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Machado clarifies 'Johnny Hustle' comment

MLB.com @feinsand

Manny Machado knows people have questions. He's looking forward to giving them answers.

The four-time All-Star shortstop is enjoying his first foray into free agency, where he is arguably the most sought-after player on the open market. Just weeks into the process, fans, executives and owners alike -- to say nothing of media types -- have been abuzz speculating about what is likely to be one of the largest contracts in North American sports history. That speculation will only increase as the offseason progresses and negotiations heat up.

Manny Machado knows people have questions. He's looking forward to giving them answers.

The four-time All-Star shortstop is enjoying his first foray into free agency, where he is arguably the most sought-after player on the open market. Just weeks into the process, fans, executives and owners alike -- to say nothing of media types -- have been abuzz speculating about what is likely to be one of the largest contracts in North American sports history. That speculation will only increase as the offseason progresses and negotiations heat up.

Machado's immense talent is undeniable, but his comments to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal during the postseason about his failure to run hard at all times have become one of the prevailing storylines during the early weeks of free agency. In an exclusive interview with MLB.com on Tuesday night, Machado took accountability for his words, most notably the memorable line: "I'm not the type of player that's going to be 'Johnny Hustle,'" wishing his point had been made more clearly in that moment.

"When I was asked that question, I was definitely on the defensive, and I was wrong to answer it the way that I did, because looking back, it doesn't come across how I meant it," Machado said. "For me, I was trying to talk about how I'm not the guy who is eye wash. There's a difference between fake hustle for show and being someone who tries hard to win. I've always been the guy who does whatever he can to win for his team.

"But I know how I said it and how that came across, and it's something I take responsibility for. I look forward to talking with each GM and owner that we meet with about that, or any other questions they have."

Machado's future was the talk of baseball during the first half of the 2018 season, before the saga came to an end on July 18 with the trade that sent him from the Orioles to the Dodgers for a package of five players. The shortstop hit 13 home runs with 42 RBIs and an .825 OPS in 66 games with Los Angeles, helping the Dodgers reach the World Series for a second straight season before falling to the Red Sox in five games.

"It was cool to get to L.A. and be a part of that team," Machado said. "Coming to the Dodgers and going on that run was unbelievable. Obviously, I was disappointed that we came up short, but my hat's off to Boston for how they played. Being in the World Series definitely makes me want to get back there and win next time."

Video: WS2018 Gm5: Machado on World Series, 2018 season

Machado's future is once again in the headlines. The 26-year-old is arguably the top free agent on the market, putting him in position to land one of the richest contracts in the game's history. He has no plans to conduct his free agency through the media, but he did share that he will sit down with a handful of clubs once he's whittled down the field.

"It's been humbling to have multiple teams interested in me and have people talking about my free agency and what I should do," Machado said. "But I'm not the type of guy who is going to be out in front of a microphone for attention. That's just not my style. When the time comes, there will probably be a few of the teams that I will sit down with in person, but it's not something I plan on being very public about."

Machado wouldn't divulge which teams have expressed early interest, though he said none of those clubs have surprised him.

"Every team is different," Machado said. "So for me, it's just about figuring out a way to go through them all and eventually narrow down my choices and make a decision."

Falling short in the World Series seems to have left Machado even hungrier to get back there. He reached the postseason three times in Baltimore. But his Orioles lost to the Yankees in the 2012 American League Division Series, to the Royals in the 2014 AL Championship Series and then to the Blue Jays in the 2016 AL Wild Card Game. Joining a contender is important to the four-time All-Star, who has seen the highs and lows the game has to offer throughout his seven-year career.

"At the end of the day, I'll consider every situation carefully," Machado said. "There's a lot that goes into my decision. First and foremost, I will think about my family; where they will be comfortable and happy. I definitely want to be in a place where I can win long term and be a part of World Series teams for many years to come. It's way too early to tell what else might play a part, but I'm excited and looking forward to it."

The two markets in which Machado has played have given him a taste of everything: American League vs. National League, East Coast vs. West Coast, big market vs. small market. Playing in California presented some minor challenges -- "My home is in Miami, so it was different having my family and friends three hours later when I'd talk to them after games," he said -- but he thoroughly enjoyed his experience in L.A., leaving him open to a number of options as he contemplates his future.

"I don't think switching leagues is as big a deal as it used to be," Machado said. "Both leagues are different, but at the end of the day, you still have to hit the baseball that's coming at you the same way. I'll feel good no matter which league I'm playing in."

The size of the city is also unlikely to be an overriding factor for Machado, who pointed out that recent World Series winners have come from both big and small markets.

"I think as long as the fans are behind the team and you have a team that's going to do everything they can to win, then that's all that counts," Machado said. "Championship teams come from all over, like Kansas City from a couple years ago and Boston this year, so it can happen."

When the World Series ended, Machado and his wife, Yainee, took a vacation in Hawaii, unwinding from a long, grueling year that saw him play all 162 regular-season games and another 16 in the postseason. Despite some early-career injury issues, Machado has played 162 games twice since 2015, missing a total of 11 games during that four-year stretch.

"It's a long season, for sure, but I love it," Machado said. "I've prepared every offseason with the goal to be in the lineup every single day. It's not a coincidence; for me, it's a commitment. I've always taken that very seriously. Whatever I can do to help my team win. To me, it's not a grind. It's an honor to play every day. I've played 162 before, and I know I will again."

Last offseason, the free-agent market moved slowly, even for top players such as J.D. Martinez, Yu Darvish and Eric Hosmer. Asked if he has any timetable in mind to make his decision this winter, Machado said he plans to let the process play out at its own pace.

"Danny [Lozano of MVP Sports Group], my agent, has been talking with these teams, and we have an idea so far of the next steps, but I'm not in a rush," Machado said. "It's obviously a big decision, and I'm going to take my time with my family to consider everything. When it's right, it will happen."

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

Manny Machado

7 storylines to watch heading into Thanksgiving

MLB.com @jonmorosi

For days, sources across the Major Leagues noted a spike in trade activity throughout the industry.

Monday, we saw tangible evidence with the Yankees' acquisition of James Paxton.

For days, sources across the Major Leagues noted a spike in trade activity throughout the industry.

Monday, we saw tangible evidence with the Yankees' acquisition of James Paxton.

Latest MLB free agent and trade rumors

With Thanksgiving Day fast approaching, the heart of the baseball offseason is here. Based on initial readings from the Hot Stove, here are the key storylines to follow during the holiday weekend:

1. The Mariners aren't done dealing.

Almost certainly, the Paxton trade wasn't the last significant move Seattle general manager Jerry Dipoto will make this winter.

The Yankees also asked Dipoto about shortstop Jean Segura, who is available for the right price. The Phillies also have interest in Segura, who is known for his bat control and could help a Philadelphia lineup that finished third in the Majors with 1,520 strikeouts this year.

As first reported by MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal, the Mariners have spoken with the Padres about a trade that would send Segura and Mike Leake to San Diego in exchange for Wil Myers.

Perhaps most intriguingly, the Mariners haven't ruled out the possibility of trading Edwin Diaz. The Phillies and Braves are among the teams interested in Diaz coming off his 57-save season.

2. The Phillies are going to spend.

Perhaps you've heard about this.

"This is a franchise that's carried big payrolls for a lot of years," Phillies GM Matt Klentak told me during the General Managers Meetings. "It's no secret to you, or to me, or to the fans, or to the agents. Everybody knows that. It's always been a matter of when -- and not if -- the Phillies were going to spend again."

Video: Klentak on gearing up for an active offseason

We know the Phillies have interest in signing Bryce Harper, Manny Machado ... and possibly even both. But they're also involved in the free-agent pitching market, showing interest in the top available starter (Patrick Corbin) and closer (Craig Kimbrel). As owner John Middleton told USA Today recently, "We're going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it.''

As for the much-publicized link between Machado and members of the Phillies front office, Klentak said he had "pretty minimal" interaction with Machado while both were with the Orioles. Klentak left the organization to become assistant general manager of the Angels following the 2011 season, roughly 17 months after Baltimore selected Machado in the first round of the MLB Draft.

3. The catching market is moving.

Mike Zunino is a Ray. Jeff Mathis will be a Ranger. Kurt Suzuki is a National.

While patience is the watchword for the rest of the marketplace, catchers have begun changing teams. Suzuki's deal with the Nationals is especially consequential, as it appears to have eliminated Washington as a possible destination for free agents Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos, as well as perpetual trade candidate J.T. Realmuto.

Video: MLB Tonight discusses Suzuki signing with the Nats

The Dodgers appear destined to acquire a frontline catcher and have interest in Realmuto. The same can be said for their 2017 World Series opponents in Houston.

4. Corbin is the top pitcher available. He probably won't sign first.

Every year, industry observers wonder if the No. 1 free-agent starter will set the market's upper boundary by signing early. That's not likely to happen with Corbin this autumn.

Two teams with significant capacity to add payroll -- the Phillies and White Sox -- have interest in Corbin. But they're also involved in the Harper and Machado pursuits, meaning they may wait for the superstar position players to go off the board before determining exactly how much they can spend on Corbin.

Video: Patrick Corbin enters free agency

Meanwhile, the markets for Nathan Eovaldi and J.A. Happ are developing more rapidly. The Yankees, Blue Jays, Angels, Brewers, Phillies and Astros are among the teams known to have interest in Happ, sources say.

5. The D-backs' approach will be clear soon.

After weeks of speculation, the D-backs are about to show the industry how willing they are to trade veterans Paul Goldschmidt, Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray and Jake Lamb.

One source said the D-backs are confident they won't need to include cash in order to move Greinke's contract, on which three years and more than $90 million remain. Therefore, the Phillies -- everyone's favorite large-market spender -- are among the most logical suitors, if they don't sign Corbin.

Meanwhile, one source confirmed that the Twins and D-backs had preliminary discussions about a Goldschmidt trade at the General Managers Meetings. Those talks have not advanced, however, and MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported the Astros and Cardinals have been most heavily involved in the Goldschmidt negotiations thus far.

Video: Langosch on Cards' chances of trading for Goldschmidt

6. The White Sox and Padres are ready to pounce.

One rule of the Hot Stove: Pay close attention to teams emerging from lengthy rebuilding efforts.

