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Yanks end Harper bid, continue Machado talks

New York also continues contact with Happ, interested in discussing Kikuchi
MLB.com @BryanHoch

LAS VEGAS -- For years, this epic free-agent class has permitted a fantasy scenario in which Bryce Harper and Manny Machado wear pinstripes. General manager Brian Cashman doused that speculation on Monday, indicating that New York has made its selection between the superstar sluggers.

The Yankees are continuing to speak with Machado's representative, Dan Lozano, believing that the 26-year-old infielder could be an ideal fit with shortstop Didi Gregorius expected to miss some of the 2019 season, but Cashman said on Monday that the club has bowed out of the Harper sweepstakes.

LAS VEGAS -- For years, this epic free-agent class has permitted a fantasy scenario in which Bryce Harper and Manny Machado wear pinstripes. General manager Brian Cashman doused that speculation on Monday, indicating that New York has made its selection between the superstar sluggers.

The Yankees are continuing to speak with Machado's representative, Dan Lozano, believing that the 26-year-old infielder could be an ideal fit with shortstop Didi Gregorius expected to miss some of the 2019 season, but Cashman said on Monday that the club has bowed out of the Harper sweepstakes.

"We don't have an [infinite] amount of dollars to be playing with in any marketplace," Cashman said. "We're looking for a starter now; it was two, now it's down to one. We're looking for, how do we address the loss of Didi Gregorius? And we're looking for our bullpen. At no time all winter have I said that I'm looking for an outfielder. The Harper stuff, I'm surprised you're still asking."

Reclining in a hotel suite that overlooked the site of the NFL Raiders' future football stadium, Cashman rejected the suggestion that one of Las Vegas' favorite sons could help construct the Yankees' next championship.

He rattled off the names of six outfielders currently on the roster (Jacoby Ellsbury, Clint Frazier, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton), then indicated that the team has no interest in auditioning the 26-year-old Harper at first base.

"We covered this earlier in the wintertime," Cashman said. "People asked about the [Harper at] first-base stuff. I'm sure it's potentially a possibility, but it's not something that we would play on at that level, to pay that money to play somebody like that at first base."

Machado answers an area of need for the Yankees, with Gregorius expected to be sidelined until at least June and potentially through August after surgery on his right elbow. Cashman said he spoke to Lozano prior to the Winter Meetings, and would not say if the two planned to meet while in Las Vegas.

Video: Mike Lowell breaks down Manny Machado on MLB Tonight

"I've had several conversations with Dan Lozano about Manny Machado," Cashman said. "We are definitely focused in the marketplace on those areas of need. He obviously is available and solves that area of need. I'm not going to deny we've had a conversation or two."

Though Machado has been said to be seeking a contract that could exceed $300 million, Cashman said that the massive price tag would not necessarily preclude the Yankees from acting, one offseason after taking on Stanton's mega-contract from the Marlins.

Though managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner has said he would need an explanation for Machado's comments during the postseason, particularly when he said that he was not a "Johnny Hustle" type of player, the team's continued interest at this stage suggests that it is willing to offer Machado a free pass.

"I think Manny has really handled himself well this offseason, admitting that he shouldn't have said it," said former Yankee and current ESPN analyst Mark Teixeira. "It might have been some semantics, and understanding that in the heat of the moment, he probably said some things he shouldn't have. I think the Yankees can get past that. It sounds like they've gotten past that. If you sign Manny Machado, you might be the best team in baseball."

After re-signing left-hander CC Sabathia and Gardner, then trading for Mariners left-hander James Paxton, the pace of the Yanks' offseason has cooled. Though they viewed Patrick Corbin as the top starter on the free-agent market, they refused to make an offer, unwilling to match the six years the lefty scored from the Nationals.

"Just because [Corbin] happened to be the best in this particular free-agent marketplace doesn't mean we were comfortable going to that level of commitment," Cashman said.

New York has remained in contact with left-hander J.A. Happ, though it is reluctant to extend a three-year offer to the 36-year-old. Another compelling choice could be left-hander Yusei Kikuchi, a 27-year-old who has been posted by the Seibu Lions and has until Jan. 2 to sign with a Major League club.

Video: Possible landing spots for Yusei Kikuchi

"[Kikuchi] is somebody that's worth talking about; somebody that's worthy of having conversations about potentially landing," Cashman said. "Somebody that would make our or other rotations better here in Major League Baseball."

While Cashman seeks to add a pitcher, he is also attempting to deal one. The Yankees are continuing to field offers for right-hander Sonny Gray, and Cashman said 11 teams have expressed interest to date.

"Some have involved bigger deals, some have involved easy prospect-driven deals," he said. "Some are Major League need-for-need type things. We'll see where it takes us, but he's still here because we haven't found that sweet spot yet."

Honored: Damon Oppenheimer, the Yankees' vice president of domestic amateur scouting, was honored on Monday as one of Major League Baseball's 2018 Scouts of the Year. Also honored were Sal Agostinelli (Phillies), Danny Montgomery (Rockies) and Brad Sloan (Red Sox).

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.

New York Yankees, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado

Tribe prez disputes 'intensifying' Kluber talks

Dodgers among clubs showing interest in two-time Cy Young winner, but no deal is imminent
MLB.com

LAS VEGAS -- Although it took little time for rumors regarding a potential Corey Kluber trade to spread on the first day of the Winter Meetings, Indians general manager Mike Chernoff and president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti aren't rushing to make any decisions.

"You try to use the meetings to help increase the frequency of interactions with teams, but not change your decision-making dynamic," Chernoff said. "That can be hard when you're outside of your element. We're usually in our office doing this, so you have to make sure you're creating those safeguards to keep you same decision-making principles."

LAS VEGAS -- Although it took little time for rumors regarding a potential Corey Kluber trade to spread on the first day of the Winter Meetings, Indians general manager Mike Chernoff and president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti aren't rushing to make any decisions.

"You try to use the meetings to help increase the frequency of interactions with teams, but not change your decision-making dynamic," Chernoff said. "That can be hard when you're outside of your element. We're usually in our office doing this, so you have to make sure you're creating those safeguards to keep you same decision-making principles."

MLB Network insider Jon Paul Morosi tweeted Monday morning that talk surrounding Kluber had been intensifying among multiple teams, including the Dodgers, but both Chernoff and Antonetti downplayed the report.

Tweet from @jonmorosi: Sources: Corey Kluber trade talks have intensified. #Dodgers are among the teams involved. @MLBNetwork @MLB

"I think we were reading one of those [tweets] on the [television] screen," Antonetti said. "We were sitting here eating lunch by ourselves going, 'Oh, really. Who is intensifying those talks?' I'm not sure who is having those talks intensified."

The trade talks may not have "intensified," but Antonetti did say that the discussions are happening more often through text messages, phone calls and in-person meetings.

"I do think with all of us being in the same building and with everyone really focused on transactions, it does pick up the frequency of interactions between teams," Antonetti said. "And the calendar. We're later in the offseason than we were a few weeks ago, so teams are trying to check things off their lists."

Kluber, 32, pitched to a 20-7 record and a 2.89 ERA while valued at 5.9 Wins Above Replacement in 2018. Despite those numbers, the Indians are looking to trim their payroll and are seeking outfielders. The two-time American League Cy Young Award winner will make $17 million in 2019, with team options for $17.5 million in '20 and $18 million in '21.

"Ownership's invested incredible resources into our team over the course of the past few seasons to try to help push us to a World Series championship," Antonetti said. "At some point, you have to make sure you have sustainable finances that work for the long term. And we're in the process of working through exactly what that will be."

With the Dodgers among the clubs reportedly interested in Kluber, a trade involving the right-hander could get Cleveland some much-needed depth in the outfield.

The Dodgers are loaded with outfielders, and Alex Verdugo, the team's top prospect per MLB Pipeline, could be a perfect fit for the Tribe. The 22-year-old slashed .329/.391/.472 at Triple-A Oklahoma City in 2018, is Major League-ready and, most importantly for the Indians, is cost-controlled.

"So we're cognizant of where we are age-wise," Antonetti said when asked if a younger roster was the team's goal. "I think oftentimes what happens is a roster gets older, it also comes with less control. So in a sense, one of our goals, as I think I've shared, is to make sure that we have a chance to contend for an AL Central title in 2019, but also position the organization for success beyond that. One way to do that is to infuse players with longer-term control into the organization. Typically, these players are going to be younger players than older players."

Video: Will the Indians trade a pitcher at Winter Meetings?

Morosi also reported that both the Yankees and Brewers could be contenders in a Kluber trade. In keeping with Cleveland's theme of wanting young talent and filling a necessary need in the outfield, New York's top prospect, Estevan Florial, and Milwaukee's second-ranked prospect, Corey Ray could both be of interest, though neither are Major League ready. Florial hasn't been promoted past Class A-Advanced Tampa and Ray spent 2018 in Double-A Biloxi.

