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• Free agents, by position
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Would Yanks trade Andujar to make way for Machado?
Nov. 13: While it's unclear exactly where Manny Machado falls on the Yankees' offseason wish list, a big splash by New York can't be ruled out, especially after the club just watched the rival Red Sox win their fourth World Series title since 2004. The Yanks certainly have the money to afford the 26-year-old, and the club is doing "extensive" background work on him, according to a report from The Athletic (subscription required).
Of course, improving the starting rotation remains the Yankees' top priority. General manager Brian Cashman has made it known he's looking to add two starting pitchers, and signing Machado may lower New York's chances of inking one of the top hurlers on the free-agent market, such as Patrick Corbin.
Still, there is a way for Cashman to possibly acquire Machado and multiple high-end starters, as Joe Rivera of the Sporting News points out. The Yankees could do so by dangling third baseman Miguel Andujar in a trade for an ace, and then sign a mid-market free agent such as J.A. Happ.
Andujar finished second to Shohei Ohtani in the American League Rookie of the Year Award voting after hitting .297 with 27 homers and 92 RBIs in 2018, but he struggled defensively to the point where there are questions about his long-term viability at the hot corner.
If New York trades Andujar, Machado could slot in as the club's starting third baseman, with Gleyber Torres shifting to shortstop until Didi Gregorius is ready to return from Tommy John surgery.
Granted, the Yanks wouldn't have to trade the 23-year-old Andujar to make room for Machado. They could play Machado at shortstop while Gregorius is out, leaving Andujar at third base and Torres at second, or move Andujar across the diamond to first. But dealing Andujar may be the best way for the Yankees to get Machado and still acquire the ace starting pitcher they covet.
Are Giants better off signing multiple players instead of Harper?
Nov. 13: The Giants could have between $30 million to $40 million to spend this offseason, and they have been connected to free agent Bryce Harper. However, as Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports points out, Farhan Zaidi, San Francisco's new president of baseball operations, may prefer to spread out the club's resources to fill multiple needs.
When Zaidi was the Dodgers' general manager under president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, the team never gave out any contract totaling more than $80 million, opting instead to focus on building a deep roster.
Pavlovic notes that the Giants need a starting pitcher, an outfielder and a utility man, and he suggests signing J.A. Happ, Nick Markakis and Marwin Gonzalez for what MLB Trade Rumors projects will be a combined $33 million in 2019. None of the three is expected to require a long-term commitment, whereas Harper is believed to be seeking a 10-year deal.
As Pavlovic writes, Harper would certainly make the Giants flashier, but signing multiple players to less expensive deals could be the better route to take.
Phillies may need Harper's personality as much as his bat
Nov. 13: With money to spend and a desire to contend as soon as next season, the Phillies are considered the favorites to sign Bryce Harper. And while the Phils would certainly benefit from adding Harper's bat to their lineup, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports writes that the slugger's personality could be just as important.
Although Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins are strong building blocks, Salisbury argues that Harper would provide Philadelphia with a much needed face of the franchise to energize the fan base and help fill Citizens Bank Park.
While the Phillies made a leap this past season, winning 14 more games than the previous year, they ranked just 17th in average attendance at 27,318. In 2008, when Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels were in their primes and the club won the World Series, the Phils averaged 42,254 fans per game, ranking fifth overall.
Salisbury also writes that Harper's "competitive sneer" will rub off on the rest of Philadelphia's roster, giving the club a much-needed edge as it tries to keep pace with the up-and-coming Braves in the National League East.
Predicting a Paxton blockbuster
Nov. 13: The noise around the possibility of a James Paxton blockbuster trade continues to grow. The Mariners, after all, already have dealt catcher Mike Zunino as the start of what appears to be a "reimagining" of the roster heading into 2019. As TJ Cotterill of the Tacoma News Tribune writes: "And reimagining life without Paxton doesn't appear to be a matter of if, but when."
