starter for the entirety of 2018 after signing him last offseason. Minor finished the season with a 4.18 ERA, a 1.12 WHIP and a 7.6 K/9, averaging 92.8 mph with his four-seamer and allowing a .372 xwOBA with the pitch.

Lauber notes that if the Phils are looking at Minor as a reliever, it could indicate the club is "cooling" on left-handed relievers Andrew Miller and Zach Britton. That said, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported Friday that the Phillies have continued to target Miller while engaging with Texas about a deal for Minor.

Tweet from @JeffPassan: As the Phillies pursue pitching, they���ve engaged with the Rangers about left-handed Mike Minor and continued to target left-handed reliever Andrew Miller, league sources tell Yahoo Sports. Minor could start or relieve, and Miller is one of the best relievers left on FA market.

Braves out on Realmuto?
Dec. 15: The Braves haven't been in contact with the Marlins about potentially acquiring catcher J.T. Realmuto in the past five days, and Atlanta doesn't plan on picking those discussions back up, a source told MLB.com's Mark Bowman.

Realmuto was the Majors' best-hitting catcher in 2018, slashing .277/.340/.484 with 21 home runs in 125 games for Miami. Several teams, including the Reds, Mets, Rays, Dodgers and Padres have been rumored to be interested in acquiring the 27-year-old All-Star this offseason.

The Braves pursued Realmuto last offseason, before this year's Trade Deadline and at the beginning of this offseason. But when Miami wanted Ozzie Albies and made it clear at least one high-value MLB-experienced asset would also be needed in return, Atlanta signed veteran Brian McCann to a one-year, $2 million deal.

Read the latest Realmuto rumors here.

Tweet from @mlbbowman: Source: The Braves have not had any discussions regarding J.T. Realmuto within the past five days and they do not plan to have any further talks with the Marlins regarding the All-Star catcher.

Astros eyeing Brantley, Cruz
Dec. 15: The rotation arguably remains the Astros' biggest area of need, but the club is reportedly looking into offensive upgrades as well. According to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in an article for The Athletic (subscription required), Houston is talking to free agents Michael Brantley and Nelson Cruz and may try to sign both of them.

Check out the most recent Brantley news here and the latest Cruz rumors here.

Brewers considering Lowrie, Murphy
Dec. 15: Although the Brewers' top prospect, second baseman Keston Hiura (No. 30 overall, per MLB Pipeline), may soon be ready to make an impact in the Majors, Milwaukee is showing interest in both Daniel Murphy and Jed Lowrie, according to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in an article for The Athletic (subscription required).

Get the latest on Lowrie here.

Giants getting lots of calls on Smith, other relievers
Dec. 15: The Giants insist they are looking to be competitive in 2019, but if the right offer comes along to improve in other areas, some of their relievers could be on the move this offseason. According to NBC Sports Bay Area, the pitcher garnering the most interest is left-hander Will Smith, who had a stellar season in '18, posting a 2.55 ERA and a 34 percent strikeout rate in 58 appearances. The 29-year-old proved durable and very effective after missing the '17 season recovering from Tommy John surgery. 

With the reliever market picking up steam at the Winter Meetings, including a thee-year, $30 million contract for Jeurys Familia with the Mets, and a three-year, $25 million deal for Joe Kelly to join the Dodgers, clubs may be more inclined to scour the trade market for less expensive bullpen help. That could benefit the Giants, who have several voids to fill on their roster. Other cost-efficient Giants relievers who have been inquired about are Tony Watson and Sam Dyson.

Sources told NBC Bay Area that the Giants are positioning Smith as a cheaper alternative to left-handers Zach Britton and Andrew Miller, a pair of free agents that will likely cash in with big contracts this offseason.

Pirates have 'big interest' in Galvis
Dec. 15: Multiple clubs have shown interest in free-agent utility infielder Freddy Galvis, and the Pirates have joined that group according to the New York Post. Pittsburgh lost shortstop Jordy Mercer to the Tigers via free agency. 

Galvis, 29, has a career slash line of .246/.290/.374 over seven Major League seasons, six with the Phillies and one with the Padres. He's a strong defensive infielder who has only missed four games in the past three seasons, and could plug holes for teams like the Pirates or Yankees. New York has also shown interest in Galvis as a potential fall-back option if Manny Machado doesn't land in the Bronx.

