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The case for each AL MVP finalist

MLB.com

The 2018 American League Most Valuable Player Award race has yielded three tremendous all-around players as finalists in Mookie Betts, Jose Ramirez and Mike Trout. Each slugged more than 30 home runs while stealing more than 20 bases, as well as playing strong defense at his respective position. It's no easy decision to name one MVP from this trio, but that's exactly what will happen when the winner is announced Thursday at 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network. Here's the case for each finalist.

Mookie Betts, Red Sox
Five-tool star Betts has worthy credentials to win the first AL MVP Award of his career at the age of 26. Betts, who stayed in the leadoff spot the entire season for the World Series champions, had the best FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement (10.4) for a position player since Barry Bonds in 2004 (11.9).

The 2018 American League Most Valuable Player Award race has yielded three tremendous all-around players as finalists in Mookie Betts, Jose Ramirez and Mike Trout. Each slugged more than 30 home runs while stealing more than 20 bases, as well as playing strong defense at his respective position. It's no easy decision to name one MVP from this trio, but that's exactly what will happen when the winner is announced Thursday at 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network. Here's the case for each finalist.

Mookie Betts, Red Sox
Five-tool star Betts has worthy credentials to win the first AL MVP Award of his career at the age of 26. Betts, who stayed in the leadoff spot the entire season for the World Series champions, had the best FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement (10.4) for a position player since Barry Bonds in 2004 (11.9).

• Complete 2018 awards coverage

After finishing second in the AL MVP Award race to Trout two years ago, Betts has an even better candidacy this time around. The right fielder was a force in every way possible, winning the batting title with a .346 average while adding 47 doubles, five triples, 32 homers, 129 runs, 80 RBIs and 30 stolen bases. His 1.078 OPS was second in the Majors behind only Trout (1.088), and Betts earned his third straight Gold Glove Award for his defensive excellence.

All-time AL MVP Award winners

Video: Harold Reynolds breaks down Mookie Betts' AL MVP Case

Betts' numbers were remarkable across the board. He was a .364 hitter at home while hitting .331 on the road. He belted 13 homers at home and 19 on the road. Against lefties, Betts had an OPS of 1.207. Against righties, it was 1.037. Betts hit .330 or higher in every month except June, when he still had a respectable .290 mark.

"He impacts the game like no other player in the big leagues -- running the bases, playing defense, hitting for power," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "You see the numbers. It was a special season for him."

-- Ian Browne

Jose Ramirez, Indians
Ramirez burst onto the scene two seasons ago, surprising the baseball world with a performance that led to a third-place finish in AL MVP Award voting. The Indians star showed this year that his overwhelming showing was no fluke.

Once again, Ramirez is contending for premier season-end hardware. That is fitting, considering that only Betts (10.4) and Trout (9.8) were able to top the 8.0 WAR (per FanGraphs) that Cleveland's switch-hitting slugger posted in 2018.

Ramirez was an AL Gold Glove finalist at third base and picked up a Silver Slugger Award for the second consecutive campaign. Heading into August, he looked like a favorite for the AL MVP Award, but a two-month slide hurt his stock on the ballot down the stretch. Considering the extent of Ramirez's late-season troubles, the numbers he piled up are staggering.

Video: Ramirez wins second career Silver Slugger award

In 157 games, Ramirez turned in a .270/.387/.552 slash line to go along with 39 home runs, 38 doubles, 34 stolen bases, 105 RBIs, 110 runs scored and 106 walks (compared to 80 strikeouts). Ramirez did all that despite batting .202 with a .724 OPS in the final 50 games of the season.

Ramirez's 8.0 WAR was the highest for an Indians batter since 1953 (Al Rosen, 9.1) and was tied for the 12th-highest single-season total in franchise history. Ramirez also joined Bonds (1992, '95-97), Jeff Bagwell ('97, '99) and Bobby Abreu (2001, '04) as the only players in MLB history to have at least 30 homers, 30 steals, 100 RBIs, 100 runs and 100 walks in a single season.

-- Jordan Bastian

Mike Trout, Angels
A model of consistency, Trout has established himself as a perennial AL MVP Award candidate over his first seven full seasons with the Angels, and he has already won the prestigious honor twice, in 2014 and '16. He will finish in the top three for the sixth time in his career after falling to fourth place last season due to a thumb injury that forced him to miss seven weeks of the regular season.

Widely considered the best player in baseball, Trout is coming off what he considers to be his strongest overall campaign to date. He batted .312 with an MLB-high 1.088 OPS, 39 home runs, 79 RBIs and 24 stolen bases in 140 games in 2018. Trout also set career highs in on-base percentage (.460), OPS+ (199) and walks (122), and he compiled the second-highest WAR (9.8) in the Majors, according to FanGraphs, trailing only Betts (10.4).

Video: Darling breaks down Trout's AL MVP chances

Trout's relentless drive to get better became clear in his push to improve his defense in center field, which had been rated unfavorably by advanced fielding metrics in recent years. After recording minus-6 Defensive Runs Saved in 2017, Trout focused on quickening his jumps and playing more aggressively this year. His efforts paid off, as he recorded plus-8 DRS in '18, earning him a Gold Glove Award nomination for the first time since '15.

"He achieved his goal," Angels general manager Billy Eppler said in October. "What a surprise. It's pretty remarkable. Remarkable player, remarkable person."

-- Maria Guardado

The case for each NL MVP finalist

MLB.com

The finalists in the 2018 National League Most Valuable Player Award race include a perennial NL MVP candidate and a pair of stars that ascended to superstar status last season. While the Rockies' Nolan Arenado finished fifth and fourth in NL MVP balloting in '16 and '17, respectively, the Cubs' Javier Baez and the Brewers' Christian Yelich had never finished higher than 19th (Yelich in '16). It all makes for an exciting and intriguing announcement Thursday at 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network. Here's a look at the case for each finalist.

All-time NL MVP Award winners

The finalists in the 2018 National League Most Valuable Player Award race include a perennial NL MVP candidate and a pair of stars that ascended to superstar status last season. While the Rockies' Nolan Arenado finished fifth and fourth in NL MVP balloting in '16 and '17, respectively, the Cubs' Javier Baez and the Brewers' Christian Yelich had never finished higher than 19th (Yelich in '16). It all makes for an exciting and intriguing announcement Thursday at 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network. Here's a look at the case for each finalist.

All-time NL MVP Award winners

Nolan Arenado, Rockies
They say consistency is the mark of a great player -- or as Pirates manager Clint Hurdle often repeats, "If you're good for a long time, they call you 'great.'" Arenado's strong 2018 is simply a pattern that could lead to greatness. While the NL MVP Award is for a single season, context is a big part of Arenado's argument.

Complete 2018 awards coverage

Arenado's 2018 performance isn't a bad argument. He cracked an NL-leading 38 home runs while helping his team to the postseason for the second straight year. He led the NL in multi-hit games with 57, and he finished among the top three in the NL in slugging percentage (.561, third), RBIs (110, tied for second) and extra-base hits (78, tied for third).

Video: Arenado collects his sixth straight Gold Glove Award

Arenado's candidacy gives voters a chance to recognize the elusive value of quality over time. Defensively, Arenado has six Rawlings Gold Glove Awards -- one for each year in the Majors -- and he owns the past two NL Platinum Glove Awards. He is 12th player in NL history and the first since Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt to lead the Senior Circuit in homers at least three times, the second player in MLB history to hit at least 35 home runs and 35 doubles in four consecutive seasons (Albert Belle, 1993-96), and the fourth third baseman to hit 30 home runs and drive in 100 runs in four straight years (Vinny Castilla, Chipper Jones and Alex Rodriguez).

And Arenado has been a major figure in turning the Rockies into a contender. Since 2014, Arenado's 123 go-ahead RBIs and 82 game-winning RBIs lead the Majors.

