Rumors: Will injury open door for FA arms?

March 4th, 2021

MLB.com is keeping track of all the latest free agent and trade rumors right here.

Will injury open door for top FA arms?

March 4: Spring is a time for hope across MLB, but unfortunately for clubs, it’s also a time when injuries tend to emerge. That’s especially true for pitchers. One recent example: Astros left-hander Framber Valdez sustained a fractured left ring finger while fielding a comebacker on Tuesday. Although Houston has not announced a timetable for his return, MLB Network Insider Jon Heyman reported Thursday that Valdez might miss the entire 2021 season.

So how do the Astros replace Valdez, who was expected to be one of their top starters? There are in-house options, including prospect Forrest Whitley. But Houston also could go after a free agent.

While most of the top starters on the market have signed by this point, some accomplished arms remain for the Astros or any other club looking to bolster its rotation depth. The most notable is Jake Odorizzi, a 30-year-old righty who averaged 30 starts and posted a 3.88 ERA from 2014-19 before dealing with injuries in the shortened 2020 campaign. The Phillies and Angels are two of the clubs that previously have been connected to Odorizzi.

Other starters still available include veteran righties Rick Porcello, Homer Bailey, Aníbal Sánchez and Jeff Samardzija, as well as lefty Cole Hamels.

Report: Phillies have interest in Odorizzi

Feb. 24: The Phillies have recently checked in on free-agent righty Jake Odorizzi, according to a report from MLB Network insider Jon Heyman.

Heyman mentions the Angels as another suitor, noting that they have been in the mix for Odorizzi throughout the offseason.

Odorizzi threw just 13 2/3 innings in 2020, as he made three trips to the injured list due to an intercostal strain, a chest contusion and a blister on his right middle finger. He was an All-Star the year before, posting a 3.51 ERA with 178 strikeouts in 159 innings.

The Phillies’ final two rotation spots are up for grabs, with Vince Velasquez, Matt Moore, Chase Anderson and Spencer Howard (MLB’s No. 42 prospect) competing. Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Zach Eflin are the club’s top three starters.

The Angels, meanwhile, are planning to use a six-man rotation. They added José Quintana and Alex Cobb to a starting staff that also includes Dylan Bundy, Andrew Heaney, Shohei Ohtani and Griffin Canning.

Boras: 'Good teams' can become 'championship teams' by signing JBJ

Feb. 23: Jackie Bradley Jr. remains a free agent while teams open Spring Training camps this week, and Bradley's agent, Scott Boras, is making an aggressive push to try to change that status. In an appearance on MLB Network Radio on Tuesday, Boras made the argument that adding Bradley would put some of this year's contending teams over the top.

"There are probably about five teams that are good teams," said Boras, "but they'll probably become championship teams if they added a center fielder."

Boras cited several statistics to make his case for Bradley. One of them was durability -- Bradley was one of a select few players that logged at least 100 games in center field for four years running from 2016-19. Boras also notes that Bradley's 98 career homers are significantly more than another gifted defensive center fielder, Lorenzo Cain, had when Cain entered free agency after the '17 season.

As for the "good teams" that Boras is referring to, the Astros certainly jump to mind. Houston came within one game of last year's World Series, and has Myles Straw as its projected starter in center field after losing George Springer to free agency. The Brewers have been linked to Bradley in recent days despite their already crowded outfield mix, and the Giants and Red Sox -- two clubs perhaps a little more on the periphery in terms of contending for their division titles -- have also been mentioned frequently in regard to Bradley.

Céspedes attempting 2021 comeback

Feb. 22: Yoenis Céspedes is hitting the comeback trail again.

The free-agent slugger intends to play in 2021 and will hold a showcase for teams on March 2 in Fort Pierce, Fla., according to a report from MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in The Athletic (subscription required).

Céspedes' eventful 5 1/2 year tenure with the Mets ended last season, when the 35-year-old outfielder returned to the field for the first time since July 20, 2018 but only played eight games before electing not to play the rest of the season due to COVID-related reasons.

Céspedes hit two home runs in his 34 plate appearances in 2020, including a scoreless tie-breaking shot on Opening Day against the Braves at Citi Field. But he also batted .161 with 15 strikeouts.

Céspedes has only played 127 games total over the last four years -- 81 in 2017, 38 in '18, none in '19 and eight in '20 -- dealing with heel and ankle injuries before his 2020 comeback.

Over eight Major League seasons with the A's, Red Sox, Tigers and Mets, Céspedes is a .273 hitter with 165 home runs and an .824 OPS. He's a two-time All-Star and former Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award winner.