Would Phillies splurge on Kimbrel?
Dec. 14: The Phillies have money to spend. We know this. Heck, their owner himself even said they might be a little "stupid" about it. That has led to most people in and around the baseball world expecting said money to go toward a pursuit of Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado. But could those funds make the Phillies a match for someone else instead?

Like, say, Craig Kimbrel?

In an all-encompassing look at where the market stands after the Winter Meetings, MLB.com's Mark Feinsand lists the Phillies as his "potential fit" for Kimbrel.

"The star closer is reportedly seeking a six-year deal worth more than $100 million, which would blow away the previous record of five years and $86 million signed by Aroldis Chapman two years ago," Feinsand writes. "Several executives cast doubt that Kimbrel will be able to score that type of contract, though he could get five years and upwards of $75 million. The Red Sox have been viewed as having moved on from their closer, but they remain a potential landing spot along with the Braves, Phillies and Cardinals."

Given Kimbrel's unprecendented asking price and the Phillies' financial resources -- not to mention, their need for a proven veteran presence to solidify the back end of a promising but very young bullpen -- maybe the two sides make sense as a match. Plus, with all the money the Phillies could spend this winter, it's not as if approaching nine figures for one of the sport's best closers would preclude them from still signing Harper or Machado.

Nats 'leery' of signing Keuchel long term
Dec. 14: After shelling out $140 million and committing six years to Patrick Corbin, the Nationals have some apprehension about dishing out another long-term deal in the starting pitching market -- specifically for Dallas Keuchel, according to Mark Zuckerman of MASN Sports

Keuchel is believed to be seeking a deal in the four- to six-year range, and many analysts predict he will get it. The Nats likely won't be willing to commit that length to the left-hander, per Zuckerman. 

Washington was one of just two clubs last year (with the Red Sox) to exceed the Competitive Balance Tax. Should it again exceed that mark, set for $206 million in 2019, the penalty will rise to the maximum of 50 percent. The club already has committed $525 million to its top three starters -- Corbin, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg -- over separate deals. 

Though they could feature arguably the best 1-2-3 punch in the Majors, the Nats' fourth and fifth starter spots are uncertain, particularly after they traded Tanner Roark to the Reds on Wednesday. The Nats have been linked to Keuchel this offseason, more so before they signed Corbin, but there might be more affordable avenues for them to continue to upgrade the back end of their rotation.

Are the Mets closing in on their next catcher? What about center field?
Dec. 14: The Mets are "very serious" about free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal as their next backstop, according to SNY's Andy Martino, who also notes New York's catching situation may be "moving closer to resolution." Grandal is the best defensive catcher on the market, his struggles behind the plate during the postseason notwithstanding.

Grandal, 30, had his best offensive season to date in 2018, hitting .241/.349/.466 with 24 homers in 140 games for the Dodgers. While the Mets have also been rumored to be among several clubs in pursuit of Marlins trade candidate J.T. Realmuto, the situation appears to remain fluid.

Tweet from @martinonyc: Mets catching situation moving closer to resolution (not sayin tonight, but they���re working hard on it.)I keep hearing from different people that they���re very serious about Yasmani Grandal

The Mets are also continuing a serious pursuit of an upgrade in center field, and free agent A.J. Pollock remains their top choice according to Martino. Pollock, 31, slashed .257/.316/.484 with 21 homers in 113 games for the D-backs last season, though prior to being injured in mid-May, he was hitting .293/.349/.620 with 11 homers in 40 games. He has also proved to be a strong defensive center fielder.

Tweet from @martinonyc: Mets still serious about A.J. Pollock as they weigh catching options

New York has already been very active this offseason, acquiring second baseman Robinson Cano from the Mariners and signing free-agent reliever Jeurys Familia to a three-year deal that reunites him with his former team.

Why Brantley to Braves still makes a lot of sense
Dec. 14: The Braves made the first big free-agent splash of the offseason by signing Josh Donaldson to a one-year, $23 million contract last month, but they've been pretty quiet since then. Will that change?

MLB.com's Richard Justice lists Atlanta as one of his seven teams most likely to make the next big move. In a lot of divisions in baseball, landing Donaldson and catcher Brian McCann in short order, as the Braves did, would be enough for a reigning division champ. But as Justice writes: "In the National League East arms race, it's not enough. So GM Alex Anthopoulos is still thinking big in his pursuit of a corner outfielder, a top-of-the-rotation starter and possibly a reliever."

