- The Red Sox announced that they won’t tender a contract to veteran catcher Bryan Holaday. The 29-year-old batted .231/.281/.359 with a pair of homers and seven doubles in 129 PAs between Texas and Boston this past season. The right-handed-hitting Holaday will bring a career .628 OPS and 28 percent caught-stealing rate to the free agent market as he looks to latch on elsewhere, presumably in a backup capacity. He’d been projected to earn $900K in arbitration this winter and comes with three years of team control to any club that signs him. Boston tendered contracts to all of its remaining arb-eligible players, tweets the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier. Boston’s 40-man roster is at 39 players.
The Nationals, Astros, Red Sox, Rangers and Braves are at the forefront of the Chris Sale market, reports FanRag’s Jon Heyman in his latest notes column. However, an exec with one of those clubs that spoke to Heyman still said he’s not sure that Sale is moved at all due to the exorbitant nature of the White Sox’ asking price. The Nationals, for instance, have been asked for Trea Turner as part of the package but have balked at the idea, Heyman notes, with one Washington source calling the budding star “too valuable” to part with. It’s similarly difficult to envision a player like Alex Bregman or Dansby Swanson being moved for Sale as well. The White Sox do like Dodgers prospect Cody Bellinger, writes Heyman, but L.A. has yet to show a significant inclination to pursue Sale, he adds. (And, from my vantage point, the Dodgers would need to add quite a bit more than Bellinger to a Sale package anyhow.)
With the CBA now in place, teams and players that were waiting for clarity can move toward new agreements. While plenty of organizations have gone right ahead with their plans, others seemingly have waited. That includes the Yankees (per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag, on Twitter), Nationals (per Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post, on Twitter), and perhaps also the Red Sox (via Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe, in a tweet). Whether we’re in for a rush of moves remains to be seen, but the stage is set.
- The Astros continue to strive to add another bat, with the team confident it will land either Edwin Encarnacion or Carlos Beltran, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (Twitter link). Still, the Yankees, Blue Jays, and a “couple others” remain involved on Encarnacion, Heyman tweets. All three of those teams, along with the Red Sox, are in on Beltran, Nightengale adds on Twitter.
- Several former employers of first bagger Mike Napoli have interest in a reunion, per Heyman. The Red Sox, Indians, and Rangers are perhaps the three teams most heavily invested in his market. Meanwhile, the Yankees and Astros appear to be involved at the periphery at present.
TODAY, 9:13pm: In further comments, Kinzer says that he does not expect a deal to be completed before the Winter Meetings, though he notes that could change if the right offer hits the table. (Via Mark Berman of FOX 26; Twitter links.)
While there has been some internet chatter suggesting that there’s a deal in place with the Astros, Kinzer denies the rumors. As Jon Heyman of Fan Rag tweeted, there is nothing in place with Houston. Still, Kinzer does tell Berman that the Astros are a “great fit” from Encarnacion’s perspective, and acknowledges that there is interest from the team.
6:16pm: There’s “nothing imminent” on Encarnacion, Kinzer tells MLB Network’s Jon Morosi (links to Twitter). More than one team is still involved on the veteran slugger, per his agent, with multiple offers on the table.
The Astros and Yankees are believed still to be in the hunt, Morosi adds.
YESTERDAY: Edwin Encarnacion’s free agency may not last much longer, as the slugger’s agent, Paul Kinzer, told TSN’s Rick Westhead today that his client will probably agree to a contract later this week or early next week. Kinzer told Westhead that the Blue Jays remain in the picture and have been “showing Edwin the most love,” though the agent didn’t handicap any one team’s chances of getting a deal done. According to Kinzer, three teams have told him that they’re waiting for the resolution of the collective bargaining negotiations before making a formal offer. He added that two teams have made “serious” offers to Encarnacion already.
[Related: Edwin Encarnacion’s Free Agent Profile]
One team that doesn’t appear to be in the running for Encarnacion is the Red Sox, though, as WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford writes that a source has informed him that Boston “probably” won’t be a finalist for Encarnacion’s imposing bat. Boston remains focused on adding a shorter-term option to fill its DH vacancy, according to Bradford.
ESPN’s Buster Olney reported earlier today that the Astros bid big on Yoenis Cespedes before he agreed to return to the Mets, and his colleague, Jerry Crasnick, added that the Astros are still a possible landing spot for Encarnacion (Twitter links). While a big bid on Cespedes doesn’t necessarily indicate that the ’Stros are willing to make a market-beating offer for Encarnacion, their willingness to make a competitive bid for a player that agreed to a $110MM deal does suggest that they can at least afford to make a legitimate play for Encarnacion.
