With the free-agent market very thin at catcher, especially after the Blue Jays signed Russell Martin, teams with a need behind the plate could try to make a trade instead. Toronto’s Dioner Navarro and Arizona’s Miguel Montero are two of the more significant options, but they’re not the only ones.
In his column Sunday, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe mentions the Phillies’ Carlos Ruiz and the Astros’ Jason Castro as two other available catchers.
Philadelphia, of course, is in rebuilding mode. Ruiz is due $8.5 million in both of the next two seasons, when he’ll be 36 and 37, and his contract includes a $4.5 million team option for ‘17 that can be bought out for $500,000.
Those factors, plus some recent injury problems, could make it difficult to move Ruiz. On the other hand, he hit .252/.347/.370 last season, good for an above-average 102 OPS+.
Houston is known to be discussing deals for one of its catchers, with Castro currently joined on the roster by Carlos Corporan and Hank Conger. Castro is 27 and has two more years of arbitration eligibility — he made $2.45 million in ‘14 — and he hit .276/.350/.485 with 18 homers during a breakout ‘13 season.
On the other hand, that offensive performance currently looks like an outlier. This past year, Castro still produced 14 homers, but his line regressed to .222/.286/.366.
As for the Astros, Cafardo also reports that they are open to trading center fielder Dexter Fowler. Limited to 116 games in his first year for Houston, the 28-year-old hit .276/.375/.399 with eight homers and 11 stolen bases.
— Andrew Simon
The Yankees usually are big-time players in the free-agent market, and opponents don’t expect that to change after a season in which they missed the playoffs. The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo talked to a dozen general managers at the recent GM Meetings in Phoenix, and each of them said he believed the Yankees will make a major signing this winter.
At the same time, Cafardo writes, New York is wary after many of its big-money acquisitions have not panned out. Last offseason, catcher Brian McCann disappointed with the bat, center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury was solid but unable to repeat his 2013 performance, and pitcher Masahiro Tanaka was sensational but limited to 20 starts by an elbow injury. The club apparently remains interested in adding significant pieces but is trying to take things slow and stick to market value instead of overpaying.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman was tight-lipped while speaking to reporters Thursday about his plans, though he said the club is having “a lot of conversations.” MLB.com Yankees beat writer Bryan Hoch wrote that their focus is on retaining players, such as summer trade acquisitions Brandon McCarthy and Chase Headley. Cashman has been in touch with the agent for closer David Robertson and is looking for help in the bullpen and on the left side of the infield.
Then there’s the starting rotation. While the Yankees haven’t been linked to left-hander Jon Lester, one of the top few pitchers available, Cafardo writes that other interested clubs remain worried New York could swoop in and snag him. The same could happen with righties Max Scherzer or James Shields.
— Andrew Simon
Don’t count out the Giants in the battle for free-agent third baseman Pablo Sandoval.
San Francisco has faced a stiff challenge in its quest to retain the 28-year-old, who has spent all of his seven big league seasons and won three World Series with the club. The Red Sox have made Sandoval a five-year, $95 million offer, according to The Boston Globe, and the Padres have entered the mix as a surprise contender. San Diego, normally not a player for expensive free agents, has made a “very competitive offer,” according to MLB.com’s Corey Brock.
But even if the Giants have not matched those bids yet, that still could change. Appearing on MLB Network radio on Sunday morning, assistant general manager Bobby Evans said his club has “not made a final offer.” The San Francisco Chronicle previously reported that Sandoval’s agent, Gustavo Vazquez, has asked the Giants to submit their best proposal next week. Sandoval is expected to make his decision then.
— Andrew Simon
The Twins have won the bidding for Korean pitcher Hyeon-jong Yang and are nearing a deal with the left-hander, according to the St. Paul Pioneer-Press. The club has not confirmed.
Yang was posted earlier this month by his Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) club, the Kia Tigers. He won league’s equivalent of a Cy Young Award this season, going 16-8 with a 4.25 ERA in 165 innings, producing a 1.40 WHIP, and 8.6 strikeouts and 4.0 walks per nine.
While those numbers don’t seem impressive in the context of Major League Baseball, the KBO is a hitter-friendly league whose overall ERA was 5.23 in 2014.
Yang, who will turn 27 in March, is listed at 6 feet tall and 172 pounds. He throws his fastball 92-95 mph and features a plus slider.
The Twins are searching for pitching help after finishing 29th in the Majors with a 4.57 ERA in ‘14, ahead of only the Rockies.
— Andrew Simon
The Dodgers’ overcrowded outfielder could lead the club’s new-look front office to make a trade this offseason as it looks to shed salary and address other parts of the roster. President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman called that “likely the best course of action” at the General Managers Meetings last week.
But which outfielder will be on the move? The most likely candidates are expensive veterans Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, each of whom has more than $50 million remaining on his contract.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported Friday that Kemp is drawing interest and could be a stronger bet to be traded than many have thought, with teams such as the Mariners and Orioles in the mix. Though the Dodgers still owe Kemp $107 million, his recent production and the lack of right-handed power on the market could allow Los Angeles to clear at least a substantial portion of his remaining salary, Heyman writes.
Kemp, who will be 31 this season, has fallen off since finishing second in the NL MVP race in 2011, and the Dodgers no longer see him as a center fielder. Still, he hit a solid .287/.346/.506 in ‘14, with 25 homers and 89 RBIs.
