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Rumors: Harper, Machado, Realmuto, Thor

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 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."

Astros join the race for Realmuto
Nov. 16: 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.

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 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.

Could Tribe land Moose and Marwin?
Nov. 15: 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."

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."

Lack of counter-offer suggests Harper might not return to Washington
Nov. 15: The timing of the report that Harper rejected a 10-year, $300 million offer from the Nats during the final week of the regular season -- during the General Managers Meetings in Carlsbad, Calif., last week -- presented plenty of intrigue. On one hand, Harper's representatives might have had incentive to set the floor for any negotiations, but the club might have also had incentive to show that it made a strong effort to retain Harper.

Either way, the fact that no news has surfaced that Harper's camp made a counter offer to Washington suggests that the longstanding face of the franchise likely won't be back, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

"I think he's gone from Washington," Nightengale said on the ESPN Baseball Tonight podcast with Buster Olney recently. "The fact that he never even bothered to make a counter offer or even talk about it, I think he wants at least, he's looking at least for $400 million, probably 12 or 13 years at about $35 [million] per year."

Video: Collier on Nationals' huge offer to Harper, pursuit

That figure will likely be out of the Nats' price range. The club is in the market for starting pitching and catching, and have been linked to some prominent players to fill those voids, such as Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel -- the top two free-agent pitchers -- as well as Yasmani Grandal, the market's top backstop, and the Marlins' J.T. Realmuto, who Washington pursued in the past before the asking price became too high.

Nats GM Mike Rizzo has said that the club will continue to pursue Harper in free agency, but that the club's offer from the final week of the season is no longer on the table, per Nightengale. It wasn't immediately clear if Scott Boras, Harper's agent, made a counteroffer. Boras is known notoriously for pushing his clients to free agency and an opening bidding field. 

Nightengale speculated that the Phillies are the favorites to land Harper, but he also didn't discount the White Sox, who hope to climb back to contention after a massively disappointing 2018. 

Video: Bryce Harper's likelihood of joining the Phillies

"I think the Phillies are a very desperate team," Nightengale said. "They've got a ton of money. They made it clear: 'We want to spend money. We want to win right now.' So I think they'll do everything possible to sign Harper, no matter what the price is ... I'd be stunned if he doesn't end up with the Phillies."

Boras is known to be close with Phillies principal owner John Middleton, and it's been no secret that the club is perhaps the favorite to land Harper.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harper to the Yankees inevitable?
Nov. 15: While the Yankees have said their main focus this offseason is starting pitching, WEEI's John Tomase suggests one of this offseason's biggest prizes could still end up in pinstripes.

"For now, the Yankees aren't considered favorites to land [Bryce] Harper," Tomase writes. " ... But forgive me for thinking that somehow, someway, the Yankees end up playing a role in this before it's over. It would be a New York kind of move, especially in the wake of a fourth World Series title for the Red Sox since 2004. It could be justified by Harper's age, and man would it make Red Sox-Yankees even more compelling."

Harper has said that he wears the No. 34 because the two digits add up to 7, Mickey Mantle's number. And as a young, exciting and sometimes polarizing superstar, he fits the mold of past Yankee free-agent signings over the years. As for room in New York's outfield, the Yankees re-signed Brett Gardner earlier this offseason, making it a full house. But Tomase argues that the 35-year-old Gardner may not be the answer given his age, and Aaron Hicks is tradable. 

One way or the other, the Yankees being in play for Harper would be very intriguing, to say the least.

Bumgarner's trade value not what it once was
Nov. 15: As the Giants tumbled out of contention last summer and began selling pieces such as Andrew McCutchen, ownership steadfastly told management not to make Madison Bumgarner available. But now, under new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, that approach might shift, though how much Bumgarner might bring back in return is perhaps not as prosperous as it once was.  

"Teams are saying, 'You know, that might be a player you might want to move sooner rather than later,'" ESPN's Buster Olney said recently on the Baseball Tonight podcast.

