- The Red Sox called the Orioles about Manny Machado yesterday, per Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (Twitter link), and they’re also considering Todd Frazier as an option according to Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald (also via Twitter). Frazier is willing to play first base, according to Silverman, though an acquisition of Machado would presumably slide Rafael Devers across the diamond to first base or necessitate a more extreme move on the left side of the infield. Whether the O’s actually move Machado remains to be seen, but they’re reportedly shopping him and asking interested parties to make offers.
We haven’t heard an immense amount of chatter to this point on J.D. Martinez, the top free agent slugger, but that could well change today. The power-hitting outfielder is set to appear at the Winter Meetings to sit down with a few possible suitors, as Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported (via Twitter) yesterday. Here’s the latest chatter:
- We learned yesterday that the Red Sox will get face-to-face time with Martinez and agent Scott Boras, as Jon Heyman of Fan Rag tweeted. Indeed, it seems that Martinez is a top priority for Boston, though adding him would presumably mean finding a deal for center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr.
- The Diamondbacks are also slated to meet with Martinez, who starred there after a midseason trade, according to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). Whether the Arizona organization can find the cash to make that happen remains to be seen, but it does seem the club’s discussion of Zack Greinke in trades is likely related.
- While the Giants are also a rumored suitor, though GM Bobby Evans would say only that the team will “maybe” be among those meeting with Martinez, as Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic tweeted yesterday. As Baggarly further explains, though, in a subscription piece, there are ongoing concerns internally that blowing past the luxury line would not be wise. Certainly, there’s no clear path to adding Martinez (or any other high-priced free agents) without doing so.
- The Red Sox are focusing 90 percent of their offseason attention on J.D. Martinez, a source tells NBC Sports Boston’s Evan Drellich. Martinez has been heavily rumored as a top Sox target, given his past ties to Dave Dombrowski, the lack of qualifying offer compensation tied to his signing, and the simple fact that he is the best power hitter on the market this winter. Dombrowski told reporters (including the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo) today that he had a specific name in mind to bolster the middle of Boston’s lineup, though no hints were given.
8:15pm: More on the A’s outfield from Slusser, who reports that they’re also interested in one of Piscotty’s teammates, Grichuk, as well as the Reds’ Adam Duvall and the Rays’ Steven Souza Jr. As 30-home run hitters in 2017, Duvall and Souza would provide right-handed punch to the A’s lineup if acquired. They’re also controllable for the next few seasons – Duvall’s under wraps through 2021, including one pre-arbitration year, while Souza’s set to play his first of three arb-eligible campaigns in 2018. He’s projected to earn a very affordable $3.6MM. Grichuk’s another powerful righty entering his first of three arb years, though he didn’t fare as well as Duvall or Souza in 2017.
Meanwhile, the A’s seem uninterested in moving one of their top offensive players, left fielder/designated hitter Khris Davis, per Slusser. They’ve spurned the Red Sox and other teams that have inquired about Davis this winter.
1:04am: The Athletics continue to have interest in the Cardinals’ Stephen Piscotty, as Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle recently reported and MLB.com’s Jane Lee discusses in a video link. Oakland has been on the hunt this winter for right-handed hitting outfield help.
A previous connection between Piscotty and the A’s surfaced in the aftermath of the trade deadline, as the Cardinals reportedly floated an offer of Piscotty and either Luke Weaver or Jack Flaherty to Oakland in exchange for Sonny Gray. Those talks never really got off the ground, however, and the A’s subsequently dealt Gray to the Yankees.
As Lee mentions in the video, “the A’s have interest in a ton of outfielders right now,” with the team particularly focused on right-handed bats who are controllable, so the A’s aren’t only looking at veteran options. The Athletics are clearly willing to shop near the top of the trade market, however, as such names as Avisail Garcia of the White Sox and Marlins outfielders Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich (a left-handed hitter) have already been reported as landing on Oakland’s radar in talks.
Piscotty wouldn’t cost as much in a deal as those aforementioned names, given how he struggled in 2017. After signing a six-year, $33.5MM extension with the Cardinals in April, Piscotty went from building block to potentially expendable piece by hitting just .235/.342/.367 with nine homers over 401 plate appearances. Groin and hamstring injuries didn’t help his cause, and Piscotty was even demoted to Triple-A in August for a brief spell.