It's possible the Braves could make a play for Dallas Keuchel to fit near the top of their rotation or sign Zach Britton to fortify the back of their bullpen. But Justice also mentions Michael Brantley, who has been linked aplenty to Atlanta this offseason, as a name for them to consider for corner outfield -- and out of those three players, he might provide the best bang for the buck.

As the top name left on the open market among starters, it's expected Keuchel will score a four- or five-year deal worth upward of $15 million to $20 million per season, which likely would be out of the Braves' price range. Britton will come cheaper than that, but perhaps Atlanta would prefer to spend a similar amount on an everyday outfielder, especially after the division-rival Phillies just added one of their own in Andrew McCutchen.

After all, someone has to replace free agent Nick Markakis' offense and veteran presence. Brantley -- with his elite contact ability and penchant for compiling good at-bats -- could prove valuable for Atlanta, which boasted a potent, yet often impatient, young lineup in 2018.

2B market is starting to move
Dec. 14: Second base is one of the more well-stocked positions in free agency this offseason, but it seems to be starting to roll at long last.

Ian Kinsler and the Padres agreed to a two-year, $8 million deal (with a team option for 2021) on Friday afternoon, sources told MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi. He's expected to provide some stability and depth in the infield, while San Diego allows youngsters Fernando Tatis and Jr. Luis Urias -- MLB Pipeline's Nos. 2 and 27 overall prospects, respectively -- to break into the bigs at a comfortable pace.

Tweet from @AJCassavell: Friars view Kinsler as a veteran option who can play multiple spots. If and when Tatis arrives this season, it seems like Urias at 2B, Tatis at SS and Kinsler at 3B is the likeliest option.

Meanwhile, the Cubs and Cardinals are pursuing another veteran in Daniel Descalso -- a versatile infielder who saw most of his action at the keystone with the D-backs the past two years and is coming off a career campaign in 2018 -- according to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal and USA Today's Bob Nightengale.

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: #Cubs in strong pursuit of free-agent infielder Daniel Descalso, sources tell The Athletic.

Tweet from @BNightengale: Daniel Descalso indeed the #Cubs first choice as a super utility player but they just don���t know whether they can afford him in their budget with Descalso also on #Stlcards radar. https://t.co/xRhm6FXK78

This comes on the heels of the Twins recently landing Jonathan Schoop as a bounceback candidate to handle second base in Minnesota.

A number of quality starting players at the position remain on the open market, including Jed Lowrie, DJ LeMahieu, Daniel Murphy, Brian Dozier and Asdrubal Cabrera. With action starting to happen here, it's possible some of the bigger names soon will look to lock in their own deals to avoid falling behind in a plentiful market where the supply appears to outweigh the demand.

Cubs in touch with Tulo
Dec. 14: The Cubs are among the teams that have at least made contact with Troy Tulowitzki's camp after the veteran shortstop was released by the Blue Jays on Tuesday, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman. Heyman also reports Chicago will send a scout to one of Tulowitzki's workouts.

Tulowitzki has been plagued by injuries throughout his 12-year Major League career. The five-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove Award winner has missed most of the last six seasons with a variety of ailments, most recently heel injuries on both feet that required surgery and caused him to miss the entire 2018 season.

Tulowitzki hit .299/.371/.513 (123 OPS+) with 188 home runs in 1,048 games for the Rockies before being traded to Toronto in '15. He appeared in 131 games for the Blue Jays in '16, slashing .254/.318/.443 with 24 homers. The following season, he was limited to 66 games, hitting .249/.300/.378 with seven homers.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Cubs are one of the teams that has at least been in contact with Tulo, and they will send a scout to a workout. There are others though, so they aren���t necessarily the favorite. His agent told @susanslusser there are 6 teams and they will narrow field soon.

Fiers, Sanchez drawing interest from multiple teams
Dec. 14: Free-agent right-hander Mike Fiers is drawing interest from several teams, including the Reds, Giants, Nationals and Rangers, according to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi. Morosi adds that fellow free agent Anibal Sanchez is also of interest to some of the same clubs, including the Reds and Nationals. The Braves, the veteran right-hander's most recent team, are also in the mix.

Tweet from @jonmorosi: Sources: Free agent Mike Fiers drawing interest from multiple clubs, including the Reds, Giants, Nationals and Rangers. Fiers, 33, is coming off a year in which he posted his best full-season ERA as a starter (3.56). @MLB @MLBNetwork

Fiers, 33, posted a 3.56 ERA with the Tigers and A's in 2018, although his FIP was significantly higher, at 4.75. Sanchez, who will be entering his age-35 season, had a strong '18 campaign following three rough seasons to end his tenure in Detroit. While he posted a 5.67 ERA for the Tigers from '15-'17, his ERA in his first year with Atlanta was 2.83 over 25 appearances (24 starts).

