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Rumors: Phillies, Astros, Harper, Machado

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

Phillies: Harper or Machado not necessary for success
Dec. 17: The Phillies have long been connected with both of the premier free agents on this offseason's market, 26-year-old superstars Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. But president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said Monday that while managing partner John Middleton said last month that the club might be "a little bit stupid" in how it spends money this winter, an acquisition of either isn't a prerequisite for success in 2019.

"You can have a very successful offseason and not include either one of those [players]," said MacPhail. "That may or may not be the case. But the way that it was portrayed put John in an awkward spot."

After competing for a National East division title for most of last season, only to fade fast down the stretch, Philadelphia has been rumored to be ready to make a big splash or two this offseason. It's even been suggested that the Phillies could land both Harper and Machado. Machado has ties to the Phillies through the front office, as MacPhail was the Orioles' general manager while Machado was in Baltimore. 

Former MLB general manager Jim Duquette, an analyst for MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM, said he thinks the Phillies are still by far the frontrunners to land Machado.

"I would be surprised if he ends up with the White Sox. I think the Phillies will be the team," Duquette said. "The owners continue to talk about how much they're going to spend money. And they love him in the front office. I think they're the most motivated, they need him at third base, all of those things combined. ... I feel stronger today than I did before the offseason even started, that he's going to be a Phillie."

Machado is scheduled to meet with the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday, a day after he visits the Yankees in New York. He met with the White Sox in Chicago on Monday.

Tweet from @MLBNetworkRadio: .@Jim_Duquette: More than ever, the #Phillies look like the frontrunner for Manny Machado. pic.twitter.com/r6pL7KiykK

Report: Astros 'closing in on' deal with Brantley
Dec. 17: The Astros may be on the verge of adding an impact bat to their lineup.

A source confirmed to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi that outfielder Michael Brantley, a 2018 All-Star with the Cleveland Indians, was nearing a two-year contract with Houston. The development was first reported by MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal.

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: #Astros closing in on free-agent outfielder Michael Brantley, sources tell The Athletic. Rival executives expect deal to be in two-year, $32M range.

Rosenthal reports that the deal is expected to be for two years and around $32 million.

While he's not in the same tier as fellow free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, the 31-year-old Brantley is one of the more productive players on the open market. He's coming off a season in which he played 143 games -- his most since 2014 -- and slashed .304/.364/.468. Known for strong contact skills, Brantley would be an ideal fit as a left-handed bat in a righty heavy Astros lineup.

Tweet from @JeffPassan: Brantley's versatility and bat-to-ball ability greatly appealed to the Astros, who have a team full of those types. The plan is for him to rotate among left field, first base and DH. Top of the lineup is Springer, Brantley, Altuve, Bregman in almost any order, with Correa, too.

Tweet from @darenw: Michael Brantley swung at 1008 pitches last season and only missed 111 times. His 11% whiff rate was 3rd lowest in @mlb. Alex Bregman was 7th lowest. https://t.co/469CiJXhZ0

Will Houston swing a deal for Realmuto next?
Dec. 17: With free-agent outfielder Michael Brantley reportedly agreeing to a two-year, $32 million contract with the Astros on Monday, could Houston now turn its focus to landing the most coveted catcher on the trade market, J.T. Realmuto?

Jim Bowden, a former MLB general manager and current analyst for MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM, thinks the next logical move for the Astros could be to trade their No. 1 prospect -- and No. 5 prospect in baseball per MLB Pipeline -- Kyle Tucker to Miami for Realmuto. 

"Is that the next play?" Bowden asks. "And now you have Realmuto and Brantley in the lineup. And then you sign Nelson Cruz as DH? ... Kyle Tucker's not ready, or he'd be in left field. I wonder if they're going to ship him to Miami to get Realmuto, especially since the Mets signed Wilson Ramos. So they're not in on Realmuto, and the Astros are now the best fit for Miami. ... If I'm an Astros fan, my heart is pitter-pattering right now."

Houston signed catcher Robinson Chirinos earlier this month, but he's a part-time player. The Astros have also been rumored as serious suitors for Cruz, who has continued to be one of the game's best sluggers even at age 38. 

Tucker, 21, was Houston's first-round Draft selection in 2015, No. 5 overall out of Tampa's H.B. Plant High School. He was called up briefly last season and made his Major League debut, but hit just .141/.236/.203 over 28 games. At Triple-A Fresno, he hit .332/.400/.590 with 24 home runs and 20 steals in 100 games. 

Tweet from @MLBNetworkRadio: .@astros have a reported deal with former #Indians outfielder Michael Brantley. What's next? @JimBowdenGM says go for @JTRealmuto #Astros pic.twitter.com/o8BtxnfbkE

Dodgers are in on Harper, but at what price?
Dec. 17: Despite having a deep, fully loaded outfield, the Dodgers have been lurking around the edges of the Bryce Harper sweepstakes, according to multiple reports. But how serious are they about snagging the superstar slugger, really?

"The Dodgers are widely rumored to be in on Harper, but the reality, according to Major League sources, is that they do not want him on a long-term, record-setting contract," MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal writes (subscription required) in a story for The Athletic. "A short-term deal with a high average salary and opt-outs might hold more appeal, but such an agreement likely would create luxury-tax issues for the Dodgers in 2019, and the team already has too many outfielders."

Translation: The Dodgers would like to land Harper, but more on their terms than on his (and those of agent Scott Boras). And even still, there have been reports that the front office is trying to stay under the luxury-tax threshold for the foreseeable future, meaning going after Harper might require a trade to unload some higher-salaried players. That's likely part of why Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Alex Wood, among others, have been mentioned as chips.

