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Source: Moustakas agrees to return to Brewers

Infielder will make $10 million in 2019 with mutual option for '20
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

PHOENIX -- It was just a day earlier that Brewers third baseman Travis Shaw said he would welcome Mike Moustakas back to the Brewers with open arms, even though it could cost Shaw his primary position.

On Sunday afternoon, Shaw got his wish.

PHOENIX -- It was just a day earlier that Brewers third baseman Travis Shaw said he would welcome Mike Moustakas back to the Brewers with open arms, even though it could cost Shaw his primary position.

On Sunday afternoon, Shaw got his wish.

A source told MLB.com that Moustakas had agreed to a one-year, $10 million contract to return to the Brewers that includes a mutual option for 2020. Since the deal is pending a physical, the Brewers didn't comment.

MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal was first to report the agreement, and USA TODAY was first to report the salary figure, which will drive higher a Brewers payroll that already was set to top $120 million and break a franchise record.

Just like their one-year, $18.25 million pact with switch-hitting catcher Yasmani Grandal in January, the Brewers were willing to stretch the budget for a solid bat like Moustakas if the commitment was only for one year. The move shores up second base with a combination of Moustakas or Shaw, who has belted 63 home runs in his two seasons in Milwaukee. And since mutual options are very rarely exercised by both sides, it essentially provides a bridge to middle-infield prospects Mauricio Dubon and Keston Hiura. They are ticketed to start this season as tandem at shortstop and second base at Triple-A San Antonio.

After spending his entire career with the Royals, Moustakas slashed .251/.315/.459 with 28 home runs and a career-high 95 RBIs last season between Kansas City and Milwaukee. The Brewers traded for him in late July and shifted Shaw to second base, then got hot down the stretch and won the National League Central. Moustakas hit .256 with eight home runs and 33 RBIs in 218 plate appearances for Milwaukee in the regular season. He went 8-for-40 (.200) in the postseason including a walk-off single in Game 1 of the National League Division Series, helping to send Milwaukee to a sweep of the Rockies.

Video: COL@MIL Gm1: Moustakas delivers walk-off hit in 10th

"Obviously, he was a great addition to this team last year in the second half after the [Trade Deadline]," said Christian Yelich, who spent much of the winter working alongside Moustakas and Ryan Braun to raise funds for Californians affected by wildfires. "A great player, a great clubhouse guy, and he definitely helped us on the field."

With Moustakas, the Brewers will be able to post a lineup against a right-handed starter featuring as many as six left-handed bats for the eight position-player spots: reigning NL MVP Yelich, Shaw, Grandal, Moustakas, first baseman Eric Thames and outfielder Ben Gamel, who is the primary backup to Braun in left field and figures to see significant at-bats as the Brewers try to keep Braun healthy and productive.

Tweet from @ChristianYelich: . @Mooose_8 pic.twitter.com/Wmc9YwP7HW

Milwaukee will have some flexibility with the infield alignment since Moustakas expressed willingness to try second base after the trade. That never materialized, but the idea could be revisited if the Brewers prefer to keep Shaw entrenched at third.

Either way, the signing provided a significant offensive upgrade at second base. Before Moustakas' return, the Brewers were poised to platoon Cory Spangenberg with either Hernan Perez or Tyler Saladino. Spangenberg is another left-handed hitter who will be used against righties.

Yelich, Shaw and Braun stayed in close contact with Moustakas throughout the offseason as he navigated a second straight year of free agency. After the 2017 season, Moustakas was unable to secure the sort of multiyear contract he was hoping for, so he signed back with the Royals for one year plus with a mutual option.

Now, with his free agency stalled again, he did the same with the Brewers.

"Moose is a great guy, and if he came back here I would welcome him with open arms," Shaw said Saturday. "I also think that if he came back here, I don't think that would be the deal that he was looking for going into the offseason."

Moustakas' agreement came on the eve of Brewers position players formally reporting to camp. The first full-squad workout at American Family Fields of Phoenix is Tuesday.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and like him on Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers, Mike Moustakas

Harper talks heating up with Phils favorites

MLB.com

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

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

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

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

Heyman: 'Intensified' Harper talks are 'heating up'
Feb. 17: There's been plenty of buzz around Bryce Harper over the past 48 hours or so. Could a resolution to the superstar slugger's free agency be coming soon?

"Things are heating up" for Harper, with the Phillies being seen as the favorite, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, who describes the discussions as "intensified" but also cautions that "nothing is done yet." Heyman follows up to point out that Harper is talking to other suitors -- including perhaps the Padres, Nationals, Giants and White Sox -- while Philly also remains in contact with Manny Machado.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Things are heating up with Harper. Intensified is the word I heard. Phillies are the favorite, but word remains that nothing���s done yet. Will be a long-term deal.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: As things heat up, hear Harper is talking to other teams beyond Philly, and Philly is still talking to both Harper and Machado. Feels like Philly-Harper is the most likely match at this point tho.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Harper talks with Phillies appear to be intensifying, but no word anything���s done and to this point it seems other interested teams haven���t been told they are out. That includes Padres, Nats, Giants, Chisox, multiple mystery teams.

This comes two days after a report started circulating and gaining some steam Friday afternoon that Harper just might be on the verge of finding a new home.

In a conversation with radio station 94WIP in Philadelphia about the star free agent's situation, Chris Russell of 106.7 The Fan, a radio station in Washington, D.C., speculated Friday that Harper could be making up his mind very, very soon.

"Maybe I took a little bit of a leap of faith here based on some indications I got from a real good source," said Russell, who has heard that Harper and his agent, Scott Boras, as well as his wife have been meeting since Monday in his hometown of Las Vegas. "But I'm led to believe by the people that I've talked to that are close to the situation -- and I have, again, a real good source that has helped me through this process, let's just leave it at that -- that Bryce was in a mood to celebrate yesterday. Now, the source said, 'I believe it's done.'

"I don't have concrete, 100 percent proof for you guys," Russell continued. "I wish I did, otherwise I would have it and I would be running around with it. ... But that's what I was led to believe, that this thing is now decided."

To a certain extent, that meshes with information coming from former big league general manager Jim Bowden of CBS Sports HQ and The Athletic, who says the Phillies are viewed as the clear favorite for Harper, followed by the Nationals.

"I keep hearing there's a lot of momentum and traction here on [Harper] going and signing with the Philadelphia Phillies," Bowden said. "He could be rounding third and heading home shortly."

Tweet from @CBSSportsHQ: "I keep hearing there's a lot of momentum and traction here on [Bryce Harper] going and signing with the Philadelphia Phillies.He could be rounding third and heading home shortly."-@JimBowdenGM says Bryce Harper could be making his announcement very soon. pic.twitter.com/WxIFU275Zr

Meanwhile, Harper commented on an Instagram post by Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins on Friday, which showed Hoskins walking with bat and glove at the Phillies' Spring Training complex in Clearwater, Fla. Harper's comment was "suhhhhh kiiiiiiid."

Tweet from @JClarkNBCS: Bryce Harper commenting on Rhys Hoskins Instagram!!!! 👀 🤔 #Phillies ������������🌴 pic.twitter.com/gdDiLBEUzz

The speculation indeed continues to swirl around Harper. As it does, we'll keep you up to date on the latest. In the meantime, here's a look at the impact Harper would have if he joins the Phillies, according to MLB.com's Andrew Simon.

Don't count Yanks out on Harper or Machado
Feb. 16: Even as Spring Training has begun and the Yankees already have made several moves to upgrade a roster that won 100 games last year, don't count New York out when it comes to the two premier free agents remaining on the market, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

"I wouldn't say specifically, but I would reinforce, I'm doing my job," general manager Brian Cashman said Saturday. "Whether that's those two players or other players that aren't as significant name value, the job at hand is to constantly be open-minded to ways to make this work the best it can possibly work. ... We like what we've done to this point, but we're never a finished product."