Tweet from @jonmorosi: Free agent Anibal Sanchez's marketplace has some overlap with that of Fiers. The Braves (Sanchez's most recent team), Reds and Nationals have shown interest in Sanchez, sources say. @MLB @MLBNetwork

Giants interested in trading for Pillar
Dec. 14: The Giants have had several questions to answer about how they will approach the 2019 season under new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, including whether San Francisco will trade star left-hander Madison Bumgarner this offseason. Another question mark is center field. According to NBC Bay Area, the club may look to Toronto for the answer in a trade for Kevin Pillar.

While San Francisco hopes 25-year-old Steven Duggar is the long-term answer in center, Zaidi reportedly would like a right-handed bat to platoon at the position with the left-handed hitting Duggar. Another potential advantage with a Pillar pickup would be the ability to play two center fielders in the massive AT&T Park outfield at the same time, with Pillar in center and Duggar in right.

Pillar, who turns 30 in January, has always been a defense-first player, hitting .261/.298/.398 with 55 homers in six seasons with the Blue Jays. Duggar appeared in 41 games as a rookie in '18, slashing .255/.303/.390.

What type of team typically gives out a mega-deal?

Nearly 40 percent of $100 million free agents went to sub-.500 clubs
MLB.com @mike_petriello

The Winter Meetings are over, and we still don't know where Bryce Harper or Manny Machado are going to end up.

Maybe Harper goes to the Phillies, or the Yankees, or the Cardinals, or the Dodgers or back to the Nationals. Machado fits with the Phillies and Yankees too, and we know that the ever-present "mystery team" looms for both. Players this young and talented simply don't reach the market very often; to be totally honest, you could make an argument for all 30 teams to sign one or both.

The Winter Meetings are over, and we still don't know where Bryce Harper or Manny Machado are going to end up.

Maybe Harper goes to the Phillies, or the Yankees, or the Cardinals, or the Dodgers or back to the Nationals. Machado fits with the Phillies and Yankees too, and we know that the ever-present "mystery team" looms for both. Players this young and talented simply don't reach the market very often; to be totally honest, you could make an argument for all 30 teams to sign one or both.

That includes the White Sox, who just went 62-100 and haven't had a winning season since Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, and a 23-year-old Chris Sale led the 2012 crew to a second-place finish. They stand out because they've expressed interest; they've regularly been mentioned as being in the race for Harper and Machado this winter and they apparently attempted to acquire Machado last offseason and at the July Trade Deadline.

The White Sox want one of them despite the fact that they've been unsuccessful. They want them because they've been unsuccessful. Even if it's not likely that Harper or Machado alone would vault Chicago into contention in 2019 (especially since the club is currently projected to be in a three-way tie at the bottom of the American League Central), it certainly makes sense why it is interested. The White Sox haven't been good because they don't have enough good players. Why not start by getting the best available player(s) -- especially ones who are young enough to still be in their primes when Chicago is ready to contend in a year or two or three? 

Video: MLB Tonight: Harper, Machado, Keuchel, relievers

We're talking about Chicago here because it has shown interest, but this really goes for any sub-.500 team: You don't have to expect to contend for a title in 2019 to want to add an elite young talent. But, the thinking goes, Harper and Machado want to win. Harper has never won a playoff series. Machado hadn't before joining the Dodgers late in 2018. They won't go to a team that didn't win.

Perhaps. But is that really true? Think about all the variables that go into a decision this momentous. Sure, winning is important. So are location, fit with the organization, ballpark, teammates, coaches and so on. But in the end, we all know the most important factor here is money. They're going to go where they can get the largest contract, and they've earned the right to do so. 

In order to test this theory, we decided to look back at the largest free-agent contracts in history to see how many players ended up signing mega-deals with teams coming off losing seasons. (For the purposes of this exercise, we're only looking at players who signed contracts with new teams, not extensions with current teams, like the ones signed by Giancarlo Stanton, Miguel Cabrera, Clayton Kershaw and Joey Votto.)

We found 35 contracts of at least $100 million signed by free agents headed to new teams, over a period spanning December 1998 (when the Dodgers made Kevin Brown the first $100 million player) and last week (when the Nationals signed left-handed starting pitcher Patrick Corbin to a $140 million pact). Let's see how they break down.