-- Thomas Harding

Javier Baez, Cubs
Versatile. Productive. Indispensable. Thrilling.

There are no shortage of adjectives to describe Baez's breakout 2018 season, when the jack-of-all-trades infielder transformed into a legitimate superstar. And if the question is about value, few have a better case than Baez, who emerged as an elite hitter with game-changing baserunning prowess and an ability to excel defensively anywhere on the field.

The offensive numbers stand out, but they only tell part of the story. What made Baez's season unique was how he blended that production -- a .290/.326/.554 slash line, 34 home runs and 111 RBIs -- with unmatched versatility. Baez began the year as the Cubs' second baseman, and he played 104 games there. He ended as their starting shortstop while also sprinkling in 22 games at third. His consistent performance at all three spots allowed the Cubs to plug him in anywhere they needed him in the infield.

Video: Javier Baez wins Silver Slugger Award at second

Simply put, Baez was the best player on what was, for most of the season, the NL's best team.

Baez's 111 RBIs paced the Senior Circuit, and he ranked fourth in slugging percentage (.554), tied for fifth in homers (34), fifth in FanGraphs WAR (5.3), seventh in runs (101) and 10th in stolen bases (21). He became one of three players in Cubs history to notch 30 home runs and steal 20 bases in a season, and his ceiling seems higher than ever.

-- Joe Trezza

Christian Yelich, Brewers
Yelich distanced himself from the rest of the NL MVP Award contenders with a remarkably productive second half, including a September surge that mirrored the Brewers' late run for the third division crown in franchise history. His .770 slugging percentage after the All-Star break was baseball's best in 14 years -- since Barry Bonds' .832 in 2004 -- and it was 145 points better than the next-best finisher in the NL this year, Ronald Acuna Jr. of the Braves.

Thanks to that finish, Yelich was the first batting champion in Brewers history at .326, and he also led the NL in slugging, OPS, OPS+, wOBA, wRC+ and all three major versions of WAR (FanGraphs, Baseball Reference and Baseball Prospectus). Among the three NL MVP Award finalists, Yelich also led the way in on-base percentage and stolen bases. Arenado led the league with 38 home runs, but Yelich was just two behind. Baez led the league with 111 RBIs, but Yelich was only one behind. He took a serious run at what would have been the NL's first Triple Crown since the Cardinals' Joe Medwick in 1937.

Video: CIN@MIL: Yelich notches his 2nd cycle of '18 vs. Reds

"He's doing special things," said Brewers manager Craig Counsell in mid-September, after Yelich hit for the cycle against the Reds for the second time in two and a half weeks, making him the first player to accomplish the feat twice in the same season against the same team. "This is what guys in this conversation do."

-- Adam McCalvy

Nolan Arenado, Javier Baez, Christian Yelich

Free age-nts: Older players with market value

MLB.com @williamfleitch

Youth is always going to be the coin of the realm in Major League Baseball, or really, in life. There are just things you can do in your 20s that you can't in your 30s, 40s or 50s. (Don't remind me.) The issue with young players is corralling their talent, not locating it. They've got talent to burn.

But let's not forget the old dogs, either. This free-agent season has revolved around Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, two unusually young free agents, but there's value to be squeezed out of guys in their late 30s and 40s as well. And I'm not just talking about clubhouse presence and experienced leadership, either. These guys can help you on the field, too.

Youth is always going to be the coin of the realm in Major League Baseball, or really, in life. There are just things you can do in your 20s that you can't in your 30s, 40s or 50s. (Don't remind me.) The issue with young players is corralling their talent, not locating it. They've got talent to burn.

But let's not forget the old dogs, either. This free-agent season has revolved around Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, two unusually young free agents, but there's value to be squeezed out of guys in their late 30s and 40s as well. And I'm not just talking about clubhouse presence and experienced leadership, either. These guys can help you on the field, too.

Here's a look at seven free agents in their late 30s and 40s who have plenty left to give. They might not be the young turks anymore, but they're not riding off into the sunset, either.

(For now, we're omitting Adrian Beltre, who is reported to be mulling retirement. If he comes back, he will obviously be in high demand.)

Bartolo Colon (44)
OK, you knew he was going to be on here somewhere. Colon, to be fair, wasn't Peak Bartolo in 2018: He had an ugly 5.78 ERA and the lowest strikeout rate of his career. In fact, Colon hasn't been an above-average pitcher since '16 (and before that, '13). But that just means he's due, right? After all, Colon made All-Star teams in those aforementioned up years, which means that he's just on the every-three-years cycle, right? Well, maybe not, but he still threw 146 innings last year; he'll take the ball whenever you need him to. There has to be one team willing to let Bartolo celebrate his 45th birthday (on May 24) on an MLB diamond.

Nelson Cruz (38)
It is very possible that Cruz will still be hitting 30 homers when he's 55 years old. His numbers took a step back in 2018, but he still had 37 big flies, a 135 OPS+ and, amusingly, a triple. You obviously can't put Cruz in the field anymore -- he played five games in right in '17 and four last year -- but which American League team couldn't use 35 homers? The Twins and Astros are the most likely suitors; if Minnesota signs him, he'll be older than new manager Rocco Baldelli by nearly 15 months.

Video: Nelson Cruz slugs his way to free agency in 2019

Rajai Davis (38)
The great irony of Davis' career is that he was a speedster who will be remembered for a homer -- that shot off Aroldis Chapman in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series -- than anything he did on the basepaths. He had the worst offensive season of his career in '18, but he still stole 21 bases, and he led the AL in steals just two years ago. If Davis doesn't retire, he might have one last October run in him.

Video: Rajai Davis is part of the 2019 free agent class

Curtis Granderson (37)
A guy who played for two teams in his first 10 seasons has now played for four in the past two seasons -- and, it should be said, in the postseason each of the past four years. Granderson still has some of the power of his prime, but, more importantly, he has almost all of the on-base skills. Even when he isn't hitting for average, he can still draw walks. Granderson has his cold spells, but he also has hot streaks that can carry a team for a week or so. Plus, at this point, he's a lucky charm to make it to October. Someone has to get Granderson there for a fifth straight year.

Video: Granderson set to enter free agency in 2019

Matt Holliday (38)
Holliday sat out most of the 2018 season before returning to the Rockies, the team he broke in with back in '04, and he looked glorious in his old duds. He was no slouch as a hitter either, putting up an .849 OPS in 25 games and hitting a double in the National League Wild Card Game win over the Cubs. Holliday is 97 games away from 2,000 for his career, and there's enough life in his bat that you'd think someone would take a chance on him. Maybe he will repeat '18 and take most of the year off before becoming a late-season bat-for-hire. Remember when Holliday was briefly with the A's in '09? He might as well do a full-career reunion tour.

Video: Holliday's first postseason hit with Rox since 2007

Ryan Madson (38)
It may have been for lack of options, but note how often manager Dave Roberts went to Madson in the postseason for the Dodgers -- 11 times. 2018 was a rough year for Madson, who had a 5.47 ERA with Washington and Los Angeles, but that was on the heels of some truly fantastic seasons -- particularly '17, when he pitched for the A's and Nationals and may have been one of the most valuable relievers in the sport. One just hopes that he can ignore his most high-profile critic.

Video: Ryan Madson heading to free agency before 2019 season

Peter Moylan (39)
First of all, baseball can never have enough sidearming relievers; may they outlive us all. Moylan -- who tends to spend his winters as a pitching coach in the Australian Baseball League (and also owns a coffee shop) -- led the Majors in appearances in 2017, but he only threw 28 1/3 innings for the Braves last year. It was a somewhat middling season, though he had his highest strikeout rate in nearly a decade, and we certainly know he's durable. Plus, baseball should seriously always have a sidearming Australian who owns a bar.