The White Sox are the American League's answer to the Phillies. While their roster isn't as strong (yet) as that of Philadelphia, they play in a winnable division and could compete in the next couple seasons if they land Harper, Machado, Corbin or lefty Dallas Keuchel. If the Indians trade Corey Kluber or Carlos Carrasco -- and industry opinion remains divided as to whether they actually will -- White Sox GM Rick Hahn has even more incentive to make bold moves.

Meanwhile, Padres general manager A.J. Preller said this month that his most likely approach this offseason will be to "stay the path" with the team's youthful core. But he also acknowledged the search for pitching "will always be part of the discussion," and reports have linked the Padres to trade discussions for Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard.

Video: Grant discusses Padres' odds of trading for Thor

Wil Myers is one name to watch in the days ahead. The Padres are willing to trade him, as evidenced by their talks with the Mariners, because they have a sudden abundance of young outfielders and Eric Hosmer at first base. If the Padres keep Myers, Preller has said he hopes to give him direction on where he's going to play defensively by the end of the Winter Meetings. If talks with the Mariners fail to produce a deal involving Myers, another option would be to trade a young outfielder -- such as Hunter Renfroe or Franmil Reyes -- elsewhere in a move that brings a pitcher to San Diego.

7. For Harper and Machado, the wait continues.

Harper and Machado are unlikely to sign with new teams until the Winter Meetings -- at the absolute earliest.

Scott Boras, who represents Harper, is known for continuing free-agent negotiations well into the New Year. Of course, Harper is a proud Las Vegas native. The possibility of an extravagant announcement in his hometown during next month's Winter Meetings may be too much for Hot Stove choreographers to resist.

Video: Potential landing spots for Harper, including Braves

The fascination with Harper could obscure the rest of the outfield market, with quality free agents Michael Brantley and A.J. Pollock remaining available for the time being. Their representatives may opt to wait until Harper signs and then pursue agreements with teams that fall short in the bidding. But that is likely to require some patience.

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

Rumors: Machado, Corbin, Happ, Harper, Thor

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

At least a half-dozen teams involved in Syndergaard trade talks
Nov. 21: The Mets are "seriously considering deals" for Noah Syndergaard, and at least a half-dozen teams are "believed to be real players" to trade for the right-hander, reports MLB Network insider Jon Heyman. Per Heyman, New York is looking to fill multiple holes via the haul they would get from trading Syndergaard.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: hear at least half-dozen teams are believed to be real players for Noah Syndergaard. mets are seriously considering deals for him if they could fill multiple holes with real impact. will be one of the big winter meetings storylines.

That might be only one part of the plan, however. According to SNY's Andy Martino, New York is also considering free-agent options to replace Syndergaard, should he be dealt.

"Trading Syndergaard -- which is no sure thing to happen, even though the Mets are exploring it -- would only be one piece in a larger strategy," writes Martino, citing Major League sources. "The Mets could obtain a package of prospects and Major Leaguers for Syndergaard, then replace him with a free agent such as Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, Dallas Keuchel, or Nathan Eovaldi."

Martino adds that the Mets are pushing back against the idea that a trade of Syndergaard would portend a "step back for 2019," writing that the front office's "view is that dealing from a position of depth, and then finding a replacement at that position, could be a win-win."

Machado clarifies 'Johnny Hustle' comment
Nov. 21: In an exclusive interview with MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, free-agent superstar Manny Machado clarified his infamous comment from the postseason, in which he said, "I'm not the type of player that's going to be 'Johnny Hustle.'"

"When I was asked that question, I was definitely on the defensive, and I was wrong to answer it the way that I did, because looking back, it doesn't come across how I meant it," Machado said. "For me, I was trying to talk about how I'm not the guy who is eye wash. There's a difference between fake hustle for show and being someone who tries hard to win. I've always been the guy who does whatever he can to win for his team.

"But I know how I said it and how that came across, and it's something I take responsibility for. I look forward to talking with each GM and owner that we meet with about that, or any other questions they have."

Machado also addressed several other questions during the interview, including what a potential timetable might be for his decision on where to sign what is expected to be one of the richest contracts in North American sports history.

At just 26 years old, Machado is a four-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove Award winner, coming off the best offensive season of his career. In a season split between the Orioles and Dodgers, he slashed .297/.367/.538 with 37 home runs and 14 steals. For the second time in his career, he played in all 162 games of the season.

Could the Yankees sign Corbin and Happ, even after trading for Paxton?
Nov. 21: Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has said multiple times this offseason that upgrading the rotation is a priority, and the club is expected to add another starter even after re-signing CC Sabathia and trading for James Paxton. But could they bring in two more? MLB Network Radio's Steve Phillips isn't ruling it out.

Phillips thinks the Yankees could still sign Patrick Corbin and J.A. Happ, which would give the club six established starters: Corbin, Happ, Paxton, Sabathia, Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka.

Tweet from @MLBNetworkRadio: Only one pitcher made 30 starts for the #Yankees last season, that's why @StevePhillipsGM thinks they could still add two more starters: pic.twitter.com/mdktBlxiXT

Phillips notes that Paxton has never made more than 28 starts in a season, Sabathia is 38 years old, Severino faded in the second half last year, and Tanaka has another year of wear and tear on his elbow after being diagnosed with a partially torn UCL in 2014.

The former MLB general manager argues the Yankees could benefit greatly from having six starters, allowing them to ease the burden on all six pitchers, even if they didn't necessarily use a six-man rotation all year. Phillips points to the Dodgers as an example of a team effectively working in more than five solid starters. Los Angeles had seven pitchers make at least 15 starts in 2018 -- Alex Wood, Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Walker Buehler, Ross Stripling, Kenta Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu.

Cardinals maintaining interest in Brantley
Nov. 21: The Cardinals have the payroll room for Bryce Harper. That much is clear, based on comments made by team president Bill DeWitt III. Whether St. Louis actually pursues the superstar slugger is a matter of determining if it wants to put all of its "eggs in one basket," as DeWitt put it.

If the Cardinals decide not to get involved in the Harper sweepstakes or simply fall short, Michael Brantley could be a viable alternative. A source told MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi that the Cards are "maintaining interest" in the former Indians outfielder.

However, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has been told by multiple sources that "it would take a series of moves to find a fit for Brantley" in St. Louis.

Tweet from @dgoold: A note on Brantley: multiple sources have told me how it would a take a series of moves to find a fit for Brantley with the #stlcards. In other words, they would need to miss on other targets and trade/shuffle players (Fowler?) before and after engaging in pursuit of All-Star OF. https://t.co/O4pwHFNPfc

Goold interprets that to mean the Cardinals would need to miss on other targets and then trade players such as Dexter Fowler, who is still owed nearly $50 million over the next three seasons and may be tough to move after posting a .576 OPS in 2018.

Granted, it would likely take some maneuvering to clear space for Harper as well, as he and Brantley are both corner outfielders. But it doesn't seem as though St. Louis has Brantley high on its list of potential targets, and it may not necessarily elevate him unless a number of other pursuits don't come to fruition.

Harper and the Rockies?
Nov. 20: Bryce Harper has been connected with several teams during this Hot Stove season, but a club that would create shock waves if it were to land the superstar slugger is the Rockies. 

USA TODAY Sports' Gabe Lacques suggests the idea isn't as far-fetched as you might think. In fact, he argues Harper and Colorado would be a fit.

"The Rockies should recognize that their window to win may never be better, given their offensive core and that rarest of sights in Denver -- young, capable starting pitching," writes Lacques. "With the status of one franchise player in doubt, locking down another in the near term would ensure them enduring relevance -- along with a powerful shot to win it all now."

Harper playing 81 games a season at hitter-friendly Coors Field is quite a thought. In 90 career plate appearances there, he has a .387/.489/.627 slash line. And even if it's just for one year, can you imagine Harper and Nolan Arenado in the same lineup?

On the other hand, the spacious outfield of Coors Field can be a nightmare for mediocre defensive outfielders. MLB.com's Mike Petriello took a deep dive to investigate the causes behind Harper's poor defense in 2018.

"Defensive Runs Saved scored him a -26, worst of any outfielder who doesn't call massive Coors Field home," Petriello notes. "Ultimate Zone Rating scored him a -14.4, at the bottom of the list. Statcast™ Outs Above Average, which for the moment includes only range and not arm value, puts him at -12, fifth-worst."

That's not to say all is lost, of course. Petriello also writes that "he's still just 26 and enormously talented. Teams aren't just going to assume he can't play defense anymore."

Cashman weighs in on Harper as a potential first baseman
Nov. 20: When agent Scott Boras touted Bryce Harper's ability to play first base two weeks ago, some viewed it as a sales pitch to the Yankees, who don't have an obvious need in the outfield.

In an appearance Tuesday on MLB Network Radio, Yanks general manager Brian Cashman weighed in on Harper as a potential fit and quashed the idea of New York considering him for a position switch.

"People have talked about Bryce Harper being able to play first base, I don't know if he can or can't," Cashman said. "I know he's very athletic, but that's not necessarily a bet I would recommend placing with the amount of money he's expected to get."

Tweet from @MLBNetworkRadio: How much is Bryce Harper on Brian Cashman's radar? @CaseyStern asked him. #Yankees pic.twitter.com/70LmYXZPmc

Cashman again pinpointed the starting rotation as an area of focus, along with addressing the bullpen and covering the absence of shortstop Didi Gregorius, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery and likely won't be ready until the summer. Cashman, though, didn't close the door on signing Harper.

"I'm not ruling anything out," the GM said. "We like to think of ourselves as very progressive and open-minded to any idea, if it's a good idea. My main laser focus currently is on those areas of need, but that doesn't preclude me from, with ownership obviously directing things from above, being open to any idea that makes us the best that we can possibly be."

Dodgers, Astros have interest in Realmuto
Nov. 20: The Dodgers have catching prospect Keibert Ruiz on the farm, so they don't necessarily have to seek a long-term replacement for free agent Yasmani Grandal. But MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi thinks that Los Angeles "appears destined to acquire a frontline catcher" this offseason.

