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Veteran Perez to compete for 5th spot in rotation

MLB.com

WADENA, Minn. -- Though the signing of left-hander Martin Perez hasn't yet been announced, the Twins intend to have him compete for the fifth spot in the rotation. And while the team continues to search the market for pitching depth, Twins leadership currently feels secure in the starting options on the roster.

"I think in the acquisitions of Blake Parker in the bullpen and Martin Perez, potentially, in the rotation, I think we've really stabilized things," general manager Thad Levine said at an event in Mankato, Minn. "Our rotation as it stands right now, we feel, is as strong as it's been in probably over a decade."

WADENA, Minn. -- Though the signing of left-hander Martin Perez hasn't yet been announced, the Twins intend to have him compete for the fifth spot in the rotation. And while the team continues to search the market for pitching depth, Twins leadership currently feels secure in the starting options on the roster.

"I think in the acquisitions of Blake Parker in the bullpen and Martin Perez, potentially, in the rotation, I think we've really stabilized things," general manager Thad Levine said at an event in Mankato, Minn. "Our rotation as it stands right now, we feel, is as strong as it's been in probably over a decade."

Source: Twins reach deal with Perez | Rotation if season started today

Levine has familiarity with Perez from the 11 seasons that he spent in Texas as the assistant general manager of the Rangers. Prior to the reports of his signing with the Twins, Perez had spent his entire professional career in the Rangers' organization, including seven seasons in the Major Leagues.

Perez has a 4.63 career ERA at the Major League level in 141 appearances, including 128 starts.

"Thad did a great job," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "I think his relationship with Martin really helped us get ahead in this situation."

Levine acknowledged that Perez had a disappointing 2018, when the 27-year-old southpaw recorded a 6.22 ERA and finished the season as a reliever. He became a free agent when the Rangers declined a $7.5 million club option for '19.

Video: OAK@TEX: Perez limits A's to 1 run over 6 innings

But Perez will be "at the headline" of competing for the open rotation spot, joining Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Kyle Gibson and Michael Pineda, who are all secure in their starting slots. Levine confirmed that Pineda, coming off Tommy John surgery, is "full go" in 2019, though the Twins are going to be cautious with his innings count.

"We're going to try to be smart with [Pineda], because we feel like at his best, he's one of the best pitchers in the American League," Levine said.

The acquisition of Perez makes the road to consistent starting experience more difficult for Adalberto Mejia, Fernando Romero, Kohl Stewart, Stephen Gonsalves, Chase De Jong and Zack Littell in 2019. While the Twins could still seek out bullpen pieces, Levine indicated that the Twins want to factor their young arms into the relief corps to continue getting them experience at the MLB level.

"We really want to give those guys every chance we can," Levine said.

Rosario competes in free-throw challenge against high schoolers
If he had to choose a sport other than baseball, Eddie Rosario would have tried his hand at basketball. But he was a little rusty on Wednesday morning.

The new Wadena-Deer Creek Middle/High School was built after a devastating EF-4 tornado tore through the 4,088-person city of Wadena in 2010, and the school's students were joined by younger kids from the nearby elementary school in a vibrant gymnasium that proved the most energetic stop yet on this leg of the Twins Winter Caravan.

Tweet from @dohyoungpark: Flossing Eddie Rosario, my dudes pic.twitter.com/dKIgXXrLxq

The typical question-and-answer session with the crowd was followed by a free-throw competition. Rosario went 5-for-5 from the stripe on last year's Twins Winter Caravan, but this year's competitors from Wadena-Deer Creek's boys' and girls' basketball teams -- Steven and Kennedy -- gave the Twins' left fielder some stiff competition, with Kennedy taking home the crown on her last shot.

The third day of the Caravan culminated in a night stop in Bemidji, Minn., where Rosario, Berrios and Baldelli participated in their final evening event before departing for another in Minneapolis on Thursday morning. Ehire Adrianza and Taylor Rogers will join radio broadcaster Kris Atteberry for the Caravan's final night in Duluth, Minn.

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.

Minnesota Twins, Martin Perez, Eddie Rosario

Anderson: 'I definitely see myself at shortstop'

MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Since the White Sox selected Tim Anderson 17th overall in the 2013 Draft, there have been pundits who believed he wouldn't stick at shortstop due to his high level of athleticism possibly working in the outfield and his lack of baseball experience possibly costing him on the infield.

Anderson never was part of that group. He has worked tirelessly and with an underlying bravado to become one of the top defensive presences at his position for the last two-thirds of the 2018 season. So Anderson's desire to continue making that position his own is easily understandable.

CHICAGO -- Since the White Sox selected Tim Anderson 17th overall in the 2013 Draft, there have been pundits who believed he wouldn't stick at shortstop due to his high level of athleticism possibly working in the outfield and his lack of baseball experience possibly costing him on the infield.

Anderson never was part of that group. He has worked tirelessly and with an underlying bravado to become one of the top defensive presences at his position for the last two-thirds of the 2018 season. So Anderson's desire to continue making that position his own is easily understandable.

"Yeah, I definitely see myself at shortstop, and it's going to be tough to kind of move me," Anderson said at a pre-SoxFest event on Wednesday in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago. "I put in a lot of work to get where I am today. I just continue to work. It's not going to be easy to move me."

Video: CHC@CWS: Anderson makes a smooth backhanded play

Why would Anderson move from shortstop? It's a possibility if free agent Manny Machado joins the White Sox and would prefer to play shortstop, where he finished the 2018 campaign for the Dodgers. Anderson talked to MLB.com earlier last season about being confident in handling a move to the outfield, but for now, Machado remains on the open market and Anderson remains as one of the American League's up-and-coming middle infielders.

"I'm here for them, however they want to use me," Anderson said. "I'm just here to win championships, however they want to use me. I'm just here to play and have fun."

Palka's personality shines through
Daniel Palka can hit for power, as his 27 home runs as a rookie proved last year. He also has a personality as positively powerful as his left-handed swing.

Palka joined White Sox manager Rick Renteria, Anderson and outfielder Adam Engel at the Mitzi Freidheim Englewood Child and Family Center, where he read to a group of 4- and 5-year-old children on Wednesday morning. He also shared with the kids the reason as to why he plays outfield for the White Sox.

"The most important thing about playing outfield is you have to be the best-looking player," Palka said. "That's why they put me in the outfield as soon as I got there."

Most of the kids didn't exactly react, choosing to focus more on the White Sox hats and blankets they received. But Palka's comments drew some smiles and laughs from the assembled media.

Gif: Palka reading at Children's Center

Resumes of Alonso, Jay speak for themselves
Much has been made of the White Sox trade for first baseman/designated hitter Yonder Alonso, Machado's brother-in-law, and outfielder Jon Jay, Machado's close friend. But Renteria made clear on Wednesday that their big league credentials speak for themselves.

"You see the ability for Jon Jay to have great at-bats, has been around, knows how to play the game," Renteria said. "Yonder has put together some pretty solid seasons, putting the ball out of the ballpark, plays a very solid first base, gives you the opportunity to have him move in and out with Pito [Jose Abreu]. He and Pito have had many conversations.

"They in themselves speak for themselves in terms of their talent. That they happen to be friends of Manny just happens to be there. These are two quality Major League players."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Chicago White Sox, Tim Anderson, Daniel Palka

White Sox playing waiting game with Machado

Renteria on meeting: 'If I was on the other side, I would have been very, very impressed'
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- White Sox manager Rick Renteria took part in the team's initial meeting with Manny Machado's camp back on Dec. 17 at Guaranteed Rate Field, the Monday following the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas. He hadn't really spoken about that day until Wednesday at a pre-SoxFest event taking place in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago.

"Listen, [White Sox general manager] Rick [Hahn] and the front office put a great presentation together for them," Renteria said. "It was very detailed. I would say this: If I was on the other side, I would have been very, very impressed.

CHICAGO -- White Sox manager Rick Renteria took part in the team's initial meeting with Manny Machado's camp back on Dec. 17 at Guaranteed Rate Field, the Monday following the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas. He hadn't really spoken about that day until Wednesday at a pre-SoxFest event taking place in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago.

"Listen, [White Sox general manager] Rick [Hahn] and the front office put a great presentation together for them," Renteria said. "It was very detailed. I would say this: If I was on the other side, I would have been very, very impressed.

"I thought it was a great meeting, great young man. We expressed our interest. We talked about what we are as an organization. And we looked forward. … You just don't know yet where things will fall. I thought it was a very positive meeting for all parties involved."

Hot Stove Tracker

Renteria was joined by shortstop Tim Anderson and outfielders Adam Engel and Daniel Palka at the Mitzi Freidheim Englewood Child and Family Center, reading books to a group of 4-year-old and 5-year-old children who didn't really care about Machado's future baseball destination. They were more excited about interacting with the big league individuals, seeing Southpaw up close and taking home White Sox hats and blankets.

Ardent White Sox fans would like the Machado decision to have come about one or two weeks ago, but if it means eventually getting Machado to the South Side, they will patiently wait. Beginning Year 3 of the rebuild, the White Sox certainly are not looking to make mere incremental improvements; they also can wait for a game-changing talent such as Machado or Bryce Harper to make their final call.

There's no sense the White Sox are running out of time, even with pitchers and catchers reporting to Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz., on Feb. 13.

"Once we put our feet on the ground there and start moving forward, everything will be pretty settled. But the game of baseball doesn't necessarily guarantee settled," Renteria said. "There's a lot of action, a lot of movement in the spring, during the season.

"So it's just something we have to deal with on a daily basis. I'm sure that our most important thing is to get these guys working together and trying to put together a good campaign for the coming season.

"He's one of the two premier young players available in the Major Leagues right now," Renteria added of Machado. "So what the dynamics are, why it's not completed yet with anybody, let alone ourselves, you kind of scratch your head a little bit. Everybody is doing their due diligence and trying to get a young man that's extremely talented, probably doing the best they can to get him under best terms."

Players like Anderson and Engel have guarded optimism about the addition of another elite talent, while keeping their main focus on a great young White Sox core developing together.

"Obviously, we don't have much say, and rumors are rumors to us as well," Engel said. "He would make us a better team, so I'm excited to hopefully see him on the South Side."

Added Anderson: "He would play a great role in what we are trying to do as far as winning a championship. He definitely brings that talent. What's wrong with having everybody [on the team] being great?"

