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Together again? Potential Hot Stove reunions

MLB.com @castrovince

More than 50 million Americans are expected to travel at least 50 miles for the Thanksgiving holiday this year. That's a lot of people going great distances to have turkey and stuffing with their weird uncle and to prove you can go home again.

Sometimes baseball's Hot Stove season provides a different sort of homecoming -- a reuniting of players with clubs they've played for previously. Here are 11 such reunions (not straight-up re-signings) that could conceivably happen this offseason.

More than 50 million Americans are expected to travel at least 50 miles for the Thanksgiving holiday this year. That's a lot of people going great distances to have turkey and stuffing with their weird uncle and to prove you can go home again.

Sometimes baseball's Hot Stove season provides a different sort of homecoming -- a reuniting of players with clubs they've played for previously. Here are 11 such reunions (not straight-up re-signings) that could conceivably happen this offseason.

Patrick Corbin or Zack Greinke (trade) to the Angels
The Angels drafted Corbin in 2009, but traded him to Arizona the following year in the Dan Haren deal. They traded for Greinke as a rental in the 2012 playoff push. With the Angels in serious need of pitching help, either of these guys would give them a big improvement in durability and reliability.

Cost is the rub. Greinke's due to make north of $100 million over the next three seasons, and Corbin's probably the top arm in the open market. Don't you hate when family members fight over money?

Video: Craig Kimbrel enters free agency for 2019 season

Craig Kimbrel or Charlie Morton to the Braves
Kimbrel's contract that just expired was the extension he signed with the Braves in 2014. His trade to the Padres in 2015 was a big part of the Braves' rebuild project that's now complete. Atlanta isn't expecting to wade into the deepest waters of the free-agent relief market, but we've seen costs and approaches evolve over time.

If the Braves look for a veteran presence in the rotation, a return for the less-expensive Morton might be more feasible. He was drafted by Atlanta and debuted with it in 2008 before getting moved to Pittsburgh in a 2009 trade for Nate McLouth.

Video: Wilson Ramos enters free agency this offseason

Wilson Ramos to the Nationals
Ramos' torn ACL near the end of the 2016 season ended an otherwise stellar free-agent walk year in Washington. The following offseason, he signed with the Rays, and the Nats brought in Matt Wieters.

In the two years since, the Nats have had the lowest OPS (.609) from the catching spot of any team in baseball. So they could benefit from bringing back their old backstop.

Video: Gio Gonzalez enters free-agent market for 2019 season

Gio Gonzalez to the A's
Gonzalez came of age with the A's and was an All-Star for them in 2011 before, in true A's fashion, they dealt him to the Nats.

All these years later, Gio's a veteran lefty capable of stabilizing the back end of a rotation. He's an affordable fit for an A's team that suffered a wave of injuries in the rotation this year.

Video: Nathan Eovaldi enters free agency in 2019

Nathan Eovaldi to Yankees
Eovaldi pitched for the Yanks in 2015-16 before coming back to bite them in the 2018 American League Division Series. Though his '16 season was cut short due to Tommy John surgery, Eovaldi has credited Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild with helping him improve his preparation and pitch mix.

Video: Ottavino enters free-agent market after strong season

Adam Ottavino or Joe Kelly to the Cardinals
St. Louis needs bullpen help, and Ottavino and Kelly are two attractive options in the open market. Maybe a return for one or both is in the … wait for it … Cards.

Kelly spent two and a half years on the Cards' pitching staff as a starter and reliever and was part of a high-profile trade to the Red Sox. Ottavino's history with the Cards was briefer. They drafted him 30th overall in 2006, and he pitched 22 1/3 bad innings for them in 2010 before he went to the Rockies on waivers in 2012.

Video: J.A. Happ enters the 2019 free agent market

J.A. Happ to the Astros
Either of Happ's 2018 teams -- the Yankees and Blue Jays -- could bring him back. But what about the Astros, for whom he pitched from 2010-12?

Houston fans didn't see the best of Happ. He went 18-28 with a 4.84 ERA in 59 starts. But that was before his late-career reinvention in Pittsburgh.

Video: Jeurys Familia enters free agency before 2019

Jeurys Familia to the Mets
The Mets just traded Familia to the A's in July, but we can't go with the "family reunion" theme without including a guy named Familia. And Aroldis Chapman can attest to the fact that a closer getting dealt from a New York team doesn't preclude him from rejoining that team a few months later.

The Mets are trying to rebuild their bullpen, and Familia seemed to figure some things out working with Dave Eiland in a bounceback 2018.

Video: Andrew Miller set to enter free agency in 2019

Andrew Miller to the Red Sox
The Boston bullpen is where the light flipped on for Miller after he flamed out as a starter. He ditched his changeup, sharpened his slider and became a late-inning force. But he became good just as the Red Sox went bad, and they dealt him to the Orioles midseason in 2014.

With the Sox looking for a more affordable closing option than Kimbrel, it might be Miller Time in Boston again.

Video: Corey Kluber on the importance of consistency

Corey Kluber (trade) to the Padres
Eight years after acquiring Kluber from the Padres at a time when he was a relatively minor prospect, the Indians are willing to listen to offers for the two-time Cy Young Award winner.

This reunion idea is a reach, because the Padres probably shouldn't be going all-in on a pitcher who, while under contractual control for three more seasons, will be 33 years old and making $17 million in 2019. But they do have a deep farm system, ownership is itching to turn a corner (see last year's Eric Hosmer contract), and general manager A.J. Preller has turned in some surprise blockbusters in the past.

Video: Brantley enters free agency after All-Star season

Michael Brantley to the Brewers
Another reach, because the Brewers have a ton of bodies in the outfield and at first base. Of course, the threat of positional excess hasn't scared them off in the last calendar year, so maybe there's a creative way to make this work.

What we know is that the Brewers were a middle-of-the-pack offensive club that ranked in the lower-third in contact percentage in '18. So Brantley's high-contact skillset applies, all these years after the Brew Crew moved him as the "player to be named" in the swap for CC Sabathia.

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.

Rumors: Harper, Trout, Machado, Keuchel

The latest MLB free agent and trade rumors for Hot Stove season
MLB.com

It's Hot Stove season, and MLB.com is keeping track of all the latest free agent and trade rumors right here.

Free agents, by position
Free agents, by team

It's Hot Stove season, and MLB.com is keeping track of all the latest free agent and trade rumors right here.

Free agents, by position
Free agents, by team

Will a potential TV deal be a factor in whether the Yankees sign Harper?
Nov. 17: Tyler Kepner of the New York Times notes that the Yankees are in negotiations to buy back the YES Network, and that such an acquisition by the franchise may influence whether Bryce Harper ends up in pinstripes next season.

Kepner includes a quote from Harper's agent, Scott Boras, who said, "It's a market within a market that no one's ever talked about." Harper is one of the most exciting players in the game, and his style of play and star power could improve already strong ratings for the YES Network.

Harper has said he wears the No. 34 because the two digits add up to 7, which was the number of his idol, Mickey Mantle. The short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium is certainly an inviting sight for the left-handed slugger, but the Yankees do have a crowded outfield already, and general manager Brian Cashman has said the club's No. 1 priority is starting pitching this offseason.

For the Phillies, is it a choice of Harper and/or Machado ... or Trout?
Nov. 17: The Phillies are viewed as the odds-on favorite to sign at least one (and possibly both) of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. They have the funds. They have the need. They make a lot of sense. But is there a downside to splurging on these free-agent superstars now?

Undoubtedly, Harper and/or Machado would make the Phillies better. But in a story for the New York Post, MLB Network insider Joel Sherman wonders if Philadelphia really is ready for the next step toward contention -- not to mention, the hype and expectations -- that comes with inking such a star.