Per Morosi, the Dodgers have interest in trade candidate J.T. Realmuto of the Marlins. Despite its blockbuster deal for Manny Machado in July, Los Angeles still has a solid farm system with four top-100 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline, so it can make Miami a competitive offer for Realmuto.

Morosi notes that the Astros are also eyeing Realmuto. Like the Dodgers, Houston has four top-100 prospects, including two -- outfielder Kyle Tucker and right-hander Forrest Whitley -- in the top 10.

The Braves, who have a whopping 10 top-100 prospects, are known to have interest in Realmuto as well, but the Marlins reportedly prefer to trade the backstop outside of the National League East.

The Nationals have been connected to Realmuto in the past, but their acquisition of Kurt Suzuki on Monday likely takes them out of the running for the Marlins catcher, as well as Grandal and fellow free agent Wilson Ramos.

Phillies are considering other big names besides Harper and Machado
Nov. 20: The Phillies have long been connected to Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, but those aren't the only two big-name players they are targeting, according to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi.

Morosi reports that Philadelphia is showing interest in Patrick Corbin and Craig Kimbrel, who are considered by many to be the top available starter and closer, respectively.

The Phillies are known to be seeking a left-handed starter to balance the rotation after giving just three starts to a southpaw over the past two years combined, and Corbin fits that bill.

Philadelphia had some success using a closer committee in 2018, but adding Kimbrel to the bullpen would undoubtedly make manager Gabe Kapler's job easier.

If they don't land Corbin or Kimbrel, the Phillies could look to the trade market for a starter and a closer, with Morosi mentioning the D-backs' Zack Greinke and the Mariners' Edwin Diaz as potential options.

A source told Morosi the D-backs are confident they won't need to include cash to move Greinke, who is owed more than $90 million over the next three years. The Phils have the payroll space to take on the entire contract.

After dealing left-hander James Paxton to the Yankees on Monday, the Mariners haven't ruled out trading Diaz, according to Morosi. The right-hander, who is under control for four more seasons, saved 57 games in 2018.

Video: Zolecki discusses Phillies' offseason spending plans

A-Rod touts Machado as "a great player" and "a fine young man"
Nov. 20: Alex Rodriguez has acted as a mentor to Manny Machado since Machado was a teenager in Miami -- where both Rodriguez and Machado grew up -- and he still holds a role as an advisor for the Yankees organization, leading some to wonder whether A-Rod could help bring Machado to New York.

Rodriguez, who was in London on Monday as part of MLB's promotional tour for next year's series between the Yankees and the Red Sox at London Stadium, said he hasn't been approached by the Yanks or Machado. But Rodriguez did endorse Machado's talent and character, according to the New York Post.

"I haven't had a chance to talk to [owner] Hal [Steinbrenner] or [GM Brian] Cashman, but I know ownership is as hungry as ever to put a great product and winner on the field," Rodriguez said. "And he's a great player.

"No one has asked me for advice. I do wish Manny well. He's a fine young man. It's a fun part of his career. I would just tell him to eliminate the white noise and focus on the game."

Machado drew criticism in October for admitting in an interview with Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription required) that he wasn't a "Johnny Hustle" type of player, and he was also called a "dirty player" by Christian Yelich of the Brewers after spiking first baseman Jesus Aguilar during the NLCS. The debate about Machado has continued this month, with the infielder expected to command more than $300 million on the free-agent market.

The Athletic's Jayson Stark reported last week that the Yankees were doing "extensive" background work on Machado to determine if he's the right fit for the left side of their infield.

"Any time you're going after a player, due diligence is a part of it," Rodriguez said. "He's a great player and he's young and has played well in the AL East. But Hal and Cashman would be right to do a deep dive on any player, whether it's someone making the minimum [salary] or if it's a big free agent like Manny."

Cron adds another first-base option to the market. Which teams might be suitors?
Nov. 20: When the Rays designated C.J. Cron for assignment prior to Tuesday's deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft, it added another first baseman to the free-agent market. So which teams might pounce?

MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger suggests the Twins could be a player, as Minnesota had the fifth-worst OPS from the first base position last season, and have been linked to other first basemen, like Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt.

Cron had the best season of his career at the plate in 2018, slashing .253/.323/.493 with 30 home runs in 140 games for Tampa Bay. Other clubs that may show interest include the Cardinals, Astros and Rockies. St. Louis may be looking to move the versatile Matt Carpenter off first base, the Astros may look to add a first baseman with super-utility player Marwin Gonzalez on the free-agent market, and the Rockies may look for more production at first base, to move Ian Desmond to the outfield.

Tweet from @RhettBollinger: Cron could be a target for the #MNTwins https://t.co/PgXf8al3Z4

Kimbrel not an option for Cubs?
Nov. 20: The Cubs' bullpen faltered down the stretch last season, contributing to a second-place finish in the NL Central and a loss to the Rockies in the NL Wild Card Game. NBC Sports Chicago's Tony Andracki writes that the club will be focused on adding bullpen depth so that its relievers aren't overused, which the front office sees as a big reason for the late-season struggles.

While Craig Kimbrel is the premier closer on the free-agent market, Andracki suggests that given president of baseball operations Theo Epstein's track record in free agency, it is unlikely Chicago will spend big on a closer. Andracki sees the club going after other late-inning relievers instead, which potentially includes Zach Britton and Andrew Miller.

"It's more likely we'll see the Cubs make some smaller moves in free agency (maybe bringing back Jesse Chavez?) and potentially acquire an impact reliever via trade (a la Wade Davis for Jorge Soler two years back)," Andracki writes.

With 'suspect' infield defense, will Yankees prefer Eovaldi?
Nov. 20: The Yankees are seeking to bolster their rotation this offseason, and according to MLB Network insider Joel Sherman in an article for the New York Post, that leads to the question of whether they'll prefer strikeout pitchers, given what he calls a "suspect" infield defense.

"Their best gloveman, Didi Gregorius, will miss at least two months after Tommy John surgery," Sherman writes. "Miguel Andujar was, by metrics, the Majors' worst defender at third. Gleyber Torres has the quick-hand/strong-arm attributes to be a top defender, but was not consistent last year. Luke Voit is a below-average defender and Greg Bird, perhaps, average at first."

That leads Sherman to wonder if hard-throwing right-hander Nathan Eovaldi may be the preferred starter for the Yankees, as his strikeout rate increased significantly last season.

"The most interesting case is Nathan Eovaldi, whose strikeout average rose last year over eight per nine innings for the first time -- more befitting his power stuff -- while he remained groundball proficient," Sherman continues. "Will teams such as the Yankees see Eovaldi trending more toward missing bats and, thus, even more attractive?"

Of course, there is no shortage of strikeout pitchers on this year's market, both via free agency and trade, including Patrick Corbin, Charlie Morton, J.A. Happ, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco and Corey Kluber.

Indians and Dodgers are having "lots of different discussions"
Nov. 20: File this rumor under "vague but juicy." MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reports that the Indians and Dodgers are "engaged in lots of different discussions," then suggests that there could be a match given Cleveland's need for outfield help -- even after getting good news about Leonys Martin -- and L.A.'s search for a catcher.

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: #Indians, #Dodgers engaged in ���lots of different discussions,��� sources tell The Athletic. LA likes CLE SPs and C Yan Gomes also would fit. CLE needs OFers; LAD has Pederson, Puig, Verdugo, plus young catching. Both clubs also talking to others. LAD in mix for #Marlins��� Realmuto.

That's right: Rosenthal just casually dropped names like Indians backstop Yan Gomes and (clears throat) Dodgers outfielders Joc Pederson, Alex Verdugo and ... Yasiel Puig. Not to mention, there's a reference to what would appear to be none other than Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco.

Imagine the possibilities: Puig, Pederson, Verdugo and one of L.A.'s high-end catching prospects (Keibert Ruiz or Will Smith) to Cleveland for one of Kluber or Carrasco and Gomes? There's no way that actually would come to fruition (right?), but it's Hot Stove season, so hey, fan the flames.

Why the Brewers could consider Lowrie and Murphy
Nov. 20: At the end of 2018, second base became something of a revolving door in Milwaukee. Not that the Brewers didn't have talented options to handle the position, but they never settled on any one player. That leaves the spot in a bit of flux this winter.

Sure, the club could continue playing Travis Shaw there, but he's better suited for third base, which is once again open with midseason acquisition Mike Moustakas on the open market. Hernan Perez is another candidate, but he's been extremely useful in a utility player role the past few seasons. And then there's Jonathan Schoop, who simply did not work out after joining the Crew from the Orioles in July.

In fact, given that Schoop hit .202/.246/.331 in 46 games with Milwaukee and is projected to get north of $10 million as his 2019 salary via arbitration, according to MLB Trade Rumors, there's at least a chance he could be non-tendered by the Nov. 30 deadline. If not, then Schoop could become a trade chip, with the hope that other teams focus more on his monster 2017 (.841 OPS, 32 homers) and age (still only 27) than on his disastrous '18.

If the Brewers are to consider a second-base solution in free agency, Jonah Keri of CBS Sports suggests that Jed Lowrie or Daniel Murphy could be good fits. Both veterans have continued to be productive, contact-making hitters with good pop well into their mid-30s, and they are likely to land reasonable two- or three-year deals because of their age. Solidifying a potential problem spot could help push a Brewers team that reached the National League Championship Series to the next level.

Which teams are making a push for Goldschmidt?
Nov. 20: It doesn't appear the D-backs are close to trading star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, but the Cardinals, Astros and Twins are three potential suitors if they choose to go down that road.

MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported Monday that St. Louis and Houston have had the "most meaningful" discussions with the D-backs about Goldschmidt, but a deal isn't imminent with either club.

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: #Astros, #STLCards are the two teams that have had the most meaningful discussions with the #DBacks about a trade for Paul Goldschmidt, sources tell The Athletic. No deal is close; talks not yet advanced.

According to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi, the Twins "have had preliminary talks about a Paul Goldschmidt trade, source confirms, though the dialogue has not advanced in recent days." Morosi also noted that Minnesota had the fifth-lowest OPS from the first base position of any team last season.