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Chicago White Sox

Rumors: Bumgarner, Padres, Harper, Pollock

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

What does addition of Pomeranz mean for Giants, Bumgarner?
Jan. 23: The Giants are bringing in another low-cost rotation option in Drew Pomeranz. The left-hander has signed a one-year deal, according to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal, who reports it is for a guaranteed $1.5 million with the potential to be worth up to $5 million with incentives.

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: #SFGiant signing free-agent LHP Drew Pomeranz to one-year contract, source tells The Athletic. First reported: @sportslarryknbr.

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: Pomeranz gets $1.5M and can max out at $5M with incentives, per source. https://t.co/Qf7nKLFj3v

Pomeranz is coming off an injury-plagued season, making only 11 starts (26 total games) and throwing 74 innings with a 6.08 ERA for the Red Sox. The Giants are hoping that for a low cost the 30-year-old can rebound closer to his 2017 level, when he posted a 3.32 ERA over 173 2/3 frames with Boston.

The Giants also recently re-signed fellow lefty Derek Holland, who led San Francisco in innings pitched (171 1/3) and strikeouts (169) in a bounceback 2018 campaign in which he also posted a 3.57 ERA.

San Francisco now has some rotation depth, as ace lefty Madison Bumgarner fronts a crew that also could include Dereck Rodriguez, Jeff Samardzija, Chris Stratton, Andrew Suarez and eventually Johnny Cueto, once he is recovered from Tommy John surgery late in 2019.

Of course, Bumgarner has been the subject of trade rumors for most of the offseason, so it's possible the Giants are adding arms to help offset the possibility of dealing him at some point between now and the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, depending on how the club performs in the first half.

Video: Pomeranz reportedly signs 1-year deal with Giants

Latest on Machado's mystery teams
Jan. 23: Where will Manny Machado land? With Spring Training less than a month away, we're no closer to finding out the answer to that question, especially with the reports of multiple undisclosed teams being involved only creating more speculation.

Some of the mystery team suggestions are more surprising than others. More >

Padres have 'checked in' on four premier free agents
Jan. 23: It's been a quiet few days on the rumor front, even for the biggest of names among free agents, like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

MLB Network insider Jon Heyman chimes in, however, with a nugget about the Padres having "checked in" with Harper and Machado -- as well as Marwin Gonzalez and Mike Moustakas.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Not sure if it qualifies them for ���Mystery Team��� status, but the Padres have checked in w/ Machado, Moustakas, Marwin and yes, Harper. Their plan is to shoot for 2020, and no word yet they���ve made offers to any of the 4, but they could move up the timetable with one big buy.

San Diego has been rebuilding and stockpiling young talent for years, and with many of its top prospects on the verge of the Major Leagues -- including shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., second baseman Luis Urias, catcher Francisco Mejia and pitchers like Chris PaddackLogan Allen and Cal Quantrill, among others -- it's possible the club is looking to move the needle by landing a big name free agent for the second straight offseason.

Remember, the Padres surprisingly inked Eric Hosmer a year ago. Could they pull off another shocker by going after Harper or Machado? And while Gonzalez and Moustakas aren't quite in the same tier as their fellow big-name free agents, either one would represent a pretty noteworthy addition for San Diego.

Frisaro: Dodgers still in talks for Realmuto
Jan. 22: Just when it looked like the Dodgers were out on dealing for J.T. Realmuto, they put themselves right back in.

After longtime Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal inked a one-year contract with the Brewers earlier this month, Los Angeles acquired Russell Martin from Toronto to shore up the position. That appeared to take the Dodgers out of the mix for Realmuto, who has been the biggest and longest-standing name on the trade-rumors front this offseason. But the two sides have remained in talks, according to MLB.com's Joe Frisaro, with a high-end prospect being discussed as a potential return. More >

Markakis' reunion with Braves means Pollock loses a suitor
Jan. 22: The Braves have addressed their corner outfield vacancy, re-signing veteran Nick Markakis to a one-year deal for $4 million with a club option for $6 million in 2020. The contract guarantees Markakis $6 million, according to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal.

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: Deal includes $4M salary for 2019 and $6M club option or $2M buyout for 2020. $6M guarantee. https://t.co/6lUkZNTYLE

MLB Network insider Jon Heyman recently had reported that a Markakis reunion looked like a "logical" possibility. The 35-year-old Markakis was a first-time All-Star for the Braves last season and finished the year hitting .297/.366/.440 with 14 home runs for the NL East champs.

Atlanta also had been linked to free agent A.J. Pollock, who likely would have shifted from center field to right with defensive star Ender Inciarte settled into the middle spot for the Braves. Markakis' return obviously takes away another suitor for Pollock, who might have been too expensive for the Braves all along, anyway. The 31-year-old reportedly had been seeking a deal along the lines of what Lorenzo Cain landed from the Brewers last year ($80 million over five years), although it's unknown whether Pollock's asking price has dropped in this slow market -- and if so, by how much.

Other clubs that have been connected to Pollock lately include the Dodgers, Giants, White Sox and Phillies, although the latter two teams are very much in play for either/both Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado and may prefer to see what happens on that front before turning their attention to Pollock.

Moose's market includes Phillies, Brewers, Padres
Jan. 22: The Phillies have made it clear they're looking to land one of the two premier free agents on this offseason's market, Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. But what would Philadelphia's plan be for third base if it doesn't land Machado? According to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, Plan B could very well be free agent Mike Moustakas.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Phillies have interest in Mike Moustakas. A Move for Moose likely depends on how Machado pursuit works out for them, though.

In an article for The Athletic (subscription required) on Sunday, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal mentioned that Moustakas' market also includes the Brewers and Padres. More >

Video: Rosenthal on the teams interested in Moustakas

Rangers bringing in Cabrera, have been in contact with Buchholz
Jan. 22: The Rangers have found their replacement for Adrian Beltre, agreeing to a one-year deal with infielder Asdrubal Cabrera, according to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal, who reports that the veteran will play third base.

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: #Rangers in agreement with free-agent IF Asdrubal Cabrera on a one-year contract, sources tell The Athletic. Deal will be for less than $5M. Pending physical. Cabrera will play third base.

The deal, which is pending a physical, reportedly is for $3.5 million, per ESPN's Jeff Passan.

Tweet from @JeffPassan: Free agent infielder Asdrubal Cabrera and the Texas Rangers are in agreement on a one-year, $3.5 million deal, pending a physical, league sources tell ESPN.

Texas didn't have any proven in-house option to handle the hot corner in the wake of Beltre's retirement, so Cabrera -- who also has extensive experience at second base and shortstop -- will slot in at third base.

The Rangers also have spent this offseason overhauling their rotation, starting back in early November when they declined team options for Doug Fister, Martin Perez and Matt Moore and saw Bartolo Colon and Yovani Gallardo enter free agency.

The club has focused on buy-low options who recently have dealt with major injuries, bringing in Drew Smyly, Lance Lynn, Edinson Volquez and Shelby Miller on low-risk contracts. Given that strategy, it makes perfect sense that the club would be in contact with Clay Buchholz, which is reportedly the case, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman. However, there's no indication that any deal is close.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Rangers have been in contact with Clay Buchholz but there's no word whether any deal is close

The knock on Buchholz has always been his inability to stay healthy. Even last year, when he posted a surprising 2.01 ERA with a 1.04 WHIP over 16 starts for the D-backs, his season ended prematurely due to a flexor strain in his right forearm. Buchholz has never made more than 29 starts in a season during his 12-year career, and only four times has he exceeded 20 starts.

That said, the 34-year-old would be another low-risk acquisition that could pay big dividends for the Rangers, either by helping them make an unexpected postseason run or giving them a pitcher to flip for a prospect or two this summer.

Dodgers 'active' in Marte talks, but Pirates unlikely to move him
Jan. 22: With the Dodgers having traded Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp to the Reds in December, the club's lineup skews left-handed, and Los Angeles reportedly is exploring a number of options to remedy that.

One of those options is A.J. Pollock, as MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported over the weekend. The Dodgers also are having "ongoing and active discussions" with the Pirates about Starling Marte, according to Michael J. Duarte of NBC Sports Los Angeles. MLB.com's Adam Berry, however, disputes the latter rumor, noting Pittsburgh is not looking to to trade Marte.

Tweet from @michaeljduarte: Sources: #Dodgers having ���active and ongoing discussions��� with #Pirates for Starling Marte. They���ve discussed a deal in previous weeks as well. Not known what other players are involved, or if teams are close to a deal. Marte is under contract with Pittsburgh through 2021.

The Dodgers still have a surplus of outfielders, but Marte would solve the team's need for a right-handed bat and give the club even more flexibility, allowing Enrique Hernandez, Chris Taylor and Cody Bellinger to be used in the infield more often, if needed.

The 30-year-old Marte is a two-time Gold Glove Award winner in left field, and he capably handled the starting center-field job for Pittsburgh in 2018. Marte also continued to display a multidimensional offensive skill set, hitting .277 with 20 homers and 33 steals.

Marte has a $10 million base salary for 2019, and he is controllable for two seasons after that via reasonable team options for '20 ($11.5 million with a $2 million buyout) and '21 ($12.5 million with a $2 million buyout), so it would take a significant package to acquire him -- all the more reason the Pirates are unlikely to do so at this time.

Reds complete deal for Gray, sign him to extension
Jan. 21: The Reds have acquired right-hander Sonny Gray and left-hander Reiver Sanmartin from the Yankees in exchange for second baseman Shed Long and a 2019 Competitive Balance Round A Draft pick. In addition, Cincinnati has signed Gray to a three-year contract extension with a club option for 2023.

According to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal, Gray will earn $30.5 million over 2020-22, plus his $7.5 million salary for 2019. The club option is for $12 million.

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: Gray extension with #Reds complete, per source. Three years, $30.5M, covering 2020-22. Club option for ���23 at $12M. All salaries can grow based on numerous escalators. Plus $500K of innings pitched bonuses each year.

ESPN's Jeff Passan reports that the Yankees have sent Long to the Mariners for outfielder Josh Stowers. Long was previously the Reds' No. 7 prospect, per MLB Pipeline. The Yankees would have needed to add Long to their 40-man roster, but won't need to do so with Stowers, who was Seattle's No. 10 prospect.