Paxton, who just turned 30 earlier this month, is coming off his best season yet, having established career highs in innings (160 1/3), strikeouts (208) and strikeouts per nine (11.7). Combine that with two more years of club control, and it's no surprise that a number of teams are interested in adding him as a top-of-the-rotation type of arm.
Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs looks at Paxton's progression from talented-yet-frustrating pitcher a few years ago to the burgeoning ace he became in 2018. His conclusion? "Paxton is one of those guys every team would want in a short series. He's one of those guys every team would want in a one-game playoff. James Paxton is a potential difference-maker in the rotation."
Given that Seattle's farm system is among the weakest in baseball and that the club's timeline for winning may no longer sync up with their control over Paxton, a trade would make sense -- and the return in young Major Leaguers and/or prospects could be massive. Not to mention, there are plenty of contenders loaded with young talent and holes in their rotation (read: Yankees, Astros, Braves, Phillies and Brewers) who already have been linked as possible landing spots for Paxton.
Corbin, Keuchel unlikely to be hurt by Draft-pick baggage
Nov. 13: While some players who rejected the qualifying offer in years past have had trouble finding suitors due to the Draft-pick compensation attached to them, MLB.com's Mark Feinsand doesn't think that will be a problem for Patrick Corbin or Dallas Keuchel.
As Feinsand notes, the market for left-handed starters has shrunk considerably, with Clayton Kershaw re-signing with the Dodgers, David Price deciding not to opt out of his contract with the Red Sox, Hyun-Jin Ryu accepting the qualifying offer from Los Angeles and CC Sabathia re-signing with the Yankees on a one-year deal.
Corbin and Keuchel are arguably the only members of the top tier among all free-agent starters this offseason, J.A. Happ's reliability and Nathan Eovaldi's strong postseason notwithstanding. If any free-agent pitcher gets a nine-figure deal, it's unlikely to be anyone besides Corbin or Keuchel.
Could Realmuto replace Grandal in LA?
Nov. 13: When Yasmani Grandal declined the $17.9 million qualifying offer, he likely bid farewell to the Dodgers. That puts the club in position to look for catching depth to team with Austin Barnes -- or perhaps a major upgrade behind the plate, if it so chooses.
MLB Network insider Peter Gammons discussed the possibility of LA making a play for the highly sought-after J.T. Realmuto: "The team that I keep hearing about ... is the Dodgers."
Video: Dodgers could be a possible destination for Realmuto
As Gammons points out, top catching prospects Keibert Ruiz and Will Smith might be a year away from helping the Dodgers -- or even could be a part of a package sent to the Marlins for Realmuto. And given LA's outfield depth, the club also could consider parting with someone like Joc Pederson, who is just 26 years old and isn't due to hit free agency until after the 2020 season, or Alex Verdugo, an outfield prospect who is ready for The Show.
The late-season reemergence of lefty Julio Urias, who missed most of 2017-18 after shoulder surgery, gives an already deep Dodgers pitching staff even more options, especially after Clayton Kershaw re-signed and Hyun-Jin Ryu accepted the qualifying offer. In other words, LA's front office could have more freedom to deal from its surplus of young, controllable arms as a way to entice Miami.
Ross Stripling might make sense among those with big-league experience and success, while prospects like Dustin May and Mitchell White are high-upside youngsters near the top of a strong Dodgers system who could reach the Majors in the next year or so.
Are White Sox trying to clear space for free-agent stars by shopping Garcia?
Nov. 13: The White Sox are actively shopping right fielder Avisail Garcia, according to a report from MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, which may be part of an effort to clear space for Bryce Harper.
With Jose Abreu at first base, Daniel Palka and Matt Davidson likely to split at-bats at the designated-hitter spot, and top prospect Eloy Jimenez potentially taking over in left field soon, the White Sox will have nowhere for Garcia to play if they sign Harper.
Garcia has battled persistent injury problems during his career, and he's proven to be an unremarkable offensive performer (lifetime 101 wRC+) as well as a subpar defender (lifetime -26 Defensive Runs Saved as an outfielder). And although he was worth 4.2 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in 2017, per FanGraphs, his production was boosted by great batted-ball fortune (.392 BABIP). Over the rest of his career, he has tallied exactly zero WAR.
