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On The Move: Trades & Transactions

MLB Buzz: Yelich to ATL? Marlins want Acuna

MLB.com

The Hot Stove is open for business. As the top free agents begin to ink new deals and clubs begin to make the moves they think will vault them into contention or put them over the top, MLB.com will have you covered with all the latest buzz right here.

Hot Stove Tracker

The Hot Stove is open for business. As the top free agents begin to ink new deals and clubs begin to make the moves they think will vault them into contention or put them over the top, MLB.com will have you covered with all the latest buzz right here.

Hot Stove Tracker

Marlins want Acuna in a Yelich deal with Braves
Christian Yelich's name has been in the trade rumor mill for much of the offseason, and the buzz has picked up again after the center fielder's agent said Tuesday that Yelich hopes to be traded before Spring Training starts. According to MLB Network insider Peter Gammons, any deal would have to bring a "huge return" for Miami.

Citing conversations with teams that have called the Marlins about Yelich, Gammons said Wednesday on MLB Tonight that the Marlins won't move the 26-year-old unless they get back "star-level talent." As one example, Gammons said Miami has told the Braves that uber-prospect Ronald Acuna would have to be included in any trade for Yelich.

"The Marlins told the Braves, 'Look, we'll do a three- or four- or five-for-one, but Ronald Acuna has to be in it or we don't go even to the second player,'" Gammons said on MLB Network.

Acuna is one of baseball's very top prospects. He currently ranks as MLB's No. 6 overall prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, and could move up even further on that list in the upcoming 2018 rankings. The 20-year-old outfielder seems likely to be promoted to the big league club early next season.

Gammons said Acuna is a player the Braves won't trade, and the fact that the Marlins would tell the Braves that he would have to be the minimum headliner of any Yelich deal indicates that they're "shooting very high."

Following Miami's trades of Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon to the Yankees, Cardinals and Mariners, respectively, Yelich and catcher J.T. Realmuto have been floated as the next players the team could potentially move as part of its rebuilding effort.

Gammons also mentioned Realmuto in the segment, saying that other teams' general managers think the Marlins might wait to trade Realmuto closer to the 2018 Trade Deadline.

Red Sox offer to Martinez reportedly $100 million
Negotiations between the Red Sox and free-agent slugger J.D. Martinez haven't yet culminated in a contract agreement, and his agent, Scott Boras, has refuted recent reports that Boston extended an offer of five years in the $100 million range.

Boras told MLB Network insider Jon Heyman the reports of the offer, which was said to be less than what Martinez was seeking, were "not accurate." Heyman reported last week that Martinez is looking for a six-year deal valued at $30 million per year.

Video: MLB Tonight: Red Sox offer Martinez five-year deal

The Red Sox have long been linked to Martinez since before he hit free agency, first as a speculative fit following his monster season and then after multiple reports this offseason indicated the two sides were talking. Boston has been seen as the favorite to land Martinez, though a snails-pace free agent market this winter has stalled potential agreements with nearly every high-profile free agent.

Heyman reported last week that Martinez is willing to hold out into Spring Training for a contract that he believes meets his market value, which indicates other clubs are also involved. Martinez was a remarkable catalyst for the D-backs last year in helping them reach their first postseason since 2011, and Arizona is reportedly still interested in bringing him back, per Heyman.

Video: J.D. willing to wait for contract of his liking

After he was acquired on July 18, Martinez hit 29 homers and 65 RBIs in just 62 games, trailing only National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton in each category in that span. On the season, Martinez hit 45 homers despite playing in just 119 games, becoming the first player in MLB history to do so.

Martinez, who will be 31 in August, would reportedly prefer to play outfield, and Boston already has established Gold Glove Award winner Mookie Betts to go with Jackie Bradley Jr. and Andrew Benintendi. Martinez's fit would likely be at designated hitter, which may give Arizona an edge, in addition to the fact that the club recently hired Martinez's personal hitting coach.

Castellanos on the trade block?
While the Tigers were ultimately able to avoid an arbitration hearing with Nicholas Castellanos, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports that Detroit remains open to trading the rising slugger, citing multiple clubs that have engaged in discussions with the Tigers this offseason.

Video: Castellanos showed extra-base prowess in 2017

Castellanos, 25, agreed to a one-year, $6.05 million contract with the Tigers on Friday. Detroit's first-round Draft choice from 2010 is about to embark on his first full season in right field, but Fenech reports that the Tigers' uncertainty about his defensive ability could still lead to a trade before Opening Day. Castellanos has primarily manned third base during his first four full seasons in the Motor City, but he has rated below average in terms of Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) in each of those campaigns. He played 21 games in right last season.

Castellanos' prowess at the plate is much less in doubt. He broke out for a career-high 26 home runs and 101 RBIs for the Tigers in 2017 while recording a league-adjusted 110 OPS+ (where 100 is average) and pacing the American League with 10 triples. He was even more productive in some respects in '16, finishing with a 120 OPS+ over 110 games. While Castellanos will be eligible for arbitration again next winter, he will not test the free-agent market until 2020. That means Castellanos, for the moment, represents a controllable, relatively cheap hitter coming into his own -- regardless of his defensive ability.

Tigers general manager Al Avila revealed at the Winter Meetings that the team approached Castellanos about a contract extension toward the end of last season, but that no progress has been made.

If Pirates aren't contending, J-Hay wants to be dealt
A day after Andrew McCutchen was traded to San Francisco, Josh Harrison effectively asked to be traded "if indeed the team does not expect to contend this year or next" in a statement released Tuesday to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal. Harrison, 30, is under contract for $10.25 million this year, with club options for 2019 ($10.5 million) and '20 ($11.5 million). More >

Giants still looking for OF upgrades
Fresh off acquiring Andrew McCutchen from the Pirates on Monday, the Giants are trying to add even more talent to their outfield, with the former National League Most Valuable Player being told that he'll play a corner spot with the team this season, according to ESPN's Buster Olney.

