These 3 arms could bring heat to Meetings

December 10th, 2018

LAS VEGAS -- When agreed to his six-year, $140 million contract with the Nationals last week, many observers forecasted that the signing would create a series of starting-pitching moves throughout the Major Leagues.

As the industry gathers at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino for the annual Winter Meetings, those dominoes have yet to fall.

Hot Stove news, rumors

For now, it appears much of the conversation is centered on three pitchers. Here's a look at what could unfold with each of them over the coming days.

, RHP, Yankees

The Yankees have been linked to any number of pursuits in this Hot Stove season, but with an important caveat: Their Major League roster is full at 40 players, including 22 pitchers. For general manager Brian Cashman to make a move, he'll need to cut ties with one of the 40. Gray, who needs a change of scenery, is the most obvious candidate.

Several teams are pursuing Gray, sources say, an indication that the industry is willing to think of him as the pitcher who maintained a 3.17 ERA on the road last season -- and not the one who struggled to a 6.98 ERA at Yankee Stadium.

Gray doesn't carry the raw performance value of Cleveland right-handers and , nor Arizona right-hander Zack Greinke. But Gray's bounce-back potential is intriguing -- particularly to the Padres, who have genuine interest now that it appears Mets right-hander is likely to remain in Queens.

J.A. Happ, LHP, Yankees

The Yankees acquired Happ from the Blue Jays last season, partially because they couldn't rely on Gray. Now it's possible that Gray will be dealt away in order to clear the roster spot (and payroll space) for Happ's return.

The Yankees' interest in Happ is self-evident: He went 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA in 11 regular-season starts with New York after the midseason trade, and, at age 36, he is available on a shorter-term deal than fellow free agent .

Industry sources indicated Sunday that the Yankees and Phillies are best-positioned to sign Happ, although the Astros are another possibility. Happ pitched for Houston from 2010-12.

, LHP, Giants

The more general managers speak with agents about the asking prices for top pitchers, the more those executives might dream about the financial particulars of Bumgarner's contract: one year, $12 million.

A trade involving Bumgarner wasn't close as the meetings opened, one source said Sunday, but two things are clear: Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi is willing to trade Bumgarner in order to initiate the team's roster makeover, and he's very likely to do so between now and the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Thus, the question is when. As long as Bumgarner remains healthy, he could be the No. 1 rental starter on the midsummer trade market, thanks to his affordable contract and extraordinary postseason pedigree. But it's hard to imagine a better field of trading partners than what Zaidi has right now, with the Phillies, Brewers, Yankees and Braves -- all with strong farm systems -- in the market for an ace-level arm.

The Phillies, who utilized a left-handed starter in only three games last season, have an especially acute need for a southpaw. Bumgarner and Happ are available to address that need ... at least, for now.