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How many future HOFers will play in 2018?

MLB.com @mike_petriello

For any given game in the upcoming 2018 season, no matter which two teams are playing, there's a possibility you'll be watching a future Hall of Famer. Often, it will be easy to identify who that player will be, as there are plenty of stars with tons of awards on their shelves already.

But sometimes, it won't be so obvious, because you might be seeing a struggling rookie at the start of their career who, after a period of time, eventually turns into the next Randy Johnson or Rickey Henderson.

For any given game in the upcoming 2018 season, no matter which two teams are playing, there's a possibility you'll be watching a future Hall of Famer. Often, it will be easy to identify who that player will be, as there are plenty of stars with tons of awards on their shelves already.

But sometimes, it won't be so obvious, because you might be seeing a struggling rookie at the start of their career who, after a period of time, eventually turns into the next Randy Johnson or Rickey Henderson.

We can't sit here today and predict for you who will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame class of, say, 2041. Instead, what we can do is take a look at today's current players and give you a good idea of who might be in that conversation some day.

First, we have to estimate how many Hall of Famers we should be expecting. When we did this in 2017 and '16, the numbers indicated that there were an average of 31 future Hall of Famers playing in each season. Between 1946-86, for example, it was between 27 and 36 future legends playing literally every single year. While it's fallen since, that's in part because some of the stars of the following era are the players being considered for induction right now, like Edgar Martinez (debuted in 1987) and Larry Walker ('89).

So, who in 2018 may potentially land in Cooperstown some day? We can break it down into tiers, and for ease of reference, we'll show each player's current Wins Above Replacement, per FanGraphs. It's not the end-all be-all of a player's value, but it's the best we've got, and it does a strong job in estimating how productive they were. For reference, the average Hall of Famer put up between 50-70 WAR in their career. The best of the best, like Babe Ruth, topped 160 WAR.

Before we get to the 2018 list, let's note that you won't see Chase Utley (65 WAR) and Ichiro Suzuki (58 WAR) here. Ichiro seems like a slam dunk, and Utley has a strong case, but they're each currently without a team, so we don't know if they'll end up playing again in '18.

The absolute locks

Video: MIN@LAA: Pujols crushes the 600th homer of his career

1. Albert Pujols (89 WAR)
2. Adrian Beltre (84 WAR)
3. Miguel Cabrera (67 WAR)
4. Clayton Kershaw (58 WAR)

Pujols and Cabrera are two of the top 10 right-handed hitters ever. The fact neither had a strong 2017 doesn't matter much, because they are obvious first-ballot locks, and you'll see them play in '18. Beltre reached 3,000 hits in 2017, still has a shot at 500 homers and when he retires, WAR will consider him one of the five best third basemen of all-time. He'll get in easily.

Kershaw is a new entry to the list of slam dunks, because 2017 represented his 10th year in the Major Leagues, making him eligible for induction if he were to retire today. He won't be 30 until March, but with three Cy Young Awards, as well as seven straight top-five finishes, and an MVP Award under his belt, the question is less, "Will he make Cooperstown?" and more, "Will he be the greatest pitcher ever?" Needless to say, his induction seems assured.

Mike Trout's personal tier

Video: Must C Classic: Trout clubs career homers 200 and 201

5. Mike Trout (54 WAR)

Only entering his age-26 season, we can't really say he's "in" in the same way we can about Pujols, but let's be honest: At this rate, he's going to be considered the best player of his generation. Remember, he entered 2017 with five straight top-two finishes in the MVP balloting, and he then proceeded to have his best season yet on a rate basis. Despite his youth, he's already out-produced Hall of Famers like Jim Rice (50 WAR), Orlando Cepeda (50 WAR) and Ralph Kiner (48 WAR). He remains, somehow, underrated.

Over-30 stars working on strong cases

Video: Sheldon on Votto finishing second for NL MVP

6. CC Sabathia (65 WAR)
7. Justin Verlander (57 WAR)
8. Zack Greinke (54 WAR)
9. Joey Votto (53 WAR)
10. Robinson Cano (53 WAR)
11. Evan Longoria (50 WAR)
12. Dustin Pedroia (49 WAR)
13. Max Scherzer (44 WAR)
14. Andrew McCutchen (44 WAR)
15. Buster Posey (37 WAR)
16. Yadier Molina (35 WAR)
17. Paul Goldschmidt (32 WAR)

Some of these guys are going to make it in. A few will, actually. But don't forget how quickly this can change, also. A few years ago, you'd have expected David Wright, Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitzki in this group, and now it's difficult to see any having a shot.

Cole Hamels, Felix Hernandez and Jon Lester might belong on this list, but it's more complicated than ever to know how future voters will evaluate starting pitchers, as they pitch fewer and fewer innings. Are these three all-time greats, or just very good? Does Hernandez have a rebound in him, or will he be the Andruw Jones of the mound, because his last really great season came at age 29, back in 2015? Does David Price have a second act in him, or was '17's arm trouble the beginning of the end?

That's not even to mention the over-30 stars who are among the game's truly elite right now, but probably got too late of a start to compile the counting stats that are usually required. We're talking about Josh Donaldson, who didn't have his first great year until he was 27, Daniel Murphy, who broke out as he turned 30, Corey Kluber, who had his breakthrough at 28, or Justin Turner, who was a non-roster invite heading into his age-29 season. The talent is undeniable, but is there time left?

None of the players here are locks, and some have more work to do. Pedroia, McCutchen and Longoria, in particular, probably need another great season or two. Verlander enhanced his case with his performance helping Houston to a title, but he's not quite over the line yet. Molina won't have the stats, but his case will be improved by his reputation as a leader. Meanwhile, we want so badly to say that Votto is a lock, and it works in his favor that the evolving electorate seems more likely to value the skills he excels at. In another year, he very well may be.

30-and-under players on the right path

Video: Jose Altuve caps off magical 2017 with AL MVP Award

18. Chris Sale (35 WAR)
19. Giancarlo Stanton (34 WAR)
20. Madison Bumgarner (30 WAR)
21. Bryce Harper (27 WAR)
22. Manny Machado (26 WAR)
23. Jose Altuve (26 WAR)
24. Freddie Freeman (25 WAR)
25. Anthony Rizzo (24 WAR)
26. Kris Bryant (22 WAR)
27. Nolan Arenado (21 WAR)
28. Mookie Betts (20 WAR)
29. Craig Kimbrel (18 WAR)
30. Kenley Jansen (17 WAR)
31. Aroldis Chapman (16 WAR)

The younger the group gets, the more difficult this exercise becomes. Not only are there more outcomes for career paths, but it's harder to know how voters may look at different kinds of contributions -- don't forget, many of these players won't be eligible for another 15 or 20 years.

It's a fun group, though. Harper and Machado have accomplished so much so young that they almost stand apart, while Betts, Bryant, Rizzo, Altuve and Freeman are among the brightest under-30 stars in baseball. They just need to keep that up for another decade, or more. It's not easy.

The bottom trio is an interesting subsection, because WAR isn't an ideal metric for relievers, and the simple definition of what a reliever even is seems to change regularly. That Kimbrel, Jansen and Chapman compile saves doesn't really matter much. That they are each making a case to be considered among the most dominant relievers who ever lived, even up there with the great Mariano Rivera, does. At least one, and maybe more, will get to Cooperstown.

The "two great years or fewer" young field

Video: Judge is AL Rookie of the Year and MVP runner-up

32. Aaron Judge
33. Corey Seager
34. Jose Ramirez
35. Carlos Correa
36. Francisco Lindor
37. Cody Bellinger
38. Alex Bregman
39. Byron Buxton
40. Ronald Acuna
41. Shohei Ohtani
42. Michael Conforto
43. Xander Bogaerts
44. Noah Syndergaard
45. Gary Sanchez

Look at these names. We're looking at four Rookie of the Year Award winners here, some of the most highly anticipated prospects in baseball and multiple first-round Draft picks who have already made an impression on the Major Leagues. You can almost guarantee that someone from this list -- or not on this list, but who will play in 2018, like Walker BuehlerLuis SeverinoAndrew Benintendi or Rhys Hoskins -- will make the Hall of Fame someday.