• Wood among three pitchers who are "buy-low" trade candidates

What, exactly, a "short-term deal with a high average salary and opt-outs" for Harper could look like is difficult to say, but one imagines Harper and Boras would only even consider such a proposition if the AAV were at least $35 million to $40 million -- allowing Harper to hold the record for largest per-season salary.

A contract that calls for opt-outs on Harper's end makes sense -- and might even be likely -- given that trend for big-money pacts over the past few years (think: Clayton Kershaw, Jason Heyward, David Price), as well as the fact that Harper would be young enough to re-enter the open market in his late 20s, thus giving him a second shot at securing a massive payday if he so chooses.

Machado tour swings through South Side
Dec. 17: The Machado sweepstakes could heat up this week as he tours the country to meet with potential suitors. Reports are that Machado will meet with the Yankees on Wednesday in New York and with the Phillies on Thursday at Citizens Bank Park, but first came a visit to the South Side of Chicago on Monday, when he met with the White Sox.

Want a peek at Machado arriving at Guaranteed Rate Field on Monday? NBC Sports Chicago has footage.

The White Sox were not as close to a World Series title as the Yankees and Phillies in 2018, but they have been viewed at various times this offseason as a club willing to extend a considerable financial offer toward either Machado or Bryce Harper. Those expectations were tempered slightly, however, when ESPN's Buster Olney reported Saturday (subscription required) that Chicago is unlikely to offer a contract that would surpass Giancarlo Stanton's record $325 million deal from 2014. Both Machado and Harper are expected to ask for more than that total, and so the White Sox might need to wait and see if their asking prices go down at all in the coming weeks or months.

Chicago traded for Machado's brother-in-law, first baseman Yonder Alonso, last week in a move that fueled speculation toward its pursuit of Machado, but White Sox general manager Rick Hahn downplayed the transaction as strictly a "baseball deal."

Alonso spoke with Chicago media via conference call from his Miami home. He was excited about the prospect of playing on the same club as his brother-in-law.

"We are definitely very close," Alonso said of Machado. "We live two blocks away from each other in Miami. It will be very, very nice to also be neighbors on the South Side.

"I know he's very excited for me, his whole family is very excited for me, and we feel like it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I definitely want him to be my neighbor, I'll tell you that. I want him to be by my side. But again, I know he is going to do his thing and make his own decision."

The White Sox lost 100 games in 2018, but their opportunity could be coming soon in the American League Central with the Indians' window for contention perhaps starting to close.

Video: Alonso talks about his desire to play with Machado

With Brantley off the board, what's next for Pollock?
Dec. 17: With the reported agreement on a two-year deal between the Astros and Michael Brantley, another outfielder is off the market. What does that mean for free-agent center fielder A.J. Pollock?

MLB.com's Mark Feinsand notes that Pollock has been pretty much flying under the radar so far this offseason, even though he presents a potential All-Star player with the ability to produce at the plate while excelling in the outfield. Of course, as Feinsand points out, Pollock has missed more than 300 games over the past five seasons, and also comes with Draft pick compensation attached because he rejected a qualifying offer from the D-backs.

Still, as the outfield market thins, with Andrew McCutchen joining the Phillies, that should, in theory, help Pollock. The Mets have been rumored as serious candidates to sign Pollock in a continuation of what has been a busy offseason. Other clubs that Feinsand suggests would be fits include the Phillies -- even with McCutchen in the fold -- Braves, Dodgers, Reds and Indians. Cleveland, in particular, is in need of outfielders after losing Brantley and potentially Lonnie Chisenhall to free agency.

Why a Realmuto trade could happen soon (maybe)
Dec. 17: At this point, not an offseason day goes by without at least some mention of a J.T. Realmuto trade rumor. So here goes.

After the Marlins reportedly spent the Winter Meetings last week narrowing down the list of likely suitors and in the wake of the Mets -- one of said suitors, and arguably the most aggressive at the time -- instead signing Wilson Ramos to be their backstop, will the All-Star Marlins catcher be moved any time soon?

"This will be a telling week, because the Marlins are engaged in talks with six to eight teams, including the Dodgers and Rays," MLB.com's Joe Frisaro writes. "The Mets are no longer in the mix after reaching an agreement with catcher Wilson Ramos. The Reds, Padres, Braves, Brewers and perhaps the Yankees and Angels could also be in the picture."

Of those clubs, Atlanta may no longer be in play, at least not as heavily as the club appeared to be a week ago, according to MLB.com's Mark Bowman.

Frisaro also suggests that although the Marlins have continued to indicate they are prepared to retain Realmuto -- who is under club control through the 2020 season -- that seems "unlikely." That certainly stands to reason, given all of the buzz and hype surrounding not only the player but also the interested parties.

Will Astros still target Cruz?
Dec. 17: With reports that Houston is nearing a two-year deal with Michael Brantley, what does that mean for its possible pursuit of Nelson Cruz?

The prevailing thought with regard to Cruz is that his market is limited by two very key factors. One, he's pretty much a full-time designated hitter at this stage of his career, so it's almost a certainty that only American League teams would be in play. And two, he's 38, so it's more likely that contending clubs would be interested, since he could fit their window to win now.

The first reason above is why just about every Cruz-related rumor so far has linked him to teams like the Rangers, White Sox, Twins, Rays and Astros. The second reason above is why the Rays and Astros -- two teams certainly ready to contend right away in 2019 -- might make the most sense of all.

If the Brantley deal is completed, he is likely to see time in left field, first base and DH for the Astros, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. That doesn't necessarily block Houston from going after Cruz. And indeed, USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale reports the Astros are still pursuing Cruz even after the Brantley agreement.