Tweet from @jonmorosi: If #Indians trade Corey Kluber, they would like to receive a young outfielder in the deal. So it is not a surprise that the #Dodgers (Alex Verdugo), #Yankees (Estevan Florial) and #Brewers (Corey Ray) all are potential landing spots for Kluber. @MLB @MLBNetwork

These early rumors do not mean that Trevor Bauer is off the market. Although Kluber is starting to make the headlines now, anything can change throughout the next few days at the Winter Meetings.

Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com.

Cleveland Indians, Corey Kluber

Phillies to meet with agents for Harper, Manny

MLB.com @ToddZolecki

LAS VEGAS -- Bryce Harper lives in Las Vegas, which is convenient, considering the Winter Meetings are here this week.

If the Phillies want to meet Harper, they can expense a car service.

LAS VEGAS -- Bryce Harper lives in Las Vegas, which is convenient, considering the Winter Meetings are here this week.

If the Phillies want to meet Harper, they can expense a car service.

But the Phillies will meet this week anyway with Scott Boras, who is Harper's agent, and Dan Lozano, who is Manny Machado's agent. The Phillies remain interested in both superstar players, and have had ongoing discussions with both agents throughout the offseason. Sources have said the Phillies prefer Machado, envisioning him at third base and Jean Segura at shortstop.

• Hot Stove Tracker

But circumstances can change. If the Yankees sign Machado, for example, one can bet that the Phillies will give their undivided attention to Harper, who hopes to sign a record-breaking contract that would exceed $325 million and an average annual value of $34.4 million.

The Phillies will sign only one of them, if they sign one at all.

Video: Kapler on Phillies' pursuit of Machado

"I'm not going to telegraph our intentions here," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said Monday afternoon. "We are trying to get better and we're trying to move the needle wherever we can. At the same time, we're not going to sit around and be held hostage by one or two players. If there are moves to make in the short term that make sense for us, we're going to do that. If it works out that there are players that fit for us down the road and it makes sense, then great. But we're not going to sit around and wait."

Is some of that public posturing to let Boras and Lozano know that the Phillies want to move sooner than later? Sure. Teams, like agents, try to influence negotiations in various ways.

But there is truth there, too. The Phillies remain in pursuit of free-agent left-hander J.A. Happ, who would help the rotation. They would love to add a left-handed reliever like Zach Britton or Andrew Miller. The Phillies need another outfielder with Rhys Hoskins returning to first base. They could turn to free-agent outfielders like Michael Brantley or A.J. Pollock.

Video: Zolecki breaks down Phillies' interest in J.A. Happ

The Phillies could go big and send the Marlins a package of prospects for catcher J.T. Realmuto, too.

It would be foolish for the Phillies to pass up those opportunities because they want to wait on Machado or Harper. Besides, internally the Phillies believe any money saved this offseason will allow them to pursue Nolan Arenado or Anthony Rendon next offseason, or Mike Trout or Mookie Betts two offseasons from now.

• Phillies ready to make noise at Winter Meetings

Of course, there is risk there, too. Machado at third base or Harper in right field in 2019 is worth more than the possibility of Arenado or Rendon in 2020 or Trout or Betts in 2021.

But to sign Machado or Harper could mean at least a 10-year commitment. Would the Phillies go that long?

"Ten years is sort of an arbitrary number, but I don't like to ever rule us out of anything," Klentak said. "All of you have heard me talk about my distaste for signing starting pitchers to long-term contracts, and yet a week ago we were bidding pretty aggressively on a long-term starting pitcher [Patrick Corbin]. That's just a way to illustrate [that] you don't ever rule anything out, because sometimes there will be opportunities you want to pursue.

"I think in the history of the game, the mega contracts don't tend to end very well, and that's not a secret. We can go back and look at all these. If you feel like you're getting enough of a boost to your club in the early years of that deal, it may be something you consider."

Phillies managing partner John Middleton is not in town this week, which is noteworthy because when teams pursue superstars like Harper and Machado, the man controlling the purse strings often likes to meet the person.

Wouldn't you?

"There have been a lot of people that have volunteered to help us in our recruiting efforts this year, and some of whom we've taken them up on it so far," Klentak said. "We had what turned out to be a pretty public courting of Corbin a couple weeks back. We're not going to telegraph what we're going to do. We're not going to broadcast who we're involving in the process. I think these things naturally have a way of becoming public. Sometimes, it's because we're a little careless with what we put up on the scoreboard, and sometimes it gets out for other reasons. I'm not opposed to those types of things becoming public, but it's not really my style to publicly declare what we're doing."

Other teams have been more vocal. Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said Monday that they have not closed the door on Harper, just days after Nationals owner Mark Lerner said they do not expect Harper to return. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman dismissed a question Monday afternoon about his team's interest in Harper, rattling off the names of the Yankees' outfielders and reiterating that he does not see Harper playing first base for them.

Posturing? Perhaps.

For what it is worth, Klentak thinks there is a chance the Phillies acquire somebody this week. It probably will not be Machado or Harper. But it could be Happ. It could be a relief pitcher.

"Sometimes, the conversations that you have here may not lead to something here but will lead to something shortly thereafter," Klentak said.

The Phillies continue to engage Harper and Machado, and as long as they are talking to them, they will remain the favorites to sign one.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Philadelphia Phillies, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado

Teams have called Braves about Folty, Inciarte

GM Anthopoulos discusses rumors surrounding Inciarte, Foltynewicz as club looks to make moves before 2019
MLB.com @mlbbowman

LAS VEGAS -- As Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos explores ways to add a front-line starting pitcher, an outfielder and bullpen depth, it appears unlikely he'll deal any of his Major League assets.

But to get a feel for exactly what might be available on the trade market, Anthopoulos has at least allowed himself to be open to internal and external discussions regarding Ender Inciarte and the other Major Leaguers who have drawn interest from other teams.

LAS VEGAS -- As Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos explores ways to add a front-line starting pitcher, an outfielder and bullpen depth, it appears unlikely he'll deal any of his Major League assets.

But to get a feel for exactly what might be available on the trade market, Anthopoulos has at least allowed himself to be open to internal and external discussions regarding Ender Inciarte and the other Major Leaguers who have drawn interest from other teams.

• Hot Stove Tracker

"I think we encourage conversation," Anthopoulos said. "We say, 'Don't be afraid to ask about anybody, because we're not going to get offended.' I'd rather have the conversation. We encourage ideas, thoughts or free-flowing conversations. We'll consider anything. I know we're not afraid to ask at the same time about other players [from other teams]."

Still, those teams that have expressed interest in Mike Foltynewicz have seemingly learned that minus a substantial return, the Braves aren't going to trade the closest thing they have to a front-line starter.

The Braves also seem hesitant to deal Inciarte. But because Ronald Acuna Jr. is available to play center field, they can at least contemplate dealing their 28-year-old, three-time Gold Glove Award winner, whose contract runs for $29 million over the next four years.

• Braves enter Meetings with ability for more splashes

While there may be some concern about a potential defensive decline, Inciarte is an attractive trade piece who could draw interest from the Indians, who possess a couple starting pitchers -- Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer -- that satisfy exactly what the Braves would like to add to their rotation.

If the Braves were to deal Inciarte without getting an outfielder in return, the only MLB-ready outfielders within their system would be Acuna and Adam Duvall, who was a non-tender candidate two weeks ago.

Still, while it might be uncomfortable to deal Inciarte, the Braves have to at least remain open to ways to creatively improve their roster. Johan Camargo and Dansby Swanson are among Atlanta's other MLB-ready assets who have drawn interest from other clubs.

"We're talking about some things," Anthopoulos said. "I wouldn't say we're close. But we've definitely had some conversations about taking some players off the big league team."

Other potential outfield targets
With seven pitchers in MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list, the Braves have the kind of young arms sought by the Rangers, who may be willing to deal outfielder Nomar Mazara, who has hit exactly 20 homers each of the past three seasons.

Given the value the Braves place on defense, the Braves might be hesitant to take a chance on Mazara, who Statcast™ credited with -9 Outs Above Average this year (79th among 87 qualified outfielders) and -4 Defensive Runs Saved in 2017.

There are also some defensive concerns regarding Andrew McCutchen (-11 DRS in 2018 and -3 in 2017), who might be a short-term free agent target. But the Braves must remember Nick Markakis had a -5 DRS in 2017 and then won a Gold Glove Award with the improved positioning created by the improved analytics Anthopoulos' staff introduced last season.

Ruiz claimed
Looking to create the option to make a selection during the Major League phase of Thursday's Rule 5 Draft, the Braves placed Rio Ruiz on waivers and then lost him when he was claimed by the Orioles.

