- The Yankees announced today that they’ve acquired outfielder Tyler Hill from the Tigers in exchange for cash. Detroit had selected Hill out of the Red Sox organization in the Triple-A phase of yesterday’s Rule 5 Draft. Set to turn 23 in March, Hill spent last season with Boston’s Class-A Advanced affiliate in Salem, where he hit .254/.348/.312 through 498 plate appearances. Hill has just 14 homers in 351 professional games, but he’s swiped 93 bases in that time — highlighted by a 42-steal campaign in 2017.
Manny Machado will head to Philadelphia for an in-person visit with the Phillies next week, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today, and George A. King III of the New York Post suggests that a similar visit to Yankee Stadium could be lined up for next week as well. The Yankees and Phillies are two of the reported four teams set to be aligning visits with the polarizing Machado, along with the White Sox and the ever-popular “mystery team.” For the Phillies, the acquisition of Jean Segura makes Machado a likelier fit at third base despite the infielder’s clear preference to play shortstop. Machado’s former third base coach in Baltimore, Bobby Dickerson, tells Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer that he believes Machado would move to third base if an offer to do so was the clear best offer he received in free agency. Perhaps more interestingly, Dickerson talks with Lauber about Machado’s personality, his preternatural defensive aptitude at third base and, in reference to Machado’s October villainy, his belief that Machado “is fine with being the bad boy.”
With the Winter Meetings now in the rear-view mirror, here’s a bit more on Machado and the market’s other top free agent…
- White Sox GM Rick Hahn somewhat indirectly acknowledged his interest in both Machado and Bryce Harper on Thursday, as Bruce Levine writes for 670 The Score FM. “We are excited to be discussing impactful moves for the long term,” said Hahn of his team’s reported interest in the market’s top two free agents. “It’s good to have a seat at the table for some long impactful moves. This work does not mean anything is going to come together. … Even if we are able to convert on something big, there is a lot of work to do behind it to get us where we want to be (as an organization).” Levine suggests that an opt-out provision after three or four years would be a “significant draw” for Harper, though that much has been more or less expected for some time. Top free agents have increasingly gravitated toward the inclusion of such contracts, and several recent free-agent signings have included multiple opportunities to re-enter free agency (e.g. Jason Heyward, J.D. Martinez).
- Also via Nightengale, agent Scott Boras implied in characteristically colorful fashion that he’s not concerned about early indications that some potential suitors (e.g. Yankees, Cardinals) have limited interest or trepidation when it comes to a legitimate pursuit of Harper. “When the nurse walks in the room with the thermometer, the issue is not what the thermometer says that day,” said Boras. “The issue is what’s the health of the patient when they’re ready to leave the hospital.” The Phillies and White Sox both remain in the mix on Harper, per the report, and Nightengale speculatively suggests that the Dodgers, who are reportedly trying to move Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig, shouldn’t be ruled out. Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM, though, tweets that the Dodgers aren’t interested in pushing talks to 10 years on Harper. Nor, for that matter, are the Angels or Giants, each of whom has been previously mentioned as a potential dark horse.
- ESPN’s Buster Olney writes that executives from other clubs and agents throughout the industry find it increasingly possible that the Phillies, long the presumptive favorite to sign one of Harper or Machado, could instead come away with neither in hand. Olney, too, suggests that the Dodgers’ efforts to move Kemp, Puig and other notable salaries could eventually result in the capacity to submit a winning offer to Harper. While there’s doubt that the Dodgers would offer the longest-term contract, Olney suggests perhaps a front-loaded deal with a substantial annual value from a team that has appeared in consecutive World Series would prove enticing. Meanwhile, the Yankees still present a viable threat to the Phillies for Machado as they look to close ground on the World Champion Red Sox.
- There’s no indication that anything has changed for the Cubs, per Patrick Mooney of The Athletic (subscription required), who writes that the team is “close to maxing out” its baseball operations budget for the 2019 season. Rather than acknowledge a need for any sort of augmentation to the roster, manager Joe Maddon suggested that the greater issue for the Cubs is to extract better performance from the talent already in house. Along those same lines, GM Jed Hoyer spoke of the promising signs he’s seen in Kris Bryant as he looks to rehab from 2018 shoulder woes.
