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Rumors: Stroman, Gonzalez, Machado, Realmuto

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

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.

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.

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.

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

Phillies are ready to spend for Harper, Machado
Nov. 16: If the Phillies are going to seriously pursue both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, they'll have to be willing to seriously open their wallets. And they're prepared to do just that.

"We're going into this expecting to spend money. And maybe even be a little bit stupid about it," owner John Middleton told USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale at the MLB Owners Meetings.

"It's exciting to contemplate what we may be able to do this offseason. We know the free-agent class this year is really, really good."

Both Harper and Machado could command contracts in the 10-plus year and $300-plus million range. But the Phillies currently have less than $70 million on their payroll for 2019, and only about $50 million committed for 2020 and $15 million for 2021.

They can afford to make a major play in the free-agent market, and it looks like they plan to do it, as they try to make the leap to a playoff contender after fading down the stretch in 2018. In addition to being linked to Harper and Machado, Philadelphia could make a play for a top starter like Patrick Corbin or a reliever like Craig Kimbrel.

Middleton wouldn't refer to Harper or Machado by name, "But," he told Nightengale, "we will be spending."

Padres are eyeing Syndergaard again
Nov. 16: The Padres could be something of an X-factor this offseason. Coming off their eighth straight losing season, they're not contenders -- yet -- but they do have arguably the top farm system in baseball, with much of that young talent (read: Fernando Tatis Jr., Francisco Mejia, Luis Urias, Chris Paddack) on the verge of making an impact in The Show. Since the club's window to contention should be opening, it's certainly possible San Diego could make a bold move to try to return to relevance sooner than later. That's part of why they landed Eric Hosmer a year ago.

One such possibility? Trading for a big-name, front-of-the-rotation arm like Mets righty Noah Syndergaard, who they expressed interest in back in July.

The Padres remain interested, MLB Network Insider Ken Rosenthal writes in a story for The Athletic (subscription required): "The likelihood that the Mets secure long-term deals with Syndergaard and National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom seems slim, so it probably will behoove them to at least explore the trade market for one or the other."

Andy Martino of SNY also is hearing that the Padres are "expected to go harder after Syndergaard now."

Video: Rosenthal on Padres' interested in acquiring Thor

Syndergaard still is only 26 years old and won't be eligible for free agency until after the 2021 campaign, so he would sync up well with the Padres' timeline. What's more, he would provide an ace-caliber pitcher to front a rotation that already includes youngsters like Joey Lucchesi, Eric Lauer and Jacob Nix, and will soon feature high-upside prospects like Paddack, MacKenzie Gore and Cal Quantrill, among others.

Of course, Syndergaard's high-velocity repertoire, age and remaining years of control all make him a pricey acquisition, so the Padres would have to surrender more than a few top prospects to bring him aboard. Given the system's talent and depth, however, they could afford it.

Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon spoke about Syndergaard on Friday, emphasizing how an offer for the right-hander would have to be "pretty lopsided" in favor of New York, according to the New York Post.

"A decision has not been made yet,'' Wilpon said about Syndergaard. "It all depends on what [Mets general manager] Brodie [Van Wagenen] thinks he can get back [in a trade]. If he thinks the return is outsized from what the value of Noah is, then I guess he'll suggest it and we'll move on and do that."

Are Harper's defensive issues an anomaly? How will potential suitors view them?
Nov. 16: Bryce Harper's defensive statistics took a nosedive last season, as the right fielder finished with -26 defensive runs saved, while his arm graded out among the worst in MLB. But his agent, Scott Boras, argues that Harper's hyper-extended knee the season prior impacted his defensive value in 2018, and that it was therefore an anomaly.

How will potential suitors for the free agent superstar view his defensive performance from '18? 

"Teams interested in Harper must decide how much credence they put in Boras' argument, and how much it affects their valuation of the player," writes MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in an article for The Athletic. "The Nationals evidently were undeterred, making an offer to retain Harper on the final day of the season, albeit one they knew he was almost certain to refuse -- 10 years, $300 million, according to the Washington Post."

One mitigating factor even in the scenario that some clubs are wary of Harper's defense, is his potential as a designated hitter in the AL. 

Are the D-backs selling stars Goldschmidt and Greinke?
Nov. 16: The D-backs have two very big names who could shake up the trade market, if the club decides to go that route: slugging first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and top-of-the-rotation righty Zack Greinke. But will Arizona's brass actually put those two foundation pieces up for sale?