Tweet from @jonmorosi: #Twins and #DBacks have had preliminary talks about a Paul Goldschmidt trade, source confirms, though the dialogue has not advanced in recent days. Minnesota had 5th-lowest OPS at first base of any @MLB team in 2018; Arizona had the best . . . because of Goldschmidt. @MLBNetwork

The D-backs picked up Goldschmidt's $14.5 million club option last month, and he's slated to become a free agent for the first time in his career after next season. Arizona is poised to lose starting pitcher Patrick Corbin and outfielder A.J. Pollock in free agency, and could look to the future and deal its franchise player. It's unlikely the D-backs will act aggressively in shopping Goldschmidt, but for the first time since he broke into the big leagues, they've declined to say they wouldn't entertain trade offers for the six-time All-Star.

It's also possible Arizona offers Goldschmidt a contact extension or at least waits to see how the team performs next season before making a decision prior to the Trade Deadline.

Video: Langosch on Cards' chances of trading for Goldschmidt

What's next for the Nationals?
Nov. 20: The Nationals addressed their hole at catcher by signing Kurt Suzuki away from the National League East division-rival Braves at the relatively low cost of $10 million for two years.

Between that move and the earlier additions of right-handers Kyle Barraclough and Trevor Rosenthal to the bullpen, general manager Mike Rizzo already has solidified a couple of different areas without spending big. It appears the Nats now will hone in on their rotation, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, who highlights lefties Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel as well as right-handers Nathan Eovaldi and Charlie Morton as the likeliest free-agent targets.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: nats focus now appears to be on the rotation. Corbin, Keuchel, Eovaldi, Morton all potential fits. could also look for 1 more in pen, maybe 2B. then later comes the big question: do they need Harper?

Washington's rotation is fronted by two of the best in Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, but it drops off after that with durable veteran Tanner Roark as the only other sure thing in place. With all three of those being righties, it's possible Rizzo would prefer a southpaw like Corbin or Keuchel to provide some variety.

Those two, however, are expected to command multi-year contracts approaching (if not exceeding) $80 million to $100 million. It's worth wondering whether the Nationals would meet that price point, especially if it costs them a chance to re-sign their longtime star Bryce Harper.

Thin third-base market could benefit Donaldson, Moose
Nov. 20: Adrian Beltre announced his retirement Tuesday morning after a Hall of Fame-worthy career, leaving one fewer third baseman on the free-agent market.

However, this may not affect the market all that much, as Beltre was expected by many to re-sign with the Rangers if he didn't retire. Texas can plug in Jurickson Profar at the hot corner, so the club probably won't immediately jump into the mix for a free-agent replacement.

That said, having one less viable alternative out there certainly isn't a negative for Josh Donaldson and Mike Moustakas, the top two free-agent third basemen not named Manny Machado.

With Beltre retiring and Eduardo Escobar and Jung Ho Kang re-signing with their respective teams, the best free-agent third baseman behind Machado, Donaldson and Moustakas is Chase Headley, at least in terms of 2018 Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Headley, 34, wasn't signed after being released by the Padres in May, and he finished 2018 with -0.4 WAR, per FanGraphs.

Machado is also being courted as a shortstop, and only a select number of teams can afford his contract demands, so many of the clubs that need a third baseman may have only two realistic options: Donaldson or Moustakas.

Although he played just 52 games during an injury-plagued season and is nearly three years older than Moustakas, Donaldson is clearly the higher-ceiling option of the two. Donaldson won an American League MVP Award in 2015 and has recorded 36.5 WAR over 883 career games. Moustakas, meanwhile, has posted 13.2 WAR in 988 games.

Cardinals could trade Martinez, sign Corbin or Keuchel
Nov. 20: After missing the postseason in each of the past three seasons, the Cardinals are expected to explore a number of avenues to upgrade their roster this offseason. According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, their plans could include both adding to and subtracting from the starting rotation.

Per Goold, St. Louis has explored the trade interest in Carlos Martinez and will continue to do so, having seen other pitchers with similar contracts bring back significant talent in past deals.

Martinez, 27, is owed roughly $35 million over the next three seasons, and he has team options for 2022 ($17 million) and 2023 ($18 million). Each option comes with a $500,000 buyout.

The right-hander has flashed ace potential during his career, but he has more often performed like a No. 2 starter and may be viewed as such on the trade market. Martinez also battled right shoulder problems in 2018 and spent much of the second half pitching out of the bullpen.

In addition, Goold notes that St. Louis will have conversations about Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel, who are arguably the top two pitchers on the free-agent market. The Cards have been more closely linked to the latter, but they may wait for Corbin's market to take shape before they determine if Keuchel makes sense financially.

Is Pollock the answer if Markakis departs Atlanta?
Nov. 20: With Nick Markakis on the free-agent market, the Braves may need to find a replacement in the outfield. In matching free agents to each NL club, Sports Illustrated's Jon Tayler has A.J. Pollock as the right fit for Atlanta.

"Pollock's injury history is worrisome, and his last two years have been largely unexceptional at the plate, but he can handle center or the corners and boasts a lot of upside, even at 31," Tayler writes.

Prior to being injured last season, Pollock was off to a great start, hitting .293/.349/.620 with 11 homers through May 14. Though he struggled after returning, as Tayler notes, there is high potential upside should Pollock stay healthy and regain his form at the plate.

Signing Kimbrel would be "out of character" for Cards
Nov. 20: The Cardinals have been mentioned as a potential landing spot for free-agent closer Craig Kimbrel, but Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch doesn't see it happening.

"It would be so completely out of character and against everything the Cardinals have done the past three years," Goold wrote Monday.

Goold points out that when the Cards signed Greg Holland to a one-year, $14 million contract in March, they expressly said they did not want a long-term commitment at closer so Jordan Hicks wouldn't be blocked from eventually taking on the role. Holland's poor performance only reinforced St. Louis' internal stance against paying up for big-name closers.

Breaking down a potential Segura-Myers swap

Will the Mariners continue an already active offseason by trading their shortstop?
MLB.com

Another day, another Mariners trade rumor. Such is the state of things for a franchise in flux featuring perhaps the most trade-happy general manager in Major League Baseball in Jerry Dipoto.

Seattle has the longest active streak of seasons without reaching the playoffs -- their last appearance was in 2001 -- among the four major pro sports, and the club recently has embarked on a roster "re-imagining" per Dipoto that already this offseason has brought the trades of catcher Mike Zunino to the Rays on Nov. 8 and lefty James Paxton to the Yankees on Monday evening.

Another day, another Mariners trade rumor. Such is the state of things for a franchise in flux featuring perhaps the most trade-happy general manager in Major League Baseball in Jerry Dipoto.

Seattle has the longest active streak of seasons without reaching the playoffs -- their last appearance was in 2001 -- among the four major pro sports, and the club recently has embarked on a roster "re-imagining" per Dipoto that already this offseason has brought the trades of catcher Mike Zunino to the Rays on Nov. 8 and lefty James Paxton to the Yankees on Monday evening.

Those moves have raised the question: What's next for the Mariners? 

The latest? Seattle has had discussions with the Padres about a deal that potentially would send shortstop Jean Segura and right-hander Mike Leake to San Diego for first baseman/outfielder Wil Myers, according to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal. 

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: #Padres have discussed a trade with #Mariners in which they would acquire SS Jean Segura and RHP Mike Leake for OF Wil Myers, sources tell The Athletic. Leake would need to waive his no-trade clause for deal to occur, and also is weighing other potential options, one source says.

MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi also is hearing that the two sides are in talks, with Leake involved.

Tweet from @jonmorosi: #Mariners and #Padres indeed have discussed a trade that would send Mike Leake to San Diego, source confirms @Ken_Rosenthal���s report; Ken reported that Jean Segura (to #Padres) and Wil Myers (to #Mariners) have been discussed in the talks. @MLB @MLBNetwork

The quick takeaway from this is that Dipoto is going to put his reputation as "Trader Jerry" to the test this winter, and the Mariners certainly seem to be intent on rebuilding, retooling, readjusting, remaking -- pick your preferred synonym -- the roster.

With Zunino and Paxton shipped off, Segura is one of the club's few remaining appealing trade chips, as he's coming off two strong seasons in Seattle in which he's slashed .302/.345/.421 while hitting at least 10 homers and stealing at least 20 bases each year. A 28-year-old shortstop, he is signed through 2022 for $57 million with a $17 million option for '23 (or a $1 million buyout).

Video: SEA@SD: Segura singles to collect 1,000th career hit

Leake is due $31 million through 2020 with a mutual option for '21 at $18 million (or a $5 million buyout). The 31-year-old has proved to be a durable innings-eater, averaging 182 2/3 frames per season since signing his current five-year pact with the Cardinals in December 2015. St. Louis traded Leake -- who has a 4.32 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP the past three seasons -- to Seattle in August 2017 and chipped in money to do so.

Tweet from @jonmorosi: Mike Leake has a full no-trade clause, as @Ken_Rosenthal reported, and Leake has yet to inform #Mariners that he���ll approve a deal to San Diego or anywhere else. In general, Leake (native of San Diego County, pitched at ASU) is amenable to West Coast cities. @MLB @MLBNetwork

While Segura could cover the shortstop position vacated by free agent Freddy Galvis in San Diego until elite prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. is ready and Leake would help fill out a rotation lacking in reliable arms, the fact that both players have full no-trade clauses complicates any potential swap.

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: Correcting my shoddy math: Myers owed $64M over next 4 years. Segura (4 years) and Leake (2) owed combined $85M, and both have full no-trades. Segura could play SS for Pads until Tatis is ready, then move to 2B. Tatis also has played 3B. Deal at moment not thought to be close. https://t.co/zwLCdkf8b3

Which brings us to Myers. The soon-to-be 28-year-old will earn $3 million next season before his salary spikes to $20 million per year through '22 with an option for another $20 million or a $1 million buyout in '23.

That's a lot for a player who has failed to live up to expectations since the Padres signed him long term in January 2017 with the hope he would become a franchise cornerstone. Amid being moved around the field as San Diego tried to find a defensive home for him after landing first baseman Eric Hosmer last offseason, Myers hit .253/.318/.446 in 2018 while being limited to 83 games due to three trips to the disabled list for three separate injuries.