But who? Or how many? It's impossible and unfair to know for players this young. Judge could repeat his magical 2017 endlessly, or he could be one of history's all-time great one-hit wonders. The young shortstop trio of Correa, Seager and Lindor all look like they have what it takes to be the next Mickey, Willie and the Duke, yet the oldest is just 24. So much can go wrong. You can't possibly know.

Obviously, we've named more than 31 players. Even more obviously, not everyone here is getting in, and someone who will appear in 2018 who we haven't even brought up will eventually get in. That's the point, though. You can't possibly know how all these careers will turn out. All you can say for sure is that you could throw a dart at literally any game on the schedule and potentially see greatness.

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

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

These 10 baseball players have uncanny doppelgangers in old artwork

"Surely there was a person who looked just like me in a famous work of art from hundreds of years ago" is a common thought shared by many people as they lay in bed. Until recently, that was the best we could hope for -- just thoughts. Then Google updated their Arts and Culture app and suddenly, the truth was revealed. Everyone on the internet wanted to see who their artistic doppelganger was.

Tale of the tape: Darvish vs. Arrieta

Which top free-agent starter would provide most bang for buck?
MLB.com @castrovince

Gerrit Cole's availability in the trade market was a distraction for several teams that might otherwise have been more thoroughly immersed in free agency, and it remains to be seen if discussions about Chris Archer or other potential trade chips get to as serious a stage.

But Cole's move from Pittsburgh to Houston invites optimism that we'll finally begin to get some clarity in free agency. Though there are a lot of names out there, Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta represent the class of this class, and something could come to fruition soon with teams that are open to the idea of springing for a front-line-type starter -- a list that includes but is likely not limited to the Cubs, Yankees, Brewers, Twins, Dodgers and Rangers.

Gerrit Cole's availability in the trade market was a distraction for several teams that might otherwise have been more thoroughly immersed in free agency, and it remains to be seen if discussions about Chris Archer or other potential trade chips get to as serious a stage.

But Cole's move from Pittsburgh to Houston invites optimism that we'll finally begin to get some clarity in free agency. Though there are a lot of names out there, Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta represent the class of this class, and something could come to fruition soon with teams that are open to the idea of springing for a front-line-type starter -- a list that includes but is likely not limited to the Cubs, Yankees, Brewers, Twins, Dodgers and Rangers.

So here's a tale of the tape comparing Darvish and Arrieta, as teams discuss and decide which one to prioritize.

Background
Darvish: Having achieved veritable rock-star status in his native Japan, Darvish came to the United States via the posting system at age 25. And though he's not won a Cy Young Award and he was sidetracked by a right elbow injury at one point, Darvish has largely lived up to the hype.

Arrieta: This intense competitor and disciplined dieter ("I eat plants, I eat lean meats," Arrieta said when people tried to accuse him of taking PEDs amid a late bloom) nearly pitched his way out of the big leagues in Baltimore before a change of scenery and pitch selection helped him achieve superstardom in Chicago.

Age
Darvish:
31

Arrieta: 32

Career stats
Darvish:
131 starts, 832 1/3 innings, 3.42 ERA, 3.30 FIP, 1.18 WHIP, 3.33 K/BB ratio, 19.3 bWAR

Arrieta: 197 games, 1,161 innings, 3.57 ERA, 3.64 FIP, 1.17 WHIP, 2.66 K/BB ratio, 20.3 bWAR

Video: MLB Tonight on Jake Arrieta's options in free agency

2017 stats
Darvish: 31 starts, 186 2/3 innings, 3.86 ERA, 3.83 FIP, 1.16 WHIP, 3.6 K/BB ratio, 3.9 bWAR

Arrieta: 30 starts, 168 1/3 innings, 3.53 ERA, 4.16 FIP, 1.22 WHIP, 2.96 K/BB ratio, 1.9 bWAR

2018 Steamer projection
Darvish:
29 starts, 179 innings, 3.82 ERA, 3.70 FIP, 1.20 WHIP, 3.56 K/BB ratio, 3.6 WAR

Arrieta: 29 starts, 177 innings, 4.20 ERA, 4.11 FIP, 1.32 WHIP, 2.71 K/BB ratio, 2.7 WAR

Durability
Darvish:
Tommy John surgery cost Darvish all of the 2015 season and part of '16. Since coming to MLB from Japan in '12, he has logged just one 200-inning season (209 2/3 innings in '13). However, Darvish did make 31 starts between the Rangers and Dodgers last year.

Video: TEX@TB: Watch Darvish's 12 K's in 12 seconds

Arrieta: Though a right hamstring strain sidelined him late last year, Arrieta has never had a major arm injury, which of course stands in stark contrast to Darvish's situation. Has made at least 30 starts each of the past three seasons.

Stuff
Darvish:
Darvish has a deep repertoire that includes a four-seamer (94.3 mph average in 2017), slider, sinker, cutter, curve, splitter and changeup. With the Dodgers late last season, he began having success throwing his fastball less frequently and his cutter more. Darvish also lowered his arm slot slightly.

Arrieta: With a deceptive delivery, Arrieta throws a sinker, four-seamer, curve, changeup and slider-cutter. A de-emphasis on the four-seam usage and increase in sinker percentage helped spark his 2015 rise to stardom.

Postseason pedigree
Darvish:
Because Darvish lost his only two postseason starts with the Rangers and was lit up by the Astros in the World Series (eight runs on nine hits in 3 1/3 innings), he has a reputation as a pitcher you might not be able to trust on the big stage. But keep in mind he did limit the D-backs and Cubs to a pair of runs over 11 1/3 innings in his first two playoff starts last year, and Sports Illustrated quoted an anonymous Astros hitter as saying Darvish was tipping his pitches in the Fall Classic.

Arrieta: With a masterful performance in the 2015 National League Wild Card Game and a 2.38 ERA in two World Series starts, Arrieta has risen to the October occasion in the recent past. Overall, he is 5-3 with a 3.08 ERA in 52 2/3 innings over nine starts.

Best selling points
Darvish:
Beyond the fun you can have with the Yu puns, Darvish's stuff is every bit as sharp as it was pre-surgery, his strikeout rate (11 per nine for his career and 10.1 last season) is elite, and he's coming off a season in which he was worth nearly four Wins Above Replacement, per baseball-reference.com -- a difference-maker at a time when reliable starting arms are difficult to come by.

Arrieta: Because of the up-and-down nature of his early career, there's an argument that Arrieta's arm is "younger" than his age would indicate. He's thrown 458 2/3 fewer professional innings than Darvish has -- more than two full seasons' worth of action. Arrieta appeared on NL Cy Young Award ballots in three of the past four seasons, and his 2015 win featured an historic second half (12-1 record, 0.75 ERA in 15 starts).

Biggest red flags
Darvish:
Darvish not only had Tommy John surgery, but he's also looking at 2,172 2/3 professional innings (between Japan and the States) in his rearview mirror -- a lot of wear and tear. And the big-game reputation will, rightly or wrongly, be a storyline wherever he signs.

Arrieta: Forget the obvious assertion that Arrieta won't repeat what he did in 2015, but it's nonetheless notable that he averaged 6.94 innings per start in '15 and 5.99 from 2016-17, all while seeing a 2.5-mph drop in his average fastball velocity in that span. His walks per nine went from 1.9 in '15 to 3.2 over '16-'17. There are strategic reasons why a Cubs team that has gone deep into the playoffs three straight years would want to protect its arms (and the game is evolving toward quicker hooks, anyway), but despite the unmistakable effort Arrieta puts into his diet and his training, you might not be getting quite the workhorse or the sharp command we saw a few years back.

Video: CHC@MIL: Arrieta's 10 strikeouts in 10 seconds

Bottom line
Darvish:
Darvish might never have a transcendent, award-winning season like Arrieta once had, but if you want an imposing presence that can elevate the top end of a rotation, Yu got it.

Arrieta: Arrieta is expected to command a lower total contract figure than Darvish, and he therefore might provide more value if -- and only if -- he can sort through his command issues of 2017.

