- The Rangers are one of the teams known to have contacted the Tigers about Michael Fulmer, though Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Fress Press reports that the two sides haven’t gotten very far in negotiations. Fulmer’s ability and years of team control make him an attractive target for any club, especially the pitching-needy Rangers, though the Tigers have naturally put a huge asking price on their young righty.
10:36pm: The D’Backs are “showing no interest in a salary dump,” USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports (Twitter link), as the Rangers are offering only “marginal prospects” and they want Arizona to pay a portion of Greinke’s contract (perhaps in the form of Choo’s deal).
8:19pm: Texas isn’t one of the 15 teams on Greinke’s no-trade list, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports (via Twitter). Choo can also list 10 teams per season via his own no-trade clause, though it isn’t known if the D’Backs are included.
7:41pm: The Rangers have been in discussions about the Diamondbacks about starting pitchers, with MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan (Twitter links) reporting that Zack Greinke’s name has been included in the talks. There isn’t any sign that a trade is close to actually happening, though Sullivan says that the negotiations “are real and on-going.”
According to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Twitter link), the Rangers need Shin-Soo Choo to be involved in the deal as well, in order to help balance out the Greinke’s enormous contract. Choo is owed $62MM through the 2020 season, while Greinke still has a whopping $138.5MM owed to him through the 2021 campaign.
For a Rangers team in dire need of pitching help, they would seemingly be a great fit to absorb that extra money on Greinke’s deal while also unloading an extraneous piece in Choo. The outfielder simply hasn’t lived up to expectations since signing that seven-year, $130MM with Texas in the 2013-14 offseason. Choo has been worth only 5.1 fWAR over his first four years in Texas, with most of that total coming just in 2014 (3.6 fWAR), as he has battled injuries and become a defensive liability, though his run-creation numbers are still slightly above average.
Depending on what else is involved in a potential trade, moving Greinke would essentially be something of a salary dump for the D’Backs. Even though the ace righty is coming off an excellent season (rebounding nicely from a down year in 2016), Greinke simply accounts for such a giant portion of Arizona’s payroll that the team is hard-pressed to make many other moves, given that the Snakes are again expected to spend in the $115-$120MM range next year. Greinke at least has much more trade value now than he did last winter in the wake of his tough 2016 campaign, though it would still be a tough blow for the D’Backs to lose their ace while still hoping to build on their NLDS appearance from a year ago.
Since the two teams were engaging in talks on multiple starters, it’s fair to say that Patrick Corbin might be a more reasonable trade candidate that wouldn’t involve nearly the salary machinations of a Greinke/Choo deal. Corbin is projected to earn $8.3MM in 2018, his final year of arbitration eligibility, so he’d also represent some significant payroll savings for Arizona if dealt.
There’s significant enough interest in Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton that it’s possible a deal could come together during the Winter Meetings, according to a report from Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer. In particular, the Giants are holding “serious discussions” with Cincinnati.
The Giants have long been connected to Hamilton, with Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweeting earlier today they are the strongest contender while noting the Reds are interested in clearing room for Jesse Winker in the outfield. But Buchanan stresses they are not the only team still involved in talks. Hamilton is said to be the Reds player generating the most trade interest, with numerous other teams — including the Rangers — also still showing real interest.
Hamilton, of course, is a burner on the bases and top-quality up-the-middle defender. He also has not yet established himself at the plate at the game’s highest level, though. MLBTR recently broke down Hamilton’s trade candidacy in full at this link.
Starting pitching is in the news this morning, with several notable names being discussed. But there are a whole lot of other moving pieces out there. Let’s run down the latest chatter on the pitching market:
- The Brewers have chatted with the Rays about their potential rotation trade pieces, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (via Twitter), who cautions that there’s no indication to this point that “any traction was made.” It’s not immediately clear which Tampa Bay hurlers have piqued the interest of the Milwaukee front office, though surely they’d have the trade pieces necessary to swing a deal for just about anyone. Chris Archer remains the big name to watch, though we don’t yet know whether he’s truly available. The Brewers could conceivably have interest in other pitchers, too, including veteran Jake Odorizzi, but it’s all speculation at this stage.
- Meanwhile, the Brewers are said to have interest in righty Jesse Chavez, Haudricourt also tweets. We heard yesterday the veteran swingman was likely to find a new home this week.
- Veteran closer Fernando Rodney has met with the Rangers and Twins, per MLB.com’s TR Sullivan (via Twitter) and Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press (via Twitter). It’s not clear at this point how serious the interest is, though Rodney might conceivably be an option for either club, both of which have largely unsettled ninth-inning plans.