Myers, presumably, would handle either first base in Seattle -- where Ryon Healy is far from entrenched -- or left field, a position that is open after the departure of free agent Denard Span.

Video: Cassavell discusses Wil Myers' future with the Padres

The question for Dipoto and the Mariners: If they are looking to re-imagine the roster, get younger and save money going forward -- the trades for outfielder Mallex Smith and the prospect package featuring lefty Justus Sheffield fit that bill -- why would they be looking to acquire a pricey, underperforming veteran in a deal involving Segura?

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: SD want money as even as possible in any Myers trade. Would take on $21M if he went to SEA for Segura, Leake. Figure negotiable. Other names possible. Again, deal not close. But Leake���s awareness of talks indicate advanced discussions; both he and Segura would need to approve.

When a possible deal like this -- one between a pair of GMs known for making bold moves in Dipoto and the Padres' A.J. Preller -- is rumored, things can happen quickly. As MLB.com's Greg Johns reports: "There have indeed been discussions between the teams, but nothing is believed close to happening at the moment. Of course, that can change in a hurry, but it doesn't sound like anything imminent."

These days, that sounds like something we'll be hearing a lot when it comes to the Mariners and Dipoto.

Jason Catania is an editor and reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JayCat11.

San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, Mike Leake, Wil Myers, Jean Segura

How teams might evaluate Harper's defense

Outfielder's -12 Outs Above Average was fifth-lowest in '18
MLB.com @mike_petriello

Bryce Harper had a good 2018 season. Not a great one, but a good one. He slugged 34 homers, scored 100 runs and put up a .249/.393/.496 line that was 35 percent better than average, or 17th among qualified hitters. In the second half, it was a sparkling .300/.434/.538, ninth-best in the Majors.

But there's more to baseball than hitting, and in terms of overall value, Harper's season wasn't exactly what he'd have wanted heading into free agency. At FanGraphs, he was worth 3.5 Wins Above Replacement, still above average, but tied for 49th. At Baseball-Reference, it was merely 1.3 Wins Above Replacement, tied for 185th. 

Bryce Harper had a good 2018 season. Not a great one, but a good one. He slugged 34 homers, scored 100 runs and put up a .249/.393/.496 line that was 35 percent better than average, or 17th among qualified hitters. In the second half, it was a sparkling .300/.434/.538, ninth-best in the Majors.

But there's more to baseball than hitting, and in terms of overall value, Harper's season wasn't exactly what he'd have wanted heading into free agency. At FanGraphs, he was worth 3.5 Wins Above Replacement, still above average, but tied for 49th. At Baseball-Reference, it was merely 1.3 Wins Above Replacement, tied for 185th. 

That disconnect between his strong hitting and weak overall value comes down mostly to defense, where every metric had him as a negative. Defensive Runs Saved scored him a -26, worst of any outfielder who doesn't call massive Coors Field home. Ultimate Zone Rating scored him a -14.4, at the bottom of the list. Statcast™'s Outs Above Average, which for the moment includes only range and not arm value, puts him at -12, fifth-worst

Clearly, there's still some variation between several imperfect defensive metrics and how they feed into a player's overall value, but they all agree that Harper's defense in 2018 was poor, and the worst of his career.

But Harper is only 26, and still athletic. So let's try to figure this out in the same way a team might, by trying to answer this question: Was Harper's defensive downturn an indicator of lack of skill, or something else? That is, can a team hope for improvement? When FanGraphs' Jeff Sullivan investigated this, he found that recent examples of defensive decliners rebounded by about a third the next season. 

Let's attempt to answer that question by asking a few other questions.

Video: Harper enters free agency after 7 seasons with Nats

Did he get slower? (No.) 

This is the first thing you would think of when you're trying to figure out why an outfielder is no longer getting to as many balls, especially when you remember that Harper had a scary-looking knee injury late in 2017. Maybe his peak speed just isn't what it used to be?

But the data doesn't back that up. Statcast™ measures top running speed with a metric called Sprint Speed, measured as "feet per second in a runner's fastest one-second window," with 27 being Major League average. We've begun to use this to try to see what trends we can see in certain players, but Harper's Sprint Speed has stayed relatively constant. It doesn't seem like this is the issue.

2015: 27.8 ft/sec, 72nd percentile
2016: 27.2 ft/sec, 59th percentile
2017: 27.7 ft/sec, 70th percentile
2018: 27.5 ft/sec, 62nd percentile

Harper even stole 13 bases, his third-highest total. In addition, his fastest-tracked run (as a hitter or baserunner) in the four years of Statcast™ came in the final month of the 2018 season, when he hit 30.4 ft/sec going first-to-third on an Anthony Rendon single. 

Video: WSH@MIA: Rendon grounds an RBI single to right field

Was it because he had to play more center field? (Doesn't seem so.)

Thanks to injuries to Victor Robles and Adam Eaton, along with the batting struggles of Michael A. Taylor, Harper played 477 1/3 innings in center, three times more than he had in the previous five seasons combined. As we showed earlier in the year, center field is tough simply because of the many extra opportunities to be exposed while playing there.

But this doesn't seem to be the reason either. Harper's performance in center and right were similar. There's nothing obvious about his position affecting this.

As CF
-5 OAA. 91 percent expected catches, 88 percent actual (-3 percent added)

As RF
-7 OAA. 89 percent expected catches, 85 percent actual (-4 percent added)

Did he get better or worse as the year progressed? (Not really.) 

As we noted above, Harper's offensive season wasn't exactly consistent. His first half was disappointing, and his second half was spectacular. Did his fielding follow the same track? Not really. A decent May stands out, but otherwise there's no discernible pattern here.

April: -3 OAA
May: +1 
June: -1 
July: -2 
August: -3 
September: -4 

Did he position himself differently? (Yes!)

Interestingly, Harper has moved considerably deeper in right field over the last three years. If we look at all right fielders who played against at least 500 batters in each season, we can see his trend clearly. 

2016: 283 feet deep, tied for shallowest of 71 right fielders
2017: 290 feet deep, tied for 18th-shallowest of 66 right fielders
2018: 295 feet deep, tied for 39th-shallowest of 80 right fielders

There were 36 right fielders who saw at least 500 batters in both 2016 and '18. No one moved back more than the 12 feet that Harper did, from 283 to 295. (The average in the group was +2 feet.)

That's interesting, but it's also not clear that it made a difference. We can use OAA to look at how players have fared in any direction, like we did when we showed how great Lorenzo Cain was at going back. When looking at Harper, he hasn't shown a clear strength or weakness in any one direction. This might have some impact, but nothing we can clearly quantify. 

Video: WSH@COL: Harper makes a jumping snag, bumps into wall

Did he just not receive difficult opportunities? (Yes!)

Not even the greatest defender can simply will difficult chances into existence. If he's positioned too well, the chances are easy. If he's too far away, the chances are impossible. Throw in the vagaries of batted-ball luck, and this can have a real impact. We looked at this in 2017 while trying to figure out why Mike Trout's defensive numbers weren't strong, and we noted he'd received the easiest chances in the game that year.

We can do the same for Harper. There were 87 outfielders who received at least one chance per team game. No one had easier overall chances than he did, as 90 percent of the balls hit to Harper would likely have been converted by an average outfielder, tied with Aaron Hicks, Michael Conforto and Kevin Kiermaier for the highest in the game. 

It's difficult to set yourself apart when the toughest chances aren't there. So that explains the lack of positives, perhaps. What about the negatives? 

Was the problem the easy plays, or the difficult ones? 

We're trying to get to the heart of the problem here: Did Harper have a harder time making difficult plays, or was it more of an issue making easier plays? Let's find the easiest 10 percent of plays, defined as those with a Catch Probability of 90 percent or more, and make that one bucket. Everything else, we'll put into a second, more difficult group.

Let's set a minimum of 30 "difficult" opportunities in each season, and see where Harper ranked. 

2016 (117 qualifiers)

Easy
Harper converted 98 percent of chances, where the average was 98 percent.
That was 61st of 117, in the 48th percentile.

Difficult
Harper converted 51 percent of chances, where the average was 50 percent.
That was 58th of 117, in the 50th percentile.

2017 (109 qualifiers)

Easy
Harper converted 99 percent of chances, where the average was 98 percent.
That was 13th of 109, in the 88th percentile.

Difficult
Harper converted 37 percent of chances, where the average was 49 percent.
That was 88th of 109, in the 19th percentile.

2018 (114 qualifiers)

Easy
Harper converted 97 percent of chances, where the average was 98 percent.
That was 95th of 114, in the 17th percentile.

Difficult
Harper converted 33 percent of chances, where the average was 50 percent.
That was 105th of 114, in the 8th percentile.

So it's true that he had some issues with the 'difficult' plays, though when he robbed Billy Hamilton playing center field in June, it was on a ball that is caught only 39 percent of the time, his best-rated catch since 2016.

But what about that drop in the "easy" plays, from slightly above average down to poor? What happened there?

OK, so what did the catchable balls he failed to catch look like? 

Look, it's a long season. Over hundreds of chances, silly things happen now and then. It hurts your metrics and it looks bad, but it's not a reflection of skill, or lack thereof. For Harper, that play came last September, when Matt Carpenter "doubled." It happened, but it probably doesn't mean anything going forward. 

Video: STL@WSH: Carpenter belts a sun-assisted RBI double

We watched 18 other Harper chances where he didn't make a play when the Catch Probability was 50 percent or higher, and a few trends stood out.

There were a few plays where he just seemed passive, not going for balls that with slightly more aggression likely could have been caught, like this Amed Rosario single from August.

Video: WSH@NYM: Rosario rips a liner to right field

It's somewhat similar on this Zack Wheeler single, where Harper appears to decide it wasn't a ball he could get to, letting a fly ball with a 60 percent Catch Probability drop for a hit.

On some, Harper seemed to have poor reads or slow reactions. You can see that on this Danny Valencia single.

Video: BAL@WSH: Valencia hits a single to Harper in center

Something similar appeared to happen on this Johan Camargo hit, too.