"He's a legacy player, but I think if someone walks into that job now as Farhan is and takes a clear-eyed look at the situation, absolutely you would put Bumgarner out on the trade market because especially from what I'm hearing from other teams is there are metrics on Bumgarner that are not promising, especially the damage done by opposing teams to his fastball."

Bumgarner ditched his four-seamer last year and went exclusively to his sinker, which averaged just 90.8 mph and surrendered a .301 opposing batting average and .578 opposing slugging percentage, according to Statcast™ -- alarmingly high for an offering he went to 34.4 percent of the time. Bumgarner has the delivery and deception to work off his secondary pitches, but the setup offering presents concern. 

Bumgarner also suffered significant injuries in consecutive seasons that may have contributed to his effectiveness. In 2016, he separated his pitching shoulder in a dirt bike accident during on off day in Colorado, and last spring, he fractured his fifth metacarpal in his pitching hand on a comebacker that cost him the first two-plus months of the season. Prior, Bumgarner had never been on the disabled list over his first eight seasons in the Majors. 

"It's not the same Madison Bumgarner," USA Today's Bob Nightengale told Olney on the podcast. "It's not the Bumgarner that was a World Series hero or anything like that. He's not been the same guy since the injuries. So now with a full winter to recover and everything else, I think [the Giants] need for him to have a dominant spring and a dominant start [to the regular season] and then maybe they can move him. I don't see them locking themselves up with Bumgarner because you know what you're going to get. I don't think you're going to get that much from him on the trade market."

Bumgarner has two years left at $12 million per year on what's played out to be a very team-friendly deal. That might make him a coveted target, but the closer he comes to reaching free agency, the less valuable he will become, Nightengale suggests. 

"I think they wait to see if they're in the race or out of it by the All-Star break next year," Nightengale said. "I do believe they'll listen to offers on Bumgarner, but I think they're going to find themselves stunned by how little interest there is in him. I mean, he's a free agent in a year."

A one-year 'make-good' contract for Donaldson with the Twins?
Nov. 15: ESPN 1500's Touch 'Em All Podcast featured a discussion Thursday about whether the Twins should make a run at free agent third baseman Josh Donaldson. The signing of Donaldson would mean Minnesota could move Miguel Sano to first, and if Donaldson remains healthy and returns to form in 2019, that could mean a vast improvement in production from the hot corner.

"He's only 32, he's only three years removed from an MVP season ... Josh Donaldson on a 'make-good' one- or two-year contract ... I think if you strike out on Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, I think if you were to bring in Josh Donaldson, move Miguel Sano to first base and/or DH, and Tyler Austin and Miguel Sano could fight over first base and DH, and if you put a bona fide -- if he's healthy -- bona fide, solidified, stud player at that position, that makes it a lot easier to stomach the Twins' lineup going in[to '19]."

Donaldson was the AL MVP in '15, but was limited to 52 games last season due to injury. Between the Blue Jays and Indians, to whom he was traded in August, Donaldson hit .246/.352/.449 with eight home runs. The season prior, he belted 33 homers in just 113 games for Toronto.

Would Roberts move up the coast if no deal gets done with the Dodgers?
Nov. 15: Though it appeared the Dodgers and manager Dave Roberts were nearing a multi-year contract extension last week, the two sides appear to be at a standstill at the moment, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman in an article for Fancred Sports. Heyman suggests that while Roberts -- who has guided Los Angeles to the World Series in back-to-back seasons -- has many reasons to prefer to stay with the Dodgers, he might consider joining ex-Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi in San Francisco if a deal can't be worked out.

Zaidi joined the Giants' front office as its new president of baseball operations earlier this month. The mutual familiarity between Zaidi and Roberts, coupled with the fact that longtime Giants skipper Bruce Bochy has one year remaining on his contract, makes a reunion by the Bay possible.