The Yankees already have a full outfield with Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and an injured Jacoby Ellsbury. Signing Harper could necessitate some reshuffling and adjusting. With respect to Machado, the Yankees have added multiple infielders already, signing free agents Troy Tulowitzki and DJ LeMahieu. Tulowitzki is expected to open the season at shortstop as Didi Gregorius recovers from Tommy John surgery, and LeMahieu is expected to play a super-utility role.

Then again, this is the Yankees, a team that can never be counted out on big free agents, regardless of the situation.

Here's how Harper could fit with Yankees
Feb. 15: The Yankees have made several additions this offseason to bolster their roster ahead of another run at reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009. The club has brought in the likes of James Paxton, Adam Ottavino, Troy Tulowitzki and DJ LeMahieu and brough back J.A. Happ, CC Sabathia and Zack Britton. But is that enough to overtake the powerhouse Red Sox?

While it may be, with superstars Bryce Harper and Manny Machado still on the free-agent market, MLB.com's Mike Lupica asks: How much farther would the organization go financially to tilt the scales more sharply in its favor? Signing Harper or Machado certainly would do that, but neither will come cheap, and the Yankees already have a payroll in the $220 million range.

"Yankees fans want [owner Hal] Steinbrenner and general manager Brian Cashman to finish the job this season," Lupica writes. "[If] it turns out that they haven't spent enough, and Machado or Harper might make all the difference, Yankees fans aren't going to want to hear about how fiscally responsible the team is being." More >

Here's a look at how Harper, in particular, could fit into the Yankees' roster and lineup, courtesy of MLB.com's Andrew Simon.

Video: Harper, Machado keep Yankees on their radar

Are Phillies still front-runners for Harper or Machado?
Feb. 15: Even if the Phillies aren't necessarily the first choice for Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, will one of the superstar free agents ultimately accept Philadelphia's offer?

Buster Olney predicted as much on ESPN's "Get Up!," saying the feeling is that the White Sox are a "safety net" for both players.

With both Harper and Machado reportedly seeking contracts in the range of 10 years for more than $300 million, the two have lingered on the free agent market. But Olney thinks both players eventually will land deals between 8 and 10 years.

Meanwhile, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak indicated that he is still monitoring the open market but feels like the team accomplished its offseason goals by adding Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura, J.T. Realmuto and David Robertson.

"I think if you look at our offseason, we have done just about everything we've set out to do," Klentak said. "At the beginning of the offseason, we identified for sure that we wanted to improve the team defense. That was a flaw of our team last year and it was something we knew we needed to address. We wanted to address our ability to get good hitters out late in the game, particularly left-handed hitters. We think we've addressed that. We've addressed our offense in a couple of key places. And now we've taken care of locking up our best young player. A lot of years, that would be a very complete, thorough and successful offseason. And I really think that it is. The notion that we hear that if we fail to sign a big free agent then it's a failure of an offseason, I don't agree with that.

"Now, I say all that, I'm not trying to throw cold water on the idea that we may still sign a free agent. We are going to continue to explore that market because there's still several really good free agents out there."

The belief in Clearwater is that the Phils' front office prefers Machado over Harper because of the former's combination of offense and defense, according to MLB.com's Todd Zolecki. However, the club remains in contact with each player's agent.

Video: Klentak discusses the free agents still on market

Which teams have the best chance at landing Harper?
Feb. 13: Bryce Harper has been connected to several teams since the offseason began, but while a few clubs have emerged to be seen as frontrunners, which teams have the best chance to land the superstar free agent? MLB.com's Mark Feinsand ranked every potential landing spot for Harper based on the likelihood that the club signs him.

The "longshots" on Feinsand's list are the Cubs, Yankees, and Giants, with San Francisco being the most recent club to join the Harper Sweepstakes by meeting with him in Las Vegas last week. The next category up is "contenders," in which Feinsand places the Padres and White Sox. San Diego is also a recent entrant into the "Harper Bazaar" as his agent, Scott Boras, called it early in the offseason, and also sent a delegation to meet with Harper. The White Sox have shown serious interest this offseason in both Harper and fellow 26-year-old free agent Manny Machado, even though Chicago is currently in the middle of a rebuild with a lot of talent in the pipeline.

Finally, in the "favorites" category are the Phillies and Harper's former team, the Nationals. Philadelphia made it no secret at the start of the offseason that it intended to spend big. Washington reportedly offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million contract at the end of last season, which he declined, but it has been reported since then that the Nats increased their offer substantially and are definitely in the running.

"The Phillies have been the odds-on favorites to land Harper and/or Machado from the outset of the offseason, and many believe they will still ultimately sign one of them," writes Feinsand. "Last week's trade for J.T. Realmuto made the Phillies' roster even more attractive for a free agent, though some have wondered whether either Harper or Machado wants to play in Philly."

With respect to the Nationals, Feinsand writes that "the consensus is that Boras will give Nationals ownership a chance to exceed [or at least match] the biggest offer before Harper signs elsewhere." More >

Video: When will Harper and Machado sign new deals?

Is Harper open to a short-term deal?
Feb. 13: While it has been reported that the Giants are hoping to sign Bryce Harper to a shorter-term contract, the star slugger "is not signing -- or even considering -- short-term deals," according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Despite rumored offers/wishes of teams, word is Bryce Harper is not signing ��� or even considering ��� short-term deals.

That is similar to what MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi is hearing. "According to what I was told by a source, Harper is not actively discussing a short-term deal right now with the Giants," Morosi says. "At this point in time, Harper's mindset is still the longer-term deal. I think if Harper was going to sign a short-term deal, if that was a preference of his, he would have done so by now."

ESPN's Buster Olney reports that there's even skepticism among some of the people involved in the discussions that the Giants would generate the type of offer that will sway the slugger to pick San Francisco.

Tweet from @Buster_ESPN: There continues to be skepticism among some of the folks involved in the Giants/Harper conversation that San Francisco would generate the kind of offer that would sway the slugger. More smoke than fire at this point, in eyes of some involved.

Still, USA Today's Bob Nightengale thinks that the club is a strong place, telling San Francisco radio station KNBR that the Giants and Phillies look like the finalists to land the superstar outfielder.

"Right now, I really do think it's the Giants and the Phillies. It's a two-team race here," said Nightengale, who thinks San Francisco and Philadelphia are neck and neck. "With the Giants moving in and all the optimism, I do believe it's a coin flip," Nightengale said. "I think for the Phillies to get Harper, they're going to have to grossly outbid the Giants to get him. I really do. I think if it's close, he goes to San Francisco. If there's a huge gap, it's tough to walk away from that kind of money."

On the other hand, Nightengale believes the Nationals and Dodgers -- two of the other suitors most strongly linked to Harper this offseason -- are "definitely out of it."

The Giants did make a move to address their outfield Tuesday, bringing in Gerardo Parra on a Minor League deal. While Parra has a good chance to make the team, a source told Morosi that the Giants, who have a full 40-man roster, remain hopeful to sign Harper and didn't want to add another outfielder to their 40-man roster until Harper's situation is settled. Hence, the Minor League contract for Parra.

Video: MLB Tonight on Harper not looking for short-term deal

Could Giants add Harper and still go through rebuild?
Feb. 11: The Giants recently entered the race for Bryce Harper, sparking comparisons to the 1992-93 offseason, when San Francisco signed Barry Bonds after a 72-90 season.

With Bonds in the fold, the Giants won 103 games in 1993. Could Harper lead this San Francisco club to a similar turnaround and help the franchise get another few postseason runs from its aging core? Perhaps that's what new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and team president and CEO Larry Baer are hoping.

However, MLB Network insider Joel Sherman suggests that signing Harper could be a "middle-ground move" that keeps the club relevant while Zaidi reconstructs the roster.

"I wonder if the Giants are in this right now because they looked left and right and said, 'Well, Bryce Harper's still out there.'" Sherman said Monday on MLB Network's "Hot Stove" program. "'Should we at least put our toe in the water and see if we can do this at a level that we like? Because he's young enough to be part of our next good team, and he's star enough to keep our fans interested in the painful period that's likely to come over the next two to three years.'"