Tyler White still looks like the Astros' leading candidate to DH. While he had an impressive late-2018 showing (.879 OPS across August and September), Cruz's power -- he has averaged over 40 homers with a 145 OPS+ the past five seasons -- would provide an upgrade to a lineup that was still good last year but took a step back after a historic '17.

Beyond that, Brantley and Cruz offer completely different offensive skill sets, with the former being a contact-oriented gap-to-gap hitter and the latter being a pure slugger. MLB.com's David Adler covered just this topic, writing: "As great as the Astros have been, two of the things their offense could use most are a prototypical masher and a reliably productive designated hitter. Or, to put it another way, one of the things the Astros' offense could most use is Cruz.

"In both 2017 and '18, the DH spot was not Houston's strength. Carlos Beltran was the team's primary DH in '17, and he posted a 77 Weighted Runs Created Plus in that role -- 100 is MLB-average production, so Beltran was 23 percent below average as a DH. This past season, Evan Gattis had the most at-bats at DH, and he had a 99 wRC+. For '19, the Astros' best current option looks like Tyler White, who was excellent in limited DH games in August and September. But White is no Cruz.

"Cruz's wRC+ in 144 games as a DH in 2018 was 134. In 155 games at DH in '17, it was 147. Combined over the two seasons, Cruz posted a 141 wRC+ at the DH position."

Tweet from @BNightengale: The #Astros still have interest in signing Nelson Cruz, too

Could Pollock fit in L.A.?
Dec. 17: When it comes to the free-agent outfield market, the Dodgers look to be in an intriguing position. On one hand, they have plenty of outfield depth on their current roster, including Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, Matt Kemp, plus versatile options like Chris Taylor, Cody Bellinger and Enrique Hernandez, as well as prospect Alex Verdugo. On the other hand, they could be in the mix for either Bryce Harper or A.J. Pollock, according to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal. Let's explain.

To bring aboard either Harper or Pollock, the club clearly would have to clear a spot -- as well as some salary -- which is why there has been speculation that Puig, Pederson, Kemp and/or Verdugo might be traded. The Dodgers have been linked to the Indians (for Corey Kluber and/or Trevor Bauer) and the Marlins (for J.T. Realmuto), and presumably, if they were to complete a deal, one or more of their current outfielders would be involved.

While the Harper rumors are gaining some steam, however, it's worth wondering whether Pollock might be a better fit, given both his much lower price tag and the club's roster construction.

"For the moment, the team is committed to Cody Bellinger in center, but A.J. Pollock's ability to play that position might actually make him a better free-agent fit than Harper, provided the Dodgers indeed trade other outfielders," Rosenthal writes (subscription required) in a story for The Athletic. "Pollock has not played more than 113 games in a season since 2015, but the Dodgers -- due to their depth and versatility -- could withstand his absences more easily than most clubs. He would be the position-player version of left-hander Rich Hill, valued for bursts of excellence in limited action. And he would be considerably less expensive than Harper, likely commanding a contract in the three- or four-year range at around $15 million per season."

Landing Pollock would make Bellinger the Dodgers' primary first baseman again, potentially putting 2018 breakout slugger Max Muncy at second base -- an area of need for L.A. -- although neither player likely would play those positions exclusively.

Is it time for the Mets to address their depth?
Dec. 17: The Mets have been among the most active teams in the Majors this offseason, and have made multiple big splashes, trading with the Mariners for second baseman Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz, bringing back reliever Jeurys Familia, and on Sunday, agreeing to a two-year deal with veteran catcher Wilson Ramos. But according to MLB Network insider Joel Sherman in an article for the New York Post, it's time for New York to turn its attention to depth.

"The Mets are not getting better in a vacuum," Sherman writes. "The Braves, Nationals and Phillies finished ahead of the Mets in 2018 and also are pushing to improve for 2019. ... Deepening the roster now with one-year alternatives gives the Mets a better overall team to go for it now while not being tied to more long-term burdens if the breaks familiarly go against them and they have to sell out of this in July and think beyond 2019."

Three specific areas that Sherman argues the Mets need to bolster are the starting rotation, the outfield and catching depth. He writes that while the Mets were one of only nine teams to have five starters make at least 20 starts each last season, they can't bet on that happening again, and should target a veteran like Francisco Liriano on a short-term contract.

In the outfield, Sherman suggests that while A.J. Pollock has been linked to the club in rumors recently, he's injury-prone and hasn't hit as well away from Chase Field over the past two seasons. The club did, however, bring in veteran speedster Rajai Davis on a Minor League deal as a depth option Monday. And while the Mets landed one of the best catchers on the market in Ramos, he has been prone to injury himself.

Could Kimbrel wind up back with Boston after all? 
Dec. 17: Is there a chance Craig Kimbrel could return to the Red Sox? After signing righty Nathan Eovaldi to a four-year, $68 million contract, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said he doesn't expect to make a "big expenditure" to fill the closer's role, according to MLB.com's Ian Browne. So that would seem to rule out Kimbrel, who served as Boston's stopper the past three seasons, culminating in the 2018 World Series title ... right?

Nevertheless, ESPN's Buster Olney lays out the reasons (subscription required) why Kimbrel could find his way back to Boston, including a strong buyer's market for teams seeking relievers, the Red Sox's need for bullpen help and an apparent lack of widespread interest in Kimbrel -- partly because of his lofty asking price (a reported six-year, nine-figure deal), and partly because a number of contending clubs already have an established closer in place.

In fact, Olney draws a comparison to last offseason, when the Red Sox seemed like the best fit for slugger J.D. Martinez all along, then simply waited out the market and wound up getting him at a price that fit their terms.