Video: Peter Moylan set to enter free agency in 2019

Will Leitch is a columnist for MLB.com.

These 5 teams need Eovaldi's elite velocity

Hard-throwing righty could be perfect free-agent addition
MLB.com @_dadler

Nathan Eovaldi's velocity makes him stand out from nearly all starting pitchers -- but especially from the others in this free-agent class.

That seems strange to say. MLB pitchers are throwing harder than ever before. But among the headliners in free agency this offseason, Eovaldi's velocity is at the head of the class. Patrick Corbin's fastball averaged 90.8 mph last season; Dallas Keuchel's averaged 89.3 mph; J.A. Happ's averaged 91.9 mph. All were below league average for starting pitchers, 92.3 mph.

Nathan Eovaldi's velocity makes him stand out from nearly all starting pitchers -- but especially from the others in this free-agent class.

That seems strange to say. MLB pitchers are throwing harder than ever before. But among the headliners in free agency this offseason, Eovaldi's velocity is at the head of the class. Patrick Corbin's fastball averaged 90.8 mph last season; Dallas Keuchel's averaged 89.3 mph; J.A. Happ's averaged 91.9 mph. All were below league average for starting pitchers, 92.3 mph.

Eovaldi's fastball, meanwhile, averaged 97.1 mph -- third-fastest among regular starters, behind only Luis Severino and Noah Syndergaard. He hit 100-plus 10 times, the most of any regular starter. And that doesn't even count the postseason showcase he put on for the Red Sox during their World Series run.

Highest average fastball velocity by starting pitchers in 2018
Minimum 500 4-seamers/2-seamers/sinkers thrown
1. Luis Severino: 97.6 mph
2. Noah Syndergaard: 97.4 mph
3. Nathan Eovaldi: 97.1 mph
4 (tie). Gerrit Cole: 96.5 mph
4 (tie). Tyler Glasnow: 96.5 mph

Plenty of teams need starting pitching and will target rotation upgrades this offseason. But here are five that don't just need any starter -- they need a starter with Eovaldi's elite velocity.

1. Milwaukee Brewers
Avg. FB velo by team SP: 90.8 mph (T-3rd-lowest in MLB)
Percent of FBs thrown 95+ mph: 1.9% (3rd-lowest in MLB)
The Brewers didn't let a thin rotation prevent them from getting all the way to Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. But now that the season's over, starting pitching should be a chief area to address. In all of 2018, Brewers starters combined to throw 153 fastballs 95 mph or faster, less than 2 percent. (Compare that to teams like the Astros and Mets, whose starting rotations threw nearly half their fastballs 95-plus mph.) Eovaldi threw 680 fastballs 95-plus.

Video: ALCS Gm5: Eovaldi fans Bregman with 101.6-mph heater

Consider the average fastball velocities of some of Milwaukee's starters: Chase Anderson averaged 92.3 mph, Wade Miley averaged 90.7, Freddy Peralta averaged 90.6, Gio Gonzalez and Jhoulys Chacin averaged 90.1 mph, Zach Davies averaged 89.8 and Brent Suter averaged 86.6. There's far more to good pitching than high velocity, but Eovaldi is both a good pitcher and one who would ideally complement the Brewers' staff.

2. San Francisco Giants
Avg. FB velo by team SP: 91.2 mph (7th-lowest in MLB)
Percent of FBs thrown 95+ mph: 0.4% (lowest in MLB)
With the analytically minded Farhan Zaidi taking over baseball operations in San Francisco and looking to build the Giants back up into a contender, Eovaldi would be an attractive option for a lot of reasons beyond pure velocity. But velocity is a big part of the package, and it would give the Giants' rotation something it doesn't have.

The Giants didn't have a single starting pitcher this season with even a league-average fastball velocity. Their hardest-throwing regular starters, Jeff Samardzija and Andrew Suarez, averaged 92.1 mph. Derek Holland sat at 91.5, Dereck Rodriguez at 91.2, Chris Stratton at 91.0, Madison Bumgarner at 90.8, and Ty Blach and Johnny Cueto at 89.7. Perhaps most shockingly, San Francisco's starting rotation as a team threw just 30 fastballs 95 mph or harder all year. That was by far the fewest in MLB -- Eovaldi alone threw more than 20 times as many. 

3. Arizona D-backs
Avg. FB velo by team SP: 91.0 mph (6th-lowest in MLB)
Percent of FBs thrown 95+ mph: 4.3% (8th-lowest in MLB)
Corbin may have pitched his last game for Arizona, and there's a chance the D-backs could try to trade Zack Greinke this offseason. Why not replace their low-90s fastballs with Eovaldi's serious heat?

Video: BOS@ATL: Eovaldi hurls fastest strikeout pitch of '18

Corbin's fastball velocity didn't matter so much since he was one of the Majors' heaviest breaking-ball users, racking up an MLB-best 387 swings and misses and 195 strikeouts on that pitch alone. And Greinke's stellar command and craftiness more than made up for his 89.6-mph average fastball velocity. But Eovaldi is a different type of starter, one who could pair excellently with Robbie Ray and Taijuan Walker -- two D-backs pitchers who can dial it up.

4. San Diego Padres
Avg. FB velo by team SP: 91.3 mph (8th-lowest in MLB)
Percent of FBs thrown 95+ mph: 2.0% (T-4th-lowest in MLB)
The Padres have a lot of young talent in the organization, and that includes pitching prospects. But not many of them will be Major League-ready in 2019. San Diego has been linked to Eovaldi as a possible suitor -- Eovaldi is just 28, so he could help an up-and-coming team now and in the future. From a stuff standpoint, he's just the type of the pitcher the Padres should seek to add to their rotation.

The Padres' staff last season wasn't exactly built on velocity. They had four pitchers who made at least 20 starts -- veterans Clayton Richard and Tyson Ross and rookies Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer. Those four had average fastball velocities of 90.0 mph, 90.7 mph, 90.4 mph and 91.2 mph, respectively. San Diego does have a couple of arms with a little more zip (Bryan Mitchell averaged 94.1 mph, and No. 14 prospect Jacob Nix averaged 92.9), but no one resembling Eovaldi in either production or tools.

5. Oakland A's
Avg. FB velo by team SP: 91.9 mph (11th-lowest in MLB)
Percent of FBs thrown 95+ mph: 11.2% (11th-lowest in MLB)
By the end of the 2018 season, the A's rotation was decimated by injuries. But that didn't stop their surprise surge to the postseason. They used an opener and a slate of relief arms against the Yankees in the American League Wild Card Game, but come Opening Day 2019, they'll need starting pitching. A live arm like Eovaldi could be just what they need.

Video: BOS@NYY Gm3: Statcast™ measures Eovaldi's heater

At first glance, the A's starters' velocity doesn't look quite as low as other teams on this list. But their hardest-throwing "starter," averaging 95.9 mph, was Liam Hendriks -- who's really a reliever but pitched as an opener down the stretch (including the AL Wild Card Game). Next was Frankie Montas (95.7 mph), who did start a slate of games in the summer but was in the bullpen by September and barely used. Aside from them, A's starters rarely touched 95 mph, with Edwin Jackson and Kendall Graveman the only ones to do so occasionally. Sean Manaea, for example, averaged 90.4 mph; Mike Fiers averaged 90.3. Eovaldi would bring an injection of electricity that would be perfect for an exciting young team trying to do it again in 2019.

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

Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks, Nathan Eovaldi

Rumors: Machado, Realmuto, Grandal, Harper

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

Are Yankees gearing up for serious pursuit of Machado? Will A-Rod play a part?
Nov. 15: Count MLB Network insider Jon Heyman among those who expect the Yankees to make a serious run at free-agent infielder Manny Machado, despite team owner Hal Steinbrenner saying that he found Machado's comments on his lack of hustle "troubling."