MLB Trade Rumors projects Garcia will earn $8 million in 2019, his final season of arbitration eligibility. However, Feinsand reports that there is a "sense within the industry that Chicago will non-tender" him if it can't work out a trade.
Trading or non-tendering Garcia would also give the White Sox the additional option of shifting Tim Anderson to the outfield to make room for Manny Machado at shortstop, though Chicago also has an opening at third base if Machado is willing to move back to that position.
Could D-backs make Greinke available?
Nov. 12: With the free-agent market for starting pitchers not particularly deep, the D-backs might be able to benefit by making Zack Greinke available via trade, The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal suggests (subscription required). In fact, Rosenthal writes, Greinke might end up being the second-most attractive starting pitcher available this offseason, behind only teammate Patrick Corbin (who's now a free agent).
Greinke is 35, has had to deal with diminishing velocity over the past few seasons and is signed to an expensive contract -- he has three years and $104.5 million remaining on his six-year, $206.5 million deal that runs through 2021. But a selling point for the D-backs, per Rosenthal, would be their willingness to ease the financial burden on a prospective trade partner, whether by including cash or taking on another player's unfavorable contract.
And in Greinke's favor: his continued effectiveness and ability to adjust -- he had a 3.21 ERA and 199 strikeouts in 207 2/3 innings this season, after posting a 3.20 mark with 215 strikeouts in 202 1/3 innings in 2017.
Rosenthal notes that the D-backs haven't come out and said they want to trade Greinke, but the time might be right, with Corbin and A.J. Pollock free agents and Paul Goldschmidt a trade candidate since he's set to hit free agency next year.
Yankees doing "extensive" background work on Machado
Nov. 12: It's still a little murky how strong the Yankees' pursuit of Manny Machado will actually be. But they're definitely doing their due diligence.
According to The Athletic's Jayson Stark (subscription required), the Yankees have been doing "particularly extensive" background work on Machado, even beyond the typical amount of background information teams routinely seek about potential free-agent or trade targets.
Sources told Stark that Yankees manager Aaron Boone, front-office members and scouts are all among those who "calling around" about Machado.
The superstar shortstop remains a clear fit for the Yankees, with Didi Gregorius out indefinitely as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
Video: Yanks cautiously testing waters on Machado
Is there a trade market for Cano?
Nov. 12: Even if the Mariners want to rebuild, they might not be able to pull off deal for all their big-contract players, including Felix Hernandez, Kyle Seager and Robinson Cano.
Cano, for one, has several factors working against him, as Rosenthal notes (subscription required). He's 36, and he has five years remaining on a 10-year, $240 million contract that runs through 2023. Cano has full no-trade protection. He might have to move from second base to first base/designated hitter in the near future, much less valuable positions. And teams will likely be leery of Cano's suspension this past season for violating MLB's Joint Drug Agreement.
Rosenthal thinks that Cano's preference would be to return to the Yankees, with whom he spent his first nine Major League seasons before signing with Seattle entering 2014. A deal between the two clubs might include, for example, Jacoby Ellsbury, who has another big contract -- the Mariners would likely have to take on such a contract to have a chance at moving Cano. But he notes that the two teams might not really have any reason to make such an exchange.
Are Phillies shopping Santana to clear room for Harper?
Nov. 12: According to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in an article for The Athletic (subscription required), a rival executive said the Phillies are "shopping the hell" out of first baseman Carlos Santana, who signed a three-year, $60 million contract with Philadelphia last offseason.
Per Rosenthal, the Phillies want to move Rhys Hoskins back to first base. While that makes strategic sense from a defensive standpoint -- Hoskins recorded -19 Outs Above Average, per Statcast™, and -24 Defensive Runs Saved in left field this past season -- Philadelphia may also be trying to clear space on the payroll and in the outfield for free agent Bryce Harper.