"There is also this: Kimbrel knows Boston," Olney writes. "He knows the Red Sox staff. Dombrowski traded for him, manager Alex Cora trusted him implicitly, all the way the through the October shakiness. Kimbrel has history with the Red Sox that may continue, especially if the demand for his services doesn't turn out to be as widespread as his agent might have hoped."

Grandal would be a huge upgrade for Halos
Dec. 17: With Jose Briceno and Kevan Smith as the only two catchers on their 40-man roster at the moment, the Angels have a glaring need behind the plate. Between that and the club being in win-now mode with superstar Mike Trout smack in the middle of his prime and only under contract through 2020, it's not too much of a leap to see why the Halos would be interested in Yasmani Grandal, as sources confirmed to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi.

Tweet from @jonmorosi: #Angels showing interest in free agent Yasmani Grandal, sources confirm @maria_torres3 report. @MLBNetwork @MLB

Now that Wilson Ramos has a two-year agreemen with the Mets, Grandal unquestionably is the top free agent backstop in the business -- in fact, he was considered that even before Ramos' deal. The 30-year-old Grandal, who has averaged more than 24 homers and posted a 113 OPS+ since the start of 2016, not only would bring stability to both sides of the ball for the Angels, he would massively enhance their expected production.

A few clubs remain in the market for an upgrade at catcher, including the Dodgers, Astros, Braves and A's, but few teams with hopes of contending in 2019 are in as dire shape at the position as the Halos are.

Keuchel, Reds could be a perfect fit
Dec. 17: The Reds have made their search for starting pitchers well known. They acquired veteran innings-eater Tanner Roark from the Nationals last week to address their rotation, but they're likely looking to do more to improve what has long been a weakness. What better way to do that than go after the top remaining starter on the open market: Dallas Keuchel.

The Reds already have been linked to the southpaw, and it's a match that does make a lot of sense for a number of reasons, including Keuchel's resume (2015 AL Cy Young Award winner), durability (190 2/3 IP per season since '14) and homer-suppressing, ground-ball-inducing repertoire. As far as that last element goes, MLB.com's Manny Randhawa explains why Keuchel would be a great fit for the Reds and their homer-friendly home park.

"Keuchel had the highest ground-ball rate of all qualified starting pitchers last season, at 53.7 percent, and his 58.0 percent ground-ball rate over the past three seasons is fourth among qualified starters over that span," Randhawa writes. "His career high was 66.8 percent in '17. As for quality of contact, Keuchel's barrel rate of 4.5 percent was eighth-best among pitchers that yielded at least 400 batted balls (91 pitchers) last season.

"A byproduct of Keuchel's penchant for ground balls and weak contact is the low rate at which he's surrendered home runs in what has been a prodigious era for sluggers. In '18, his home runs per nine innings rate was 0.79, ninth-best among qualified starters. And in the season prior it was 0.93. Out of all balls hit in the air off Keuchel last season, just 18.5 percent were hard-hit according to Statcast™, 10th-lowest among pitchers that induced at least 400 batted balls (91 pitchers) in '18."

Another factor to consider? The current Reds rotation is expected to feature Roark, Luis Castillo, Anthony DeSclafani and Tyler Mahle, so a lefty like Keuchel would provide a different look and some variety.

After losing Mercer, the Pirates are interested in Tulo
Dec. 17: The Pirates lost longtime shortstop Jordy Mercer to free agency earlier this month, and according to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in an article for The Athletic, Pittsburgh is showing interest in Troy Tulowitzki, who was recently released by the Blue Jays. 

Tulowitzki, 34, missed all of last season after having surgery to remove bone spurs in both feet. Ankle injuries limited him to 66 games in 2017, in which he hit .249/.300/.378 with seven homers. The prior season, his first full campaign with Toronto after being traded by Colorado, he hit .254/.318/.443 with 24 homers and 3.4 wins above replacement in 131 games.

Tulowitzki claims he's now fully healthy, and will be having open workouts before big league teams in search of a shortstop. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was Tulowitzki's first Major League manager while with the Rockies, and the two were together in Colorado for nine seasons.

Nationals have been 'active' in second-base market
Dec. 17: As they continue to search for their next second baseman, the Nationals may not pursue the top end of the market, according to the Washinton Post. Though the club has spoken with DJ LeMahieu's representatives, Washington may seek less expensive options to fill the role, such as Brian Dozier, Josh Harrison or Jed Lowrie.

Which player(s) the team is targeting at the position might be fluid, but it's pretty clear the Nats "have been active" in the second-base market, MLB.com's Jamal Collier writes.

LeMahieu won a batting title with the Rockies in 2016, and in eight Major League seasons, has a .298/.350/.406 slash line (92 OPS+). He's an excellent defender at second, having won three Gold Glove Awards. While he could command a fairly large contract at age 30, Dozier, Harrison and Lowrie could all be strong temporary solutions. 

Dozier, 31, struggled last season after posting a 130 OPS+ with 76 homers over the two prior years. In '18, he hit .215/.305/.391 with 21 home runs in 151 games between the Twins and Dodgers. Harrison, 31, is a two-time All-Star but since a breakout season in '14, his OPS+ is 92. He brings defensive versatility, though, which could be a plus. Lowrie is the oldest of the group, at 34. But his last two seasons have been the best of his career; from '17-18, he hit .272/.356/.448.

With another catcher off the board, how does it affect Realmuto's market?
Dec. 16: With the Mets reportedly agreeing to a two-year deal with free-agent catcher Wilson Ramos on Sunday, there's one fewer catcher on the market this offseason, as well as one fewer team looking for a backstop. How does that affect the trade market for the much-coveted J.T. Realmuto? 

