In his column today on the molasses-slow free agent market, Bob Nightengale of USA Today drops a few nuggets of information. The Padres’ offer to free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer would promise him seven years, says Nightengale. Meanwhile, top open-market slugger J.D. Martinez is sitting on a five-year offer from the Red Sox. In other chatter, Nightengale suggests the Cubs could be willing to go as high as $110MM over four years to bring back Jake Arrieta. Of course, the teams and players just cited have likely known one another’s positions for some time now, and these stalemates have yet to be resolved. These details also fall in line with what has been reported previously about the respective situations, though they are surely interesting data points as we seek to divine when and how the free agent dam will finally break.
- Could Craig Kimbrel earn a $100MM free agent contract next offseason? WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford thinks it could happen, especially after Wade Davis’ three-year, $52MM deal with the Rockies established a new average annual value standard for a closer. Kimbrel turns 30 in May and is coming off one of his greatest seasons — a 1.43 ERA, 16.4 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 over 69 innings out of the Red Sox bullpen. Aroldis Chapman’s five-year, $86MM deal with the Yankees from last winter is the largest contract ever given to a relief pitcher, though Chapman signed that deal entering his age-29 season, whereas Kimbrel turns 30 in May. Kimbrel still stands a decent shot at topping Chapman’s mark, though cracking the $100MM threshold seems like a tall order.
- Rob Bradford of WEEI explains why the Red Sox’s interest in Orioles infielder Manny Machado is unlikely to lead to a deal, contending that the two sides don’t match up well in a trade. The Red Sox already have a quality shortstop in Xander Bogaerts, whom they could theoretically package with a pitcher(s) to land Machado, but that would perhaps be too risky on the team’s part. Machado is only under control for another season, while Bogaerts has two more years left. What’s more, the Red Sox don’t seem to have the high-level pitching to entice the Orioles, as Bradford notes that top prospects Jason Groome. Tanner Houck and Bryan Mata haven’t gotten past the Single-A level yet.
- The Red Sox haven’t participated in the robust relief market this winter, and it’s likely to stay that way until they have an answer on free agent slugger J.D. Martinez’s future, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald writes. If Martinez signs elsewhere, the Red Sox could use some of the money they were going to give him on relief help, observes Mastrodonato, who points out that their righty-heavy bullpen could use some balance. Tony Watson and Brian Duensing are among the top southpaw setup men currently without teams.
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.
The baseball world is in the midst of a holiday lull right now, but there are at least a few things happening. We’ll keep track of the minor moves in this post…
- The Red Sox have agreed to terms on a minor league deal with Mike Olt, says Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish. A former top prospect, Olt was once part of a package sent from the Rangers to the Cubs in exchange for Matt Garza prior to the 2013 trade deadline. The third baseman has never able to make an impression in the major leagues, however. In all of his MLB stints, Olt has played at half a win below replacement level or worse. He owns a lifetime .168/.250/.330 batting line across 400 career plate appearances with the Cubs, Rangers and White Sox, and has whiffed in an astonishing 37% of his plate appearances. He does carry some pedigree, however, and Boston will hope he can show some of the defensive skills and power ability that prompted Baseball America to rank him within their top 50 prospects in both 2011 and 2012.
- Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe looks at the possibilities for the Red Sox as they seek to fill their DH spot. While president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has stated he’s content with the team’s offense as constructed, Abraham calls any such notion a mere “bargaining tactic.” Boston could conceivably add J.D. Martinez and relegate Hanley Ramirez to an overpriced platoon first baseman/bench bat, Abraham notes, and simply releasing him remains a possibility. While forgoing a splashy acquisition for the DH spot would leave more room for Dustin Pedroia to rest his knee and could create some at-bats for out-of-options outfielder Bryce Brentz, Boston has yet to augment a lineup that finished the 2017 season ranked 22nd in the Majors with a 92 wRC+, making the need for some form of upgrade fairly obvious.
- While there is a gap in ability between Eric Hosmer and Mitch Moreland, Alex Speier of the Boston Globe notes that the Red Sox may have found value in re-signing Moreland to a two-year, $13MM deal than in spending over $100MM more to sign Hosmer on what would have been a six- or seven-year contract. As Speier observes, Hosmer is the better hitter overall, though Moreland offers more power and he had a higher xwOBA in 2017. Hosmer could hit more home runs playing in Fenway Park, though Speier argues that the Sox would’ve been risking a lot on Hosmer successfully adjusting his swing from his current grounder-heavy offensive approach. Moreland is also clearly the better defender of the two first basemen, at least per the Defensive Runs Saved and UZR/150 metrics.
- The Red Sox’s farm system has declined in recent years and currently lacks upper-level talent, making it more likely a high-profile addition(s) will come through free agency, Chad Jennings of the Boston Herald posits. The Red Sox could meaningfully upgrade their roster by trading one of their top pitching prospects, Jay Groome or Tanner Houck, but Jennings argues that they’re not in position to move either because current rotation members Chris Sale, David Price, Drew Pomeranz and Rick Porcello could depart in free agency in the next couple years. While Boston’s prospect pool isn’t in great shape at the moment, it’s worth mentioning that some of its recent farmhands (including Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers, as Jennings points out) have turned into more-than-capable majors leaguers, thus improving the Red Sox but weakening their farm. And last winter’s system-hurting trade that saw the Red Sox send big-time prospects Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech to the White Sox for Sale hasn’t exactly led to regret from Boston. Sale continued to serve as one of the best pitchers in the game in 2017, after all, and he’s eminently affordable for two more years.
- The Red Sox continue to have interest in the best hitter available in free agency, outfielder J.D. Martinez. But an agreement doesn’t seem imminent, as Olney relays they’re willing to wait out agent Scott Boras if necessary. There aren’t many clear suitors for Martinez outside of Boston, thanks in part to some teams trying to avoid the luxury-tax threshold and others rebuilding, which could make it difficult for Boras to drive up the price for Martinez.
- 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.
- While Boston had interest in first baseman Carlos Santana before he joined the Phillies, the Red Sox never actually made him an offer, per Cafardo. Santana secured a three-year, $60MM guarantee, easily outdoing the two-year, $13MM pact the Sox handed newly re-signed first baseman Mitch Moreland this week.