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

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

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

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

Video: NLCS Gm 3: Grandal discusses defensive performance

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

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

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

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

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

Eovaldi's right arm gets a clean bill of health
Nov. 15: While some front offices may be wary of free agent Nathan Eovaldi's health, especially after the right-hander just went through a taxing postseason, his doctor gave him a glowing review following a routine visit Tuesday.

"To me, he's over Tommy John surgery and he's over revision Tommy John surgery," Dr. Christopher Ahmad, the Yankees' team physician who operated on Eovaldi's elbow and forearm in 2016, told NBC Sports Boston. "And I would consider him in the same category of somebody who has a healthy arm, and whatever worry I have about that player, I have the same or less for Nate.

As Ahmad noted, Eovaldi has undergone two Tommy John surgeries during his career, the second one coming in 2016. This past season was his first since that second procedure, and he threw 111 innings during the regular season.

Eovaldi possesses incredible velocity, averaging 97.2 mph with his four-seam fastball in the regular season and nearly 99 mph in the playoffs, getting it as high as 101.6 mph, per Statcast™, which puts extra stress on his arm.

The 28-year-old was used in a variety of roles during the postseason, and he made three appearances in the span of four days during the World Series, the final one a 97-pitch outing on one day of rest. However, he appears to have come through no worse for the wear.

"Sometimes subtle features can be picked up that the ligament's acting a little weak, like small bone spurs forming often can be a sign that the ligament is a little loose or acting weak," Ahmad said. "Bone spurs form to compensate. No bone spurs. And even coming off an extended postseason, he didn't have any muscle problems like muscle strain patterns. So essentially, his elbow checked out as well as it could be after having a second-time Tommy John surgery."

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

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

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

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

Could Beane pull off another surprise by signing Corbin?
Nov. 15: The A's were one of baseball's biggest surprises in 2018, winning 97 games after starting the year with MLB's lowest payroll, and The Athletic's Jim Bowden thinks executive president of baseball operations Billy Beane should look to pull off another big stunner this offseason by signing Patrick Corbin.

In his story (subscription required) looking at one move each 2018 postseason team needs to make to get back to October, Bowden points out that the small-market A's have the resources to sign at least one starting pitcher to a big-money deal. With Oakland's defense, pitcher-friendly home park and lineup, Bowden considers the club a perfect landing spot for Corbin.

Beyond Sean Manaea, who may miss all of 2019 following left shoulder surgery, the A's relied heavily on journeymen in the rotation this past season, with Trevor Cahill, Edwin Jackson, Brett Anderson and Mike Fiers combining to make 63 starts for Oakland. All four of those hurlers are free agents, leaving the A's with an uncertain rotation picture.

Do the Indians have the payroll flexibility to add Pollock?
Nov. 15: Cleveland took a small step towards addressing its outfield questions when it acquired 25-year-old Jordan Luplow from Pittsburgh on Wednesday, but adding an All-Star-caliber starter in the outfield would still be one of the most signficant improvements that the Tribe could make for 2019. That's why Jim Bowden writes for The Athletic that the Indians should take a chance on A.J. Pollock.

When Pollock is healthy, he's an MVP-caliber talent, as he showed in his 2015 season, when he hit .315/.367/.498 with 20 homers and 39 steals while winning the National League Gold Glove Award in center field. And despite playing only 113 games in 2018 -- indicative of his injury-riddled career -- he still set a career high with 21 long balls, with 11 homers and nine steals in just his first 40 games of the season.

The 30-year-old center fielder appears to be completely healthy now, and as a reunion with Michael Brantley appears to be off the table, Pollock represents the best option on the market for a team not willing to pay the steep price for Bryce Harper. With Brantley and Josh Donaldson on their way out of Cleveland, Pollock's powerful bat would go a long way in adding length to a lineup featuring Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor.

It remains to be seen whether Cleveland will be willing to make a pricey commitment to Pollock as it looks to rein in its payroll, as Lindor and Trevor Bauer will command huge raises in arbitration this offseason.