It's a fair question, mainly because the club's 2018 performance was such a roller coaster. Through early August, the Phillies led the National League East and looked like definite postseason contenders, only to falter to an NL-worst 16-33 record after Aug. 7. Outside of NL Cy Young Award finalist Aaron Nola and maybe young slugger Rhys Hoskins, the players who were supposed to make up the core of the franchise's next contender have struggled to develop at the Major League level.

"Wouldn't the Phillies be better off spending $300 million-ish on Patrick Corbin, Craig Kimbrel, Michael Brantley and Josh Donaldson -- or multiple players of that ilk -- to address a roster in need of upgrading in many spots?" Sherman argues. "That at least keeps them out of the ultra-long-term, big-buck risk that would come with Harper or Machado. And the Phillies have to think a little about future financial flexibility for many reasons, none bigger than that Mike Trout -- who grew up a Phillies fan -- is a free agent in two years."

It's an intriguing approach, especially if Phillies brass doesn't think the club is one star player away right now and would prefer to address multiple areas of the roster while simultaneously taking more time to evaluate players like Odubel Herrera, Maikel Franco, Scott Kingery, J.P. Crawford, Nick Pivetta, Nick Williams and Zach Eflin.

In theory, then, a few of those would take steps in the right direction in 2019 alongside the multiple free-agent reinforcements, setting up the franchise for a run at none other than Trout -- at a time when both he and the Phillies could be in their primes together.

Girardi weighs in on Machado and the Yankees
Nov. 17: Former Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he's "not sure from a financial standpoint where Manny [Machado] is going to be and how it fits within [the Yankees'] plans," according to NJ Advanced Media's Brendan Kuty. "There's no doubt that Manny's a great player, but there's a lot of great players that are out there. This is a pretty strong free agent class."

Girardi, who managed the Yankees for a decade from 2008-17, sounded as though he didn't feel New York necessarily needed to add the superstar infielder, though there is a vacancy at shortstop to open the season as Didi Gregorius recovers from Tommy John surgery. Machado is expected to command more than $300 million on this offseason's free-agent market. Girardi went on to say there are a lot of other good options to augment the Yankees' roster after a 100-win season in 2018.

"There are some pretty good bullpen arms that have experience. There are some pretty good outfielders, good infielders," Girardi said. "That's something that they have to decide."

Finding a match for Keuchel
Nov. 17: Where might former AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel land this offseason? MLB.com's Matt Kelly takes a look at five potential teams that could sign him, and how he'd fit with each. 

The Nationals are a potential fit, Kelly writes, as Washington is coming off a disappointing 80-82 season and has payroll flexibility, particularly if Bryce Harper doesn't return. Adding Keuchel to a rotation headed by Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg would make for what would perhaps be the best trio of starters in the NL.

Kelly also lists the Astros, as Houston could re-sign Keuchel. The left-hander has spent all seven seasons of his career so far with the Astros, so there is the familiarity component. And given Lance McCullers Jr. needing Tommy John surgery and Charlie Morton potentially leaving via free agency, Houston's rotation could certainly use Keuchel back.

Cincinnati is another potential landing spot, as the Reds have indicated they're going to be aggressive this offseason in pursuing starting pitching, potentially trying to sign two established starters. Kelly rounds out the list with the Angels, who will be missing Shohei Ohtani and Garrett Richards in 2019 due to Tommy John surgery, and the Yankees, who have made starting pitching their No. 1 priority this offseason.

Video: Will Yankees pursue pitcher Dallas Keuchel?

Keuchel's high ground-ball rate, coupled with his penchant for inducing soft contact, make him a potentially great fit for the Yankees, particularly at the homer-friendly Yankee Stadium. But New York won't be in any rush to ink the former AL Cy Young Award winner to a deal, according to Mike Rosenstein of NJ Advanced Media.

Rosenstein cites former MLB general manager Jim Duquette's piece for MLB.com on players whose free agencies may linger. Specifically with Keuchel, the left-hander's ground-ball rate, while high, dropped from 61.7 percent in '15, to 53.7 percent last season. In addition, his strikeout rate is down, from 23.7 percent to 17.5 percent over that span. There are also many left-handers on this offseason's starting pitcher market, including Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, Gio Gonzalez and Wade Miley, not to mention potential trade candidates James Paxton and Madison Bumgarner.

Blue Jays deal Diaz. Could Stroman be next?
Nov. 17: With news that the Blue Jays have traded infielder Aledmys Diaz to the Astros for Minor League righty Trent Thornton, what could be next for Toronto?

Thornton, 25, has yet to make his big league debut, but he spent all of 2018 at Triple-A, throwing 124 1/3 innings and posting a 4.42 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP and 122 strikeouts. The fifth-round pick from the 2015 Draft then pitched well in the Arizona Fall League (20 Ks in 15 1/3 IP), so he is more or less Major League-ready.

That could make the Blue Jays more apt to deal from their starting pitching, namely two right-handers whose names have been floated as trade chips: Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez. It appears, though, that the club isn't planning anything any time soon, at least not when it comes to Stroman, according to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi.

Tweet from @jonmorosi: Sources: #BlueJays not engaged in serious trade discussions involving Marcus Stroman with any club, although #Reds are among the teams with some level of interest in him. @MLBNetwork @MLB

While the Reds have shown interest, per Morosi, and we know Cincinnati is in the market for arms, it's possible the Blue Jays would prefer not to move Stroman -- who is under club control through 2020 -- when his value is at its lowest. A right shoulder injury hampered Stroman throughout 2018, leading to the worst performance (5.54 ERA, 1.48 WHIP in 102 1/3 IP) of his five-year career.

Are the Astros preparing to lose Gonzalez?
Nov. 17: Can we read anything into Houston's acquisition of Aledmys Diaz? While it's not a major trade, it does have implications, and it might suggest the Astros are looking to cover themselves in the event that longtime Astros utility player Marwin Gonzalez heads elsewhere via free agency.

The 29-year-old Gonzalez has been a very valuable and extremely versatile player in his seven years with Houston, and the club retains hope of bringing him back, according to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal.

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: For #Astros, acquisition of Diaz is protection in event they lose free agent Marwin Gonzalez. Team still wants to keep Gonzalez. https://t.co/PkSF7J7ynV

The Astros, however, chose not to present Gonzalez -- whose 2018 was solid (.733 OPS) but a step back from his breakout 2017 (.907 OPS) -- with the one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer earlier this offseason. That only helps his free-agent case by not saddling him with Draft-pick compensation, making him more enticing to teams seeking a play-anywhere-on-the-diamond option.

Diaz now is in position to fill that role for the Astros after he bounced back from a poor 2017 to hit .263/.303/.453 with 18 homers while playing all over the infield in his lone year in Toronto.

Video: Justice breaks down Blue Jays sending Diaz to Astros

How likely is it Machado stays at SS when he signs?
Nov. 17: Among the many big questions surrounding Manny Machado's free agency -- where will he sign? how much money will he get? -- is whether or not the the former third baseman will remain at shortstop after switching to that position in 2018.

MLB.com's Andrew Simon examines Machado's defensive performance as a shortstop in 2018. In a nutshell? 

"Not satisfied with being a two-time Gold Glove Award winner at third base, where he was widely recognized as one of the game's best defenders, Machado took a chance moving back to his natural position in 2018," Simon writes. "He had started just 49 games there since his big league debut in 2012, and the transition did not go smoothly. Advanced metrics weren't kind to Machado's performance at short, although his numbers improved considerably after his mid-July trade to the Dodgers."

The likely outcome to all of this, then, may be determined by the biggest question about Machado: Where will he sign? If he were to go to, say, the Yankees, there's a chance he would handle shortstop while Didi Gregorius is sidelined in the wake of Tommy John surgery and then shift to third base upon Gregorius' return. If Machado were to head to, say, the Phillies, maybe he stays at shortstop ahead of youngsters Scott Kingery and J.P. Crawford.

In other words, while Machado clearly is superior at the hot corner, he should be capable of playing either position on the left side of the infield, at least while he's still in his prime years. But if his new team has a bigger need at one spot over the other, expect him to fill that.