The Braves are another team that has apparently bowed out of the Realmuto sweepstakes, sources told MLB.com's Mark Bowman on Saturday. Based on past reports, that narrows the field to the Reds, Rays, Dodgers and Padres. All four clubs have very strong farm systems, and with the Marlins rebuilding, could make enticing offers for the 27-year-old All-Star.

The Dodgers are looking for a catcher to replace free agent Yasmani Grandal, and with Ramos no longer an option, it may prompt the front office to intensify its bid for Realmuto, who was the best-hitting catcher in the Majors last season. Meanwhile, the Padres have been rumored to be in the mix for several prominent players, and after signing Eric Hosmer to a big contract last offseason, San Diego may be thinking to significantly upgrade its big league club as farm talent nears the Majors.

The Rays were the biggest surprise of last season, finishing with 90 victories despite having one true starting pitcher and having traded away several key players prior to the non-waiver Trade Deadline. They may be looking to build on that success by adding another young talent behind the plate. And the Reds have been rumored to be in on several impact free agents as well, meaning Cincinnati appears serious about competing in the very near future.

Do the Yankees 'have to get a deal done' with Machado?
Dec. 16: The Yankees will be without shortstop Didi Gregorius for the first half of the 2019 season. As New York has worked to upgrade its starting rotation this offseason, Jim Memolo of MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM asks whether the Bronx Bombers need to be more urgent about signing Manny Machado.

"If you're the Yankees, and you don't sign Machado, and even if you sign someone like [Troy Tulowitzki] as a stopgap, you are not as good a lineup as you were last year," Memolo argues. "Troy Tulowitzki and some of the other names mentioned are not as good offensively or defensively as Didi Gregorius. So you tell me about that 'fully operational Death Star,' and I tell you that your lineup today, December 16, is not as good as it was last year."

Machado is expected to land a long-term contract in the neighborhood of $300 million this offseason. Along with Bryce Harper, the 26-year-old Machado is the most coveted free agent on the market. A four-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove Award winner, he hit .297/.367/.538 with 37 home runs and 14 steals between the Orioles and Dodgers last season.

As the Yankees work to put together a roster that can match the defending World Series champion Red Sox in the American League East, New York will be looking for any edge possible heading into the '19 season.

Tweet from @MLBNetworkRadio: .@jimmemolo thinks the #Yankees have to get a deal done with Manny Machado.#DeathStar pic.twitter.com/UYiyqPkYLa

Thor takes to Instagram amid trade rumors
Dec. 16: Noah Syndergaard has been the subject of trade rumors recently, particularly with his name reportedly coming up in discussions between the Mets and several other clubs, including the Yankees and Marlins. But the hard-throwing right-hander has taken to social media to convey his thoughts on the matter.

On Sunday, Syndergaard posted the following message on his Instagram account: "My Team, Our Colors, New York's Future."

 Instagram from @nsyndergaard: My Team, Our Colors, New York's Future

Syndergaard, 26, has been among the game's elite starting pitchers since making his Major League debut in 2015. In 25 starts last season, he posted a 3.03 ERA with a 1.21 WHIP. With the Mets reportedly agreeing to a two-year deal with free-agent catcher Wilson Ramos on Sunday, along with the return New York would be seeking in a potential Syndergaard trade, it looks more and more like he will remain in Queens.

Under new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen, the Mets have had a busy offseason so far, acquiring second baseman Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz from the Mariners, and bringing back reliever Jeurys Familia on a three-year deal during the Winter Meetings. 

Now that Mets have found their catcher, how does that affect Grandal's market?
Dec. 16: The Mets were rumored to be a serious suitor for free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal, but New York struck a two-year deal with Wilson Ramos on Sunday. What does that mean for Grandal?

The two premier catchers remaining on the market this offseason are Grandal and Marlins All-Star backstop J.T. Realmuto, who is on the trade block. The clubs that are still reportedly looking for an upgrade behind the plate include the Reds, Rays, Brewers, Dodgers, Padres, Angels, Astros and White Sox.

According to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi, Los Angeles is open to the idea of bringing Grandal back on a one-year deal, though it may not be for as much as the $17.9 million qualifying offer the Dodgers extended him following the end of the World Series.

But the Dodgers reportedly are also serious players for Realmuto, as are several of the teams noted above. That may mean that until Realmuto is moved, Grandal may be in a holding pattern.

Grandal, who turned 30 last month, had his best offensive season in 2018, slashing .241/.349/.466 with 24 home runs in 140 games. Though he struggled defensively during the postseason, he is known as a very good defensive catcher.

Machado to meet with Yanks on Wednesday, Phils on Thursday
Dec. 16: Manny Machado will formally meet with the Yankees on Wednesday in New York, according to George A. King III of the New York Post. And he'll meet with the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday, reports NBC Sports' Jim Salisbury

Tweet from @GeorgeAKingIII: Manny Machado and Yankees have meeting scheduled for Wednesday in New York

Regardless of ownership's apprehensions of Machado's work ethic and perceived character concerns, all signs have pointed to the Yankees at least exploring the possibility of adding the star shortstop this offseason. They were reportedly interested in him last winter, tried to acquire him ahead of the non-waiver Trade Deadline in July and now have a need at the position with Didi Gregorius slated to miss a chunk of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery.
  
Last month, Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner called Machado's now-infamous "Johnny Hustle" comments "troubling" and said he was hoping to conduct a sit-down meeting with Machado to glean clarification on his remarks. Andy Martino of SNY.tv reported after the postseason that the club was "lukewarm" on Machado given his postseason antics, though that approach appears to have altered.

The Phillies have also been long rumored to be interested in signing not only Machado, but perhaps also the other marquee free agent this offseason, Bryce Harper. With young talent on the roster and enough payroll room to spend big this winter, Philadelphia is looking to shake up what is shaping up to be a very competitive NL East in 2019.
 