"I think [ownership loves] the guys that want to play for the Yankees," Heyman said Thursday on WFAN. "And Machado, they know that he wants to be a Yankee, or have heard that."

Heyman pointed to Alex Rodriguez's relationship with Machado as a potential factor that could sway the Yankees toward the 26-year-old. Rodriguez, who maintains an advisor role in the organization, has known Machado since the latter was a teenager, with both players having a connection through the Miami baseball scene.

Steinbrenner expressed some reservations about Machado on Wednesday, stemming from the shortstop's controversial interview with Ken Rosenthal during the postseason about not being a "Johnny Hustle" type of player.

"If it's a $300 million guy or a $10 million guy, clearly those comments are troubling," Steinbrenner said. "That's really [general manager Brian Cashman's] job, if we're interested in any player, to sit down with them face-to-face and ask them, 'Where did this come from? What was the context around the entire interview? Was there a point? How do you justify it?'

"Because that ain't going to sell where we play baseball."

But Heyman thinks Steinbrenner's comments were merely a case of the owner "saying the right thing."

"If you say that you don't mind that he didn't hustle, then you're not really doing the right thing," Heyman said. "Publicly, you've gotta take a big stand on pro hustling, it's not a difficult concept. So I think [Steinbrenner] just said the right thing."

Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay shared similar thoughts on his radio show Wednesday about the club's interest in Machado.

"The feeling I get, is that the Yankees are in, in a serious way, on Manny Machado," Kay said. "Now, Brian Cashman has said ... 'he's on the radar.' I think he's more than on the radar."

Tweet from @YESNetwork: .@RealMichaelKay: "The Yankees are IN, in a serious way, on Manny Machado." pic.twitter.com/yn5J9bYDx6

Heyman: Marlins don't want to trade Realmuto in NL East
Nov. 15: Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto is one of the hottest names on the trade market, and Miami may have four potential suitors in its own division, as the Nationals, Mets, Phillies and Braves could all use a backstop. However, the fan bases of those teams might not want to get too hopeful.

As he mentioned Thursday in an appearance on WFAN, MLB Network insider Jon Heyman is hearing that the Marlins don't want to trade Realmuto within the National League East.

Realmuto's agent, Jeff Berry, made it clear in October that his client has no intention of signing a long-term contract extension with the Marlins, who have control over the catcher for two more seasons before he can become a free agent. Berry also predicted Realmuto "will definitely be wearing a different uniform by the start of Spring Training."

Even if they exclude the NL East from trade talks, the Marlins will likely still have plenty of teams that are interested in acquiring Realmuto, including the Astros.

In his story (subscription required) looking at one move each 2018 postseason team needs to make to get back to October, The Athletic's Jim Bowden named Realmuto as the player Houston should target, writing that the catcher is "worth giving up an elite prospect for."

Grandal's postseason woes could scare suitors
Nov. 15: Grandal was worth 3.6 fWAR and 125 wRC+ last year -- trailing only J.T. Realmuto, perhaps the most coveted trade chip this offseason -- yet some scouts question whether the veteran catcher's October ghosts will catch up with him in free agency. 

In a recent article by ESPN's Buster Olney (subscription required), multiple front-office evaluators suggested that while Grandal is a rare breed of being one of the game's best catchers both offensively and defensively, it might be hard for some clubs to look past his past two postseasons, when he was essentially benched for Austin Barnes. 

"Do you forget the bad stuff from October, and focus on all of the good stuff from the summer?" one AL evaluator asked, per Olney. 

Over 32 career postseason games, all over his past four seasons with the Dodgers, Grandal has slashed .107/.264/.200 with 35 strikeouts across 92 plate appearances. Even for his prowess at pitch framing, Grandal was on the wrong end of four passed balls this past October alone. 

Video: NLCS Gm 3: Grandal discusses defensive performance

"You figure that whatever team signs him will probably be one of the clubs that cares about the subtle [good] stuff he does on defense," another evaluator told Olney. 

Olney notes that the Astros, Nationals, Braves, Angels and Mets are in the market for a catcher, as are the Dodgers, whom Grandal turned down a qualifying offer from. So there's clearly interest from his incumbent club, even if it's not necessarily long term. And Realmuto, who might affect Grandal's market, is reportedly attached to an incredibly high asking price from the Marlins via a trade. 

Olney suggested that the White Sox could be a potential suitor for Grandal. After three full seasons in rebuild mode, Chicago is looking to contend again, and it has been linked to the market's top talent.

"There is skepticism the White Sox will, in the end, land either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, and Grandal might be the next-best position player fit for the White Sox, if they believe Grandal is the right guy to work with a very young group of starting pitchers," Olney writes. 

As MLB.com's Mike Petriello noted recently, the 2018 season was one of the weakest in MLB history in terms of catcher production. In that context, Grandal would appear valuable. But some teams also account for postseason performances, and Grandal's have been glaringly poor.

Should signing Harper be the Dodgers' priority?
Nov. 15: After re-signing Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers may be preparing for a relatively quiet offseason. But The Athletic's Jim Bowden thinks the club should look to make a massive splash by signing one of the biggest names on the free-agent market: Bryce Harper.

In his story (subscription required) looking at one move each 2018 postseason team needs to make to get back to October, Bowden writes that Harper to the Dodgers "makes too much sense," even if the club is saying it isn't planning on significantly increasing payroll.

The Dodgers reportedly tried to acquire Harper via waivers in August, and after losing in the World Series for the second straight season, it wouldn't be a major surprise if they bid on the slugger in an effort to get over the hump.

As Bowden points out, Harper would give the Dodgers' lineup a strong left-right balance, and his star power would be a major marketing point in Los Angeles.

Is a deGrom extension coming?
Nov 14: Jacob deGrom just had a historic season in which he led MLB with a microscopic 1.70 ERA while racking up 269 strikeouts over 217 innings -- career bests across the board for the right-hander -- on his way to winning the National League Cy Young Award. Is now the right time for the Mets to lock in their ace, who is not eligible to become a free agent until after the 2020 season, with a long-term deal?

In a story for the New York Post, MLB Network insider Joel Sherman explores what an extension might look like -- one that could be acceptable to both deGrom and the Mets. Sherman's proposed numbers are as follows:

"My concept would be a five-year, $155.5 million contract that would pay deGrom $20 million in 2019, $27.5 million in 2020 and then $36 million annually from 2021-23. The $31.1 million average would beat the annual value of all pitchers except Zack Greinke (I assume positionally that both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado will exceed the $31 million average of Miguel Cabrera this offseason). The $36 million would top the most ever given in any singular season to a pitcher. (Max Scherzer has $35 million seasons in his contract.)"

deGrom has performed as well as just about any pitcher over the past few seasons, so Sherman is arguing that it makes sense to pay him as such. Couple that with the fact that new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen -- who, as deGrom's agent back in July, put pressure on the Mets to either extend the star or trade him -- has stated that he sees the club contending and not selling. In that vein of thinking, a long-term pact fits, and in fact, momentum is building around finding ways to keep deGrom in Flushing, SNY's Andy Martino writes.

Working out the details and digits is where things get complicated, however. New York would have to weigh the value of deGrom as their franchise face, as well as his production on the mound against his age (30) and injury history (including Tommy John surgery). In deGrom's case, the question is whether he could be passing up an even bigger payday in two years, at which point he'll be free to negotiate with 29 other clubs.

Projecting Harper's next contract
Nov. 14: While superstar slugger Bryce Harper is primed to cash in this offseason, he may have several options to consider when it comes to the length of his next contract, which Sports Illustrated's Emma Baccellieri covered in an article for si.com on Tuesday.

The most likely option would seem to be what Baccellieri terms "The Lifetime Deal," a 10-year contract in the neighborhood of $350 million.

