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Source: Royals near deal with Billy Hamilton

MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals appear to be getting close to working out a deal with free-agent outfielder Billy Hamilton, a source told MLB.com Monday morning.

MLB.com first reported the Royals' potential interest in Hamilton last week.

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals appear to be getting close to working out a deal with free-agent outfielder Billy Hamilton, a source told MLB.com Monday morning.

MLB.com first reported the Royals' potential interest in Hamilton last week.

The Athletic reported Monday that the Royals' deal was near completion, pending a physical and other bonus issues.

A source told MLB.com that no announcement of any completed deal was forthcoming anytime soon. Another source indicated a deal, if completed, would be worth around $5 million over one year.

Hamilton was non-tendered by the Reds on Nov. 30 after making $4.6 million last season.

The Royals have had interest in the speedy Hamilton over the years, viewing him as a potential defensive fit in center field at spacious Kauffman Stadium. Hamilton swiped 277 bases over six years in Cincinnati, including 34 in 2018, while hitting .236/.299/.327 last season.

The Royals' center-field job is an open competition between Brett Phillips and Brian Goodwin. Jorge Bonifacio is expected to compete for the right-field job with Jorge Soler.

Phillips and Bonifacio both have options.

Six-time Gold Glove Award winner Alex Gordon will be in left field.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

Kansas City Royals, Billy Hamilton

10 topics to watch at Winter Meetings

MLB.com @feinsand

The baseball world is gathering in Las Vegas this week for the annual Winter Meetings, and like anybody else that heads to Sin City, all 30 clubs hope to head home Thursday with more than they had when they showed up.

There will be plenty of talk during the four-day event, from trade discussions to free-agent negotiations, concluding Thursday morning with the Rule 5 Draft.

The baseball world is gathering in Las Vegas this week for the annual Winter Meetings, and like anybody else that heads to Sin City, all 30 clubs hope to head home Thursday with more than they had when they showed up.

There will be plenty of talk during the four-day event, from trade discussions to free-agent negotiations, concluding Thursday morning with the Rule 5 Draft.

What are the biggest stories to watch this week? Here's a primer of 10 stories that should dominate the headlines:

Manny and Bryce
For the past few years, we've all known that the 2018-19 offseason would be defined by the free agency of Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. The two superstars are entering their age-26 seasons, a rarity for free agents of their caliber.

Which one will be the first to sign? Which teams will make the financial commitment necessary to secure their services? How much will each player get? For our purposes here, will either player make his decision during this week's Winter Meetings?

Harper is from Las Vegas, so it would be a storybook ending to his free-agent journey for the announcement to come there. But his agent is Scott Boras (more on him in a bit), who has a tendency to drag out negotiations in order to extract every possible dollar from the market.

The market for both players seems relatively limited in terms of the number of teams that can shell out $300 million or more on one player, though as long as there's more than one in the mix for each of them -- which there appears to be -- then a bidding war could make things interesting.

Video: Tom Verducci previews the Winter Meetings

Aces for sale?
We've seen our share of big trades already this offseason, with players such as Paul Goldschmidt, James Paxton, Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz, Jean Segura, Carlos Santana, Mike Zunino and Yan Gomes changing teams.

But several big-time arms have been rumored to be on the trade block, presenting several juicy scenarios as clubs try to bolster the top of their respective starting rotations.

The Mets are reportedly open to trading Noah Syndergaard, while the Indians have been fielding offers for both Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer. The Giants might be open to moving Madison Bumgarner, a fan favorite in San Francisco who is coming off a pair of injury-shortened seasons.

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

Acquiring one of these arms won't be cheap, though with two of the top starters already signed off the free-agent market (Patrick Corbin and Nathan Eovaldi), a team in search of a front-line starter might be forced to turn to the trade market.

Will the Phillies get stupid?
Only a few weeks ago, Phillies owner John Middleton told USA Today that his team was prepared to spend big this winter, "and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it."

They showed some restraint when it came to Corbin, declining to offer a sixth year to the left-hander. Corbin ended up getting six years and $140 million from the National League East-rival Nationals, though it's quite possible Philadelphia could counter by signing Harper, who has been the face of the Washington franchise.

Machado also remains in the Phillies' sights, as most industry insiders believe Philadelphia will sign one of the two premier free agents. Is that where general manager Matt Klentak's plans would end, or might that only be the beginning? The Phillies are most certainly a team to watch in Vegas.

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

Are the Yankees going to be big spenders?
The Yankees have spent several years trying to get their payroll beneath the competitive balance tax threshold, which they finally did in 2018. Now that their tax rate has been reset, will the Bronx Bombers go back to their roots and spend big in free agency?

Corbin was their top pitching target, so with him and Eovaldi both off the market, New York could turn to J.A. Happ to fill the final spot in its rotation. Shoud Happ go elsewhere -- the Phillies and Blue Jays are also said to be in the mix -- the Yankees could make a run at Dallas Keuchel or make a smaller move by signing Lance Lynn, though they might also pivot back to the trade market.

While pitching remains GM Brian Cashman's priority -- the Yankees are also looking for a relief arm or two -- there's a growing belief that they could wind up as serious players for Machado. With Didi Gregorius out for several months following Tommy John surgery (and heading for free agency next winter), Machado could fill that void at shortstop in a major way.