Gray is the third notable addition to Cincinnati's rotation this offseason, with the Reds having traded for Tanner Roark and Alex Wood in separate December deals. Roark and Wood can become free agents next offseason. More >

Dodgers discussing Joc trade with White Sox, others
Jan. 20: The Dodgers have been discussing trades involving outfielder Joc Pederson, sources told MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal on Sunday. The White Sox are one of the teams in the mix for Pederson, but per Rosenthal, it's unknown if the talks are at the stage where the teams would be close to a deal.

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: On rumors of Joc Pederson trade to #WhiteSox: #Dodgers have been discussing Pederson in possible deals, rival executives say. CWS one of clubs in those conversations, according to sources. Not known if talks are advanced to point where teams are close to a deal.

The 26-year-old Pederson hit .248/.321/.522 with 25 home runs for Los Angeles last season. He's under team control for two more seasons until he's eligible for free agency in 2021.

Pederson would slot in as a starting corner outfielder for a White Sox team looking to accelerate its rebuild. On the Dodgers side, trading Pederson could clear the way for a free-agent outfield signing like A.J. Pollock, who the Dodgers reportedly are interested in. And Bryce Harper is still out there, of course.

The Athletic's David O'Brien thinks the Braves also might be among the teams interested in Pederson. Atlanta has been in the market for a corner outfielder, and O'Brien notes on Twitter that Pederson could give the Braves a power bat to start in the middle of the order against right-handed pitching.

Video: Rosenthal discusses the Dodgers' pursuit of Pollock

Are the Yankees targeting Arenado?
Jan. 20: If the Yankees' interest in Manny Machado has petered out, it might be because they have their eyes on another superstar third baseman. A Major League source suggested to SNY's Andy Martino that Nolan Arenado could be a target for New York, either in a trade this offseason or as a free agent after the 2019 campaign.

Citing "people briefed on the Yankees' thinking," Martino reports that general manager Brian Cashman has internally discussed trying to trade for Arenado. Another source said it's likely the Yankees and Rockies have already talked.

However, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post was told there is "no substance" to the report, which suggests the two sides are not currently in contact regarding Arenado.

Tweet from @psaundersdp: Regarding those rumors coming out of NY about #Yankees #Rockies trade for Nolan Arenado... I���m told there is no substance to them. Far fetched.

Bridich has expressed interest in signing Arenado to a long-term extension, but the two sides haven't even been able to agree on a salary for 2019. Arenado and the Rockies exchanged arbitration figures before last week's deadline and are reportedly $6 million apart, as the third baseman is asking for $30 million while Colorado is offering $24 million. That doesn't bode well for the team's chances of working out a long-term deal, as Martino points out.

"It's going to be difficult for Colorado to keep him," one person familiar with the Rockies' situation told Martino.

Although Machado and Bryce Harper are having trouble getting the record-breaking deals they are reportedly seeking, MLB Network Radio's CJ Nitkowski doesn't think Arenado is going to be open to signing a long-term contract with the Rockies now.

"At this point, I can't imagine that he would try to sign any extension, not with a year to go," Nitkowski said. "Even if you're looking out at the market. Wherever the Rockies are right now on any kind of extension, they'll be at the end of the season as well. So there's no reason to take the other 29 teams out of the running."

Tweet from @MLBNetworkRadio: Have the #Rockies already lost Nolan Arenado to free agency next winter?@CJNitkowski believes it is a strong possibility. pic.twitter.com/eMKHpOVIoT

The Yankees could entice the Rockies by offering a package centered around young third baseman Miguel Andujar, though any trade would likely be contingent on New York signing Arenado to a new contract. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman suggests New York isn't interested in sending Andujar to Colorado as part of a trade for Arenado, and there are no trade discussions happening between the two clubs at this time. That doesn't, of course, rule out New York pursuing the superstar in free agency.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Just to clear up something that���s getting a lot of play in NY today: Yankees and Rockies are not talking about an Arenado trade, and Yankees wouldn���t send Miguel Andujar in package for Arenado. That said, have heard NYY loves Arenado, a free agent after ���19 (what���s not to love?)

Video: MLB Tonight discusses latest on Arenado negotiations

Among remaining free agents, Gonzalez is 'Mr. Versatility'
Jan. 20: In baseball today, versatility is value. Baseball executives, managers and coaches are seeking out players who can cover multiple positions, thus allowing more roster flexibility. The poster boy for this? Marwin Gonzalez.

Not only can the veteran free agent play just about anywhere on the field -- from first base to shortstop to second base to left field -- he does so at capable or better level. Oh, and his bat is pretty good, too, so the 29-year-old isn't merely a defensive specialist. More >

No current free agent hit the ball hard more often than Machado in '18
Jan. 20: Manny Machado is, along with Bryce Harper, the most talented free agent on the market. One particular area in which the 26-year-old superstar excels is consistently making hard contact. MLB.com's Andrew Simon took a look at the best skills among remaining free agents, and Machado had the highest hard-hit rate (percentage of batted balls with exit velocity of 95 mph or greater) in 2018, at 48.2 percent. That was good for 15th among 228 MLB hitters with a minimum of 250 batted balls.

The Phillies, White Sox and a pair of mystery teams reportedly lead the pack for Machado, who is reportedly looking for a record contract that would exceed the 13-year, $325 million deal Giancarlo Stanton signed with the Marlins in '14. More >

These clubs are in on Harrison
Jan. 20: Speaking of versatile players (see: Marwin Gonzalez above), Josh Harrison also has the ability to play all over the diamond. It's not surprising, then, to see that at least a handful of clubs are showing interest in the veteran.

Among the teams in the mix? The Dodgers, Giants, Angels, Phillies and Rays, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Dodgers, Giants, Angels, Phillies and Rays are among teams in on Josh Harrison, a great and versatile defender

Harrison, 31, had a club option for $10.5 million in 2019 that the Pirates chose to buy out for $1 million after he had an injury riddled '18 in which he played just 97 games due to hand and hamstring problems and hit .250/.293/.363 -- his worst season since becoming a regular in 2014.

Although he may be declining on offense at this stage of his career, Harrison does bring a bit of pop and speed for a versatile defensive player, and it's likely that the ailments hampered his production last year. He primarily has played second base since the start of '16, but Harrison also has had extensive action at third base and can handle a corner outfield spot as needed. That sort of profile makes him a good fit for clubs seeking roster depth and flexibility at a price that shouldn't be a cost prohibitive.

Which teams would benefit most from Keuchel's skill set?
Jan. 20: As the top starting pitcher left in free agency, Dallas Keuchel would make just about any team better. But some clubs look like they would be better fits than others for the veteran southpaw, based on his repertoire and approach.

In a look at which remaining free agents possess the best skills in various categories (i.e., hardest hitter, most effective fastball), MLB.com's Andrew Simon highlights Keuchel as the best ground-ball artist.

"For a team that plays in a homer-friendly ballpark, Keuchel would have obvious appeal," Simon writes. "The lefty threw his sinker more than 40 percent of the time last season, and generated a grounder on roughly 55 percent of balls put in play against him. While that represented a drop from his 68 percent mark in 2017, it still ranked among the best in MLB, and Keuchel has finished well above 50 percent in every season of his career."

Keuchel's ability to suppress homers and get grounders could suggest teams like the Reds, Phillies and Brewers -- all of whom have at least been linked to him in some fashion this offseason -- could benefit by bringing his skill set to their homer-happy ball parks.

Taking that one step further to factor in Keuchel's ability to pitch to the edges of the strike zone, MLB.com's David Adler ran down the catchers who might mesh best with Keuchel. In that regard, the Reds (with Tucker Barnhart) don't appear to be as good of a fit, but the Phillies (Jorge Alfaro) and Brewers (recently signed Yasmani Grandal) make a lot of sense.

Clubs that could use Kimbrel's elite swing-and-miss stuff
Jan 20: Craig Kimbrel  is the last of the high-end relievers remaining on the free-agent market, as Andrew Miller Zach Britton David Robertson Jeurys Familia Joe Kelly  and Adam Ottavino all have signed. Cody Allen  is also off the market, leaving one less proven closer out there.

As for why Kimbrel still should be considered a top-of-the-scale reliever at this point in his career, MLB.com's Andrew Simon dubbed Kimbrel as the pitcher with the most swing-and-miss ability among players still available on the open market.

"One of the game's elite closers over the past eight seasons, Kimbrel would also lead this remaining class of free-agent pitchers in fastball velocity (97.1 mph) -- albeit down from 98.3 mph in 2017 -- and best secondary pitch," Simon writes. "Working off that heater, Kimbrel threw his curveball about 35 percent of the time last season, and batters went 5-for-61 (.082) against it, with one extra-base hit and 33 strikeouts. Between those two pitches, the righty racks up lots of strikeouts. Batters missed on 40 percent of their swings against him in 2018, the third-highest rate out of 499 pitchers (minimum 200 swings)."

So which clubs could benefit from having Kimbrel in their bullpen (hint: a lot), and which ones appear to be the best matches for the right-hander? Read on here.

Do the Mets need either Harper or Pollock to avoid slipping in the NL East?
Jan. 20: The Mets have been among the busiest teams in the Majors this offseason, making big moves under new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen that include a trade for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz from the Mariners, as well as landing free agents Jeurys Familia, Wilson Ramos and Jed Lowrie. But will it be enough to avoid taking a step back in the National League East next season?

SNY's Matthew Cerrone asks whether this could be the case given what the Braves, Nationals and Phillies are reportedly trying to do to improve their rosters. He argues that New York needs to sign either Bryce Harper or A.J. Pollock in the outfield, not only for the obvious advantages to the Mets, but also to keep those players away from division rivals.

"The Phillies are projected to have the fourth-best lineup in the division," Cerrone notes. "By adding Harper or Manny Machado, they slip just pass the Mets. The bulk of reporting indicates they will eventually sign one or the other and could possibly sign both, which, if that happens, puts their projection atop the entire division. 

"Similarly, if the Braves then add Pollock -- and a mid-rotation starter, which they're in the market to acquire -- they, too, move past the Mets, who drop from second to fourth."

Will the Mets surprise the baseball world and end up landing Harper, who MLB Network recently ranked the No. 5 right fielder in baseball and along with Machado is the most coveted free agent on the market? Could New York be a "mystery team" for the superstar slugger? It remains to be seen, but the shakeup of power in the NL East would be seismic if that were to happen.