These types of deals are risky for the signing team, as the Angels and the Mariners have found out after inking Albert Pujols and Robinson Cano, respectively. But as Baccellieri points out, Pujols was 31 years old and Cano 30 when they signed. Harper is only 26, giving him a better chance to make a long-term contract pay off.

Harper could also consider a shorter-term deal with a higher average annual value (AAV). Baccellieri proposes a four-year, $170 million contract that would blow away the record for AAV, which is held by Zack Greinke at $34.4 million.

Taking that one step further, Harper could sign a one-year deal for $45 million, betting on his ability return to MVP form in 2019 before entering free agency again next offseason. This would obviously be risky for the outfielder, as he could have a down year or suffer an injury, but he might consider it if the offers he receives aren't much better than the one he reportedly rejected from the Nationals (10 years, $300 million) on the final day of the regular season.

Which teams could benefit most from Eovaldi's elite fastball velocity? 
Nov. 14: A number of clubs could be targeting Nathan Eovaldi this winter because the hard-throwing hurler stands out from the rest of the free-agent class -- which includes Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel and J.A. Happ -- with his velocity. His fastball averaged 97.1 mph last season, which ranked third among regular starters behind only Luis Severino and Noah Syndergaard. He hit triple digits 10 times, more than any other regular starter.

MLB.com's David Adler speculates five potential landing spots for the 28-year-old veteran, idenifying the Brewers, Giants, D-backs, Padres and A's as clubs that not only need a starter, but could use a starter with Eovaldi's velocity.

The Giants, for instance, didn't have any starters with league-average fastball velocity in 2018 and had the lowest rate of fastballs throwing at 95 mph or greater in the Majors (0.4 percent). More >

Evaluating the over-30 market using Statcast™'s spring speed metric
Nov. 14: This year's free agency is centered around in-their-prime stars like Bryce Harper, Manny Machado or Patrick Corbin, but there's a number of veterans who can still contribute available on the market. 

It's difficult, however, to predict how an aging star will perform late in his careers, but Statcast™ can help. MLB.com's Mike Petriello looked at the sprint speed -- which tracks top running speed in feet per second in a player's fastest one-second window -- to evaluate some of the top over-30 free agents.

The results revealed promising news for Mike Moustakas -- whose speed recovered in 2018 after a down 2017 that was likely the result of his knee injury -- and helped quantify the affect of injury on Brian Dozier's effectiveness.

Andrew McCutchen hasn't shown any signs of slowing down, despite turning 32 last month, making him a solid fit for a contender with outfield needs, while Daniel Murphy's speed steadily rebounded after he started slow coming off micro-fracture knee surgery last offseason. More >

Betances wants the Yankees to sign Machado
Nov. 14: As the Yankees consider whether to make a run at free-agent infielder Manny Machado, one New York player gave the potential move his full endorsement Tuesday.

"I think he'll put us over the top," Yankees reliever Dellin Betances said. "We were short last year. Things could have gone our way, but they didn't. Adding a guy like that would help any team. Our lineup is already impactful, so adding a guy like that would be pretty crazy."

Betances and Machado were teammates for the Dominican Republic in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, and they have plenty of experience as opponents from Machado's years with the Orioles.

"I played with him in the Classic and got a chance to develop a good relationship with him over the years, playing against him," Betances said. "I'm hoping that we get him. I'm keeping close tabs on it. It's not my decision, but that would be a big piece for the team. We have a good team, but adding a guy like that, that can play at a high level and has played at a high level for quite some time, we would be great."

Finding trade matches for Greinke
Nov 14: There's no shortage of quality starting pitching available this offseason, via free agency (think: Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel, Nathan Eovaldi, etc.) or possibly by way of a trade (read: Corey Kluber, James Paxton, Carlos Carrasco, etc.). Is it time to add one more name to the latter list?

While there hasn't been quite as much buzz about it, Zack Greinke has been floated as a chip in the wake of reports that the D-backs could consider becoming sellers and swapping their two biggest stars -- the right-hander himself and/or Paul Goldschmidt, as MLB.com's Steve Gilbert discusses -- as MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi discusses on MLB Network.

Video: D-backs to become sellers this offseason?

So which teams could be the best fits for Greinke, one of the most durable, consistent, top-of-the-rotation arms around?

MLB.com's David Adler has come up with a list of three strong club candidates, all of whom could use a high-end starter and have the funds to cover all or most of Greinke's massive contract ($104.5 million through 2021), depending on the potential return headed back to Arizona.

Greinke is 35 years old, but he remains healthy and productive, turning in remarkably similar seasons in 2017 (3.20 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 4.8 K-to-BB ratio) and '18 (3.21 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 4.6 K-to-BB ratio).

Trout needs help. Can Corbin provide it?
Nov 14: With Mike Trout under control for just two more seasons, the clock is ticking for the Angels to build a competitive team around him. With that in mind, MLB.com's Richard Justice puts the club third on his list of teams that could spend big in free agency this offseason.

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

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

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

Are the Reds willing to pay up for a top free-agent starter?
Nov. 14: The Reds need pitching and are expected to spend aggressively this offseason, but MLB.com's Richard Justice writes that the contract demands of Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel -- arguably the top two starters on the market -- may be out of Cincinnati's "comfort zone."

Justice notes that the Reds could sign multiple starters, but they may look at less expensive pitchers. Nathan Eovaldi, J.A. Happ and Charlie Morton stand out as attractive options from the second tier.

Another factor that might deter the Reds from pursuing Corbin or Keuchel is the fact that they'll need to surrender a Draft pick to sign either pitcher after both rejected qualifying offers. Given the state of the team, adding a big-name starter won't make Cincinnati an instant contender, but signing two reliable arms would help.

Would a Corbin/Donaldson duo be a better buy than Harper?
Nov. 14: The Phillies and the Cardinals placed first and second on MLB.com's list of teams that are ready to spend big this offseason, with Richard Justice noting that both clubs would be a great fit for Bryce Harper. But Justice also mentions a potential alternative for both teams -- signing Patrick Corbin and Josh Donaldson.

MLB Network insider Jon Heyman projects Harper will sign for $330 million over 11 years, giving him an average annual value of $30 million. Agent Scott Boras is believed to be asking for upwards of $400 million, and there's a good chance Harper will end up making at least $35 million per year.

Per Heyman's projections, the Corbin/Donaldson duo would cost $38 million on average, with Corbin landing a five-year contract for $100 million and Donaldson signing for $36 million over two seasons.

There are risk factors associated with both approaches, but signing Corbin and Donaldson may have more short-term upside than using that money on Harper alone. Corbin was worth 6.3 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in 2018, per FanGraphs, while Donaldson averaged 6.9 WAR per season from '13-17. If the Phils or Cards got the best versions of Corbin and Donaldson, it could put them over the top in their respective divisions.

Manfred's contract extended through 2024

MLB.com @feinsand

Major League Baseball's clubs voted on Thursday to extend the contract of Commissioner Rob Manfred through the 2024 regular season.

Cardinals chairman and CEO Bill DeWitt, who chairs the league's finance committee, made the announcement at the conclusion of the Owners Meetings in Atlanta.

Major League Baseball's clubs voted on Thursday to extend the contract of Commissioner Rob Manfred through the 2024 regular season.

Cardinals chairman and CEO Bill DeWitt, who chairs the league's finance committee, made the announcement at the conclusion of the Owners Meetings in Atlanta.

Manfred was elected Commissioner in August 2014, taking over from Bud Selig in January 2015. He had previously served as the league's chief operating officer beginning in 2013. A graduate of Cornell University and Harvard Law School, Manfred joined MLB full-time in 1998, serving as an executive vice president overseeing labor relations, economics and league affairs.