- Along with the previously reported Adam Ottavino, the Yankees met with free-agent reliever Andrew Miller’s camp during the Winter Meetings, according to Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News. In his previous trip to free agency, back in 2014, Miller signed with the Yankees on a four-year, $36MM contract. Miller then proceeded to dominate out of New York’s bullpen until the team traded him to Cleveland in July 2016. While Miller continued to post elite production through 2017, he looked like a mere mortal last season during an injury-shortened campaign. Still, MLBTR expects the 33-year-old to pull in another lofty payday this winter. Perhaps he’ll return to his old stomping grounds in the Bronx to get it.
- Turning to the Athletics’ pursuit of rotation help, Slusser hears that they’re “bottom feeders” on the pitching market, though she points out that they’re known for exercising patience and finding diamonds in the rough. The team’s not averse to doling out multiyear deals for free-agent pitchers, per GM David Forst. On the trade front, Slusser casts doubt on a potential Sonny Gray-Athletics reunion, reporting that the Yankees’ asking price for him is currently too lofty for the A’s liking.
- While the Yankees have now marketed Sonny Gray for quite some time, the club is still sifting through offers. “A bunch” of rivals remain interested, per AGM Michael Fishman, who tells Hoch (Twitter link) that some possible deal scenarios would involve major-league assets coming back in return. New York’s reportedly seeking “high-end” MLB talent for Gray, despite his subpar performance in 2018.
- There’s no room anymore for Gray in New York, yet the Yankees could still pick up another starter this winter to join an already crowded staff that includes Luis Severino, James Paxton, J.A. Happ, Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia. With that said “it sounds like there’s little optimism” the Yankees will acquire Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer from the Indians, Marc Carig of The Athletic tweets. Either Kluber or Bauer would bring back a haul in return, and with a farm system that has taken some major hits via trades and prospect graduations in the past year, it doesn’t appear the Yankees will emerge from the offseason with either righty. Speculatively speaking, Yankees third baseman Miguel Andujar would make sense for the Indians after the latter traded Yandy Diaz on Thursday. However, while the Yankees are reportedly “open” to moving Andujar, giving him up would create another hole in their infield at the cost of improving a rotation which already has at least five viable options.
The Yankees are asking for “high-end Major League talent” in exchange for Sonny Gray, George A. King III of the New York Post hears from an official on a team interested in acquiring the right-hander. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of the Yankees’ steep asking price for Gray, though as King notes, it may be a while before a trade emerges unless the club is willing to lower its demands. One can’t blame the Yankees for aiming high, and there’s certainly enough interest in Gray that the team can shop around, though the Yankees may not have quite enough leverage to make such a big ask. Intriguing peripherals notwithstanding, Gray did have a 4.90 ERA last season, and he has become even more of an expendable piece now that the Yankees are on the verge of re-signing J.A. Happ. With Happ, Luis Severino, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and C.C. Sabathia all in the fold, there isn’t even any room for Gray in New York’s rotation if the club hangs onto him until Opening Day.
- Even after agreeing to a reunion with J.A. Happ today, Yankees GM Brian Cashman told reporters (including Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News) that the team isn’t necessarily done adding starting pitching. The Happ deal “gives me more comfort,” Cashman said, though “It doesn’t mean that we would be out of the market all together….That doesn’t preclude us from being open minded to any other options that develop over time. In the meantime, it does allow us to pivot and focus further on other aspects of our roster, too.” Some of the bigger-name pitchers associated with the Yankees, however, don’t appear to on the radar at the moment. Sources tell Ackert that the Yankees balked at the Indians’ asking price for Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer, while another source describes a trade with the Mets for Noah Syndergaard as “extremely unlikely.”
The Yankees have reportedly agreed to a two-year, $34MM deal to bring free agent southpaw J.A. Happ back to the Bronx. The contract is pending a physical; Happ is represented by Rogers Sports Management.
When completed, the contract is expected to include an option year valued at $17MM. It would vest if Happ reaches 165 innings and/or 27 starts in the 2020 campaign.
Happ has been one of the offseason’s most sought-after arms, with as many as 10 teams said to have some level of interest in the 36-year-old. Happ was known to have been weighing several two-year offers and was reportedly willing to sign with the first team that gave him a third guaranteed year.
It seems, though, that he’ll fall shy of that target — meaning he’ll also land short of the three-year, $48MM that MLBTR predicted. As we noted in that post, however, it was never fully clear whether Happ would be able to secure a promised salary through his age-38 campaign.
At the end of the day, the Yankees will pay a bit of a premium on an annual basis and surrender some control over that third year (through the vesting clause) in order to secure the services of the southpaw. Happ was for some time seen as more of a depth piece, but he has rather quietly emerged as a steady force in recent seasons.