One man's conclusion
Because of the repertoire tweaks first instituted in L.A. that can make his still-elite-level stuff more consistently effective, Darvish has the higher upside of the two moving forward, even with the red flags associated with his medical history. He's the guy you want your favorite team to sign.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish

Hoffman, Wagner HOF valuation a challenge

Cases come down to how much voters value relief pitchers
MLB.com @JPosnanski

Though I have spent countless hours studying the Hall of Fame -- the players in it, the trends, great choices, odd choices, philosophies behind the vote -- I still have absolutely no idea what to do with relief pitchers. No idea.

For reasons that are not entirely clear, relievers have been beloved by baseball writers and analysts since the 1970s. There are two things that are strange about this:

Though I have spent countless hours studying the Hall of Fame -- the players in it, the trends, great choices, odd choices, philosophies behind the vote -- I still have absolutely no idea what to do with relief pitchers. No idea.

For reasons that are not entirely clear, relievers have been beloved by baseball writers and analysts since the 1970s. There are two things that are strange about this:

1. Before the 1970s, relief pitchers were mostly viewed as nothing but failed starters.

2. Since the save was invented, relievers have developed a level of respect and admiration that still eludes, say, designated hitters.

The second thing is the befuddling one. Exactly zero designated hitters -- players who have hit there at least 60 percent of their plate appearances -- have won an MVP award. David Ortiz came close a couple of times. Edgar Martinez finished third in 1995 despite having a much better season than winner Mo Vaughn. In 2006, DH Travis Hafner had a crazy offensive season -- he slugged a full 100 points higher than MVP Justin Morneau -- but didn't get even one first-place vote.

The weird part of the Edgar and Hafner years is that the winners (Vaughn, Morneau) played first base, which is the position closest to DH.

Complete Hall of Fame coverage

By the same token, zero players who have been a DH at least 60 percent of the time have been elected to the Hall of Fame. Martinez is trying to become the first, and though he is one of the greatest hitters in baseball history, he still struggles still to get to 75 percent of the vote.

Meanwhile, relief pitchers -- closers specifically -- have been treated much better by the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) though they are even more specialized than designated hitters. Closers throw between a half and a quarter of the innings starting pitchers throw. And yet relievers have won nine Cy Young Awards since the 1969 expansion, along with three MVP awards.

Video: FLA@ATL: Wagner's 1,170th strikeout sets lefty record

Also, four relievers in the expansion era have been elected to the Hall of Fame. If you look at the Hall of Fame pitchers with the fewest innings pitched, you find three of them:

Hall of Fame pitchers with fewest innings

1. Bruce Sutter: 1,042 innings
2. Rollie Fingers: 1,701 innings
3. Goose Gossage: 1,809 innings

The fourth, Dennis Eckersley, was a good but not great starter, piling up 2,500 innings doing that. It was his relief work that got him to Cooperstown, though he threw fewer than 800 innings as a closer.

All of this makes you wonder: How in the heck can even great relief pitchers such as Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner make a viable Hall of Fame case?

Consider two pitchers on this year's ballot.

One is Hoffman. He pitched 1,089 1/3 innings in his career, posting a 141 ERA+ and a 3.7 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He led the league in saves twice, and finished second in the Cy Young Award voting one year.

The other pitcher tallied 2,025 2/3 innings -- almost twice as many as Hoffman -- with a 136 ERA+ and a 3.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He led the league in ERA three times, in games started twice, in innings pitched twice, in strikeouts three times, in ERA+ three times, in WHIP four times, in fewest hits per nine innings three times. He won two Cy Young Awards. He finished with almost twice as many wins above replacement as Hoffman.

Hoffman will get elected this year, I believe.

Johan Santana, the other guy, will fall off the ballot this year due to non-support, I believe.

You tell me if that makes a lot of sense to you.

This is why I find the relief pitching thing so hard to measure. Everyone knows a good closer is an important part of a winning team. Everyone knows that managers and general managers treasure closers; this offseason, Colorado paid $17 million per year for Wade Davis. But neither of the terrific closers we're talking about today -- Hoffman and Wagner -- ever pitched 100 innings in a season. Neither of them ever accumulated 4.5 bWAR in a season.

Kevin Brown, David Cone, Dave Stieb and Rick Reuschel each had seven seasons with 4.5 WAR or better, and not one of them even made it to a second ballot.

Here's a crazy fact: From 1996-2000, Brown put up a higher WAR (36.9) than either Hoffman (28.0) or Wagner (27.7) did for their entire careers. The combined career WAR of both Wagner and Hoffman is merely what Brown accumulated from 1990-2000.

So what is the case for relievers? Well, the argument is that relievers are a special breed, and WAR cannot capture their value. Yes, they pitch fewer innings, but almost all of them were in critical game situations. Closers are not given the luxury of pitching the lazy early innings of a game or throwing with a big lead. They are brought in, almost exclusively, when their teams are on the brink of victory, when the manager needs someone to close things out, when winning or losing is hanging in the balance.

This is why both of them rank very high all-time in a different statistic called Win Probability Added. To explain it briefly, WPA adds or subtracts an individual contribution to his team's win percentage. In other words, if a closer gets out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the ninth with the game on the line, there's quite a bit of win probability added. And because teams going into the last inning with a lead already have a very high probability of winning, closers will lose a great deal of WPA if they blow the save.

To give you an idea of how important those closer innings are, Hoffman added 34 wins by WPA, 21st on the all-time list. He is stuffed right between Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan and Robin Roberts, who threw thousands more innings. Wagner's WPA is 29, which puts him in 34th place, ahead of Hall of Famers like Steve Carlton.

With relief-pitcher voting, like with every other part of Hall of Fame voting, most people will choose the statistics and criteria and touchstones that confirm their already strongly held belief. If you don't think many relievers merit Hall of Fame consideration, you will go with WAR or innings pitched or strikeouts or something like that. If you believe that great relievers are no-doubt Hall of Famers, you will go with WPA. I'm stuck in the middle somewhere.

One thing I'm not stuck about: I think Hoffman and Wagner were similarly excellent, with Wagner being the more dominant pitcher. He had a 2.31 ERA to Hoffman's 2.87. There are numerous other statistics in which Wagner was significantly better than Hoffman, but my favorite number connected with Wagner is 0.998. That was his career WHIP. It is the lowest WHIP for any pitcher since the dead-ball era.

But Hoffman has become the BBWAA's favored choice, mainly because of his saves. Hoffman is one of only two pitchers -- the incomparable Mariano Rivera is the other -- to save 600 games. Wagner managed 422 saves. Hoffman saved 40-plus games nine times. Wagner did it just twice.

Video: MIN@NYY: Mo closes out Twins for save No. 602

Still, the careers of Hoffman and Wagner are more similar than different. They both made seven All-Star teams. They were both excellent closers from the mid-1990s to 2010. They finished with roughly the same value. It seems strange then that Hoffman likely will be elected to the Hall of Fame, probably this year, while Wagner polls at barely 10 percent and seems to be losing support. But there are many people who put a lot of stock in the save statistic.

I mention above that Rivera is incomparable. I think this is important to say because there are Hoffman fans who will argue that he was essentially the National League Mariano; every year, several people write in to me to say that he was better than Mariano. Look, I think the world of Trevor Hoffman. I didn't have room for him on my overcrowded ballot, but I think it will be a great day when he is elected, and I still have goosebumps from the first time I saw him enter the field with the song "Hell's Bells" being played.

But he is not Mariano Rivera, and nobody else is either. There's a reason Rivera's WAR (56.6) is more than double Hoffman's. Rivera's ERA (2.21) and all-time great ERA+ (a record 205) and mathematically elegant WHIP (1.000) much more closely compare to Wagner than Hoffman.

But the main difference between Rivera and everyone else, including Hoffman, is his postseason dominance. He threw 141 innings in the postseason, had a 0.70 ERA, saved 42 games and had an absurd 0.759 WHIP. That level of success is untouchable.

Hoffman's postseason experience was extremely limited, and he struggled in the only World Series he pitched in.

Then again, does a reliever have to be as great as Rivera to be a Hall of Famer? The answer is clearly no. That's a good thing, because if it were the case, there would be zero closers in the Hall of Fame … until next year.