"Every single day has really been a great experience for me," Manfred said at a news conference in Atlanta. "People overestimate the difficulties -- I'm not saying there aren't difficulties -- but the great parts of this job really outweigh whatever friction you may have on a particular day. The opportunity to be associated with the greatest game in the world outweighs all of that from my perspective."

Under Manfred's watch as Commissioner, MLB agreed to a new five-year collective bargaining agreement with the MLB Players Association through 2021, continuing the sport's run of labor peace to 26 years.

Manfred has stated a number of goals during his term, including the expansion of youth participation, international growth, improved pace of play, the infusion of technology into the game, increased marketing of the game's young stars and furthering the game's diversity. He also began MLB's signature youth participation program, PLAY BALL, a partnership with USA Baseball and USA Softball.

In 2016, MLB returned to Cuba for the first time in 17 years when the Tampa Bay Rays played an exhibition game against the Cuban National Team, a game jointly attended by President Barack Obama and Cuban president Raul Castro.

After playing regular-season games in Puerto Rico and Mexico this past season, MLB will host a series between the Yankees and Red Sox in London next June, marking the first games ever played in Europe.

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

deGrom, Snell rise to top as 1st-time Cy winners

MLB.com @castrovince

The Cy Young script has been rewritten. When the Mets' Jacob deGrom and the Rays' Blake Snell were announced by the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Wednesday night as the 2018 winners of baseball's most prestigious pitching prizes, it was a window into the metrics that matter most when evaluating the modern-day starter and into the way the starting role itself has been altered -- perhaps irrevocably -- in MLB.

With deGrom's runaway win over three-time winner Max Scherzer (deGrom received all but one first-place vote) in the National League, the voters laid to waste any past prestige associated with the win stat and simply sided with one of the most dominant pitching seasons of our time.

The Cy Young script has been rewritten. When the Mets' Jacob deGrom and the Rays' Blake Snell were announced by the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Wednesday night as the 2018 winners of baseball's most prestigious pitching prizes, it was a window into the metrics that matter most when evaluating the modern-day starter and into the way the starting role itself has been altered -- perhaps irrevocably -- in MLB.

With deGrom's runaway win over three-time winner Max Scherzer (deGrom received all but one first-place vote) in the National League, the voters laid to waste any past prestige associated with the win stat and simply sided with one of the most dominant pitching seasons of our time.

Complete 2018 awards coverage

And in Snell's close call in the American League over Justin Verlander, the voters went with the sizzle of Snell's rate stats despite the paltry (by typical Cy Young Award standards, that is) size of his workload.

Video: Jacob deGrom named the 2018 NL Cy Young Award winner

deGrom's 10 wins are now, by far, the fewest for a Cy Young Award-winning starter. And Snell's 180 2/3 innings pitched are now, by far, the fewest for a Cy Young Award-winning starter in a non-strike season.

Where do deGrom, Snell rank among Cy Young winners?

:: NL Cy Young Award voting totals ::

"I would say it's just the quality of work [that matters]," Snell said. "You look at deGrom, and he had a great ERA, and he was going deeper into ballgames than me. So you can't put the wins and losses on him as heavily. Just looking at it, I feel like it's turning more into [what is the] quality of work and what did you accomplish in those innings? I think that's the way it's going."

With ample means of measuring a pitcher's impact in the modern day, certain sacred cows don't necessarily carry the weight they once did.

Then again, it was easy to be enticed by the sub-2.00 ERAs deGrom and Snell carried at season's end.

No qualifying pitcher had a better ERA this season than deGrom's 1.70 mark. It was the best in baseball by .19 points and the best in the NL by .67. In fact, it was the sixth-lowest among qualifying pitchers since MLB lowered the mound to its current height in 1969, and deGrom's league- and ballpark-adjusted 216 ERA+ was the 24th-best mark in big league history.

"I really do love competing," he said. "That's why we play this game, to go out there and compete. Just every fifth day, it's your day and you want to stay out there as long as possible and try to put your team in position to win."

Unlike Snell, deGrom's greatness came with no caveats with regard to workload, as his 217 innings were the second most in baseball. He set records for consecutive quality starts and consecutive starts allowing three or fewer runs.

But with little help from his supporting cast (only two qualifying pitchers had a lower run support average than deGrom's 3.57), deGrom finished just 10-9. So the NL race -- in which the Nationals' Scherzer received the only other first-place vote and Aaron Nola of the Phillies finished third -- became a referendum on the present-day value (or lack thereof) of a win stat invented in the late 1800s.

Video: deGrom on maintaining mechanics, competitive spirit

Unwittingly, deGrom became the suitable-for-framing poster boy for the win's weakness as an accurate descriptor of a pitcher's season. He made 19 starts in which he went at least five innings (the bar for entry for starting pitcher wins) and allowed one earned run or none. He won just nine of those starts -- a "conversion" rate of 47 percent in a league in which starters with such a line recorded a win 60 percent of the time.

All-time Cy Young Award winners

In the end, it boils down to this: deGrom won 10 games with the Majors' best ERA, and the White Sox's Lucas Giolito won 10 games with the Majors' worst ERA (6.13).

Video: deGrom and Snell take home Cy Young Awards

"My thought process," said deGrom, who never revealed his frustration with the lack of help, "was, 'Hey, take the ball every fifth day and try to put this team in a position to win and control what you can control.'"

:: AL Cy Young Award voting totals ::

So deGrom rose above not only Scherzer's 300 strikeouts and Nola's breakout year but his own win total. The previous low win total for a Cy Young starter was 13, for both Fernando Valenzuela (13-7 in strike-shortened 1981) and Felix Hernandez (13-12 in 2010).

Snell's selection, meanwhile, was a reflection of the evolving role of the starting pitcher and the diminishing emphasis on innings pitched.

Prior to Snell, no starting pitcher in a non-strike year had won a Cy Young Award with fewer than the 198 1/3 innings pitched by Clayton Kershaw in 2014. The 200-inning bar has traditionally been a standard for Cy Young Award consideration, but, in a 2018 season that saw the fewest 200-inning pitchers for a non-strike year (13), that bar was abolished. Snell averaged just 5.8 innings per start and also had a two-week disabled-list stint with left shoulder fatigue.

The difficulty in determining what to do about the 33 1/3-inning gap between Snell and Verlander was reflected in the final totals. Though the only two previous pitchers in the DH era to post sub-2.00 ERAs and 20 wins were unanimous Cy Young selections (Ron Guidry in 1978 and Pedro Martinez in 2000), Snell received 17 first-place votes and Verlander, who won the AL Cy Young (and AL MVP) in 2011 and has now finished second three times, received 13.

But the southpaw Snell, 25, certainly made the most of his time on the mound to become the second Cy Young Award winner in Rays history, joining David Price in 2012. He was the Majors' only 21-game winner, and his .178 average against and 219 ERA+ were the best in baseball. Snell's 1.89 ERA was the best among AL qualifiers. He allowed two or fewer runs in 27 of 31 starts and one or none in 21. In 12 starts against the AL's five playoff teams -- the Red Sox, Yankees, Indians, A's and Astros -- Snell went 9-2 with a 2.00 ERA.

Video: Blake Snell on joining David Price in Rays history

"I felt it was all confidence, honestly," Snell said. "Mechanics always felt good. For the most part, it was confidence that I could be at that level and compete day in and day out. That's what helped me get to where I'm at right now."

There was some irony in the fact that the Rays -- the first team to employ the "opener" strategy and the rare team to utilize regular bullpen days throughout the season -- also provided a Cy Young Award winner.

"I felt with the opener, I had a bigger role on the team, just because we didn't have as many starters as everyone else," Snell said. "But with that, I was excited to be the guy that they could rely on and count on. I think it helped me become better and better and believe in myself more and more."

Video: Snell discusses his confidence going forward to 2019

There was a time when a starter with less than 200 innings or with just 10 wins had no reason to believe he could win the Cy Young. Wednesday's result was a reflection of how much times have changed.