The breakdown: Losing teams can and do sign star free agents
Four of the seven largest contracts in baseball history came with clubs that were coming off losing seasons. (Those would be Alex Rodriguez with the Rangers in 2001, Robinson Cano with the Mariners in '14, and Zack Greinke and David Price with the D-backs and Red Sox, respectively, in '16.)

That's four of the top seven, and eight of the top 20. It's 10 of the top 25, and 13 of the entire 35. That is, nearly 40 percent of the time a team has signed a free agent to a contract of $100 million or more, that team is coming off a losing season. Four of the winning teams were 82-80, meaning just under half of these mega-deals went to teams that won no more than 82 games. 

(Not all losing seasons are the same, we understand. Some teams are in the midst of deep rebuilds, and some stumbled to 79-83 seasons. For simplicity, this is where we're drawing the line.) 

Of the 35 contracts, the average winning percentage of teams the previous season was .511, or something like 83-79. Of course, the distribution in there is all over the map. The weakest team to sign a nine-figure player was when the 2007 Cubs, coming off a last-place, 66-96, disaster in 2006, signed Alfonso Soriano to a $136 million contract. The strongest team was also the Cubs, in this case signing Jason Heyward to a $184 million deal after finishing 97-65 in '15. (That's tied with the '11 Phillies, who also went 97-65 in '10 then added Cliff Lee for $120 million.) The most recent was Eric Hosmer, to San Diego last year.

Video: MLB Now: Did Padres overpay for Hosmer?

Unsurprisingly, the Yankees have signed the most $100 million free agents -- five -- ahead of the second-place Cubs and Red Sox, at four each. Since New York simply does not have losing seasons -- it hasn't happened since 1992 -- things are a little skewed. If we remove the Yankees, we're looking at 13 of 31 nine-figure contracts going to losing teams, or just better than 40 percent.

The point is, it can happen. It can happen because it has happened. 

The deals signed with teams coming off losing seasons
OK, so what did those 13 nine-figure deals with teams coming off subpar years look like? In descending order of contract value... 

$252 million, Alex Rodriguez, Rangers, 2001

A-Rod was fantastic in three years with Texas, hitting .305/.395/.615 with 156 homers and three top-six Most Valuable Player Award finishes, but the Rangers never finished above fourth, and he was famously traded to the Yankees prior to the 2004 season.

$240 million, Robinson Cano, Mariners, 2014

The first five years of Cano's contract have been productive (.296/.353/.472), though he was unable to help Seattle break its long stretch of missing the playoffs. The next five years belong to the Mets, who traded for him (but mostly Edwin Diaz) this offseason.

$217 million, David Price, Red Sox, 2016

It's odd to think of the Red Sox as a "losing team," but Boston actually finished in last place in the AL East in 2012, '14, and '15. Of course, the Red Sox won the World Series in '13 and '18, and it's fair to say that Price's contribution to this year's title winners completely turned around the perception of this contract.

Video: Price named 2018 AL Comeback Player of the Year

$206.5 million, Zack Greinke, D-backs, 2016

Coming off 98- and 83-loss seasons, the D-backs beat out the Dodgers and Giants to sign Greinke, and he's been effective in three years in Arizona. The team's results have been inconsistent, though; they went 69-93 in his first season, then won 93 games and the NL Wild Card Game in 2017. He's reportedly on the trading block this winter.

$155 million, Jon Lester, Cubs, 2015

This is an example where the previous season's record doesn't tell the full truth. The 2014 Cubs went 73-89 but were much better in the second half as Jake Arrieta broke out, and it was clear the young group led by Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo was ready to explode. They've won at least 92 games in each of the four years Lester has been there.

$144 million, Eric Hosmer, Padres, 2018

Despite Hosmer's market seemingly dwindling to only the Royals and Padres, San Diego gave Hosmer the richest deal in franchise history, and the first year was disappointing for both player (.253/.322/.398) and team (66-96). There's still plenty of time for this one to turn around, of course.

$136 million, Alfonso Soriano, Cubs, 2007

After a pair of losing seasons, Soriano helped the Cubs return to relevance, as they won back-to-back division titles in 2007 and '08 before fading badly, leading into the current era of dominance. Soriano stuck around until 2013, and he was an above-average hitter every year aside from an injury-plagued '09, clubbing 181 homers for Chicago.