Are markets for Harper and Machado impacting Realmuto's future?
Jan. 19: J.T. Realmuto has been the player talked about most on this offseason's trade market, but he still remains a Marlin for the time being. That could change soon, according to MLB.com's Joe Frisaro, who said on MLB Network that he believes a deal will come together prior to Spring Training. Still, the current "holding pattern" in Realmuto's case, Frisaro said, may be due to the fact that neither of the two marquee free agents on the market, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, have signed yet.

"Let's say Machado or Harper signs with the Phillies," said Frisaro. "Does that motivate the Braves to say, 'Now we've got to make our counter-move,' and they add an extra piece to get a deal done with the Marlins? I think there's a little bit of that going on, but as far as I can tell you from the reporting I've done, and others have agreed, there are about four or five teams in. I think the Braves are one of those teams that are just waiting in the wings."

Video: Frisaro on latest rumblings surrounding J.T. Realmuto

Realmuto, 27, had a breakout year in 2018, slashing .277/.340/.484 with 21 home runs in 125 games for Miami. He has well-above-average speed and is considered one of the best catchers in the game today. MLB Network ranks him as the No. 2 catcher in baseball right now. More >

Red Sox reportedly discussed extension with Bogaerts
Jan. 19: Earlier this month, Evan Drellich of NBC Sports reported that the Red Sox were discussing an extension with an undisclosed core player, and now it's clear who that player was. Multiple sources have confirmed that Boston had talks with shortstop Xander Bogaerts, but the two sides never came close to an agreement, according to Drellich.

At the time of the initial report, Drellich noted that some in the industry were speculating that it was left fielder Andrew Benintendi, but the 24-year-old said Saturday that he hasn't had any extension discussions with the team to this point.

Bogaerts, 26, is one of a number of key Red Sox players who are due to enter free agency in the next two offseasons. Bogaerts, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello can hit the open market after the 2019 season, and Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. are eligible the following year. Meanwhile, J.D. Martinez can opt out of his contract in 2019 and 2020. Benintendi is under team control for four more seasons.

Sale said Saturday that he is open to talking with Boston about an extension.

"My phone is on if they call me," said Sale. "Obviously nothing has happened up until this point. If they call, I'd answer."

As for Betts, Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy said the team would love to have the reigning American League MVP Award winner stay in Boston for his entire career. But Betts knows there are no guarantees in baseball.

"Contract things are kind of tough to come up with, especially with both sides and kind of how the economics and all those things work," Betts said. "I love Boston, love my teammates, love the fans and all those types of things, so we'll just continue to see what happens."

Giants gauging trade interest in Longoria
Jan. 19: Slightly more than a year after acquiring him from the Rays, the Giants are reportedly shopping Evan Longoria, as MLB Network insider Jon Heyman hears that San Francisco has been gauging trade interest in the third baseman.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Word going around is, #SFGiants have been gauging trade interest in Evan Longoria. Rivals believe it would take big bucks to offset his contract to move him. Has $72.5M to go through 2022 plus $2M assignment bonus if traded (Tampa Bay chipped in $14.5M to trade him last year).

It may be difficult to move him, however, as he is still due to receive an immense amount of money over the next four seasons. As part of the December 2017 trade sending Longoria from Tampa Bay to San Francisco, the Rays picked up $14.5 million of the $88 million in guaranteed money that was still owed to the veteran at that point. He earned $13.5 million in 2018, leaving about $60 million on his deal that isn't being covered by the Rays (including a $5 million buyout on a $13 million team option for 2023).

According to Heyman, rivals believe the Giants would need to eat a significant portion of his salary to have any chance of trading the 33-year-old, who has been a below-average offensive player over the past two seasons (91 wRC+).

Coming off a 73-89 campaign in 2018, the Giants are in a tough spot, as they have several high-priced veterans who are on the decline, significant needs on the big league roster and a lackluster farm system.

The latest Moustakas free-agent rumors

MLB.com

Mike Moustakas has crushed 66 homers the past two seasons -- only Nolan Arenado, Manny Machado and Jose Ramirez have more among players with at least 50 percent of games at third base in that span. That power makes the 30-year-old, who is in his second straight offseason as a free agent, a solid alternative to Machado.

Below you will find the most recent buzz and rumors about the third baseman.

Mike Moustakas has crushed 66 homers the past two seasons -- only Nolan Arenado, Manny Machado and Jose Ramirez have more among players with at least 50 percent of games at third base in that span. That power makes the 30-year-old, who is in his second straight offseason as a free agent, a solid alternative to Machado.

Below you will find the most recent buzz and rumors about the third baseman.

Seeking a 3B, Padres have 'checked in' on Moustakas
Jan. 23: The Padres have been mentioned as a possible landing spot for Mike Moustakas, and it makes sense given their need at the hot corner.

In the latest news about this potential fit, MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reports that San Diego has "checked in" with Moustakas -- as well as Manny Machado, Bryce Harper and Marwin Gonzalez.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Not sure if it qualifies them for ���Mystery Team��� status, but the Padres have checked in w/ Machado, Moustakas, Marwin and yes, Harper. Their plan is to shoot for 2020, and no word yet they���ve made offers to any of the 4, but they could move up the timetable with one big buy.

The Padres have been rebuilding and stockpiling young talent for years, with many of their top prospects on the verge of the Major Leagues, including shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., second baseman Luis Urias, catcher Francisco Mejia and pitchers like Chris Paddack, Logan Allen and Cal Quantrill, among others.

Third base, however, is one position that doesn't have a clear short- or long-term answer within the San Diego organization. That could mean Moustakas is a candidate for the Padres as they look to turn the corner and return to contention in the next season or two. Not to mention, it would allow the veteran slugger to reunite with first baseman -- and longtime former Royals teammate -- Eric Hosmer.

Market for Moustakas includes Phillies, Brewers, Padres
Jan. 21: The Phillies have made it clear they're looking to land one of the two premier free agents on this offseason's market, Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. But what will Philadelphia's plan be for third base if it doesn't land Machado? According to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, Plan B could very well be free agent Mike Moustakas.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Phillies have interest in Mike Moustakas. A Move for Moose likely depends on how Machado pursuit works out for them, though.

Moustakas, 30, lingered on the free-agent market last year before re-signing with the Royals on a one-year deal. He was traded to the Brewers in July, and helped Milwaukee come within one game of the World Series. Overall, he hit .251/.315/.459 with 28 home runs in 152 games. In '17, Moustakas had a big year, belting a career-high 38 homers while posting a 117 OPS+.

The Phillies are apparently looking for an upgrade at third even if it isn't Machado. In '18, Maikel Franco, who got the lion's share of time at the position, slashed .270/.314/.467 with 22 homers. It was his best season since posting a 130 OPS+ in 80 games during the '15 campaign. But Moustakas' track record is undeniably better; Franco saw his offensive production decline significantly over '16-17, when he slashed .242/.294/.418.

In an article for The Athletic (subscription required) on Sunday, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal mentioned that Moustakas' market also includes the Brewers and Padres.

With top prospect Keston Hiura expected to begin 2019 in the Minors, the Brewers could re-sign Moustakas for the hot corner and use Travis Shaw to fill their short-term need at second base. Shaw, who is typically a third baseman, started 36 games at the keystone after Milwaukee acquired Moustakas in '18.

San Diego, meanwhile, mostly used Christian Villanueva, Cory Spangenberg and Wil Myers at third base in 2018, but none of those players will be back there in '19. Villanueva's contract was sold to Japan's Yomiuri Giants, Spangenberg is now with the Brewers after being designated for assignment and Myers is shifting back to a full-time role in the outfield. Moustakas would represent a major upgrade over the Padres' current hot-corner options, which include Ty France, Greg Garcia and Jason Vosler.

Adding Moustakas would reunite him with former Royals teammate Eric Hosmer, who signed an eight-year, $144 million contract with the Padres last offseason.

Mike Moustakas

Giants sign left-hander Pomeranz

MLB.com

The San Francisco Giants have signed left-handed pitcher Drew Pomeranz to a one-year Major League contract. MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reports the deal is for $1.5 million with incentives that can make it worth as much as $5 million.

Pomeranz appeared in 26 games (11 starts) for the Boston Red Sox in 2018, posting a 2-6 record with a 6.08 ERA (50er, 74.0ip) in a season that included a pair of stints on the 10-day disabled list. The southpaw opened the year on the DL with a left forearm flexor strain and was activated on April 20. He also missed time on the 10-day DL with left biceps tendinitis from June 5-July 24 before returning to the active roster from the end of July through the remainder of the regular season. Pomeranz was on Boston's 2018 World Series roster but did not see action in a game.

The San Francisco Giants have signed left-handed pitcher Drew Pomeranz to a one-year Major League contract. MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reports the deal is for $1.5 million with incentives that can make it worth as much as $5 million.

Pomeranz appeared in 26 games (11 starts) for the Boston Red Sox in 2018, posting a 2-6 record with a 6.08 ERA (50er, 74.0ip) in a season that included a pair of stints on the 10-day disabled list. The southpaw opened the year on the DL with a left forearm flexor strain and was activated on April 20. He also missed time on the 10-day DL with left biceps tendinitis from June 5-July 24 before returning to the active roster from the end of July through the remainder of the regular season. Pomeranz was on Boston's 2018 World Series roster but did not see action in a game.

Video: IT on Pomeranz signing with Giants on 1-year deal

In 2017, Pomeranz made a career-high 32 starts for the Red Sox and posted career highs in wins (17) and innings pitched (173.2) while striking out 174. His 17 wins were tied for fifth-most in the majors behind Cleveland's Carlos Carrasco and Corey Kluber, Kansas City's Jason Vargas and the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, who each had 18. His 3.32 ERA was seventh-best in the AL while his 9.02 strikeouts per 9.0 innings pitched ranked ninth-best in the American League. His 174 strikeouts were 12th-most in the AL.

The Collierville, TN native's last stint in the National League came in 2016 where he was named to the N.L. All-Star team with the Padres after going 8-7 with a 2.47 ERA (28er, 102.0ip) in 17 starts prior to the All-Star break. Pomeranz was traded to Boston on July 14 and finished the season with the Red Sox. He ended his 2016 campaign with a career-best 186 strikeouts
                
From 2016-2017, Pomeranz owned a 3.32 ERA in 63 games (62 starts), which ranked as the sixth-best figure among qualified left-handed starting pitchers behind Kershaw (2.03 ERA), Rich Hill (2.78), Madison Bumgarner (2.93), Alex Wood (3.00) and Chris Sale (3.12).