San Francisco's main desire is to upgrade defensively in center field, and sources tell ESPN's Jerry Crasnick that the Giants rank Jarrod Dyson as their most coveted option behind Lorenzo Cain. The club is also interested in Jon Jay and Cameron Maybin, according to Crasnick, but values Dyson's "speed, defensive metrics and stolen-base ability."

The Giants, after bringing in McCutchen via a trade with the Pirates, do not have the space under the luxury-tax threshold to sign Cain at his projected salary, according to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi. Morosi reported that the club is looking to add a "defense-first player" in center field "who will be less expensive than Cain."

Dyson, Jay and Maybin will certainly all be less expensive than the former Royals center fielder, and Dyson led that group with seven Outs Above Average last season, according to Statcast™. Maybin was at plus-2 two while Jay was minus-3.

Dyson, 33, has stolen at least 25 bases in each of the past six seasons and would be a big boost to a Giants club that ranked 20th in the Majors with 76 steals last year. Jay has 51 steals in eight Major League seasons, but his .738 career on-base-plus-slugging percentage bests Dyson's .677 total.

Maybin owns a career .693 OPS and stole 33 bases during his time split between the Astros and Angels last season.

Brewers remain interested in Arrieta, Moustakas
The Brewers "continue to be in" on free-agent right-hander Jake Arrieta and third baseman Mike Moustakas, according to Jim Bowden of SiriusXM.

The Brewers have been known to be seeking starting pitching in free agency, and Arrieta would certainly be a boost to Milwaukee's rotation, especially with Jimmy Nelson's 2018 status unclear. Nelson, who underwent surgery on his right shoulder in September, went 12-6 with a team-best 3.49 ERA and 199 strikeouts in 175 1/3 innings last season.

It was reported earlier in January that the Cubs and Cardinals were the two clubs most interested in Arrieta's services, but the Brewers' desire to sign the 2015 National League Cy Young Award winner could create a potential bidding war between the NL Central rivals.

Arrieta, 31, went 64-29 with a 2.67 ERA in 119 starts for the Cubs over the past four seasons.

According to Bowden, the Brewers' interest in Moustakas comes with the idea that the club "could trade Travis Shaw" to the Yankees, Braves or Mets.

Milwaukee does not necessarily have a need at third base with the incumbent Shaw being younger and cheaper than Moustakas. The 27-year-old Shaw, under team control through 2022, also excelled for the Brewers last season, batting .273/.349/.513 with 31 home runs and 101 RBIs in 144 games.

Yankees believe they can sign Darvish for 'reasonable price'
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman's interest in signing right-hander Yu Darvish is "very real" because he believes the slowly developing free-agent market may translate into a "reasonable price" for Darvish, according to the New York Daily News.

Darvish is a four-time All-Star in five Major League seasons, posting a 3.86 ERA in 31 starts between the Rangers and Dodgers last season. He pitched well down the stretch for Los Angeles after being acquired at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, and posted a 1.59 ERA between the National League Division Series and NL Championship Series. He was hit hard for nine runs (eight earned) in 3 1/3 innings over two World Series starts.

Overall, the 31-year-old Darvish owns a career 3.42 ERA and 11 strikeouts per nine innings. If the Yankees were to sign him, he would join a starting rotation that already features Luis Severino, who finished third in American League Cy Young Award voting last season, as well as former All-Stars Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray and CC Sabathia.

Cashman has stated the Yankees want to remain under the luxury tax threshold of $197 million for 2018, and signing Darvish would likely require the club to unload salary elsewhere via trade in order to keep payroll below that figure.

The Yankees, who also traded for NL Most Valuable Player Giancarlo Stanton earlier this offseason, came within a win of reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009 last October.

The Yankees, Rangers, Cubs, Astros and Twins previously had been reported as finalists for Darvish, but Darvish also said there is another team in the mix.

The first five teams come according to a report from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Jeff Wilson -- and the mystery team from Darvish himself.

Darvish tweeted Wednesday night that he knows "one more team is in."

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

Video: Rosenthal discusses Rangers' interest in Darvish

D-backs remain persistent in pursuit of Machado
It remains to be seen whether the Orioles will deal Manny Machado this winter, but the D-backs remain the most persistent among the potential trade suitors, according MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal.

The D-backs have been one of several teams in pursuit of Machado since Baltimore began fielding offers. The two sides aren't close to an agreement, Rosenthal said, but Arizona second baseman Brandon Drury is one of the players under discussion in a potential deal. The Yankees and Red Sox have also been recently linked to the 25-year-old infielder.

If a trade did come to fruition, the D-backs would bolster an already talented roster that made the National League Division Series last season. That core wouldn't be locked down long term, however; Machado, outfielder A.J. Pollock and left-hander Patrick Corbin are eligible for free agency after this season, while first baseman Paul Goldschmidt's contact is up after 2019 and third baseman Jake Lamb's deal expires after 2020.

Video: D-backs showing interest in trading for Machado

Machado is a .279/.329/.476 hitter with 138 home runs and 406 RBIs in 764 games over six Major League seasons, while also being regarded annually as one of the best defensive third basemen in the game.

A two-time Gold Glove Award winner, Machado has requested a move to shortstop, his natural position. It's a move that could increase his value even more as he looks to land a large contract next offseason.

Castro requests trade from Marlins
Starlin Castro, acquired in the December deal that sent slugger Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees, has requested a trade from Miami, sources told MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal.

Castro "does not want to be a part of another rebuilding process" as he was when he was with the Cubs from 2010-15.

Video: Starlin Castro reportedly requests trade from Marlins

The Marlins are in the midst of a full rebuild, and it's been expected that Miami would try to flip Castro to another team. MLB.com's Joe Frisaro reported last week that the Marlins might ultimately keep the 27-year-old infielder.