Why the Red Sox should consider re-signing Kimbrel
Nov. 15: While a number of key contributors from the Red Sox's historic 2018 season are now free agents, The Athletic's Jim Bowden thinks (subscription required) it's imperative that the club re-sign one of them, in particular, and that's closer Craig Kimbrel.

In terms of average annual value (AAV), Kimbrel is projected to land a deal similar to those signed by Aroldis Chapman (five years, $86 million), Mark Melancon (four years, $62 million), Kenley Jansen (five years, $80 million) and Wade Davis (three years, $52 million) in recent offseasons.

Boston had baseball's highest payroll this past season, but it might be hesitant to give Kimbrel such a large deal. Chris Sale, Rick Porcello and Xander Bogaerts are set to hit free agency next offseason, and Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. the year after. The Red Sox likely can't keep all of them, even if they don't re-sign Kimbrel.

But Bowden writes that Boston should look to keep as much of the 2018 team together as possible to make another run at a World Series title in '19, and argues that Kimbrel can't be easily replaced, as one of the few elite closers in the game.

To ease the burden on their bullpen, could the Brewers consider Keuchel?
Nov. 15: The Brewers won the National League Central and made it to Game 7 of the NL Championship Series while relying heavily on their bullpen, but The Athletic's Jim Bowden thinks the club needs to improve its starting rotation to ease the burden on its relief corps in 2019.

In his story (subscription required) looking at one move each 2018 postseason team needs to make to get back to October, Bowden names Dallas Keuchel as a perfect fit for Milwaukee.

"[Keuchel] would slide nicely in the rotation, bring more leadership, and with his strong character and sense of humor, would be a match made in heaven in the Brewers clubhouse," Bowden writes.

Just four pitchers threw at least 100 innings for the Brewers in 2018, and two -- Brent Suter and Chase Anderson -- didn't appear in the postseason. Overall, the club ranked 19th in innings thrown by starters, and fifth in innings by the 'pen.

Could the Cubs sign Brantley and shop Schwarber?
Nov. 15: The Cubs may be unwilling to hand out $300 million or more to Bryce Harper or Manny Machado this offseason, but The Athletic's Jim Bowden doesn't think that will prevent the team from improving.

In his story (subscription required) looking at one move each 2018 postseason team needs to make to get back to October, Bowden names Michael Brantley as a player Chicago should pursue for left field.

Bowden argues Brantley would be an upgrade over Kyle Schwarber on defense, and the 31-year-old's contact-heavy approach could help eliminate some of the offensive inconsistency that plagued the club in 2018.

While Chicago ranked ninth overall in runs scored this past season, it also had one or no runs 39 times -- the second most in the Majors after the Orioles.

As part of Bowden's plan, the Cubs could flip Schwarber to an American League team to address another need after inking Brantley.

Cruz can still provide great value despite his age
Nov. 15: While free agents in their mid-to-late 20s, such as Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Patrick Corbin and Nathan Eovaldi, will dominate the conversation during Hot Stove season, there are a number of players in their late 30s and early 40s who still have plenty to offer, as MLB.com's Will Leitch wrote Thursday.

Nelson Cruz is arguably the most prominent member of that group, coming off an age-37 season in which he hit 37 homers, drove in 97 runs and produced a 135 OPS+.

The underlying metrics suggest Cruz is poised for continued success, as he finished 2018 with the seventh-highest hard-hit rate (51.3 percent) and the 11th-highest barrel-per-plate-appearance rate (9.3 percent) in the Majors, according to Statcast™ (min. 150 batted-ball events).

The slugger has played just nine games in the field over the past two seasons, so his suitors will likely be limited to the American League, with the Astros and Twins considered the favorites. But Leitch argues every AL team could benefit from adding Cruz to its lineup.

MLB Network insider Jon Heyman echoed that view in an article for Fancred Sports looking at 35 under-the-radar free agents. Heyman advises teams not to bet against Cruz, even though Kendrys Morales' three-year, $33 million contract with the Blue Jays hasn't gone well.