- Fellow catcher Robinson Chirinos, who was teammates with Maldonado in Houston, has drawn widespread interest on the open market. The Rockies were already just put on the board along with the Rangers, Astros, Tigers, Rays, and Pirates. You can add the Tigers to the still-growing list of teams eyeing Chirinos, MLB.com’s Jon Morosi tweets. It’s no surprise Detroit’s in on Chirinos, as he may be the top catcher left and general manager Al Avila has made it known the team’s serious about finding an upgrade behind the plate.
- The Rangers acquired outfield prospect Steele Walker from Chicago in exchange for Mazara. One day into his tenure with the Rangers organization, Walker has garnered almost as many calls from interested teams as Mazara generated, according to general manager Jon Daniels (via Levi Weaver of The Athletic). However, Daniels added the Rangers do not intend to flip the 23-year-old Walker elsewhere.
9:00pm: The Rangers are out of the race, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. They never wanted to go more than five years for Rendon, who has sought seven, TR Sullivan of MLB.com tweets. They’ve now turned their attention to the No. 2 third baseman on the market, Josh Donaldson, per Sullivan.
8:29pm: The Angels are engaged in “active talks” with free-agent third baseman Anthony Rendon, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports. They’re “working hard” to sign him, per Jon Heyman of MLB Network, while Rosenthal adds that the Angels are hoping to finalize a deal tonight.
With the Dodgers seemingly drifting from the Rendon race, it may come down to a pair of AL West rivals to sign the longtime Washington superstar. The Rangers remain in the mix, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Jeff Wilson, who notes that they’ve met with Rendon’s agent, Scott Boras, once during the Winter Meetings.
While Rendon’s a Texas native, which could work in the Rangers’ favor, it seems the Angels are determined to get this done. At the moment, they’re “pretty deep in negotiation” to sign him, Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post reports. The Angels already lost out on two big targets in Stephen Strasburg (Nationals) and Gerrit Cole (Yankees) this week. Cole’s exit from the board left Rendon as the best player available, and he should join Strasburg and Cole in signing for well over $200MM. It appears the Angels are prepared to pay the price.
2:31pm: While the likelihood of an arrangement isn’t known, the Dodgers are engaged in “serious” and ongoing talks with the Indians regarding star shortstop Francisco Lindor, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). The report suggests that the Cleveland organization wants a prospect package that includes top talents Gavin Lux and Dustin May, each of whom reached the majors late last year. Whether the demand is for both to be included isn’t entirely clear.
2:00pm: The Dodgers are increasingly “pessimistic” as to their chances of striking a deal with top remaining free agent Anthony Rendon, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (via Twitter). The L.A. org just missed out on Gerrit Cole and could now see its other major target slip away.
What’s the mean for the market on Rendon? Rosenthal reiterates several other recent reports indicating that the Nationals are unlikely to bring back their star third bagger. The Rangers and Angels appear to be the leading contenders to secure the services of the smooth-swinging 29-year-old.
As for the Dodgers, if indeed they fall out of the Rendon bidding they’ll presumably keep moving down the line of options. The club is said to have interest in Josh Donaldson, Madison Bumgarner, and several other possible free agent and trade targets.
The Rangers cleared a bit of payroll yesterday that could further their campaign to host Anthony Rendon’s Texas homecoming. But that pursuit is hardly certain to be a successful one. The organization needs to consider backup plans at the hot corner while also chasing down other desired upgrades.
While Rendon’s Lone Star roots surely don’t hurt, the Rangers can’t count on a local discount. Agent Scott Boras indicated to reporters yesterday that geography isn’t going to be an “overriding consideration” for his client, as MLB.com’s TR Sullivan was among those to cover (Twitter link). That hardly takes the club out of contention — state tax advantages are still a factor and the ties may still matter on the margins — but it serves to highlight that the Rangers won’t necessarily come away with their top target.
If Rendon decides not to help christen Globe Life Field and the Rangers can’t circle back to land their other top potential match in Josh Donaldson, the possibilities look quite a bit less appealing. But the Texas organization would at least have plenty of powder dry to spend elsewhere. And it could put its third base opening to use to pursue upside.
Should the Rangers turn to the rest of the market, Maikel Franco could be a fall back option, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Franco did manage a serviceable 105 wRC+ as recently as 2018. In the absence of a more thrilling alternative, Franco would at least deliver a chance of liberating unrealized potential for a team with a chance of achieving “upstart” status in 2020. Still, Franco appears even less likely to make the leap than Nomar Mazara, the Rangers’ own underdeveloped star, shipped to Chicago yesterday.