- Another interesting possibility on the rotation market is Royals lefty Danny Duffy. He has drawn interest from the Cubs, per Robert Murray of Fan Rag. Indeed, K.C. has been contacted by rivals on Duffy and a few other notably interesting assets, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan tweets. It’s entirely unclear at this point what kinds of scenarios might be pondered on Duffy, but the Royals will surely want a significant return for a player they only recently extended. His contract runs through 2021 and promises him $60MM. While a DUI arrest and elbow surgery introduce some uncertainty into the situation, from a pure on-field perspective Duffy remains a valuable asset as he nears his 29th birthday.
- The Mets are among the organizations with interest in free agent righty Juan Nicasio, according to Tyler Kepner of the New York Times (via Twitter). The 31-year-old pitched quite well throughout 2017, both before and after an odd series of August transactions. He ended the year with a 2.61 ERA over 72 1/3 innings, with 9.0 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9.
- We’ve heard some possibility that the Nationals could have interest in free agent righty Jake Arrieta, and ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick tweets that agent Scott Boras is working to sell that potential fit to the team’s ownership. Then again, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post characterizes the Nationals’ interest as “tepid” in a tweet. The division-rival Phillies are reportedly also a possibility, along with several other teams, as we covered this morning. Given that the Nats have an opening in their rotation, it isn’t at all surprising to hear that Boras is pushing for it to be filled by Arrieta; after all, his connection to the organization’s ownership is quite well-established by this point. Of course, adding yet another high-priced starter would carry some pretty notable risk for the organization, so it stands to reason that the club will explore other possibilities before deciding whether to join the pursuit of the 31-year-old Arrieta. Crasnick also takes a broader look at Arrieta’s still-developing market, including an extensive examination of Boras’s marketing strategy.
- While there is action at the top of the pitching market, the Blue Jays seem to be taking a patient approach, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca writes. While GM Ross Atkins says there’s a lack of depth in the rotation market, he also has indicated no interest in pushing hard to strike a deal. It seems the organization’s inclination remains to seek value in bolstering the rotation depth.
- For the Diamondbacks, meanwhile, the team may at least be preparing to consider deals involving some fairly surprising players. Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic runs down the team’s options for trade candidates who might free up some payroll space and enable the team to achieve future value. At the top of the list are center fielder A.J. Pollock and lefty Patrick Corbin. Meanwhile, the D-Backs are certainly still looking to field a competitor in the near term as well. They are one team with some level of interest in reliever Seung-Hwan Oh, according to Murray. Oh was not able to match his compelling MLB debut season in 2017, but still posted 8.2 K/9 against 2.0 BB/9 while carrying a 4.10 ERA over 59 1/3 innings.
After missing on Shohei Ohtani, the Rangers are spreading a wide net in search of improvements. The latest word is that they have asked about two of the top potential trade assets on this winter’s market.
Texas is one of several teams to have inquired on the availability of Tigers righty Michael Fulmer, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News (via Twitter). Grant also discussed the possibility earlier, noting some of the many complications but also the fact that Detroit seems willing to entertain offers. The pre-arb righty is recovering from nerve transposition surgery but has an early-career track record that will support a massive asking price from the rebuilding Tigers.
And while the club has alternatives on hand to play the outfield, the Rangers have also put out feelers with the Marlins regarding Marcell Ozuna, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). Ozuna is projected by MLBTR to earn a hefty $10.9MM in his second-to-last trip through arbitration, but that’s still a bargain rate after his breakout 2017 campaign. For the cost-cutting Marlins, though, now may well be the time to move Ozuna — so long as the team can secure an appropriately significant return.
Of course, it’s important to bear in mind that the Rangers have also been connected to a wide variety of others in recent days. On the pitching side, that includes free agents Yu Darvish (link) and Alex Cobb (link) as well as possible trade candidates Gerrit Cole (link) and Matt Harvey (link). And Texas is reportedly among the many teams still in on free agent first baseman Carlos Santana (link).
The broader takeaway, then, seems to be that the Rangers are engaged in a broad effort to find a high-quality player or two to bolster their roster. With several areas susceptible of improvement, and also perhaps some flexibility with some existing pieces, it’s still possible to imagine the roster developing in any number of different ways.
TUESDAY, 7:42am: Santana and his representatives are weighing offers from several teams, Hoynes reports, though it isn’t certain if he is close to accepting a deal.
MONDAY, 5:04pm: The Padres have indeed discussed Santana, but “it seems they’re still focused on” Hosmer, according to Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune (Twitter link).
1:51pm: The Rockies are also showing some interest in Santana, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post tweets. Colorado has a clear opening at first base, though the team has indicated its top priorities lie elsewhere.
10:27am: Cleveland’s top extension offer to Santana was three years and $36MM, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag tweets, and the organization would “likely go higher” now that he’s on the open market.
