The red-hot free agent pitching market will only help the Indians in trade talks, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes. With so many top starters commanding giant salaries, the Tribe’s collection of young arms becomes more attractive both to teams who are hesitant to overspend on pitching, or to teams who missed out on their free agent targets. President of baseball operations Chris Antonetti could be making a career-defining move, Pluto believes, if he chooses to deal one of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar or Trevor Bauer for a big bat since such a trade could put the Tribe over the top as contenders.
Here’s more from the ever-shifting pitching rumor mill…
- The Giants are still interested in Mike Leake, ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets, even after signing Jeff Samardzija. Leake’s market is “now more defined” with so many other top pitchers off the board. The Giants may not be willing to give Leake a Samardzija-esque deal, however, as reported by Andrew Baggarly of the Bay Area News Group (via Twitter). This could take them out of the running for Leake given how several other teams also have interest.
- Also from Olney, the Royals are in the mix for starting pitching. Chris Young has been the only starter directly tied to Kansas City in reports, though there has been speculation that the World Series champs could aim higher in their search for rotation help.
- The Dodgers and Giants both fell short in their search for Zack Greinke, but MLB Network’s Peter Gammons wonders if the two arch-rivals could compete again for Hisashi Iwakuma. Both teams have already shown interest in the Japanese righty, and while the Mariners also have a long-stated interest in re-signing Iwakuma, I would guess the presence of these two big-market teams could drive Iwakuma’s price out of Seattle’s comfort zone.
- There has been speculation in the Japanese media that Kenta Maeda would prefer to pitch for the Dodgers, according to NPBTracker’s Patrick Newman (Twitter link). The Dodgers have a long history with Japanese talent and they have a need in the rotation, so a connection makes sense. L.A. will get a chance to negotiate with Maeda if they’re one of the teams who posts a $20MM bid for his services.
- Wei-Yin Chen has become a “hot topic” for the Cubs, 670TheScore.com’s Bruce Levine tweets. Chen is another free agent whose market should benefit from other pitchers disappearing off the market. Chicago, for instance, had interest in Price, Zimmermann and Samardzija before all of those pitchers signed elsewhere, though the Cubs already made one rotation-bolstering move in signing John Lackey.
- The Marlins are exploring a wide range of pitching options as they head to the Winter Meetings, president of baseball operations Michael Hill tells MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro writes. Frisaro suggests that James Shields or Wade Miley could be trade targets since Miami has been interested in both pitchers in the past, though the Marlins are trying to hang onto their core position players in deals (presumably trade candidate Marcell Ozuna isn’t necessarily part of this equation).
- The Marlins are open to the possibility of signing Cliff Lee, Frisaro reports. Presumably Miami would be one of several clubs interested in seeing if the former Cy Young Award winner has anything left in his comeback attempt.
- The Astros could look to deal 26-year-old lefty Brett Oberholtzer, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (via Twitter). Oberholtzer has a 3.94 ERA, 2.86 K/BB rate and 5.9 K/9 over 253 2/3 career innings, all with Houston since 2013. He’s one of many young arms the Astros have on hand beyond the five-man rotation, and the southpaw could be expendable if Houston is satisfied with its other depth options. Heyman speculates that the Orioles, Phillies, Rangers and Reds could all be fits as trade partners.
- The Twins aren’t one of the reported 10 teams interested in Henderson Alvarez, 1500ESPN.com’s Darren Wolfson tweets.