Joe Posnanski is a columnist for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

With no MLB offer, Ichiro might return to Japan

Agent holding out hope that he can find a big league job for outfielder
MLB.com @boomskie

SAN DIEGO -- The Major League Baseball career of Ichiro Suzuki may be fading to black, the video term for the end of a production or show.

At 44 years old, Ichiro has been pitched this offseason to most of the 30 Major League teams, thus far without any success. Spring Training is less than a month away. The lefty-swinging hitter with 3,080 career big league knocks wants to continue playing baseball, and if he isn't able to do so here, he may finish his iconic career in Japan where it all began, said his San Diego-based agent, John Boggs.

SAN DIEGO -- The Major League Baseball career of Ichiro Suzuki may be fading to black, the video term for the end of a production or show.

At 44 years old, Ichiro has been pitched this offseason to most of the 30 Major League teams, thus far without any success. Spring Training is less than a month away. The lefty-swinging hitter with 3,080 career big league knocks wants to continue playing baseball, and if he isn't able to do so here, he may finish his iconic career in Japan where it all began, said his San Diego-based agent, John Boggs.

"I don't really like to think about that," Boggs told MLB.com on Tuesday morning. "As every day goes by, I keep holding out hope that somebody will realize that he would be a tremendous asset for any organization."

Video: MIA@COL: Ichiro runs 19.8 MPH on 3,000th career hit

Ichiro, a certain first-ballot electee to the National Baseball Hall of Fame when the time comes, played the past three seasons in Miami. When new ownership recently took over the Marlins, it decided to give him a $500,000 buyout rather than exercise his $2 million option for the 2018 season.

Since then, Boggs said he's had extensive conversations with the Mariners and Padres, but to no avail. Both teams have moved on.

Ichiro, now a backup outfielder and pinch-hitter, has said he would like to play baseball until he's 50, and he is still in the type of physical condition to do it.

"I feel like a big dog at a pet shop that hasn't been sold," he said last month in Japan. "Of course, I want to play baseball next year."

About the possibility of playing in Japan for the first time since 2000, Ichiro added:

"When you use the word 'possibility,' there are many things -- it means anything is possible as long as it's not zero."

Complicating matters in MLB is the fact there are still a number of attractive free-agent outfielders available in a sluggish market, including J.D. Martinez, Lorenzo Cain and Carlos Gonzalez. Jay Bruce just agreed to a three-year, $39 million free-agent deal to return to the Mets, who traded him to Cleveland last season.

"We had great hopes at the beginning of all this that the Mariners would bring him back," Boggs said. "I wish there was more activities with clubs. I understand there are a lot of outfielders still out there."

Ichiro spent his first 11 1/2 seasons in Seattle before being traded to the Yankees midway through the 2012 season. In his first 10 seasons, he accumulated at least 200 hits each year, including an all-time single-season record of 262 in '04.

Including his 1,278 hits during nine seasons with the Orix Blue Wave in Japan's Pacific League, Ichiro holds the all-time professional record with 4,358 hits.

Video: MIA@COL: Ichiro triples for his 3,000th hit

Boggs took over as Ichiro's agent in 2014, when the outfielder left the Yankees as a free agent. Like this year, Boggs found it hard to place Ichiro, who had negotiated his own deal to return to Orix in the event that he had no offer from an MLB team. The Marlins ultimately stepped in and signed him on Jan. 27, 2015. Ichiro became the first player of Japanese heritage to reach 3,000th hits in 2016, when he batted .291 and played in 143 games, starting 59 in the outfield.

"After he got his 3,000th hit, I realized what he told me all along -- that it wasn't about setting records, records come in time," Boggs said. "It was about playing the game of baseball, which he absolutely loves."

Last year, with Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna getting most of the outfield starts for Miami, Ichiro played in 136 games, but made only 23 starts. He went from 365 plate appearances in 2016 to 215. Still, Ichiro batted .255 and had 50 hits, 27 of them pinch-hits, falling one short of the single-season record set in 1995 by John Vander Wal, then with the Rockies.

"The uniqueness of Ichiro lends to any team that will give him an opportunity to play," Boggs said. "To me, if you give him more at-bats, he's going to deliver."

Boggs said he will continue to make the rounds until he gets a bite.

"They know he's out there," Boggs said. "There was some hope with the Mets, and they signed Jay Bruce. There was some hope with the Reds if they moved Billy Hamilton, and then that didn't pan out. We're just waiting for the next shoe to drop. We keep being told, 'Check back, check back,' and I can say that with a half-dozen teams."

Spring Training starts earlier in Japan than it does in the U.S. The clock is obviously ticking.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Ichiro Suzuki

Giants introduce new right fielder: McCutchen

A staple in center with Pirates, former NL MVP shifts to corner, while Pence moves to left
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SAN FRANCISCO -- The only way the Giants could feel more excited about acquiring Andrew McCutchen would be if he covered adjacent outfield positions simultaneously.

The Giants introduced McCutchen to members of the local media on a conference call Tuesday, one day after the club obtained the five-time National League All-Star from the Pirates for right-hander Kyle Crick and outfielder Bryan Reynolds.

SAN FRANCISCO -- The only way the Giants could feel more excited about acquiring Andrew McCutchen would be if he covered adjacent outfield positions simultaneously.

The Giants introduced McCutchen to members of the local media on a conference call Tuesday, one day after the club obtained the five-time National League All-Star from the Pirates for right-hander Kyle Crick and outfielder Bryan Reynolds.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy was unrestrained in his praise for McCutchen, who's expected to bolster the team's sagging offense with fellow veteran and offseason acquisition Evan Longoria.

Video: McCutchen, Longoria will help defense and lineup

"I'm just thrilled. I am so excited. This is great news for us," said Bochy, who cited McCutchen's run production, speed and clubhouse presence before adding, "I believe we're not just getting a great player. We're getting a great teammate."

Bochy announced that McCutchen, who spent most of the nine previous seasons stationed in center field for Pittsburgh, will play right field, with incumbent right fielder Hunter Pence moving to left.

Video: McCutchen on joining Giants, looking forward to 2018

"It's going to be almost like playing center field," McCutchen said of switching to right at AT&T Park, which is known for its oversized outfield acreage.

McCutchen made his first 13 starts last season in right field, then returned to center when Starling Marte received an 80-game suspension after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. McCutchen remained in center after Marte's return.

Video: STL@PIT: McCutchen lays out for spectacular grab

McCutchen's aware that, according to advanced metrics, his defensive performance has declined. His dossier last year included a minus-14 Defensive Runs Saved and a minus-4.5 Ultimate Zone Rating.

However, McCutchen went from being, statistically, the Majors' worst center fielder in 2016 (negative-11 Outs Above Average) to middle-of-the-pack (zero OAA) in '17. He flashed his sense of humor as he discussed playing right field, where he has a scant track record.

"That's one of the things people can't pick on me, saying my defensive metrics are so bad," the 2013 NL MVP said.

McCutchen's shift left San Francisco with one remaining player-position priority: Securing a center fielder with enough range to handle AT&T Park's outfield.

Video: Giants GM Evans on plans for center field

The Giants have been linked to Lorenzo Cain, perhaps the top center fielder available in free agency. But speculation persists that they're more likely to sign a lower-profile, lower-salaried free agent, such as Jarrod Dyson, Jon Jay, Austin Jackson or Cameron Maybin, to a one-year deal. Trading for Cincinnati's Billy Hamilton is another ongoing rumor. Sealing any of these potential deals would enable the Giants to steep their top center-field prospect, Steven Duggar, in Triple-A for one more season. MLB Pipeline has Duggar rated fifth among the organization's top 30 prospects.

"This is the time of year when you'd rather have Duggar in your back pocket, if you can, and work on some other things to bring in a center fielder who allows Duggar more time [to develop]," Giants general manager Bobby Evans said. "That said, we'll just continue to explore the different options. We're engaged in a number of scenarios right now."

While Evans juggles the possibilities, McCutchen, who's enormously popular in Pittsburgh, displayed admirable balance in bidding his former team farewell while joining the fold of his new one.