SUNDAY, 9:00pm: The Indians made Santana a contract offer, the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Paul Hoynes reports. While the offer wasn’t taken, the Tribe have been informed that they will get a chance to counter any offer Santana receives from another team that he considered acceptable.
6:32pm: Carlos Santana is already drawing quite a bit of interest this offseason, and Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer adds the Rangers and Padres to the list of other teams (including the Phillies, Red Sox, and Mariners) already linked to Santana on the rumor mill.
Texas is known to be focusing on adding pitching this winter, though the team’s offense also lacked some of the well-rounded attack of past years. Santana would clearly be a big upgrade in the first base/DH hole left behind by free agent Mike Napoli, who struggled last year in a sub-replacement level season. Santana’s arrival would bolster the Rangers’ lineup against the possible departure of Adrian Beltre after the 2018 season.
Installing Santana at first base would have a ripple effect throughout the Rangers’ lineup. Joey Gallo would have to return to left field, with Nomar Mazara shifting to right and Shin-Soo Choo being limited to DH duties. Top prospect Willie Calhoun had been mentioned as a possible candidate for regular DH or corner outfield duty, though Texas might want to give him a bit more seasoning rather than expect Calhoun to immediately contribute to a team that hopes to contend.
Previous reports seemed to downplay San Diego’s possible interest in Santana, though it could be that the Padres have since considered Santana for what seems to be an increasing desire to sign a first baseman. The Padres have also had interest in Eric Hosmer, with the logic being that the 28-year-old Hosmer is young enough to still be productive in a few years when San Diego is theoretically finished with its rebuild. Santana, by contrast, turns 32 in April, and while the slugger hasn’t shown many signs of slowing down, he wouldn’t have the luxury of the occasional DH rest day while playing for a National League team.
Adding a first baseman would necessitate shifting Wil Myers into a corner outfield role, though the Padres may see that as an acceptable tradeoff for adding offense. The Padres finished at or near the bottom of most major offensive categories last year, so a proven above-average hitter like Santana (who hit .259/.363/.455 with 23 homers over 667 PA last year and has posted a 123 wRC+ over his career) would add some much-needed pop to the lineup.
Santana rejected the Indians’ qualifying offer, and thus the Rangers and Padres would each need to surrender some compensation to sign the first baseman. Texas would give up their second-highest draft pick and $500K of international signing bonus money, while San Diego would only have to surrender its third-highest draft pick.
The Rangers talked to the Pirates about acquiring right-hander Gerrit Cole, but those discussions didn’t go anywhere, TR Sullivan of MLB.com reports (Twitter link). Given that the Rangers are in need of starters even after signing Doug Fister and Mike Minor, the possibility of them turning back to old friend and top free agent Yu Darvish has come up. General manager Jon Daniels revealed Monday that the Rangers and Darvish still have a strong relationship even after they traded him away last July, Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram tweets. For his part, Darvish is interested in a reunion, agent Joel Wolfe told Wilson and other reporters (Twitter link). The potential of Texas deploying a six-man rotation doesn’t necessarily appeal to Darvish, though, despite the fact that he spoke in favor of that setup on multiple occasions in the past. “He’s one of those guys that would rather pitch on short rest than long rest,” Wolfe said.
The latest free agent rumors…
- Contrary to a report from Sunday, the Rockies haven’t had any discussions about signing first baseman Logan Morrison, per Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post (Twitter link).
- Reliever Tommy Hunter has emerged as a “prime target” for the Mets in their search for bullpen help, according to Marc Carig of Newsday (on Twitter). The 31-year-old right-hander was quietly excellent over 58 2/3 innings with the Rays in 2017, recording a 2.61 ERA and putting up 9.82 K/9 against 2.15 BB/9.
- Count the Diamondbacks among those interested in reliever Brandon Kintzler, tweets ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, who expects the former Twins closer to land a two-year deal. Kintzler suggested last month that his wife is rooting for him to sign with Arizona. The Twins continue to monitor him, and they’ve also checked in on almost every other available pitcher, chief baseball officer Derek Falvey revealed (Twitter link via Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com).
- Brewers GM David Stearns said Monday that he’s likely to “cross paths” at the Winter Meetings with the agents for second baseman Neil Walker and reliever Anthony Swarzak, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets. Walker and Swarzak ended last season with the Brewers after coming over in trades and performed quite well during their short stints in Milwaukee.
- Although the Orioles badly need starters, they’re not inclined to dole out long deals. GM Dan Duquette suggested to Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun and other reporters Monday that four- to five-year pacts for pitchers generally don’t work out well (Twitter link). On the other hand, Duquette hasn’t closed the door on re-signing righty Chris Tillman, who figures to be an affordable, short-term pickup after enduring a dreadful 2017 (Twitter link via Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com).