Still, Piscotty posted strong numbers in his first two big league seasons, he doesn’t turn 27 until January, and the Cards are less than a year removed from locking him up on what could still be a team-friendly extension. Under normal circumstances, St. Louis wouldn’t be looking to deal a player like Piscotty (especially when his trade value has been lowered), though the club must create room within a crowded outfield picture. Dexter Fowler and Tommy Pham locked into everyday outfield spots next year, leaving just one corner spot for Piscotty, Randal Grichuk, and prospects Magneuris Sierra, Tyler O’Neill, and Harrison Bader. The Cards may also add another everyday outfielder — they’ve also been linked to Ozuna and Yelich in trade speculation, and J.D. Martinez is a possibility for a Cardinals lineup looking for a big bat after missing out on Giancarlo Stanton.
This surplus makes St. Louis a logical trade partner for an Oakland team that is short on established outfielders. Boog Powell and top prospect Dustin Fowler are the top candidates for center field, while Matt Joyce, Jake Smolinski, Chad Pinder and Mark Canha will be in the mix for playing time in the corners. Piscotty would step into one of those corner spots for everyday duty right away, and the $30.5MM owed to him over the next five years (counting a $1MM buyout of his $15MM club option for 2023) is a palatable price tag even for a smaller-market team like the A’s.
President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told reporters Monday that the Red Sox “did all our homework” on Giancarlo Stanton before the Marlins traded him to the Yankees. In the end, though, the club wasn’t on the list of teams to which Stanton would have accepted a trade. Even if the Red Sox were on that list, which consisted of the Yankees, Astros, Dodgers and Cubs, they weren’t keen on acquiring his contract, Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston suggests. Stanton’s agent, Joel Wolfe, revealed that the Red Sox “never tried to make a deal with the Marlins.” That didn’t come as a surprise to Wolfe, who noted Boston has “a tremendous outfield” with three “studs” in Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Andrew Benintendi. Wolfe added that Boston’s focus as of last month’s GM meetings was on “pitching and other areas.” Specifically, they’re seeking relief help and a power bat, Drellich reports.
More on the Red Sox:
- A report Monday morning indicated that the Red Sox had put Bradley on the block, but that’s not the case, according to Dombrowski. “Not accurate,” he said (Twitter link via Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe).
- While famed agent Scott Boras has encouraged Boston to sign both free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer and outfielder J.D. Martinez, Dombrowski suggested that adding a pair of hitters isn’t likely. “I don’t know where we’d play the two bats,” he stated (via Alex Speier of the Boston Globe, on Twitter). Dombrowski didn’t specify whether the Sox would prefer to pick up a hitter via the open market or trade, Drellich tweets, though Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that they’re telling teams they’d rather go the latter route right now than wait out free agency (Twitter link).
- Dombrowski also touched on his team’s bullpen, saying that “getting a right-handed reliever is not our driving force.” He pointed to Carson Smith as one of the most effective righty-on-righty relievers in the game (Twitter link via Speier). Smith returned from 2016 Tommy John surgery this past September and thrived over 6 2/3 innings, striking out seven while giving up one run on six hits and two walks.
- Hosmer and Martinez are conceivably also targets for the Red Sox, as are Santana and others. As Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes, the organization has engaged agent Scott Boras on both players; perhaps unsurprisingly, he also suggests that Boras is pitching Boston on signing the pair in a bold move to revamp its lineup. Interestingly, Cafardo also says that Hosmer’s former club, the Royals, once reached an internal assessment that Hosmer could swat forty long balls annually at Fenway. Of course, the notoriously heavy groundball hitter has never launched more than 25 in a given season (that’s a mark he reached in each of the last two campaigns).
The Red Sox are advising rival organizations that they’ll consider dealing away center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). That stance, he notes, is tied to the team’s efforts to add a power bat — presumably, one that would occupy a corner outfield spot and bump Andrew Benintendi into center.
Several teams have been circling Bradley early in the offseason, though there had been no clear indication that Boston would offer him up. A move involving Bradley — whether or not directly tied to the acquisition of a new bat — has always seemed connected to any effort to add pop to the Boston outfield. Of course, there’s also room to add at first base, so there were and likely still are scenarios where Bradley stays right where he is.
Certainly, retaining the quality all-around performer would hardly be a poor option for the Red Sox. The 27-year-old took a step back at the plate last year, but still hit 17 home runs and landed within range of overall league-average production with the bat. Plus, he’s a highly regarded performer on the bases and in the field, so he graded out as a quality regular even despite falling well shy of his 2016 offensive output — a .267/.349/.486 breakout that leaves traces of a tantalizing ceiling.
For the Red Sox to part with Bradley, they’d surely need to be zeroing in on a major addition. And they’d likely also need to receive some real value in return. Bradley is still controllable for three more seasons via arbitration and is projected by MLBTR to earn a manageable $5.9MM for 2018. While his Super Two status gave him a high floor to build off of, he’s still a potential bargain given his track record of overall performance in recent seasons.