Over eight Major League seasons, Pomeranz has posted a 44-48 record with a 3.92 ERA (309er, 710.0ip) in 196 games (122 starts) with Colorado (2011-2013), Oakland (2014-2015), San Diego (2016) and Boston (2016-2018). As a starter in his career, Pomeranz owns a 4.04 ERA (280er, 623.0ip) in 122 career starts. In 74 career relief appearances, most of which came with Oakland in 2015, Pomeranz has posted a 3.00 ERA (29er, 87.0ip).

The 30-year-old was originally drafted by Cleveland in the first round (fifth overall pick) in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Mississippi.

To make room on the 40-man roster for Pomeranz, the Giants have designated OF Mike Gerber for assignment.

San Francisco Giants

The latest Gonzalez free-agent rumors

MLB.com

Marwin Gonzalez followed a breakout 2017 (.303/.377/.530) with a solid season in '18, posting a .733 OPS to go with 25 doubles and 16 home runs in a career-high 552 plate appearances. That and the 29-year-old's ability to play strong defense at multiple positions, including shortstop, second base and left field, make him an intriguing option for any number of clubs.

Below is a rundown of the latest news and rumors surrounding the versatile veteran.

Marwin Gonzalez followed a breakout 2017 (.303/.377/.530) with a solid season in '18, posting a .733 OPS to go with 25 doubles and 16 home runs in a career-high 552 plate appearances. That and the 29-year-old's ability to play strong defense at multiple positions, including shortstop, second base and left field, make him an intriguing option for any number of clubs.

Below is a rundown of the latest news and rumors surrounding the versatile veteran.

Is Gonzalez a fit for San Diego?
Jan. 23: Marwin Gonzalez is so versatile, he's a candidate to sign with just about any team. He's also young enough at 29 to make sense for a club that is under a long rebuild with an eye toward competing in the near future. Like, say, the Padres.

MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reports that San Diego has "checked in" with Gonzalez -- as well as Manny Machado, Bryce Harper and Mike Moustakas.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Not sure if it qualifies them for ���Mystery Team��� status, but the Padres have checked in w/ Machado, Moustakas, Marwin and yes, Harper. Their plan is to shoot for 2020, and no word yet they���ve made offers to any of the 4, but they could move up the timetable with one big buy.

The Padres have been rebuilding and stockpiling young talent for years, with many of their top prospects on the verge of the Major Leagues, including shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., second baseman Luis Urias, catcher Francisco Mejia and pitchers like Chris Paddack, Logan Allen and Cal Quantrill, among others.

One position, however, that is lacking in the organization is third base, which could make Gonzalez an option for the Padres as they look to turn the corner and return to contention in the next season or two.

Among remaining free agents, Gonzalez is 'Mr. Versatility'
Jan. 20: In baseball today, versatility is value. Baseball executives, managers and coaches are seeking out players who can cover multiple positions, thus allowing more roster flexibility. The poster boy for this? Marwin Gonzalez.

Not only can the veteran free agent play just about anywhere on the field -- from first base to shortstop to second base to left field -- he does so at capable or better level. Oh, and his bat is pretty good, too, so the 29-year-old isn't merely a defensive specialist.

In a look at which remaining players on the open market possess the best skills in various categories (i.e., most power, most swing-and-miss ability), MLB.com's Andrew Simon names Gonzalez as the player with the most versatility.

"Gonzalez is the only player who spent at least 20 games apiece last season at first base, second base, shortstop and left field," Simon writes. "He and Sean Rodriguez  are the only two active players with at least 90 career games at those four positions, plus third base. Gonzalez doesn't just have a lot of gloves -- he is adept at using them, posting roughly average or better Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) scores at each spot."

So the versatility is legitimate, and the defense is good. What about Gonzalez's offense?

He did drop off in 2018 (.247/.324/.409) after a breakout '17 with the bat (.303/.377/.530), but his second half of last season was quite good (.275/.352/.492). And as Simon points out: "With a 111 OPS+ over the past five seasons, Gonzalez has a good enough bat to play just about every day, even if he's constantly moving around the field."

Which teams might be in play for Gonzalez?
Jan. 16: Marwin Gonzalez has made a career of flying somewhat under the radar despite being a valuable player who can cut it at just about any position on the diamond. As a free agent, his market has been much the same -- quiet -- but that doesn't mean he's not highly sought-after for what he brings.

In a rundown of seven of the top remaining free agents other than Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, MLB.com's Richard Justice ranks Gonzalez No. 4 and writes: "[He] is an extremely valuable super-utility player who started games at every infield position over the last two seasons in addition to 103 starts in left field. He has played all of them credibly while producing a 4.0 fWAR in 2017 and hitting the biggest home run in Astros history in Game 2 of that World Series."

So which club could Gonzalez wind up with? Justice points out the Indians, Braves, Brewers and Rays. The first two teams, presumably, would be eyeing Gonzalez in the outfield, where Cleveland and Atlanta have the bigger holes. Milwaukee has a need at second base, specifically, and Tampa Bay likely could continue to utilize Gonzalez all over.

That said, Gonzalez's versatility allows him to fit on just about any roster, and while he's one of the better free agents still available, the 29-year-old isn't likely to require contract that would price him out of most teams' budgets, either.

What kind of contract is Gonzalez seeking?
Jan. 15: Because of his recent offensive production in 2017-18 and status as a supremely versatile defender, a number of teams are interested in and good fits for Marwin Gonzalez. One thing that hasn't been made clear to this point in the offseason, however, is what type of deal the veteran free agent may be trying to land.

Part of the reason for that is Gonzalez is not among the very top tier of players available on the open market, so there's been less speculation surrounding him. Another reason is there are fewer past free agents to compare him to because of what he brings to the table on defense.

One similar name that could provide a glimpse at what Gonzalez is seeking? Ben Zobrist, as MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal writes in a story for The Athletic (subscription required).

"Gonzalez, who turns 30 on March 14 ... likely wants to approach if not exceed the four-year, $56 million contract Ben Zobrist received from the Cubs at age 34 in December 2015," Rosenthal notes. "If that is indeed Gonzalez's goal, he might continue to linger on the market. One rival executive predicts [agent Scott] Boras will not 'capitulate' to a lesser deal until absolutely necessary."

Between Gonzalez's age, production and ability to play all over the diamond, it would seem reasonable that he should aim for something in that range. Granted, the free-agent market has seen a number of veterans settle for shorter-term deals than perhaps had been expected, but one big factor in Gonzalez's favor is that the sport as a whole is increasingly valuing versatility -- and there's simply no other free agent quite like him.

Is Marwin in the cards for St. Louis?
Jan. 12: Marwin Gonzalez is the most versatile player on the free-agent market, and perhaps the most versatile player in baseball. So it stands to reason that virtually every club could use him. With the infield market suddenly hot, there's been much speculation that Gonzalez could reach a deal somewhere soon. Could the Cardinals, a team that Gonzalez really hasn't been linked with this offseason, be the club to land him?

MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch answered that question in her latest Cardinals inbox, suggesting a Gonzalez signing would make a lot of sense for the club, but not as much for the player.

"Not only can Gonzalez play just about anywhere on the field (including shortstop), but he'd offer a switch-hitting presence off the bench," writes Langosch. "That would instantly help balance the Cardinals' offense.

"The issue, though, isn't so much the Cardinals' interest in Gonzalez, but rather what his interest would be in them. He's accrued 500-plus plate appearances in each of the last three seasons and averaged 125 starts per year during that span. He's looking to land somewhere where he can match that playing time, and the Cards don't have it to offer."

Gonzalez, who turns 30 in March, had a breakout season in 2017 for the Astros, slashing .303/.377/.530 with 23 home runs in 134 games while playing every infield position and both corner outfield positions. He took a step back on offense last season, seeing his OPS+ drop from 146 to 103. Nevertheless, his capability offensively and defensively makes him a very attractive candidate, especially in today's game, in which positional flexibility is valued highly.

With second basemen suddenly flying off the board, is Marwin next?
Jan. 11: The second-base market, which looked so robust a couple days ago, has suddenly thinned out significantly, with Brian Dozier (Nationals), Jed Lowrie (Mets) and DJ LeMahieu (Yankees) all finding new homes. Is Marwin Gonzalez next?

Gonzalez is arguably the best remaining free agent with second-base experience, and it helps his value that he can play all four infield positions as well as the two corner outfield spots. So while there are now fewer teams in need of a second baseman, the signings shouldn't impact Gonzalez as much as they would a player who solely mans the keystone.

The focus now shifts to the Brewers, who are "in heavy pursuit" of an infielder who can play second or third base, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan. Gonzalez would appear to be an ideal candidate (yes, he's an ideal candidate for virtually every club), as he can play both, which would give the Brewers flexibility. Travis Shaw moved from third base to second when Milwaukee acquired Mike Moustakas last July.

Tweet from @JeffPassan: The Milwaukee Brewers did their best work last January, and they���re following the same pattern this year. First came yesterday���s surprise signing of catcher Yasmani Grandal, and now the Brewers are in heavy pursuit of an infielder to play second or third base, sources tell ESPN.

Gonzalez, 29, had a breakout season in 2017 for the Astros, hitting .303/.377/.530 with 23 home runs in 134 games. He did that while playing every position on the field except center field, pitcher and catcher. Though his performance at the plate dipped last season, when he slashed .247/.324/.409 with 16 homers in 145 games, MLB.com's Andrew Simon notes that Gonzalez had a resurgent second half. After the All-Star break, he hit .275/.352/.492 (134 weighted runs created plus). And perhaps even more impressively, his hard-hit rate according to Statcast™ was 52.7 percent, one of the highest in baseball in the second half, after a 33.9 percent mark in the first half. Even in his breakout '17 campaign, his hard-hit rate was far lower than that, at 36.6 percent.

So there is much to be positive about when looking at Gonzalez's resume. Milwaukee is the only remaining club in what was a "big three" of teams looking for a second baseman, as the Nats and Mets have made their moves. Will the Brewers make another big move after reaching a one-year, $18.25 million agreement with free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal on Wednesday? Or will another club swoop in for Gonzalez and utilize him at a host of other positions?

