It’s mostly of historical interest now, but Astros GM Jeff Luhnow acknowledged that the club had a deal all but locked down to land Bryce Harper last summer. (Via Mark Berman of FOX 26, on Twitter.) Reports indicated that the Nationals would have received a strong haul of talent had they agreed to give up Harper at the non-waiver deadline; instead, the club announced on deadline day that it would not part with its star, who is now (still) a free agent. Lest anyone get the wrong idea, the Houston organization’s prior interest certainly doesn’t indicate that Harper is of interest presently. There has been no such connection this winter. Luhnow did suggest, though, that the pursuit is evidence of the team’s commitment to “look at all alternatives” and possibly swing major deals at the trade deadline.
Those who enjoy concocting wild trade scenarios will also take note of Luhnow’s intriguing aside: “I think fans would be surprised at the types of players at times that we’ve gone after and how close we’ve come on some of them.” Here’s more from the American League:
- Star Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts discussed his approach to handling the business side of the sport, as Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald reports. Betts says he believes in staying patient. “When you start rushing into things, that’s when you get some deals that may not be the right ones,” he said. Of course, Betts has to this point set himself up for a potentially record-setting run through arbitration by not only going year-to-year, but by also increasing his performance level in successive seasons. He just settled for a whopping $20MM, setting a record for a second-time arb-eligible player. Whether he’ll consider a long-term deal in the future isn’t clear; Betts would allow only that he enjoys playing in Boston and would “have to see how it goes.”
- In other AL East contractual matters, the Yankees’ reported chatter about a long-term deal with staff ace Luis Severino does not seem to be gaining traction, per Jon Heyman of MLB Network (via Twitter). It seems that the sides will instead focus on preparing for an upcoming arbitration hearing, though that can always change at the last minute — whether due to agreement on a single-season salary or something more significant. If the case goes to a panel, the arbitrators will need to decide between Severino’s proposed $5.25MM payout and the club’s $4.4MM counter. There’s added significance given that the Super Two qualifier still has three more potential arb years to come, making his starting salary quite important.
- While terms of his contract weren’t announced or reported at the time, Twins skipper Rocco Baldelli inked a four-year contract when being hired for his managerial debut, Dan Hayes of The Athletic reports (subscription required). The deal also has multiple club options. It’s a show of faith in the rookie manager and a departure from the manner in which Minnesota has previously operated, as Aaron Gleeman of Baseball Prospectus notes (Twitter link). Under previous management, the Twins typically only issued two-year pacts to skipper Ron Gardenhire, who was one of the game’s longest-tenured managers when he was dismissed from the organization. And Paul Molitor, whom the the Twins ousted to make way for Baldelli, was one season into a three-year contract when the Twins ultimately changed course.
- Angels right-hander Matt Harvey will be out for the next week to 10 days due to a strained glute muscle, tweets Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. It’s a minor injury and one that isn’t expected to hinder Harvey’s readiness for Opening Day, but it nonetheless bears some monitoring as Harvey looks to rebuild stock in Anaheim on a one-year, $11MM contract. The injury is all the more notable given the Halos’ rash of pitching maladies in recent seasons. The team is already expecting to be without right-hander Nick Tropeano to open the season.
- The Royals are considering utilizing veteran starter Ian Kennedy as a bullpen piece this season, and the righty spoke with Rustin Dodd of The Athletic about the potential role change (subscription required). Kennedy took a team-first attitude and said he’s willing to pitch for the Royals in any role, so long as it helps the team win more games. Looking elsewhere on the roster, Dodd writes that Danny Duffy, Brad Keller and Jakob Junis are likely locks for the rotation, while non-roster invitee Homer Bailey will compete for a starter job but likely not a bullpen role (per Yost). The Kansas City Star’s Lynn Worthy also addressed the situation, speaking with newly signed Brad Boxberger about pitching roles. While Boxberger would “love” the opportunity to close, it doesn’t seem as though any such promises were made to him. Ultimately, Yost declined to discuss specific roles and stressed the importance of having multiple options who can be trusted to close out games and thrive in high-leverage spots.