In Sherman's view, it would be surprising if the Giants stuck with the status quo, considering the hiring of Zaidi was the organization's way of breaking free from an old-fashioned thought process and ushering in a new era. But Harper could at least prevent the club from bottoming out and losing more fans and viewers in the interim.

"When you're in a market like San Francisco, where you're selling out every day, where TV ratings do matter, where you're in competition with the 49ers and the championship Warriors, you want to make sure you don't bleed out in the two- or three- or four-year period where they're [rebuilding]."

Video: Joel Sherman on the Giants' interest in Harper

One GM's prediction: Harper to Padres, Machado to Phillies
Feb. 11: Where will Bryce Harper and Manny Machado sign? The top question of the offseason will now become one of the top questions of Spring Training as pitchers and catchers report MLB-wide this week.

While both players' markets are still somewhat shrouded in mystery, one MLB general manager offered up his prediction to SNY's Andy Martino recently. In said GM's opinion, Harper is going to sign with the Padres, and Machado with the Phillies.

Tweet from @martinonyc: Asked this exact question of an MLB GM the other day and he said Harper to Padres, Machado to Phillies. But honestly, no one really knows yet. https://t.co/Y0wU6FHShj

San Diego recently entered the mix for Harper, meeting with the outfielder at the end of January. Meanwhile, Philadelphia is one of two clubs -- along with the White Sox -- that are known to be engaged with both Harper and Machado.

Harper also recently met with another National League West team, the Giants, in Las Vegas, and "there has been an increased sense among some in the clubhouse that Harper prefers" San Francisco, a source told NBC Sports Bay Area.

Report: Giants prefer short-term deal for Harper
Feb. 10: The Giants have emerged as a serious contender for Bryce Harper in the past week, but USA Today's Bob Nightengale writes that the club has "no desire" to make Harper an offer approaching the 10-year, $300 million deal he reportedly rejected from the Nationals in September. Rather, San Francisco plans to make Harper a lucrative short-term offer.

Of course, as Nightengale notes, ownership was willing to take on $265 million of Giancarlo Stanton's contract last offseason if it acquired him from the Marlins, so it's possible the Giants will be open to investing that type of money in Harper as well.

Harper was a popular topic during the Giants' annual FanFest at Oracle Park on Saturday. The club's CEO, Larry Baer, declined to make any predictions about where Harper will land, but did say the meeting Giants executives had with him earlier this week in Las Vegas went well and lasted four hours, longer than either side expected. Baer also said the Giants are "giving it a shot."

Video: Giants CEO Baer discusses interest in Harper

According to NBC Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic, Harper spoke of his admiration of catcher Buster Posey during the meeting, and "there has been an increased sense among some in the clubhouse that Harper prefers the Giants."

On Sunday, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr chimed in during a press conference, saying, "Bryce, come to San Francisco. Let's go."

Tweet from @NBCSWarriors: Coach Kerr has a message for you, @Bharper3407 😏 pic.twitter.com/KpNthKUBtM

The Giants, along with the Dodgers and Padres, are among the clubs closest to Harper's home in Las Vegas. A move to sign Harper wouldn't be unprecedented for the franchise; San Francisco plucked a 28-year-old Barry Bonds off the market in late 1992 with a six-year, $44 million contract that was, at that time, the largest in baseball history. The following season, the club won 103 games.

"There is obviously mutual interest on both sides," Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said Friday. "We thought it made sense to get together. We had a good conversation over a few hours. He's obviously got a lot of suitors and a lot of interest. He's going to have some decisions to make. I think it's fair to say that was an expression of our interest level, to make the trip out there to meet with him. You don't make a trip out there to meet with a player just for show."

Zaidi, though, wouldn't go as far as saying whether the team has made a formal offer to Harper.

Video: MLB Tonight on Harper's meeting with the Giants

What would an Arenado extension mean for Harper?
Feb. 9: The Rockies are optimistic they will be able to sign their superstar third baseman, Nolan Arenado, to a contract extension soon, as club owner Dick Monfort told MLB.com's Thomas Harding last week. If Colorado is able to secure Arenado for the long term, how might that impact two superstars still on the free-agent market in Bryce Harper and Manny Machado?

MLB.com's Mark Feinsand writes that Arenado's extension could set a new average annual value record for position players, and if it does, Harper and Machado could benefit.

"It depends on the numbers, but I would expect the agents to fight to be above [Arenado's deal]," one AL general manager told Feinsand.

Beyond the AAV, the length of a potential Arenado extension, which could keep the 27-year-old in Denver through his mid-30s, could be a boon for Harper and Machado as well, as they seek deals that would exceed 10 years and $300 million.

Feinsand also delves into how an Arenado extension would impact this summer's trade market, as well as next offseason's free-agent market. More >

Harper faces "staring contest" ahead of Spring Training
Feb. 8: The sweepstakes for what was touted to be one of the biggest free-agent classes in history remains at a standstill just days before clubs report to Spring Training. And the root of the impasse, for Bryce Harper (and Manny Machado) at least, seems to be easy to decipher: dollars. 

In a Friday piece for The Athletic (subscription required), MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal outlined the many factors as to why both players remain unsigned with roughly seven weeks left until Opening Day. Rosenthal reports that both are still seeking a deal in excess of $300 million, and given their limited pool of suitors, that figure could remain difficult to attain. 

Rosenthal adds that "neither wants to sign first, knowing once one of the players goes off the board, the other will benefit from gaining the sole attention of the remaining suitors" and that  "the clubs, too, prefer to stall."

The Phillies and White Sox have been the clubs most prominently linked to both players, and though the Padres emerged as an interested party in each last week, San Diego may have just been doing its due diligence late in the offseason. 

Rosenthal writes that Philly has conviction that it will land one or the other, with the financial bandwidth capable of topping any offer either player might otherwise receive. And White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, Rosenthal adds, would prefer to wait out to the market to glean a firm gauge on what either player will cost, then determine if he's willing to meet that figure.  

Could Realmuto acquisition sway Harper to sign with Phils?
Feb. 8: If the Phillies wanted to gain even more leverage in their pursuit of Bryce Harper, trading for a player that Harper has publicly admired for years certainly couldn't hurt. The Phils continued their promising offseason by adding All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto on Thursday, which should help bolster a lineup that was already projected to win 84 games, according to PECOTA forecasts from Baseball Prospectus. 

Video: IT discusses Phils getting Realmuto, eyeing Harper

It wasn't long ago that Harper publicly expressed frustration with the Nationals failing to land Realmuto ahead of last summer's non-waiver Trade Deadline. But Washington's surprisingly sustained level of disappointment prompted the club to sell instead of buy. And in a game against the Marlins three days before the Deadline, in which Realmuto drove in the winning run, Harper told reporters after: "If that guy was on our side, it wouldn't have happened."

Additionally, at the All-Star Game a few weeks prior, Harper playfully placed a Nats cap on Realmuto's head while the National League club was posing for a photo.  

Bryce Harper is a big fan of new Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto

So, while Harper's decision will likely come down to dollars more than anything, it can't hurt the Phils' chances that they acquired an All-Star talent that Harper has made it clear he's a fan of. 

How Realmuto to Philly could affect Harper
Feb. 7: While the Phillies continue to pursue free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, the club made another big move to bolster its roster Thursday, acquiring catcher J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins in a four-player deal. With the ambitious team looking to propel its way to contention, adding the game's top backstop could affect its leverage with not just Harper, but also Machado.

As MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal points out, the determining factor for Harper and Machado will likely still be dollars.

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: #Phillies view Realmuto, if acquired, as another potential enticement for Harper or Machado. Obviously, the biggest enticement will be money. https://t.co/N2R1wgL29U

But adding to an already strong positional nucleus -- Realmuto will join shortstop Jean Segura, left fielder Andrew McCutchen and closer David Robertson as Philly's prized offseason acquisitions (so far) -- certainly doesn't hurt Philadelphia's chances.

It's unclear what the Phillies have offered to both Harper and Machado, but multiple reports have shared that Harper turned down a 10-year, $300 million offer from the Nats at the end of the regular season, and Machado turned down a seven-year, $175 million deal from the White Sox recently. 