$132.5 million, Justin Upton, Tigers, 2016, and
$110 million, Jordan Zimmermann, Tigers, 2016

Somehow, these ones were only three years ago. The Tigers slipped to 74-87 in 2015 and reloaded for '16, getting back up to 86-75 and second place in the division. Upton performed for Detroit, slugging .500 with 59 homers, but was traded to the Angels midway through '17. Zimmermann, however, has rarely been healthy, and has a 5.24 ERA for Detroit.

$126 million, Jayson Werth, Nationals, 2011

Washington had lost 298 games in the three seasons before Werth arrived, and this is often referred to as the deal that gave the Nationals legitimacy with other free agents. Whether that's true or not, they were 80-81 in 2012 and won four division titles with Werth, who was probably the best free-agent signing in franchise history.

Video: CHC@WSH: Werth on being honored by Nats

$126 million, Barry Zito, Giants, 2007

After back-to-back third-place finishes, the Giants brought Zito across the bay from Oakland, and he never once had a season as good as he'd had with the A's. So there's that, but he was a big contributor to the 2012 World Series champions, including topping Justin Verlander in Game 1 of the World Series.

$119 million, Carlos Beltran, Mets, 2005

The 2004 Mets had a young Jose Reyes and David Wright, but they also lost 91 games. Beltran's first year was something of a disappointment, but he slashed a strong .280/.369/.500 in seven years with New York, though he'll likely always be remembered for watching Adam Wainwright's curveball to end Game 7 of the '06 National League Championship Series. It was the only playoff trip he made as a Met, though he's the gift that keeps giving -- when he was traded to the Giants in '11, the return was a young Zack Wheeler.

$106 million, Jose Reyes, Marlins, 2012

This was the big year for Miami, remember -- new uniforms, new ballpark and new players, as the Marlins imported Reyes and Mark Buehrle, and tried to bring in Albert Pujols, too. It didn't work. They lost 93 games, and Reyes and Buehrle were traded to Toronto after a single season.

* * * 

The point here isn't that Harper or Machado will guarantee the White Sox, Phillies, Mets, Giants, Twins, or any other team that was below .500 in 2018 a trip to the playoffs. It's that it can happen because it has happened, and quite often. It could happen in 2019, too.

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

Bryce Harper, Manny Machado

Source: Adams returns to Nats on 1-year deal

MLB.com @JamalCollier

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals found their backup first baseman in a familiar face, reaching an agreement to bring back Matt Adams on a one-year deal worth $4 million, a source told MLB.com on Saturday.

The club has not confirmed the deal, which is pending a physical, and was first reported by MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal. The deal also reportedly includes a mutual option for 2020, according to the Washington Post. Adams will return to the role he filled for most of last season in D.C., as a backup first baseman and left-handed complement to Ryan Zimmerman.

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals found their backup first baseman in a familiar face, reaching an agreement to bring back Matt Adams on a one-year deal worth $4 million, a source told MLB.com on Saturday.

The club has not confirmed the deal, which is pending a physical, and was first reported by MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal. The deal also reportedly includes a mutual option for 2020, according to the Washington Post. Adams will return to the role he filled for most of last season in D.C., as a backup first baseman and left-handed complement to Ryan Zimmerman.

Adams, 30, excelled in that role for the Nats last season, playing some left field but primarily first base while Zimmerman was on the disabled list. In 94 games, Adams batted .257/.332/.510 with 18 home runs and a 118 OPS+ before he was waived by the Nationals and claimed by the Cardinals in August. He did not have the same success during the final month of the season in St. Louis -- compiling a .533 OPS with three home runs in 27 games -- but his overall numbers were still strong. And Adams should help a Washington team that could be short on power if it loses Bryce Harper to free agency.

Adams signed a one-year, $4 million deal with the Nationals almost exactly one year ago, and even after he was waived he raved about his time in D.C. and said then he would be open to a return. The Nationals have been focused on acquiring a backup for Zimmerman, who has battled his share of injuries in recent years, and this move should be a huge upgrade to their bench.

The signing continued an active offseason for Washington.

Days removed from the Winter Meetings, the Nats have already acquired two catchers and two relievers, signed one starter (Patrick Corbin) and traded another (Tanner Roark) this offseason. And they do not appear to be done reshaping their roster.

The Nats began exploring the market for second basemen at the Winter Meetings, and although there was thought within the organization about trying to find a more versatile player to play both first and second, perhaps now they can use Howie Kendrick in that role off the bench and sign a true starting second baseman.