Video: Hoch on potential free-agent targets for Yankees

Reds: In search of pitching
The Nationals, Red Sox and Yankees have already bolstered their respective rotations, though New York isn't done yet. To nobody's surprise, the Phillies and Astros continue to seek pitching upgrades as well, though they might face competition from an unlikely suitor: the Reds.

Cincinnati has posted five consecutive losing seasons, finishing each of the past four with at least 94 losses. The Reds have let it be known that they plan to be aggressive on the pitching market this winter, with Keuchel among their top targets. Other free agents such as Happ and Yusei Kikuchi could also be in play for the Reds, who have also been linked to center fielder A.J. Pollock.

Video: Reds could target Jones, Kluber in offseason

Keystone market
No position is as deep as second base on this year's free-agent market, with Daniel Murphy, DJ LeMahieu, Jed Lowrie, Brian Dozier, Logan Forsythe and Ian Kinsler all seeking new contracts.

Of course, with that many second basemen on the market, most of their former teams are now seeking help at the position, setting up a big game of musical chairs. Who will land where when the music stops?

Will Realmuto stay or will he go?
Since the Marlins traded Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon before the 2018 season, the lingering question has been if -- or more likely, when -- catcher J.T. Realmuto will be the next player shipped out of Miami.

Realmuto has drawn interest from roughly half of MLB teams, according to various reports, but the Marlins aren't going to trade him unless they get the type of package they're insisting upon. The Mets are the most recent team to be identified as a serious suitor for the All-Star catcher.

Realmuto's agent has made it clear that his client won't be signing an extension with Miami and wants to be traded, but it remains to be seen whether that will happen this week, this offseason or even this year.

Video: Hill on looking to improve Marlins at Winter Meetings

The Boras effect
Last offseason, a number of Boras' free-agent clients didn't sign until February or March. Those included notable names such as Eric Hosmer, J.D. Martinez, Jake Arrieta, Mike Moustakas and Greg Holland, who represented five of the top players on the 2017-18 market.

Boras' roster of free agents this winter is just as loaded, starting with Harper and Keuchel. Zach Britton, Marwin Gonzalez, Moustakas and Matt Harvey are also represented by the veteran agent, leading some to speculate that the group of players might not sign anytime soon.

One Boras client who most certainly will sign before too long is Kikuchi, the Japanese left-hander who must agree to a deal with a big league club by Jan. 2 if he wants to make the move to the Majors.

Closing time
Second base might be the deepest position on the free-agent market this winter, but the relief-pitching options are even more plentiful. Jesse Chavez and Trevor Rosenthal have already signed with the Rangers and Nationals, respectively, but no less than 10 notable relievers remain available.

Craig Kimbrel is clearly the No. 1 option, and he's looking for a contract commensurate with that stature, likely something in the $75 million-$90 million range. Other potential closer options include Andrew Miller, David Robertson, Britton, Joakim Soria, Cody Allen, Kelvin Herrera and Jeurys Familia. Adam Ottavino and Joe Kelly are also expected to garner significant interest.

The relief market moved faster than any other last winter. Will this year see the same rush of relievers signing once the first domino falls?

Will Greinke be the next D-back to go?
The D-backs traded Goldschmidt to the Cardinals on Wednesday, dealing the face of the franchise to St. Louis for three players and a Competitive Balance Round B selection in next year's Draft.

Video: Hazen on why D-backs decided to trade Goldschmidt

There had been plenty of speculation that Arizona would try to attach Zack Greinke's contract (he's owed $104.5 million over the next three years) to Goldschmidt in any trade, though that turned out not to be the case. It's difficult to imagine that GM Mike Hazen won't continue to try to find a new home for the 35-year-old, right-handed Greinke, who has thrown 410 innings with a 3.20 ERA over the past two seasons.

Any potential deal could be complicated by Greinke's partial no-trade clause, which, according to MLB.com's Steve Gilbert, allows him to block a trade to the Reds, Yankeees, A's, Padres, Giants, Orioles, Red Sox, Rockies, Tigers, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Angels, Dodgers, Twins and Phillies. That leaves plenty of suitors, of course, with the Astros, Braves and Brewers chief among them.

Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.

Rumors: Syndergaard, Greinke, Keuchel, LeMahieu

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

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.

Which contenders might pursue Greinke?
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.

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

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.

Yankees reportedly unwilling to offer Machado $300 million
Dec. 10: With a need at shortstop, the typically deep-pocketed Yankees have been linked to Manny Machado all offseason. The club may not, however, be willing to spend what it takes to sign him.

MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported Sunday that the Yankees plan to meet with Machado, but won't offer him the $300 million contract he's been rumored to seek. Bryce Harper, whom Heyman says the Yankees will meet with, too, is also reportedly seeking a deal in excess of $300 million. It's not yet clear if any clubs are willing to meet that number for either player.

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 much of next season recovering from Tommy John surgery. Heyman lists the Phillies, White Sox and potential mystery clubs as the Yankees' primary competitors for Machado.

As for Harper, Heyman says the club is questioning his fit in a crowded outfield that already features Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. 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.

Rosenthal: Indians will trade Kluber or Bauer
Dec. 10: After the Indians signed Carlos Carrasco to a three-year contract extension this past week, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported that the club was "increasingly motivated" to move either Trevor Bauer or Corey Kluber.

MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal spoke more definitively on the Tribe's plans Saturday, reporting that Cleveland will trade one of the two hurlers this offseason, though it's unclear which one is more likely to be dealt.

Tweet from @MLBONFOX: The @Indians are going to trade one of their veteran starting pitchers, but @Ken_Rosenthal says no one knows which it'll be. Who will they trade: Trevor Bauer or Corey Kluber? pic.twitter.com/UW6sCl9IxO

Bauer and Kluber are arguably more attractive than any of the remaining starters on the free-agent market. Bauer is two years away from free agency, while 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.

Per Rosenthal's latest article for The Athletic, 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.

Red Sox exploring bullpen options besides Kimbrel
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. According to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, David Robertson and Adam Ottavino are believed to be high on Boston's bullpen wish list.

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.

The Red Sox certainly aren't strapped for cash, but they need to keep an eye on 2019, 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.

Robertson and Ottavino should 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.

Yankees, Padres discussing Gray trade
Dec. 9: 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 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.

Mets' pursuit of Realmuto could shape rest of offseason
Dec. 9: The Mets are one of the primary contenders for Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, and Mike Puma of the New York Post detailed how the pursuit of the 27-year-old backstop could define the rest of the club's offseason.

"If [general manager Brodie] Van Wagenen can get Realmuto, it would allow the Mets to think bigger in filling their bullpen and outfield needs," Puma wrote Saturday.

Realmuto is two years away from free agency, and he's projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn just $6.1 million via arbitration for the 2019 season.

With Realmuto accounting for a marginal portion of their payroll, the Mets would be able to pursue an outfielder such as A.J. Pollock and a reliever such as Andrew Miller.

Tweet from @jonmorosi: #Yankees aren���t seriously discussing J.T. Realmuto with the #Marlins, one source said today. However, the #Padres are among the teams with genuine interest in Realmuto, sources say. @MLB @MLBNetwork

According to Puma, New York is also expected to inquire about the Dodgers' Yasiel Puig, who could take over at one of the corner outfield spots if the Mets include Michael Conforto and/or Brandon Nimmo in a package for Realmuto.

But if they can't get Realmuto and need to turn to a free-agent catcher such as Yasmani Grandal or Wilson Ramos, the Mets would have far less money to address their other needs.

Of the two backstops, New York is seemingly more likely to pursue Grandal, as industry sources recently indicated to Puma that the club is hesitant to sign Ramos, given his defensive shortcomings and injury history. Martin Maldonado is a more cost-effective free-agent option, but he doesn't bring much to the table on offense.

MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported Thursday in an article for Fancred Sports that at least 14 teams have shown interest in Realmuto, and former MLB general manager Jim Bowden of The Athletic followed up Friday with a tweet listing the Mets, Phillies, Padres, Braves and Rays as the main suitors for Realmuto, citing multiple sources. Bowden added that the Dodgers, Rockies, Brewers, Astros and White Sox are also in on the catcher, but aren't chasing him as aggressively as the first batch of teams.

MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reported Sunday that the Padres are among the teams with "genuine interest" in Realmuto. The Yankees have also been linked to Realmuto, but a source told Morosi the Yankees aren't seriously pursuing him. 

Tweet from @JimBowdenGM: Sources: Still ���in" on J.T.Realmuto: NYM, PHI, SD, ATL, TB���.not as aggressive but ���in��� are LA, COL, Milw, Hous, CWS

Although New York's already thin farm system lost touted prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn to the Mariners in the Robinson Cano-Edwin Diaz deal, the Marlins like Nimmo, Conforto and Amed Rosario. However, Heyman has heard the Mets don't want to trade Rosario at all and are not interested in a deal that includes a Nimmo-Conforto combination.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Not sure what the Marlins precise trade request is from Mets for Realmuto. But heard Mets do not want to do Conforto-Nimmo combo, and they don't want to trade Rosario at all.

Video: Mets interested in Pollock, Realmuto rumors

Jays eyeing former A's Graveman, Fiers
Dec. 9: The Blue Jays search for pitching could be heating up this week at Winter Meetings in Las Vegas. MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reported Sunday that Toronto is interested in free-agent pitchers Mike Fiers and Kendall Graveman as rotation depth additions if top starters Marcus Stroman or Aaron Sanchez are traded.

Bioth Stroman and Sanchez have two years of control remaining, and it's possible the club will entertain offers for them.

Tweet from @jonmorosi: Sources: #BlueJays interested in Mike Fiers and Kendall Graveman, among other free-agent pitchers, to build depth in case Marcus Stroman or Aaron Sanchez are dealt. @MLBNetwork @MLB

Fiers and Graveman were late addtions to the free-agent pool after they were non-tendered by the A's last month. Fiers, 33, was among Oakland's most consistent starters down the stretch, posting a 3.74 ERA in 10 games after the club acquired him on Aug. 6 from the Tigers.

Graveman, 27, is recovering from July Tommy John surgery and is expected to miss much of next season. He struggled in limited action, going 1-5 with a 7.60 ERA in seven starts.

Is Morton the best remaining starter on the free-agent market?
Dec. 9: With Patrick Corbin and Nathan Eovaldi signed, Dallas Keuchel and J.A. Happ are expected to draw increased attention during the Winter Meetings. But what about Charlie Morton? MLB.com's Andrew Simon makes the case that the right-hander is the best remaining starter on the free-agent market.