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

Atlanta Braves

Rumors: Harper, Kluber, Machado, Kikuchi, Happ

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

Yanks GM: There's 'no spot' for Harper in New York's outfield
Dec. 10: The Yankees continue to be mentioned as a team that could be a fit for Bryce Harper, but could the club actually fit Harper?

When asked about the superstar, Yankees GM Brian Cashman said there's "no spot" for him in New York's crowded outfield and that deploying him at first base "isn't an option," according to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.

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.���

Kluber trade talks have 'intensified'
Dec. 10: Indians ace Corey Kluber has been expected to be among the most-discussed names during the Winter Meetings, and on Day 1, trade talks for the right-hander are already picking up, according to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi. Per Morosi, the Dodgers are one of the teams involved as discussions have "intensified."

Tweet from @jonmorosi: Sources: Corey Kluber trade talks have intensified. #Dodgers are among the teams involved. @MLBNetwork @MLB

Cleveland is believed to be fielding offers for both Kluber and Trevor Bauer after signing Carlos Carrasco to a three-year extension last week.

The club is reportedly hoping to trim payroll while still remaining competitive in an underwhelming American League Central, and Los Angeles could be a perfect trade partner given the club's outfield depth. With Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall departing via free agency, the outfield is a major question mark for the Indians at this point.

Morosi reports that the Dodgers' top prospect, outfielder Alex Verdugo (No. 32 overall, per MLB Pipeline), is part of the discussions between Cleveland and Los Angeles.

Tweet from @jonmorosi: Source: #Indians interested in #Dodgers OF Alex Verdugo as part of Corey Kluber trade talks. Cleveland is looking for outfield bats, and Verdugo is the Dodgers' top prospect, according to @MLBPipeline. @MLB @MLBNetwork

Morosi names the Yankees and Brewers as potential landing spots for Kluber as well, as both teams have highly ranked outfielders in their farm systems.

Tweet from @jonmorosi: If #Indians trade Corey Kluber, they would like to receive a young outfielder in the deal. So it is not a surprise that the #Dodgers (Alex Verdugo), #Yankees (Estevan Florial) and #Brewers (Corey Ray) all are potential landing spots for Kluber. @MLB @MLBNetwork

Kluber and Bauer are arguably more attractive than any of the remaining starters on the free-agent market. Kluber is signed for $17 million in 2019 with club options for 2020 ($17.5 million, $1 million buyout) and 2021 ($18 million, $1 million buyout). To put the value of Kluber's deal in perspective, the Red Sox just signed Nathan Eovaldi for roughly $17 million per year over four years. Meanwhile, Bauer is two years away from free agency.

Per MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal's latest article for The Athletic (subscription required), a rival executive who has been in contact with the Indians said Cleveland is open to trades in which it would attach Kluber or Bauer to a highly paid player such as Jason Kipnis or Edwin Encarnacion as a way to shed another inflated contract.

Are Yankees in on Machado, out on Harper?
Dec. 10: With a need at shortstop and a crowded outfield, the Yankees may be in the mix for Manny Machado but not so much for Bryce Harper. If it's a choice between Machado and Harper, it appears New York would lean toward the former -- and might, in fact, be out on the latter, as MLB.com's Bryan Hoch noted after GM Brian Cashman said Harper isn't a fit in their loaded outfield or at first base.

Tweet from @BryanHoch: What we learned from Day 1 of the #Yankees #WinterMeetings: they are in on Manny Machado (and others), and out on Bryce Harper.

The question, then, becomes whether the typically deep-pocketed Yankees are serious enough about Machado to meet what is expected to be an asking price in the range of $300 million. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported that the Yankees plan to meet with Machado but won't necessarily pony up to that extent. 

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Yankees like Manny Machado and will meet with Machado but source says they will not pay $300M for Machado. Phillies, Chisox and mystery teams(?) seen as main competitors.

New York is among the few teams with the financial means to sign Machado to a long-term deal, and it has an immediate need at shortstop, where Didi Gregorius will miss a chunk of next season recovering from Tommy John surgery. To that end, it's not a surprise that Cashman said he has spoken with Machado's agent, Dan Lozano, according to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.

Tweet from @Feinsand: Cashman said he has spoken with Dan Lozano, the agent for Manny Machado, multiple times. They have not spoken in Vegas. ���I���m not going to deny we���ve had a conversation or two.���

Heyman also reported that although New York is "pursuing" Machado, the club is considering other candidates to address its need in the infield, including Reds trade chip Scooter Gennett and versatile veteran free agents Marwin Gonzalez and Josh Harrison.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Yankees are pursuing Machado but they have other infield options ��� Marwin Gonzalez, Josh Harrison and possibly even Scooter Gennett to name 3

Heyman listed the Phillies, White Sox and potential mystery clubs as the Yankees' primary competitors for Machado. And even after trading for James Paxton, the Yankees are still looking to add to their rotation, which has been said to be their priority over pursuing Harper or Machado.

Yankees have scouted Kikuchi 'extensively'
Dec. 10: The Yankees continue to focus on addressing their rotation, perhaps even more so after missing out on Patrick Corbin and Nathan Eovaldi last week. But with those two big names off the board, is there a new pitcher the club is turning its attention toward?

One candidate could be Yusei Kikuchi, the recently posted left-hander who has been one of the best arms in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball the past several seasons. In fact, GM Brian Cashman said the Yankees have scouted Kikuchi "extensively" and even talked to agent Scott Boras about him, according to MLB Network insider Joel Sherman.

Tweet from @Joelsherman1: Cashman said #Yankees have scouted Kikuchi ���extensively��� and he has talked to Scott Boras about the LHP.

New York already has re-signed CC Sabathia and traded for fellow lefty James Paxton from the Mariners, so Kikuchi would be the third southpaw to join the club's rotation just this offseason. While Kikuchi has been linked to a number of National League teams, including the Giants, Padres and Dodgers, the Yankees could be an appealing landing spot for him because of the success Masahiro Tanaka -- another longtime NPB star -- has had in the Bronx.

The 27-year-old Kikuchi has a fastball that sits in the 92-94 mph range and can touch 96, and he also features a sharp slider that gets swings and misses. In eight years pitching in NPB, Kikuchi has gone 73-46 with a 2.77 ERA in 158 games (153 starts), totaling 903 strikeouts in 1,010 2/3 innings. He's been especially impressive over the last three seasons, going 42-17 with a 2.51 ERA in 71 starts, including 497 strikeouts in 494 1/3 innings. Kikuchi did, however, spend time on the disabled list with left shoulder stiffness in 2018 and has dealt with shoulder issues over his career.

Phillies have had ongoing dialogue with Happ
Dec. 10: After losing Patrick Corbin to the division-rival Nationals, the Phillies have turned their attention to other options, including J.A. Happ. According to Jayson Stark of The Athletic, Philadelphia has had "ongoing dialogue" with Happ in recent days.

Tweet from @jaysonst: The #Phillies have had ongoing dialogue with LHP J.A. Happ over the last several days, according to sources. The Phillies have a long shopping list. But Happ appears to be their best fit, as a LH with experience in Philadelphia who won't require a long deal. Still seeking 3 years

The Phillies have a long shopping list, as Stark notes, but a left-handed starter is believed to be high on that list. Philadelphia's rotation skews right-handed, and only two southpaws -- Adam Morgan and Ranger Suarez -- have started a game for the club since Cole Hamels was traded to the Rangers in 2015.

As they were with Corbin, the Phillies are competing with the Yankees for Happ, though George A. King III of the New York Post reported Monday that New York is looking to sign Happ for two years, while the 36-year-old is seeking a three-year deal. If the Phillies are willing to go to three years, it could be enough to nab Happ.

Brewers interested in Murphy, re-signing Moustakas
Dec. 10: The Brewers' search for a second baseman could lead them to free-agent Daniel Murphy, whom the club is reportedly interested in, a source told The Athletic's Robert Murray [subscription required]. The club is also interested in retaining third baseman Mike Moustakas, per Murray. 

Last month, the Brewers non-tendered second baseman Jonathan Schoop, whom they acquired at last year's Trade Deadline, after he underperformed in his half-season with the club. His departure left a hole at second base, but it's a deep position in free agency with DJ LeMahieu, Josh Harrison, Jed Lowrie, Asdrubal Cabrera, Ian Kinsler among the options. The current in-house options are Hernan Perez and Tyler Saladino. 

If they signed Murphy, it'd likely be on a short-term deal with top prospect Keston Hiura climbing the Minor League ranks. Although there are concerns about his defense, Murphy hit .299/.336/.454 in 91 games with the Nationals and Cubs last season.

As for the interest in bringing back Moustakas, who joined Milwaukee last year via trade, Murray said talks are on-going and that the Brewers will face competition from the National League Central-rival Cardinals.