It's believed that, because their markets haven't gained much traction, the Phils are playing a waiting game of sorts while holding most of the leverage. 

Although adding Realmuto makes the team's need for Harper or Machado less acute, it doesn't sound as though Philadelphia is backing out of the race for either player.

"This doesn't take us out of the free-agent market by any stretch," general manager Matt Klentak said Thursday, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

Tweet from @BNightengale: Philadelphia #Phillies GM Matt Klentak, when asked if the JT Realmuto acquisition will have any impact on a certain couple of free agents: "This doesn���t take us out of the free-agent market by any stretch.'' #Harper #Machado

Meanwhile, MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reports that according to an official with one of the teams pursuing Harper, the superstar's decision does not appear to be imminent. Further, Morosi notes that according to a source familiar with the Nationals' thinking, Washington may be wary of losing Harper to the Phillies, in particular, given that the two are National League East rivals. That may cause the Nats to up their bid for Harper in the event he is close to signing with Philadelphia.

On Thursday, Baseball Prospectus released its 2019 PECOTA projections and forecasted that the Phils would win 84 games, tied with the Braves for third in the National League East behind the Mets and Nationals, who are each projected to win 89 games. But those forecasts did not include the acquisition of Realmuto, who is projected to be worth 3.8 Wins Above Replacement, according to Steamer

As Harper and Machado remain unsigned, Steinbrenner not ruling out another big addition
Feb. 7: Although Yankees manager Aaron Boone said earlier this week that he thought the team's roster was set for 2019, managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner is leaving the door open for another big acquisition.

"I don't think it's ever done," Steinbrenner said Thursday, according to Newsday. "Look, if somebody comes -- I haven't changed -- I mean if somebody comes to me with a suggestion or a proposal, I'm going to seriously consider it right up until Opening Day or after. That's part of my leave-no-stone-unturned [policy], right? But I'm excited about the roster. I think we've definitely got a better club Opening Day than we did Opening Day last year, particularly in pitching, which was my biggest area of concern."

The Yankees have had a busy offseason, adding James Paxton, Adam Ottavino, Troy Tulowitzki and DJ LeMahieu and re-signing CC Sabathia, J.A. Happ and Zack Britton.

But as long as superstars Bryce Harper and Manny Machado remain available, the deep-pocketed Yanks will continue to loom as a potential suitor, no matter how unlikely that seems right now.

"Fans should keep an open mind that I'm never done until I'm done, and that's not usually until Opening Day," Steinbrenner said. "Proposals come to me every day with these guys, between the analytics guys and the pro scouting guys, and I'm going to consider every single one of them. But I have to look at the big picture and it is my responsibility that my family expects and my partners expect not just to look at the present, but to look at the future, too. Three, four, five years from now, we've got a lot of homegrown kids that we love, our fans love, that are going to be coming up for free agency and that's something I've got to keep in mind as well."

The Yanks have been more closely connected to Machado this offseason, meeting with him in December. Meanwhile, general manager Brian Cashman did his part to quash any speculation that the Yanks were secretly in on Harper, noting that the club already has a glut of outfielders.

If there's still any chance that Harper could become a Yankee, Aaron Judge is willing to do what it takes to make that possibility a reality. Judge told TMZ Sports on Monday that he would consider moving to center field to clear a spot for Harper, if that was indeed something that could put New York over the top in the Harper sweepstakes.

"Wherever he wants to play, we'll make it work," Judge said. "Anytime you can add an MVP to a team, it's going to make it better."

Tweet from @MLB: Is the outfield at Yankee Stadium big enough? https://t.co/djpnbm1PnR pic.twitter.com/Z4ImkOebr5

 

Boone on Judge: 'He's good to go'

Slugger fully healed from right wrist injury; Yanks hoping Loaisiga continues to impress
MLB.com @BryanHoch

TAMPA, Fla. -- Watching Aaron Judge pummel batting-practice fastballs at the Yankees' Minor League complex this week, two words came to Aaron Boone's mind: "Plus power."

Having witnessed his hulking right fielder deposit a boxload of baseballs beyond the fences at the facility, the Yankees' manager is confident that Judge has come all the way back from the fractured right wrist that cost him about seven weeks of last season.

TAMPA, Fla. -- Watching Aaron Judge pummel batting-practice fastballs at the Yankees' Minor League complex this week, two words came to Aaron Boone's mind: "Plus power."

Having witnessed his hulking right fielder deposit a boxload of baseballs beyond the fences at the facility, the Yankees' manager is confident that Judge has come all the way back from the fractured right wrist that cost him about seven weeks of last season.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"Oh yeah, he's good to go," Boone said. "He's healthy. I think he's as healthy as he's been probably since he's been in the big leagues. He's in really good condition, and I know he's excited to get started."

Judge played 112 games for New York last season, hitting .278/.392/.528 with 27 homers and 67 RBIs. He sustained a chip fracture of the wrist on July 26 when he was hit by a pitch from the Royals' Jakob Junis, and he did not return to the lineup until Sept. 18. Judge batted .421 (8-for-19) with a double, three homers and four RBIs in the Yankees' five postseason games.

Video: KC@NYY: Judge gets hit by pitch, fractures wrist

"I think he had a really good offseason," Boone said. "I think he's so much further ahead of the game than he was last year when we kept him out and really slow-played him the first week or two of games, because he was still recovering from that [left] shoulder [surgery] and a lot of his winter was poured into the rehab of his shoulder.

"This year, it's been having a normal offseason and getting his body in excellent condition. When you talk to him, I think he's really excited where his shoulder is at right now, certainly compared to this time last year. The maintenance that he's had to do on it the last couple of years, I feel like in a lot of ways he's through that."

Though Aaron Hicks is envisioned to serve as the Yankees' regular leadoff hitter, Boone suggested that he could use Judge in that spot against a tough left-handed pitcher, something that he flirted with last spring. All 108 of Judge's regular-season starts came as the No. 2 hitter.

"You have a left-handed pitcher out there, and you want Judge and [Giancarlo] Stanton coming up as much as possible," Boone said. "I don't necessarily think it's likely, but it's one of those things you consider. I would say Hicks is the guy I envision the most in that spot, but we'll see also how camp unfolds. I've looked at it a little bit, but I haven't had a lot of conversations yet on the order."

Second helping

Jonathan Loaisiga enjoyed glimpses of brilliance during his nine appearances (four starts) in the Majors last season, including a June 25 effort at Philadelphia in which the right-hander carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning. Boone said that the Yankees believe Loaisiga's delivery and pitch package suggest that he can be an effective starter at the big league level.

Video: NYY@PHI: Loaisiga K's 8 in 1-hit gem vs. the Phillies

"There's no denying the ceiling," Boone said. "I really feel confident that he's going to help us this year, and I think he can be a really good pitcher in this league. I think he flashed that to us last year. I think the question for him is going to be, can we continue to build up his workload and really keep him healthy full time? His talent and the pitch mix is real."

Comeback trail

Didi Gregorius (Tommy John surgery on right elbow) will continue to participate in defensive drills when position players have their first workout on Tuesday, with Gregorius taking grounders and throwing. By early March, Gregorius hopes to be cleared to begin a hitting program, which would begin with dry (non-contact) swings and tee work.

Tweet from @BryanHoch: Here���s @LuisSeverino94 pumping some strikes in to @ElGarySanchez... #Yankees #SpringTraining @MLB pic.twitter.com/b4l4zETGnG

Bombers bits

• Several pitchers threw live batting practice at the Minor League complex on Sunday morning, with Chance Adams, Luis Cessa, Danny Coulombe, Cale Coshow, Domingo German, David Hale, Joe Harvey, Jonathan Holder and birthday boy Stephen Tarpley taking the hill.

• Bullpen sessions at the Steinbrenner Field complex were headlined by Luis Severino throwing to Gary Sanchez, plus Domingo Acevedo, Rex Brothers, Drew Hutchison and Trevor Stephan. Boone said that Sanchez (left shoulder surgery) received a scheduled day off from hitting.