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, Matt Adams

Why Keuchel is a perfect fit for Reds

Lefty's penchant for ground balls and weak contact attractive for Cincy
MLB.com @MannyOnMLB

The Brewers shook up the National League Central by dethroning the Cubs as division champions last season, but in 2019, a club that may make a surprising move up the Central standings is none other than the Reds.

Cincinnati has finished in last place in each of the last four seasons, and hasn't been to the postseason since '13. But contention may be within grasp if the right moves are made this offseason. Could one of them involve free-agent left-hander Dallas Keuchel?

The Brewers shook up the National League Central by dethroning the Cubs as division champions last season, but in 2019, a club that may make a surprising move up the Central standings is none other than the Reds.

Cincinnati has finished in last place in each of the last four seasons, and hasn't been to the postseason since '13. But contention may be within grasp if the right moves are made this offseason. Could one of them involve free-agent left-hander Dallas Keuchel?

The latest Keuchel free-agent rumors

It may seem an odd fit on the surface, but Keuchel in a Reds uniform makes a lot of sense. With Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams and general manager Nick Krall having said they have money to spend this winter, and that one of the areas they're focusing on is starting pitching, Keuchel fits the bill.

Video: Nick Krall talks Reds' rebuilding needs on MLB Now

Cincinnati has already made one significant addition to the rotation, acquiring Tanner Roark from the Nationals for reliever Tanner Rainey during the Winter Meetings. We can look to that move for clues as to what the Reds might do next. In acquiring Roark, they got a ground-ball pitcher with a relatively low barrel rate, per Statcast™.

Those two characteristics are particularly important at hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park, which had a home run park factor of 108 in each of the past three seasons, per FanGraphs. To put that into context, it was tied with Miller Park for third-highest home run park factor in the NL last season, behind only Citizens Bank Park (111) and Coors Field (110).

Highest ground-ball rate, low barrel rate
Keuchel had the highest ground-ball rate of all qualified starting pitchers last season, at 53.7 percent, and his 58.0 percent ground-ball rate over the past three seasons is fourth among qualified starters over that span. His career high was 66.8 percent in '17. As for quality of contact, Keuchel's barrel rate of 4.5 percent was eighth-best among pitchers that yielded at least 400 batted balls (91 pitchers) last season.

Low HR/9 in an era of slugging
A byproduct of Keuchel's penchant for ground balls and weak contact is the low rate at which he's surrendered home runs in what has been a prodigious era for sluggers. In '18, his home runs per nine innings rate was 0.79, ninth-best among qualified starters. And in the season prior it was 0.93. Out of all balls hit in the air off Keuchel last season, just 18.5 percent were hard-hit according to Statcast™, 10th-lowest among pitchers that induced at least 400 batted balls (91 pitchers) in '18.

By contrast, Cincinnati's starting staff had a HR/9 rate of 1.62 last season, 29th in the Majors and ahead of only the Orioles (1.72). The staff's hard-hit rate on balls in the air was a 22nd-ranked (22.8 percent).

A perfect fit in Cincy?
Since Keuchel's Cy Young campaign in '15, he's had mixed results and a pair of seasons cut short by injury. He posted a 4.55 ERA over 26 starts in '16, but bounced back in '17 with a 2.90 ERA over 23 starts. He was sidelined for significant periods in both seasons due to shoulder and neck issues. Last season, his ERA rose to 3.74, more in line with his '17 FIP of 3.79, though he did make a career-high 34 starts.

Nevertheless, for a club looking to rein in all the baseballs leaving the ballpark, the Reds might not find anyone better-suited for the job than Keuchel. And if Cincinnati, currently projected by FanGraphs to win 76 games in '19, takes things further, perhaps bolstering its bullpen and adding to an already strong lineup, the offseason may just push the Reds into Wild Card contention.

The Reds are rumored to be one of the clubs pursuing Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, whom Miami has made available for trade. Realmuto was the best-hitting catcher in baseball last season, slashing .277/.340/.484 with 21 homers in 125 games. And that's not to mention his baserunning -- his average Sprint Speed in '18 was 28.6, well above the MLB average of 27.0.

Video: Ken Rosenthal on trade market for J.T. Realmuto

Cincinnati has also reportedly shown interest in free-agent center fielder A.J. Pollock after non-tendering Billy Hamilton. Pollock had a spectacular two months at the plate to open last season before injury derailed him. Through May 14, he hit .293/.349/.620 with 11 homers in 40 games. He hit just .236/.297/.407 with 10 homers after returning in July.