- As is the case with Baltimore, the Tigers are in the market for a starter who won’t require a long commitment, GM Al Avila informed reporters (via Evan Woodbery of MLive.com, on Twitter). Detroit is open to reeling in another starter on a one-year deal to join the just-signed Mike Fiers.
- The Blue Jays are engaging with multiple starters and relievers, GM Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet and other reporters Monday. They “will most likely add an infielder,” too, and are looking at outfielders, Atkins said (Twitter link).
- The Rangers are considering signing catcher Rene Rivera, per Jon Heyman of FanRag (Twitter link). The righty-hitting Rivera, who was with the Mets and Cubs last year, batted .252/.305/.431 in 237 plate appearances. Behind the plate, he caught an excellent 38 percent of would-be base stealers (10 percent above the league average) and, as has been the case for most of his career, held his own as a framer.
- Right-hander Jesse Chavez appears likely to sign this week, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes tweets. The 34-year-old Chavez spent last season with the Angels and posted an ugly 5.35 ERA across 138 innings and 38 appearances (21 starts), though he did log acceptable strikeout and walk rates (7.76 K/9, 2.93 BB/9).
5:00pm: A Brach-Harvey swap is unlikely to occur, Mike Puma of the New York Post tweets.
3:28pm: The Rangers aren’t willing to trade Profar for a year of control, Grant tweets.
2:59pm: The Orioles are also discussing Harvey with the Mets, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (via Twitter). The possible structure isn’t at all clear at this point.
Heyman, meanwhile, throws some doubt on the entire idea of Texas and New York linking up in a follow-up tweet. Profar’s control rights may be too valuable for Harvey from the Rangers’ perspective, he suggests. The Rangers were also looking into other Mets pitchers, Marc Carig of Newsday tweets.
2:50pm: The Rangers and Mets have engaged in some discussions on a possible deal that would involve Texas infielder Jurickson Profar and New York righty Matt Harvey. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News first broached the possibility while Jon Heyman of Fan Rag tweeted that the sides have engaged in some chatter.
It’s tough to know just what to make of the news at this point. We heard recently that New York will consider moving Harvey, a former ace who has been a shell of himself of late. He’s projected to earn $5.9MM in arbitration before reaching the open market at the end of the season. While the Mets still need the rotation depth and would no doubt prefer to see for themselves whether Harvey can return to form, there’s also a long and checkered history to consider along with the team’s many other roster needs — including a second baseman.
On the Rangers’ side, Profar has become a forgotten man. He did not receive a late-season call-up after an early demotion to the minors, a decision that also left the Rangers with three more seasons of arb control. That enhances Profar’s trade value, though certainly his marginal overall big league showing — a .229/.309/.329 slash over 718 plate appearances — makes it questionable whether he’ll draw a significant return. Profar has shown more in the minors, though. Indeed, he batted a strong .287/.383/.428 in his 383 trips to the plate at Triple-A in 2017, drawing 43 walks while going down on strikes just 33 times.
The assumption long has been that the Rangers would look to deal Profar this winter, as he’s out of options and does not have an obvious place on the roster. And the team certainly still needs starting pitching even after two early moves to bolster the rotation. Whether Harvey is the right risk to take, though, is anyone’s guess. He has shown that he can still bring a mid-nineties fastball, but the velo is still down against his pre- and early-post-Tommy John numbers and Harvey also showed a rising walk rate (10.9%) and plummeting swinging-strike rate (7.5%) in 2017.
Similarly, the Mets will have some questions as to whether it’s worth taking a shot on Profar. All told, it’s a trade scenario that would have been quite a bit more exciting a few years ago but which could still make some sense for both organizations. It’s certainly possible, too, that other pieces could become involved in discussions.
The Rangers have struck a two-year deal with righty Chris Martin, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (via Twitter). Martin will receive a $4MM guarantee with $550K in annual incentives that can be reached if he reaches unstated games-finished thresholds. Martin is represented by SSG Baseball.
Though the 6’8″ Martin did not succeed in two brief MLB chances, he has gone on to produce outstanding results in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball. Over the past two seasons, he carries a 1.12 ERA with 9.3 K/9 against 1.3 BB/9 over 88 1/3 innings.
With the move, the Rangers have continued a long-established practice of bringing back pitchers that have found success in Japan after first failing to gain traction on this side of the Pacific. Another recent returnee, Tony Barnette, recently re-signed with Texas and will also factor into the current relief mix.
Martin will step into the club’s pen for the next two seasons, but will not be controllable beyond that point. His contract, Rosenthal notes, provides that the team will not be able to tender him a contract via arbitration after the 2019 campaign.