• Yankees position players are scheduled to report to camp on Monday.

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

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge, Jonathan Loaisiga

Donaldson ready to prove GM, Braves right

After two injury-ridden seasons, Bringer of Rain eyes productive 2019
MLB.com @mlbbowman

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Josh Donaldson did not receive the lucrative, multi-year contract he'd have likely gained had he been healthy last year. But given what Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and some of this winter's other top free agents have experienced, Donaldson has more reason to be thankful for the one-year, $23 million deal the Braves provided in November.

"I feel very blessed to be in this situation that I'm in," Donaldson said. "If I'd have been healthy last year, who knows what would have happened or what situation I'd be in right now. But I'm very confident, and I'm thrilled to be here and be a part of this organization."

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Josh Donaldson did not receive the lucrative, multi-year contract he'd have likely gained had he been healthy last year. But given what Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and some of this winter's other top free agents have experienced, Donaldson has more reason to be thankful for the one-year, $23 million deal the Braves provided in November.

"I feel very blessed to be in this situation that I'm in," Donaldson said. "If I'd have been healthy last year, who knows what would have happened or what situation I'd be in right now. But I'm very confident, and I'm thrilled to be here and be a part of this organization.":: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Still fueled by those childhood days, when Ron Gant was his favorite player and the Braves were his team, Donaldson appreciates the feel-good aspect of his current opportunity. But while playing close to his Alabama home and enjoying a chance to once again work with Atlanta general manager Alex Anthopoulos, the former American League MVP Award winner also understands the importance of rejuvenating his career with his deal.

Donaldson missed two months of the 2017 season with a left calf strain, came to Spring Training last year with a sore shoulder and then sustained a more significant right calf injury that limited him to just 52 games during the 2018 season.

"Honestly, I thought it was a great deal for me, especially coming off the injury-plagued season I had a year ago," Donaldson said. "I was looking forward to proving Alex right again. I proved him right the first time he got me, and now I want to do it again."

Tweet from @Braves: The Wash and Josh Show������ pic.twitter.com/6zRZGCQIhy

While serving as the Blue Jays general manger, Anthopoulos acquired Donaldson from the A's before the 2015 season. The third baseman won the AL MVP Award at the conclusion of that memorable year, during which he helped Toronto reach the AL Championship Series.

Donaldson finished fourth in balloting for the 2016 AL MVP Award and then suffered the left calf strain that limited him to 113 games the next season. Even with that setback, he produced MLB's second-best bWAR (36.1) from 2013-17. Mike Trout was the only player with a higher mark (43.1.).

Now, the 33-year-old Donaldson must prove he is capable and worthy of ranking among the game's elite. He certainly didn't show any limitations as his intense approach was on display while he aggressively took batting practice in the cages and on the back fields at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex on Sunday.

"I feel like a newborn baby," Donaldson said. "I didn't have to go through that grind last year. I went through the grind mentally, because physically I wasn't able to perform at all really. This offseason, I was able to refresh the mindset, get back to doing what I can do and just focus on staying positive."

Video: Top 100 Right Now on Donaldson on list despite injury

Donaldson missed a portion of Spring Training in 2017 with a right calf strain, then he was bothered by the shoulder discomfort that affected last year's preseason preparations. He has come to this year's camp healthy and cognizant of the fact the preparations made over the next six weeks will significantly influence his bid to avoid yet another injury-plagued season.

"I'd love to play 162 [regular-season games]," Donaldson said. "I'd love that, but the chances of that happening are probably zero. If I could say right now what I think I'm capable of doing and what I'd love to do with everything being perfect, I'd say I could play 150-155. I've done that so many years in the past. The last couple years, that has been difficult because Spring Training has been taken away from me."

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

Atlanta Braves, Josh Donaldson

Rumors: Machado, Moose, Kimbrel, Keuchel

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

Will Moose's signing ignite Machado sweepstakes? 
Feb. 17: Mike Moustakas' reported deal with the Brewers means another prominent free-agent infielder is off the board. It also means there's one less backup plan at third base for those in the sweepstakes for Manny Machado. With that in mind, will Machado's suitors shift gears and ramp up their offers?

The White Sox and Padres are considered by many to be the frontrunners for Machado, and both of those clubs are rumored to want him to play the hot corner rather than shortstop. Chicago has Tim Anderson entrenched at short but could use an upgrade over Yolmer Sanchez at third base; San Diego has youngster Fernando Tatis Jr. -- the No. 2 overall prospect in baseball, per MLB Pipeline -- nearly ready to take over shortstop but lacks a short- or long-term answer at third.

Which other teams could be in play for Machado now that Moustakas is no longer an option? More >

Moustakas' return to Milwaukee has ripple effects
Feb. 17: Moustakas looks to be headed back to the Brewers, according to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal, who reports it will be a one-year contract.

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: Free-agent Mike Moustakas in agreement with #Brewers on a one-year contract, pending a physical, sources tell The Athletic.

Milwaukee acquired Moustakas, 30, at the non-waiver Trade Deadline last summer, and he went on to hit .256/.326/.441 with eight home runs over 54 games while helping the Crew reach the postseason and make it all the way to the National League Championship Series.

With Moustakas back with the Brewers, here's a look at some of the ripple effects for Milwaukee, as well as other clubs that had been linked to the third baseman.

Video: Moustakas returns to Brewers according to a source

Signing Kimbrel could help Astros rival Yanks for bullpen supremacy
Feb. 17: Which team has the best bullpen in baseball?

Most would answer that it's the Yankees, especially after they brought back lefty Zack Britton and brought in righty Adam Ottavino to a group that also includes elite setup relievers Dellin Betances and Chad Green plus closer Aroldis Chapman. In fact, New York's bullpen is projected for the most WAR of all teams in 2019, ahead of the Brewers and Mets.

But what about the Astros, who check in fourth on that list? Sure, they added two key arms at the Trade Deadline last summer in Roberto Osuna and Ryan Pressly. But is there a chance they could make a play for the one remaining high-end reliever on the open market -- Craig Kimbrel -- to complete a super bullpen to rival that of the Yankees? More >

Could Keuchel be missing piece for Braves?
Feb. 17: First, the Braves signed slugger Josh Donaldson to be their third baseman and brought back Brian McCann, who last played for Atlanta in 2013, to help at catcher. Most recently, the club re-signed outfielder Nick Markakis. That checks off three boxes on general manager Alex Anthopoulos' offseason to-do list.

One that hasn't been checked off yet? Adding a starting pitcher, ideally of the frontline variety. Could Dallas Keuchel -- the top starter still on the open market -- be that for the Braves? More >

Is Marwin to Minneapolis the perfect match?
Feb. 17: Why would Marwin Gonzalez to the Twins be the right fit? According to MLB.com's Richard Justice, while it's true Minnesota has made some offensive upgrades, particularly by signing veteran slugger Nelson Cruz, Gonzalez would be "an insurance policy for the things that don't go right."

Since Gonzalez is the ultimate super-utility player, having played every position but pitcher and catcher, and the Twins could use more depth pretty much all over the diamond, such a signing would make a lot of sense.

Gonzalez had a breakout 2017 campaign for the World Series champion Astros, hitting .303/.377/.530 with 23 homers in 515 plate appearances. He took a step back last year, slashing .247/.324/.409 with 16 homers in 552 plate appearances. Nevertheless, he's 29 years old and has proven his ability to hit in addition to his added value from his versatility.

The Twins are looking up at the Indians in what could very well be a competitive American League Central in '19. Not to mention, bringing in Gonzalez also could take away a possible target for Cleveland, which has been looking to upgrade and add depth to its outfield.

Heyman: 'Intensified' Harper talks are 'heating up'
Feb. 17: There's been plenty of buzz around Bryce Harper over the past 48 hours or so. Could a resolution to the superstar slugger's free agency be coming soon?

"Things are heating up" for Harper, with the Phillies being seen as the favorite, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, who describes the discussions as "intensified" but also cautions that "nothing is done yet," although it would be a long-term deal.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Things are heating up with Harper. Intensified is the word I heard. Phillies are the favorite, but word remains that nothing���s done yet. Will be a long-term deal.