It remains unclear which teams have made the aforementioned serious offers to Encarnacion. The Blue Jays reportedly offered Encarnacion about $80MM over four years earlier this month, but that offer seems light to constitute the “serious” adjective utilized by Kinzer, considering the agent’s previous comments implying that a five-year deal and/or a $25MM annual value both seemed reasonable. Furthermore, Kinzer tells Westhead that he hasn’t talked dollars with Blue Jays brass since that initial proposal. The Yankees have also been connected to Encarnacion on multiple occasions, and the Rangers have reportedly reached out to Kinzer as well, though the extent of Texas’ interest isn’t known at this time.
Encarnacion, like most agents, should be reasonably expected to end up with the highest bidder, but Kinzer did imply that there will be other factors at play when speaking to Westhead. “We won’t put any restrictions on any offer like years or anything,” he explained. “[Encarnacion is] going to decide where he’s comfortable. One of the things we have to look at is the big difference in the tax base between some of the teams that are interested. Plus, there’s a comfort level we need to consider.”
ESPN’s Scott Lauber joins other reporters in downplaying the possibility of Edwin Encarnacion signing with the Red Sox, noting that Boston is reluctant to give that type of long-term commitment to a DH and also isn’t keen on parting with a draft pick to sign him. Boston has been linked to Carlos Beltran extensively, and a source recently told Lauber that the Red Sox still “want him badly.” Boston has also reached out to Mike Napoli, according to Lauber, although if Napoli is truly seeking a three-year commitment (as was rumored yesterday), then the Sox may not want to wait around for his asking price to drop to a more reasonable level.
There are four teams heavily pursuing free-agent lefty Rich Hill, according to ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden. The Yankees, Dodgers, Rangers, and Astros are all said to be chasing down a pitcher who is arguably the best available on this year’s market. Also joining pursuit are the Red Sox and Orioles, per the report, though it seems their interest is less robust.
We’ve heard plenty of chatter about the possibility of the Yankees making a move on Hill, and the Dodgers likewise have long been said to have interest in a reunion. The AL West-rival Rangers and Astros, though, have not been tied as closely — in part, perhaps, since both have already signed starters — though MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes listed both as plausible suitors in his top-fifty free agent list. Meanwhile, the two AL East teams mentioned seemingly have fully stocked rotations, though surely both could stand to upgrade in the right situation.
Hill is coming off of an outstanding age-36 season. While he was limited to 110 1/3 innings, owing to a blister, the veteran southpaw recorded a sensational 2.12 ERA with 10.5 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9. While there was justifiable skepticism last winter, following Hill’s four excellent, late-season starts in the prior campaign, he now seems worth pursuing as a possible top-of-the-rotation arm.
There’s plenty of reason to tamper contract expectations, of course. Even if one accepts that Hill can continue to mow down opposing hitters, he’s not young and comes with a long history of injuries. And it’s certainly possible that he’s in line for some regression in the earned-run department after limiting opposing hitters to just 0.33 home runs per nine innings a season ago.
Though he essentially uses just two pitches, Hill has baffled the opposition with a heater that barely averages 90 mph and a breaking ball that he can manipulate at will. And the recent results aren’t just a batted-ball-fortune fluke; he was credited with a 2.39 FIP, 3.36 xFIP, and 3.29 SIERA in 2016. With no other true impact starters available on the open market, and despite the obvious questions, MLBTR predicts that he’ll command a $50MM guarantee over three seasons.
- Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., right-hander Clay Buchholz, left-hander Drew Pomeranz, corner infielder Travis Shaw and catcher Blake Swihart could end up on the move this offseason if president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski tries to upgrade the team’s roster through trades, writes Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald. The soon-to-be 27-year-old Bradley is easily the most appealing member of the group, and his name came up in trade talks involving White Sox aces Chris Sale and Jose Quintana over the summer. Another member of the potentially rebuilding White Sox – closer David Robertson – could pique the Red Sox’s interest this offseason, suggests Mastrodonato, who wonders if Chicago would accept Swihart in return.
SATURDAY: Contrary to Drellich’s report, the Giants have not talked about reacquiring Sandoval, according to Chris Haft of MLB.com. General manager Bobby Evans expects Nunez to serve as the team’s primary third baseman next year and is focusing his efforts on finding a closer, writes Haft. While club executives aren’t allowed to publicly discuss acquiring players who are under contract elsewhere, Evans did address the Sandoval situation, telling Haft, “I’m not aware of any consideration of a reunion, but we’ll never forget all that he meant to the Giants organization.”