Happ, you may recall, raised his profile greatly with a surprising late-2015 run with the Pirates. That landed him the three-year deal with the Blue Jays that he just completed. Since he last put pen to paper, Happ has pitched to a 3.44 ERA with 8.7 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 over 518 frames.
After his contract was shipped to the division-rival Yankees in the middle of the 2018 campaign, Happ obviously impressed his new employer. He turned in 63 2/3 innings of 2.69 ERA ball over 11 starts, though he was later knocked around in his lone postseason appearance. That shouldn’t (and obviously didn’t) give the Yanks pause, particularly since Happ had previously generally performed well in the playoffs.
For the Yankees, Happ becomes the third lefty rotation piece added this winter, joining James Paxton and CC Sabathia. The club tried for a fourth, Patrick Corbin, but watched him head elsewhere after deciding not to extend to bigger dollars and years than the organization felt comfortable with. In this case, the willingness to stick to his guns worked to the benefit of GM Brian Cashman, who did not have to full guarantee a third season to land a pitcher he obviously felt comfortable with.
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (Twitter link) reported a deal was close, with Andy Martino of SNY.tv (Twitter link) reporting it was completed. Jon Heyman of Fancred (via Twitter) and MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (in a tweet) had details on the deal structure, with Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports (via Twitter) and Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter links) covering the salary terms.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
- There has been a bevy of rumors surrounding the Reds, who seem to be knocking on quite a few doors at multiple positions. Pitching, though, remains the key. The Cincinnati ballclub is still “active in trade discussions” with the Yankees on Sonny Gray and the Blue Jays on Marcus Stroman, per Jon Morosi of MLB.com (Twitter link). It’ll surprise few to hear that the Reds see those two hurlers as more reasonably achievable targets than Indians ace Corey Kluber, as Morosi adds. Both Gray and Stroman profile as bounceback targets, marking quite a distinction from Kluber, with the former clearly set to be dealt but the latter occupying a less-certain position on the trade market. With two years of control remaining, the Jays are said to be putting a high price on Stroman.
Rumors about a discussed three-team trade between the Mets, Marlins, and Yankees set the baseball world abuzz on Monday, though most recent reports have cast those talks are much more speculative in nature. If Mets fans were stunned at the idea of Noah Syndergaard potentially going to the Yankees as part of those three-team rumors, how would Yankees fans feel about Gary Sanchez going to Citi Field? The Athletic’s Marc Carig (Twitter link) reports that one of the many permutations of the Mets/Yankees talks saw Sanchez becoming the Mets’ new catcher. It isn’t known if the Marlins were involved in this scenario, or if it would’ve resulted in J.T. Realmuto or Syndergaard going to the Yankees, but whispers continue to swirl that the Yankees could be looking for a change at catcher, no matter how firmly GM Brian Cashman has continued to stand by Sanchez.
Even if it involves a rare trade with a crosstown rival, it seems clear that new Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen is certainly looking at every possibility to upgrade his roster. Some more Mets-related rumblings…
- Adam Jones and his representatives have opened a line of communication with the Mets, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports (Twitter links). (Puma initially reported the sides had met face to face, but later retracted that aspect of the discussions.) With Yoenis Cespedes a health-related question mark for 2019, the Mets are looking at Jones and other right-handed hitting outfielders. Jones is hitting the open market for the first time in his career after spending the last 11 seasons with the Orioles.
- Andrew McCutchen was another name on the Mets’ list, according to Fancred Sports’ Jon Heyman (Twitter link), though at a much lower price tag than the $50MM deal McCutchen received from the Phillies.
- The Mets already have a right-handed hitting outfield option in the form of Juan Lagares, though MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo (via Twitter) hears that the Mets have been trying to find a trade partner for Lagares. 2018 was a lost year for the defensive specialist, as a torn plantar plate in his left big toe resulted in season-ending surgery after just 30 games. Given the injury and the $9.5MM owed to Lagares in salary next season, the outfielder will be a tough sell in trade talks, unless New York eats some money or deals him for another bad-fit type of contract.
- As usual, a ton of trade speculation has swirled around the Yankees, and GM Brian Cashman told reporters (including George A. King III of the New York Post) that he has been asked about virtually every player on his roster. That list even includes James Paxton, as teams checked in to see if New York would consider flipping the star southpaw after acquiring him from the Mariners last month (needless to say, the Yankees declined). Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton were the only two players Cashman said he hadn’t yet been asked about.