Castro is to make nearly $11 million in 2018 and almost $12 million in 2019. His contract comes with a $16 million club option for 2020.

Castro, a four-time All-Star, batted .283/.317/.442 with 37 home runs and 133 RBIs in 263 games over two seasons with the Yankees after hitting .281/.321/.404 with 62 homers and 363 RBIs across six seasons with the Cubs.

 

Dombrowski: Despite slow market, goal same

Red Sox president of baseball operations maintaining pursuit of power bat
MLB.com

BOSTON -- Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who has been running front offices for nearly 30 years, said Tuesday in an interview with MLB Network Radio that he has "never seen a market go this slow, really."

But that plodding pace in the industry hasn't deterred Dombrowski's focus: He is still looking for a middle-of-the-order bat, and that likely won't change, even if it takes all offseason.

BOSTON -- Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who has been running front offices for nearly 30 years, said Tuesday in an interview with MLB Network Radio that he has "never seen a market go this slow, really."

But that plodding pace in the industry hasn't deterred Dombrowski's focus: He is still looking for a middle-of-the-order bat, and that likely won't change, even if it takes all offseason.

Hot Stove Tracker

J.D. Martinez remains the free agent who makes the most sense for Dombrowski. The right-handed-hitting slugger clubbed 45 homers in 432 at-bats last season and represents the true power hitter the Red Sox lack in the middle of their lineup.

The Red Sox and D-backs have both been linked to Martinez. Other than those two, it's unclear which teams are pursuing him.

Video: Red Sox reportedly make offer to J.D. Martinez

As has always been his custom, Dombrowski doesn't discuss specific players he is trying to acquire. But from the start, he's been open about his need this winter.

"We had pretty much a focus of trying to get a middle-of-the-order bat, which remains our focus," Dombrowski told hosts Jim Duquette and Mike Ferrin. "It can come through trade or through free agency, and we have conversations going on with both."

It only stands to reason that at some point a conversation might turn into an acquisition. But nobody expected it would take this long.

"I'm surprised in the sense that there haven't been more things done because of the lateness [in the offseason]," Dombrowski said. "At some point, it's going to have to change and I'm assuming that guys are going to start signing with clubs. We've seen a couple of moves trade-wise and free-agent signings over the last few days. I would assume that this kind of picks up the tempo and we start moving from there."

Without question, Dombrowski is ready to move. For the Red Sox, this offseason has been completely different than the last two. Two years ago, Dombrowski acquired Craig Kimbrel in November and David Price before the Winter Meetings. Last year, he essentially completed his entire offseason in one day at the Winter Meetings, acquiring Chris Sale and Tyler Thornburg via trades and Mitch Moreland as a free agent.

Then, there is this Hot Stove season, in which the only move the Red Sox have made so far is re-signing Moreland.

Video: MLB Tonight on Moreland re-signing with Red Sox

"It's just been a situation [in the past] where you get to this time period and your club is pretty well set. You get back from the holidays and you're talking about Spring Training and you're talking about doing the PR, the caravan aspect of your organization," Dombrowski said.

"But in this case, ourselves as well as the majority of organizations have moves that they're still discussing, trade-wise, free-agency-wise, so it's such a late-moving year. I'm not really sure why that is. I know there's all kinds of speculation. Every year is somewhat different and this is unique in that regard."

The re-signing of Moreland means that the Red Sox have their entire starting nine back from last season, though Dustin Pedroia could start the season on the disabled list as he recovers from left knee surgery.

Would Dombrowski be comfortable going into 2018 without another addition to the offense?

"We would be content. Would we rather [add a bat]? Yes," said Dombrowski. "But again, you have to be flexible in your thought processes. You never know what's going to take place."

Martinez is one of several remaining free agents who are represented by Scott Boras.

During his time with the Tigers, Dombrowski had multiple occasions in which he reached late-winter agreements with a Boras client. The Tigers signed Pudge Rodriguez in February 2004, and Magglio Ordonez in February a year later. Prince Fielder signed in mid-January of 2012, after Victor Martinez had sustained a major injury during an offseason workout.

"In Scott's case, he hasn't hesitated to take players this late in free agency," Dombrowski said. "He's done it in the past. I don't know if he's ever had this number of players that are out there at this point. The number of unsigned players, good players out there, is probably again, remarkable compared to other years."

"It's a situation where those things happen. Sometimes they don't though, too. That's why it's always a gamble from both perspectives. Scott has had success in signing guys late."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

 

Boston Red Sox

Duensing reportedly re-signs with Cubs

MLB.com

The Cubs and left-handed reliever Brian Duensing are reuniting after the two sides agreed to a two-year deal on Wednesday, sources told MLB Network insider Jon Heyman.

The club has not confirmed the deal, which is worth $7 million according to multiple reports. Heyman reported that Duensing "had deals for significantly more money elsewhere but liked the Cubs experience so much he wanted to return."

The Cubs and left-handed reliever Brian Duensing are reuniting after the two sides agreed to a two-year deal on Wednesday, sources told MLB Network insider Jon Heyman.

The club has not confirmed the deal, which is worth $7 million according to multiple reports. Heyman reported that Duensing "had deals for significantly more money elsewhere but liked the Cubs experience so much he wanted to return."

Duensing, 34, signed a one-year contract with the Cubs last offseason and went 1-1 with a 2.74 ERA with 61 strikeouts in 62 1/3 innings in 2017. He pitched 5 1/3 innings during the postseason, allowing one earned run while striking out three and walking three.

A nine-year Major League veteran, Duensing is 43-38 with a 4.01 ERA in 725 career innings. He was once a part-time starter, but has pitched strictly out of the bullpen over the past five seasons.

He is likely to fill a middle relief role for Chicago in 2018.

 

Chicago Cubs, Brian Duensing

Source: Grandy, Toronto agree to 1-year pact

Club yet to announce deal; vet will compete for OF job
MLB.com

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays shifted their attention to the outfield Monday night by reaching an agreement with veteran Curtis Granderson on a one-year deal worth $5 million.