Video: McCutchen's powerful legacy in Pittsburgh

"There are a lot of emotions that come along with this," said McCutchen, 31. "To put it in a nutshell, we have a lot to be excited about and we have also ... a lot to be thankful for."

Joining the Giants, who eliminated the Pirates from the 2014 postseason with a 8-0 triumph in the NL Wild Card Game, was among the blessings McCutchen mentioned. He called them "an organization who knows what winning is all about."

Giants baseball operations czar Brian Sabean described the club's efforts to obtain McCutchen as a quest of sorts.

"This player has been kind of the apple of our eye in the offseason," Sabean said. "It was a dogged pursuit."

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

San Francisco Giants, Andrew McCutchen, Hunter Pence

Padres' Gore atop list of 10 best LHP prospects

A's Puk checks in at No. 2, followed by Yanks' Sheffield
MLB.com

Ranking season at MLB Pipeline began in earnest this week with the unveiling of our Top 10 right-handed pitching prospects for 2018. The list-dropping continues today with a look at the Top 10 left-handed hurlers, another immensely talented group, and it all leads up to the release of our Top 100 list, which goes live on Jan. 27, in conjunction with the MLB Network special at 8 p.m. ET (also streaming on MLB.com).

Sitting atop this year's LHP list is 19-year-old MacKenzie Gore, who turned in a stellar professional debut after the Padres drafted him third overall. He's one of four southpaws ages 20 or younger in a group that also features three newcomers as well as a pair of Braves big leaguers.

Ranking season at MLB Pipeline began in earnest this week with the unveiling of our Top 10 right-handed pitching prospects for 2018. The list-dropping continues today with a look at the Top 10 left-handed hurlers, another immensely talented group, and it all leads up to the release of our Top 100 list, which goes live on Jan. 27, in conjunction with the MLB Network special at 8 p.m. ET (also streaming on MLB.com).

Sitting atop this year's LHP list is 19-year-old MacKenzie Gore, who turned in a stellar professional debut after the Padres drafted him third overall. He's one of four southpaws ages 20 or younger in a group that also features three newcomers as well as a pair of Braves big leaguers.

:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::

1. MacKenzie Gore, Padres More »
2. A.J. Puk, Athletics More »
3. Justus Sheffield, Yankees More »
4. Luiz Gohara, Braves More »
5. Brendan McKay, Rays
6. Adrian Morejon, Padres More »
7. Kolby Allard, Braves More »
8. Jesus Luzardo, Athletics More »
9. Stephen Gonsalves, Twins More »
10. Max Fried, Braves More »

Top tools

Fastball: 70 - Puk, Gohara
No one in this group boasts an 80-grade heater like righties Shohei Ohtani, Michael Kopech or Hunter Greene do, though Puk and Gohara both generate plenty of velocity. Gohara averaged 96.4 mph and bumped triple digits with his fastball in his five starts with Atlanta in 2017, per Statcast™, while Puk, the No. 6 overall pick in 2016 Draft, spent the season operating at 93-97 mph across two Minor League levels.

Video: Top Prospects: A.J. Puk, LHP, Athletics

Curveball: 60 - Gore, McKay, Fried
Fried's curveball continues to be regarded as one of the best in the Minors, and he missed bats at better than a 35-percent clip with the pitch over 26 innings with the Braves in 2017. Gore's curveball is a legitimate plus offering, registering in the mid-70s with late biting action, and McKay's grades as plus as well.

Video: Top Prospects: Max Fried, LHP, Braves

Slider: 65 - Puk
Puk complements his impressive heater with a devastating slider in the mid- to upper-80s that nets him whiffs against right- and left-handed hitters alike. That pairing helped the big lefty pile up 184 strikeouts in just 125 innings in 2017, when he paced all qualified Minor League starters with 13.2 strikeouts-per-nine innings.

Changeup: 60 - Allard, Luzardo, Gonsalves
Luzardo's changeup was said to be among the best in the 2015 Draft class before he underwent Tommy John surgery, and scouts who saw him over the summer raved about the pitch's speed differential and overall effectiveness. Both Allard and Gonsalves demonstrate advanced feel for their respective changeups, though neither pitches with anything more than a slightly above-average fastball.

Video: Top Prospects: Kolby Allard, LHP, Braves

Control: 60 - Luzardo
In his first season removed from Tommy John surgery (also his professional debut), Luzardo showed a combination of stuff, pitchability and control en route to posting 48 strikeouts against five walks in 43 1/3 innings across two levels and three affiliates. Advanced control and command have been a key part of Luzardo's profile since high school and should enable him to move relatively quickly through the Minors.

Video: Top Prospects: Jesus Luzardo, LHP, Athletics

Highest ceiling/floor

Ceiling - Gore
Gore was the top prospect on the Padres' Draft board, and he confirmed their assessment by posting a 1.27 ERA and a .184 opponents' average with 34 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings during his pro debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League. The sky is the limit for the young lefty, who features four above-average-or-better offerings, advanced feel for his craft and an athletic, high-leg-kick delivery that gives hitters fits.

Floor - Gonsalves
Gonsalves has made a steady climb through Minnesota's system and enters 2018 on the cusp of the Major Leagues. The 23-year-old's stuff is far from overpowering -- his changeup is his lone plus offering -- but he does have feel for effectively changing speeds and reading hitters' swings. Those qualities, along with the improved command he showed in 2017, has led scouts to safely project Gonsalves as a back-end starter.

Video: Top Prospects: Stephen Gonsalves, LHP, Twins

Rookie of the Year candidate - Gohara
Gohara gets the edge here because he's a strong candidate to crack Atlanta's Opening Day rotation. The 21-year-old southpaw received his first taste of the Majors in 2017, when he posted a 4.91 ERA with 31 strikeouts and eight walks over 29 1/3 innings as a September callup. Fellow Braves lefty Fried also gained big league experience last season (3.81 ERA in 26 IP), while Puk, Sheffield and Gonsalves all have upper-level experience under their belts.

Video: Top Prospects: Luiz Gohara, LHP, Braves

Highest riser - Luzardo
A third-round pick of the Nationals in 2016, Luzardo had yet to throw a professional pitch at this time last year as he worked his way back from Tommy John surgery in March. The 20-year-old dominated when he finally took the mound in 2017, showing pre-surgery velocity and feel, and then continued to do so after going from the Nationals to the A's at the Trade Deadline.

Biggest overachiever - Gonsalves
Six players on this list are former first-round Draft picks. A fourth-round pick in 2013 out of the prep ranks, Gonsalves had found success at each level with his blend of pitchability and command before advancing to Triple-A and struggling late last season. Luzardo was the next lowest pick as a 2016 third-rounder, though he ultimately signed with the Nationals for $1.4 million, more than twice his slot's value.

Most to prove - Allard
Allard had a successful 2017 season by all standards as he posted a 3.18 ERA while totaling 150 innings (27 starts) Double-A innings at age 19 (he turned 20 in mid-August). From a scouting standpoint, however, Allard's fastball velocity backed up into the 88-93 mph range and he threw the pitch too frequently. His strikeout rate dipped as a result, regressing to 7.7 K/9 from 9.8 the previous year, though he did maintain a healthy walk rate (2.7 BB/9).

Keep an eye on - Jay Groome, Red Sox
MLBPipeline.com's top-rated prospect in the 2016 Draft, Groome slipped to the Red Sox at No. 12 because of questions about his signability and off-field issues. He made three starts during his pro debut after signing for $3.65 million, a franchise record for a drafted pitcher, but was limited to 55 1/3 innings in 2017 due to a lat strain and forearm soreness. Despite setbacks to begin his career, Groome has all the ingredients to develop into a frontline starter.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Estrada reveals root of midseason slide

Blue Jays hurler struggled over 10-start stretch in June, July last year
MLB.com @jonmorosi

The contrast within Marco Estrada's 2017 season was striking.

Estrada maintained a 3.15 ERA through April and May -- the sort of performance the Blue Jays expected from a reliable starter who earned his first All-Star selection the year before.

The contrast within Marco Estrada's 2017 season was striking.