Why McCutchen and Pollock are the best fits for Cleveland
Nov. 17: The Indians have made some headlines already for the news that they're at least listening to offers on their elite starting pitchers, like Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer. In addition to rearranging financial obligations allocated to various aspects of the roster, part of the logic for such a move is that the team is in need of an upgrade in one area in particular.

MLB.com's Mike Petriello breaks down Cleveland's lacking outfield, especially now that Michael Brantley is on the open market, and comes up with a number of possible solutions to help improve the position. The best fits? Free agents Andrew McCutchen and A.J. Pollock.

"It's true that McCutchen turned 32 last month, and that he's not the same MVP-caliber player he once was with Pittsburgh," Petriello writes. "But as we investigated recently with Statcast™ data, there's not any tangible evidence of a speed-related decline yet, and McCutchen has remained durable, taking 640 plate appearances each full year of his career. If you liked Brantley's .364/.468 OBP/SLG, well, McCutchen is projected for .363/.461 -- and he's a righty hitter."

As for Pollock? "Cleveland should sign Pollock, who hit an above-average .257/.316/.484 with 21 homers and good defense," Petriello argues. "It should sign Pollock and McCutchen, really, and let Leonys Martin, [newly acquired] Jordan Luplow and the rest fight it out in left field. Pollock is the only true center fielder on the market, and he's right-handed to boot."

In the end, signing both almost certainly won't happen -- not when the Indians are considering dealing pitchers to alleviate some payroll pressure. And Pollock seems less likely, as he's expected to land a larger contract and is tied to Draft-pick compensation after declining the qualifying offer, to boot.

But McCutchen? His durability and on-base skill set could make for a reasonably priced option for a team that needs to worry about both improving its outfield and minding its bottom line. But there are a host of other trade and free-agent ideas, courtesy of Petriello. More >

Familia could be an overlooked free-agent option
Nov. 17: As clubs looking for relief help this offseason survey a market that includes established hurlers like Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Miller, Adam Ottavino, Zach Britton, David Robertson and Joe Kelly, one strong option that may be overlooked is Jeurys Familia. According to MLB.com's Matt Kelly, there are several factors that make the right-hander an attractive option.

"He pitched much more like his former self in a half-season with the Mets (2.88 ERA, 3.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio) before helping to fortify Oakland's outstanding bullpen down the stretch [in 2018]," Kelly writes. "And now, as Familia enters free agency for the first time, he could end up netting a larger contract than people might expect."

Video: Jeurys Familia enters free agency before 2019

Kelly notes that while there were question marks surrounding Familia as he began the '17 season on the suspension list after violating MLB's personal conduct policy, and then missed most of the summer with an arterial clot in his pitching shoulder, he had a very strong '18 campaign. Familia remains relatively young (29 years old), has no Draft pick compensation attached to his free agency, showed his durability again last season, and keeps the ball in the ballpark.

As for some potential suitors for the right-hander, Kelly suggests the Red Sox, Angels, Twins, Braves and Phillies could benefit from signing Familia.

Astros join the race for Realmuto
Nov. 17: The Astros need a catcher after letting Brian McCann and Martin Maldonado hit free agency. The initial expectation, it seemed, was that the 2017 World Series champions would look to bring in a backstop like Yasmani Grandal or Wilson Ramos via the open market. But Houston also could consider the trade route -- meaning arguably the best catcher in baseball.

In fact, the Astros have engaged the Marlins in trade talks for J.T. Realmuto and "remain a viable destination" for him, MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reports.

Tweet from @jonmorosi: #Astros remain a viable destination for Realmuto despite the high price tag, in part because #Marlins prefer not to trade him within the division to the #Braves, who are actively looking for a catcher. @MLB @MLBNetwork

Morosi points out that the Marlins continue to insist on either outfielder Kyle Tucker or right-hander Forrest Whitley -- Houston's top two prospects and Nos. 5 and 8 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 list -- as part of any offer. That's a steep price, but Realmuto is coming off his best year yet (21 HR, .825 OPS), is in his prime at age 27 and under club control through the 2020 season.

The Astros also are seeking a starting pitcher to help fill the voids left by free agents Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton, as well as Lance McCullers Jr., who will miss all of 2019 after Tommy John surgery. The club is eyeing the trade market to that end, too, according to Morosi. Put simply, the Astros might be very active and rather creative this winter.

Video: Marlins could use J.T. Realmuto as a trade piece

Harrison: "My agent has gotten quite a few calls."
Nov. 17: Josh Harrison joined the free-agent ranks earlier this offseason when the Pirates chose to pay $1 million to buy out his contract rather than pick up his $10.5 million option for 2019. That decision wasn't altogether surprising after the 31-year-old hit .250/.293/.363 while being limited to 97 games in 2018 due to a fractured bone in his left hand from being hit by a pitch in mid-April.

Coming off a disappointing campaign often makes for a tough go on the open market. Harrison, though, expects to have some opportunities this winter. "I would say that my agent has gotten quite a few calls," Harrison said in an interview with MLB.com, "and he's been letting me know people are interested."

At this stage of his career, the veteran's versatility is his biggest selling point. Having played primarily second base the past three seasons, Harrison does have extensive experience at the hot corner and also has seen time in the corner outfield positions, too. "I'm game for anything," Harrison said. "If a team wants me to [play one position], I'm game. If a team wants me to bounce around ... that's how I got my first shot [in the Major Leagues]."

That mindset should help Harrison find a home somewhere in 2019, as clubs are placing an increased emphasis on versatility and roster flexibility.

Video: Harrison discusses offseason, his versatility

5 potential fits for Dallas Keuchel

Ground-ball specialist is one of the most coveted free-agent starters
MLB.com @mattkellyMLB

Only 13 pitchers have thrown 750 innings with a sub-3.30 ERA over the last five seasons, and one of them, Dallas Keuchel, is now a free agent.

Keuchel matured through Houston's lean years and then helped anchor their rotation through three postseason runs and a World Series title. Now, it's time for Keuchel to cash in, but the southpaw's market has yet to fully take shape. We know every team could use a quality starter; the question is which ones will pony up the money for one of Keuchel's caliber. The general consensus for Keuchel's new contract is somewhere around four years and $80 million, making him the second-most expensive pitcher after Patrick Corbin. There's also Draft-pick compensation tied to Keuchel since he rejected the Astros' one-year qualifying offer.

Only 13 pitchers have thrown 750 innings with a sub-3.30 ERA over the last five seasons, and one of them, Dallas Keuchel, is now a free agent.

Keuchel matured through Houston's lean years and then helped anchor their rotation through three postseason runs and a World Series title. Now, it's time for Keuchel to cash in, but the southpaw's market has yet to fully take shape. We know every team could use a quality starter; the question is which ones will pony up the money for one of Keuchel's caliber. The general consensus for Keuchel's new contract is somewhere around four years and $80 million, making him the second-most expensive pitcher after Patrick Corbin. There's also Draft-pick compensation tied to Keuchel since he rejected the Astros' one-year qualifying offer.

Teams are paying for the future, of course, and Keuchel's upcoming 31st birthday on New Year's Day will be a consideration. When projecting Keuchel's next few seasons, here's what stands out:

Keuchel is still a master of weak contact …
Statcast™ classifies three types of batted balls as "poor contact" most favorable to pitchers, and only six starters induced a higher rate of such contact in 2018 than Keuchel. Most of those balls were "topped" (hit straight into the ground), and Keuchel has finished within the league's top 10 starters in that category in each of Statcast™'s first four seasons. Keuchel racks up grounders, and he also limits home runs; his .77 homers allowed per nine innings since '14 is sixth-best among that same group of starters with 750-plus innings.