First and foremost, teams won't need to hand out a lengthy contract or surrender a Draft pick to sign Morton, which means the long-term consequences would be minimal.

Simon points to Morton's excellent velocity and high curveball spin rate as two more reasons why teams should be targeting the right-hander. Morton averaged 96.1 mph on four-seam fastballs and 95.1 mph on sinkers in 2018, with both of those numbers ranking in the top 10 among starters. Meanwhile, Morton threw his curveball almost 30 percent of the time and held hitters to a .135 average with the pitch.

Morton's repertoire enabled him to post a 28.9 percent strikeout rate this past season, which ranked 13th out of 116 pitchers with at least 120 innings.

And the 35-year-old has proven to be incredibly difficult to square up, yielding a barrel on just 5.2 percent of batted balls over 2017-18. That tied Morton for the 13th-lowest rate during that span (min. 750 batted balls).

Add it all up and Morton tied for 19th in xwOBA (.282) among those who faced at least 600 batters during 2018, slightly behind Corbin at .281.

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.

Unless price drops, Twins unlikely to be in on Cruz
Dec. 9: The Twins looked like a good fit for free-agent slugger Nelson Cruz earlier this offseason, but C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop may wind up being their most noteworthy acquisitions, according to La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The club prefers to rotate multiple players at the designated hitter spot in 2019, so it isn't going to aggressively pursue Cruz. Neal notes that Minnesota could still pull off a surprise by signing the 38-year-old, but only if the price is right.

Granted, there's a chance a lukewarm market could cause Cruz's asking price to drop. Cruz being a full-time DH already rules out half of MLB, and only a few American League contenders are believed to be considering him.

5 teams that could surprise at Winter Meetings

MLB.com @RichardJustice

LAS VEGAS -- Some team is going to surprise us this week. Just watch. There's going to be a trade or a signing that stops conversations dead in their tracks. All the ingredients are there. Like one of those huge storm systems roiling over the Pacific.

We don't get that much anymore. Rumors, gossip and speculation leak out by the hour. Madison Bumgarner is going here, Paul Goldschmidt is headed there. So many things are discussed that the power to truly surprise is reduced.

LAS VEGAS -- Some team is going to surprise us this week. Just watch. There's going to be a trade or a signing that stops conversations dead in their tracks. All the ingredients are there. Like one of those huge storm systems roiling over the Pacific.

We don't get that much anymore. Rumors, gossip and speculation leak out by the hour. Madison Bumgarner is going here, Paul Goldschmidt is headed there. So many things are discussed that the power to truly surprise is reduced.

By the time Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz were actually traded from the Mariners to the Mets it almost felt like old news. But these Winter Meetings have a different dynamic. We know a bunch of teams are all-in to win in 2019. We also know a significant number of teams are in a rebuild mode. But the fascinating part is that there are a large number of teams on the fence, all of them willing to consider something big.

With that in mind, let's look at five that could pull off a deal that would shock the baseball world:

1. White Sox
They could sign either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. Yes, it would be a surprise. Yes, it also makes sense. If you're not bullish on this franchise, you haven't been paying attention. General manager Rick Hahn has done a tremendous job stockpiling young talent. In that way, the White Sox are where the Braves, Astros, Cubs and Royals were at different points in recent years. Winning seems inevitable. So with gobs of young talent and a low payroll, it's the perfect team to go grab Harper or Machado off the free-agent market. They'd give the franchise a superstar to build around while also providing a veteran to assist the young players in preparation, etc. In short, perfect fit.

Video: Teams preparing to make pitches to Harper, Machado

2. Rays
They seem like the perfect team to, say, sign Nelson Cruz and trade for Bumgarner and force us to suddenly look at the American League East differently. Few teams have the power to surprise like this one. With a projected payroll of around $32 million and a team that just won 90 games, Tampa Bay is thinking big in its search for a hitter and starting pitcher. Cruz has averaged 34 home runs over the past 10 seasons, including 37 last season when he turned 38. He surely would consider a one-year deal. If the Giants are serious about dealing their ace, the Rays are a team with enough prospects to make it happen, and because Bumgarner is in the final year of his contract, there'd be no long-term commitment.

3. Brewers
Machado? Why not? GM David Stearns has some experience in this kind of thing, having acquired Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain in one day last offseason. Now fresh off a 96-win season, with a motivated fan base and a fearless owner in Mark Attanasio, the Brewers, working under the radar for most of this offseason, have a window open in which they're capable of winning a World Series. They're the perfect team to surprise.

4. Cardinals
Goldschmidt was their headline offseason acquisition. Now they're shopping for bench and bullpen help. Or are they? They've closed the gap on the Brewers and the Cubs in the National League Central, but the job isn't done. Remember, they entered this offseason all but saying they were thinking big. They did that last year by attempting to deal for Giancarlo Stanton, who went to the Yankees. Goldschmidt is a big name, a big player. But Harper or Machado would elevate the Cardinals even more.

5. Padres
One year after signing Eric Hosmer to the biggest deal of the offseason -- $144 million over eight years -- the Padres remain a team to watch. Like the White Sox, they're flush with young talent and motivated to turn a corner in the NL West. While we're all but penciling in Harper and Machado to the Yankees, Phillies, etc., the Padres are more than capable of grabbing one of them and changing the power dynamic in their division.