Estrada maintained a 3.15 ERA through April and May -- the sort of performance the Blue Jays expected from a reliable starter who earned his first All-Star selection the year before.

Then Estrada's season went awry, as trade speculation swirled around the disappointing Jays. Over his next 10 starts, Estrada's ERA was 8.87. He uncharacteristically walked 33 batters in 45 2/3 innings.

Estrada regained his usual form almost immediately after the non-waiver Trade Deadline passed without Toronto dealing him away. He pitched against the White Sox on the night of July 31 -- mere hours after the Deadline -- and produced his best start in more than two months: seven innings and one earned run.

Video: TOR@CWS: Estrada fans five over seven stellar frames

Estrada closed the season with a 3.68 ERA in five September starts, and the Blue Jays rewarded him with a one-year, $13 million contract extension.

So, what happened?

"Honestly, I haven't talked about this ... but I basically started sleeping," Estrada said during an interview Tuesday on MLB Network Radio's "Inside Pitch."

"I was having issues with sleeping -- stressing out, stressing about being traded and a few little things. I'd been struggling. It all kind of snowballed together. I stopped sleeping. But once I knocked all that stuff out, I was able to get back on track.

"Honestly, I don't think I did anything different. I was just rested. When you don't sleep -- at least for me -- it would feel like I'm out there spinning on the mound. It made things a little difficult. The team knew about this. They knew once I would get rid of all [the] issues with sleeping that I would be just fine. And it's exactly what happened."

Estrada credited his family, friends and a psychiatrist with whom he worked for helping him through the difficult period. "I've thanked them a million times," Estrada said.

Estrada was candid Tuesday in identifying what led to his difficulty with sleeping: stress, magnified by the uncertainty of the Trade Deadline.

"It's one of those things I didn't even want to bring up, but the season's over and I feel like I can talk about it now," he said. "It was just stress. I've never really been through something like this, but it happened to me. I didn't even think it was possible, to be honest with you.

"Obviously it happened and I struggled with it, but once I got things taken care of and my mindset was in the right place, I was able to finally sleep. It shows the difference of the type of pitcher I was from June-July to August-September. It made a big difference, being able to sleep."

Estrada said he "tried everything" to help him sleep in June and July.

"I was told to maybe think of a song, put it in your head, kind of just sing that," he said. "You can count. There's a lot of things. ... For me, I think the biggest thing was just trying to clear my mind and stop worrying so much. It's easier said than done.

"Thankfully, I had a lot of support. I had my friends, my family. I was able to speak to psychiatrists there. All of that combined -- just talking to people, letting it out, that was actually the biggest thing that helped me."

Jon Paul Morosi is a reporter for MLB.com and MLB Network. He is a contributor to MLB Network Radio and conducted Tuesday's interview with Estrada alongside co-host Ryan Spilborghs on "Inside Pitch."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Toronto Blue Jays, Marco Estrada

Batting Bryant leadoff makes sense for Cubs

Slugger has skills that would prove beneficial from top of lineup
MLB.com @AndrewSimonMLB

Cubs manager Joe Maddon carries a reputation for outside-the-box thinking, and it shows up in his lineup construction.

Following the departure of Dexter Fowler, the Cubs' leadoff hitter in 2015 and '16, Maddon started 11 different players in the top spot in '17. Current free agent Jon Jay led the way with 51 starts, but the eclectic group also included plenty of players who go decidedly against the traditional prototype, including Kyle Schwarber (36), Anthony Rizzo (14) and Willson Contreras (2).

Cubs manager Joe Maddon carries a reputation for outside-the-box thinking, and it shows up in his lineup construction.

Following the departure of Dexter Fowler, the Cubs' leadoff hitter in 2015 and '16, Maddon started 11 different players in the top spot in '17. Current free agent Jon Jay led the way with 51 starts, but the eclectic group also included plenty of players who go decidedly against the traditional prototype, including Kyle Schwarber (36), Anthony Rizzo (14) and Willson Contreras (2).

Not included on that list was Kris Bryant -- but it's possible that could change in 2018.

Speaking over the weekend at Cubs Convention, Maddon was noncommittal about who will fill that role, saying that the club will "go to camp and sit down and try to evaluate everybody." For his part, Bryant volunteered for the gig, citing his experience as a leadoff hitter at the University of San Diego. "I'd love to," he recently told the Chicago Tribune.

Should this idea take hold, it wouldn't be a dramatic change for Bryant and the Cubs. After all, in 149 starts in 2017, he batted second 110 times and third 38 times.

Video: CHC@ARI: Bryant knocks three hits in big day at plate

Installing Bryant atop his lineup would be a sensible course of action for Maddon this season, with no obvious alternative in place. Here are three reasons why:

1. It would maximize his plate appearances
Obviously, the higher a batter is placed in the lineup, the more chances he will get. Cubs leadoff hitters, for example, got 15 more plate appearances than their No. 2 hitters in 2017, 27 more than their No. 3 hitters and 39 more than their cleanup men. Those aren't major differences, but you still would prefer those extra opportunities go to a hitter of Bryant's caliber.

The 2015 National League Rookie of the Year and '16 NL MVP -- who just turned 26 on Jan. 4 -- has been one of the 10 or so best hitters in the Majors since his arrival. His 146 weighted runs created-plus (wRC+) last season roughly matched the previous year's output and ranked sixth in the NL, solidly ahead of Rizzo (133).

2. He's an on-base machine
While Bryant's homer total dropped from 39 to 29 last year, he increased his walks from 75 to 95 and his on-base percentage from .385 to .409. That OBP ranked fourth among NL qualifiers, and again, Rizzo (.392) was the only Cubs hitter to come close.

In contrast, the Cubs' collection of leadoff men combined for a mediocre .325 OBP last year to rank 18th in MLB. Apply a .400 OBP to those plate appearances instead, and that's nearly 60 extra times on base at the top of the lineup over the course of a season. If Rizzo then slotted in behind Bryant, it would give the Cubs two excellent on-base threats atop their lineup.

The tradeoff, of course, would be fewer opportunities for Bryant to bat in RBI situations. On the other hand, Maddon has no qualms about putting his pitcher eighth and a position player ninth, having pulled off that maneuver 55 times last season. Such a setup would perhaps help alleviate the issue, and having Bryant bat first would provide Rizzo and other capable Cubs with more of those juicy chances.

Video: CHC@BOS: Statcast™ analyzes Bryant's sprint on double

3. He's a multi-dimensional offensive player
The above reasons could apply to Rizzo nearly as well as they apply to Bryant, and Rizzo actually thrived in the leadoff spot last season, with a 1.053 OPS and five home runs in his 14 starts there. But there is one significant difference between the two.

According to Statcast™, Bryant's average baserunning sprint speed of 28.2 feet per second on "max-effort" plays was third on the Cubs in 2017, just behind Ian Happ (28.5) and Javier Baez (28.3). Rizzo trailed far behind at 25.7 feet per second, well below the MLB average of 27 feet/second.

And while Bryant stole only seven bases, his speed manifests itself in other ways when combined with his instincts and reads. Bryant took an extra base (first to third on a single, for example) on a team-high 60 percent of his chances last year to tie for fourth among all players with at least 500 plate appearances. His mark of plus-4.8 runs via FanGraphs' Ultimate Base Running (UBR) metric -- which focuses on plays other than steal attempts -- tied for fifth in MLB.

In other words, Bryant is an asset on the basepaths, especially compared with sluggers such as Rizzo and Schwarber. That makes him a solid compromise as a leadoff hitter, with the patience to get on base, the power to do damage and the wheels to carry himself home.

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Chicago Cubs, Kris Bryant

Mets finalize 3-year deal with Bruce

MLB.com

Jay Bruce is officially joining the Mets on a three-year deal, the club announced Tuesday evening.

Bruce and the Mets reportedly agreed to terms on a $39 million contract last week, per MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported the deal includes a partial five-team no-trade clause. The club has not confirmed the terms of the deal.

Jay Bruce is officially joining the Mets on a three-year deal, the club announced Tuesday evening.