Later today, the Yankees will announce the hire of Phil Nevin as their third base coach, Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports reports. Nightengale also mentioned an additional fun fact: Nevin and new Yankees manager Aaron Boone were high school teammates. Nevin was a lifetime .270/.343/.472 hitter across 4,703 plate appearances spanning twelve major league seasons. The former number one overall draft pick played with seven different major league teams during his career, but spent most of his time with the Tigers and Padres. Nevin was considered to be a strong candidate for the Tigers’ managerial opening before the club selected Ron Gardenhire to be their next skipper. Instead, he’ll become the latest member of rookie manager Boone’s coaching staff.
Other items from around the American League’s Eastern division…
- Any path back to contention for the Orioles in 2018 must begin with a retooling of a rotation that posted baseball’s highest ERA, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun opines. At present, Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy are the only locks in the rotation, and although the Orioles have been in the mix for some pitchers so far, they haven’t signed anyone yet. While it has already been mentioned that the Orioles were in on Tyler Chatwood before he signed with the Cubs, Encina reports that Baltimore was also in on Miles Mikolas, who ultimately ended up choosing the Cardinals. He quotes Dan Duquette saying that retooling the rotation this offseason will be a “bigger challenge” than in previous years, in part due to “significant demand” for pitchers in the free agent class. The Orioles’ rotation posted a 5.70 ERA in 2017.
- Despite the aforementioned need for rotation improvements, the Orioles did not make a presentation to Shohei Ohtani. Duquette’s reasoning (explained in a segment on MLB Network Radio) was that the Orioles “philosophically don’t participate on the posting part of it.” While the Orioles are known for not utilizing their international bonus pool money, one would think that Ohtani would have presented somewhat of an exception to Baltimore’s “philosophy,” particularly considering his upside and the fact that he’s now ranked as the number one prospect in all of baseball. Of course, Ohtani eliminated all east coast teams before he even scheduled any in-person meetings, so this is largely a moot point.
- Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald lists five ways the Red Sox can “get down to business” now that the offseason’s two biggest holdups (Giancarlo Stanton and Ohtani) have found their new destinations. While he details Boston’s obvious need for a power bat his more interesting suggestion is that the Sox ought to pony up for a utility man who can be a legitimate hitter. If the team can’t re-sign Eduardo Nunez, Mastrodonato postulates, they ought to turn to the trade market for such an asset.
- Now that Giancarlo Stanton is a Yankee, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald proposes a bold counter-move for the Red Sox — sign both J.D. Martinez and Eric Hosmer in free agency. This would come at a big financial cost for the Sox, of course, though Silverman argues that since the team will likely be over the luxury tax threshold anyway, the Red Sox will face a slightly lesser financial penalty now than they would in exceeding it next offseason with another year of overages on its record. Silverman believes Boston should strike now rather than hope for landing one of next winter’s big free agents, plus Martinez and Hosmer would help replace the clubhouse leadership gap left by the retired David Ortiz.
Steven Wright was arrested on Friday on charges of domestic assault, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford reports (Twitter link). Wright was released on Saturday. Wright and his agent didn’t comment on the situation, though NBC Sports Boston’s Evan Drellich received a statement from the Wright family via their attorney:
“On Friday night, Steven was arrested at our home following a verbal argument, and the police charged him with domestic assault. Although he said things he deeply regrets, he did not raise his hand at anyone during the incident, and the situation was purely emotional. We are working together as a family to make our relationships stronger, and we ask that you respect our privacy as we do so.”
The Red Sox have also released a statement in regards to Wright’s arrest…
“We are aware of the incident involving Steven. This is certainly a matter that the Red Sox take very seriously. It is my understanding that both local police and MLB are looking into this and for that reason, the club won’t have any further comment at this time.”
Wright emerged as a solid rotation piece for the Red Sox in 2016, when he posted a 3.33 ERA, 7.3 K/9, and 2.23 K/BB over 156 2/3 innings and was selected to the AL All-Star team. A shoulder injury cut Wright’s year short, however, and the knuckleballer was then limited to just five starts in 2017 due to season-ending left knee surgery in May. Wright had been expected to return as Boston’s fifth starter next season, particularly in the wake of the news that Eduardo Rodriguez will miss time at the start of the year due to his own knee surgery.
It isn’t yet known what, if any, further legal obstacles Wright may face, though MLB’s domestic violence policy gives Commissioner Rob Manfred broad authority to issue suspensions even if no further legal action is taken. Aroldis Chapman, Jose Reyes, Jeurys Familia and Derek Norris are some of the more notable names who have been suspended or placed on the restricted list for domestic violence-related issues since MLB and the players’ union instituted the policy in August 2015.