Toronto has yet to officially announce the signing, but it was first reported by MLB Network's Ken Rosenthal and has since been confirmed by MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. The deal is pending a physical and also includes incentives based on playing time.

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays shifted their attention to the outfield Monday night by reaching an agreement with veteran Curtis Granderson on a one-year deal worth $5 million.

Toronto has yet to officially announce the signing, but it was first reported by MLB Network's Ken Rosenthal and has since been confirmed by MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. The deal is pending a physical and also includes incentives based on playing time.

Granderson is coming off a season in which he hit .212 with 26 home runs and 70 RBIs over 147 games with the Mets and Dodgers. The 36-year-old made a handful of appearances for Los Angeles during the postseason, but was left off the roster for the World Series.

Video: Granderson talks about his veteran presence

The Blue Jays remain in the market for additional help in the outfield, but this signing makes it harder to envision the club adding a high-profile name to the mix. President Mark Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins appear to have a clear strategy this offseason of spreading their available money around to multiple players instead of spending most of it on one player.

Toronto took that approach with the infield by acquiring Yangervis Solarte, Aledmys Diaz and Gift Ngoepe. It appears to be the strategy for the outfield as well with the focus on depth and complementary pieces. Granderson falls into that category, as he's expected to form a platoon with Steve Pearce in one of the corner outfield spots. Kevin Pillar remains the starter in center field, which leaves one job up for grabs.

Rookie Teoscar Hernandez is one internal candidate, and the Blue Jays also control Ezequiel Carrera, who recently avoided arbitration with a one-year deal worth $1.9 million. Toronto could use another big bat -- and someone like free agent Lorenzo Cain appears to be a perfect fit -- but the club also is starting to run out of funds.

Video: MLB Tonight on Granderson agreeing to join Blue Jays

Toronto has a projected payroll of $151 million after factoring in arbitration and pre-arbitration players on the roster. Per club policy, the Blue Jays do not publicly disclose payroll parameters, but the range for 2018 is expected to be the same as it was for '17, which was approximately $165 million.

That left the Blue Jays with a range of $10 million to $15 million to spend this offseason. In addition to another outfielder, the club is in the market for a fifth starter and possibly an additional lefty reliever. With multiple needs, that money will have to be divided up, so a big signing through free agency may prove difficult.

Granderson is entering the latter stages of his career, but he still possesses quite a bit of power. The 15-year veteran has at least 20 home runs in four consecutive seasons and can play either corner outfield spot. He also struck out 123 times in 449 at-bats last season, and six stolen bases showed Granderson is no longer a speed threat.

 

Toronto Blue Jays, Curtis Granderson

Pros and cons of 6 potential acquisitions

MLB.com

We've had an offseason in which huge, sweeping trades have been discussed. In that way, the Hot Stove has never been hotter. As for action, that's another story.

Despite all the talk, just three big names have been dealt since the Winter Meetings -- third baseman Evan Longoria from the Rays to the Giants in December, right-hander Gerrit Cole from the Pirates to the Astros on Saturday and outfielder Andrew McCutchen from the Pirates to the Giants on Monday.

We've had an offseason in which huge, sweeping trades have been discussed. In that way, the Hot Stove has never been hotter. As for action, that's another story.

Despite all the talk, just three big names have been dealt since the Winter Meetings -- third baseman Evan Longoria from the Rays to the Giants in December, right-hander Gerrit Cole from the Pirates to the Astros on Saturday and outfielder Andrew McCutchen from the Pirates to the Giants on Monday.

Those three trades could eventually trigger others. And all those other deals, the ones involving Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson and Christian Yelich, seem as far away as ever. Stay tuned.

There's still time, though, and as free agency plays out and teams consider their options, things could happen. With that in mind, let's look at seven possibilities.

D-backs

The acquisition: Orioles 3B Manny Machado (trade).

Pros: Machado would replace J.D. Martinez in the middle of the order to create something similar to the lineup that averaged five runs per game after the trade for Martinez in 2017. Machado's arrival would send a message to every D-backs player and fan that the club believes it is good enough to win in '18 and that the front office is doing its part. For the Orioles, it would begin the tough, necessary job of accumulating young talent.

Cons: The Orioles want two MLB-ready pitchers, even with Machado a year from free agency. That's a steep price at a time when young pitching is among the game's most coveted assets. On the other hand, Arizona is one of the few clubs that has that kind of pitching depth, with left-hander Anthony Banda and right-hander Jon Duplantier on the cusp of the big leagues.

Video: TOR@BOS: Donaldson crushes his 32nd homer of the year

Cardinals

The acquisition: Blue Jays 3B Josh Donaldson (trade).

Pros: The Cardinals would be nicely positioned to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2015. Never mind that Donaldson will be a free agent after '18. The Cards see that as a discussion for another time. Donaldson's production and passion would make him an instant fan favorite. After finishing behind the Cubs in back-to-back seasons, the Cardinals aren't looking at anything else. For the Blue Jays, who have a strong farm system, the trade would bring at least a couple of elite young players.

Cons: There aren't many. The Blue Jays would want to pick through the St. Louis farm system, despite Donaldson being a possible one-year rental. For the Cardinals, that's a reasonable price to pay for a return to October. The Blue Jays believe they're good enough to get back to the playoffs. That probably changes without Donaldson.

Red Sox

The acquisition: OF J.D. Martinez (free agent).

Pros: Martinez hit 45 home runs in 2017 and would be a solid addition to a team that finished last in the American League in homers. Since turning his career around in '14, Martinez's .574 slugging percentage is the second highest in baseball, trailing only Mike Trout's .579.

Cons: Basically none. Martinez is 30 years old and probably worth a three- to five-year deal at $25 million or more per season. Agent Scott Boras apparently wants more than that, or the deal would have been done by now.