Bruce and the Mets reportedly agreed to terms on a $39 million contract last week, per MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported the deal includes a partial five-team no-trade clause. The club has not confirmed the terms of the deal.

"I'm excited to return to the Mets to help finish what we set out to do at the beginning of last season and return to the postseason for the best fans in baseball," Bruce said in a statement. "We have a terrific group of guys in place, and I'm excited to get back to work."

Bruce has primarily played right field in his professional career, but the Mets will ask him to play some first base this season with Dominic Smith establishing himself as an everyday big leaguer. Bruce played 11 games at first last year, all for New York.

The signing reunites Bruce with the Mets, whom he played for in parts of 2016 and '17. The three-time All-Star spent the first nine seasons of his Major League career with the Reds before he was traded to the Mets on Aug. 1, 2016. He was again dealt on Aug. 9, 2017, to the Indians in exchange for Minor League pitcher Ryder Ryan.

Video: NYM@COL: Bruce hammers a solo home run to left field

With the Mets and Indians in 2017, Bruce batted .254/.324/.508 with a career-high 36 home runs and 101 RBIs in 146 games. He also played in the American League Division Series for the Indians against the Yankees in October, hitting .278 with a pair of home runs and four RBIs.

"Jay has proven to be a leader both on and off the field, while continuing to produce at a high level throughout his Major League career," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said in a statement. "We're glad to have Jay back in the fold as we continue our pursuit to return to the postseason."

A news conference will be held to formally announce Bruce's signing on Wednesday morning at Citi Field. It will air live at 11 a.m. ET on Mets.com.

Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

New York Mets, Jay Bruce

White Sox prospects Moncada, Robert bonding

MLB.com @JesseSanchezMLB

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Luis Robert's training begins once he steps into Yoan Moncada's rental car each morning.

The 10-minute drive from the nearby hotel to Camelback Ranch, home of the White Sox Spring Training facility and the site of this week's hitters mini-camp, is short but helpful. Robert peppers Moncada with questions about baseball and life in the United States after living in Cuba. The second baseman does his best to answer them while he maneuvers a white sedan to the complex.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Luis Robert's training begins once he steps into Yoan Moncada's rental car each morning.

The 10-minute drive from the nearby hotel to Camelback Ranch, home of the White Sox Spring Training facility and the site of this week's hitters mini-camp, is short but helpful. Robert peppers Moncada with questions about baseball and life in the United States after living in Cuba. The second baseman does his best to answer them while he maneuvers a white sedan to the complex.

"Growing up, I don't think we ever imagined we would be here," said Robert, 20, who first met Moncada as a young teen on the baseball fields in Cuba. "It's really good to have someone from Cuba to be a guide and speed up the adjustment."

Together, Moncada and Robert represent part of the future for the franchise. Separately, the young Cubans are working to solidify their place in the organization. Robert, who defected from Cuba in late 2016 and signed with the White Sox last May for a $26 million bonus, is entering his first full Minor League season in the United States. Moncada, who signed a $31.5 million deal with the Red Sox out of Cuba in 2015, will enter his first full big league season as the White Sox starting second baseman.

Video: Rick Hahn discusses importance of White Sox mini-camp

Robert and Moncada were teammates on Cuba's U-18 team in 2013.

Robert, who is ranked as the No. 23 prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline, admits it will take time to adjust to life in the United States. He doesn't speak English and understands there are cultural differences he will face. That's where Moncada will step in to help Robert, just like White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, who is also from Cuba, helped him. Robert said an uncle from Cuba who lives in California will also help in the transition to the United States.

However, some things will remain the same. Robert's days in the Dominican Republic, where he lives, are spent working out, and he hopes to create a similar routine in the United States. He's looking forward to learning new training techniques.

Video: Luis Robert homers in his first pro at-bat in the DSL

Robert's contract gives him the type of financial freedom he could have never imagined, but he said he's still the same homebody he was before he signed the multimillion dollar deal. And yes, Robert likes video games and having fun with social media, like other people his age, but he said he left everything behind in Cuba to become a Major League player, so that's what he is focusing on.

"My life has changed in many ways, but maybe the biggest change since I signed is that I don't worry about what's next," Robert said in Spanish. "My life is tranquil. I can just concentrate on the game and my family, and not where I am going to sign."

The most significant change in Robert's life has been a personal one. His parents and sisters recently joined him in Santo Domingo.

"It's important to keep in mind this year that so much of what is going to happen with him from a developmental standpoint is going to happen off the field," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "It's a thrill watching him in BP and make these fields look small, and it's going to be fun to watch him in Spring Training, and ultimately, whatever affiliate he gets assigned to for the 2018 season. But no matter how he performs, a lot of what he's going to get used to is life in the States, different culture and a different type of baseball, different expectations, and different schedule and different diets."

Video: Renteria's impressions of Robert and Jimenez

Since joining the White Sox, Robert has played in the Dominican Summer League and participated in the White Sox instructional league at the club's Dominican Academy. He will be in big league camp for Spring Training next month. There's a chance he will be assigned to one of the club's Class A affiliates at Kannapolis or Winston-Salem (Advanced) for the regular season.

"I'd like to be in the big leagues like everyone else, but I don't know the plan for me right now," Robert said. "I'm just going to focus on doing my work and getting better."

As for Moncada, he finished the 2017 season with a .231 batting average, eight home runs, 22 RBIs, 31 runs scored and three stolen bases. He hit .211 in 20 plate appearances with the Red Sox in 2016, and he later was acquired by Chicago from Boston as part of the package for pitcher Chris Sale during the offseason.

Like many young players with his experience level, Moncada is a work in progress.

Video: Top Prospects: Luis Robert, OF, White Sox

"[Yoan] is extremely young with half of a year of big league play under his belt," Hahn said. "I think he is going to be a lot more comfortable and know more about how the pitchers are trying to get him out, and how he needs to adjust, and he knows he's going to be out there in the lineup every day."

The immediate future for Moncada and Robert includes a trip to a Cuban restaurant near the hotel for a taste of the island. It's another chance for them to catch up on the past and dream about the future.

"Yoan is still very young and still establishing himself as a big leaguer," Hahn said. "The fact that he is taking such care and consideration for one of his younger teammates going through something he went through himself speaks highly about his character."

Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Chicago White Sox, Yoan Moncada

MLB Buzz: Castellanos on the trade block?

MLB.com

The Hot Stove is open for business. As the top free agents begin to ink new deals and clubs begin to make the moves they think will vault them into contention or put them over the top, MLB.com will have you covered with all the latest buzz right here.

Hot Stove Tracker

The Hot Stove is open for business. As the top free agents begin to ink new deals and clubs begin to make the moves they think will vault them into contention or put them over the top, MLB.com will have you covered with all the latest buzz right here.

Hot Stove Tracker

Castellanos on the trade block?
While the Tigers were ultimately able to avoid an arbitration hearing with Nicholas Castellanos, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports that Detroit remains open to trading the rising slugger, citing multiple clubs that have engaged in discussions with the Tigers this offseason.

Castellanos, 25, agreed to a one-year, $6.05 million contract with the Tigers on Friday. Detroit's first-round Draft choice from 2010 is about to embark on his first full season in right field, but Fenech reports that the Tigers' uncertainty about his defensive ability could still lead to a trade before Opening Day. Castellanos has primarily manned third base during his first four full seasons in the Motor City, but he has rated below average in terms of Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) in each of those campaigns. He played 21 games in right last season.

Castellanos' prowess at the plate is much less in doubt. He broke out for a career-high 26 home runs and 101 RBIs for the Tigers in 2017 while recording a league-adjusted 110 OPS+ (where 100 is average) and pacing the American League with 10 triples. He was even more productive in some respects in '16, finishing with a 120 OPS+ over 110 games. While Castellanos will be eligible for arbitration again next winter, he will not test the free-agent market until 2020. That means Castellanos, for the moment, represents a controllable, relatively cheap hitter coming into his own -- regardless of his defensive ability.

Tigers general manager Al Avila revealed at the Winter Meetings that the team approached Castellanos about a contract extension toward the end of last season, but that no progress has been made.