"It's possible," a source told Murray about re-signing Moustakas. "But far from done."

Mets still in on Realmuto, but will deal happen?
Dec. 10: The Mets remain in on J.T. Realmuto -- and the Marlins' asking price might even be lower than what it was at the start of the offseason -- but New York still might opt for a cheaper, free-agent option to address its catching need.

According to a report from MLB Network insider Joel Sherman on Monday, new Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen is determined to pursue the best players available -- and Realmuto is maybe baseball's best all-around catcher, besides being a perfect fit for the Mets in particular.

The Mets were listed among the seven teams MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported as having the best chance to land Realmuto, along with the Dodgers, Padres, Astros, Phillies, Yankees and Braves. 

Tweet from @JonHeyman: As of this moment the teams with the best chance to land Realmuto are these 7 ��� dodgers, mets, padres, astros, phillies, yankees and braves. A couple notably deny being too involved but they are all apparently involved enough to be in the top 7.

But even so, the Mets swinging a trade for Realmuto is seen as a long shot internally. To get him, it would likely cost at least one of the Mets' core young players -- Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo or Amed Rosario. Instead, Sherman suggests that signing a free agent like Martin Maldonado -- who doesn't hit like Realmuto, but would be a huge defensive upgrade from the Mets' current catchers -- as a more likely route.

Tweet from @Joelsherman1: Hear #Marlins have slightly lowered return request on Realmuto since end of the season. Outside execs say they perceive Mia knows have to deal him but after getting not enough last year, esp for Yelich, gunshy to go quickly and undersell.

But don't rule out a Realmuto trade, whether to the Mets or another interested team. Per Sherman, it might not take as much to land Realmuto as previously expected -- outside executives have the sense the Marlins will move him but don't want to pull the trigger too quickly.

A lower price isn't the same as a low price, though. According to SNY's Andy Martino, teams that are in on Realmuto still see the Marlins' asking price as high, with the 27-year-old only under team control for the next two seasons. But Martino thinks the Marlins may end up with no choice but to move Realmuto, while they can still maximize the value they get back for him.

Tweet from @martinonyc: Teams in on Realmuto see very high price with 2 years of control but note how little relative trade value Goldschmidt had with one year of control. Marlins would seem to have to blink. Can't hold onto him and blow chance to get something

Video: DiComo on possibility of Mets trading for Realmuto

Which teams might be in on Keuchel?
Dec. 10: The market for free agent Dallas Keuchel is still a bit hazy as the Winter Meetings get underway in Las Vegas.

MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported Monday that the Braves, Phillies and Reds are the top three teams in on the left-hander, but MLB.com's Mark Bowman has heard something different. Per Bowman, the Braves have not had discussions regarding Keuchel. And MLB.com's Mark Sheldon previously reported that the Reds' interest in Keuchel was being overblown.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Braves, Reds and the Phillies are three prime teams on Keuchel. But what if Yankees lose out on Happ. Might they pounce?

Tweet from @mlbbowman: Nothing has changed with the Braves regarding Dallas Keuchel. They have not had any discussions regarding Keuchel.

It's possible the connection between Keuchel and the Braves was floated by Keuchel's representatives to get the Phillies to up their offer. Philadelphia is reportedly in on the 30-year-old after missing out on Patrick Corbin, who signed with the Nationals.

Meanwhile, the Yankees are focusing their attention on J.A. Happ rather than Keuchel, but Heyman speculates that the club could jump in on Keuchel if they miss out on Happ.

According to George A. King III of the New York Post, there is "industry buzz" that the Yanks would like to sign Happ to no more than two years, while the left-hander is believed to be looking for three.

New York was also unwilling match the lengthy contracts given to Corbin and Nathan Eovaldi, causing those pitchers to sign elsewhere. It's possible the same could happen with Happ.

Video: Braves remain heavily interested in Keuchel

Do rival execs think Syndergaard can be had?
Dec. 10: Last week, at the press conference welcoming Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano to Flushing, Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen said it would take a "very special circumstance" to even think about trading Noah Syndergaard.

As the Winter Meetings begin Monday in Las Vegas, it seems that other teams think the same.

The New York Post's Joel Sherman writes that executives from potential suitors who have spoken to the Mets about Syndergaard believe it would take an "extraordinary" return to land him. According to Sherman, the current sense is that the Mets are highly unlikely to part with Thor.

Teams that have inquired about Syndergaard include the Padres, Rockies, Brewers, Dodgers and Astros, according to Sherman. The 26-year-old would be a fit for nearly any team thanks to his elite talent and years of control -- Syndergaard won't be a free agent until 2022.

But the Mets want to contend now, and having Syndergaard in their rotation in 2019 is probably the best avenue toward that goal. Sherman points out that if New York ends up being out of contention come July, they could always put him on the market before the Trade Deadline. Thanks to Syndergaard's three years of control, he could still impact several playoff races, and Sherman thinks his value might even be higher in July if he pitches well during the first half of 2019 and there aren't a lot of other top-end starting pitching options available.

Rizzo: Nats not closing door on Harper
Dec. 10: Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner's candid interview with 106.7 The Fan on Friday drew widespread publicity, as Lerner acknowledged that the reported 10-year, $300 million offer Bryce Harper rejected at the end of the regular season was "the best we can do," and indicated that he didn't expect the free-agent outfielder to be back.

And yet, a reunion between Harper and Washington is a possibility that Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo isn't ruling out.

"We haven't closed the door on [Harper]," Rizzo said Monday on MLB Network Radio. "He's a big part of our franchise. He's near and dear to my heart personally, and professionally he's a great player."

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.

Video: High Heat: Nats not closing door on Harper reunion

Red Sox GM doesn't anticipate 'big expenditure' at closer
Dec. 10: The Red Sox would like to have free-agent closer Craig Kimbrel back, but given the right-hander's contract demands -- he's reportedly seeking a six-year deal -- the club is exploring other options.

GM Dave Dombrowski said he doesn't anticipate a "big expenditure" for the closer's role, according to MLB.com's Ian Browne, who took that further by saying it "would be a miracle" if Kimbrel came back.

Tweet from @IanMBrowne: Dave Dombrowski doesn't anticipate the @RedSox making a big expenditure for the closer's role next year. Cites payroll already being high. Reading between the lines, it would be a miracle for Craig Kimbrel to return to Boston.

Part of that is because Boston has to worry about next offseason when Chris Sale, Rick Porcello and Xander Bogaerts can become free agents, and 2020, when Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. are set to hit the open market. Bringing back Kimbrel could make it tough to re-sign some of those other players.

So who could the Red Sox target for the back of their bullpen? David Robertson and Adam Ottavino are believed to be high on Boston's wish list, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Robertson and Ottavino are believed high on Red Sox list of back-end relief targets. Of course they���d like to have Kimbrel and Kelly back but they are free agents too. Deep pen market also includes Britton, Miller, Familia, more.

Joe Kelly is also a free agent, which could leave the Red Sox's relief corps without two key contributors from the club's championship run. Much like Nathan Eovaldi, Kelly bolstered his free-agent stock with a strong postseason, recording a 0.79 ERA with 13 strikeouts and only one walk over 11 1/3 innings. Kimbrel had his share of struggles during the playoffs, but he's been one of the top closers in the game for eight years and is poised to cash in this offseason, even if he doesn't get six years.

Robertson and Ottavino, on the other hand, will cost less than Kimbrel, and Boston could comfortably insert either one into the closer's role in 2019. That said, the Red Sox will have fierce competition for both pitchers, with MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reporting that at least a half-dozen teams are showing interest in Robertson, including the rival Yankees -- with whom Robertson has spent the majority of his career. Per Feinsand, the Yanks are also believed to be interested in Ottavino, a New York native.

Boston is also competing with multiple teams for Kelly's services, including the Dodgers, Mets and White Sox, as Rob Bradford of weei.com reported Monday.

Which contenders might pursue Greinke? And will Arizona trade anyone else?
Dec. 10: The D-backs have already traded Paul Goldschmidt. Will Zack Greinke be next?

The veteran right-hander's 15-team no-trade list might make it difficult for Arizona to find a trade partner. But there are also some notable teams who have shown interest in Greinke before, and aren't on the list.

Two of those teams: the Astros and Nationals, per a report from MLB Network insider Jon Heyman on Monday. On the other hand, teams like the Phillies, Cardinals and Dodgers are on Greinke's no-trade list -- with the list seen as a "major impediment" to a deal.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Greinke���s 15-team no-trade list is seen as major impediment to deal. Greinke smartly included Phils, cards, dodgers - almost any big-market team. 2 teams that have shown interest in past not on are HOU and WASH, tho nats already got Corbin. Hou talked ZG last year. @ZHBuchanan

The Astros could be a good fit for Greinke, if the interest is still there. That's both from a need standpoint, as Houston could lose both Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton in free agency, and from a philosophy standpoint -- the studious Greinke and the data-driven Astros seem like they'd mesh. The Nationals wouldn't be as clear a match, since they've already signed the top free-agent starter on the market (and Greinke's former teammate), Patrick Corbin.