Video: Heyman on Martinez, Red Sox playing 'waiting game'

Mariners

The acquisition: RHP Jake Arrieta (free agent).

Pros: He might just be the final piece of the puzzle for Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto, who has relentlessly reshaped his team the past three offseasons. His 2.67 ERA over the past four seasons is the second best in baseball, trailing only Clayton Kershaw's 1.99. Arrieta will be 32 on Opening Day, but he is still under 1,200 career innings.

Cons: Signing workhorse pitchers to long-term contracts can be risky business. On the other hand, there is no such thing as a perfect acquisition. Arrieta seems worth the risk.

Video: Nats showing interest in trading for Realmuto

Nationals

The acquisition: Marlins C J.T. Realmuto (trade).

Pros: He's 26 years old and already one of the five or six best catchers in the game. He could share the position with veteran Matt Wieters for a year and would shore up the closest thing the Nationals have to a weak link in their lineup.

Cons: The Nats have been built on power pitching, and this deal almost certainly will not happen without GM Mike Rizzo giving up at least a couple of his best arms. Washington probably wins the NL East again with or without a change at catcher.

Brewers

The acquisition: Rays RHP Chris Archer (trade).

Pros: Archer is 29 years old and signed to a team-friendly contract ($34 million) for the next four years. He would give Milwaukee a true ace for the front of the rotation and close the gap on the Cubs in the NL Central. Once Jimmy Nelson returns from September shoulder surgery, Milwaukee's rotation would be playoff-worthy.

Cons: Archer would cost the Brewers some of the Minor League depth they've worked so hard to accumulate. If the deal costs them outfield prospect Lewis Brinson, who's ranked No. 13 in the baseball, GM David Stearns will have a tough time giving the OK. Considering Archer's age and contract, he's worth it.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.

 

Bruce, Mets finalize 3-year, $39M contract

MLB.com

Jay Bruce and the Mets have reunited, and it feels so good.

Bruce and the Mets agreed to terms on a $39 million contract last week, according to a report by MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported that the deal includes a partial five-team no-trade clause. The club officially announced the deal Tuesday night but has not confirmed the terms of the contract.

Jay Bruce and the Mets have reunited, and it feels so good.

Bruce and the Mets agreed to terms on a $39 million contract last week, according to a report by MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported that the deal includes a partial five-team no-trade clause. The club officially announced the deal Tuesday night but has not confirmed the terms of the contract.

"The culture here is something that is very important to me," said Bruce at a news conference Wednesday. "The Mets came in and were very direct. ... They wasted no time in getting down to business and showing that they wanted me back. They wanted me to be here and wanted me to be a part of what I consider to be some unfinished business here as a Met."

"I can't tell you how happy we are to have him back," said Mets general manager Sandy Alderson. "Jay came to us in 2016, played a significant role in the late-season qualification for the playoffs and had an exceptional year for us last year and went on to perform extremely well for Cleveland. Strictly on the basis of performance, we're very glad to have him back."

Bruce has primarily played right field in his professional career, but the Mets will ask him to play some first base this season with Dominic Smith establishing himself as an everyday big leaguer. Bruce played 11 games at first last year, all for New York.

The signing reunites Bruce with the Mets, whom he played for in parts of 2016 and '17. The three-time All-Star spent the first nine seasons of his Major League career with the Reds before he was traded to the Mets on Aug. 1, 2016. He was again dealt on Aug. 9, 2017, to the Indians in exchange for Minor League pitcher Ryder Ryan.

Video: NYM@COL: Bruce hammers a solo home run to left field

With the Mets and Indians in 2017, Bruce batted .254/.324/.508 with a career-high 36 home runs and 101 RBIs in 146 games. He also played in the American League Division Series for the Indians against the Yankees in October, hitting .278 with a pair of home runs and four RBIs.

Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.

 

New York Mets, Jay Bruce

Prospects Bishop, Miller among Mariners' NRIs

Iwakuma also on list of 22 players heading to big league camp
MLB.com

SEATTLE -- Promising young outfielders Braden Bishop and Ian Miller and right-handed relievers Art Warren and Matt Festa are among the 22 non-roster players invited to the Mariners' big league camp when Spring Training opens next month, the club announced Tuesday.

Other prospects not already on the 40-man roster who are getting the call are catcher Joe DeCarlo, infielder Jordan Cowan, right-hander Ljay Newsome and outfielder Andrew Aplin.

SEATTLE -- Promising young outfielders Braden Bishop and Ian Miller and right-handed relievers Art Warren and Matt Festa are among the 22 non-roster players invited to the Mariners' big league camp when Spring Training opens next month, the club announced Tuesday.

Other prospects not already on the 40-man roster who are getting the call are catcher Joe DeCarlo, infielder Jordan Cowan, right-hander Ljay Newsome and outfielder Andrew Aplin.

Also invited are six players who saw time with the Mariners last season, but are now in the organization on Minor League contracts -- right-handed pitchers Hisashi Iwakuma, Christian Bergman, Ryan Garton and Casey Lawrence, catcher Tuffy Gosewisch and infielder Gordon Beckham.

Video: Dipoto discusses Iwakuma on The Wheelhouse

Right-handed reliever Ryan Cook, who missed all last season following Tommy John surgery, has also received a camp invite.

Seattle has also signed seven players from other organizations to Minor League deals and extended them camp invitations -- right-hander Johendi Jiminian, catcher Joe Odom, infielders Zach Vincej, Matt Hague and Rey Navarro and outfielders John Andreoli and Kirk Nieuwenhuis.

The 22 players join those on Seattle's 40-man roster who will open camp when pitchers and catchers report Feb. 14, followed by the full-squad reporting Feb. 19.

Seattle's No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline, outfielder Kyle Lewis, is not among those invited as the Mariners are bringing him along slowly as he returns from knee surgery that limited his play last season.