This comes two days after a report started circulating and gaining some steam Friday afternoon that Harper just might be on the verge of finding a new home. More >

Examining potential of Machado to White Sox
Feb. 17: The White Sox still look like one of the favorites to land Manny Machado. But just how big is their offer to him, and what other factors could be at play to help the star infielder land with Chicago?

Several numbers have been floated throughout the offseason, including a recent report from Dominican radio station Z101's Hector Gomez of an eight-year, $250 million offer, as well as an earlier report of a $175 million offer. But MLB Network insider Jon Heyman thinks the real offer from Chicago to Machado could be somewhere in between those two figures.

As for how Machado would fit with the White Sox -- a rebuilding team coming off six straight losing seasons but with a crop of young, up-and-coming prospects -- MLB.com's Richard Justice writes that they "feel like an ideal fit." Here's why.

How could a Harper or Machado signing impact Kimbrel?
Feb. 16: Craig Kimbrel entered the offseason as the best closer on the market, but while most other back-of-the-bullpen relievers have come off the board, the All-Star right-hander remains unsigned. That may be due, in part, to the type of contract he's been rumored to be asking for: a six-year deal, which would be unprecedented for a relief pitcher. But Kimbrel isn't the only big-name free agent still out there, of course. So what could happen with Kimbrel if Bryce Harper or Manny Machado signs before he does?

MLB.com's Mark Feinsand goes through multiple scenarios in which one of the two superstars secure a contract, and what impact it would have on other top free agents. In the case of Kimbrel, Feinsand writes that the closer likely would end up reuniting with either the Red Sox or Braves in the event Harper or Machado signs with the Phillies. He adds that if Harper signs with the Nationals or Giants, the Phillies may become a more likely destination for Kimbrel. Philadelphia's level of interest, of course, would also depend on its continued pursuit of Machado in that case.

What if Machado signs with the White Sox and Harper is still out there? Feinsand surmises Philly could then become a more likely landing spot for Kimbrel, but that would also depend on how serious the club is about inking Harper. If the Phillies aren't able to sign either superstar, "it could spark a chain reaction that could land Dallas Keuchel  or Kimbrel -- or both -- in Philly." More >

Don't count Yanks out on Harper or Machado
Feb. 16: Even as Spring Training has begun and the Yankees already have made several moves to upgrade a roster that won 100 games last year, don't count New York out when it comes to the two premier free agents remaining on the market, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

"I wouldn't say specifically, but I would reinforce, I'm doing my job," general manager Brian Cashman said Saturday. "Whether that's those two players or other players that aren't as significant name value, the job at hand is to constantly be open-minded to ways to make this work the best it can possibly work. ... We like what we've done to this point, but we're never a finished product."

The Yankees already have a full outfield with Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and an injured Jacoby Ellsbury. Signing Harper could necessitate some reshuffling and adjusting. With respect to Machado, the Yankees have added multiple infielders, signing free agents Troy Tulowitzki and DJ LeMahieu. Tulowitzki is expected to open the season at shortstop as Didi Gregorius recovers from Tommy John surgery, and LeMahieu is expected to play a super-utility role.

Then again, this is the Yankees, a team that can never be counted out on big free agents, regardless of the situation. 

Is Keuchel still waiting on Harper and Machado?
Feb. 16: Dallas Keuchel has been the top available starting pitcher for several weeks now, but his market appears to be at something of a standstill. Why? Perhaps in large part due to the two bigger names still available in free agency: Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

In an in-depth rundown of how the dominoes could fall once Harper or Machado signs, MLB.com's Mark Feinsand explains how many of Keuchel's scenarios depend on where the slugging outfielder and/or star infielder wind up. More >

After meeting with Padres GM, here's how Machado could fit in San Diego
Feb. 16: After SNY's Andy Martino reported that the Padres were being "very aggressive" with their offer to Manny Machado, a source confirmed to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand that general manager A.J. Preller actually flew to Miami to meet with Machado and his wife sometime in the past week.

Machado is the Friars' first choice to fill their vacancy at the hot corner, but it is not believed that the 26-year-old is close to choosing a team at this time, according to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

MLB.com's AJ Cassavell provides a look at how Machado would fit with the Padres in both the short and long term, while Feinsand breaks down how the dominoes could fall for Bryce Harper (as well as Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel) if Machado goes to San Diego. More > 

Latest on extension talks between Mets, deGrom
Feb. 15: Jacob deGrom's representatives have set an Opening Day deadline for the Mets to complete a contract extension with the right-hander, and general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said that deGrom's reps will be in Port St. Lucie soon to ramp up discussions.

deGrom, 30, took part in a press conference after being announced as the Mets' 2019 Opening Day starter and reaffirmed his desire to remain with the club on a long-term basis.

"I would like to be a part of this team's future," deGrom said. "I would like the feeling to be mutual, but that's just something that we're going to have to see."

The reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, who can become a free agent after the 2020 season, also said he would consult with his agents about a self-imposed restriction on his workload if the two sides can't reach an agreement. More >

Video: deGrom, Van Wagenen on a potential contract extension

Keuchel still could be a fit for Astros in 2019 -- and beyond
Feb. 15: When the Astros inked left-hander Wade Miley  in late January, the initial thought was that transaction decreased the chances of free agent Dallas Keuchel  returning to Houston. And yet, the club may be keeping the door open to the possibility, as USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported.

Here's why a reunion with Keuchel still could work. It's true that the Astros have excellent rotation depth for this season, as Justin Verlander Gerrit Cole Collin McHugh  and Miley are backed up by Brad Peacock , and a host of youngsters like Forrest Whitley  (MLB Pipeline's No. 7 overall prospect), Josh James  (the No. 62 overall prospect), Framber Valdez Cionel Perez  and J.B. Bukauskas

But with Miley in the fold on a one-year pact, the Astros now have (count 'em) four starters who can hit the open market after the 2019 season; McHugh and co-aces Verlander and Cole are the others. And the looming free agency of the latter two is something Houston's front office is going to have to face soon enough. More >

Are Phillies still front-runners for Harper or Machado?
Feb. 15: Even if the Phillies aren't necessarily the first choice for Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, will one of the superstar free agents ultimately accept Philadelphia's offer?

Buster Olney predicted as much in an appearance on ESPN's "Get Up!," saying the feeling is that the White Sox are a "safety net" for both players.

With both Harper and Machado reportedly seeking contracts in the range of 10 years for more than $300 million, the two have lingered on the free-agent market. But Olney thinks both player will eventually land deals between 8 and 10 years.

Meanwhile, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak indicated that he is still monitoring the open market but also feels like the team accomplished its offseason goals by adding Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura, J.T. Realmuto and David Robertson. More >

Arenado won't set hard deadline on contract extension negotiations
Feb. 14: The Rockies are hoping to work out a long-term contract extension with Nolan Arenado before the third baseman becomes a free agent next offseason, and they'll have some time to do so.

Arenado said Thursday that he won't make Opening Day a hard deadline for negotiations, giving his agent, Joel Wolfe, a chance to continue talks with Colorado during the season, if needed.

The 27-year-old recently came to an agreement with the Rockies on a one-year deal for 2019 that will pay him $26 million, a record for an arbitration-eligible player. More >

Carrasco's daughters mimic dad's pitching

On Sunday, Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco threw a bullpen session at Spring Training. It was run-of-the-mill pitcher activity, nothing special ... other than his daughters, Emma and Camila, standing by and imitating their dad on the bump, in a video captured for the masses by MLB.com's Mandy Bell. 

These are the ramifications if Bryce joins Phillies

MLB.com @AndrewSimonMLB

It's already been a busy offseason for the Phillies, who have upgraded by trading for J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura, and signing Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson.

But many feel there is still a big piece missing.

It's already been a busy offseason for the Phillies, who have upgraded by trading for J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura, and signing Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson.

But many feel there is still a big piece missing.