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

Jacob deGrom, Blake Snell

Who's the most valuable MVP of all time?

MLB has been giving MVP Awards every year since 1931. It's the sport's highest individual honor, and its history is basically a list of the most outrageously awesome seasons and players ever -- a list that, after Thursday night, has a couple more members.

But all that greatness got us thinking: Just which MVP was the MVPiest of all? We're not looking for the empirical best season, but the most valuable in the grand scheme of things. For example: Joe Morgan's 1976 campaign is one of the best all-around seasons of all-time, but you won't find him here, because even without Morgan those Reds were a team full of future Hall of Famers -- plus the MVP runner-up, George Foster.

In predicting Harper's team, survey says ...

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.

Should signing Harper be the Dodgers' priority?
Nov. 15: After re-signing Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers may be preparing for a relatively quiet offseason. But The Athletic's Jim Bowden thinks the club should look to make a massive splash by signing one of the biggest names on the free-agent market: Bryce Harper.

In his story (subscription required) looking at one move each 2018 postseason team needs to make to get back to October, Bowden writes that Harper to the Dodgers "makes too much sense," even if the club is saying it isn't planning on significantly increasing payroll.

The Dodgers reportedly tried to acquire Harper via waivers in August, and after losing in the World Series for the second straight season, it wouldn't be a major surprise if they bid on the slugger in an effort to get over the hump.

As Bowden points out, Harper would give the Dodgers' lineup a strong left-right balance, and his star power would be a major marketing point in Los Angeles.

Is a return to D.C. possible for Harper?
Nov. 14: Baseball fans, writers, executives -- just about everyone involved in and around the sport, really -- have been anticipating Bryce Harper's free agency for, well, quite some time. What amount of money could he sign for? How many years would he get? What team will land him?

Wouldn't it be funny, then -- or maybe even a little anticlimactic -- if he stayed put?

In a close count, the on-air talent for MLB Network Radio predicted that Harper will re-sign with the Nationals.

Tweet from @MLBNetworkRadio: 🚨🚨 FREE AGENT PREDICTIONS 🚨🚨The @MLBNetworkRadio team says:Brantley ������ #BravesCorbin ������ #YankeesEovaldi ������ #RedSoxGrandal ������ #AstrosHapp ������ #YankeesHarper ������ #NationalsKeuchel ������ #NationalsKimbrel ������ #BravesMachado ������ #PhilliesPollock ������ #Mets pic.twitter.com/zXhhCHEFXi

While a number of other teams have been linked to the Harper market -- from favorites like the Phillies and Yankees, to other big-market possibilities like the Dodgers to dark-horse candidates like the White Sox -- it wouldn't necessarily be surprising to see the 26-year-old return to the Nationals.

After all, it's the only franchise Harper has known as a professional. The Nats drafted Harper and helped him develop into a big-name star as well as an MVP. Let's not forget: The club still hasn't won a postseason series -- something that, no doubt, Harper wouldn't mind trying to change.

Plus, general manager Mike Rizzo has made it known that he would welcome Harper as a part of the team's future, recently stating -- amid reports that the Nationals offered a 10-year, $300 million contract at the end of the regular season -- "We certainly have made attempts to sign him. He's our guy. We're looking forward to seeing what can transpire." 

Projecting Harper's next contract
Nov. 14: While superstar slugger Bryce Harper is primed to cash in this offseason, he may have several options to consider when it comes to the length of his next contract, which Sports Illustrated's Emma Baccellieri covered in an article for si.com on Tuesday.

The most likely option would seem to be what Baccellieri terms "The Lifetime Deal," a 10-year contract in the neighborhood of $350 million.

These types of deals are risky for the signing team, as the Angels and the Mariners have found out after inking Albert Pujols and Robinson Cano, respectively. But as Baccellieri points out, Pujols was 31 years old and Cano 30 when they signed. Harper is only 26, giving him a better chance to make a long-term contract pay off.

Harper could also consider a shorter-term deal with a higher average annual value (AAV). Baccellieri proposes a four-year, $170 million contract that would blow away the record for AAV, which is held by Zack Greinke at $34.4 million.

Taking that one step further, Harper could sign a one-year deal for $45 million, betting on his ability return to MVP form in 2019 before entering free agency again next offseason. This would obviously be risky for the outfielder, as he could have a down year or suffer an injury, but he might consider it if the offers he receives aren't much better than the one he reportedly rejected from the Nationals (10 years, $300 million) on the final day of the regular season.

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.

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.

Tweet from @Feinsand: According to a source, the White Sox are actively trying to trade Avisail Garcia. There���s a sense within the industry that Chicago will non-tender Garcia if they���re unable to deal him.

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.

Harper rejects the Nationals' qualifying offer
Nov. 12: Bryce Harper has rejected the Nationals' one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer, as was expected. The 26-year-old superstar is expected to receive a long-term contract somewhere in the $300 million-$400 million range.

Since he was made a qualifying offer, Washington would get a selection after the fourth round of next year's MLB Draft, and the club that signs Harper would be subject to losing a pick (or picks) and international bonus pool money.

Are the Phillies shopping Santana to make 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.

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.

How will Rizzo address the 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.

Rosenthal: Harper was very nearly an Astro
Nov. 10: The coming weeks will determine whose uniform Bryce Harper wears next, but the superstar outfielder very nearly switched uniforms at last season's Trade Deadline. 

In a story published Saturday for the The Athletic, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal revealed that the Astros had a deal in place for Harper leading up to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline before Nationals ownership rejected the move, per Major League sources. The Astros, without Harper, were ultimately unable to defend their 2017 World Series title as they fell to the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series.

Rosenthal reports the proposed trade would have sent right-handed pitcher J.B. Bukauskas, the Astros' eighth-ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline, to Washington along with two other Minor League players for Harper. One of those two players could have been catcher Garrett Stubbs, Houston's No. 15 prospect, who was brought up in discussions between the two clubs. That kind of haul would offer significantly more value to the Nationals than their current compensation if Harper rejects their qualifying offer and signs with another team: A pick after the fourth round of the 2019 MLB Draft, per the current rules in MLB's Collective Bargaining Agreement. The Nationals' potential compensation is lower than 28 of the other 29 Major League clubs (with the Red Sox being the other exception) because they exceeded the $197 million competitive balance threshold (CBT) in '18.

The Nationals informed teams that Harper was available in the days leading up to the non-waiver Deadline as their NL East hopes began to wane, but general manager Mike Rizzo informed the Washington Post on the morning of the Deadline via text that "Bryce is not going anywhere." Harper then rejected the Nationals' 10-year, $300 million contract offer at the close of the regular season, per the Post. 

Bukauskas, 22, missed the first three months of 2018 due to a slipped disc, but returned to compile a 2.14 ERA in 59 combined Minor League innings while ascending to Double-A. Stubbs hit .310 and posted an .836 OPS across 84 games for Triple-A Fresno last season. 

Is the Harper-to-the-Yankees dream dead?
Nov. 10: As he prepares for an offseason in which he'll be heavily promoting Bryce Harper behind closed doors, agent Scott Boras spent some time this week talking up his client in public. When he wasn't touting Harper as a "generational player" who is worth "$400 million to $500 million" in true value, Boras was trumpeting Harper's ability to help a team at first base.

The Daily News' Bill Madden thinks the latter proclamation was a last-ditch effort by Boras to keep alive an idea the agent has held for quite some time -- that Harper will sign the biggest contract in baseball history with the Yankees.

But Madden considers the Harper-to-the-Yankees dream to be "dead," noting that New York has no interest in spending another $250 million or more on an outfielder.