Bishop is the highest-ranked prospect among the young players invited as the No. 4 player according to MLB Pipeline. Miller, ranked No. 20, was the Mariners' Minor League Hitter of the Year last season, while Warren (No. 15) and Festa (No. 16) had strong seasons in the Minors last year and followed up with good showings in the Arizona Fall League.

The club's Spring Training roster is at 61 (39 roster, 22 non-roster), including 31 pitchers (nine non-roster), six catchers (three non-roster), 13 infielders (five non-roster) and 11 outfielders (five non-roster).

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

 

Seattle Mariners, Hisashi Iwakuma

Tigers reportedly sign Russell to Minors deal

Veteran lefty will try to earn spot in Detroit's bullpen
MLB.com

DETROIT -- As the free-agent reliever market remains hot, fueled by interest among contending teams, the Tigers' search for undervalued bullpen arms and bounce-back candidates continues. Their latest target appears to be former Cubs left-hander James Russell, who reportedly agreed to a Minor League contract with the Tigers last week.

Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish first reported the deal. The Tigers, who announced a batch of Minor League signings last week, have yet to confirm.

DETROIT -- As the free-agent reliever market remains hot, fueled by interest among contending teams, the Tigers' search for undervalued bullpen arms and bounce-back candidates continues. Their latest target appears to be former Cubs left-hander James Russell, who reportedly agreed to a Minor League contract with the Tigers last week.

Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish first reported the deal. The Tigers, who announced a batch of Minor League signings last week, have yet to confirm.

The 32-year-old son of former big league closer Jeff Russell has 394 MLB appearances across seven seasons, all but 29 of them with the Cubs. After seven appearances with the Phillies in 2016, Russell was a Spring Training invite with the Indians last year before being released at the end of camp. He became a starter and made 14 starts between Yucatan of the Mexican League and the Texas AirHogs of the independent American Association.

Russell has never been a power lefty; his fastball consistently averaged 89-90 mph during his big league tenure, according to FanGraphs. But when he's on, he complements it with a diverse offspeed arsenal, including a slow slider he leaned on in the past, a breaking ball, cutter and changeup he mixed in.

With that repertoire, Russell has been a short-outing lefty during his big league time. He has held left-handed hitters to a .248 average and .700 OPS in his career, compared with .278 and .808 for righty batters.

Former Rule 5 Draft pick Daniel Stumpf established himself as a reliable short-outing lefty for the Tigers in 2017, holding left-handed hitters to a .220 average and as many hits as strikeouts (13) after being called up at the start of June. While the Tigers have plenty of questions in their bullpen, Stumpf should have a chance to build on his solid late-season run.

The challenge for the Tigers is to identify another lefty to complement him. It could be Blaine Hardy, who has gone back and forth between Detroit and Triple-A Toledo the past two seasons. It could be Chad Bell, who was more of a long reliever and spot starter last year but held hitters to a .238 average and .667 OPS over his first 25 pitches in an outing. It could be Ryan Carpenter -- he signed a big league contract with Detroit to compete as a starter -- if Detroit decides it has enough starting depth in the system to carry him in the bullpen. Or it could be Matthew Boyd or Daniel Norris if they're beaten out for a rotation spot, though that's unlikely.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

 

Detroit Tigers, James Russell

LeBlanc reportedly inks Minors deal with Yanks

Veteran left-hander's contract includes invitation to big league camp
MLB.com

NEW YORK -- The Yankees have added bullpen depth by signing veteran left-hander Wade LeBlanc to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training, according to a report by ESPN.com. The team has not announced any of their Minor League signings.

LeBlanc, 33, pitched in a career-high 50 games for the Pirates last season, finishing 18 games while going 5-2 with a 4.50 ERA. In 68 innings, LeBlanc permitted 64 hits and 35 runs (34 earned), walking 17 and striking out 54.

NEW YORK -- The Yankees have added bullpen depth by signing veteran left-hander Wade LeBlanc to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training, according to a report by ESPN.com. The team has not announced any of their Minor League signings.

LeBlanc, 33, pitched in a career-high 50 games for the Pirates last season, finishing 18 games while going 5-2 with a 4.50 ERA. In 68 innings, LeBlanc permitted 64 hits and 35 runs (34 earned), walking 17 and striking out 54.

Hot Stove Tracker

In nine big league seasons, LeBlanc is 30-35 with a 4.40 ERA in 176 games (79 starts). He made a brief appearance on the Yankees' 2014 roster, allowing two runs in one inning.

New York's bullpen is again expected to be a strength in 2018, with Dellin Betances, David Robertson, Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle expected to set up for closer Aroldis Chapman. LeBlanc could challenge left-hander Chasen Shreve, who was 4-1 with a 3.77 ERA in 44 appearances last year.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.

 

New York Yankees, Wade LeBlanc

Bucs, Rivero reportedly agree to 4-year deal

MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole are gone, but Felipe Rivero could be sticking around a while.

The Pirates and Rivero agreed to terms on a four-year deal with two club options, according to a report on Monday from MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal. The club did not confirm the deal, though sources indicated an extension is likely to be completed eventually.

PITTSBURGH -- Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole are gone, but Felipe Rivero could be sticking around a while.

The Pirates and Rivero agreed to terms on a four-year deal with two club options, according to a report on Monday from MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal. The club did not confirm the deal, though sources indicated an extension is likely to be completed eventually.

Video: Rogers on Pirates bringing back Felipe Rivero

"When that becomes available, if it becomes available, we'll be sure to comment on that," general manager Neal Huntington said on Monday. "But we've still got some X's and O's to work through. It's a part of our process. If it comes together, awesome."

The contract is worth a guaranteed $22 million, according to Rosenthal, and the club options are each worth $10 million. Rivero is a Super Two player, so the deal would cover all four of his arbitration years and the options would extend into his first two free-agent years.