Santana's deal included a $10 million signing bonus, leaving him with a base salary of roughly $35 million over 2019-20, and he has a $500,000 buyout on his $17.5 million club option for '21. The Phillies will likely need to send some cash to move the 32-year-old, who hit .229/.352/.414 with 24 homers and 86 RBIs over 161 games in the first year of his contract.
Philadelphia has been consistently connected to Harper this offseason and could conceivably afford to sign him without moving Santana, but doing so would likely mean putting promising right fielder Nick Williams on the bench or giving Santana more playing time at third at the expense of Maikel Franco.
What does recent history say about the contract Eovaldi should expect?
Nov. 12: Nathan Eovaldi is one of the most intriguing arms on this offseason's market thanks to his postseason heroics, but even just a few months ago, when the hard-throwing right-hander was acquired by the Red Sox at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, he was a high-upside arm with electric stuff but was on pace to post an ERA over 4.00 for the fourth straight season. It was only after he moved to Boston and made various adjustments that he saw extended success and his stock soared down the stretch.
But as the Boston Globe's Alex Speier points out, that might simply have been considered overperformance in a small sample size in the past, but these days, with teams increasingly focused on the promise of future performance and potential, those few months of elite performance with the Red Sox will be enough to land him a lucrative contract.
But just how lucrative? Speier examines a pair of similar cases in the recent past -- Rich Hill of the Dodgers and Tyler Chatwood of the Cubs -- to estimate the dollar figure that Eovaldi might be looking at.
After the Red Sox signed Hill out of independent ball in 2015 and the left-hander posted a 1.55 ERA down the stretch, he landed a prove-it deal with Oakland and locked down a three-year, $48 million deal as a 36-year-old after the 2016 season given just over a year of proven success. Meanwhile, Chatwood landed a three-year, $38 million contract with the Cubs based on his relative youth and track record of success on the road, among other factors, despite his 4.69 ERA in his final year with the Rockies.
With Eovaldi a surer bet than Chatwood and the 28-year-old having pitched 111 innings in 2018, nearly identical to Hill's 110 1/3 successful innings in 2016, the precedents suggest that Eovaldi, eight years younger than Hill at the time, should be in line for a floor of three years and $40 million or four years and $52 million. And it's not hard to imagine Eovaldi approaching Hill's average annual value of $16 million per year despite his injury history, meaning that a best-case scenario could be around four years and $65 million.
Cruz could bring much-needed stability to Houston's DH role
Nov. 12: The Astros won a World Series in 2017 and reached the American League Championship Series in '18 despite inconsistency from their designated hitter for large swaths of those seasons.
Prior to the 2017 campaign, Houston brought on Carlos Beltran to be the primary DH, but he struggled in his final MLB season and split time with Evan Gattis, who was expected to flourish in the role in 2018 but struggled to a .226 average. Though Tyler White was successful down the stretch, he might need to play more first base in 2019 after the departure of Marwin Gonzalez and the transition of Yuli Gurriel to more of a utility role.
That's why an article in House of Houston calls for a commitment to Cruz, who has undoubtedly been one of the game's elite DHs over the last five seasons with the Orioles and Mariners. Cruz could bring a welcome dose of consistency to the middle of the Astros' lineup alongside the younger Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve, and though he's a shorter-term solution, he would give Houston an impact bat at a position of need while they still have the 1-2 rotation punch of Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole locked up for one more year.
Phillies could look to Donaldson, Moustakas for upgrade at third
Nov. 12: MLB.com's Todd Zolecki notes that Phillies third basemen ranked 18th in the Majors in batting (.248), 21st in on-base percentage (.311), and 13th in slugging percentage (.438) last season. Will the club upgrade at third base? That may depend on whether they sign one of the two big superstar sluggers on the market, Bryce Harper or Manny Machado.
"If they sign Harper, they might be more inclined to pursue help at third," Zolecki writes. "If they sign Machado and he plays shortstop, they might be more inclined to move forward with internal options like J.P. Crawford, Maikel Franco and even Scott Kingery, who could play second base if Philadelphia trades Cesar Hernandez."