… But there are some warning signs
Keuchel is still a ground-ball specialist, but as MLB.com's Mike Petriello recently noted, no full-time starter suffered a bigger decline in his grounder rate from 2017 to '18 than Keuchel (though his MLB-best 68 percent rate two years was off the charts). Keuchel has never been a power pitcher with his high-80s sinker, but his strikeout rate also fell off by nearly 4 percent last year. He's a pitcher who's made a living on hitting his spots, but the lefty's margin for error will likely get smaller as time goes on.

Video: Free agent landing spots for Cruz, Keuchel, Miller

So, despite some minor signs of erosion, Keuchel is still someone who's proven he can eat innings, keep the ball in the yard and take the ball in big games. Which teams have the strongest combination of need and willingness to spend on that kind of starter?

1. Nationals
Both MLB Trade Rumors and a panel of MLB Network Radio experts picked Washington as Keuchel's most likely landing spot, and it's easy to see why. First, Keuchel is represented by superagent Scott Boras, who has negotiated a handful of big signings with Nationals ownership in the past. Washington went over the competitive balance tax in 2018, but figures to have payroll flexibility this winter with a handful of names -- including, potentially, Bryce Harper -- coming off the books. If Harper doesn't return to Washington, there's a chance the Nationals could have room to sign both Keuchel and Corbin.

We've seen the Nationals try to build around stacked rotations in the past, so adding Keuchel to Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg would be a page from their own playbook. Washington will be plenty motivated after underwhelming to an 80-82 record last season.

2. Astros
A return to Houston is probably the best outcome for Keuchel, seeing as he'd be returning to a World Series contender and the team he's known his entire career. Keuchel also appears plenty comfortable pitching in Minute Maid Park (which may be turning into a pitcher's park), seeing how he owns a career 3.09 ERA and has held hitters a .635 OPS there as opposed to 4.27 and .747 marks on the road.

Video: ALCS Gm3: Keuchel allows 2 earned over 5 innings

With Lance McCullers Jr. sidelined by Tommy John surgery and Charlie Morton potentially departing via free agency, the Astros' rotation suddenly isn't as big a strength as it was (to an historic degree) in 2018. Bringing Keuchel back -- for slightly more average annual value than the one-year, $17.9 million Houston already offered him -- could help the reigning AL West champs keep that strength intact.

3. Reds
It's no secret the Reds need significant help in their rotation: No Cincinnati starter has paired at least 150 innings with a sub-3.50 ERA since Johnny Cueto and Alfredo Simon in 2014, and there's a good chance neither of those former Reds throw a single pitch next season. Cincinnati has tried to develop starters from within in recent years, but Anthony DeSclafani's injury troubles and Luis Castillo's regression last season marked the organization's latest setbacks in those efforts.

The Reds need to go out and acquire pitching talent if they hope to compete soon, and there's indications that new general manager Nick Krall and president of baseball operations Dick Williams will be aggressive this offseason. Keuchel's expected contract may be a tad out of Cincinnati's comfort zone, but inking the left-hander would help the Reds show their fans (and potentially other free agents) that they're serious about taking the next steps. Keuchel's propensity for grounders also makes him an ideal free-agent target for homer-happy Great American Ball Park.

4. Angels
The same reasons the Angels should be players for Zack Greinke via trade apply here with Keuchel. Los Angeles hasn't found starters who can take the ball every fifth day, and Keuchel has averaged 190 innings over the past five seasons while never missing time for anything more than a pinched nerve in his neck. Ace Garrett Richards is already out for 2019 after receiving Tommy John surgery, and the Angels' innings leader last year, Andrew Heaney, compiled a 4.15 ERA that was exactly league average. Shohei Ohtani just underwent Tommy John surgery, too, and likely won't pitch again until 2020.

With two years left to convince Mike Trout to stay in Anaheim, the clock is ticking for the Angels to return to the postseason. They can't do that without a quality frontline starter.

Video: MIN@HOU: Keuchel tosses 6 scoreless innings, fans 6

5. Yankees
There's certainly a need from the Yankees' perspective, given their desire to add a pair of starters through free agency. Much like with Cincinnati, Keuchel's skillset could help him thrive at an extreme hitter's park. In fact, we've already seen him do it: In seven career starts at Yankee Stadium (including two in the postseason), the lefty owns a 2.68 ERA with 50 strikeouts, 10 walks and zero home runs allowed. That's about as brilliant a Bronx resume as any opponent could compile, and the pinstripes could upgrade their rotation by taking away a pitcher who's tormented them through the years.

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

New York Yankees, Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Angels, Houston Astros, Dallas Keuchel

Astros acquire infielder Diaz from Blue Jays

Versatile vet viewed as Marwin replacement
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

HOUSTON -- The Astros appear to have found a replacement for free-agent infielder Marwin Gonzalez by completing a trade on Saturday to acquire infielder Aledmys Diaz from the Blue Jays in exchange for Minor League right-hander Trent Thornton.

Diaz, an All-Star with the Cardinals two years ago, has played primarily shortstop but has also spent significant time at third base, in addition to making a few appearances in left field and at second base. In 130 games for the Blue Jays last season, he hit .263 with 26 doubles, 18 homers, 55 RBIs and a .756 OPS.

HOUSTON -- The Astros appear to have found a replacement for free-agent infielder Marwin Gonzalez by completing a trade on Saturday to acquire infielder Aledmys Diaz from the Blue Jays in exchange for Minor League right-hander Trent Thornton.

Diaz, an All-Star with the Cardinals two years ago, has played primarily shortstop but has also spent significant time at third base, in addition to making a few appearances in left field and at second base. In 130 games for the Blue Jays last season, he hit .263 with 26 doubles, 18 homers, 55 RBIs and a .756 OPS.

"He's got some versatility, got some power and can do a lot of things," Astros president of baseball operations and general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "It seems like it's an opportunity for us to improve our team. We're dipping into prospect depth, but if there's one area we probably have some surplus, it's in the upper-level pitching area."

Video: Justice breaks down Blue Jays sending Diaz to Astros

Diaz, 28, and fellow Cuban, Yuli Gurriel, figure to move around the infield next season -- providing the versatility Gonzalez did. Gonzalez, who played all four infield spots and left field, is a free agent and is expected to play elsewhere next season. Diaz gives the Astros three players who can play shortstop, including starter Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman.

"We're so early in the offseason, it's hard to really say what our final roster is and who's going to play where," Luhnow said. "There's still plenty of potential moves to come. But this is a guy we felt -- both offensively and defensively, and the age and profile -- really fit well with our team."

A native of Santa Clara, Cuba, Diaz made the National League All-Star team as a rookie in 2016, batting .300 with 28 doubles, 17 homers, 65 RBIs and an .879 OPS in 111 games for the Cardinals. He was traded to the Blue Jays following the '17 campaign.

Luhnow said several clubs inquired about Thornton throughout last season. A fifth-round Draft pick in 2015, he went 9-8 with a 4.42 ERA in 24 games (22 starts) for Triple-A Fresno this season. He also fanned 20 batters and allowed four walks in 15 2/3 innings for Scottsdale in the Arizona Fall League.

Thornton was among the players who needed to be added to the Astros' 40-man roster by Tuesday or risk being lost in next month's Rule 5 Draft. Houston's 40-man roster is at 35 players, which means it will add more Minor League players early next week. Pitchers Rogelio Armenteros and Riley Ferrell and catcher Garrett Stubbs are among those who could be added.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Houston Astros, Aledmys Diaz

Walk-off home run, injury end AFL title game

Braves prospect hits game-winning homer, injures himself celebrating
MLB.com @wboor

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Peoria Javelinas are back-to-back champs.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Peoria Javelinas are back-to-back champs.

:: Complete coveraege of the 2018 AFL championship game ::

Braxton Davidson (Braves) lifted the Javelinas to a 3-2 win over Salt River with a walk-off homer in the 10th inning of Saturday's Arizona Fall League championship game.