It could prove to be a massive bargain for the Pirates, particularly if Rivero continues what he started during his first full year in Pittsburgh last season. The flame-throwing left-hander posted a 1.67 ERA with 88 strikeouts in 75 1/3 innings, emerging as one of the game's most dominant late-inning arms and taking over as the closer in June.

Video: PIT@CIN: Rivero strikes out Duvall and gets the save

The news broke late Monday afternoon, right around the time the Pirates were finalizing the trade that sent McCutchen to the Giants for reliever Kyle Crick and outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds. 

The Bucs acquired Rivero and hard-throwing lefty prospect Taylor Hearn in July 2016 in exchange for former closer Mark Melancon, who will now be McCutchen's teammate in San Francisco. Rivero was a revelation in his first half-season with the Pirates, grew into the closer's role and quickly expressed a desire to remain in Pittsburgh.

"I want to stay here for a little bit. It's a good city to stay," Rivero said during PiratesFest in December. "I feel comfortable being here, so I want to be here a couple of years."

According to USA Today, Rivero will earn $2.5 million this year, $4 million in 2019, $5.25 million in '20, $7.25 million in '21 and receive a $2 million signing bonus. He has a $1 million buyout in 2022 and a $500,000 buyout in '23, according to the report.

While Rivero will receive financial certainty, the Pirates can build around one of their best players on an affordable deal -- or, if they want to accelerate their "retooling" process, turn him into a premium trade chip. Late-inning relievers Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, among others, have yielded significant hauls of prospects in recent years.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

 

Pittsburgh Pirates, Felipe Rivero

Bucs trade icon McCutchen to Giants

'Emotionally, it's a very challenging decision,' Nutting says
MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- Andrew McCutchen represented so much during his time in black and gold. He helped spark the Bucs' on-field resurgence, starring for the 2013 club that snapped a streak of 20 losing seasons, leading them back to the postseason three years in a row. He was the face of the franchise, a model citizen in the community and one of the best players in the organization's storied history.

On Monday, McCutchen became the latest representation of something else: The difficult decisions the Pirates feel they must make to succeed, now and in the future. The Pirates traded McCutchen to the Giants, ending the franchise player's nine-year tenure in Pittsburgh. The Bucs received reliever Kyle Crick, outfielder Bryan Reynolds -- who was the Giants' No. 4 prospect per MLB Pipeline -- and $500,000 in international bonus pool space in the deal, while also sending San Francisco cash considerations to cover part of McCutchen's salary.

PITTSBURGH -- Andrew McCutchen represented so much during his time in black and gold. He helped spark the Bucs' on-field resurgence, starring for the 2013 club that snapped a streak of 20 losing seasons, leading them back to the postseason three years in a row. He was the face of the franchise, a model citizen in the community and one of the best players in the organization's storied history.

On Monday, McCutchen became the latest representation of something else: The difficult decisions the Pirates feel they must make to succeed, now and in the future. The Pirates traded McCutchen to the Giants, ending the franchise player's nine-year tenure in Pittsburgh. The Bucs received reliever Kyle Crick, outfielder Bryan Reynolds -- who was the Giants' No. 4 prospect per MLB Pipeline -- and $500,000 in international bonus pool space in the deal, while also sending San Francisco cash considerations to cover part of McCutchen's salary.

McCutchen tweeted his thanks to the Steel City: Pittsburgh. My Home. My Fans. My City. The placed that raised me and helped mold me into the man I am today. You will 4ever be in my heart. A tip of the cap to all who have been on this journey with me. With Love and respect, Cutch

Tweet from @TheCUTCH22: Pittsburgh.My Home.My Fans.My City. The placed that raised me and helped mold me into the man I am today. You will 4ever be in my heart.A tip of the cap to all who have been on this journey with me. With Love and respect,Cutch pic.twitter.com/QB0n9vuBuZ

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington traded No. 1 starter Gerrit Cole to Houston on Saturday, however, the decision to trade McCutchen was perhaps the most difficult decision of his decade as GM of the Pirates.

Video: MLB Now panel weighs in on Cutch being traded

Huntington frequently said Pittsburgh's "best club in 2018" would have McCutchen in center, batting third. This trade was not about next season, however.

Rather than letting McCutchen walk into free agency or risking a steeper decline over the next year, the Pirates moved to stock up for the future and begin a rebuilding phase, one they hope is shorter than the two-decade skid out of which McCutchen led them.

Video: Callis on Pirates' top prospects from Cutch trade

"We and I believe that this is the right baseball decision for the Pirates organization as we continue to work to infuse talent, add quality players at all levels to work to get this organization back to the postseason, with our singular focus of bringing the next World Series championship to Pittsburgh," Huntington said.

This move came at the cost of a wildly popular and productive player, one of Major League Baseball's most recognizable names and faces. He leaves with 40 Wins Above Replacement as a Pirate, according to Baseball-Reference, the 14th-highest total in franchise history.

Pirates chairman Bob Nutting, who spoke to McCutchen on Monday, called the trade "one of the most emotionally agonizing decisions that we have had to make in my tenure" given McCutchen's standing in the organization.

"We had a lot of discussions about it. There's nothing easy. We have so much appreciation and respect for Andrew McCutchen," Nutting said. "He's been a great player, a great Pirate. I needed to be sure, and we as an organization needed to be sure, that this was a decision that was indeed going to make the team stronger -- stronger in the long-term, ready to compete, more able to compete.

"I have faith in the people; the process that Neal has put together. There's nothing easy about these decisions, and they went through exhaustive energy, work, options, review. We believe, he believes, I believe that we ended up in a spot that will make the Pittsburgh Pirates stronger over the long-term."

Nutting, Coonelly statements on trade

McCutchen was drafted 11th overall in 2005 out of Fort Meade (Fla.) High School. Sporting dreadlocks that soon became his signature, he made his highly anticipated Major League debut on June 4, 2009, in the middle of an unparalleled stretch of losing seasons, and gave fans a glimpse of what they could believe to be a bright future.