Gonzalez remains available despite versatility
Jan. 8: Although Marwin Gonzalez is far from the only player who has found the free-agent market to be slow moving, it's still surprising that he remains available.

As MLB.com's Andrew Simon wrote Monday, Gonzalez offers "almost unparalleled defensive versatility," which means he could fit with virtually every Major League team.

Perhaps Gonzalez's lackluster offensive production a year ago -- especially compared to his breakout at the plate in 2017 -- is a concern, but as Simon points out, his 2018 second-half numbers were close to what he put up the previous season. Raising his hard-hit rate to 52.7 percent after the All-Star break (33.9 percent in the first half), Gonzalez posted a second-half slash line of .275/.352/.492 with a 134 wRC+. In 2017, Gonzalez slashed .303/.377/.530 with a 144 wRC+.

The Mets were reportedly looking at Gonzalez for a utility role in early December, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman in an article for Fancred Sports, but the team added outfield and infield depth by trading for Keon Broxton and J.D. Davis last week.

With the club's roster mostly in place and extension talks with Jacob deGrom soon to come, New York is not expected to spend substantially on any other players this offseason, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports.

Tweet from @NYPost_Mets: Indications are the Mets will wait out the market and see if anything makes sense for bullpen. Unclear how much Brodie Van Wagenen has left to spend this offseason, but it isn���t a lot.

That means New York is almost certainly out of the running for Gonzalez and A.J. Pollock.

The Mets will count on Juan Lagares and Broxton to handle center field, while Davis should be a depth piece at first and third base. New York could still add a shortstop to back up Amed Rosario and potentially sign another reliever, but it doesn't appear as if the club plans to make any more major moves.

Marwin Gonzalez

The latest Harper free-agent rumors

MLB.com

After a seven-season tenure with the Nationals that included a National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, an NL MVP Award in 2015 and six All-Star nods, Bryce Harper is now a free agent for the first time.

Below you will find a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the outfielder.

After a seven-season tenure with the Nationals that included a National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, an NL MVP Award in 2015 and six All-Star nods, Bryce Harper is now a free agent for the first time.

Below you will find a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the outfielder.

Padres in play for Harper?
Jan. 23: It's been a quiet few days on the rumor front, even for the biggest of names among free agents, like Bryce Harper.

MLB Network insider Jon Heyman chimes in, however, with a nugget about the Padres having "checked in" with Harper -- as well as Manny Machado, Marwin Gonzalez and Mike Moustakas.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Not sure if it qualifies them for ���Mystery Team��� status, but the Padres have checked in w/ Machado, Moustakas, Marwin and yes, Harper. Their plan is to shoot for 2020, and no word yet they���ve made offers to any of the 4, but they could move up the timetable with one big buy.

San Diego has been rebuilding and stockpiling young talent for years, and with many of its top prospects on the verge of the Major Leagues -- including shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., second baseman Luis Urias, catcher Francisco Mejia and pitchers like Chris Paddack, Logan Allen and Cal Quantrill, among others -- it's possible the club is looking to move the needle by landing a big name free agent for the second straight offseason.

Remember, the Padres surprisingly inked Eric Hosmer a year ago. Could they pull off another shocker by going after Harper?

Do Mets need either Harper or Pollock to avoid slipping in NL East?
Jan. 20: The Mets have been among the busiest teams in the Majors this offseason, making big moves under new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen that include a trade for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz from the Mariners, as well as landing free agents Jeurys Familia, Wilson Ramos and Jed Lowrie. But will it be enough to avoid taking a step back in the National League East next season?

SNY's Matthew Cerrone asks whether this could be the case given what the Braves, Nationals and Phillies reportedly are trying to do to improve their rosters. He argues that New York needs to sign either Bryce Harper or A.J. Pollock in the outfield, not only for the obvious advantages to the Mets, but also to keep those players away from division rivals.

"The Phillies are projected to have the fourth-best lineup in the division," Cerrone notes. "By adding Harper or Manny Machado, they slip just pass the Mets. The bulk of reporting indicates they will eventually sign one or the other and could possibly sign both, which, if that happens, puts their projection atop the entire division. 

"Similarly, if the Braves then add Pollock -- and a mid-rotation starter, which they're in the market to acquire -- they, too, move past the Mets, who drop from second to fourth."

Will the Mets surprise the baseball world and end up landing Harper, who MLB Network recently ranked as the No. 5 right fielder in baseball right now and along with Machado is the most coveted free agent on the market? Could New York be a "mystery team" for the superstar slugger? It remains to be seen, but the shakeup of power in the NL East would be seismic if that were to happen.

Bryant says Harper won't sign with Cubs
Jan. 18: It appears that a scenario that many people -- particularly Cubs fans -- have speculated to be a dream pairing of Bryce Harper with Las Vegas native and close friend Kris Bryant won't happen. At least that's what Bryant said on Friday at the annual Cubs Convention, per MLB.com's Jordan Bastian. 

Tweet from @MLBastian: Kris Bryant, on Bryce Harper: ���He���s not signing here.��� Said Cubs have a ���killer team��� even without any major additions. Added that he doesn���t talk about the FA process with Harper.

"I know Bryce. I don't know if he's going to be here," Bryant added to NBC Sports Chicago. "But I definitely don't talk to him about it. He's a good friend to me, but I never bring it up to him because I want to be a good friend to him and not talk about baseball when he doesn't want to talk about baseball. 

Tweet from @NBCSChicago: If Bryce Harper isn't joining the Cubs, Kris Bryant wants to smash him every time they play! pic.twitter.com/T0dE72J9Em

"If he doesn't come here, I know we're going to want to smash him every time we play him."

Harper has stirred the social media realm in recent years by poking at the possibility of joining Bryant and the Cubs when his long-awaited free agency began to manifest. But now with that time here, Harper signing with the Cubs appears less and less likely. Specifically, Chicago has publicly claimed that it does not have the financial bandwidth to take on another megacontract, especially with the club already projected to exceed the Competitive Balance Tax threshold. Harper reportedly rejected a 10-year, $300 million deal from the Nationals at the end of the regular season. 

Bryant and Harper have been close friends since they were children, having grown up through the competitive ranks in Las Vegas, and they regularly spend time with each other during the offseason. In December, they both attended a Nelly concert together, and they also spent New Years Eve with each other. 

Bryant went on to say that he's surprised that the free-agent market has been quite slow to develop -- particularly at the top with Harper and star shortstop Manny Machado, as ESPN's Jesse Rogers shared on Friday. Harper and Machado have both been linked to the White Sox and Phillies, but beyond that, the Nats are the only team known to have significant interest in Harper and the Yankees are among a very small handful of teams pursuing Machado. 

Tweet from @ESPNChiCubs: Kris Bryant, on Harper and Machado: ���Its weird. It���s really weird. Two of the best players in the game and they have very little interest in them, from just what I hear. It's not good. Its something that will have to change. I know a lot of the other players are upset about it.���

Phillies' 'dream' outfield: Harper, Trout, Cutch
Jan. 17: The Phillies are thinking big. "Harper and Mike Trout in the same outfield" big.

According to a report from Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci -- citing a source with knowledge of Philadelphia's offseason plans -- while the Phillies have enough money to sign both Harper and Manny Machado, they'd actually like to sign just one. Why? So they can make a run at Trout, too, if he hits free agency after the 2020 season.

"In one dream scenario," Verducci writes, "the Phillies would field an all-MVP outfield in 2021: Trout, Harper and Andrew McCutchen."

Trout and Harper might be the two most talented players of their generation, and the "Trout vs. Harper?" question was one of the biggest debates in the baseball world as the two ascended to superstardom. Putting them together on one roster really would be a dream for any team.

Assessing which 'mystery teams' may actually be in on Harper and/or Machado
Jan. 17: As the offseason drags on and Bryce Harper and Manny Machado remain unsigned, the door will stay open for more teams to jump into the race, especially if there's a sense that the price to sign them may not be as high as many initially expected.

In an article for ESPN+ (subscription required) on Thursday, Buster Olney listed some of the so-called "mystery teams" that are drawing speculation from industry insiders and broke down each club's chances of signing one of this offseason's superstar free agents.

Olney is hearing the Astros, Giants and Braves being mentioned as potential suitors for Harper; the Yankees and Padres as possible contenders for Machado; and the Rangers, Twins and Cubs as three teams that could sign either player.

Olney thinks most of these clubs will continue to sit out of the proceedings, but he could see Houston entering the mix for Harper if the slugger is willing to accept a shorter-term deal with opt-outs. The Astros nearly acquired Harper before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline this past season, but the Nationals backed out. As Olney points out, the team is in win-now mode, especially with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole set to enter free agency next offseason.

"They've got the money, for sure," said one rival official.

The Astros seemingly have their starting outfield set after signing Michael Brantley, but Harper would represent a massive upgrade in right field over Josh Reddick, who recorded a .718 OPS in 2018.

Olney concedes that it might seem odd to have the Yankees as a potential mystery team for Machado, as they were one of three clubs -- along with the Phillies and White Sox -- to meet with him in December. But with Troy Tulowitzki and DJ LeMahieu in the fold, New York is not aggressively pursuing Machado at this time. That could change, though, if Machado's asking price falls into a range that the Yankees are more comfortable with.

Three teams reportedly are in on Harper -- but several more could swoop in
Jan. 16: There have been plenty of rumors and all kinds of buzz surrounding free-agent superstar Bryce Harper since the start of the offseason more than two-and-a-half months ago. The latest news is especially interesting because it appears to narrow down the field of interested teams to three primary suitors -- at least, for now.

The Phillies, Nationals and White Sox, all of whom have been connected to Harper in numerous reports, are "the only three teams known to be in" on the slugging outfielder, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: phillies, nats and chisox are the only 3 teams known to be in on bryce harper. but fwiw, word is, several teams are said to be waiting in the wings. the word "waiting" suggests this may yet take awhile.

Several teams, however, "are said to be waiting in the wings," Heyman continues, meaning that a) more clubs likely are (or could be) in the mix at various levels of interest and engagement, and b) the Harper sweepstakes may not be nearing a conclusion any time soon.

With pitchers and catchers due to report in less than a month, is it possible negotiations for Harper could push close to -- or even into -- the start of Spring Training?