"Indescribable," Buddy Reed, the Padres' No. 13 prospect, said of the homer, the second walk-off (Mike Hessman, 2001) in Fall League title game history. "Braxton comes up, last man up, we all said he was going to do something special, hits a walk-off homer. Rolls his ankle, unfortunately, but it was huge."

With one out in the 10th Davidson crushed a 2-1 pitch deep over the right-field wall. He immediately knew it was gone and bat flipped, but hurt himself rounding the bases and was helped off the field and eventually taken to a local hospital to check for a possible left-foot fracture.

Video: SRR@PEJ: Davidson suffers apparent injury on walk-off

The blast capped a late-inning comeback for the Javelinas, who trailed 2-0 entering the ninth. Peoria had plenty of opportunities to score, but couldn't come up with the big hit, stranding runners in each of the first four innings and ultimately left 12 men on base.

In the ninth, the offense finally came through.

Ian Miller (Mariners) led off the frame with a walk and Lucius Fox (Rays) followed with a double. Miller came around to score on a wild pitch and Brewers top prospect Keston Hiura tied the game up with a single.

Video: SRR@PEJ: Miller, Hiura key rally to tie the game

"With this team we know we're capable of putting up runs any inning regardless of the score, it shows how resilisnt we are, how in the game we are, to be able to pull it out and win," Hiura, who was named the league's MVP prior to the game, said.

An inning later, Davidson, who hit a career-high 20 homers in the regular season and finished tied for first with six homers in the AFL, put the game away.

"It just says a lot about his work ethic, coming here he had a lot to work on - he told us he had a lot to work on and he proved everybody wrong, everyone that doubted him," Reed said. " ... It's unbelievable, I'm so happy for him."

Video: Buddy Reed on Peoria's walk-off win over Salt River

Before the late-inning fireworks Salt River starter Jordan Yamamoto -- who fired four scoreless frames, despite not having his best stuff -- kept Peoria offensive in check, just as he'd done to nearly every offense he'd faced in the AFL.

"I struggled a little bit," Yamamoto said after issuing five walks in four innings. "I got into deep counts, walked a lot of guys. I don't usually do that, but hey, it's part of the game. I've got to find a way to get out of it."

Video: Jordan Yamamoto on Fall League Championship

Once Yamamoto left the game, it was more of the same for the Javelinas. Peoria left one runner on base in the seventh and two in the eighth, but ultimately none of it mattered.

"You hear all our guys saying never give up, we're the Javs and like everybody said, we did what we had to do, we came back," Reed said. "It's not about how you start as everybody talks about, it's how you finished and we finished strong."

William Boor is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor.

Cutch, Pollock could be fits for the Tribe

Steamer projections have Cleveland's outfield tied for 27th
MLB.com @mike_petriello

This past season, the baseball world headed into the year figuring that the lack of depth in the Cleveland outfield might be a problem. While Michael Brantley's strong .309/.364/.468 season was a pleasant surprise, the Indians outfield as a group ranked just 22nd in the Majors, at negative-1.8 Wins Above Replacement. It was expected to be weak, and it was. 

Now, start from there and look to 2019. Brantley is a free agent. So are Lonnie Chisenhall, Melky Cabrera, Rajai Davis, and Brandon Guyer, while Bradley Zimmer's right shoulder injury may cost him much of 2019. Right now, the starting Cleveland outfield looks to be some combination of Greg Allen, Jason Kipnis, Leonys Martin, Tyler Naquin, and newly acquired Jordan Luplow, and if it sounds like that's still not enough, it's probably not. Looking at the 2019 Steamer projections, they are essentially tied with the Rockies for the fourth-weakest projected outfield value.

This past season, the baseball world headed into the year figuring that the lack of depth in the Cleveland outfield might be a problem. While Michael Brantley's strong .309/.364/.468 season was a pleasant surprise, the Indians outfield as a group ranked just 22nd in the Majors, at negative-1.8 Wins Above Replacement. It was expected to be weak, and it was. 

Now, start from there and look to 2019. Brantley is a free agent. So are Lonnie Chisenhall, Melky Cabrera, Rajai Davis, and Brandon Guyer, while Bradley Zimmer's right shoulder injury may cost him much of 2019. Right now, the starting Cleveland outfield looks to be some combination of Greg Allen, Jason Kipnis, Leonys Martin, Tyler Naquin, and newly acquired Jordan Luplow, and if it sounds like that's still not enough, it's probably not. Looking at the 2019 Steamer projections, they are essentially tied with the Rockies for the fourth-weakest projected outfield value.

That might still be good enough to win a fourth straight American League Central, given the state of the other four teams. But as we saw in the postseason, when Cleveland put up a historically weak offensive performance, it's going to need a little more if it's going to get past the Red Sox, Yankees, or Astros. It's going to need some bats.

"That's an area that we will have to spend a lot of time addressing," said Chris Antonetti, the Indians' president of baseball operations, said in October regarding the outfield. "Some of it depends on how we align our returning players. Also, obviously, it will be impacted by substantial departures."

Fortunately for the Indians, this is not an unsolvable problem. Bats are available. Sure, it'd be nice to simply say "go get Bryce Harper," and they should, but you could say that for every team, and 29 of them aren't going to end up signing Harper. The floor here is low enough that even some moderately priced signings and trades could pay some large dividends. We have some ideas.

Quickly, let's start with what they have.

Video: Leonys Martin signs 1-year deal after illness in 2018

Lots of lefty hitters. Kipnis, Naquin, Martin and Zimmer are all lefties, while Allen is a switch-hitter. This is partially what fueled the sensible trade for the right-handed Luplow; as Antonetti said, "he complements our roster really well."

A potentially strong defender in center. Thanks to a frightening infection, Martin only got into six games for Cleveland after being acquired from Detroit, but he should be ready to go in 2019. If he is, he's a good defender, putting up +21 Outs Above Average in the last three years, though he's strictly a platoon option, as he's hit just .234/.278/.334 against lefties.

It's a start. Naquin, Allen and Luplow all have potential, and you can hold out some hope for Kipnis, because even though he's suffered through two straight below-average seasons, he was at least a league-average hitter in the second half -- though he may be a better fit on another roster. But basically the Indians have five fourth outfielders, and if you have too many outfielders, you don't have enough.

Cleveland definitely needs one outfielder. We argue that it's really two, preferably righty or switch-hitting. Where can it look? So many places.

The best free-agent fit: Andrew McCutchen

It's true that McCutchen turned 32 last month, and that he's not the same MVP-caliber player he once was with Pittsburgh. But as we investigated recently with Statcast™ data, there's not any tangible evidence of a speed-related decline yet, and McCutchen has remained durable, taking 640 plate appearances each full year of his career. If you liked Brantley's .364/.468 OBP/SLG, well, McCutchen is projected for .363/.461 -- and he's a righty hitter.

He's expected to get a two- or three-year deal at a reasonable price, so he wouldn't bust any budget. Put him in right field, add two or three wins. Easy. 

Video: Andrew McCutchen set to hit free agency

The less-likely-but-still-good free-agent fit: A.J. Pollock

Cleveland should sign Pollock, who hit an above-average .257/.316/.484 with 21 homers and good defense. It should sign Pollock and McCutchen, really, and let Martin, Luplow and the rest fight it out in left field. Pollock is the only true center fielder on the market, and he's right-handed to boot. Adding Pollock and McCutchen would be something like a six-win boost; while his injury history is real, Martin is a fantastic backup option.

The Indians won't do this, probably, because Pollock received the qualifying offer from Arizona and is looking for a sizable deal that Cleveland probably isn't going to offer, at least not in conjunction with McCutchen. This is how you rebuild an outfield, though.

Other free-agent righties: Adam Jones and Carlos Gomez have had plenty of success in the past, but they are now more second-tier options who may not be obvious upgrades. Others who hit from the left side like Nick Markakis and Carlos Gonzalez probably won't work here.