If Realmuto and/or Pollock were to join a group already consisting of perennial Most Valuable Player candidate Joey Votto and sluggers Eugenio Suarez, Scooter Gennett, Scott Schebler and Jesse Winker, it would be a very formidable lineup.

The Reds continue to be one of the most intriguing teams this offseason, given how much they could improve their lot in the NL Central. Only time will tell what comes next.

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.

Cincinnati Reds, Dallas Keuchel

Source: Rangers mull dealing Minor to Phillies

Veteran lefty may net young, controllable pitching Texas covets
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

ARLINGTON -- The Phillies have expressed interest in left-hander Mike Minor, who is currently the Rangers' No. 1 starter. It is a move Texas has to consider because Philadelphia is deep in young, controllable pitching.

Acquiring young pitching has been the Rangers' goal this offseason, and there could be an attractive match with the Phillies. One source said the Rangers would be willing to trade Minor if the Phillies are willing to give up at least a couple of their better young pitching prospects.

ARLINGTON -- The Phillies have expressed interest in left-hander Mike Minor, who is currently the Rangers' No. 1 starter. It is a move Texas has to consider because Philadelphia is deep in young, controllable pitching.

Acquiring young pitching has been the Rangers' goal this offseason, and there could be an attractive match with the Phillies. One source said the Rangers would be willing to trade Minor if the Phillies are willing to give up at least a couple of their better young pitching prospects.

"We are still in the pursuit [stage]," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said about the overall quest for young pitching. "We probably spent more [time] overall discussing with other teams some of the players on our club that they are interested in, [to] see what fits are there."

Minor made a successful transition to the rotation this past season after an outstanding year as a reliever for the Royals in 2017. He was 12-8 with a 4.18 ERA in the first season of a three-year contract. The Phillies could also be interested in Minor as a reliever and their interest may depend on if they land free agent left-hander Andrew Miller.

The Phillies are deep in young pitching -- including left-handers Ranger Suarez and Cole Irvin, plus right-handers Enyel De Los Santos and Drew Anderson. All were at Triple-A at the end of last season.

Some of the Phillies' best pitching prospects are in the lower levels of the Minors. Right-handers Sixto Sanchez and Adonis Medina, and left-handers David Parkinson and Kyle Young were in Class A, while left-hander JoJo Romero was at Double-A.

• The Rangers are among the teams showing interest in free-agent righty Mike Fiers, according to Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com. The Reds, Giants and Nationals are also considered to be in the mix.

Fiers, 33, split the season with the Tigers and the Athletics, going 12-8 with a 3.56 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP in 30 starts and one relief appearance. He would give the Rangers a third proven starter behind Minor and right-hander Lance Lynn. The Rangers reached an agreement on a three-year, $30 million contract with Lynn at the Winter Meetings, but an official announcement is pending a physical.

• Texas has not announced it yet, but it reached an agreement during the Winter Meetings on a Minor League contract with outfielder Danny Santana. He has 364 games of Major League experience with the Twins and Braves. He owns a career batting average of .256 with a .292 on-base percentage and a .375 slugging percentage.

Video: CIN@ATL: Santana hits game-tying RBI double to right

• The Rangers are also working on a Minor League contract for right-handed pitcher Rafael Montero. He was 5-11 with a 5.52 ERA in 18 starts and 16 relief appearances for the Mets in 2017 before missing all of last season because of Tommy John surgery.

• Texas claimed infielder Carlos Asuaje off waivers from the Padres at the Winter Meetings, but he may end up playing in the Korea Baseball Organization.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.

Texas Rangers, Mike Minor

How free agent Ottavino 'attacked the offseason'

Right-handed reliever struck out 112 over 77 2/3 innings in 2018
MLB.com @mike_petriello

Adam Ottavino's outstanding 2018 season wasn't just the story of a solid pitcher putting it all together at the right time, making him one of the most valuable relievers available on the free-agent market. It was the result of a very modern work process, because Ottavino spent last winter holed up in a vacant New York City storefront owned by his father-in-law, turning an empty shoe store next to a Chuck E. Cheese's into a state-of-the-art pitching laboratory.

Coming off a disappointing 2017, Ottavino spent a week at pitching factory Driveline Baseball outside Seattle, then outfitted the empty space on St. Nicholas Avenue in Harlem with the latest in pitch-design technology. Using gear from companies like Rapsodo and