Meanwhile, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reports that the D-backs are drawing trade interest in virtually all of their players after dealing Goldschmidt, but the club is telling other teams that it isn't interested in a teardown.

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: In wake of Goldschmidt deal, #DBacks drawing trade interest in virtually all their players, but telling clubs they are not interested in a teardown, sources tell The Athletic. AZ open-minded, but will be selective in how it proceeds. Not entering rebuilding mode.

Per a tweet from USA Today's Bob Nightengale, several teams who checked in on Robbie Ray were told the left-hander isn't available.

Tweet from @BNightengale: Several teams who checked in with the #Dbacks say that Robbie Ray is not available

Harper to the Cards still a long shot
Dec. 10: The Cardinals got one elite bat in Paul Goldschmidt. Bryce Harper could push them to another level. But as exciting as a lineup anchored by Harper and Goldschmidt would be, that scenario remains unlikely, according to a report from The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal on Monday (subscription required).

Rosenthal cites St. Louis' roster inflexibility as a chief obstacle to signing Harper, even though the Cards might have the payroll flexibility to give the superstar outfielder the type of long-term deal he's looking for.

For one thing, the Cardinals have $49.5 million tied up in Dexter Fowler over the next three seasons, and Rosenthal calls Fowler "virtually impossible to trade" after Fowler struggled through injuries and poor performance in 2018.

Another option to make room for Harper would be to try to move Marcell Ozuna, but he'd also be difficult to trade. Ozuna just had a right shoulder procedure this offseason, and he's also likely to make a sizeable salary in his last year of arbitration before hitting free agency next offseason. Rosenthal shoots down the idea of St. Louis simply cutting ties with Ozuna and eating the money as unreasonable -- both based on how the organization typically acts and because there's a solid chance Ozuna returns healthy and hits like he did in his All-Star 2017 season, when he clubbed 37 homers for the Marlins.

There is one outfielder the Cardinals might reasonably trade: Jose Martinez. But Martinez doesn't slot in as a starter anyway, and his cheap salary could mean St. Louis keeps him around as a bat off the bench.

Rather than an all-out pursuit of Harper, Rosenthal thinks the Cardinals' priority will be to sign a top left-handed reliever like Andrew Miller or Zach Britton.

Castellanos drawing interest from Braves, Dodgers, others
Dec. 10: Don't want to break the bank on Bryce Harper or go after A.J. Pollock? Nicholas Castellanos could be the answer. The Tigers outfielder is drawing interest on the trade market, according to a report from MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi on Monday. The Braves and Dodgers are among the teams to have checked in.

Tweet from @jonmorosi: Sources: #Tigers OF Nick Castellanos is drawing trade interest. #Braves are among the teams that have checked in. Castellanos, 26, is coming off a career offensive year and is an alternative to Brantley and Pollock via free agency. @MLBNetwork @MLB

Tweet from @jonmorosi: Source: #Dodgers interested in #Tigers OF Nick Castellanos via trade, but there���s no present momentum toward a deal. Dodgers active on numerous fronts and Castellanos is not their highest priority. @MLBNetwork @MLB

Castellanos hit .298/.354/.500 with 23 home runs and 89 RBIs in 2018. His .854 OPS was the highest of his six Major League seasons. Castellanos is in his final year of arbitration eligibility, and is set to become a free agent after the 2019 season, which could lead the Tigers to move him.

Castellanos can also play third base if needed -- he spent the majority of his time at the hot corner from 2014-17 before moving to right field full-time in 2018.

Multiple clubs interested in Belt
Dec. 10: The Giants started their offseason with a big move last month when they brought in Farhan Zaidi to be their president of baseball operations. Since then, however, the club has been relatively quiet on the rumor front, likely because Zaidi and Co. are in the process of charting a course for 2019 and beyond.

One big topic related to the Giants is whether they will deal longtime ace Madison Bumgarner. It appears a new trade chip also may be surfacing in Brandon Belt. A number of teams have touched base with San Francisco about the 30-year-old first baseman, who is available, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale.

Tweet from @BNightengale: Several teams have expressed interest in 1B Brandon Belt, who���s available, in talks with the #SFGiants

With a .266/.356/.455 career line and 124 OPS+, Belt has been productive when healthy over his eight years in the Majors, but he's battled various injuries and has played only 216 games the past two seasons. That, along with Belt's contract -- he's signed for $16 million per year through 2021 and has a 10-team limited no-trade clause -- suggests the Giants may be looking to save some salary by moving on from him.

Nats on the hunt at the keystone
Dec. 10: The Nationals need a second baseman, and they're casting a wide net across the free-agent market.

Among the names on their list: DJ LeMahieu, Marwin Gonzalez and Josh Harrison, according to a report from MLB Network insider Jon Heyman on Monday.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Nats are looking closely at 2B. LeMahieu, Marwin, Harrison all in play.

That's interesting, because it means the Nats could either go after a prototypical second baseman like LeMahieu, or more of a versatile, super-utility type to fill the position like Gonzalez or Harrison.

The Washington Post's Chelsea Janes notes that Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo has said the team has made contact with LeMahieu's agent. She adds that Washington also loves Gonzalez, who became a key cog for the Astros playoff teams of the last two seasons, and has likely also contacted his agent, Scott Boras.

Tweet from @chelsea_janes: On potential moves this week: Rizzo has said Nats made contact with DJ LeMahieu���s agent. They also love Marwin Gonzalez, a Boras client. So would assume they���ve ���made contact��� with his rep, too.

Is Gennett available in a trade?
Dec. 10: While sources told MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal that the Reds are looking to trade second baseman Scooter Gennett, MLB.com's Mark Sheldon has heard differently. Per Sheldon, Cincinnati is not actively shopping the 28-year-old.

Tweet from @m_sheldon: Source: #reds not actively looking to trade Scooter Gennett. Refutes an early report today from the Winter Meetings

 After being claimed off waivers by the Reds in March 2017, Gennett has become an All-Star in Cincinnati, slashing .303/.351/.508 with 50 homers over the past two seasons. But Gennett projects to earn a sizable raise in arbitration this year and can become a free agent next offseason, making a trade conceivable.

As Rosenthal notes in his latest story for The Athletic (subscription required), moving Gennett would open up a spot for top prospect Nick Senzel (No. 6 overall, per MLB Pipeline) to play and allow the club to pursue other possibilities, including signing utility man and Cincinnati native Josh Harrison. It would also free up more money for the team to spend on the rotation, its primary area of need.

However, the return for Gennett could be limited at a time when veteran second basemen such as Jed Lowrie, DJ LeMahieu, Daniel Murphy, Brian Dozier and Ian Kinsler are all available.

Angels more active than anticipated on free-agent market
Dec. 10: The Angels are seeking rotation upgrades and have been more engaged than anticipated on the top free agents, according to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in an article for The Athletic (subscription required).

Major League sources told Rosenthal that the club made "quiet runs" at Patrick Corbin and Nathan Eovaldi before they signed with the Nationals and Red Sox, respectively.

The Angels could now turn their attention to Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, J.A. Happ and Yusei Kikuchi, among others, according to Rosenthal.

Keuchel's reliability could be especially enticing for the team, given the injury histories of its current rotation options, which include Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs, Nick Tropeano and JC Ramirez, but not Shohei Ohtani, who won't pitch in 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in October.

Miller drawing 'legitimate interest' from at least nine teams
Dec. 10: The relief market could pick up steam during the Winter Meetings, as MLB.com's Mark Feinsand wrote Monday, and Andrew Miller is one of the bullpen arms whose market appears to be robust.

According to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in an article for The Athletic (subscription required), at least nine teams are showing "legitimate interest" in Miller, seemingly indicating that clubs aren't holding the left-hander's injury-plagued and underwhelming 2018 season against him.

Miller made three trips to the disabled list with three different injuries (left hamstring strain, right knee inflammation, left shoulder impingement) in 2018 and finished with a 4.24 ERA, a 1.38 WHIP and a 29.2 percent strikeout rate. But teams are evidently putting more stock in his performance from 2012-17, a span in which he recorded a 2.01 ERA with a 0.89 WHIP and a 39.6 percent strikeout rate while filling a variety of relief roles.

According to Feinsand, the Yankees and Red Sox could target Miller, and SNY's Andy Martino reports that the Mets, Phillies and Cardinals have shown interest as well. Mets manager Mickey Callaway was previously Miller's pitching coach in Cleveland, which may give them an edge.