There's more to life than free agency, however. What about trades? There's just so many places to look. 

The once (and future?) Cleveland prospect: Clint Frazier

After some scary concussion issues, Frazier's future has become a little less certain, but we're almost obligated to include Cleveland's first-round pick in 2013 here. With all the smoke about how the Tribe may trade a starting pitcher and how the Yankees desperately need one, it's almost difficult to imagine a trade between the two sides that doesn't include Frazier, among other pieces. Still only 24, Frazier just needs a place to play -- and a little better fortune on the health front.

The blocked power-hitting Brewer: Domingo Santana

In 2017, Santana had a breakout age-24 campaign for Milwaukee, slamming 30 homers to go with a .278/.371/.505 line. In 2018, he spent most of the year in the Minors, though that says a lot more about the arrivals of Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich than it does him.

In 2019, he's projected to be a league-average bat, and he's still just 26. This has seemed like a decent fit for a while, and the cost would likely be reasonable.

Video: PIT@MIL: Santana goes back to back with a solo homer

The slugging Tiger if you don't care about defense: Nicholas Castellanos

In 2018, Castellanos continued his breakout by hitting .298/.354/.500, which made him one of the 30 best qualified hitters in the game, similar to Javier Baez or Francisco Lindor. As far as the glove goes, well, he was a good hitter. With just one year of control remaining, the trade demand couldn't be that high; even with the negative defense, he was still a three-win player in 2018. Maybe Edwin Encarnacion can play a little extra first base and open up a DH start or two each week. 

The Dodgers players they can't find enough room for: Joc Pederson and Alex Verdugo

OK, both of these guys are lefties. That's not ideal. We get it. But if you're assuming that perhaps Kipnis gets moved, or Zimmer isn't healthy, or that a new addition just takes time away from Naquin or Allen anyway, it's not that big of a deal. Pederson is a platoon-only bat these days, but he's quietly been a good one: He hit .248/.321/.522, a line that was 26 percent better than average, with 25 home runs.

Verdugo made his Major League debut in 2017, but he still remains the No. 1 Dodgers prospect at MLB Pipeline because he's been able to get only 111 plate appearances thanks to the overstuffed outfield; he doesn't even turn 23 until May, and he hit .329/.391/.472 in Triple-A in 2018. 

The inevitable Padres trade: Hunter Renfroe and Wil Myers

Cleveland and San Diego got together on the Brad Hand / Adam Cimber / Francisco Mejia deal this summer, and it feels like a fit here, too. We keep hearing rumors about the Padres trying to be aggressive for starting pitchers, and they seem to have more outfielders than they know what to do with, with these two (no, we're not considering Myers a third baseman), Franmil Reyes, Manuel Margot, Franchy Cordero, Travis Jankowski and on and on.

Renfroe just had an above-average slugging season (.504) and has a cannon arm. Myers has rarely lived up to his immense promise, but he's had four straight average or better hitting seasons in San Diego, and average or better is an upgrade in a Cleveland corner -- assuming, of course, the Padres pay down some of his deal to move him. (They probably would.)

Video: ARI@SD: Renfroe crushes a pinch-hit, game-tying homer

The unlikely-but-fascinating star trades: Mitch Haniger and Kevin Kiermaier

OK, let's have some fun. The Mariners may or may not be open for business, but they already traded Mike Zunino and are expected to deal James Paxton, so you can rule nothing out. Over the past two years, Haniger has hit .284/.361/.492 with 42 homers and above-average right-field defense; he's basically been Michael Conforto. He wouldn't come cheaply -- this would require one of the good young starters -- but he's an easy three-to-four win upgrade.

Kiermaier, meanwhile, may be the best defensive center fielder in the game, though he's coming off an injury-plagued season that was his worst at the plate. At his best, he's a league-average bat with an elite glove, which makes him a borderline star. The Rays have Austin Meadows, Guillermo Heredia and Tommy Pham all capable of playing center; they would surely consider it if it netted them a pitching upgrade. 

* * *

This is hardly a full list, obviously. We've been trying to put together a Kyle Schwarber-to-Cleveland deal for years, though as a lefty possible DH, it might not fit as well now. Mix and match any of the names above, really. Sign McCutchen and trade for Verdugo. Sign Pollock and trade for Renfroe. Do it however you like. No matter how you go, there are upgrades out there -- and they're needed. The current group just isn't enough.

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

Cleveland Indians

Familia might be overlooked free-agent option

RHP is one of this offseason's most accomplished reliever options
MLB.com @mattkellyMLB

Jeurys Familia entered 2018 with questions attached. The right-hander had begun '17 on the suspension list after violating MLB's personal conduct policy, and then missed most of the summer with an arterial clot in his pitching shoulder. After Familia finished the year with a 4.38 ERA and his highest walk rate as a full-time pitcher, it was fair to wonder if he was entering a new stage of his career.

Fast forward to the present, and Familia might now be overlooked. He pitched much more like his former self in a half-season with the Mets (2.88 ERA, 3.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio) before helping to fortify Oakland's outstanding bullpen down the stretch. And now, as Familia enters free agency for the first time, he could end up netting a larger contract than people might expect.

Here are the arguments in Familia's corner this offseason.

Jeurys Familia entered 2018 with questions attached. The right-hander had begun '17 on the suspension list after violating MLB's personal conduct policy, and then missed most of the summer with an arterial clot in his pitching shoulder. After Familia finished the year with a 4.38 ERA and his highest walk rate as a full-time pitcher, it was fair to wonder if he was entering a new stage of his career.

Fast forward to the present, and Familia might now be overlooked. He pitched much more like his former self in a half-season with the Mets (2.88 ERA, 3.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio) before helping to fortify Oakland's outstanding bullpen down the stretch. And now, as Familia enters free agency for the first time, he could end up netting a larger contract than people might expect.

Here are the arguments in Familia's corner this offseason.

Video: OAK@BAL: Familia K's Rickard for 1st save with A's

Youth is on his side
Familia has been in the New York spotlight long enough to forget that he's still only entering his age-29 season. That makes him younger than most of the other big free-agent relievers, including Craig Kimbrel (30 years old), Adam Ottavino (turns 33 this week), Zach Britton (30), Andrew Miller (33), David Robertson (33) and Joe Kelly (30), and teams might be persuaded to give Familia an extra year on his next contract.

He comes with no compensation attached
Unlike Kimbrel, teams won't need to surrender a Draft pick to sign Familia since he was traded midseason. If certain teams are scared away by the qualifying-offer cost attached to Kimbrel (not to mention Kimbrel's financial expectations), Familia is waiting as an alternative.

He was durable again in 2018
Familia's shoulder would be one of the biggest red flags for prospective buyers if he didn't pitch in 70 games and log 72 innings for New York and Oakland last season. Outside of 2017, Familia has been one of baseball's most durable closers in recent times; Zach Duke, Bryan Shaw and Tony Watson are the only pitchers beside Familia with at least four seasons of 70 appearances since '14, and the Rockies inked Shaw to a three-year, $27 million deal last winter. Shaw owned 11 career saves when he signed with Colorado, while Familia has saved 127 games with a lower career ERA.

He still keeps the ball in the yard
Familia did see his ground-ball rate drop from a percentage routinely above 60 in 2015-17 to 47.1 percent in 2018. But the added air balls he allowed didn't turn into a whole lot of damage: Familia's .326 expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA) on balls in play -- which estimates how hitters should have fared based on exit velocity and launch angle -- was nearly in line with his mark from '15, when he finished with an excellent 1.85 ERA and 2.74 FIP. Familia has always been adept at limiting home runs (he's allowed just 16 in his regular-season career) and, by extension, barrels -- Statcast™'s term for batted balls that typically go for extra-base hits.