The Machado market, like most players' this offseason, has been slow to develop. Machado has been rumored to be in the market for one of the richest contracts in baseball history, potentially in the neighborhood of $300 million. The Yankees and Phillies are among only a small handful of clubs with the financial bandwidth to offer such a deal. Gregorius will be back at some time in 2019, but he will become a free agent at season's end, which could create a long-term spot for Machado. 

Video: Would the Yankees prefer Harper or Machado?

While teams continue to woo Machado, it's also worth considering this process from his point of view, too. Does Machado have a preference for where he winds up?

"Manny Machado's first choice is the New York Yankees," CBS Sports Network analyst and former big league general manager Jim Bowden said Wednesday evening. "So if the Yankees come to the table ... and are willing to compete financially for his services, they will be the team that gets Manny Machado."

Tweet from @CBSSportsNet: ���Manny Machado���s first choice is the New York Yankees.���If the Yankees are willing to meet Machado���s price tag, @JimBowdenGM tells @AdamSchein he will be wearing pinstripes. #T2S pic.twitter.com/rLwUfByWj5

The Yankees certainly have the resources to go after Machado, who is expected to score a contract that could rival that of Harper's this offseason. The question, then, might be how badly Cashman and the rest of the club's front office and ownership want Machado.

After recent trades, Indians now less likely to move Kluber, Bauer
Dec. 15: The Indians have been expected to trade either Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer at some point this offseason, but the club's recent moves make that less likely.

According to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, Cleveland won't be as motivated by financial concerns after trading Yan Gomes, Edwin Encarnacion and Yonder Alonso. The Tribe trimmed roughly $18 million from its 2019 payroll through those deals.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: After trading Edwin, Yonder and Gomes, word is Indians won���t be as ���motivated��� by financial concerns now. Translation: Kluber and Bauer more likely to stay.

Looking to cut costs, Cleveland entered this offseason with a willingness to listen to offers for many of its top players, including Kluber, Bauer and Carlos Carrasco.

After the Indians signed Carrasco to a three-year contract extension, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported that the club was "increasingly motivated" to move either Kluber or Bauer, and trade talks for Kluber picked up steam during the Winter Meetings, per a report from MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi.

If the Indians don't move Kluber or Bauer in the coming weeks, they have the option of revisiting trade discussions down the road. Kluber has club options for $17.5 million in 2019 and $18 million for 2020, while Bauer is two years away from free agency.

Would Harper take less money to play for Yankees?
Dec. 15: Bryce Harper grew up idolizing Mickey Mantle, and in fact has said he wears No. 34 because the digits add up to Mantle's No. 7. Now that he's one of the top two free agents on the market, expected to command a long-term deal in the neighborhood of $300 million to $400 million, would he take less over a shorter period of time to join the Yankees?

MLB Network Radio's Jeff Joyce and Jim Memolo discussed the notion Saturday, with Joyce suggesting Harper could sign a short deal and then "prove himself" in New York before inking a longer-term deal to stay in the Bronx. 

Though he's coming off a down year at the plate by his lofty standards, Harper still drew an MLB-high 130 walks and launched 34 home runs. He's a six-time All-Star, the 2012 National League Rookie of the Year and '15 Most Valuable Player. And he's only 26 years old.

"How bad does he really want to be a Yankee?" Joyce asked. "Does that overweigh getting the biggest contract of all-time? Does he go to his agent and say, 'Just get me there. Just get me to the Yankees. Doesn't have to be $300 million. I'll take a shorter deal ... If he really wants to be a Yankee that bad, can't you see them trying to find a way to get that done?"

Tweet from @MLBNetworkRadio: Will Bryce Harper join the Imperial March? @JeffJoyce19 and @jimmemolo lay out the path. #Yankees pic.twitter.com/oFJvAZZ927

Alonso is headed to the White Sox. Is Machado next?
Dec. 15: The White Sox have officially acquired first baseman Yonder Alonso from the Indians in exchange for Minor League outfielder Alex Call.

Alonso, 31, hit .250/.317/.421 with 23 home runs in 145 games for the Tribe last season, on the heels of an All-Star campaign split between the A's and Mariners, in which he slugged .501 with 28 homers in 142 games. He has an $8 million salary for 2019, and a $9 million club option for '20, with a $1 million buyout.

Alonso is also the brother-in-law of free-agent superstar Manny Machado, who is reportedly scheduled to meet with the White Sox in a matter of days. Chicago has been rumored to be interested in adding Machado to a club that will soon see top talent from the farm system coming into the big leagues. Adding his brother-in-law to the roster may enhance the organization's chances at landing one of the premier talents in the game. More >

White Sox not planning to trade Abreu
Dec. 15: The White Sox just acquired a new first baseman, but that doesn't mean they are looking to move their old one.

While the club officially acquired Yonder Alonso from the Indians on Saturday, USA Today's Bob Nightengale reports that the club has "no intention" of dealing Jose Abreu.

Tweet from @BNightengale: Jose Abreu is staying in Chicago. The #Whitesox have no intention trading him

Abreu, 31, can become a free agent a year from now, and the White Sox are likely at least a year away from contending, even if they make a big splash in free agency. Trading Abreu makes sense on paper, but the team seems to value his clubhouse presence perhaps as much as his on-field contributions.

Abreu and Alonso will likely rotate between first base and designated hitter, leaving Daniel Palka with an uncertain role. The 27-year-old flashed strong power as a rookie (27 homers in 449 plate appearances), but he struck out 34.1 percent of the time and logged -11 Defensive Runs Saved. The White Sox may look to limit Palka's playing time in the outfield, whether they acquire Bryce Harper or not. Harper is one of Chicago's top targets, along with Manny Machado.

