Long-time backstop David Ross has agreed to a new, multi-year deal to continue working as an analyst with ESPN. That news would seem to eliminate him from contention as a possible Cubs bench coach target, which is no surprise given recent indications. It would also appear to suggest that Ross won’t be looking to move into a dugout in the near future, though he’ll no doubt remain a popular candidate for significant gigs every time there’s an opening.
Let’s check in on the latest market notes …
- The Dodgers’ interest in star free agent Bryce Harper remains a storyline to watch. The Los Angeles club doesn’t seem inclined to tantalize Harper with a record-setting overall guarantee, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic suggests (subscription link). Rather, the club would be more interested in a shorter-term pact with a “high” average annual value and multiple opt-out clauses along the way. ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez heard largely the same late last week, while adding a few intriguing additional details. Harper “badly wants to be a Dodger,” says Gonzalez, but would have to sacrifice years and dollars in order to make that dream a reality. That also meshes with a recent report from ESPN’s Buster Olney, wherein Olney suggested that a front-loaded deal with a huge annual value could be the most appealing scenario to Los Angeles. Details are understandably sparse at this point, but generally, it stands to reason that if Harper and agent Scott Boras were to consider anything shy of a record-setting contract in terms of overall value and/or length, they’d likely need to establish a new high-water mark in terms of AAV by a considerable margin. That doesn’t seem like something that Harper’s camp would consider until a ways down the line, however, as Boras & Co. are quite likely still locked in on a longer-term mega-deal. The timeline for Harper’s signing remains unclear at the moment.
- Harper and Manny Machado will continue to fascinate until they sign, but with both still holding in-person meetings it could take a while for that to come together. What that may mean for the Phillies is worth pondering, as the organization has its sights set on significant improvements in multiple areas. Club president Andy MacPhail says there’s still ongoing interest in both stars, but also notes “there are a lot of different ways to improve,” as MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki writes. Citing a need to “give yourself enough latitude to deal with each offseason as it comes,” MacPhail certainly struck a somewhat different tone than owner John Middleton did recently. In part, he sought to emphasize the more restrained elements of Middleton’s comments — particularly, those indicating that the club does not feel it must land Harper and/or Machado to have had a productive offseason.
- The Astros are “back in the mix” for Marlins star J.T. Realmuto, per MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro (via Twitter). It’s fair to wonder whether the Houston club was ever really fully out of the hunt. The club did add Robinson Chirinos and still has Max Stassi on hand, but that combination surely isn’t sufficient to sap the ’Stros’ interest in the top catcher in the game. Perhaps it’s not out of the question that the club would consider carrying three catchers if they swing a blockbuster, with Realmuto perhaps representing an option in the DH/first base mix and Chirinos also providing a potent bench bat against left-handed pitching (.258/.353/.485 career slash). Whatever the plan would be, the Astros first need to land Realmuto. As Frisaro hints, the club’s reported deal with Michael Brantley could be seen as an indication that top prospect Kyle Tucker — who’d surely be of keen interest to the Fish — might just be available. Of course, as Frisaro also notes, a variety of other teams remain in pursuit of Realmuto at this stage.
- The Brewers nearly struck a deal with the Rangers for Mike Minor, Rosenthal further reports (subscription link), though it’s largely unclear what shape such an agreement would have taken and whether talks are still open. For Milwaukee, the connection makes clear that boosting the pitching mix remains a goal of the offseason. The organization has quite a few solid pieces in place, many of which could be utilized as needed in the rotation, in the bullpen, or as minor-league depth. Minor would certainly fit that general mold, as he has shown the ability to function as a high-quality reliever or solid back-of-the-rotation starter in recent years. It’s notable that the Texas org seems to be batting around multiple trade scenarios on the lefty, even in a winter in which they have taken further risks on other veteran hurlers.