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.

Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, San Diego Padres, St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Rays

Lee Smith, Baines earn election to Hall of Fame

Premier closer (478 saves), six-time All-Star (2,866 hits) get call via Today's Game ballot
MLB.com @RichardJustice

LAS VEGAS -- Lee Smith was perhaps the most feared reliever of his generation and helped define the closer's role in the modern game during 18 seasons in the Majors. Harold Baines was far different, stoic and shy, a craftsman who produced 2,866 hits with one of the sweetest swings of his day.

These two very different men will be forever linked after learning on Sunday that they'll be members of the Baseball Hall of Fame induction class of 2019.

LAS VEGAS -- Lee Smith was perhaps the most feared reliever of his generation and helped define the closer's role in the modern game during 18 seasons in the Majors. Harold Baines was far different, stoic and shy, a craftsman who produced 2,866 hits with one of the sweetest swings of his day.

These two very different men will be forever linked after learning on Sunday that they'll be members of the Baseball Hall of Fame induction class of 2019.

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

Smith and Baines were selected by the Today's Game Era Committee, a 16-member panel appointed by the Hall of Fame to review players retired for at least 15 seasons who were passed over by the Baseball Writers' Association of America as well as managers, umpires and executives.

Complete Hall of Fame coverage

Smith was a unanimous selection, while Baines got 12 of 16 votes to clear the 75 percent threshold for induction. Meanwhile, Lou Piniella, who managed five teams to 1,835 wins, the 16th most in history, fell one vote short with 11. Seven finalists received fewer than five votes.

Neither Smith nor Baines came close to being inducted by the BBWAA during their time on the ballot. Smith was named on more than 50 percent of ballots just once in 15 years (2012, 50.6 percent). Baines topped out at 6.1 percent in his fourth year and fell off the ballot after receiving fewer than the required 5 percent in 2011.

Video: MLB Tonight on Lee Smith entering the Hall of Fame

Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson, who made the announcement on MLB Network, said such committees "were established as a sort of a court of appeals or an opportunity in the event over time it was felt somebody slipped through the cracks."

Smith and Baines didn't seem to mind the long wait. Smith, 61, retired after the 1997 season with more saves than any player before him. His 478 saves are third all-time behind Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman.

"I never, never, never gave up hope," Smith said, "and then when they started the second-chance ballot, I thought my chances got a little better. Today was probably the most nervous I've been with this Hall of Fame voting thing."

Baines, 59, played 14 of his 22 seasons for the White Sox, who selected him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1977 Draft. He played for five teams in all and finished with 488 doubles and 384 home runs.

"Wasn't really expecting it, but very grateful that it happened," Baines said. "I have four wonderful kids who are very proud of their dad today."

Video: Harold Baines on learning about induction into HOF

Smith was joined by Rivera and Hoffman as the only closers with at least 10 seasons of 30-plus saves. Hoffman was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2018, and Rivera, in his first year on the ballot, is expected to be part of Smith's induction class.

Smith pitched in an era when closers routinely pitched more than an inning. He got at least four outs for 169 of his 478 saves and had 12 straight seasons of at least 60 appearances, a Major League record. He's also the only reliever with 13 straight seasons of 25-plus saves and 10 straight of at least 30. He finished top five in Cy Young voting three times.

Smith initially resisted efforts by the Cubs to move him to the bullpen, but it cleared his path to the Majors and eventually the Hall of Fame.

"You gotta have really thick skin," Smith said of the role. "But you know the one thing I learned really myself, was like when you're going good, don't get too high, and when you're struggling a little bit, don't beat yourself up.

"If I could go home and put my head on the pillow and say, 'I did the best I can that day.' If you go out there and you make quality pitches day in and day out, good things are going to happen."

Video: MLB Tonight on Baines entering the Hall of Fame

Baines served as a designated hitter for 1,643 of his 2,830 career games, and his entrance into the Hall of Fame could help the case of Edgar Martinez, who fell just short of BBWAA induction (70.4 percent) in 2018.

"Everything I hear or read, DH is really not part of the game, I guess," Baines said. "But I disagree. It's part of the game. You should recognize the DH as a part of the game until they get rid of it. Maybe this will open up doors for some more DHs."

The Today's Game Era Committee is one of four Eras Committees -- along with Modern Baseball, Golden Days and Early Baseball -- that provide an avenue outside BBWAA voting to make the Hall. Others on this year's ballot were Albert Belle, Joe Carter, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, Davey Johnson, Charlie Manuel, George Steinbrenner and Piniella.

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.

These teams have prospects to make huge trades

MLB.com @JimCallisMLB

The free-agent market is moving barely faster than a Molina brother, but the trade front has been hopping with activity. In the last three weeks, there have been four deals involving difference-making big leaguers for youngsters either featured on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list or recently graduated from it.

The Mariners have been part of three of those deals, shipping James Paxton to the Yankees for left-hander Justus Sheffield and two more prospects; Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to the Mets for a five-player package highlighted by outfielder Jarred Kelenic and right-hander Justin Dunn; and Jean Segura and a pair of relievers to the Phillies for shortstop J.P. Crawford and veteran Carlos Santana. The Cardinals also got in on the act, landing Paul Goldschmidt from the Diamondbacks in exchange for Carson Kelly, Luke Weaver and second-base prospect Andy Young.