That would be Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, the two highest-profile free agents, both of whom remain available and both of whom have been connected to Philadelphia throughout the offseason. Looking at Harper, specifically, MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported Sunday afternoon that "things are heating up" with the star outfielder and that the Phillies are seen as the favorite, although nothing is done yet.

The latest Harper free-agent rumors

MLB.com's Mark Feinsand recently named the Phillies as one of two favorites to land the slugger, along with the National League East-rival Nationals. Washington is the only franchise Harper has known, but the Phillies might have the greater need and the stronger motivation. Speaking Thursday at Phillies camp in Clearwater, Fla., general manager Matt Klentak said his club will "continue to explore" signing another prominent free agent, such as Harper or Machado, and expressed his belief that the Phillies have "put our best foot forward with those guys so far."

With that context, let's take a look at what would happen if the Phillies did sign Harper -- just as we did for the Yankees earlier this week.

Where would he play?
By shipping off Carlos Santana in the Segura trade, the Phillies also opened up first base for Rhys Hoskins, who should be more comfortable defensively there. They then signed McCutchen to fill left field. That leaves a crowd of outfielders competing at the other two spots, primarily Odubel Herrera, Nick Williams, Roman Quinn and Aaron Altherr.

Harper, should he sign, most likely would slide into right field, next to Herrera and McCutchen. That could displace Williams, acquired in the Cole Hamels trade, who over two Major League seasons has yet to establish himself as an indispensable piece. Since Herrera and Quinn are the best options in center, it's possible such a move could force a trade of Williams.

Video: McCutchen excited to join promising Phillies

Where would he hit?
McCutchen, Realmuto and Segura all have strengthened a Phillies lineup that last season ranked 22nd in the Majors with a .707 OPS and tied for 21st with 677 runs scored. Even so, it's still not a group that is necessarily heavy on power, with only Hoskins having a recent 30-homer season.

Hoskins also bats right-handed, while Herrera and Williams are the only pure left-handed batters in the current projected lineup. Harper could slide right into the middle of the order, pairing with Hoskins as a one-two, left-right slugging combo. Here's how that might look:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Andrew McCutchen, LF
3. J.T. Realmuto, C
4. Bryce Harper, RF
5. Rhys Hoskins, 1B
6. Odubel Herrera, CF
7. Maikel Franco, 3B
8. Jean Segura, SS
9. Pitcher's spot

That's just one possibility, but manager Gabe Kapler would have no shortage of options. Segura could swap with Hernandez or join him at the top of the lineup. McCutchen could hit leadoff or move below the Realmuto-Harper-Hoskins trio, although his strength over the past two seasons has been patient at-bats and OBPs over .360. Whatever the exact order, Harper would be the centerpiece.

Video: WSH@PHI: Harper rips a 111-mph homer off Aaron Nola

How would this affect 2019 projections?
The Phillies are exactly the sort of team that could use another significant infusion of talent. The Steamer projections available at FanGraphs have them at .500 in 2019, in fourth place in the NL East but just behind the Braves (82 wins) and Mets (85). Philly is part of a crowd of nine NL clubs projected at between 79 and 86 wins -- the latter figure good for the top Wild Card spot.

It's a similar story with Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA projections, where the Phillies fare a bit better (85-77) but still are tied for third in the division with the Braves, one of 10 teams between 80 wins and the 88 necessary for a Wild Card berth.

The point is, Philly is in a place where every additional victory could significantly affect its chances of qualifying for the postseason for the first time since 2011.

Harper is projected for roughly 5 wins above replacement (WAR), according to Steamer, while slashing .267/.399/.528 with 34 home runs. Meanwhile, even assuming 600 plate appearances each, Williams, Quinn and Altherr all project for less than 1 WAR. In other words, bringing Harper to Citizens Bank Park easily could mean a boost of four or five wins -- enough to push the Phillies from hopeful to favorite for a Wild Card spot, and into serious contention for the NL East.

Video: Gammons on Phillies' outlook at Spring Training

What are some other long-term ramifications?
In terms of the Competitive Balance Tax, the Phillies still have plenty of room to operate without incurring any sort of penalty. The threshold for 2019 is $206 million, and Philadelphia currently stands at about $166 million, according to Roster Resource.

Furthermore, the only players the club is firmly committed to beyond 2021 are Aaron Nola, Scott Kingery and Segura, though Herrera, McCutchen and Jake Arrieta also will be retainable via team options. In the short term, the Phillies can accommodate an expensive contract. In the long term, they have flexibility and can build around Harper, Nola and Hoskins.

However, the Phillies would have to consider Harper's outfield defense, which rated quite poorly last season by advanced metrics. While there is reason to think Harper will bounce back in the short term, that defense could become an issue again over the course of a lengthy contract, especially if Hoskins becomes entrenched at first base -- unless the NL adopts the designated hitter by that point.

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

Philadelphia Phillies, Bryce Harper

'I feel like I'm 25': Cano joins Mets at camp

Expected to lead, 36-year-old honored to have Wright's former locker
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The most pressing question surrounding Robinson Cano, entering his first season with the Mets at age 36, is what kind of player he can be in his late 30s. In his 20s, he was a phenom, batting .308 with a .503 slugging percentage for the Yankees. Since then, he has fallen off only slightly, making four of his eight career All-Star Game appearances after his 30th birthday.

Still, the list of position players productive at age 36 is small. At 37, even smaller. Beyond that, infinitesimal. So it was worth noting that shortly after Cano showed up to the Mets' complex in Port St. Lucie for the first time, he stated: "I feel like I'm 25."

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The most pressing question surrounding Robinson Cano, entering his first season with the Mets at age 36, is what kind of player he can be in his late 30s. In his 20s, he was a phenom, batting .308 with a .503 slugging percentage for the Yankees. Since then, he has fallen off only slightly, making four of his eight career All-Star Game appearances after his 30th birthday.

Still, the list of position players productive at age 36 is small. At 37, even smaller. Beyond that, infinitesimal. So it was worth noting that shortly after Cano showed up to the Mets' complex in Port St. Lucie for the first time, he stated: "I feel like I'm 25.":: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"I always feel like that," Cano said. "I never feel like I'm 30. … I feel good, physically and mentally. For me, that's what matters as a player."

If the Mets plan on making any concessions to Cano's age, they aren't saying. While general manager Brodie Van Wagenen has noted that the Mets could use him at first base, Cano said the team hasn't approached him about that yet -- and he didn't sound like a man all that interested in changing positions. To the contrary, before serving an 80-game suspension last year for violating Major League Baseball's joint drug agreement, Cano had averaged 159 games per season over the previous 11 years, nearly all of them at second.

He doesn't expect anything to be different in Queens, and manager Mickey Callaway noted that the team would likely only use Cano at first in a pinch. Most days -- maybe every day -- he will be at second.

"As long as I feel good, for me, I love to play this game," Cano said. "As a young kid, you dream to play in the big leagues. So if I have a chance to go out and play every day, I would love to. I don't want to step back from that."

Video: Robinson Cano is the No. 4 second baseman right now

The Mets would love that too, assuming Cano proves worthy of the third spot in the lineup that Callaway has already bestowed upon him. While the Mets feature depth at second base -- Jed Lowrie, Jeff McNeil and T.J. Rivera can all play there -- they would prefer to use those players in other places.

Mostly, the Mets would like Cano to make good on his intention of "being back in the playoffs," which he missed over the half-decade he spent in Seattle after making it seven times in his first eight years in the Bronx. They are also counting on Cano to be a clubhouse leader, replacing the void left by captain David Wright. It wasn't by accident that the Mets issued Wright's longtime spring locker to Cano, understanding the effect he can have on his teammates.

"Nobody is going to replace David Wright in this organization," Cano said. "We all know what he did. It was sad that he had to end his career that way. … I feel special that I get to have his locker. 

"Am I going to go out and do my best and give everything I've got? Yes, I will. I don't like to pressure myself that I have to go out and be that guy. But I will do my best and do everything I can to help the team compete and help the team to win a game."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.