Phillies choosing between Harper and Machado; do they have a preference?
Jan. 16: One of the popular theories earlier this offseason was that the Phillies had so much money available that not only were they seen as the prohibitive favorite to sign Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, but they actually could consider paying up for both free-agent superstars.

That pie-in-the-sky scenario for Phillies fans isn't happening, according to Matt Gelb of The Athletic (subscription required). But that doesn't mean Philly won't wind up with one of the premier young talents in the sport. On the contrary, it's looking like the club is seen as a favorite -- it's just a matter of which one they choose to sign.

MLB Network insider Jon Heyman notes that while Machado seemed to be the Phillies' top choice at one point, the club may now be leaning toward Harper, to whom the club is expected to make an offer soon, if it hasn't already.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Philly is in excellent position to sign one or the other of the free agent mega stars ��� Harper or Machado. Signing both though is said to remain pretty unlikely. But after they secure 1, Phils may take a closer look at other top free agents (ie Keuchel, Kimbrel, Pollock)

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Felt like Machado was Phils��� top choice at one time. Now it seems like it���s even or maybe a lean toward Harper. That 4/5 hour, 2 video meeting in Las Vegas sounds like it went great for Harper and the Phillies, who are expected to make offer to him soon, if they haven���t by now.

The Phillies sent a group of their decision-makers -- including managing partner John Middleton, president Andy MacPhail, general manager Matt Klentak and manager Gabe Kapler -- to meet with Harper in his hometown of Las Vegas over the weekend. The visit went rather well, as MLB.com's Todd Zolecki writes.

Heyman points to the Phillies' previous acquisition of shortstop Jean Segura, Harper's star power and the desire to one-up the rival Nationals -- who are believed to be in on the outfielder, but not Machado -- as reasons why the club could prefer Harper over Machado. Heyman also hears that Harper and Kapler "really hit it off," as both have similarly intense personalities.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Phillies could still go either way on the 2 FA mega stars. But here���s why they may be leaning Harper now: 1) acquisition of ss Segura 2) Harper cachet, success at philly 3) great meeting w/Harper 4) competition for Harper comes from nl east rival nats, who beat phils for Corbin

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Word is, Harper and Kapler really hit it off during the Las Vegas meeting, which could be another factor in Phillies��� thinking. Easy to see that: both quite intense

Back in late December, the Phillies hosted Machado at Citizens Bank Park, too, making them one of two teams -- the White Sox are the other -- known to have had face-to-face sit-downs with both stars this offseason. That could give them an advantage over some of the other suitors who have been linked to one player or the other, a list that potentially includes the Nationals, the Yankees and the Dodgers.

And yet, the waiting game continues for the Phillies, who don't seem to mind seeing how this plays out, because of the fact that either Harper or Machado could be a great fit for them -- and their financial fortitude to perhaps present the largest offers to either player.

"There is risk in dragging out this dance," Gelb writes, "but multiple league sources indicated the Phillies' risk of losing out on both stars is mitigated by the apparent lack of interested teams throughout Major League Baseball and the club's financial wherewithal."

Can Nationals afford Harper and Rendon?
Jan. 16: As the baseball world speculates where free agent Bryce Harper will land, the Phillies and the Nationals are seemingly leading the race -- and might be the only two teams in the running -- at this point.

One major advantage the Phils have is that they can likely outbid the Nats for Harper. Washington exceeded the luxury-tax threshold in each of the past two seasons and is going to be up against it again in 2019. The penalties get steeper when teams exceed the threshold in consecutive seasons, and there is also a surtax for exceeding it by $20 to $40 million. Signing Harper would likely put the Nats more than $20 million over the threshold in 2019.

The team also needs to worry about Anthony Rendon's impending free agency next offseason. According to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in an article for The Athletic (subscription required), Rendon and agent Scott Boras, who also represents Harper, are seeking a deal similar to Jose Altuve's.

The Astros gave Altuve a five-year, $151 million extension before the 2018 season, covering 2020-24. At the time, Altuve was already under contract for $12.5 million over 2018-19, bringing his total deal to seven years and $163.5 million.

As Rosenthal points out, signing Harper and extending Rendon would likely give the Nats a combined luxury-tax number exceeding $130 million for just five players (Harper, Rendon, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin) over the next three seasons, assuming Strasburg doesn't opt out after 2019 or 2020.

However, MLB.com's Jamal Collier gets the sense that the Nationals are proceeding as if they can afford both players.

"As recently as the Winter Meetings, [general manager Mike Rizzo] said he felt like there was room for both," Collier said Tuesday on MLB Network. "And I think that when he looks at the number that Rendon just signed for in arbitration -- $18.8 million -- that's about what the Nationals think for an extension, he'll be making over that time. And the fact that they're still in on Harper while negotiating with Rendon makes me think that they think they can sign both.

"It's going to be a matter of what exact number is Harper coming back for. If that number is closer to $400 million, there's probably not room for more. … If that number is closer to 10 years, $300 million, then there's probably a scenario where the Nats can fit both of these guys in. ... But I would certainly say, the way they're operating, the way they're going about their business, they haven't ruled it out, so right now I won't rule it out either."

Are the Phillies now leading the race to sign Harper?
Jan. 14: Following a five-hour meeting with Bryce Harper in his hometown of Las Vegas on Saturday, are the Phillies now the favorites to sign the market's most coveted free agent? Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported as much on Sunday, citing three anonymous sources with direct knowledge of the negotiations. 

Nightengale adds that the Nationals, who were considered the favorites to sign Harper after a lengthy meeting over the holidays, now believe they are a "long shot." 

The Phillies are also among a handful of favorites to sign Manny Machado -- and those odds could have increased, given that the Yankees' dialogue with the coveted shortstop have become "either dormant or completely dead," according to a report on Sunday from ESPN's Buster Olney. Nightengale's report added that the Yanks have "no intention of offering [Machado] a megacontract."

Philly is expected to make a formal offer within the week, per the report. MLB.com's Todd Zolecki reported on Sunday that the club may be shifting its sights on Harper instead of Machado, to whom the club has issued a formal offer, per Zolecki.

For their meeting with Harper, the Phillies sent managing partner John Middleton, president Andy MacPhail, general manager Matt Klentak, manager Gabe Kapler and assistant general manager Ned Rice to meet with Harper and his agent Scott Boras, and the club's front-office officials left the meeting feeling "optimistic" to land either Harper or Machado.

"It was really impressive to spend some time with him, get to know him better, answer his questions, and we got to ask some questions, learn about him, and I think that's a really important step in any negotiation is kind of understanding what the other party is looking for. And now we'll see where it takes us," Klentak told 6ABC in Philadelphia late Saturday night.

Until they make their offer to Harper, however, MLB.com's Jim Duquette doesn't think the Phils can be deemed the front runner.

"At least make an offer," Duquette said on MLB Network Radio. "It looks so absurd that you're actually going to try to declare that and you haven't put an offer on paper. … So until that actually happens, there's no Philly front runner for Harper.

"Just because you were the last team to meet with him does not make you the front runner," Duquette added.

Tweet from @MLBNetworkRadio: .@Jim_Duquette: The #Phillies are not the front runner on Bryce Harper until they "Show Him The Money!"#Nationals pic.twitter.com/lMUsXgBNL9

At this point, the only team that is believed to have offered Harper a contract is the Nationals, whose latest offer was reportedly north of $300 million. As a result, Duquette thinks they are still the leading contender to sign the slugger.

In either case, MLB.com's Jamal Collier writes that Washington shouldn't be counted out.

"Harper's relationship with the organization, as well as [general manager and president of baseball operations Mike] Rizzo and the Lerner family, is strong," writes Collier. "A few front office members have wondered if eventually ownership will find a way to make it work to keep Harper in D.C. long term, even if doing so would almost certainly put the Nats over the luxury tax threshold again."

Video: MLB Tonight on Phillies, Harper meeting in Las Vegas

After meeting with Harper, Phillies optimistic
Jan. 12: Phillies executives traveled to Las Vegas to meet with superstar free agent Bryce Harper on Saturday, and according to Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer, they emerged from the meeting "optimistic" about their chances to land either Harper or fellow 26-year-old free agent Manny Machado this offseason.

In addition to the Phillies, the other clubs seen as frontrunners to land Harper on what may be an unprecedented deal are the Nationals and White Sox. Philadelphia and Chicago are also seen as the frontrunners in the chase for Machado. As Breen notes, one area in which the Phillies may be able to stand out is the sheer amount of money they can offer either superstar. Phillies owner John Middleton said earlier this offseason that the club might be "a little stupid" in how it spends its money.

So should money be the ultimate deciding factor, the Phillies may be the favorite. Philadelphia recently hired a mentor of Machado's, former Orioles third-base coach Bobby Dickerson, as infield coach. And that came after the White Sox traded for Machado's brother-in-law Yonder Alonso and signed close friend Jon Jay. 

Both Harper and Machado are reportedly looking to exceed the record contract Giancarlo Stanton received from the Marlins in 2014, which was for 13 years and $325 million. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported that the amounts on the table in Machado's case are closer to $200 million than they are to $300 million.

Meanwhile, MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM analyst and former MLB general manager Jim Bowden reported Washington made an offer well north of $300 million to Harper, after it initially offered 10 years and $300 million toward the end of the regular season. MLB.com's Mark Feinsand wrote earlier in the week that momentum appeared to be building for a Harper-Nationals reunion.

Do Phillies have another reason to meet with Harper?
Jan. 11: The Phillies are set to send a sizable contingent of their decision-makers to visit with Bryce Harper in his hometown of Las Vegas on Saturday, according to multiple reports. On the surface, the club is doing so because of legitimate interest in the free-agent superstar. There's no denying that the team and the player are a great match, as MLB.com's Richard Justice wrote Thursday.

But is there perhaps another reason -- an ulterior motive, if you will -- for this cross-country trek?

MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal presents just such a possibility in a column for The Athletic (subscription required) in which he examines how bringing back Harper -- who is seeking a deal north of Giancarlo Stanton's record $325 million contract -- would impact the Nationals' already lofty payroll.

"If the Phillies' preference is [Manny] Machado, as some in the industry believe, then the meeting from their perspective might simply be a ploy to drive up the price for the Nationals, a division rival," Rosenthal speculates. "Harper and [his agent Scott] Boras, in fact, might be proceeding with the same motivation."

