- First baseman Ji-Man Choi’s agency in Korea recently spoke to the media about their client’s current foray into free agency and revealed that he’s received offers (presumably of the minor league variety) from the Yankees, Angels, Rays, A’s, Brewers, Marlins, Cubs, Reds, Orioles, Twins, Braves, Blue Jays and White Sox (English link via Jee-ho Yoo of South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency). The 26-year-old Choi slugged a pair of homers in 18 plate appearances with the Yankees last year and posted a strong year with their Triple-A affiliate, slashing .288/.373/.538 in 87 games. In parts of five Triple-A campaigns, Choi has posted a robust .298/.390/.479 batting line.
The Red Sox are “showing continued trade interest” in star Orioles infielder Manny Machado, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi (via Twitter). That said, it’s unclear just how strong a connection there may be between the division rivals. While not specifically referencing Morosi’s report, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com tweets that interest from Boston has been “overstated.” Overall, it’s hard to assess the current state of the Machado market; while a variety of organizations are no doubt still intrigued at the idea of a deal, there’s no real indication that there have been changes in the offers or the asking price.
- Regardless of what happens with Machado, the Orioles are still in need of a lefty bat, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com writes. He explains that it still seems more likely the missing southpaw stick will arrive in the form of a corner outfielder. While the organization has engaged in “internal discussions” regarding Jon Jay, says Kubatko, it does not seem there’s real interest there. At this point, though, it does not seem as if there’s any real indication at all which way the O’s may go.
The Orioles “continue to hear from multiple teams interested in trading for Manny Machado,” tweets Jon Morosi of MLB Network, who doesn’t believe the club has a firm deadline on trade talks for their star infielder. As Dan Connolly of BaltimoreBaseball.com wrote six days ago, “These incremental updates are white noise.” Unfortunately, that’s all we’ve got right now! Connolly’s best guess at that time: Machado will be traded before Opening Day. For now, we’ll continue to wait for the hot stove to light.
- MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro tackles questions from Marlins fans in his latest inbox. As of now, Frisaro expects Christian Yelich and J.T. Realmuto to be back with the team next year, though the team is “open to listening on everyone.” He notes that the Orioles are “known to have interest” in 29-year-old righty Dan Straily, who is under team control through 2020. Clearly, there is no urgency for the Marlins to deal controllable, affordable players like these.
In a dramatic and suspenseful article, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic chronicles the recent harrowing life-or-death race to get Astros first base coach Rich Dauer to Houston Methodist Hospital. On the day of the Astros’ championship parade, Dauer was present at the official ceremony to honor the team. He began to stagger as if drunk, and stepped to the back of the stage. From there, a panicked attempt to get Dauer to the hospital amidst a crowd of millions of people unfolded behind the scenes. The piece is incredibly well-written, and thankfully has a happy ending. It’s definitely worth a full read.
More from around MLB as we approach the end of December…
- Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun wonders if this offseason’s drama surrounding Orioles star Manny Machado could have been avoided. Meoli takes a look at the chances the Orioles had to explore trades or a contract extension with their prized third baseman, but he ultimately comes to the conclusion that there was never a reason to trade him until now. It also seems as though by the time Machado was a safe fixture in the O’s lineup, his value was sky-high, and he was close enough to free agency that an extension didn’t make sense for him (or his agent). While it remains to be seen whether Baltimore will actually end up dealing Machado, Meoli’s piece sheds some light on a tough set of circumstances for the Orioles.
- The Giants and Reds have remained active in talks about a trade that would send Billy Hamilton to San Francisco, according to Jon Morosi of MLB.com. The Reds have reportedly shown interest in Heliot Ramos, who is largely considered to be the Giants’ best prospect (he credits The Athletic with first report of this news). Hamilton, of course, is regarded as one of the best defenders in the game, and also creates a lot of runs with his speed alone. His career .298 on-base percentage is widely regarded as his achilles heel, but he could still provide plenty of value as an elite center fielder in AT&T Park’s spacious outfield. A couple months back, I wrote about the trade market for Hamilton, noting that the Giants were the best match for his services.