McCutchen was selected to the National League All-Star team in 2011, the first of five straight trips to the Midsummer Classic. In March 2012, he signed a six-year, $51.5 million contract extension that benefited the Bucs and sent a message: He wanted to be in Pittsburgh and he believed the Pirates could win. The Bucs wound up with a losing record for the 20th straight season, but McCutchen finished third in the NL MVP Award voting.

Video: McCutchen named Pirates' finalist for Aaron Award

He was even better in '13, winning the NL MVP Award and leading the Pirates to a 94-68 record. Then, in front of a packed PNC Park crowd clad in black, McCutchen and the Bucs beat the Reds in the NL Wild Card Game and celebrated Pittsburgh's first postseason victory since 1992.

The Pirates returned to the Wild Card Game in 2014 and '15, but lost both times. Even without his dreadlocks, cut and auctioned off for charity in the spring of 2015, McCutchen remained one of the game's most productive players. As the end of his contract drew near, fans clamored for a contract extension that would make McCutchen a Buc for life.

Huntington said the club came to realize in "informal conversations" that they couldn't do so within the confines of their budget.

"It became pretty clear that it was going to be very hard for us to meet what he deserves and be able to build a championship team around him," Huntington said.

Tweet from @Pirates: Thank You, Cutch. From your debut at PNC Park in 2009 to your first career grand slam in 2017 and everything in between. A tip of the cap. #ThankYou22 pic.twitter.com/9y07RiJrvM

McCutchen uncharacteristically struggled through 2016, the worst season of his career, and the Bucs quietly began to consider trading him prior to that year's non-waiver Trade Deadline. Then came the real trade talk.

The Nationals pursued McCutchen at last year's Winter Meetings, but the Pirates held on to him. After a brief move to right field, he bounced back at the plate and in center field, but it wasn't enough to revive the Bucs as they sustained their second straight losing season. At that point, Pirates management recognized the organization must change its course.

"It would have been a challenge for us to sit here and say we're going to be better than we were the last two years," Huntington said. "The last two years wasn't good enough, so we made these hard decisions to not punt many years down the road, but to put ourselves in a position to get back there as quickly as possible."

Video: PIT@WSH: Cutch doubles for his final hit as a Pirate

The Pirates picked up McCutchen's $14.5 million club option for next season, but they continued to listen to trade offers. That led them to the Giants, who were interested in McCutchen throughout the offseason as they sought to upgrade their aging outfield.

There was no mandate to trade McCutchen; the Pirates did not have to do it. They could afford his salary for next season, even if it consumed about 15 percent of their payroll. In the end, the Pirates decided their future was best served by parting ways with McCutchen, understanding the distress their fans might feel in the wake of such a move.

McCutchen was not only a star player, but an ambassador for baseball and a role model in the community and for the city that inspired the name of his first son: Steel.

Video: Huntington on trading Cole and McCutchen

Nutting said he told McCutchen on Monday that he had truly hoped to keep McCutchen, his wife, Maria, and Steel in Pittsburgh for his entire career.

"In a perfect world, that would have been a great result for Pittsburgh and a great result for Andrew," Nutting said. "I think the realities of the game, the realities of baseball right now don't allow that to be possible. Emotionally, it's a very challenging decision because we like and respect Andrew so much as a player. We like and respect Andrew so much."

Video: Pirates owner Bob Nutting explains McCutchen trade

McCutchen seldom boasted of his charity work, but he was inspired by Pirates icon Roberto Clemente's legendary humanitarianism and hoped to create the same legacy. His proudest achievement in Pittsburgh may have been winning Major League Baseball's Roberto Clemente Award in 2015.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

 

Pittsburgh Pirates, Andrew McCutchen

Source: Nats, Kendrick agree to 2-year deal

MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have reached an agreement to bring back Howie Kendrick, the veteran utility man who became a valuable player off the bench after he was acquired midseason, a source confirmed to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.

The club has not confirmed the deal, which is pending a physical and reportedly worth two years and $7 million.

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have reached an agreement to bring back Howie Kendrick, the veteran utility man who became a valuable player off the bench after he was acquired midseason, a source confirmed to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.

The club has not confirmed the deal, which is pending a physical and reportedly worth two years and $7 million.

Kendrick, 34, impressed the Nats after he was acquired in July. He slashed .293/.343/.494 with eight homers in 52 games for Washington while playing second base and the outfield, and serving as the team's best right-handed hitter off the bench. Kendrick was seen as a rental then, but the Nats will bring him back to join their other midseason acquisitions: Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson (who were already under contract), and Brandon Kintzler (whom the team re-signed last month).

Hot Stove Tracker

Filling out the bench was a key priority for the Nationals entering this offseason, and Kendrick adds to the club's strong set of reserves. Kendrick is expected complement left-handed hitter Matt Adams, who replaces Adam Lind, to form the club's primary pinch-hitting options. Infielder Wilmer Difo, outfielder Brian Goodwin and catcher Pedro Severino are likely to round out the bench, which should be a strength for Washington again.

Video: MLB Now: Howie Kendrick's two-year deal with Nats

Kendrick also provides versatility for the Nats, and new manager Dave Martinez could find a way to keep him in the lineup if Kendrick continues to perform. He could also provide insurance at the start of the season, while second baseman Daniel Murphy is recovering from offseason knee surgery. The Nationals continue to be optimistic that Murphy will be ready for Opening Day, but Kendrick could give them another reason not to rush Murphy's progress.

"Love Howie Kendrick, love what he brought us in the clubhouse with the young players," general manager Mike Rizzo said at the Winter Meetings. "He's got a good skill set. He's a guy that did nothing but great things for us between the lines and in the clubhouse."

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

 

Washington Nationals, Howie Kendrick

Source: Brewers sign Choi to Minors deal

MLB.com