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Together again? Potential free-agent reunions

MLB.com @castrovince

Jay Bruce was a Met. Then he wasn't. Now he is again. The baseball transaction wire can be weird like that, with team needs and tastes and competitive states shifting all the time. Just 154 days after the Mets traded Bruce to the Indians in the midst of a lost summer, the two sides reportedly agreed to a three-year, $39 million deal this week, a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.

That got us thinking about other reunions that might make sense in this market. The focus here is not on straight re-signings (although there is, indeed, still a chance of J.D. Martinez re-signing with Arizona, Carlos Gonzalez with Colorado, Eric Hosmer with Kansas City, etc.), rather players who left a club, however briefly, and could find their way back.

Jay Bruce was a Met. Then he wasn't. Now he is again. The baseball transaction wire can be weird like that, with team needs and tastes and competitive states shifting all the time. Just 154 days after the Mets traded Bruce to the Indians in the midst of a lost summer, the two sides reportedly agreed to a three-year, $39 million deal this week, a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.

That got us thinking about other reunions that might make sense in this market. The focus here is not on straight re-signings (although there is, indeed, still a chance of J.D. Martinez re-signing with Arizona, Carlos Gonzalez with Colorado, Eric Hosmer with Kansas City, etc.), rather players who left a club, however briefly, and could find their way back.

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Here are five such possibilities:

1. Neil Walker to the Mets
Like Bruce, Walker became trade bait as 2017 went south. He had a really solid finish for the Brewers (.843 OPS, 121 OPS+ in 38 games), and Milwaukee might very well bring him back. But it's no secret the Mets still need infield help. They could add a third baseman (Todd Frazier and Mike Moustakas are options) and have Asdrubal Cabrera shift to second base, or they can fill second externally.

With the Mets hoping for better health in the rotation and better production overall with the return of Bruce, Walker certainly fits with the competitive mindset. But as is often the case here, the question is whether he fits the budget. There's not a wealth of clubs looking for second-base help, so we'll see where Walker's price tag ends up.

Video: NYM@PHI: Walker homers as part of four-hit night

2. Yu Darvish to the Rangers
Perhaps you saw Darvish's tweet that added some good ol' mystery to his market, with his intentionally vague reference to "one more team" being interested in him, in addition to the five that had been reported. But there was never any real doubt that the Rangers (one of the five) would at least explore the possibility of bringing Darvish back.

Tweet from @faridyu: I know one more team is in. https://t.co/exxubGP7Qo

Darvish lives in the area and loves the Rangers, regardless of their midseason trade of him to the Dodgers. The Rangers proved to be an effective environment for him when he made that major life transition to the United States, and those personal ties don't break easily. Of course, money is a factor here, as the Rangers don't seem especially likely to get involved in any major bidding wars this winter. But Cole Hamels is a year away from free agency, and the 32-year-old Darvish is still young enough to profile as a major rotation weapon for them well beyond 2018.

Darvish or otherwise, the Rangers are still keeping tabs on the starting market after adding Doug Fister, Mike Minor and Matt Moore this winter (Minor could pitch out of the rotation or bullpen).

Video: MLB Tonight: What is the best landing spot for Yu?

3. Andrew Cashner to the Cubs
It will be interesting to see how aggressive the Cubs get in these final weeks before Spring Training. Though they technically have enough quality arms to go into camp feeling good about their chances of a third straight division title, it's no secret they've explored some marquee names in the free-agent and trade markets, including the possibility of re-signing Jake Arrieta. But because their young position-player core is going to cost them a pretty penny to maintain in the coming years, the Cubs do maintain a certain level of cost-consciousness.

Cashner, a former first-round pick by the Cubbies who made 60 appearances for the club from 2010-11 before getting dealt to the Padres for Anthony Rizzo, wouldn't be the sexiest option out there, but he is coming off a really strong season with the Rangers. Cashner posted a 3.40 ERA and 138 ERA+ in 166 2/3 innings over 28 starts in Texas.

Video: NYY@TEX: Cashner allows one run over seven-plus

4. Lorenzo Cain to the Brewers
To be clear, this doesn't work as its own, independent transaction. The Brewers are already loaded up in their outfield, in particular center field. But they have discussed Domingo Santana with other clubs and are said to also be open to the idea of moving Keon Broxton. If they were to flip one or both of those guys for pitching help, they could take advantage of the relatively soft market for outfielders by bringing back Cain, who made his big league debut with the Brew Crew in 2010 before heading to Kansas City in the mega-deal Milwaukee made for Zack Greinke.

Cain has more seamless positional fits with the Rangers and Giants (though the Giants are especially loathe to give up the compensation pick it would take to sign him), but the Brewers are a club that has been monitoring his market.

Video: Castrovince on if Cain could make return to Brewers

5. Eduardo Nunez to the Yankees
Starlin Castro and Chase Headley are gone, Frazier is in the open market and Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres are arriving. Whether the Yankees are going to turn over not one but two starting infield positions over to the kids remains to be seen, but it would surprise absolutely no one if they went out and acquired at least one veteran presence to solidify things, even on a short-term basis. The Yanks signed Jace Peterson to a Minor League deal this week, but Nunez -- if healthy, of course -- offers much more in the realm of reliability.

Leaving New York, where he was once prescribed as the heir apparent to Derek Jeter, turned out to be a good thing for Nunez, who has gone on to establish himself as a valuable, versatile and productive asset. If Nunez's market gets to the point where he's open to a one-year deal, it makes all the more sense to the Yanks, who of course want to have a spot freed up should they pursue Manny Machado a year from now.

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

 

Lorenzo Cain, Andrew Cashner, Yu Darvish, Eduardo Nunez, Neil Walker