Zolecki suggests the Phillies may pursue free agents Josh Donaldson or Mike Moustakas. He writes that they would likely try to ink Donaldson to a short-term deal given the risk involved; he was hurt for most of last season, and was not as productive as in years past when he was in the lineup.
Tigers could trade Castellanos this offseason; might Astros be interested?
Nov. 12: Nicholas Castellanos has one more season left before he can become a free agent, and the Tigers don't expect to contend anytime soon. According to Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press, that makes Castellanos a prime candidate to be moved this offseason, especially with the club's July 2017 trade of J.D. Martinez still fresh in general manager Al Avila's mind.
As Fenech points out, the Tigers didn't consider trading Martinez before his final season of free agency, as the club wasn't in rebuilding mode yet. Once Detroit opted to move him, it had limited suitors for the slugger and ended up taking an uninspiring three-player package from the D-backs.
The problem for the Tigers is that Castellanos' defensive shortcomings may deter teams from trading for him. The 26-year-old, who was a third baseman before changing positions late in 2017, ended his first full season as an outfielder with an MLB-worst -25 Outs Above Average, per Statcast™.
And while Castellanos is a good hitter whose underlying metrics suggest he has room to grow, he hasn't yet proven to be on Martinez's level, which means he doesn't stand out much from the myriad of productive outfield options currently on the free-agent market.
Fenech mentions the Astros as one potential suitor for Castellanos, as they may still be looking for an outfielder after reportedly coming close to trading for Bryce Harper this past season. Per Fenech, Houston also made an offer for Castellanos before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. The Astros have openings in left field and at designated hitter with Marwin Gonzalez and Evan Gattis becoming free agents.
Ryu the only player to accept qualifying offer
Nov. 12: Hyun-Jin Ryu is staying with the Dodgers, as he officially accepted Los Angeles' one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer Monday. Bryce Harper, Patrick Corbin, Craig Kimbrel, Dallas Keuchel, Yasmani Grandal and A.J. Pollock declined the offer.
The news is not exactly surprising. Ryu recorded a 1.97 ERA in 2018, but he again missed substantial time due to an injury. The left-hander has thrown just 213 2/3 innings since the beginning of '15, and he might have had trouble finding a lucrative multi-year offer on the open market, especially because new teams would have needed to forfeit a Draft pick to sign him.
Video: Ryu only one to accept qualifying offer, six decline
How will Rizzo address Nats' needs this offseason?
Nov. 12: Although the Nationals want to bring back Bryce Harper, the club has other holes to plug, and earmarking a substantial portion of their payroll for a potential Harper reunion could have dire consequences if the team waits too long and the 26-year-old signs elsewhere.
According to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in an article for The Athletic (subscription required), one agent offered a theory about Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo's offseason approach, predicting that Rizzo will aggressively try to address the team's needs, then leave it up to ownership to make the final decision on Harper if the outfielder is still available.
As Rosenthal points out, Rizzo must proceed as if Harper is not returning after the slugger reportedly rejected a 10-year, $300 million offer from the Nats on the final day of the regular season.
Rosenthal also notes that any upgrades the Nats make could make the team more appealing to Harper and persuade him to re-sign, which would be a win-win scenario for Rizzo.
Will Donaldson headline Cardinals' offseason pursuits?
Nov. 12: The Cardinals may pursue free-agent third baseman Josh Donaldson to upgrade their offense, but Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch argues that the veteran comes with too much uncertainty to be relied upon as the club's marquee addition this offseason.
Donaldson has a lofty ceiling, as he slashed .285/.387/.559 with 111 homers from 2015-17, winning the American League MVP Award in the first year during that span.
But Donaldson will turn 33 years old in December and is coming off a season in which he played just 52 games due to right shoulder and left calf injuries.
Although Frederickson thinks Donaldson would be well-received by the fan base as St. Louis' new starting third baseman, he writes that it "would seem a bit thin" if the slugger was "the Cardinals' sole big move for the lineup."