Franco would certainly come cheaper than Rendon, for good cause, as Rendon’s superstar turn emerged in the national spotlight upon winning a World Series title – while Franco produced a career worst -0.8 bWAR before an inelegant end to his Philadelphia tenure via non-tender. Nick Solak is the nominal incumbent, but he can move around the diamond depending on who GM Jon Daniels adds to their collection of quasi-ill-fitting position players.
Not much further down Daniels’ checklist? Finding an offensively capable option behind the plate, per Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star Telegram. The Rangers have some interest in a reunion with Robinson Chirinos and have also been connected to fellow top-remaining free agent Jason Castro. But the club still faces competition for these and other backstops.
It’s tough to imagine the club will fail to come away with a new option to supplement the existing group of backstops. Jose Trevino ended the year on a high note and should compete for a roster spot. Jeff Mathis returns as well, the definition of a glove-first player in its extreme after a truly woeful .158/.209/.224 across his 248 player appearances in 2019. Depending on Trevino’s development and their ability to add to third wheel, the Rangers are open to using the new 26th roster spot to hold a third catcher. Trevino has an option remaining, however, so that’s not a necessity, and at 37 in March, Mathis’ playing days are likely nearing an end. Of course, they also have Isiah Kiner-Falefa on the roster serving as a third catcher/utility option, and they added former Tampa Bay Ray Nick Ciuffo to the Triple-A ranks. Ciuffo, in the mold of Mathis, is a strong receiver who has yet to hit his stride at the plate. 25 in March, Ciuffo is the youngest of the three primary catchers by a few years, while Kiner-Falefa turns 25 just a few weeks after Ciuffo.
The Rangers have other irons in the fire, too. As Wilson reports, the club is working on lining up some minor-league pacts of note. Daniels indicates that the club believes it’ll be able to bring back a few pitchers — lefty Jeffrey Springs and righties Matt Bush and Edinson Volquez — on non-roster contracts.
11:05 pm: The Rangers and White Sox have agreed on a trade that will send outfielder Nomar Mazara to Chicago, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. Outfielder Steele Walker is going to Texas in return, per MLB.com’s TR Sullivan (via Twitter).
As for the 23-year-old Walker, he’s a recent second-round pick who reached the High-A level last year with the Chicago organization. The former Oklahoma University star slashed .269/.346/.426 in 441 plate appearances for Winston-Salem in 2019. Walker is viewed as a high-quality hitting prospect who has a shot at sticking up the middle. He’s generally considered one of the ten best prospects in a strong White Sox farm. Walker will begin the season in Double-A, per John Blake, the Rangers’ Executive VP of Communications.
6:17pm: The White Sox are “working hard to land” Mazara, as Jim Bowden of SiriusXM first reported. As for Chirinos, the Astros, Tigers, Rays and Pirates join the Rangers in the market for him, Jon Heyman of MLB Network tweets.
1:04pm: The Rangers have remained busy on the market, with MLB.com’s TR Sullivan reporting that the club is active on multiple fronts (Twitter links). While it stands to reason that the team is still considering moves in the rotation, the attention now is on the position player side after several notable pitching additions.
It has long seemed likely that the Rangers would explore possible swaps involving its existing outfielders. But the team now appears to be engaged in a somewhat dedicated manner. Sullivan says the intention is to “move one of their extra left-handed hitting outfielders,” with Nomar Mazara, Willie Calhoun, and Shin-Soo Choo named as possibilities.
That’s a highly varied group of players. Mazara is a mid-arbitration player that hasn’t turned the corner in the majors but remains quite youthful. Calhoun hasn’t had the same degree of opportunity (and hasn’t logged as much service) but showed well with the bat last year. He’s also still a question mark defensively, as is the aging Choo, who can still hit but isn’t worth the remainder of his big contract.
The Rangers are said to be chatting with the Diamondbacks about some of these players; the clubs were connected last night regarding Mazara. Evidently talks between the Rangers and Marlins didn’t advance. Craig Mish of MLB Network Radio tweets that the Fish were turned off by the asking price for Mazara, a former top prospect.
Meanwhile, there’s “mutual interest” in a new deal with backstop Robinson Chirinos. That’s rather an interesting development, considering the Texas organization surprisingly declined its option over him last fall. The replacement plan fell apart, as MLBTR’s Connor Byrne explored, while Chirinos flourished with the cross-state Astros.
The 35-year-old Chirinos and the Rangers are amply familiar with one another, as he played with the team for six seasons. It seems the sides carry no ill will over the way things ended. The catching market has moved rather swiftly to this point, leaving Chirinos and Jason Castro as the top available options.