Keuchel may sign late in offseason
Dec. 15: Patrick Corbin and Nathan Eovaldi are off the market, and Charlie Morton and J.A. Happ have reportedly agreed to deals as well, which means Dallas Keuchel is clearly the biggest name remaining among free-agent starters. But the left-hander may not be finding his next team anytime soon.

According to Dennis Lin of The Athletic, Keuchel isn't expected to sign until late in the offseason. Lin reports that the Padres are interested in the southpaw, but his asking price is prohibitive for San Diego. The same likely goes for many other teams.

Tweet from @dennistlin: The Padres have interest in Dallas Keuchel, according to sources, though the asking price is currently prohibitive (likely so for most teams). Keuchel, a Scott Boras client and the top free-agent starter left, isn���t expected to sign until late in the offseason.

Keuchel could be this offseason's version of Jake Arrieta, who entered free agency after the 2017 campaign and didn't sign until March 2018, when he landed with the Phillies on a three-year deal for $75 million -- well below what he was reportedly seeking initially.

The similarities between the two pitchers are striking. Both are Scott Boras clients who won Cy Young Awards in 2015 but showed some signs of decline before hitting the free-agent market. Arrieta rejected a qualifying offer from the Cubs, so Philadelphia had to forfeit a Draft pick to sign him. Teams will need to do the same to add Keuchel, who rejected a qualifying offer from the Astros in November.

Video: MLB Tonight on the Padres' interest in Keuchel

Mets have talked Castellanos with the Tigers
Dec. 15: While it was reported Friday that the Mets are still serious about acquiring free-agent center fielder A.J. Pollock, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports New York has had discussions with the Tigers about right fielder Nicholas Castellanos.

Castellanos, 26, is entering his final year of arbitration eligibility and MLB Trade Rumors projects he will make $11.3 million in 2019. He had his best offensive season in '18, slashing .298/.354/.500 with 23 homers in 157 games for Detroit. He is not a particularly good defensive outfielder, but he can also play third base.

Tweet from @anthonyfenech: The Tigers have talked with the Mets about Castellanos, I���m told. The asking price is high, among other words and phrases, according to multiple teams who have spoken with them.

White Sox reportedly have spending limits for Harper, Machado
Dec. 15: The White Sox like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado and are hoping to make one of them the centerpiece of their roster as they emerge from a rebuilding period, but it remains to be seen if the club will actually be among the top bidders for the two superstars. A source tells ESPN's Buster Olney that Chicago is unwilling to make a record-setting offer to either player.

Read the latest Harper rumors here and the latest on Machado here.

Phillies eyeing Minor -- but for what role?
Dec. 15: The Phillies are pursuing a trade for Rangers left-hander Mike Minor, two sources told Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer, but it's unclear where they would use him. Philadelphia is targeting starters and relievers, and Minor happens to be someone with recent experience in both roles.

Minor was a starter with the Braves over the first five seasons of his career, but after missing all of 2015 and 2016 with left shoulder problems, he signed with the Royals and became a full-time reliever in 2017.

The southpaw was excellent pitching out of the bullpen, recording a 2.55 ERA with a 1.02 WHIP and a 10.2 K/9 mark. He averaged 94.7 mph with his four-seam fastball, and yielded an outstanding .249 xwOBA with the pitch, per Statcast™.

Despite that success, Texas used Minor as a starter for the entirety of 2018 after signing him last offseason. Minor finished the season with a 4.18 ERA, a 1.12 WHIP and a 7.6 K/9, averaging 92.8 mph with his four-seamer and allowing a .372 xwOBA with the pitch.

Lauber notes that if the Phils are looking at Minor as a reliever, it could indicate the club is "cooling" on left-handed relievers Andrew Miller and Zach Britton. That said, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported Friday that the Phillies have continued to target Miller while engaging with Texas about a deal for Minor.

Tweet from @JeffPassan: As the Phillies pursue pitching, they���ve engaged with the Rangers about left-handed Mike Minor and continued to target left-handed reliever Andrew Miller, league sources tell Yahoo Sports. Minor could start or relieve, and Miller is one of the best relievers left on FA market.

Braves out on Realmuto?
Dec. 15: The Braves haven't been in contact with the Marlins about potentially acquiring catcher J.T. Realmuto in the past five days, and Atlanta doesn't plan on picking those discussions back up, a source told MLB.com's Mark Bowman.

Realmuto was the Majors' best-hitting catcher in 2018, slashing .277/.340/.484 with 21 home runs in 125 games for Miami. Several teams, including the Reds, Mets, Rays, Dodgers and Padres have been rumored to be interested in acquiring the 27-year-old All-Star this offseason.

The Braves pursued Realmuto last offseason, before this year's Trade Deadline and at the beginning of this offseason. But when Miami wanted Ozzie Albies and made it clear at least one high-value MLB-experienced asset would also be needed in return, Atlanta signed veteran Brian McCann to a one-year, $2 million deal.

Read the latest Realmuto rumors here.

Tweet from @mlbbowman: Source: The Braves have not had any discussions regarding J.T. Realmuto within the past five days and they do not plan to have any further talks with the Marlins regarding the All-Star catcher.

Brewers considering Lowrie, Murphy
Dec. 15: Although the Brewers' top prospect, second baseman Keston Hiura (No. 30 overall, per MLB Pipeline), may soon be ready to make an impact in the Majors, Milwaukee is showing interest in both Daniel Murphy and Jed Lowrie, according to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in an article for The Athletic (subscription required).

Get the latest on Lowrie here.