The free-agent market is moving barely faster than a Molina brother, but the trade front has been hopping with activity. In the last three weeks, there have been four deals involving difference-making big leaguers for youngsters either featured on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list or recently graduated from it.

The Mariners have been part of three of those deals, shipping James Paxton to the Yankees for left-hander Justus Sheffield and two more prospects; Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to the Mets for a five-player package highlighted by outfielder Jarred Kelenic and right-hander Justin Dunn; and Jean Segura and a pair of relievers to the Phillies for shortstop J.P. Crawford and veteran Carlos Santana. The Cardinals also got in on the act, landing Paul Goldschmidt from the Diamondbacks in exchange for Carson Kelly, Luke Weaver and second-base prospect Andy Young.

With all 30 teams convening at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas for the Winter Meetings Sunday through Thursday, more deals could be afoot. Last year in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., the Marlins divested themselves of 96 home runs worth of outfielders when they sent Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees and Marcell Ozuna to the Cardinals.

Miami will be engaged in lots of trade talk again, with seemingly half the teams in baseball pursuing J.T. Realmuto. And given his history, Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto probably can't go five days without swapping some players.

Which contenders could make moves? Here are 10 clubs with a realistic chance to win in 2019 and farm systems with enticing trade fodder:

Astros
Top 100 Prospects: 4
Top-rated prospect: OF Kyle Tucker (No. 5)

Right-hander Forrest Whitley (No. 7 on the Top 100), the best pitching prospect in baseball, may be untouchable but almost anyone else could be fair game. Tucker has been mentioned prominently in Realmuto discussions and righty J.B. Bukauskas reportedly would have gone to the Nationals in a deadline deal for Bryce Harper if Washington hadn't pulled out. The Astros have a deep farm system and few holes on a big league club primed to win a World Series, so they could be ready to trade.

Athletics
Top 100 Prospects: 3
Top-rated prospect: LHP Jesus Luzardo (No. 12)

The low-revenue A's may not prefer to give up young talent, but they may need to in order to plug holes in their rotation. While they won't want to part with left-handers Luzardo or A.J. Puk, they have enough depth in infield (Jorge Mateo, Sheldon Neuse, Eli White) and outfield (Kyler Murray, Austin Beck, Lazaro Armenteros, Jameson Hannah) prospects to pull off a mid-level move.

Braves
Top 100 Prospects: 10
Top-rated prospect: RHP Mike Soroka (No. 20)

No team has more Top 100 Prospects and no contender has more young arms to trade than the Braves. Their stock of precocious pitching includes right-handers Soroka, Kyle Wright, Ian Anderson, Touki Toussaint and Bryse Wilson and left-handers Max Fried, Luiz Gohara, Kolby Allard, Joey Wentz and Kyle Muller. The emergence of Johan Camargo and the signing of Josh Donaldson could make third-base prospect Austin Riley somewhat redundant.

Brewers
Top 100 Prospects: 1
Top-rated prospect: 2B Keston Hiura (No. 30)

In the last year, the Brewers have parlayed prospects into a blockbuster for eventual National League MVP Christian Yelich as well as smaller in-season trades for six other members of their NL Championship Series roster. The system isn't as deep as it used to be and second baseman of the near future Hiura may be untouchable, but Milwaukee still has intriguing prospects such as outfielder Corey Ray, shortstop Brice Turang and right-hander Zack Brown.

Cardinals
Top 100 Prospects: 3
Top-rated prospect: RHP Alex Reyes (No. 36)

Looking to end their three-year playoff drought, their longest since 1997-99, the Cardinals barely touched their system when they dealt for Goldschmidt. They still have a slew of ready- or nearly-ready-for-the-Majors prospects they can afford to trade: right-handers Dakota Hudson and Ryan Helsley, catcher Andrew Knizner and outfielders Randy Arozarena and Justin Williams.

Dodgers
Top 100 Prospects: 4
Top-rated prospect: OF Alex Verdugo (No. 32)

After coming up short in consecutive World Series, the Dodgers are linked to several possible big moves that might catapult them to their first championship since 1988, including signing Harper as a free agent or trading for two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber. They have several attractive trade pieces in their system, starting with the sweet-swinging Verdugo, who has no clear path to playing time in Los Angeles. The Dodgers also have more quality catching prospects than any organization (Keibert Ruiz, Will Smith, Diego Cartaya, Connor Wong) and plenty of live arms (starting with Dustin May and Dennis Santana).

Phillies
Top 100 Prospects: 3
Top-rated prospect: RHP Sixto Sanchez (No. 21)

Compared to a young Pedro Martinez but sidelined for much of 2018 by inflammation, Sanchez got mentioned in the talks that resulted in the Segura trade and also has been named as part of potential deals for Realmuto and Madison Bumgarner. After bursting into contention in the first four months of last season before collapsing down the stretch, the Phillies are highly motivated to bolster their big league team. If Sanchez is available in the right deal, then none of their prospects are off limits, including their last two first-rounders (third baseman Alec Bohm, outfielder Adam Haseley) plus right-hander Adonis Medina and lefty JoJo Romero.