Outfielder Nicholas Castellanos has another suitor, as Texas has “checked in on” the slugging outfielder, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News tweets. While upgrading at third base has been a focus for the Rangers, general manager Jon Daniels indicated they could make a splash elsewhere, per Grant. Signing Castellanos, who’s in line for a lucrative multiyear contract, would qualify. Adding him could also make it even more likely the Rangers move on from Nomar Mazara, who might be part of a trade as early as this week’s Winter Meetings.
Meanwhile, it’s becoming more likely the Rangers will not keep outfielder/designated hitter Hunter Pence in the fold, TR Sullivan of MLB.com reports. After signing a minor league contract last offseason, Pence enjoyed an improbable bounce-back campaign, even earning an All-Star nod, but it seems the soon-to-be 37-year-old will have to play elsewhere if he keeps his career going in 2020.
- The Angels, Astros, and Rangers are among the organizations with interest in backstop Jason Castro, per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (via Twitter). With Yasmani Grandal and Travis d’Arnaud off the market, the 32-year-old Castro could be the best catcher left on the board. The pitch-framing savant’s coming off a strong season in Minnesota, where he batted .232/.332/.435 in 275 plate appearances and earned positive grades in Baseball Prospectus’ Fielding Runs Above Average metric.
The Cardinals weren’t one of the league’s better-hitting teams in general last season, and in particular struggled against right-handed pitching. For that reason, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak told reporters (including MLB.com’s Anne Rogers and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Derrick Goold) that “if we could find a way to get a little more lefthanded, we would be encouraged to do that. So, I think people feel that they’re a little too lefthanded [in their lineup] then it might make sense for us to be talking.” Mozeliak hinted that the Cards would prefer to add a lefty bat in a trade rather than through the free agent market, though trade talks have been “slow” to date.
To this end, Goold reports that the Cardinals have been looking to add a left-handed hitting outfielder in exchange for a package that would include at least one of their young right-handed hitting outfielders. Looking at such players on the Cards’ 40-man roster, Harrison Bader, Jose Martinez, Yairo Munoz, Tyler O’Neill, Lane Thomas, Randy Arozarena, Adolis Garcia, and Rangel Ravelo are all either full-time outfielders or at least have some outfield experience, leaving St. Louis with a wealth of possible trade chips for trades large or small.
By contrast, the Rangers are a team with a surplus of left-handed outfielders, and Goold reports that Texas and St. Louis have indeed been in talks. The Cards’ ideal acquisition would be both relatively inexpensive and capable of playing every day. The latter issue could keep the Cardinals from pursuing someone like the Dodgers’ Joc Pederson, in Goold’s view, given Pederson’s struggles at hitting lefty pitching (though I would submit that the Cards would certainly seem to have enough right-handed hitting depth to find a platoon partner for Pederson in center field).
Of course, the Cardinals would get an immediate boost against right-handed pitching if their most prominent left-handed hitter returned to his old form after a disastrous 2019 season. Mozeliak revealed that Matt Carpenter has begun an offseason training program to add both weight and strength, after tests from the performance department revealed that Carpenter declined in both areas over the course of the season. “He’s one of those types of players that has a hard time holding weight,” Mozeliak said. “One of the things that we’ve tried to do this offseason is find a strength program that we think could work for him so he can maintain that. As the season unfolds, it’s something that we’ll need to be conscious of and intentional about to try to keep that up.”
In addition to their search for lefty bats, the Cardinals are still interested in a very prominent right-handed bat in Marcell Ozuna. Mozeliak felt his club was “still in the game,” for the free agent slugger, saying “we’re not closing any doors. Doors may get closed, but it’s not our doing.” The Reds, Braves, Rangers, Diamondbacks, and White Sox have all been mentioned as interested parties in the Ozuna market, and with reports indicating that the bidding could go as high as five years, it seems hard to imagine St. Louis is willing to truly break the bank to re-sign Ozuna. Since Ozuna rejected the qualifying offer, the Cardinals will obtain an extra pick (roughly between the 75th-85th overall selections) in the 2020 draft should Ozuna sign elsewhere.
“The Diamondbacks are said to have interest in both” Mitch Haniger and Nomar Mazara, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes. Either player would address Arizona’s need for a right fielder, and though the D’Backs would be taking something of a risk either both are coming off disappointing 2019 seasons. Haniger didn’t play after June 6 due to a ruptured testicle, and even in the 283 plate appearances prior to his injury was already delivering less production than during his impressive 2017-18 campaigns. Mazara has been a steadily subpar offensive performer (92 wRC+, 93 OPS+) over his four career seasons with the Rangers, hitting .261/.320/.435 with 79 homers over 2189 PA and generating only 1.7 total fWAR.