New York Mets, Robinson Cano

Ohtani focused on next step of hitting off tee

MLB.com @RhettBollinger

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Shohei Ohtani is continuing to make progress in his rehab from Tommy John surgery. On Sunday, he said he is hopeful he'll be able to start hitting off a tee in the next week.

Ohtani, who has been limited to dry swings since undergoing the procedure on Oct. 1, is on a progression that will see him hit on a tee before moving on to soft toss, batting practice and live batting practice before he's ready to play in games. The Angels have targeted May as a return date for Ohtani, the reigning American League Rookie of the Year Award winner.

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Shohei Ohtani is continuing to make progress in his rehab from Tommy John surgery. On Sunday, he said he is hopeful he'll be able to start hitting off a tee in the next week.

Ohtani, who has been limited to dry swings since undergoing the procedure on Oct. 1, is on a progression that will see him hit on a tee before moving on to soft toss, batting practice and live batting practice before he's ready to play in games. The Angels have targeted May as a return date for Ohtani, the reigning American League Rookie of the Year Award winner.

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"So far things are going as planned," Ohtani said through interpreter Eppei Mizuhara. "No problems at all. But maybe once I start throwing, maybe I'll start having some issues. But as of now, everything has been going well."

Ohtani, who will not pitch this season, added that he's not sure when he'll begin his throwing program. The focus so far has been on a return to hitting and he's preparing himself like he'll be ready for Opening Day, even though he's not expected back until May. He's been watching his teammates' bullpen sessions for timing reasons, but Ohtani said he hasn't stepped up to the plate to track pitches just yet.

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"Probably by the end of Spring Training, I'll start picking up a ball, but for now, I'm focused on the hitting side," Ohtani said. "I don't feel rushed or anything, but as a baseball player, I would like to make it on Opening Day. That's the thought. But I'm not trying to rush myself. It's all up to what the team wants. But I want to rehab and prepare as if I can be ready for Opening Day."

Manager Brad Ausmus confirmed that Ohtani could move up to hitting off a tee this week, but the skipper said it'll be up to the training staff. Ausmus said he's talked with Ohtani a few times with the help of Mizuhara and can tell how much of a competitor he is.

"Physically he's a once-in-a-lifetime talent, now if we can just get him back to where he was at the start of last year it would be perfect," Ausmus said. "We love to have him in an Angel uniform, whether he's on the mound or in the box or running the bases. One of the best-kept secret about him is how well he runs the bases, and the dirt he chews up going first to third and second to home. He's a gifted athlete and his focus and intensity makes him even better."

Angels tidbits
• Position players reported to camp on Sunday, meaning they had their physicals before full-squad workouts begin on Monday. Center fielder Mike Trout was among the arrivals at camp on Sunday and he took batting practice. He's scheduled to meet with the media on Monday.

• Right-hander Felix Pena threw the first live bullpen session of the spring on Sunday, as pitchers are starting to ramp it up with Cactus League play beginning on Saturday. Pena is in the mix for the fifth starter spot along with Jaime Barria and Dillon Peters, but Barria is considered the favorite.

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

Los Angeles Angels, Shohei Ohtani

J.D. looking to build off monster 2018 campaign

MLB.com @IanMBrowne

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A year ago at this time, J.D. Martinez was sweating away in solitude at his Miami training base, hoping his prolonged free agency would finally end.

Things were much more enjoyable on Sunday, as the star slugger arrived at camp on time with the rest of the position players and ready to do more damage in his second season with the Red Sox.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A year ago at this time, J.D. Martinez was sweating away in solitude at his Miami training base, hoping his prolonged free agency would finally end.

Things were much more enjoyable on Sunday, as the star slugger arrived at camp on time with the rest of the position players and ready to do more damage in his second season with the Red Sox.

In truth, Year One in Boston couldn't have gone any better for Martinez. The DH/OF won Silver Slugger Awards at two positions and put up monster numbers (.330 average, 43 homers, 130 RBIs, 1.031 OPS) for a team that won the World Series.

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Did you actually think not winning the American League MVP Award could put a damper on Martinez's fun?

For starters, Mookie Betts -- Martinez's inseparable hitting partner -- did win the MVP Award, so that was a victory for the entire organization.

And Martinez, who finished fourth, now admits in a somewhat humorous way that he knew he never had a chance.

"No, I kind of laughed about it because everybody was making a big deal about it," Martinez said. "Like, 'You had a chance to have a chance to win' and stuff like that, and I was like, 'Guys, there's no way that the analytic guys are ever going to let that happen. For a DH to win an MVP, they're going to have to walk on water.' That will never happen."

It turns out Martinez never did walk on water or win the Triple Crown. He did do a multitude of other things, including changing the entire hitting culture of the team he plays for.

Video: Martinez is No. 11 on MLB Network's Top 100 Right Now

"It became the talk in the clubhouse last year and everyone was like, 'The only way you're going to win is if you win the Triple Crown' or whatever. I was like, '100 percent. That's the only chance.' When it came out, I expected it," Martinez said. "I kind of laughed about it. I know how my peers think of me, and I know how my peers thought of me with the text messages I got and the congratulations I got."

Martinez also pointed out that he did win the MLBPA Players Choice Player of the Year Award, mentioning how meaningful that was because it came from his peers.

In truth, awards aren't what make Martinez tick. He is driven by his passion for hitting and winning, which kind of go hand in hand.

"I've never been around someone who puts in as much time as he does to be really good at his craft," Red Sox utilityman Brock Holt said. "While we're on the plane traveling cross country to the next series, guys are playing cards, guys are listening to music, watching movies; he's got his iPad or his computer out and he's watching video. I think just watching him do what made him as good as he is I think helped everyone else out.

"Just having him there to ask questions to and to kind of lean on because he's been doing it for a long time now, I think that aspect kind of rubbed off on some guys and helped us out."

Tweet from @RedSox: Another champ in camp! 👌@JDMartinez14 | #SoxSpring pic.twitter.com/sJeqVt4G1D

Though Martinez enjoyed not having to think about his contract this offseason, there will be another decision to make in 2019. He has an opt-out clause after the next two seasons. If Martinez stays with his original contract and doesn't opt out, these are his payouts over the final three years of the deal: $23.75 million in '20, $19.375 million in '21 and $19.375 million in '22.

Either way, Martinez can't lose. Someone is going to pay him a lot of money to pound the baseball.

Will Martinez's decision on whether to opt out be influenced at all by how long it took him to get a contract last season or the fact that Manny Machado and Bryce Harper are currently going through the same thing?

"I don't really think it does," Martinez said. "Personally, you listen to obviously [agent] Scott [Boras] and their advice, and that's what they're really good at. At the end of the day, I know my value and I know what I bring to the table, and I really don't kind of look at that. I really judge me on me."

Video: Work out like a World Series Champ with J.D. Martinez

One thing is clear about Martinez: His passion and obsession for his craft makes him perfect for the market he is currently playing in.

"I'm going to tell you right now, no one is harder on me than me. The fact that fans sit there and boo me, I'm booing myself when I'm walking in," Martinez said. "No one is more [angry] than me. I'm with them. I'm like, 'Yeah, you should be mad. That's terrible.' For me, it's never really bothered me because I'm so locked in and caught up in the process that I don't worry about the outside noise and stuff like that.

"Obviously, I love Boston. I love the passion. It kind of matches my personality. The fans, I almost feel like they're just as passionate as me. Obviously I'd love to stay here, but that's not something I'm worrying about right now."

Instead, it will be opposing pitchers who will do all the worrying whenever the dangerous Martinez steps to the plate.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, J.D. Martinez

Projected 2019 lineups, rotations for every team

MLB.com

Spring Training is here, so now is a good time to project what each club's Opening Day lineup and rotation would look like if the season began today. Of course, rosters are still fluid at this point, but with help from all 30 MLB.com beat writers, here's a roundup of how they might turn out.

Spring Training is here, so now is a good time to project what each club's Opening Day lineup and rotation would look like if the season began today. Of course, rosters are still fluid at this point, but with help from all 30 MLB.com beat writers, here's a roundup of how they might turn out.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

BLUE JAYS
Lineup:
1.