— Andrew Simon
Andrew Miller has recorded one save in his career, but that’s not going to stop the free-agent left-hander from cashing in big this offseason.
Multiple clubs already have submitted offers of at least three years to Miller, according to FoxSports.com’s Jon Morosi, who added that it’s looking more and more like 29-year-old will score a four-year deal.
A former No. 6 overall draft pick back in 2006, Miller never established himself as a starter but has made a highly successful conversion to the bullpen. He posted a 2.02 ERA for the Red Sox and Orioles last year, striking out 103 batters in 62 1/3 innings while dominating both left-handed and right-handed hitters.
As Morosi points out, Miller should have no trouble smashing the record for the highest average annual value for a reliever with no closing experience, which currently sits at $6 million. As many as 22 clubs have shown interest in Miller, so there will be plenty of competition to drive up his price.
— Andrew Simon
Add another outfielder to the trade market.
The Rays have made Matt Joyce available and have discussed the 30-year-old with other clubs, according to Jon Morosi of FoxSports.com. Joyce, who has been with Tampa Bay since 2009, is arbitration-eligible for the final time this winter after making $3.7 million in ‘14. He is set to become a free agent next offseason.
Joyce is a career .250/.342/.441 hitter, and the left-handed batter has mostly faced right-handed pitchers, slashing .261/.356/.463 against them. He has posted an above-average OPS+ of at least 108 for five straight seasons.
Defensively, Joyce has spent the bulk of his time in right field but played more in left last year.
— Andrew Simon
With right-hander Max Scherzer a free agent and left-hander David Price entering his final year of club control, the Tigers have some big decisions to make regarding their starting rotation.
Detroit is considered to be a contender for Scherzer this offseason, but as probably the top pitcher available, he will have a lot of suitors. Speaking to MLB Network Radio on Friday, Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said he feels his club still has a shot at retaining Scherzer, but that he isn’t counting on that happening.
Scherzer went 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA to win American League Cy Young honors in 2013 and followed that up by going 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA last year. The 30-year-old is most likely to land with the Nationals, Yankees, Tigers, Cardinals or Dodgers, according to a recent report from Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com.
Price, whom the Tigers acquired from the Rays at the Trade Deadline, is 29 and arbitration eligible for the final time this offseason after making $14 million in ‘14. The ‘12 AL Cy Young winner is a four-time All-Star with a 3.21 career ERA, but Dombrowski said during his radio appearance that while Detroit remains “open-minded” to a long-term relationship between the two sides, it isn’t exploring an extension right now.
Though Dombrowski said he’s not looking to trade Price, such a deal wouldn’t be out of the question, considering the GM’s history. That’s a topic MLB.com Tigers beat writer Jason Beck recently explored on his blog.
With Rick Porcello also set to hit free agency next winter, Justin Verlander trying to bounce back from a rough ‘14 and Anibal Sanchez returning from injury, it’s certainly an interesting time for the club’s pitching staff.
— Andrew Simon
The Braves already executed one of the offseason’s biggest moves, dealing right fielder Jason Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden to the Cardinals for young starter Shelby Miller and prospect Tyrell Jenkins. And it appears that new president of baseball operations John Hart is far from finished retooling the club after last year’s disappointing finish.
The next big name that could be on the move is outfielder Justin Upton, who also is entering the final year of his contract after collecting 29 homers and 102 RBIs in 2014. Teams that have talked with Atlanta about Upton feel there’s a better than 50-50 chance a trade will go down, according to ESPN’s Jayson Stark, with the Padres, Mariners and Reds among those interested. In fact, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported Friday the Braves “are very much shopping” the 27-year-old, with the Mariners as a strong contender.
But Atlanta is working on other fronts as well. It would love to dump unproductive and expensive outfielder B.J. Upton, and catcher/outfielder Evan Gattis also could be available. Meanwhile, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez lists the club as one of two front-runners for free-agent Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, along with the Padres.
At the same time, the Braves will look to add more starting pitching. One possibility — albeit remote — is free-agent left-hander Jon Lester. The Georgia resident met with club officials on Thursday, according to Stark, though Hart called their pursuit of him a “long shot.”
— Andrew Simon
The Reds are facing some difficult questions this winter after a disappointing 76-win season that followed a run of three playoff appearances in four years.
On one hand, 80 percent of the team’s starting rotation — Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake and Alfredo Simon — is entering its final year before free agency. Right fielder Jay Bruce and closer Aroldis Chapman both could hit the market after two more seasons. On the other hand, the club also faces large financial commitments to second baseman Brandon Phillips ($39 million through 2017), right-hander Homer Bailey ($96 million through ‘19) and first baseman Joey Votto (a staggering $213 million through ‘23), all of whom struggled and/or underperformed last season.
So what course does Cincinnati chart as it tries to compete in a division that features St. Louis, Pittsburgh and an up-and-coming force in Chicago? According to FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal, the club could deal one or more of its starters with one year of control remaining, but also would consider shipping off Bruce. Doing so would be selling low, as the 27-year-old saw his numbers tumble during an injury-plagued 2014, but he still could fetch a nice return from a team such as San Diego.
It could make sense for the Reds to sell some pitching for immediate offensive help, or to try a mini-rebuild with an eye toward restocking for the future. However, in an appearance on MLB Network on Friday morning, Rosenthal also emphasized that Cincinnati could go in a different direction, gearing up for another run with its current core. In that case, it potentially could look to the free-agent market to add a bat such as Nori Aoki or Michael Morse.
— Andrew Simon