Madden writes that the Yanks' priority instead is "to add at least two more proven quality frontline pitchers," and he predicts that after staying under the luxury-tax threshold in 2018, New York "will not be out-bid for Patrick Corbin" or J.A. Happ, if they choose to pursue them.

Could Harper captivate Chicago like Sammy Sosa?
Nov. 10: Bryce Harper or Manny Machado? Manny Machado or Bryce Harper? The White Sox would likely be thrilled to sign either player this offseason, but if they had to pick just one, who would it be?

In the opinion of Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times, it should be Harper.

Morrissey argues that while Machado may be the more consistent player, Harper is more compelling and would be the most magnetic baseball personality in Chicago since Sammy Sosa.

And although the White Sox are hoping to put their rebuild into overdrive this offseason, Morrissey contends that owner Jerry Reinsdorf should first be concerned about filling Guaranteed Rate Field, where a captivating personality and prodigious talent like Harper would be a significant draw.

MLB, DAZN agree to 3-year live digital rights deal

MLB.com

Major League Baseball and global sports streaming platform DAZN have agreed to a three-year live digital rights partnership in the United States, set to begin with the 2019 MLB regular season, it was announced today by Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr., and DAZN Group Executive Chairman John Skipper. Thursday's announcement was made after the 30 Major League clubs approved the deal.

The partnership will deliver a live show each weeknight, available to subscribers via DAZN's digital sports streaming platform, that will feature live look-ins to the best MLB action as it's happening. This show will seamlessly whip around live MLB games to showcase the most suspenseful moments, crucial plays and biggest rallies. Additional details of the show, which will be coproduced by MLB and DAZN, will be announced in the coming months. There also will be on-demand MLB content and live weekend wrap shows available to DAZN subscribers.

Major League Baseball and global sports streaming platform DAZN have agreed to a three-year live digital rights partnership in the United States, set to begin with the 2019 MLB regular season, it was announced today by Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr., and DAZN Group Executive Chairman John Skipper. Thursday's announcement was made after the 30 Major League clubs approved the deal.

The partnership will deliver a live show each weeknight, available to subscribers via DAZN's digital sports streaming platform, that will feature live look-ins to the best MLB action as it's happening. This show will seamlessly whip around live MLB games to showcase the most suspenseful moments, crucial plays and biggest rallies. Additional details of the show, which will be coproduced by MLB and DAZN, will be announced in the coming months. There also will be on-demand MLB content and live weekend wrap shows available to DAZN subscribers.

"DAZN's multisport streaming platform provides Major League Baseball and our Clubs an important opportunity to extend the game's digital reach," said Commissioner Manfred. "Our collaborative production will benefit DAZN's subscribers with new ways to follow the captivating storylines, talented young stars and impactful plays happening around the game every day."

"We are thrilled to partner with MLB on this important new initiative, which will be a great complement to and promotion of the outstanding lineup of live games from its national and regional broadcasters," said Skipper. "We will target young multicultural fans, many of whom do not have pay television. The fast-paced nature of a whip-around show will appeal to this audience and bring in new fans. Ultimately, our goal with MLB is to grow both the overall audience for baseball and the burgeoning DAZN business."

DAZN burst onto the scene in 2016, debuting in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Japan. Its early success across Europe and Asia spawned launches in Canada (2017), Italy and the U.S. (2018). Just this week, DAZN announced it would expand to Spain in 2019.

This MLB announcement aligns with DAZN's promise to become a multisport offering after beginning its U.S. market entry within combat sports including more than 100 fight nights from Matchroom Boxing, Bellator MMA and other international promotions.

DAZN, just $9.99 per month after a one-month free trial in the U.S., is available on connected devices including Smart TVs, smartphones, tablets, games consoles and PCs.

Last month, DAZN announced a groundbreaking partnership with boxing superstar Canelo Alvarez and Golden Boy Promotions that will take the Mexican sports icon off of pay-per-view for his next 11 fights and make him widely available on the DAZN platform for a low monthly subscription cost.

Internationally, MLB has partnered with DAZN since 2016, featuring live baseball games in Japan, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Yankees weighing Machado's off-field comments

Steinbrenner finds star free agent's talk about hustle 'troubling'
MLB.com @BryanHoch

NEW YORK -- The Yankees' interest in Manny Machado is serious, and as the club continues to gather information and evaluate his potential fit in pinstripes, managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said it is "essential" to hear an explanation for the free-agent slugger's October commentary.

When Machado's aggressiveness was questioned during the Dodgers' National League Championship Series against the Brewers, Machado memorably said that he was "not the type of player that's going to be Johnny Hustle." He also drew criticism for a pair of baserunning plays at first base, one of which resulted in a fine, and questionable slides into second base.

NEW YORK -- The Yankees' interest in Manny Machado is serious, and as the club continues to gather information and evaluate his potential fit in pinstripes, managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said it is "essential" to hear an explanation for the free-agent slugger's October commentary.

When Machado's aggressiveness was questioned during the Dodgers' National League Championship Series against the Brewers, Machado memorably said that he was "not the type of player that's going to be Johnny Hustle." He also drew criticism for a pair of baserunning plays at first base, one of which resulted in a fine, and questionable slides into second base.

Speaking to reporters at the Major League Baseball Owners' Meetings on Wednesday in Atlanta, Steinbrenner said that he felt Machado's comments were "troubling." General manager Brian Cashman is believed to be performing due diligence on Machado, including the fallout of the 26-year-old's eventful postseason.

Video: Manny Machado set to test waters of free agency

"If it's a $300 million guy or a $10 million guy, clearly those comments are troubling," Steinbrenner said. "But that's really Cash's job. If we're interested in any player, we sit down with him face to face and ask him, 'Where did this come from? What was the context around the entire interview? Was there a point you were trying to [make]? How do you justify it?'

"Because that ain't going to sell where we play baseball. That conversation will happen, no matter who it is."

The Yankees have interest in Machado, in part because shortstop Didi Gregorius is expected to be sidelined at least until June -- and perhaps until August -- as he recovers from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

Machado could potentially play shortstop and shift to third base, though that would dislodge Miguel Andujar, who finished second to the Angels' Shohei Ohtani when the results of the American League Rookie of the Year Award voting were announced Monday night.

Video: Andujar finishes 2nd for the AL Rookie of the Year

"Manny Machado is a terrific baseball player," Cashman said Wednesday on WFAN. "We got a chance to see him on the front lines against us for the Orioles for way too long, since he was drafted in the first round by them. He's been banging away against us offensively and securing outs defensively.

"He's a tremendous player. We've got to assess, does he fit our world and at what cost? We are going to go through that process with him as well as every available free agent and potential trade partner to see what is the best course of action."

Though right-hander Dellin Betances issued a public plea for the Yanks to add Machado, saying on Tuesday that he believed Machado would be a good teammate and "put us over the top," both Steinbrenner and Cashman have said that the team's highest priority is adding starting pitching.

"I've got to get two starters in here, preferably elite, which those lists are smaller," Cashman said. "The better quality No. 1, 2 or 3 type starter, that's what we need. I need multiples of those."

Video: Hoch reports on Yankees' pursuit of Patrick Corbin

Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ and Dallas Keuchel are among the free-agent targets who have been linked to the Yankees, who moved swiftly to re-sign CC Sabathia earlier this month. The Yanks would also be interested if the Indians were to seriously shop Carlos Carrasco or Corey Kluber or the Mariners made James Paxton available.

Cashman added that the Yankees are considering bringing back relievers Zach Britton and David Robertson, both of whom are free agents.

"I've got to tend to that bullpen, I've got to figure out our middle-infield situation with Didi's Tommy John injury, which obviously brings up the Machado name," Cashman said. "We are going to explore all trade opportunities, both trade and free agent, as well as trying to assess the price tags associated with acquisition as well as the character and culture fit. Hopefully we make a good call."

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

New York Yankees, Manny Machado