Here's the latest from MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi: "The D-backs consistently are described as one of the most active sellers on the trade market in the early stages of the offseason. Arizona club officials have indicated to other teams that they aren't prepared to include cash in a trade to offset Greinke's salary, nor do they plan to package Goldschmidt with Greinke in order to make Greinke's financial obligation more palatable."

Video: D-backs to become sellers this offseason?

MLB Network insider Jon Heyman considers possible trade partners in an article for Fancred Sports. Heyman notes there aren't many clubs in the market for a first baseman this offseason, but one interesting destination would be Houston, as Goldschmidt went to high school about 30 miles north of Minute Maid Park and then attended Texas State University.

Goldschmidt -- who fits best with a contender, because he will be a free agent after the 2019 season -- could alternate between first base and designated hitter for the Astros, along with Yuli Gurriel. Or the versatile Gurriel could be used all over the infield. Goldschmidt, a six-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove Award winner, has a career .297/.398/.532 slash line with 209 home runs in eight seasons with Arizona.

As for Greinke, he remains under contract through 2021 at $104.5 million total, so presumably his trade market would be limited to teams with the payroll flexibility to take on most or all of his pact. Especially if, as Morosi notes, the D-backs aren't looking to pay down the money to get a deal done.

Is Keuchel 'the soft-contact genius of his era'?
Nov. 16: Dallas Keuchel has led MLB pitchers with a 26.9 percent soft-contact rate during his career (among pitchers with a minimum of 1,000 innings pitched over the last seven seasons). His 59.6 percent ground ball rate is also the best in the Majors over that span. So when his agent, Scott Boras, called him the "soft-contact genius of his era," and "the greatest ground ball pitcher in the game," the description wasn't at all far-fetched, as noted by MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in an article for The Athletic.

In this era of sluggers belting home runs more often than ever before, soft contact and ground balls are premium results for a starting pitcher. Rosenthal notes that though the former AL Cy Young Award winner hasn't been as dominant in recent seasons as he once was, Keuchel has certainly been reliable in those categories.

Could the Tribe land Moose and Marwin?
Nov. 16: With free agent Josh Donaldson potentially headed elsewhere this offseason, could the Indians make a push to sign Mike Moustakas to fill the void at third base? The discussion came up on MLB Network's Hot Stove on Friday, and Cleveland was one predicted landing spot for the veteran third baseman. Such an acquisition would enable AL MVP finalist Jose Ramirez to remain at second base in 2019.

Moustakas was traded by the Royals to the Brewers last summer, helping Milwaukee make a postseason run that ended one game shy of the World Series. He hit .256/.326/.441 with eight homers in 54 regular-season games for the Brewers, before delivering some key hits in October, including a walk-off single to beat the Rockies in Game 2 of the NL Division Series. 

Another move the Indians could make: adding the super-versatile Marwin Gonzalez, who provides positional flexibility Cleveland, just as any other club, could utilize in a big way. MLB Network analyst Ron Darling suggested the Tribe would be a good fit, given the potential departures from the club this offseason.

"They [might] lose Donaldson and [Michael] Brantley," Darling said. "We know that Ramirez is very versatile. This would give them another versatile player who can play all around the diamond."

Phillies may try to land Harper and/or Machado. How about Corbin, too?
Nov. 16: There has been much discussion about the Phillies' ability to potentially land Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado this offseason, but what about the most coveted pitcher on the market, Patrick Corbin?

MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi notes that while it may come as a surprise to some that Philadelphia would be in the market for a top-tier starter while also pursuing the top sluggers available, the Phillies are in need of a strong left-hander in their rotation, and an upgrade to the rotation overall.

"A slumping rotation was one reason the Phillies' postseason hopes faded in August and September," Morosi writes. "Jake Arrieta, Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez all pitched to ERAs north of 5.00 after the All-Star break."

After re-signing Pearce, will the Red Sox bring Kimbrel back?
Nov. 16: The Red Sox agreed to a one-year deal with World Series MVP Steve Pearce on Friday, and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has stated his desire to keep the club intact as much as possible for 2019. Does that mean Boston will re-sign free agent closer Craig Kimbrel?

It's not likely, according to MLB.com's Ian Browne, who notes that with players like AL MVP Mookie Betts and AL Championship Series MVP Jackie Bradley Jr. in line for raises via arbitration, there just may not be room to pay Kimbrel what he might command on this offseason's market.