Yankees discussing Gray trade with Padres, Reds
Dec. 10: With the Winter Meetings kicking off in Las Vegas, the Yankees and Padres reportedly remain engaged in discussions about New York right-hander Sonny Gray, according to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi.

Gray would fit the Padres' need to fill out their rotation, which doesn't have any spots guaranteed for next season. San Diego has also been linked to Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard and were reportedly in on Nathan Eovaldi before he re-signed with the Red Sox.

The Reds, another rebuilding team that is known to be looking for veterans to upgrade its rotation, have also discussed Gray with the Yankees. However, MLB Network insider Joel Sherman reports that Cincinnati balked at New York's request for outfielder Taylor Trammell, who is the club's No. 2 prospect (No. 17 overall), per MLB Pipeline.

Tweet from @Joelsherman1: #Yankees shooting high with Sonny Gray, asked #Reds about 1 of top prospects, OF Taylor Trammell, which was a no go. Sign NYY can get something good for Gray or that they simply or asking high before settling low, Could also always partner with a prospect to get more.

The Yankees acquired Gray from Oakland prior to the 2017 non-waiver Trade Deadline with hopes of him solidifying their starting rotation. But now they're looking to deal the 29-year-old after he struggled in 2018 with a 5.56 ERA through 21 starts before he was pulled from the rotation and left off the Yankees' postseason rosters.

Gray is up for arbitration this offseason and is scheduled to hit free agency in 2020. A change of scenery could benefit the righty, who only three years ago turned in a stellar All-Star campaign. In 2015, he won 14 games, posted a 2.73 ERA and hurled three complete games (two shutouts) in 31 starts with the A's, finishing third in American League Cy Young Award voting.

These are the four primary suitors for Cruz
Dec. 10: Although Nelson Cruz became a free agent more than a month ago, his market doesn't seem to have changed all that much. According to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, the Rays, Astros and Twins are in on the slugger, and the White Sox possibly could be as well.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: #MNTwins are a new team in the mix for Nelson Cruz. The Goldy trade may have helped clarify things. Astros, Rays also in. White Sox possibly.

All along, those clubs have been viewed as four of the likelier suitors for the slugger, whose role as a full-time designated hitter limits the number of teams that could realistically sign him. The list became even smaller when his former team, the Mariners, opted to rebuild.

Of those suitors, the Rays have been linked to Cruz more than any other team, as the club has an opening at DH after waiving C.J. Cron(who was claimed by the Twins), seeks a right-handed slugger and can fit Cruz into its modest budget. The club has maintained a "running dialogue" with Cruz, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

Tweet from @TBTimes_Rays: #Rays have maintained "running dialogue" and discussed some parameters with free-agent DH Nelson Cruz. Agent Bryce Dixon says Cruz very much interested, calls it "a perfect fit.'' BUT ... Cruz has 3-4 other teams interested, #Rays looking at other options besides a DH-only bat.

It's uncertain how aggressive Minnesota will be when it comes to Cruz, as La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reportedthat the club prefers to rotate multiple players at the DH spot in 2019. Neal noted that the Twins could still pull off a surprise by signing the 38-year-old, but only if the price is right. To that end, MLB.com's Do-Hyoung Park reports there is "mutual interest" between the Twins and Cruz, who could provide a different look for an offense that hit 166 home runs (fourth fewest in the AL) in 2018.

Tweet from @dohyoungpark: According to source, there is indeed ���mutual interest��� between #MNTwins and Cruz, with DHs seeing MN as an attractive destination. Thad Levine said yesterday that Twins are comfortable with in-house options but see DH as possible way to improve/diversify lineup. https://t.co/I58mjb7myO

The Astros and the White Sox, meanwhile, also have an opening at DH, but the latter may view Cruz only as a fallback option if it can't land a bigger-name free agent.

Dodgers could heavily influence outfield market
Dec. 9: The outfield market has been stagnant so far this offseason, but the Dodgers could have a hand in getting it moving during the Winter Meetings. According to ESPN's Buster Olney, Los Angeles has several outfielders available for trade, including Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson and Matt Kemp, and may also be engaged on free agents such as Bryce Harper and A.J. Pollock.

Tweet from @Buster_ESPN: Dodgers appear to be in the middle of the outfield market, both in trades (Kemp? Puig? Pederson) and free agents (Harper? Pollock?)

While this isn't the first time the Dodgers have been linked to Harper, it's still unclear if the club plans to make an aggressive play for the superstar free agent. The contract that Harper is expected to command would be out of character for the Andrew Friedman-led Dodgers front office, which has consistently maintained a high payroll but hasn't handed out more than $93 million to any one player.

Two sources initially told Yahoo Sports that Dodgers co-owner Magic Johnson was part of a group of representatives from the franchise that met with Harper in Las Vegas, the outfielder's hometown and the site of the Winter Meetings, though Johnson later insisted that no such meeting took place.

The Dodgers have notable depth in the outfield, with Puig, Pederson and Kemp joining Cody Bellinger, Chris Taylor, Enrique Hernandez, Alex Verdugo and Andrew Toles as potential options for 2019. Signing Harper (or Pollock) would almost certainly lead to one or more trades involving some of those players, as Bill Plunkett pointed out in an article for the Orange County Register on Sunday.

MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reported in late November that the Dodgers were trying to acquire Indians ace Corey Kluber for a package centered around Puig and potentially Alex Wood, but MLB Network insider Jon Heyman noted in his latest "Inside Baseball" column for Fancred Sports that such an offer isn't going to be enough.

Per Heyman, multiple teams have asked about Bellinger, but rivals say the Dodgers are "hesitant" to include him in any trade. The Indians are likely one of those teams, and the Marlins may be another, as Los Angeles has discussed a deal for Miami catcher J.T. Realmuto.

Boras' handbook compares Harper to LeBron James
Dec. 9: Agent Scott Boras is known for compiling expansive free-agent handbooks extolling his clients' achievements and qualities, and his book on Bryce Harper sounds like a doozy.

According to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, the document Boras has been giving to Harper suitors is 118 pages and features comparisons both predictable and provocative, an example of the latter being LeBron James.

"My goal in this thing is to let teams know what they're getting," Boras said. "That's why we brought in the LeBron comparisons. A lot of people don't know what he's done by the age of 25, and how that compares to what LeBron James did at 25. You get a very clear path on how hard it is to achieve a standard of excellence in an arena where you're both No. 1 picks, both rookies of year, both MVPs, and set a standard that no one can meet.

"The way to articulate this in true business form is look at the Nats' franchise. It was worth $480 to $500 million before he got there, and now it's worth more than $2 billion. TV ratings have tripled.

"Every GM in baseball wants him because he fills a need, but the owners are pursuing Bryce Harper because they know he can also make them a billion dollars over a period of years."

Per Nightengale, teams haven't made formal bids to Harper yet, nor is Boras making specific contract demands.

"The only thing we know for sure," one GM said, "is that he's looking for more than 10 years and $300 million."

Of course, 10 years and $300 million is what the Nationals reportedly offered at the end of the regular season, and Harper rejected it, prompting Nats owner Mark Lerner to indicate that he didn't think Harper would be back in a candid interview with 106.7 The Fan on Friday.

"Well, when we met with them and we gave them the offer, we told them, 'This is the best we can do.' We went right to the finish line very quickly,' Lerner said. "And we said, 'If this is of interest to you, please come back to us and we'll see whether we can finish it up.' But we just couldn't afford to put more than that in and still be able to put a team together that had a chance to win the NL East or go farther than that."

Added Lerner: "If he comes back [to the negotiating table], it's a strong possibility that we won't be able to make it work. But I really don't expect him to come back at this point. I think they've decided to move on. There's just too much money out there that he'd be leaving on the table. That's just not Boras' MO to leave money on the table."

Harper and Machado negotiations could drag beyond Winter Meetings
Dec. 9: Those hoping the free-agent odysseys of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado will reach their respective conclusions during the Winter Meetings may be disappointed.

According to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in an article for The Athletic (subscription required), the history between agents Scott Boras and Dan Lozano could be a major factor in negotiations stretching well beyond this week.

Boras, who represents Harper, used to rep Machado as well before losing him to Lozano in 2011 -- the same year Alex Rodriguez, another former Boras client, joined Lozano. As a result, Boras may have extra motivation to get Harper the bigger deal between this offseason's top two free agents.

"The prevailing assumption in the industry is that Boras wants to set new benchmarks with Harper's free-agent deal, whether in total guaranteed salary, average annual value or -- preferably -- both," Rosenthal writes. "Therefore, he will want Machado to sign first, securing the negotiating equivalent of 'last licks,' in which he would step to the plate knowing the number to beat. Boras' track record also indicates he would be willing to go to extra innings, moving at his own pace, stretching talks into January, if necessary."