Lowest barrel-per-batted ball rate allowed, since 2015
Min. 500 batted balls (345 pitchers)
1. Britton: 2.2 percent
2. Familia: 2.6 percent (3.2 percent in 2018)
3. Alex Claudio: 2.7 percent
4. Blake Treinen: 3.0 percent
5. (tie) Dan Jennings and Brad Ziegler: 3.4 percent

So, Familia represents an under-30 free-agent reliever with a proven track record as either a closer or overqualified set-up man, and he's someone who won't cost teams a quality Draft pick next June. Who could use him the most?

Video: NYY@OAK: Familia fans Sanchez with the bases loaded

Red Sox
Now that Kimbrel has rejected Boston's qualifying offer, it would be surprising to see him don a Red Sox uniform again. Familia knows all about the pressures of pitching in a big market, and while there were a few rough patches in Queens, he enjoyed plenty of high points, too. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski could simply turn to Matt Barnes as internal candidate for closer, but signing Familia would help Boston fortify one of its only perceived weak spots during the club's march to the World Series title this fall.

White Sox
The South Siders could be aggressive in free agency, and signing a proven closer like Familia could help their roster take a step forward. The White Sox's closer situation was essentially by committee after they traded Joakim Soria midseason.

Angels
Mike Trout's free-agency clock continues to tick, and Los Angeles hasn't had a closer it could count on consistently since Huston Street saved 40 games back in 2015. Signing Familia would allow Keynan Middleton and Blake Parker to settle back into set-up roles, where they're probably more effective.

Twins
Ryan Pressly turned into a star once Minnesota traded him to Houston, Addison Reed had a disappointing debut and Trevor Hildenberger is probably not the answer. The American League Central is likely going to be up for grabs in the coming years, and maybe Familia could be a cornerstone for the Twins.

Braves
Atlanta might just decide to stick with Arodys Vizcaino, who was very good in his first audition as closer in 2018. But the Braves have already been linked to their former star Kimbrel, and the reality is that if they want a big name, they could get Familia without the headliner price tag and qualifying-offer considerations.

Phillies
We know the Phillies are poised to spend this offseason. If they're going to open the purse strings and sign either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado to a record deal, they shouldn't stop there. Philadelphia may as well acquire an established starter to solidify its bullpen, too.

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

Jeurys Familia

17 'unbreakable' baseball records

MLB.com @mattkellyMLB

The saying "Records are made to be broken" is about as old as the existence of sports records themselves. But in baseball, some achievements truly stretch the limits of that adage.

Johnny Vander Meer's back-to-back no-hitters -- the second of which he twirled 80 years ago today in a 6-0 win over the Brooklyn Dodgers on June 15, 1938 -- is one of those achievements. Only a handful of the 200-plus pitchers with a no-hitter have managed even a few perfect innings during their next trip to the mound. Vander Meer's pair might indeed turn out to be "unbreakable," or as close to that term as possible, and it calls to mind a handful of other records that are collecting dust as years go by.

The saying "Records are made to be broken" is about as old as the existence of sports records themselves. But in baseball, some achievements truly stretch the limits of that adage.

Johnny Vander Meer's back-to-back no-hitters -- the second of which he twirled 80 years ago today in a 6-0 win over the Brooklyn Dodgers on June 15, 1938 -- is one of those achievements. Only a handful of the 200-plus pitchers with a no-hitter have managed even a few perfect innings during their next trip to the mound. Vander Meer's pair might indeed turn out to be "unbreakable," or as close to that term as possible, and it calls to mind a handful of other records that are collecting dust as years go by.

Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hit streak is one of the most famous "unbreakable" records, but his .357 average in 1941 suggests that -- with all the right circumstances in play -- a high-average, low-walk hitter could someday approach "Joltin' Joe." How that player would handle the media scrutiny as he approaches the mythical "56" is another story, of course.

With Vander Meer and DiMaggio in mind, here are a handful of other modern records that seem "unbreakable." Some of them you'll know right away; others may surprise you. (For the purposes of this exercise, we are sticking to records that could feasibly be broken, so Cy Young's record of 749 complete games, for example, is not part of this conversation.)

The records you likely know

Ichiro's 262 hits in 2004
Few players have thrilled fans in as many different ways as Ichiro, and that included his impeccable bat control and timing at the plate. Breaking Ichiro's single-season hit mark would require an uncommon combination of consistency, opportunities and the ability to make contact -- an increasing rarity in the modern game. Plus, Ichiro logged 704 at-bats in that magical 2004 season, one of only four players to cross the 700 at-bat plateau in a single campaign. So to break this record, you'd have to hit .373 and log more than 700 ABs. Good luck.

Video: TEX@SEA: Ichiro singles in final at-bat of '04 season

Nolan Ryan's 5,714 strikeouts and 2,795 walks
Even with today's ever-escalating strikeout climate, it's hard to imagine anyone pitching with both the ferocity and dizzying longevity needed to catch Ryan. Chris Sale would have to repeat his 308-strikeout 2017 season each season for more than a decade to even get Ryan's attention. The Ryan Express' desire to strike out every hitter had its trade-off, producing a walk record also unlikely to be equaled. But we'll likely never see another pitcher quite like him, in either regard.

Rickey Henderson's 1,406 career steals and 130 steals in 1982
Baseball is a cyclical game, but right now, it's hard to imagine the stolen base being featured again like it was in Henderson's heyday. The last player to attempt 130 steals in a season was Vince Coleman in 1985, and 35-year-old Jose Reyes is the active steals leader with just 514. Billy Hamilton, 27, would need to average about 115 steals over each of the next 10 seasons (nearly twice his career high) to approach the "Man of Steal."

Video: MLB Tonight breaks down Henderson's amazing speed

Hack Wilson's 191 RBIs in 1930
Driving in runs is one of the more dependent statistics in baseball. While there's no doubt Wilson went on an absolute tear in 1930 (.356/.454/.723 with 56 home runs), he also played in an extreme offensive environment (a record six players topped 150 RBIs that year) and had a pair of superb table-setters in front of him in Kiki Cuyler (.428 OBP) and Woody English (.430). Manny Ramirez's 165 RBIs in 1999 stand as the closest recent attempt, but it still fell about a month's worth short of Wilson's mark.

Chief Wilson's 36 triples in 1912
Wilson never again hit half as many triples as he did in this historic year, pointing to how difficult this kind of campaign would be. Rockies center fielder Charlie Blackmon's 14 triples -- 13 of them hit at home in spacious Coors Field -- paced baseball in 2017, when MLB hitters combined for the fewest triples in the modern era.

Barry Bonds' 232 walks in 2004
With the kind of power that could persuade managers to intentionally walk him in the first inning or with the bases loaded, no one in baseball history tested the limits of statistics quite like Bonds. For context, only one player other than Bonds has walked at least 170 times in a season (Babe Ruth, 1923), and Bonds alone piled up more than half the walks that the entire Pirates squad drew in 2004. He was also issued 120 intentional passes that year, and only one player other than Bonds -- who had 68 IBBs in 2002 and 61 in '03 -- has ever drawn more than 45 in one year (Willie McCovey, 1969).

Babe Ruth's 177 runs scored in 1921
Like Wilson's RBI mark, Ruth got a good bit of help from a lineup that collectively hit .300 and averaged 6.2 runs. But don't shortchange the 353 times that "The Bambino" reached base, which still stands as the fifth-highest single-year total in history. Hitting 59 homers will go a long way, too, of course. Even at his peak, Bonds never scored 150 times in a season; Jeff Bagwell (152 runs in 2000) is the most recent player to crack 150, and he was the first since Ted Williams in 1949.

Pete Rose's 15,890 plate appearances and 4,256 hits
It is conceivable that Ichiro could be within shouting distance of Rose's hit mark had he debuted in America well before his age-27 season. It's much harder to imagine any player not only equaling Rose's 24 big league seasons, but also maintaining the excellence required to average 662 plate appearances per season as the Hit King did. Manny Machado, who entered Friday leading all current 25-and-under players with 2,366 plate appearances, would need to plan on a 694-plate-appearance pace over the next 19 1/2 seasons to challenge Rose.