On this Dominic Smith double in September, Harper wasn't able to get there in time and pulled up short of the wall, though the ball dropped on the warning track. It's easy to imagine another outfielder getting there and making it look easy.

Video: NYM@WSH: Dominic Smith doubles to right field

On others, he got there with a glove on the ball, but just wasn't able to convert. Against Miami's Brian Anderson, Harper was charged with his only non-throwing error of the year. 

Video: MIA@WSH: Anderson singles, takes second on error

Early in the year, he could have taken a double away from Adam Duvall , but couldn't close the deal despite the ball hitting him in the glove. Late in the year, something similar happened against Jay Bruce -- Harper got there, just couldn't hang onto the ball.

This could be considered good news, in that his ability to get to the ball hasn't disappeared. A little more aggressiveness, and slightly better execution when the ball hits his glove, and this looks like a different story entirely. That's what interested teams are hoping, anyway.

* * *

Now: Is any of that predictive of the future? We can't say for sure yet. Coming in the spring, we'll introduce some new Statcast™ metrics that will allow us to dig a little more deeply into things like reaction time, burst, and route running. A very preliminary look at those numbers shows that Harper didn't actually decline in those areas in 2018 from 2017, though it's too soon to say. 

On those 'easy' plays, it seems Harper still has the skill to get to many of those balls. For whatever reason, the execution just wasn't there in 2018. That was bad news for his defensive metrics. It might be good news if you're a team hoping he'll improve in the years to come. It doesn't mean he'll be great. It doesn't mean he won't be a first baseman at some point in the future. It does mean that he's still just 26 and enormously talented. Teams aren't just going to assume he can't play defense anymore.

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

Bryce Harper

Top 10 moments of Beltre's career

3,000 hits, one-knee World Series homer highlight icon's 21 seasons
MLB.com @_dadler and @DKramer_

Adrian Beltre's iconic 21-year career has come to an end, as the veteran third baseman announced his retirement on Tuesday. Known for his friendly shenanigans on the diamond, his resilience in battling through significant injuries and, of course, his ability to slug while dropping to one knee, Beltre will be remembered as one of his era's greatest.

In a career that featured 3,166 hits, 477 home runs and five postseason appearances, there are countless highlights worth reliving as Beltre hangs up his cleats. Here are 10 of his most memorable.

Adrian Beltre's iconic 21-year career has come to an end, as the veteran third baseman announced his retirement on Tuesday. Known for his friendly shenanigans on the diamond, his resilience in battling through significant injuries and, of course, his ability to slug while dropping to one knee, Beltre will be remembered as one of his era's greatest.

In a career that featured 3,166 hits, 477 home runs and five postseason appearances, there are countless highlights worth reliving as Beltre hangs up his cleats. Here are 10 of his most memorable.

Beltre steps away after legendary career

1. No. 3,000
In the crowning statistical achievement of a Hall of Fame-caliber career, Beltre joined baseball's 3,000-hit club on July 30, 2017. Playing in front of the Rangers home crowd in Arlington, he ripped a double down the third-base line to reach the milestone. Beltre is one of just 32 members of the 3,000-hit club, as well as just the third primary third baseman to reach the mark (along with Wade Boggs and George Brett) and the first Dominican-born player to do so (since joined by Albert Pujols).

"Today, when I got my second at-bat, I thought, 'This has to be it. I don't want to have the fans waiting, my family is waiting for it. I don't want to drag it one more day,'" Beltre said after getting his 3,000th hit -- a moment he shared with his wife and children on the field. "What happened today after the hit has been the best moment in my life. I didn't know how to feel, because I had no idea what was going on. I feel proud of them. I saw the joy in their faces, and a lot of things you do in your career you do for your kids and your family. My kids and my wife have been so supportive over the years, that this moment was for them."

Video: Beltre earns his place in history with 3,000th hit

2. Game 4, 2011 American League Division Series
On Oct. 4, 2011, with the Rangers looking to clinch the ALDS against the Rays, Beltre took matters into his own hands at Tropicana Field. He turned in one of the best single-game postseason performances ever, homering three times to account for the final three runs of a 4-3 win that sent the Rangers to the AL Championship Series.

Beltre went deep off Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson in the second inning and again in the fourth, and crushed one more home run off Matt Moore in the seventh for a much-needed insurance run. He became just the seventh player to homer three times in a single playoff game, and is now one of just 10 different Major Leaguers do so.

Video: TEX@TB Gm4: Beltre blasts trio of homers in Game 4

3. Fall Classic blast from one knee
Beltre became the posterboy for launching home runs from one knee, so it's perhaps fitting that his first World Series homer came in that trademark fashion. With the Rangers trailing the Cardinals, 2-1, in Game 5 of the 2011 Fall Classic, Beltre dropped to his right knee and crushed a low-and-outside breaking ball from St. Louis ace Chris Carpenter deep into the left-field bleachers. Beltre sent the fans at Globe Life Park into a frenzy, and the homer proved critical as Texas took a 3-2 series lead. Beltre would hit another big home run in Game 6 -- a tiebreaking shot leading off the seventh inning at Busch Stadium -- although that one would be overshadowed by David Freese's memorable heroics for the Cards.

Video: WS2011 Gm5: Beltre laces a solo homer to tie it at 2

4. Tri-cycle
On Aug. 3, 2015, Beltre put the Majors on cycle watch early in the second inning when he'd already hit a triple and double. He followed with a single in the third, giving him ample time to belt a homer, which he did in the bottom of the fifth. Beltre became just the third player in history to hit for three cycles -- joining John Reilly, Babe Herman and Bob Meusel -- and he was the first to do so since 1933. Of the 271 cycles on record since 1908, Beltre became, and remains, the eighth-oldest player to notch one, at 36 years, 118 days old. Of the seven elder, four are in the Hall of Fame.

Video: Must C Cycle: Beltre hits third career cycle

5. MLB debut, first hit
It all started on June 24, 1998 -- Beltre's Major League debut, the first of his 2,933 career regular-season games. Beltre was just 19 years old when he was called up for the first time by Dodgers general manager Tommy Lasorda and took the field for a Wednesday night Interleague game against the Angels at Dodger Stadium. In his first big league at-bat, facing Chuck Finley, Beltre lined an RBI double down the left-field line. There would be 3,165 more hits to come, and 1,706 more RBIs.

Video: Adrian Beltre's first and last Major League hits

6. First MLB home run
The first of Beltre's 477 home runs came about a week into his career. In an appropriate coincidence, it happened in Arlington, where he'd go on to hit so many more big home runs with the Rangers. On June 30, 1998, Beltre headed to Texas for his first career road trip. In the series opener against the Rangers, Beltre belted home run No. 1 -- a two-run shot off Rick Helling onto the grassy knoll beyond the center-field wall, which broke the game open for the Dodgers in the top of the sixth inning.

7. Home run king
The 2004 season, his last in a Dodgers uniform, was the best of Beltre's long career. Only Barry Bonds at the peak of his powers prevented Beltre from winning the National League MVP Award, but it was Beltre who came away with the home run crown. Beltre crushed 48 homers to lead the Majors, surpassing not only Bonds (45), but also Pujols and Adam Dunn (46 each) and AL champ Manny Ramirez (43). Beltre also hit a career-best .334 with a 1.017 OPS and reached the 200-hit mark for the first and only time. He's still the last Dodgers player with a 200-hit season.

Video: COL@LAD: Beltre launches a go-ahead grand slam

8. Beltre helps Rangers clinch AL West in '15
After missing the playoffs the previous two seasons, the Rangers got hot down the stretch in 2015 and took a one-game lead in the AL West into the final day of the regular season. In Game 162, they were facing the Angels, who were themselves still in contention for a Wild Card slot. The Angels even took an early lead on Albert Pujols' two-run homer off Cole Hamels in the first inning … but then Beltre put the Rangers on top to stay. His go-ahead two-run shot to the opposite field off Garrett Richards in the fifth was the biggest hit of what turned into a 9-2 win that sent Texas back to the postseason.

Video: LAA@TEX: Beltre's two-run shot puts Rangers in front

9. Walk-off homers
Beltre's nine walk-off homers are four shy of Jim Thome's all-time MLB record. In 2016, when the Rangers set the MLB record with 36 wins in one-run games, Beltre accounted for at least one with a deep fly to center against Oakland's Ryan Madson. In '13, Beltre capped a series sweep of the Angels with the Rangers' third consecutive walk-off homer. In '12, with a tight race with Oakland for the AL West in the final week, Beltre lifted a game-winner to center off A's reliever Tyson Ross. Both clubs would go on to reach the playoffs. In '06, Beltre's walk-off against Yankees reliever Ron Villone helped the Mariners snap an 11-game losing streak in late August. Beltre's first walk-off homer came in '01 with the Dodgers, when he lifted a middle-low breaking ball to deep left field off the Mariners' Jose Paniagua in the ninth.

Video: NYY@SEA: Adrian Beltre launches a walk-off home run

10. Frenemies
Beltre and Mariners ace Felix Hernandez were teammates for five years in Seattle. In the years following Beltre's departure, they developed a long-running friendly rivalry. Especially after Beltre became a division rival with the Rangers, their matchups produced a series of entertaining back-and-forth antics between the two players, with plenty of good-natured jawing. Beltre hit a pair of homers off King Felix over the years, but Hernandez held him to a .226 batting average in 62 at-bats while striking Beltre out 10 times.

Video: Must C Comical: Beltre pays back Felix for early K

"For me, it's fun because obviously we have a little friend/enemy-type thing going on," Beltre said in April. "It is fun, but I always want to beat him even though I know if he gets the best of me, I'm going to hear from him after the game. I always hope, even though I love the guy, I am always going to try and beat him."

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.

Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_.

Adrian Beltre

Villanueva DFA'd; move to Japan looks likely

Third baseman won NL Rookie of the Month in April
MLB.com @AJCassavell

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres' wide-open third-base race took an unexpected turn on Tuesday afternoon.

Christian Villanueva, the 27-year-old infielder who burst onto the scene with 20 homers and a .750 OPS in 2018, was designated for assignment, as part of a series of moves on Tuesday as the Padres cleared space on their 40-man roster. According to sources, Villanueva will have his contract sold to a team in Japan, most likely the Yomiuri Giants, and that move is expected to be finalized within the next couple days.