If Pirates aren't contending, J-Hay wants to be dealt
A day after Andrew McCutchen was traded to San Francisco, Josh Harrison effectively asked to be traded "if indeed the team does not expect to contend this year or next" in a statement released Tuesday to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal. Harrison, 30, is under contract for $10.25 million this year, with club options for 2019 ($10.5 million) and '20 ($11.5 million). More >

Giants still looking for OF upgrades
Fresh off acquiring Andrew McCutchen from the Pirates on Monday, the Giants are trying to add even more talent to their outfield, with the former National League Most Valuable Player being told that he'll play a corner spot with the team this season, according to ESPN's Buster Olney.

San Francisco's main desire is to upgrade defensively in center field, and sources tell ESPN's Jerry Crasnick that the Giants rank Jarrod Dyson as their most coveted option behind Lorenzo Cain. The club is also interested in Jon Jay and Cameron Maybin, according to Crasnick, but values Dyson's "speed, defensive metrics and stolen-base ability."

The Giants, after bringing in McCutchen via a trade with the Pirates, do not have the space under the luxury-tax threshold to sign Cain at his projected salary, according to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi. Morosi reported that the club is looking to add a "defense-first player" in center field "who will be less expensive than Cain."

Dyson, Jay and Maybin will certainly all be less expensive than the former Royals center fielder, and Dyson led that group with seven Outs Above Average last season, according to Statcast™. Maybin was at plus-2 two while Jay was minus-3.

Dyson, 33, has stolen at least 25 bases in each of the past six seasons and would be a big boost to a Giants club that ranked 20th in the Majors with 76 steals last year. Jay has 51 steals in eight Major League seasons, but his .738 career on-base-plus-slugging percentage bests Dyson's .677 total.

Maybin owns a career .693 OPS and stole 33 bases during his time split between the Astros and Angels last season.

Brewers remain interested in Arrieta, Moustakas
The Brewers "continue to be in" on free-agent right-hander Jake Arrieta and third baseman Mike Moustakas, according to Jim Bowden of SiriusXM.

The Brewers have been known to be seeking starting pitching in free agency, and Arrieta would certainly be a boost to Milwaukee's rotation, especially with Jimmy Nelson's 2018 status unclear. Nelson, who underwent surgery on his right shoulder in September, went 12-6 with a team-best 3.49 ERA and 199 strikeouts in 175 1/3 innings last season.

It was reported earlier in January that the Cubs and Cardinals were the two clubs most interested in Arrieta's services, but the Brewers' desire to sign the 2015 National League Cy Young Award winner could create a potential bidding war between the NL Central rivals.

Arrieta, 31, went 64-29 with a 2.67 ERA in 119 starts for the Cubs over the past four seasons.

According to Bowden, the Brewers' interest in Moustakas comes with the idea that the club "could trade Travis Shaw" to the Yankees, Braves or Mets.

Milwaukee does not necessarily have a need at third base with the incumbent Shaw being younger and cheaper than Moustakas. The 27-year-old Shaw, under team control through 2022, also excelled for the Brewers last season, batting .273/.349/.513 with 31 home runs and 101 RBIs in 144 games.

Yankees believe they can sign Darvish for 'reasonable price'
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman's interest in signing right-hander Yu Darvish is "very real" because he believes the slowly developing free-agent market may translate into a "reasonable price" for Darvish, according to the New York Daily News.

Darvish is a four-time All-Star in five Major League seasons, posting a 3.86 ERA in 31 starts between the Rangers and Dodgers last season. He pitched well down the stretch for Los Angeles after being acquired at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, and posted a 1.59 ERA between the National League Division Series and NL Championship Series. He was hit hard for nine runs (eight earned) in 3 1/3 innings over two World Series starts.

Overall, the 31-year-old Darvish owns a career 3.42 ERA and 11 strikeouts per nine innings. If the Yankees were to sign him, he would join a starting rotation that already features Luis Severino, who finished third in American League Cy Young Award voting last season, as well as former All-Stars Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray and CC Sabathia.

Cashman has stated the Yankees want to remain under the luxury tax threshold of $197 million for 2018, and signing Darvish would likely require the club to unload salary elsewhere via trade in order to keep payroll below that figure.

The Yankees, who also traded for NL Most Valuable Player Giancarlo Stanton earlier this offseason, came within a win of reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009 last October.

The Yankees, Rangers, Cubs, Astros and Twins previously had been reported as finalists for Darvish, but Darvish also said there is another team in the mix.

The first five teams come according to a report from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Jeff Wilson -- and the mystery team from Darvish himself.

Darvish tweeted Wednesday night that he knows "one more team is in."

Tweet from @faridyu: I know one more team is in. https://t.co/exxubGP7Qo

Video: Rosenthal discusses Rangers' interest in Darvish

D-backs remain persistent in pursuit of Machado
It remains to be seen whether the Orioles will deal Manny Machado this winter, but the D-backs remain the most persistent among the potential trade suitors, according MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal.

The D-backs have been one of several teams in pursuit of Machado since Baltimore began fielding offers. The two sides aren't close to an agreement, Rosenthal said, but Arizona second baseman Brandon Drury is one of the players under discussion in a potential deal. The Yankees and Red Sox have also been recently linked to the 25-year-old infielder.

If a trade did come to fruition, the D-backs would bolster an already talented roster that made the National League Division Series last season. That core wouldn't be locked down long term, however; Machado, outfielder A.J. Pollock and left-hander Patrick Corbin are eligible for free agency after this season, while first baseman Paul Goldschmidt's contact is up after 2019 and third baseman Jake Lamb's deal expires after 2020.

Machado is a .279/.329/.476 hitter with 138 home runs and 406 RBIs in 764 games over six Major League seasons, while also being regarded annually as one of the best defensive third basemen in the game.

A two-time Gold Glove Award winner, Machado has requested a move to shortstop, his natural position. It's a move that could increase his value even more as he looks to land a large contract next offseason.

Video: D-backs showing interest in trading for Machado

Martinez waiting game continues
The Red Sox would very much like J.D. Martinez, and he appears to be interested in Boston. The "Will they or won't they?" free-agent drama of the Hot Stove season is at a stalemate, and could stay that way for a while.

Martinez is willing to "hold out" into Spring Training to get what he considers his market value, MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported. Heyman cited sources he calls "Miami acquaintances of Martinez" in his report, which indicated that the Red Sox have extended a five-year offer in the $120 million-$150 million range.

But the slugger is looking for more after a season in which he hit 45 home runs in 119 games with the Tigers and D-backs. Indications are that at least one other team has offered Martinez a five-year deal, according to Heyman. Martinez reportedly would prefer a six-year contract.

The Jays and D-backs have been linked to Martinez, but the Red Sox are still considered the heavy front-runner for his services for several reasons. For one, they are a big-market team with an obvious need for a big bat, especially after a season in which their power production stalled significantly. Second, the Red Sox seem primed to make a counter move to keep up with the Yankees, who have made the biggest splash of the offseason by trading for National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton.

Martinez's monster second half (.306/.372/.751, 31 homers) rivaled -- and in some metrics outpaced -- Stanton's second half (.287/.393/.702, 33 homers), after Martinez caught fire following a trade to Arizona. He's reportedly committed to cashing in on those numbers, even if it means waiting a little longer than usual.

Castro requests trade from Marlins
Starlin Castro, acquired in the December deal that sent slugger Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees, has requested a trade from Miami, sources told MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal.

Castro "does not want to be a part of another rebuilding process" as he was when he was with the Cubs from 2010-15.

Video: Starlin Castro reportedly requests trade from Marlins

The Marlins are in the midst of a full rebuild, and it's been expected that Miami would try to flip Castro to another team. MLB.com's Joe Frisaro reported last week that the Marlins might ultimately keep the 27-year-old infielder.

Castro is to make nearly $11 million in 2018 and almost $12 million in 2019. His contract comes with a $16 million club option for 2020.

Castro, a four-time All-Star, batted .283/.317/.442 with 37 home runs and 133 RBIs in 263 games over two seasons with the Yankees after hitting .281/.321/.404 with 62 homers and 363 RBIs across six seasons with the Cubs.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.