But as Rosenthal points out, Machado isn't necessarily going to sign quickly. While Lozano isn't the same type of showman as Boras, outdueling his counterpart has to at least be on his mind in some capacity, and Machado is reportedly receiving interest from at least six teams, including the Yankees, Phillies and White Sox.

Meanwhile, Rosenthal notes that some rival agents and club executives think the market for Harper will be limited, given the bar Boras is believed to be setting. "It's Philly bidding against Philly," one agent said of the Harper sweepstakes.

Slugger Cruz has 4 primary suitors

MLB.com

Although he is approaching his 40s and spends most of his time at designated hitter these days, Nelson Cruz is still one of the top sluggers in the game and should draw plenty of interest on the free-agent market this offseason.

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

Although he is approaching his 40s and spends most of his time at designated hitter these days, Nelson Cruz is still one of the top sluggers in the game and should draw plenty of interest on the free-agent market this offseason.

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

These are the four primary suitors for Cruz
Dec. 10: Although Nelson Cruz became a free agent more than a month ago, his market doesn't seem to have changed all that much. According to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, the Rays, Astros and Twins are in on the slugger, and the White Sox possibly could be as well.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: #MNTwins are a new team in the mix for Nelson Cruz. The Goldy trade may have helped clarify things. Astros, Rays also in. White Sox possibly.

All along, those clubs have been viewed as four of the likelier suitors for the slugger, whose role as a full-time designated hitter limits the number of teams that could realistically sign him. The list became even smaller when his former team, the Mariners, opted to rebuild.

Of those suitors, the Rays have been linked to Cruz more than any other team, as the club has an opening at DH after waiving C.J. Cron (who was claimed by the Twins), seeks a right-handed slugger and can fit Cruz into its modest budget. The club has maintained a "running dialogue" with Cruz, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

Tweet from @TBTimes_Rays: #Rays have maintained "running dialogue" and discussed some parameters with free-agent DH Nelson Cruz. Agent Bryce Dixon says Cruz very much interested, calls it "a perfect fit.'' BUT ... Cruz has 3-4 other teams interested, #Rays looking at other options besides a DH-only bat.

It's uncertain how aggressive Minnesota will be when it comes to Cruz, as La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reportedthat the club prefers to rotate multiple players at the DH spot in 2019. Neal noted that the Twins could still pull off a surprise by signing the 38-year-old, but only if the price is right. To that end, MLB.com's Do-Hyoung Park reports there is "mutual interest" between the Twins and Cruz, who could provide a different look for an offense that hit 166 home runs (fourth fewest in the AL) in 2018.

Tweet from @dohyoungpark: According to source, there is indeed ���mutual interest��� between #MNTwins and Cruz, with DHs seeing MN as an attractive destination. Thad Levine said yesterday that Twins are comfortable with in-house options but see DH as possible way to improve/diversify lineup. https://t.co/I58mjb7myO

The Astros and the White Sox, meanwhile, also have an opening at DH, but the latter may view Cruz only as a fallback option if it can't land a bigger-name free agent.

Bowden: Rays should sign Cruz
Dec. 5: The Rays have been linked to free agent Nelson Cruz throughout the offseason as a club with money to spend, and former MLB general manager Jim Bowden writes Cruz could be a perfect fit in Tampa Bay in a column for The Athletic (subscription required). 

Bowden included Cruz to the Rays in a column listing the transactions he'd like to see completed by the end of Winter Meetings next week, suggesting a one- or two-year deal at $15 million per season for the 38-year-old slugger.

Cruz may be limited to American League clubs looking for a designated hitter, so the Rays may not have much competition to acquire him with only the Rangers, Twins and Astros among possible destinations.

Cruz's veteran presence could benefit a developing Rays team, Bowden says, and he fits their need for a middle-of-the-order bat as he's hit 37 or more home runs for five consecutive seasons.

What might be the exact date Cruz signs?
Dec. 4: Given the limited needs in the designated hitter market, his 38 years of age and the throng of other coveted players available in this year's loaded free-agent class, the market for Cruz may take some time to manifest. 

In a detailed post for Cut4, Jordan Shusterman of Cespedes Family BBQ looks back at the top 50 free agents of each of the last 10 seasons and created a speculative formula for dates that each free agent will sign. 

He lists Cruz for Jan. 14. 

"This is Round 3 on the open market for Cruz. Five Hot Stoves ago, he committed to the Orioles on Feb. 24, 2014, as one of the last top free agents to sign. A year later, he signed relatively early, agreeing to terms with the Mariners on Dec. 4, 2015. Look for a January signing this time around for the Boomstick -- Jan. 14, to be exact," Shusterman writes. 

Cruz has been linked most prominently to the Rays, White Sox and Astros -- all of whom have needs more paramount than DH. As such, whether he signs with one of those three clubs or another, the dominos will likely need to fall before a more clear market for Cruz takes shape. 

Making sense of a Cruz reunion in Texas
Dec. 3: Cruz may have played his most formative years over the last four seasons in Seattle, during which he led the Majors with 163 home runs and was a three-time All-Star, but it was in Texas where the 14-year veteran made his mark. Could a reunion with the Rangers be in the cards? MLB Network's MLB Tonight panel weighed in recently. 

Tweet from @MLBNetwork: Nelson Cruz back in Texas. Kimbrel returns to Atlanta. #MLBTonight looks at some homecomings that could make sense. pic.twitter.com/KM7X9sWwKq

Cruz was originally brought up by the Mets, A's and Brewers, but he spent nearly all of his first nine years in the Majors with the Rangers, and he was a critical cog for the club in their run to back to back American League pennants in 2010-11, winning the AL Championship Series MVP Award in 2011. 

"I would love to see him go home," MLB Network analyst Ron Darling said. "Remember through some of their greatest times -- I know they lost two World Series in a row -- but that team was so good, so talented, and he was a big part of that."

Cruz will turn 39 on July 1, yet he still remains an elite hitter. Over the last two seasons, Cruz has posted an .889 OPS and averaged nearly 40 homers per season while driving in 216 RBIs. Fellow analyst Tom Verducci likened Cruz to another icon who played at a high level into his 40s. 

"He's like a smaller David Ortiz," Verducci said. "The impact in the clubhouse and the fact that he hits now at 38 and he'll continue to hit. It's not like it's a charity signing. He'll help the team."

According to FanGraphs' Steamer projections, Cruz is on par for a 35-homer, 2.5-WAR season. That would be a huge for a Rangers club that will need to allocate the plate appearances that would've gone to Adrian Beltre, who retired last month. Should it sign Cruz, Texas may need to get creative in how it would utilize All-Star DH Shin-Soo Choo

Rays are "big-name hunting." Is Cruz still an option?
Dec. 1: With money to spend and a flexible roster, the typically frugal Rays are "big-name hunting" this offseason, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, with team officials talking about "exploring the top shelf" and "considering high-end upgrades."

Per Topkin, the club is looking at a wide range of options, including trade targets Paul Goldschmidt, J.T. Realmuto, Noah Syndergaard and Madison Bumgarner, and free agent Nathan Eovaldi.

Nelson Cruz also remains a possibility, though the Rays will need to determine if the 38-year-old represents enough of an upgrade to make it worthwhile for the club to spend its resources on him.

While Cruz produced an .850 OPS overall last season, his mark vs. right-handed pitchers was .819 (.932 vs. LHP). As Topkin notes, Cruz may not be worth adding if he's not providing a significant upgrade vs. righties, especially as a full-time designated hitter who won't be contributing value on the defensive end.

Signing Cruz would likely mean a reduced role for multiple players from the group of Austin Meadows, Jake Bauers, Brandon Lowe and Ji-Man Choi, who all bat from the left side. Tampa Bay may be better served spending big in another area and adding a less-expensive right-handed hitter who can play the field.

Granted, Cruz belted 37 homers in 2018 and is far more accomplished than any of those players, but the Rays front office needs to consider every angle given the team's limited budget.

Nelson Cruz

'Highest honor': Baines, Smith relish HOF call

MLB.com @RichardJustice

LAS VEGAS -- Harold Baines was surrounded by two of the men who'd guided, managed and mentored him: White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa.

"Our friendship goes further than the game of baseball," Baines said.

LAS VEGAS -- Harold Baines was surrounded by two of the men who'd guided, managed and mentored him: White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa.

"Our friendship goes further than the game of baseball," Baines said.

Complete Hall of Fame coverage

That La Russa and Reinsdorf were members of the 16-member Today's Game Era Committee, which elected Baines to the Hall of Fame on Sunday, made the moment that much more special. Both of them sat nearby during a news conference Monday that officially introduced Baines and reliever Lee Smith as members of the Baseball Hall of Fame induction class of 2019.

Baines then spoke of how much the Hall of Fame meant to his family, and the one regret -- that his late father could not have shared in the joy -- was when the usually stoic Baines wept.