Rays
Top 100 Prospects: 5
Top-rated prospect: SS Wander Franco (No. 14)

The Rays not only are coming off a surprising 90-win season but also have one of the game's best farm systems. Even if it's difficult to envision them parting with Franco or left-hander/first baseman Brendan McKay, they still have plenty of ammunition to pull off more trades after dealing for Mike Zunino last month. Tampa Bay has a surplus of middle-infield prospects with Lucius Fox, Brandon Lowe, Nick Solak and Vidal Brujan, not to mention plenty of pitching after adding Matthew Liberatore and Shane McClanahan via the Draft and Shane Baz in the Chris Archer trade this summer.

Rockies
Top 100 Prospects: 3
Top-rated prospect: INF Brendan Rodgers (No. 9)

The Rockies have an abundance of young infielders and not nearly enough room for Rodgers, Ryan McMahon, Garrett Hampson and Josh Fuentes, who are all ready now, not to mention Colton Welker, Ryan Vilade, Grant Lavigne, Tyler Nevin and Terrin Vavra, who require more development. Fuentes and Nevin impressed evaluators in the Arizona Fall League, as did outfielder Sam Hilliard and right-hander Justin Lawrence.

Yankees
Top 100 Prospects: 3
Top-rated prospect: Estevan Florial (No. 45)

The Yankees already included Sheffield in the Paxton deal and still need more pitching after losing out in the Patrick Corbin and Nathan Eovaldi sweepstakes, so it's fair to assume that any prospect is available in the right trade. The system is pitching-heavy behind Florial, and right-handers Jonathan Loaisiga, Albert Abreu, Domingo Acevedo and Trevor Stephan -- among others -- are extra attractive because they're close to being ready for the big leagues.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

These 3 arms could bring heat to Meetings

MLB.com @jonmorosi

LAS VEGAS -- When Patrick Corbin agreed to his six-year, $140 million contract with the Nationals last week, many observers forecasted that the signing would create a series of starting-pitching moves throughout the Major Leagues.

As the industry gathers at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino for the annual Winter Meetings, those dominoes have yet to fall.

LAS VEGAS -- When Patrick Corbin agreed to his six-year, $140 million contract with the Nationals last week, many observers forecasted that the signing would create a series of starting-pitching moves throughout the Major Leagues.

As the industry gathers at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino for the annual Winter Meetings, those dominoes have yet to fall.

Hot Stove news, rumors

For now, it appears much of the conversation is centered on three pitchers. Here's a look at what could unfold with each of them over the coming days.

Sonny Gray, RHP, Yankees
The Yankees have been linked to any number of pursuits in this Hot Stove season, but with an important caveat: Their Major League roster is full at 40 players, including 22 pitchers. For general manager Brian Cashman to make a move, he'll need to cut ties with one of the 40. Gray, who needs a change of scenery, is the most obvious candidate.

Several teams are pursuing Gray, sources say, an indication that the industry is willing to think of him as the pitcher who maintained a 3.17 ERA on the road last season -- and not the one who struggled to a 6.98 ERA at Yankee Stadium.

Gray doesn't carry the raw performance value of Cleveland right-handers Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer, nor Arizona right-hander Zack Greinke. But Gray's bounce-back potential is intriguing -- particularly to the Padres, who have genuine interest now that it appears Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard is likely to remain in Queens.

Video: MLB Tonight on possible Winter Meeting trades

J.A. Happ, LHP, Yankees
The Yankees acquired Happ from the Blue Jays last season, partially because they couldn't rely on Gray. Now it's possible that Gray will be dealt away in order to clear the roster spot (and payroll space) for Happ's return.

The Yankees' interest in Happ is self-evident: He went 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA in 11 regular-season starts with New York after the midseason trade, and, at age 36, he is available on a shorter-term deal than fellow free agent Dallas Keuchel.

Industry sources indicated Sunday that the Yankees and Phillies are best-positioned to sign Happ, although the Astros are another possibility. Happ pitched for Houston from 2010-12.

Video: Hoch believes Happ is likely to sign with Yankees

Madison Bumgarner, LHP, Giants
The more general managers speak with agents about the asking prices for top pitchers, the more those executives might dream about the financial particulars of Bumgarner's contract: one year, $12 million.

A trade involving Bumgarner wasn't close as the meetings opened, one source said Sunday, but two things are clear: Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi is willing to trade Bumgarner in order to initiate the team's roster makeover, and he's very likely to do so between now and the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Video: MLB Now on what the Giants should do this offseason

Thus, the question is when. As long as Bumgarner remains healthy, he could be the No. 1 rental starter on the midsummer trade market, thanks to his affordable contract and extraordinary postseason pedigree. But it's hard to imagine a better field of trading partners than what Zaidi has right now, with the Phillies, Brewers, Yankees and Braves -- all with strong farm systems -- in the market for an ace-level arm.

The Phillies, who utilized a left-handed starter in only three games last season, have an especially acute need for a southpaw. Bumgarner and Happ are available to address that need ... at least, for now.

Jon Paul Morosi is a reporter for MLB.com and MLB Network.

Madison Bumgarner, Sonny Gray, J.A. Happ

Harper to Cards? Still a long shot

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.

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 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."

Dodgers have outfield depth but could pursue Harper nonetheless
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.

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.

Olney still not ruling out reunion between Harper and Nats
Dec. 8: 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.