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres' wide-open third-base race took an unexpected turn on Tuesday afternoon.

Christian Villanueva, the 27-year-old infielder who burst onto the scene with 20 homers and a .750 OPS in 2018, was designated for assignment, as part of a series of moves on Tuesday as the Padres cleared space on their 40-man roster. According to sources, Villanueva will have his contract sold to a team in Japan, most likely the Yomiuri Giants, and that move is expected to be finalized within the next couple days.

It's a surprising twist, given that Villanueva figured to be in the mix for a starting job at the hot corner next season. Evidently, the Japanese club approached the Padres with the possibility of working out a deal to acquire Villanueva, who had pushed for the opportunity.

• SD clears 40-man space with 3 deals; 4 DFA'd

The Padres negotiated with the Japanese team on a fee that would release his contract. Villanueva, meanwhile, negotiated his own contract separately with the club. Eventually all parties came to an agreement.

Padres general manager A.J. Preller refused to comment on the specifics of the move when reached Tuesday evening.

"In talking to [Villanueva's] camp, they felt like there was a real opportunity for him in some different things that we felt we'd give him the chance to explore and we'd be supportive of, understanding that we were going to have to look at some other different options at third base," said Preller.

In his rookie season, Villanueva batted .236/.299/.450. He broke out with a brilliant April that earned him National League Rookie of the Month honors before regressing during the remainder of the season.

Video: Must C Classic: Villanueva homers thrice at Petco

Villanueva was among a handful of candidates to open the 2019 season at third base for San Diego, all of whom have flaws. With Villanueva gone, it's now a near certainty the Padres look to add in their infield. As things stand, Wil Myers is probably the projected Opening Day third baseman, and he struggled mightily in his debut at the position in August and September.

"We're still looking at different fits, different options, going forward," Preller said. "On the roster, you have Wil, who we'll still keep looking at. … We'll probably get through the Winter Meetings and have a clearer picture with where we're at third base, and more specifically with Wil."

Myers is an obvious candidate to be traded, and MLB Network Insider Ken Rosenthal reported Tuesday that the Padres have spoken with the Mariners about a potential deal. It's also very possible that the Padres move Franmil Reyes or Hunter Renfroe, which would presumably clear space to allow Myers to shift back to a corner-outfield spot.

In any case, it seems unlikely that all three are in San Diego on Opening Day, meaning third base is probably vacant. Ty France was one of seven prospects added to the 40-man roster on Tuesday, and he'll compete for the job in Spring Training, as will Jason Vosler, who was acquired in a trade with the Cubs. The duo combined to hit 45 home runs in the upper levels of the Minor Leagues last season.

Still, it's far likelier the Padres add a third baseman via trade or free agency over the next month. They were almost certainly going to do so, even before Villanueva's departure. Now, it's a necessity.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

San Diego Padres, Christian Villanueva

What's next for Mariners post-Paxton deal?

GM Dipoto installing plan of one step back, two steps forward
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

SEATTLE -- For general manager Jerry Dipoto, the question is never a matter of if, but when? When will the next trade come for the Mariners' GM, who dealt standout southpaw James Paxton to the Yankees for a trio of prospects Monday?

As he begins his fourth year in Seattle, Dipoto has now made 82 trades involving 174 players since taking over on Sept. 28, 2015. But his first few deals this winter have taken on a different tone.

SEATTLE -- For general manager Jerry Dipoto, the question is never a matter of if, but when? When will the next trade come for the Mariners' GM, who dealt standout southpaw James Paxton to the Yankees for a trio of prospects Monday?

As he begins his fourth year in Seattle, Dipoto has now made 82 trades involving 174 players since taking over on Sept. 28, 2015. But his first few deals this winter have taken on a different tone.

Instead of looking to build up the floor around his veteran core, Dipoto has shifted his sights more to the future after missing out on the postseason in 2018 despite an 89-73 record that stands as the sixth-best mark in franchise history.

Dipoto and his baseball operations staff took a hard look at where the franchise stood and decided that it made more sense to step back and reload for a push in 2020 and '21 than to continue down the same path, given the current strength of the Red Sox, Astros, Yankees, Indians and A's in front of them.

Dipoto shies away from calling it a "teardown," as he's not looking to deal from the younger nucleus of Mitch Haniger, Marco Gonzales or Edwin Diaz, like could be expected in a total rebuild. Nor is he likely to be able to shed some of the big payroll players like Robinson Cano, Felix Hernandez and Kyle Seager.

Video: Dipoto on the possibility of tearing down his roster

But Dipoto has always been willing to listen to offers and isn't closing the door on any possiblities.

"We're going to stay open-minded to anything," he said. "Generally, never say never. But Marco, Mitch, Eddie, we'd have to be blown away to move players like that. Those are the kind of players we're trying to acquire."

The difference with Paxton and catcher Mike Zunino is that both have just two years of team control remaining before hitting free agency. Thus, they have a shorter window to help Seattle, but still carry maximum trade value for teams in win-now mode.

"Without having the ability to extend those players or build around a core group of players in their 30s, we had tough decisions to make and we made them," Dipoto said. "We're pretty excited about the direction we're taking."

Expect that direction to continue playing out this winter. The Mariners need a catcher, having only David Freitas remaining on their 40-man roster. So Dipoto undoubtedly is searching for a promising Major League-ready prospect, similar to what he did with the Yankees, who can grow with the new group.

Who fits that mold? Carson Kelly of the Cardinals, a 24-year-old who is regarded as one of the game's better young catching prospects, would make sense, as he's blocked by Yadier Molina for at least two more years in St. Louis.

The Cardinals are looking for a closer and the Mariners certainly could offer Alex Colome, an experienced closer who -- like Paxton and Zunino -- has two years of arbitration eligibility remaining before becoming a free agent.

Dipoto also figures to be open to dealing either Jean Segura or Dee Gordon in order to solve the logjam that has developed now that Gordon is moving back to the infield, where Cano is already at second base. There are lots of options there, including shifting Cano to first base or designated hitter. But if Cano stays at second, either Gordon or Segura almost certainly will be traded.

Gordon has two years and $28.1 million left on his contract, so he falls in the short-term window, similar to Paxton and Zunino. Segura has four years left at $60.4 million, and conceivably could be viewed in the longer-term, though there was talk that the Yankees were interested in him as part of the Paxton package at one point.

Segura was mentioned in a Tuesday tweet by MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal as being discussed in a package with the Padres that would also send Mike Leake to San Diego in exchange for outfielder Wil Myers, though sources indicated those talks don't appear close to fruition.

Bottom line, Dipoto surely will make more moves as he adds more building blocks for the future. Justus Sheffield already has been installed as Seattle's new No. 1 ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline, while Erik Swanson is at No. 9 and Don Thompson-Williams is 14th, all having come over in exchange for Paxton.

Video: Callis discusses Mariners' return for Paxton

The Mariners are also very high on Jake Fraley, a 23-year-old outfielder acquired along with Mallex Smith from the Rays in the Zunino deal. He's ranked as the club's No. 24 overall prospect.

Those newcomers, along with Seattle's recent top Draft picks, are lining up in what Dipoto feels can be a wave of fresh talent arriving over the next two or three years, along with the three prospects acquired from the Yankees and whoever else is added to the mix going forward.

"Clearly we've opted that 2019 is a year we step back, hoping to take two [steps] forward," Dipoto said. "When I say 2020 and '21, it's simply gauging the ages of players we're building around. Smith is [25] and Fraley 23. Logan Gilbert, Evan White, Kyle Lewis, they all start to pile up in the same general time zone. Couple that with Haniger, Diaz and Marco, we start to add up a pretty exciting group.

"We're adding impact players," he said. "And impact players don't generally take that long to begin making an impact."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, James Paxton

Corbin and Nationals a potential match

MLB.com

After a breakout 2018 campaign in which he tied for fourth among qualified hurlers in WAR (6.3, per FanGraphs) and ranked fifth in strikeouts (246), Patrick Corbin is now free to sign anywhere as a first-time free agent.

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

After a breakout 2018 campaign in which he tied for fourth among qualified hurlers in WAR (6.3, per FanGraphs) and ranked fifth in strikeouts (246), Patrick Corbin is now free to sign anywhere as a first-time free agent.

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

Could the Yankees sign Corbin and Happ, even after trading for Paxton?
Nov. 21: Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has said multiple times this offseason that upgrading the rotation is a priority, and the club is expected to add another starter even after re-signing CC Sabathia and trading for James Paxton. But could they bring in two more? MLB Network Radio's Steve Phillips isn't ruling it out.

Phillips thinks the Yankees could still sign Patrick Corbin and J.A. Happ, which would give the club six established starters: Corbin, Happ, Paxton, Sabathia, Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka.

Tweet from @MLBNetworkRadio: Only one pitcher made 30 starts for the #Yankees last season, that's why @StevePhillipsGM thinks they could still add two more starters: pic.twitter.com/mdktBlxiXT

Phillips notes that Paxton has never made more than 28 starts in a season, Sabathia is 38 years old, Severino faded in the second half last year, and Tanaka has another year of wear and tear on his elbow after being diagnosed with a partially torn UCL in 2014.

The former MLB general manager argues the Yankees could benefit greatly from having six starters, allowing them to ease the burden on all six pitchers, even if they didn't necessarily use a six-man rotation all year. Phillips points to the Dodgers as an example of a team effectively working in more than five solid starters. Los Angeles had seven pitchers make at least 15 starts in 2018 -- Alex Wood, Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Walker Buehler, Ross Stripling, Kenta Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu.

Is Corbin on the Nationals' radar?
Nov. 20: The Nationals addressed their hole at catcher by signing Kurt Suzuki away from the National League East division-rival Braves at the relatively low cost of $10 million for two years.

Between that move and the earlier additions of right-handers Kyle Barraclough and Trevor Rosenthal to the bullpen, general manager Mike Rizzo already has solidified a couple of different areas without spending big. It appears the Nats now will hone in on their rotation, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, who highlights lefties Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel as well as right-handers Nathan Eovaldi and Charlie Morton as the likeliest free-agent targets.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: nats focus now appears to be on the rotation. Corbin, Keuchel, Eovaldi, Morton all potential fits. could also look for 1 more in pen, maybe 2B. then later comes the big question: do they need Harper?