Oh, wouldn't that be something? Sure, the most likely scenario is that the Phillies are meeting with Harper because they want him -- and are willing to spend some of their "stupid" money on a 26-year-old lefty slugger who would fit their lineup and rebuilt roster exceptionally well over the next decade.

But it's at least fun to consider that the Phillies could be making a show of heading to Vegas -- a city known for big, over-the-top displays -- as a way to push the rival Nats, who many now view as the favorite for Harper, to (ahem) raise the stakes on their reported 10-year, $300 million-plus offer.

Just a little showdown between a pair of clubs that expect to go head to head to win a super-competitive NL East division? Hmmm.

The latest Machado free-agent rumors

MLB.com

Manny Machado has been one of the game's best players since debuting in 2012, and he is set to cash in as a first-time free agent this offseason.

Below you will find a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the infielder.

Manny Machado has been one of the game's best players since debuting in 2012, and he is set to cash in as a first-time free agent this offseason.

Below you will find a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the infielder.

Latest on Machado's mystery teams
Jan. 23: Where will Manny Machado land? With Spring Training less than a month away, we're no closer to finding out the answer to that question, especially with the reports of multiple undisclosed teams being involved only creating more speculation.

Some of the mystery team suggestions are more surprising than others.

The latest is that the Padres have "checked in" with Machado -- as well as fellow free agents Bryce Harper, Marwin Gonzalez and Mike Moustakas -- according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman. The rebuilding club has a ton of prospect talent on the way -- including Fernando Tatis Jr., the top overall shortstop prospect per MLB Pipeline -- although San Diego is lacking a short- and long-term answer at the hot corner.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Not sure if it qualifies them for ���Mystery Team��� status, but the Padres have checked in w/ Machado, Moustakas, Marwin and yes, Harper. Their plan is to shoot for 2020, and no word yet they���ve made offers to any of the 4, but they could move up the timetable with one big buy.

Casey Stern of MLB Network Radio shared his belief earlier in the week that the Marlins -- Machado's hometown club -- are eyeing the superstar. "You've got a guy who will bring fans to the seats because he's from the area," Stern said. "He will bring some fans into the seats, even with bad play [by the team] ... probably, in my opinion, even more than [Giancarlo] Stanton did."

Tweet from @MLBNetworkRadio: #Marlins-Manny Machado-Mystery Team? -@CaseyStern pic.twitter.com/wyXvHsr8EL

MLB.com's Joe Frisaro, however, reports that Miami is not in on Machado, according to sources.

Meanwhile, Hector Gomez of Z101, a Dominican Republic radio station, has heard the Pirates could be in the mix. (Tweet translated from Spanish to English.)

Tweet from @hgomez27: Several reports suggest that the @Pirates could be the mystery team that would be interested in Manny Machado.#ZDigital #ZDeportes @z101digital @ZDeportes https://t.co/d029rQh14B

Pittsburgh certainly has a need for the infielder, but the club doesn't have a reputation for spending big on the free-agent market, and Machado is reportedly looking for a record-setting contract. It would be a stunning development, to say the least, if the Pirates sign Machado. In fact, MLB.com's Mark Feinsand and Adam Berry both dispel rumors linking Pittsburgh to Machado.

The mystery team chatter really picked up steam last week when Gomez tweeted comments from Machado's father, who said he believed the team people were overlooking would be the one to sign his son. Heyman subsequently confirmed the presence of an unknown team in the race for Machado, and SNY's Andy Martino followed up with a report that at least two mystery teams are involved.

No current free agent hit the ball hard more often than Machado in '18
Jan. 20: Manny Machado is, along with Bryce Harper, the most talented free agent on the market. One particular area in which the 26-year-old superstar excels is consistently making hard contact. MLB.com's Andrew Simon took a look at the best skills among remaining free agents, and Machado had the highest hard-hit rate (percentage of batted balls with exit velocity of 95 mph or greater) in 2018, at 48.2 percent. That was good for 15th among 228 MLB hitters with a minimum of 250 batted balls.

The Phillies, White Sox and a pair of mystery teams reportedly lead the pack for Machado, who is reportedly looking for a record contract that would exceed the 13-year, $325 million deal Giancarlo Stanton signed with the Marlins in '14. More >

At least two mystery teams in Machado race
Jan. 19: Just when it seemed like the Phillies and White Sox were the only two teams left in the Manny Machado sweepstakes, at least two more undisclosed clubs have emerged, Major League sources told Andy Martino of SNY.tv.

Machado has personally met with one of the unidentified teams in recent days, and MLB Network insider Jon Heyman has heard that said team has the high bid for the 26-year-old.

Additionally, Martino reports that the Yankees are maintaining contact with Machado's camp, though he notes that New York remains unlikely to sign him.

The Braves have checked in as well, but Martino writes that they "are not believed to be serious suitors."

In comments made to Hector Gomez of Z101, a Dominican Republic radio station, Machado's father, Manuel, alluded to a potential mystery suitor for his son, saying the team people are overlooking would be the one to sign the superstar free agent. The elder Machado also said that the Dodgers were one of the teams that have made his son an offer, but that was quickly disputed by Heyman.

Here are the tweets from Gomez, translated from Spanish to English.

Tweet from @hgomez27: Manuel Machado, Manny���s Father:���Manny has received offers from different teams: Yankees, Dodgers, Phillies, now there���s a lot of interest from the White Sox.���#ZDigital #ZDeportes @z101digital @ZDeportes pic.twitter.com/2QoiZEy5zl

Tweet from @hgomez27: Manuel Machado, Manny���s Father:"I believe that the team you will probably less think about is the one that���s gonna sign Manny Machado."#ZDigital #ZDeportes @z101digital @ZDeportes

Manny seen wearing a Sox cap; does it mean anything?
Jan. 18: Is Manny Machado leaning toward signing with the White Sox? With the Phillies reportedly turning their focus to fellow 26-year-old superstar Bryce Harper after meeting with him in Las Vegas last week, and the Yankees signing yet another infielder in DJ LeMahieu, it appears Chicago may be the favorite to land Machado. The White Sox have reportedly made a seven-year, $175 million offer, though that has been disputed by Machado's agent, Dan Lozano.

While it may be a clue, or may be nothing at all, Machado was seen wearing a White Sox cap while taking batting practice with brother-in-law and White Sox first baseman Yonder Alonso on Friday. The website 12up reports that this took place in Miami.

Tweet from @12upSport: Yeah this definitely looks like Manny Machado wearing a White Sox hat and trying to hide it pic.twitter.com/nvtQUyAqIt

Machado and Harper are the two premier free agents this offseason, a pair of superstar sluggers under 27 years old on the open market, which can be a rarity. Both are reportedly looking to break the record for largest contract in MLB history, currently held by Giancarlo Stanton, who inked a 13-year, $325 million pact with the Marlins in 2014.

Yankees dip into free-agent market again -- but not for Machado
Jan. 17: While the Yankees are believed to be out of the Manny Machado sweepstakes, a report that the White Sox had offered the infielder $175 million over seven years -- which was later disputed by Machado's agent, Dan Lozano -- led to renewed speculation that New York could re-enter the mix for the right price.

However, the Yankees' latest move makes it even more unlikely that they'll circle back to sign Machado, as they have reportedly agreed to a three-year, $27 million contract with right-handed reliever Adam Ottavino.

With Ottavino's $9 million average annual value tacked on, the Yankees project to be nearly $15 million over the luxury-tax threshold in 2019, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts. New York can bump that down a bit by trading Sonny Gray and his $7.5 million salary, but signing Machado for $25 million or more annually could put New York more than $30 million over the threshold.

In that case, the Yankees would need to pay a 20 percent tax on all overages plus a 12 percent surtax for exceeding the threshold by $20 million to $40 million, per the Competitive Balance Tax rules.

Due to the steeper penalties levied against teams that exceed the threshold by more than $40 million, signing Machado may also inhibit the Yankees' ability to make major in-season additions to the roster. Teams that finish more than $40 million over the luxury-tax line are subject to a 42.5 percent surtax and will have their highest selection in the next MLB Draft moved back 10 spots, unless it falls in the top six -- in which case the second-highest selection is moved back 10 spots.

Assessing which 'mystery teams' may actually be in on Harper and/or Machado
Jan. 17: As the offseason drags on and Bryce Harper and Manny Machado remain unsigned, the door will stay open for more teams to jump into the race, especially if there's a sense that the price to sign them may not be as high as many initially expected.

In an article for ESPN+ (subscription required) on Thursday, Buster Olney listed some of the so-called "mystery teams" that are drawing speculation from industry insiders and broke down each club's chances of signing one of this offseason's superstar free agents.

Olney is hearing the Astros, Giants and Braves being mentioned as potential suitors for Harper; the Yankees and Padres as possible contenders for Machado; and the Rangers, Twins and Cubs as three teams that could sign either player.

Olney thinks most of these clubs will continue to sit out of the proceedings, but he could see Houston entering the mix for Harper if the slugger is willing to accept a shorter-term deal with opt-outs. The Astros nearly acquired Harper before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline this past season, but the Nationals backed out. As Olney points out, the team is in win-now mode, especially with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole set to enter free agency next offseason.

"They've got the money, for sure," said one rival official.

The Astros seemingly have their starting outfield set after signing Michael Brantley, but Harper would represent a massive upgrade in right field over Josh Reddick, who recorded a .718 OPS in 2018.

Olney concedes that it might seem odd to have the Yankees as a potential mystery team for Machado, as they were one of three clubs -- along with the Phillies and White Sox -- to meet with him in December. But with Troy Tulowitzki and DJ LeMahieu in the fold, New York is not aggressively pursuing Machado at this time. That could change, though, if Machado's asking price falls into a range that the Yankees are more comfortable with.

Phillies could eye Machado now, Trout later
Jan. 17: Imagine Mike Trout anchoring the outfield and Machado anchoring the infield. The Phillies are.

According to a report from Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci -- citing a source with knowledge of Philadelphia's offseason plans -- while the Phillies have enough money to sign both Machado and Bryce Harper, they'd actually like to sign just one. Why? So they can make a run at Trout, too, if he hits free agency after the 2020 season.

Either Machado or Harper, Verducci writes, "would invigorate what for years has been a sleeping giant among Major League franchises." And a pairing with Trout would be a once-in-a-generation combo.

And Verducci writes that while Trout, Harper and Andrew McCutch