"He was my hero," he said. "That's the only thing I miss, is him not being here."

Video: Baines gets emotional when discussing father's impact

The moment was so sweet and so touching on a day that was awash in joy and laughter as both men slipped into Hall of Fame jerseys for the first time.

"You see what it means to them," said Hall of Famer John Schuerholz, a member of the committee. "This is the highest honor in our business. I know how proud they feel to receive that honor. They deserve it. They distinguished themselves."

Smith, 61, missed on 15 attempts to get the required 75 percent of the vote while on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot. He went 16 for 16 on Sunday for an 18-season career in which he saved 478 games, the third-most in history.

Video: Morris, Idelson on Smith and Baines joining the HOF

One of the men in front of him on that list is Mariano Rivera, who is on the BBWAA ballot for the first time this year. Thanks to 652 saves and being part of five World Series championship teams, Rivera is expected to join Smith in Cooperstown next summer.

"I'm short for words right now, but I love just being able to be up here, because all the guys that I've seen and played with and seen come up here on this podium, it is unbelievable," Smith said. "I'm at a loss for words."

Video: Gammons reacts to Smith, Baines being elected to HOF

Among the calls he received was one from Hall of Famer Goose Gossage.

"He had me almost in tears talking about how long he's been waiting and hoping I would get in," Smith said. "But like I said earlier, it hadn't sunk in yet for me."

As for Baines, 59, his induction generated lots of debate. During 22 seasons, he collected 2,866 hits and six All-Star appearances. He dropped off the BBWAA ballot in 2011 after his fifth time on the ballot failed to get the required 5 percent vote.

He's 46th on the all-time hits list, 43rd in total bases, 65th in home runs, 34th in RBIs, 60th in extra-base hits and 24th in intentional walks. His 38.7 Wins Above Replacement is 351st among position players, just below that of Hall of Famer Hack Wilson.

Video: Jerry Reinsdorf reacts to Baines' election into HOF

"I'm very honored to be here," Baines said. "It's a very special day. A lot of my friends are here. I'm honored to be part of this great fraternity I'm joining."

To members of the committee, especially his former manager, Baines was not a tough call.

"To me, it's a little bit -- or a lot -- like Alan Trammell," said La Russa of the longtime Tigers shortstop, who was passed over by the BBWAA but inducted by a veterans committee last summer. "You ask the guys in uniform. You ask the people upstairs, the general managers. When you look at his record, like Alan's, it can't be denied. Three thousand hits was right there -- he was 130 short. Harold always had the ability to drive in a big run. If it wasn't for the [labor] strikes, he'd have had 3,000 hits."

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.

'Significant interest' in Realmuto at Winter Mtgs

MLB.com @JoeFrisaro

LAS VEGAS -- Day 1 of the Winter Meetings went pretty much as expected for the Marlins. The organization spent much of the first full day measuring trade interest in All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto.

There's no shortage of clubs in the mix for arguably the best catcher in the sport.

LAS VEGAS -- Day 1 of the Winter Meetings went pretty much as expected for the Marlins. The organization spent much of the first full day measuring trade interest in All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto.

There's no shortage of clubs in the mix for arguably the best catcher in the sport.

"There's interest," president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "There's significant interest."

• Marlins expect answers at Winter Meetings

Exactly how many clubs have been in contact was not revealed, but as of Sunday, it was at least 14.

Hill did note that resolving the Realmuto saga is consuming much of Miami's attention.

• Hot Stove Tracker

"He is a good player. He's an All-Star catcher," Hill said. "We love him. He's a guy we drafted, we signed him, we've developed him. We got him to the big leagues. Made him an All-Star. He's a good player."

Drafted by the Marlins in the third round in 2010, Realmuto has flourished into one of the best catchers in the Majors. The 27-year-old hit .277 and had career highs in home runs (21) and RBIs (74) on a team that finished last in MLB in runs scored and homers.

Realmuto is entering his second season of arbitration, and isn't eligible for free agency until 2021. But his agent, Jeff Berry of CAA, has expressed his client has no interest in a contract extension with Miami.

The Marlins don't feel the urgency to trade Realmuto, and their asking price is high. But if an offer is too tempting to pass up, they will consider it.

The Dodgers, Mets, Braves, Astros and Phillies are among the clubs vying for Realmuto's services.

"Lots of conversations," Hill said. "We'll see how things progress. The goal remains the same: we're trying to get better. Not just short-term, but long-term."

Among the many factors the Marlins are weighing is, if Realmuto is dealt, who would replace him?

Miami is building around a core of young pitchers, and is seeking a catcher who can help their development.

Chad Wallach, who is on the 40-man roster, and Bryan Holaday, Realmuto's primary backup, are the alternatives. But Holaday is signed to a Minor League contract and will be a non-roster invitee in Spring Training. So there is no guarantee he will win a job.

"I think you have to look into all of that," Hill said. "That's part of this process that you work through. The trades that we've made, we've brought back over 18 pitchers. The success of our pitching is really going to impact our overall organizational success.

"You want to make sure, no matter what happens, that you're covering an important part of your club. And you have a person who is going to take care of your pitchers, as you continue to build and your pitchers continue to mature, and turn into the championship pieces we think they can be."

The Marlins' asking price remains high for Realmuto. The club is seeking a top prospect and more.

"I think teams have more clarity," Hill said. "When we first met in the GM Meetings [in November], it was still early in the process of teams determining what they wanted to do, and where they potentially thought there may be a fit.

"I think as we got to Vegas, there is clarity to what they want to get accomplished. So now it's just a matter to see if there are fits."

Worth noting
• With their roster at 40, the Marlins will have to make at least one move to be able to participate in Thursday's MLB phase of the Rule 5 Draft. The team is expected to clear roster space.

"If there is an opportunity to add a piece we think can help us, we will explore it," Hill said. "We're at 40 on the roster. But there will probably be some roster movement before Thursday."

• Infielder Miguel Rojas has been playing winter ball in his native country, Venezuela. Rojas is expected to be through playing on Wednesday.

• Prospect Isan Diaz, who is playing third base in winter ball in Puerto Rico, still projects at the Marlins' second baseman of the future.

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.

Miami Marlins, J.T. Realmuto

Return to Boston looks unlikely for Kimbrel

MLB.com

Craig Kimbrel has compiled an impressive resume during his nine seasons in the big leagues, recording a microscopic 1.91 ERA with a 0.92 WHIP, 333 saves and a 14.7 K/9 rate, and he should be a coveted asset on the free-agent market this offseason.

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

Craig Kimbrel has compiled an impressive resume during his nine seasons in the big leagues, recording a microscopic 1.91 ERA with a 0.92 WHIP, 333 saves and a 14.7 K/9 rate, and he should be a coveted asset on the free-agent market this offseason.

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

Red Sox GM doesn't anticipate 'big expenditure' at closer
Dec. 10: The Red Sox would like to have free-agent closer Craig Kimbrel back, but given the right-hander's contract demands -- he's reportedly seeking a six-year deal -- the club is exploring other options.

GM Dave Dombrowski said he doesn't anticipate a "big expenditure" for the closer's role, according to MLB.com's Ian Browne, who took that further by saying it "would be a miracle" if Kimbrel came back.

Tweet from @IanMBrowne: Dave Dombrowski doesn't anticipate the @RedSox making a big expenditure for the closer's role next year. Cites payroll already being high. Reading between the lines, it would be a miracle for Craig Kimbrel to return to Boston.

Part of that is because Boston has to worry about next offseason when Chris Sale, Rick Porcello and Xander Bogaerts can become free agents, and 2020, when Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. are set to hit the open market. Bringing back Kimbrel could make it tough to re-sign some of those other players.

So who could the Red Sox target for the back of their bullpen? David Robertson and Adam Ottavino are believed to be high on Boston's wish list, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Robertson and Ottavino are believed high on Red Sox list of back-end relief targets. Of course they���d like to have Kimbrel and Kelly back but they are free agents too. Deep pen market also includes Britton, Miller, Familia, more.

Joe Kelly is also a free agent, which could leave the Red Sox's relief corps without two key contributors from the club's championship run. Much like Nathan Eovaldi, Kelly bolstered his free-agent stock with a strong postseason, recording a 0.79 ERA with 13 strikeouts and only one walk over 11 1/3 innings. Kimbrel had his share of struggles during the playoffs, but he's been one of the top closers in the game for eight years and is poised to cash in this offseason, even if he doesn't get six years.

Robertson and Ottavino, on the other hand, will cost less than Kimbrel, and Boston could comfortably insert either one into the closer's role in 2019. That said, the Red Sox will have fierce competition for both pitchers, with MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reporting that at least a half-dozen teams are showing interest in Robertson, including the rival Yankees -- with whom Robertson has spent the majority of his career. Per Feinsand, the Yanks are also believed to b