- The Orioles are not abandoning the hope that former outfielder Dariel Alvarez can successfully convert to a right-handed pitcher, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Alvarez, who had Tommy John surgery last April, will be in Orioles minicamp next month, where club officials can get a look at him and better gauge his rehab progress. Kubatko notes that the O’s still believe he can make it to the Majors. Kubatko also writes that there’s somewhat of a split camp, internally, on whether lefty David Hess will ultimately be a starter or reliever in the long run. Hess was added to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft after tossing 154 1/3 innings of 3.85 ERA ball with 7.2 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 and a 30.7 percent ground-ball rate. The 24-year-old has been used almost exclusively as a starter to this point in his pro career, and given Baltimore’s utter dearth of rotation options, it seems likely that he’ll at least have the opportunity to continue developing in that capacity.
- While the Orioles have stated that they will keeping Manny Machado, Dan Connolly of BaltimoreBaseball.com guesses that the star third baseman will be in another uniform before Opening Day. A Machado trade is “still under consideration no matter what words trickle out” since the O’s could easily reverse course if another team meets their asking price. While several complications could certainly prevent a trade from taking place given Machado’s stature, Connolly believes the biggest hurdle was the Orioles’ decision to consider trading Machado whatsoever, and “taking that step tells me that they aren’t going backward.”
- It’s “probably not even a remote possibility” that the Orioles will cut ties with closer Zach Britton in the wake of his ruptured Achilles, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com hears. Britton, who’s entering his last year of arbitration eligibility, would receive his full 2018 salary (a projected $12.2MM) even if he’s released, according to Kubatko. So, it’s more likely the Orioles will attempt to extend the Scott Boras client and keep him in the fold beyond next year, Kubatko suggests. Interestingly, there’s a small chance a healthy Britton could eventually return to his original role as a starter. The Orioles approached Britton with the idea earlier this year, and though he expressed a desire to remain in the bullpen, he “wasn’t adamant about resisting the switch,” Kubatko writes. Whether it would make sense to change Britton’s role has drawn mixed opinions in the organization, Kubatko details, and his injury may reduce the likelihood of it happening. Regardless of whether he starts or stays in the bullpen going forward, the O’s are hopeful Britton will return before the All-Star break, Kubatko relays.
- The Orioles reportedly don’t expect to trade Manny Machado, but they’re still more open than ever to moving him, writes Olney. As such, Olney doesn’t rule out a deal coming together, especially with Machado’s value being higher now than it will be over the summer. At the same time, it “seems a distinct possibility” the O’s will keep Machado through next season because of owner Peter Angelos’ reluctance to rebuild, Olney suggests. In that scenario, Machado would depart as a free agent, presumably after receiving and rejecting a qualifying offer, and the Orioles would only get draft compensation in return.
- The Red Sox and Yankees remain interested in Orioles third baseman/shortstop Manny Machado, though neither team has “moved the needle” in talks with the O’s, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports. Baltimore is reportedly done actively shopping Machado, as it doesn’t believe any other club has put forth a suitable offer for the superstar as he prepares for a contract year. Given that both the Red Sox and Yankees are in the Orioles’ division, it figures to be especially difficult for either to persuade the Orioles to move Machado. The left side of Boston’s infield looks to be in fine shape anyway with Rafael Devers at third and Xander Bogaerts at short. The Yankees, on the other hand, don’t have an obvious third base solution to place next to shortstop Didi Gregorius.
- The Orioles announced minor league pacts with lefties Jayson Aquino and Andrew Faulkner, right-hander Tim Melville and first baseman Aderlin Rodriguez. Aquino, Faulkner and Rodriguez will be returning to the organization, while Melville will be joining the team for the first time. The 25-year-old Aquino has tossed 15 2/3 innings with the O’s over the past two seasons but struggled to a 6.32 ERA in that time. He does have a 4.02 ERA with 7.1 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 in parts of two Triple-A seasons. Faulkner, 25, logged a 2.79 ERA in 38 1/3 Triple-A innings with 8.1 K/9 last season but also averaged 5.6 walks per nine innings. Rodriguez, meanwhile, hit .279/.341/.471 with 22 homers in Double-A this past season, albeit at the age of 25 (older than much of the competition he was facing). The 28-year-old Melville has just 14 2/3 MLB innings on his resume and has been hit hard in that time. However, he also logged a 2.95 ERA with 8.5 K/9 against 3.9 BB/9 in 12 starts (13 total appearances) with the Triple-A affiliates for the Twins and Padres last year.