Washington's rotation is fronted by two of the best in Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, but it drops off after that with durable veteran Tanner Roark as the only other sure thing in place. With all three of those being righties, it's possible the club would prefer a southpaw like Corbin or Keuchel to provide some variety.

Phillies considering other big names besides Harper and Machado, including Corbin
Nov. 20: The Phillies have long been connected to Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, but those aren't the only two big-name players they are targeting, according to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi.

Morosi reports that Philadelphia is showing interest in Patrick Corbin and Craig Kimbrel, who are considered by many to be the top available starter and closer, respectively.

The Phillies are known to be seeking a left-handed starter to balance the rotation after giving just three starts to a southpaw over the past two years combined, and Corbin fits that bill.

Philadelphia had some success using a closer committee in 2018, but adding Kimbrel to the bullpen would undoubtedly make manager Gabe Kapler's job easier.

If they don't land Corbin or Kimbrel, the Phillies could look to the trade market for a starter and a closer, with Morosi mentioning the D-backs' Zack Greinke and the Mariners' Edwin Diaz as potential options.

A source told Morosi the D-backs are confident they won't need to include cash to move Greinke, who is owed more than $90 million over the next three years. The Phils have the payroll space to take on the entire deal.

After dealing James Paxton to the Yankees on Monday, the Mariners haven't ruled out trading Diaz, according to Morosi. The right-hander, who is under control for four more seasons, saved 57 games in 2018.

How will Yankees' Paxton acquisition affect Corbin's market?
Nov. 19: The Yankees got a left-handed, top-of-the-rotation starter on Monday … but it wasn't Corbin.

New York swung a blockbuster trade with the Mariners to acquire James Paxton. With the Yankees having been linked to the free agent Corbin so frequently throughout the offseason, and Paxton filling the same role, how will Paxton's acquisition affect Corbin's market?

Well, it won't necessarily rule the Yankees out. The Yankees have said they want to add multiple frontline-type arms entering 2019. Paxton is one. There's room for one more. Corbin, as the top free-agent starter available, might still be on the table -- especially since Paxton is still arbitration-eligible for the next two seasons, so he won't impact the Yankees' ability to offer a big contract to another pitcher.

In fact, a source told MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi following the Paxton trade that the Yankees are still interested in Corbin, as well as J.A. Happ. The source said New York is still prioritizing adding another starter over signing Bryce Harper or Manny Machado.

Tweet from @jonmorosi: Source: #Yankees remain interested in free agents Patrick Corbin and J.A. Happ, following the James Paxton deal. Yankees are placing a higher priority on adding one more starting pitcher than signing Manny Machado or Bryce Harper. @MLB @MLBNetwork

But Paxton's acquisition might also open up Corbin's market to other teams. Teams like the Phillies and Reds have been linked to Corbin, and others like the White Sox, Astros, Angels and more all seem like good fits for the 29-year-old.

The Astros, for one, had been interested in Paxton but wouldn't include top pitching prospect Forrest Whitley in their offer, a source told Morosi. If the Astros are unwilling to move Whitley in a trade for a frontline starter, a free agent like Corbin might be their best option.

Tweet from @jonmorosi: Source: #Astros��� refusal to include Forrest Whitley in their offer for James Paxton precipitated #Mariners decision to trade Paxton to #Yankees. @MLBNetwork @MLB

Which team is the ideal fit for Corbin?
Nov. 19: In looking at the market for free-agent starter Patrick Corbin on Monday, SB Nation's Grant Brisbee named the Yankees as the likeliest landing spot for the left-hander, but not the ideal one.

Brisbee writes that the perfect fit for a high-risk, high-reward free agent such as Corbin is a team that is either on the fringes of contention or expected to be in the middle of a division battle in 2019, a young team that can expect costs to remain low in the next few years, and a team that hasn't had much success developing homegrown starters.

In Brisbee's opinion, all of that criteria applies for the A's, though it's questionable whether the small-market club is willing to hand out the type of contract Corbin is expected to command.

Brisbee offers up the Brewers as another potential suitor and predicts Milwaukee will sign the left-hander to a five-year, $90 million contract, with a top-of-the-rotation starter being the club's one glaring need.

Should Yankees go all-in on this year's free-agent class?
Nov. 19: By their lofty "World Series or bust" standards, the Yankees haven't had much success recently. New York hasn't hoisted the Commissioner's Trophy since 2009, and even the Orioles have won the American League East more recently than the Yanks.

ESPN's David Schoenfield thinks Yankees owners Hal and Hank Steinbrenner need to "summon the spirit of their father and go big, ignore the luxury tax, do whatever it takes," and that means going all-in on this year's free-agent class.

Schoenfield outlines a five-move plan for the Yankees to become the best team in baseball, starting with signing infielder Manny Machado and left-hander Patrick Corbin.

Schoenfield thinks the Yanks should trade for Mariners southpaw James Paxton to join Corbin in their revamped rotation, noting that Paxton is projected to earn roughly the same amount as Sonny Gray in arbitration. New York can trade Gray and add Paxton without impacting the payroll. That looks prescient now, as the Yankees acquired Paxton on Monday in a blockbuster deal that sent Justus Sheffield -- the Yankees' No. 1 prospect -- and two other Minor Leaguers to Seattle.

Move No. 4 in Schoenfield's plan is to sign Daniel Murphy to start at first base and fill in at second, replacing the Greg Bird/Neil Walker combination. The Yankees gave more than 700 combined plate appearances to Bird and Walker in 2018, and both posted sub-.675 OPS marks. Schoenfield argues the lefty-swinging Murphy would be a great fit at Yankee Stadium, and points out that the veteran's contact-heavy approach would help to balance New York's strikeout-prone lineup some.

To cap it all off, Schoenfield has signing Bryce Harper as Move No. 5 for New York. In this scenario, Brett Gardner would become the fourth outfielder, with Giancarlo Stanton remaining the club's primary designated hitter.

For the Yankees to pull this off, the Steinbrenners would need to be willing to exceed the $206 million luxury-tax threshold by a significant margin, which isn't out of the question. Before staying under the threshold in 2018, New York paid the tax in every year from 2003, when the system was put in place, to 2017.

Should Yankees go all-in on this year's free-agent class?
Nov. 19: By their lofty "World Series or bust" standards, the Yankees haven't had much success recently. New York hasn't hoisted the Commissioner's Trophy since 2009, and even the Orioles have won the American League East more recently than the Yanks.

ESPN's David Schoenfield thinks Yankees owners Hal and Hank Steinbrenner need to "summon the spirit of their father and go big, ignore the luxury tax, do whatever it takes," and that means going all-in on this year's free-agent class.

Schoenfield outlines a five-move plan for the Yankees to become the best team in baseball, starting with signing infielder Manny Machado and left-hander Patrick Corbin.

Schoenfield thinks the Yanks should trade for Mariners southpaw James Paxton to join Corbin in their revamped rotation, noting that Paxton is projected to earn roughly the same amount as Sonny Gray in arbitration. New York can trade Gray and add Paxton without impacting the payroll.

Move No. 4 in Schoenfield's plan is to sign Daniel Murphy to start at first base and fill in at second, replacing the Greg Bird/Neil Walker combination. The Yankees gave more than 700 combined plate appearances to Bird and Walker in 2018, and both posted sub-.675 OPS marks. Schoenfield argues the lefty-swinging Murphy would be a great fit at Yankee Stadium, and points out that the veteran's contact-heavy approach would help to balance New York's strikeout-prone lineup some.

To cap it all off, Schoenfield has signing Bryce Harper as Move No. 5 for New York. In this scenario, Brett Gardner would become the fourth outfielder, with Giancarlo Stanton remaining the club's primary designated hitter.

For the Yankees to pull this off, the Steinbrenners would need to be willing to exceed the $206 million luxury-tax threshold by a significant margin, which isn't out of the question. Before staying under the threshold in 2018, New York paid the tax in every year from 2003, when the system was put in place, to 2017.

Is Corbin a good fit for the Angels?
Nov. 18: With Mike Trout under control for just two more seasons, the clock is ticking for the Angels to build a competitive team around him. With that in mind, MLB.com's Richard Justice puts the club third on his list of teams that could spend big in free agency this offseason.

Justice writes that Los Angeles needs "pitching, pitching and more pitching," and the best starter on the market is arguably Patrick Corbin, making the left-hander a realistic target.

MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince also considers Corbin to be a good fit for the Angels, the team that selected the southpaw in the second round of the 2009 MLB Draft.

Given their recent history with pitchers undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Angels may be hesitant to pursue Corbin, who had the procedure in 2014. Dallas Keuchel would probably be a safer option, but the Angels can't really afford to be conservative as they try to close the gap between themselves, the Astros and the A's.

With Garrett Richards entering free agency after undergoing Tommy John surgery last season, and Shohei Ohtani also recovering from his own Tommy John procedure, the Angels need an ace. Los Angeles can't lean too heavily on any of the top six pitchers on its current depth chart, as all have dealt with significant injury problems.

How Corbin could fit into the Phillies' offseason
Nov. 17: There has been much discussion about the Phillies' ability to potentially land Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado this offseason, but what about the most coveted pitcher on the market, Patrick Corbin?

MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi notes that while it may come as a surprise to some that Philadelphia would be in the market for a top-tier starter while also pursuing the top sluggers available, the Phillies are in need of a strong left-hander in their rotation, and an upgrade to the rotation overall.

"A slumping rotation was one reason the Phillies' postseason hopes faded in August and September," Morosi writes. "Jake Arrieta, Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez all pitched to ERAs north of 5.00 after the All-Star break."

Relatedly, MLB Network insider Joel Sherman makes the case in a story for the New York Post that the Phillies might be better off trying a spread-the-wealth approach in free agency. In short, rather than spending almost all of its big budget in one spot (i.e., Harper or Machado), Philly could bring in a package of three or four impact players on the open market, including names like Corbin, Craig Kimbrel, Josh Donaldson and Michael