Giants getting lots of calls on Smith, other relievers
Dec. 15: The Giants insist they are looking to be competitive in 2019, but if the right offer comes along to improve in other areas, some of their relievers could be on the move this offseason. According to NBC Sports Bay Area, the pitcher garnering the most interest is left-hander Will Smith, who had a stellar season in '18, posting a 2.55 ERA and a 34 percent strikeout rate in 58 appearances. The 29-year-old proved durable and very effective after missing the '17 season recovering from Tommy John surgery. 

With the reliever market picking up steam at the Winter Meetings, including a thee-year, $30 million contract for Jeurys Familia with the Mets, and a three-year, $25 million deal for Joe Kelly to join the Dodgers, clubs may be more inclined to scour the trade market for less expensive bullpen help. That could benefit the Giants, who have several voids to fill on their roster. Other cost-efficient Giants relievers who have been inquired about are Tony Watson and Sam Dyson.

Sources told NBC Bay Area that the Giants are positioning Smith as a cheaper alternative to left-handers Zach Britton and Andrew Miller, a pair of free agents that will likely cash in with big contracts this offseason.

Pirates have 'big interest' in Galvis
Dec. 15: Multiple clubs have shown interest in free-agent utility infielder Freddy Galvis, and the Pirates have joined that group according to the New York Post. Pittsburgh lost shortstop Jordy Mercer to the Tigers via free agency. 

Galvis, 29, has a career slash line of .246/.290/.374 over seven Major League seasons, six with the Phillies and one with the Padres. He's a strong defensive infielder who has only missed four games in the past three seasons, and could plug holes for teams like the Pirates or Yankees. New York has also shown interest in Galvis as a potential fall-back option if Manny Machado doesn't land in the Bronx.

Would Phillies splurge on Kimbrel?
Dec. 14: The Phillies have money to spend. We know this. Heck, their owner himself even said they might be a little "stupid" about it. That has led to most people in and around the baseball world expecting said money to go toward a pursuit of Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado. But could those funds make the Phillies a match for someone else instead?

Like, say, Craig Kimbrel?

In an all-encompassing look at where the market stands after the Winter Meetings, MLB.com's Mark Feinsand lists the Phillies as his "potential fit" for Kimbrel.

"The star closer is reportedly seeking a six-year deal worth more than $100 million, which would blow away the previous record of five years and $86 million signed by Aroldis Chapman two years ago," Feinsand writes. "Several executives cast doubt that Kimbrel will be able to score that type of contract, though he could get five years and upwards of $75 million. The Red Sox have been viewed as having moved on from their closer, but they remain a potential landing spot along with the Braves, Phillies and Cardinals."

Given Kimbrel's unprecendented asking price and the Phillies' financial resources -- not to mention, their need for a proven veteran presence to solidify the back end of a promising but very young bullpen -- maybe the two sides make sense as a match. Plus, with all the money the Phillies could spend this winter, it's not as if approaching nine figures for one of the sport's best closers would preclude them from still signing Harper or Machado.

Nats 'leery' of signing Keuchel long term
Dec. 14: After shelling out $140 million and committing six years to Patrick Corbin, the Nationals have some apprehension about dishing out another long-term deal in the starting pitching market -- specifically for Dallas Keuchel, according to Mark Zuckerman of MASN Sports

Keuchel is believed to be seeking a deal in the four- to six-year range, and many analysts predict he will get it. The Nats likely won't be willing to commit that length to the left-hander, per Zuckerman. 

Washington was one of just two clubs last year (with the Red Sox) to exceed the Competitive Balance Tax. Should it again exceed that mark, set for $206 million in 2019, the penalty will rise to the maximum of 50 percent. The club already has committed $525 million to its top three starters -- Corbin, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg -- over separate deals. 

Though they could feature arguably the best 1-2-3 punch in the Majors, the Nats' fourth and fifth starter spots are uncertain, particularly after they traded Tanner Roark to the Reds on Wednesday. The Nats have been linked to Keuchel this offseason, more so before they signed Corbin, but there might be more affordable avenues for them to continue to upgrade the back end of their rotation.

2B market is starting to move
Dec. 14: Second base is one of the more well-stocked positions in free agency this offseason, but it seems to be starting to roll at long last.

Ian Kinsler and the Padres agreed to a two-year, $8 million deal (with a team option for 2021) on Friday afternoon, sources told MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi. He's expected to provide some stability and depth in the infield, while San Diego allows youngsters Fernando Tatis and Jr. Luis Urias -- MLB Pipeline's Nos. 2 and 27 overall prospects, respectively -- to break into the bigs at a comfortable pace.

Tweet from @AJCassavell: Friars view Kinsler as a veteran option who can play multiple spots. If and when Tatis arrives this season, it seems like Urias at 2B, Tatis at SS and Kinsler at 3B is the likeliest option.

Meanwhile, the Cubs and Cardinals are pursuing another veteran in Daniel Descalso -- a versatile infielder who saw most of his action at the keystone with the D-backs the past two years and is coming off a career campaign in 2018 -- according to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal and USA Today's Bob Nightengale.

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: #Cubs in strong pursuit of free-agent infielder Daniel Descalso, sources tell The Athletic.

Tweet from @BNightengale: Daniel Descalso indeed the #Cubs first choice as a super utility player but they just don���t know whether they can afford him in their budget with Descalso also on #Stlcards radar. https://t.co/xRhm6FXK78

This comes on the heels of the Twins recently landing Jonathan Schoop as a bounceback candidate to handle second base in Minnesota.

A number of quality starting players at the position remain on the open market, including Jed Lowrie, DJ LeMahieu, Daniel Murphy, Brian Dozier and Asdrubal Cabrera. With action starting to happen here, it's possible some of the bigger names soon will look to lock in their own deals to avoid falling behind in a plentiful market where the supply appears to outweigh the demand.