But ESPN's Buster Olney still isn't counting out a Harper-Nats reunion.

"Before anyone completely slams the door shut, it's worth remembering: Stuff happens," Olney wrote in his latest column for ESPN+ (subscription required). "Negotiations take many twists and turns, and if there is one lasting tether between any organization and a particular agent right now, it's between Harper's representative, Scott Boras, and the Nationals."

As Olney points out, Boras has a long history of negotiating with Washington, as he has represented past and present Nationals such as Harper, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Jayson Werth and Anthony Rendon, among others.

Olney compares Harper to another Boras client, Bernie Williams, who seemed prepared to leave the Yankees in free agency after the 1998 season, only to re-sign with New York when owner George Steinbrenner agreed to increase his offer from $60 million to $87.5 million. That was enough to get Williams to return, even though he had an offer for slightly more money ($91 million) from the rival Red Sox.

Video: Intentional Talk: Nats moving on from Harper?

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.

Nats owner: Initial offer to Harper was "best we can do"
Dec. 7: After Bryce Harper rejected a reported 10-year, $300 million offer from the Nationals at the end of the regular season and Washington subsequently signed Patrick Corbin for $140 million over six years, there's been much speculation about the club's plans for Harper.

Principal owner Mark Lerner shed some light on the Nationals' thought process Friday in an interview with Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier on 106.7 The Fan.

"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 [agent Scott] Boras' MO to leave money on the table."

Lerner indicated that the Nationals are comfortable with their current outfield, which consists of Juan Soto, Adam Eaton, Victor Robles and Michael A. Taylor.

"We feel very strongly we're in good shape," Lerner said. "It'll be a young, pretty incredible outfield defensively, and certainly with the bat it's going to be special."

Cardinals may still be in on Harper, even after trading for Goldschmidt
Dec. 7: The Cardinals addressed a major need when they traded for All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt this week, and president of baseball operations John Mozeliak made it clear at Goldschmidt's introductory press conference that he believes he has the starting lineup in place for 2019.

But according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman in an article for Fancred Sports, St. Louis isn't necessarily out on free-agent superstar Bryce Harper. "Three straight years missing the playoffs has made them determined to improve the team," Heyman writes.

True, the Cardinals' outfield is even more crowded with Goldschmidt in the fold, as Jose Martinez can no longer be slotted in at first base.

But St. Louis has money to spend, and it doesn't have many obvious needs remaining for 2019. If the club decides it wants to use its resources on one big-ticket player instead of spreading the wealth around, it doesn't appear as though the presence of Martinez, Dexter Fowler or Tyler O'Neill will stand in the way of a Harper pursuit.

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. 

Superstar or bust for Phillies?
Dec. 5: The Phillies could have used left-hander Patrick Corbin just as much as the Nationals, but now that he's reportedly agreed to a contract with Washington, Philly.com's Scott Lauber writes that Philadelphia needs to make signing Bryce Harper or Manny Machado its main priority. While Phillies owner John Middleton has said that his club could be "a little stupid" in how it spends its considerable financial resources this offseason, Lauber argues that giving Corbin the sixth year he desired on his contract would have been ill-advised if it hurt the Phillies' chances for Harper or Machado. Philadelphia's starting rotation, led by Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta while also featuring improving youngsters including Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez, was one of the club's stronger areas in 2018, but its offense finished with the fewest hits in the Major Leagues. Philly's lineup is desperate for an impact bat, argues Lauber, meaning the club "can't afford to miss out" on at least one of the big two superstars atop the free-agent board.

The Nationals can't completely be ruled out of the Harper sweepstakes, and the Dodgers have sent some Harper-related signals this week, too. And the Yankees are looming, of course, with perhaps the Cubs waiting in the wings as well. It's up to the Phillies to convince either Harper or Machado to come to the City of Brotherly Love, and Lauber argues that Middleton's money is their best argument.

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. 

Phils still in on Harper (and more) after Segura trade
Dec. 3: The Phillies' expectedly active offseason took its first significant step on Monday with the acquisition of two-time All-Star shortstop Jean Segura from the Mariners. And the trade should not affect the club's pursuit of either Harper or Manny Machado, MLB.com's Todd Zolecki writes. In fact, Segura's addition gives the Phils a tremendous amount of flexibility in how they move forward. 

Phils still in for Machado, Harper after Segura deal

Both Machado and Segura played shortstop in 2018, but each has also played a separate infield position and at a high level. Machado played most of his Major League career at third, and Segura had a highly productive season over 142 games at second in 2016 with the D-backs. If Machado refuses to play third and/or asks for too much money, the Phils could shift their sights more exclusively to Harper, per Zolecki. 

Video: Zolecki joins High Heat to discuss Segura trade

"The Phillies like Harper. They recognize he is an iconic player. They know he would be a tremendous presence in the lineup," Zolecki writes.

The Phillies, however, won't wait long into 2019 while Harper's agent, Scott Boras, negotiates what many anticipate will be the richest contract in baseball history. And if the Phils acquire Machado in the coming weeks, they can shift to more affordable outfield pieces, such as free agents Michael Brantley or A.J. Pollock, or seek an upgrade via trade. 

Again, Monday's trade helps the Phillies on the field and in the offseason market. As Zolecki put it: "Segura allows the Phillies to be more picky."

Busy Braves have Keuchel atop wish list

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