Morosi: Reds, A's have spoken with the Yanks about Gray
Nov. 16: It's widely known that the Yankees are looking to deal right-hander Sonny Gray, and two potential landing spots surfaced Friday. Both the Reds and A's have been in contact with New York about acquiring Gray, according MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi, but there is "no present momentum" in trade talks.

As for a return to the Bay, Morosi noted Oakland's front office is no stranger to bringing back former A's, such as Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson in 2018. Gray enjoyed his best years in Oakland, including his lone All-Star campaign in 2015 in which he won 14 games and posted a 2.73 ERA. He hasn't faired as well since joining the Yankees in 2017 via trade and fell out of the New York rotation midway through the 2018 season.

Tweet from @jonmorosi: Sources: #Yankees, #Athletics have had contact about a deal that would send Sonny Gray back to Oakland, but there is no present momentum in talks. Oakland is looking for pitching and clearly comfortable bringing back former A���s (Cahill, Anderson, et al). @MLB @MLBNetwork

The Reds need arms and are expected to spend aggressively this offseason, but MLB.com's Richard Justice writes that the contract demands of free agents Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel -- arguably the top two starters on the open market -- may be out of Cincinnati's "comfort zone." Instead, Jon Heyman reports for Fancred Sports that the Reds are focusing their search around trade candidates James Paxton and Gray, who would come with lower price tags -- in terms of dollars, at least.

Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams had alluded to the team's need for two pitchers and the its willingness to pursue an arm via trade in an interview with Cincinnati's WLW Radio.

"I think we need to add two pitchers," Williams said. "I said two pitchers. They could both be starters, they don't have to be. There's a good chance we'll target two starters and I think we have to be prepared to pursue both [free agency and trade] avenues. ... When you don't have as much money, you're not playing with those guys that go off the board first. You're able to sort of wait and let the other guys spend their money, and then find the value deals. I think this year we feel like we need to be a little more aggressive than that."

Does Brantley's bat compare favorably to Machado's?
Nov. 16: Michael Brantley and Manny Machado are both free agents this offseason. The former is going to get a fraction of the contract that the latter does, for a number of reasons related to age, durability, potential, position value, etc. That is understandable.

What might be surprising, however, is just how close these two have been from a statistical standpoint in recent years. In fact, there's a legitimate argument that Brantley has been (gasp!) a better offensive player than Machado, at least by certain metrics.

MLB Network's Hot Stove Live show made this comparison across the past five seasons in a game of blind resumes:

Machado: .283 AVG, .343 OBP, .502 SLG, 127 OPS+

Brantley: .311 AVG, .371 OBP, .475 SLG, 127 OPS+

Again, none of this is to say that Machado isn't the better free-agent option this winter -- he's five years younger than Brantley, has proved to be more durable and plays a much more valuable defensive position -- but it does go to show how underappreciated Brantley has been.

Video: Blind resumes of MLB's high-profile free agents

Could the Angels be in play for Miller?
Nov. 16: The Angels need pitching, period. Their starting rotation might be the more glaring issue, as hard as it's been hit by injuries, but they could use some bullpen upgrades, too.

Maybe Andrew Miller could be one. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal suggests that Miller to Anaheim is a possibility (subscription required), given his connection to Angels general manager Billy Eppler.

Eppler was in the Yankees front office when New York signed the left-hander to his last free-agent contract in December 2014 -- a four-year, $36 million deal. It was with the Yankees that Miller really emerged as a relief ace, before his trade to the Indians in 2016.

Miller's now played out that contract, and is on the market again entering his age-34 season. He's coming off an injury-plagued year, with his performance slipping in 2018 as he dealt with knee and shoulder issues. But if he's fully healthy in 2019, he could recapture his dominant form. The Angels could use an arm like that, especially if they trade reliever Blake Parker, which Rosenthal notes they might.

Comparing Cruz and Harper
Nov. 16: Nelson Cruz is among the biggest bats available in free agency. Bryce Harper might be the biggest bat -- and the biggest name -- on the open market. The similarities end there, though, right? After all, the former is much older, limited to a designated hitter role and not looking to land a record-breaking contract.

Maybe not. MLB Network's Hot Stove Live show made this comparison over the past four seasons in a game of blind resumes:

Cruz (570 games): .284 AVG, 163 HR, 414 RBIs, 148 OPS+

Harper (606 games): .283 AVG, 129 HR, 372 RBIs, 150 OPS+

Cruz and Harper's production going back to 2015 -- the year Harper was the unanimous National League MVP, by the way -- is pretty close. Admit it: You weren't expecting that.