Cal Ripken Jr.'s 2,632 straight games played
Plenty has been written about the streak of the "Iron Man," who not only matched Lou Gehrig's once-unbreakable mark, but kept on playing for another three straight seasons. The longest streak recorded by any player since is Miguel Tejada's 1,152 games from 2000-07 -- not even half of Ripken's total. Alcides Escobar, the Majors' current streak leader, had played 396 games in a row entering Friday.

Video: Ripken Jr. on players today not playing 162 games

Hank Aaron's 6,856 career total bases
Bonds may have eclipsed Aaron as the Home Run King, but no one comes close to "Hammerin' Hank" in this measure of metronomic power. Stan Musial still stands closest to Aaron with 6,134 total bases, while Albert Pujols (5,552 total bases entering Friday) would need to average about 373 over the remaining 3 1/2 seasons of his contract -- a total he hasn't reached since he won his last Most Valuable Player Award in 2009.

Off the beaten path

Ron Hunt's 50 hit by pitches in 1971
Eclipsed only by Hughie Jennings' 51 body blows recorded before the founding of the American League, Hunt's rather painful '71 campaign hasn't been seriously challenged in nearly half a century. Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, second all time with 285 hit by pitches in his career, could only peak at 34 plunkings in 1997.

Reggie Cleveland's 3 home runs allowed in 1976
With a record 6,105 homers logged in 2017, and plenty more clearing the fence in '18, this is most certainly the wrong climate for any qualified pitcher to challenge Cleveland's mark for any non-strike season in the Integration Era (1947-present).

Jody Davis' 89 baserunners caught stealing in 1986
Davis' total ties for 166th all time, but everyone ahead of him played before the end of World War II and integration. Davis raced past Gary Carter's 75 caught-stealing throws in 1983, and no other backstop has reached 70 since Tom Pagnozzi in '91. As we referenced with Henderson above, there simply aren't enough steal attempts now to create an environment where one could throw out baserunners like Davis did for the Cubs more than 30 years ago. Tucker Barnhart, the Majors' leader with 28 caught-stealing throws in 2017, was only challenged 69 times.

Gif: Jody Davis throws out runner

Joe Sewell's three-strikeout season in 1932
An easy candidate for the toughest hitter to strike out in the history of the game, Sewell's career punchout percentage (.014 percent) is best described as "microscopic." The Hall of Famer's three strikeouts over 576 plate appearances in 1932 -- the fewest of any qualified season with at least 502 trips to the plate -- was matched by 12 players on Opening Day, 183 players within the first week and 289 players by the end of April this season.

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

These 8 players stood out in the AFL title game

MLB.com @JimCallisMLB

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Braxton Davidson delivered one of the most dramatic home runs in Arizona Fall League history, propelling the Peoria Javelinas to their second consecutive championship Saturday afternoon.

The Braves first baseman hammered a 2-1 pitch up in the strike zone from Salt River Rafters left-hander Taylor Guilbeau (Nationals) to give Peoria a 3-2 victory in the bottom of the 10th inning. Davidson's blast cleared the picnic area above the right-field bullpen at Scottsdale Stadium, making the Javelinas the only team to successfully defend their AFL title besides the 2004-08 Phoenix Desert Dogs. He apparently injured himself as he celebrated while rounding the bases and was taken to a nearby hospital to check on a possible fracture in his left foot.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Braxton Davidson delivered one of the most dramatic home runs in Arizona Fall League history, propelling the Peoria Javelinas to their second consecutive championship Saturday afternoon.

The Braves first baseman hammered a 2-1 pitch up in the strike zone from Salt River Rafters left-hander Taylor Guilbeau (Nationals) to give Peoria a 3-2 victory in the bottom of the 10th inning. Davidson's blast cleared the picnic area above the right-field bullpen at Scottsdale Stadium, making the Javelinas the only team to successfully defend their AFL title besides the 2004-08 Phoenix Desert Dogs. He apparently injured himself as he celebrated while rounding the bases and was taken to a nearby hospital to check on a possible fracture in his left foot.

:: Complete coveraege of the 2018 AFL championship game ::

A first-round pick in 2014, Davidson struggled mightily during the regular season in High Class A. He homered 20 times but also batted just .171 and struck out 213 times (second in the Minors) with a whiff rate of 44 percent. His feast-or-famine results continued in Arizona, where he tied for the regular-season home run lead with six but also ranked second with 31 strikeouts while batting .227.

The only other walkoff in AFL championship game history also came from a Braves first-base prospect. Mike Hessman hit a grand slam to cap a seven-run rally in the ninth in 2001, providing the Desert Dogs with their first title. Hessman retired in 2015 with a Minor League-record 433 homers, and also went deep 14 times in 109 big league games over five seasons.

While Davidson was the biggest hero for the Javelinas, he wasn't the only standout in the Fall League finale. Here are seven more:

Miguel Diaz, RHP, Peoria (Padres): Diaz didn't produce the cleanest line as the Javelina's starter, giving up two runs (one earned) on three hits and two walks over 3 2/3 innings. But he did strike out five, pitched at 94-98 mph with his fastball and also recorded strikeouts with his slider and changeup. While he doesn't look like he has the command to stick in a rotation, he could make for an interesting bullpen weapon.

Video: SRR@PEJ: Diaz fans 5 in Fall League Championship

Lucius Fox, SS, Peoria (Rays): Fox is still a work in progress but shows the potential to become a top-of-the-order catalyst. He drew two walks and used his well above-average speed to steal a base, then laced a pitch from nasty sidearming right-hander Justin Lawrence (Rockies) into the left-center gap for an opposite-field double during the game-tying two-run rally in the bottom of the ninth.

Monte Harrison, OF, Salt River (Marlins): After topping the Minors with 215 strikeouts during the regular season, Harrison toned down his approach throughout the fall. He fell behind 1-2 in the count during his first at-bat against Diaz but didn't panic or try to do too much, grounding a single up the middle to drive in the game's first run. He went hitless in his next three plate appearances but saw 17 pitches while doing so.

Video: SRR@PEJ: Harrison opens scoring with single to center

Keston Hiura, 2B, Peoria (Brewers): The league MVP and one of the best pure hitting prospects in the game, Hiura managed only a walk in his first four trips to the plate. Then he displayed his measured approach in the ninth, grounding a single up the middle against Lawrence to score Fox and tie the game 2-2.

Video: SRR@PEJ: Miller, Hiura key rally to tie the game

Carter Kieboom, 2B, Salt River (Nationals): Another of baseball's best hitting prospects, Kieboom had a hand in both of Salt River's runs, scoring after getting hit by a pitch in the second and singling to set up a run in the fourth. Normally a shortstop, he displayed a strong arm while turning two double plays at second.

Jesus Tinoco, RHP, Salt River (Rockies): Tinoco had the most effective fastball among the game's 11 relievers. He relied almost solely on his heat, working from 94-98 mph with good life and retiring six of the seven batters he faced. He needed just 19 pitches to breeze through two innings and fanned Hudson Potts (Padres) on a 97-mph fastball.

Video: SRR@PEJ: Yamamoto K's 6 over 4 scoreless innings

Jordan Yamamoto, RHP, Salt River (Marlins): Yamamoto blanked Peoria for five innings on Monday and again for four innings in the championship game. As usual, his best pitch was his curveball, and he also spotted his fastball (which sat around 90 mph) and mixed in some effective sliders and changeups. He walked five, including three in a row in the third, but allowed just two hits and struck out six (four on curves).

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Yankee Stadium, Notre Dame football unite

What is Yankee Stadium to do in the offseason? While it could sit cold and empty, waiting for spring and starting nines to take the field again, that's less fun than playing host to Notre Dame football. That's exactly what took place on Saturday when the Fighting Irish played Syracuse in the Shamrock Series.