Will Reds trade for Gray?
Nov. 12: The Reds are in the market for starting pitching, and Cincinnati's new pitching coach, Derek Johnson, was Sonny Gray's college pitching coach at Vanderbilt. Is there a reunion in the cards?
MLB.com's Mark Sheldon answered that question in his most recent Inbox, writing that it would, indeed, be a good match. But the Yankees are looking for starting pitching as well, meaning they might ask for right-hander Luis Castillo. That might be too much of an ask for Cincinnati. Nevertheless, Sheldon adds that he would be shocked if the Reds didn't at least check in with New York on Gray.
Gray struggled in 30 appearances (23 starts) for the Yankees last season, posting a 4.90 ERA. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has indicated the club is looking to move on from the 29-year-old right-hander, saying last month that "to maximize his abilities, it would be more likely best [for him to be] somewhere else."
Despite outfield questions, Indians unlikely to bring back Brantley
Nov. 12: With Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall hitting the open market, the Indians have question marks at all three starting outfield spots for next season.
But after a strong -- and healthy -- 2018 season put him in position to receive a lucrative multi-year offer, the 31-year-old Brantley is seemingly unlikely to return to an Indians club that is reportedly shopping some of its veterans for short-term financial relief and younger, cheaper assets.
In fact, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that there is "nearly a zero chance" of the Tribe re-signing Brantley.
With no qualifying offer attached to Brantley, new teams won't be forced to surrender a Draft pick to sign him. As a result, there could be a robust market for the veteran, especially among clubs that need a corner outfielder but aren't in on Bryce Harper. The Braves, the Phillies and the White Sox have reportedly already made offers to Brantley.
A big gap between Harper and Machado?
Nov. 12: In a piece for The Athletic, Cliff Corcoran ranks the best under-28 free agents of all-time. It's interesting to see where the top two free agents on this year's market land. Manny Machado is ranked third, behind only Alex Rodriguez (2000) and Barry Bonds (1992). Bryce Harper is all the way down at 11th out of 13 players, ahead of Carlos Beltran (2004) and Goose Gossage (1977).
"The math projects [Machado] to be worth 5.2 bWAR in his age-26 season, but he has been a six-win player in four of the last six seasons (I'm counting his 5.7 bWAR this year given his uncharacteristic struggles in the field), so he could very well exceed that projection," writes Corcoran.
With respect to Harper, Corcoran cites his inconsistency at the plate and injury history, pointing out his 1.5 WAR (Baseball Reference) in 2016, and 1.3 WAR last season.
"What was supposed to be the monster free agency to end all free agencies is instead a confusing mixed bag of impressive accomplishment and confounding underperformance," Corcoran writes.
Could poor defense of free-agent competitors help Lowrie's market?
Nov. 12: While the free-agent market for second basemen is deep this offseason, Jed Lowrie stands apart from many of his counterparts -- and not solely because of his bat.
Lowrie isn't an elite defender, but he isn't likely to hurt a team with his fielding, which gives him an edge over some of the alternative free-agent options.
Mark Simon took a look at six players whose free-agent markets could be hindered by their poor defense in an article for The Athletic (subscription required), and the list included three second basemen: Asdrubal Cabrera, Daniel Murphy and Brian Dozier.
Cabrera has made the majority of his defensive appearances at shortstop during his career, but he's played there just 76 times over the past two seasons, and his lifetime Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) mark as a shortstop is -56. The veteran isn't likely to be courted as a shortstop by most teams, but his defense at second base isn't much better.
In 2018, Cabrera's -17 DRS at second base ranked second to last among those with at least 500 innings at the position. Murphy was last with -18 DRS, and Dozier was three spots behind Cabrera with -8. Lowrie recorded 1 DRS with a 6.1 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) in '18, while Cabrera, Murphy and Dozier had negative UZR marks.
Meanwhile, neither DJ LeMahieu or Ian Kinsler was anywhere close to Lowrie in terms of offensive production this past season, mitigating the defensive advantage they have over the 34-year-old Lowrie.