Of course, Harper and his agent, Scott Boras, can push for the massive $400 million deal they're seeking because Harper is a whopping 12 years younger than Cruz (38) and has put up some historic, Hall of Fame-caliber statistics through his age-25 campaign.

But if you're an American League contender hunting for a big bat to boost your lineup and have an opening at DH, well, you might want to give Cruz a call.

Will Keuchel's free agency extend into the new year?
Nov. 16: Dallas Keuchel is one of the top starting pitchers on the free-agent market, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's going to sign any time soon.

MLB.com's Jim Duquette speculates that Keuchel is one of a handful of free agents who may have to wait a bit. One key reason for Keuchel, in particular? "The available supply of left-handers could be a factor ... with Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, Gio Gonzalez, and Wade Miley joining Keuchel as free agents, as well as Japanese southpaw Yusei Kikuchi, who is set to be posted."

In other words, Keuchel has some competition on the open market. Not to mention, a number of other left-handers -- like the Giants' Madison Bumgarner and Mariners' James Paxton -- are in the mix as potential trade chips, too. While Keuchel may stand out some for his 2015 American League Cy Young Award and overall durability, there are other options -- and cheaper ones at that.

Is Harper's food preference the key to his free agency?
Nov. 16: Amid peak Hot Stove season, some rumors are more firm, others more frivolous. This one might fall under the latter label, but that doesn't make it any less fun.

As the baseball world awaits Bryce Harper's decision, we're gobbling up just about every tasty morsel of information we can when it comes to the free-agent superstar. TMZ Sports tracked down Harper at LAX and got, well, this delicious scoop, straight from Harper: "Favorite food? Probably Chicago. They got great food. ... Deep dish, of course. Anywhere in New York, of course, you know you can always go out there and eat good food."

Translation: Harper definitely is putting the Cubs, White Sox, Yankees and Mets at the top of his list, right?

In reality, the 26-year-old pointed out that he's still a long way from making any decision with regard to signing what is expected to be a massive, potentially record-breaking contract. But, hey, consider this a little food for thought.

Playing the blind resume game with Kimbrel
Nov. 16: It's hard to argue that Craig Kimbrel isn't the biggest name among free-agent relievers this offseason. He's arguably been the most consistent, durable and overwhelmingly productive closer since he debuted back in 2010. And because of that, he's likely to command a very large multi-year contract.

But there might be another late-inning arm on the open market with closing experience and recent performance in line with Kimbrel's -- at least, in some statistics -- who will cost a lot less.

MLB Network's Hot Stove Live program brought up this comparison across the 2017-18 seasons in a game of blind resumes:

Kimbrel: 130 games, 2.06 ERA, 15.2 K/9, 0.83 WHIP

Player B: 130 games, 2.54 ERA, 12.3 K/9, 0.94 WHIP

Pretty close, right? Granted, Kimbrel's numbers are better across the board in ERA, K/9 and WHIP, and he's also racked up way more saves (77 to 19), but that's only because Player B was serving primarily as a setup reliever in a loaded bullpen for most of that span.

So who is this unnamed arm? Watch the video below to find out:

Video: Blind resumes of MLB's high-profile free agents

Should the Giants invest in Eovaldi?
Nov. 15: Nathan Eovaldi helped his stock tremendously with a great postseason performance for the Red Sox, and several teams are reportedly interested in signing the hard-throwing right-hander this offseason. But given his injury history, is he worth the risk, especially for a team that has a pair of high-priced starters that have been injured often, like the Giants?

San Francisco gave free agent Johnny Cueto a $130 million contract prior to the 2016 season, and Jeff Samardzija a $90 million deal the same offseason. Both missed most of the 2018 season with injuries, and Cueto will be out for part of 2019 after Tommy John surgery. Will the club take a gamble on Eovaldi?

"Eovaldi checks off a lot of those boxes that made guys like [Rich] Hill attractive to the Dodgers," writes NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic. "When Eovaldi is right, he's dominant, and he certainly showed in the postseason that he's a selfless teammate -- something that's important to [new Giants president of baseball operations Farhan] Zaidi and to the holdovers in the Giants' front office.

" ... Any pitcher with Eovaldi's injury history might scare them off from the start. [But] with the Dodgers, Zaidi wasn't scared off by injuries. They took big swings to try to add rotation depth, and Eovaldi certainly would fit with Zaidi's past pursuits."