FRIDAY: The Giants have had internal discussions about trying to strike a deal for Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval, according to Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald. It is not known whether the two organizations have talked about the former San Francisco star.
Sandoval, 30, is two years into what has been a disastrous free agent contract with the Red Sox. Entering the 2014-15 offseason, he was widely regarded as a high-quality option at the hot corner, with youth on his side and a resume full of strong contributions with the bat and the glove. The Giants pursued a reunion, but Sandoval ultimately took five years and $95MM to head east.
The productivity came to an end as soon as he reached Boston, however. Sandoval posted a decidedly mediocre .245/.292/.366 batting line in his first season with his new organization, and drew abysmal reviews for his fielding at the hot corner. He lost his starting job in camp heading into 2016, and ultimately underwent season-ending shoulder surgery.
Beyond Sandoval’s age and track record, there’s not much to commend him at this point. He has notably struggled with his weight before, but it has been a greater problem than ever with the Red Sox, and it’s hard to know what to make of the latest reports that he is in better shape. And now, Sandoval has the shoulder issue to work back from, too.
Still, the Giants have drawn good work from Sandoval in the past. While his contract is very clearly under water, he’s hardly owed a monumental sum. Including the buyout on a 2020 option, Sandoval is set to earn $58MM over the next three seasons. While there’s no chance that San Francisco will take that on in full, it’s not impossible to imagine the sides coming to a meeting of the minds.
The Giants do have Eduardo Nunez and Conor Gillaspie on hand to cover third, neither is clearly an everyday option there, and both could be put to use elsewhere. Interestingly, though, the Red Sox probably have the greater need at the position. Travis Shaw and Brock Holt are under team control, and Yoan Moncada could be the long-term solution, but it’s an area in flux at present with Sandoval still a question mark.
- Executives with interested teams are beginning to get the sense that Carlos Beltran’s market is coming down to the Yankees, Astros and Red Sox, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The Rangers, too, could be “lurking” in the background and contemplating a more earnest attempt to retain him, although WEEI’s Rob Braford reported that Texas wasn’t in the running as of last week. Though he turns 40 next April, Beltran obviously enjoyed a strong 2016 season split between the Yankees and Rangers. The Yankees and Red Sox have the clearest paths to playing time for him, from my vantage point, as the Astros also have Evan Gattis on a guaranteed $5.2MM salary to spend a considerable amount of time at DH. However, if the Astros are comfortable deploying Gattis more sparingly or giving Beltran some time in the outfield, the fit could still work. And, of course, it’s never bad to have significant significant depth options.
The Blue Jays made a four-year contract offer to Edwin Encarnacion that was worth “about” $80MM before agreeing to a three-year, $33MM deal with Kendrys Morales, reports Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi first noted that the Jays’ offer to Encarnacion was “likely” in that vicinity. However, despite the addition of Morales, Toronto is still interested in re-signing Encarnacion and remains in the mix for his services, according to Heyman. The Jays feel that Encarnacion can play first base competently enough to coexist on the roster with Morales.
The $80MM offer to Encarnacion is a sizable step up from the team’s reported two-year offer back in Spring Training, though Encarnacion’s robust market seems likely to lead to greater offers. Heyman lists the Astros, Yankees, Rangers and Red Sox as other teams that have at least reached out to Encarnacion, and agent Paul Kinzer tells him that a couple of National League clubs have reached out as well. Certainly, there will be some who are scared off by the notion of playing Encarnacion at first base on an everyday basis, especially as he advances into his late 30s over the life of a four- or five-year deal, but it’s worth noting that Encarnacion has at least graded out as a roughly average defender at first in fairly limited action with the Jays over the past two seasons (0 DRS, +3.3 UZR in 1117 innings).
Toronto general manager Ross Atkins said this weekend that the door is still open for a new deal with Encarnacion, stating that the signing of Morales only “slightly” lessens the chances of a big splash for Encarnacion. However, Atkins also said the team would be aggressive in pursuing one, if not two outfield pieces to add to the mix, and the Jays are also known to be interested in adding left-handed relief help (especially now that Brett Cecil has signed in St. Louis). With so many needs across the board and a number of other clubs interested in Encarnacion’s bat, it’s not clear that the Jays will feel comfortable beating the market in order to retain their star slugger, especially considering the fact that the Morales deal brings another potential 30-homer bat to the table at a considerably more affordable rate.