With Christmas and New Years right around the corner, the free-agent market has picked up in recent days. So far this week we’ve seen, , , and , among other moves. Historically, there are a rush of signings before the holidays and that is true again this winter.
Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, the top two free agents on the market, remain unsigned at this point. Machado completed his free-agent tour on Thursday — he visited the White Sox, Yankees, and Phillies this week — though there is no timetable for his decision. Given Scott Boras’ track record, he’ll likely wait for Machado to set the market before he starts working on Harper’s next contract in earnest.
With another rush of free-agent signings and trades possibly coming Friday, we’re going to keep track of the day’s hot stove rumblings in this handy roundup post. Make sure you check back often throughout the day for updates.
Puig, Kemp traded to Reds
The Dodgers shipped Alex Wood, Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Kyle Farmer and cash to the Reds for Homer Bailey and minor leaguers Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray in what will likely be viewed as one of the biggest blockbuster trades of this offseason. The move could clear the decks for a potential big signing or trade for the Dodgers. .
Dodgers still after Corey Kluber
This rumor isn’t a new one as it first swirled at the end of November, but it’s picked up even more steam since then. But after the seven-player Dodgers, Reds trade on Friday, the rumors might just become reality. The Dodgers’ next offseason priority is trading for Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber, according to Michael Duarte of NBC Los Angeles. “I’d be blown away if Dodgers don’t get Kluber,” one rival executive told Duarte.
The Dodgers seem to be a natural trade fit for Kluber. Los Angeles is looking for another high-end starter and they are loaded with outfielders, and Cleveland definitely needs outfield help. Dodgers’ top prospect Alex Verdugo might end up being the main trade chip to net Kluber. MLB.com ranks him as the 32nd best prospect in baseball and their scouting report calls him “(one) of the best pure hitting prospects in baseball.” Verdugo has spent the last two seasons in Triple-A and has authored a .321/.389/.452 batting line. The Indians have expressed interest in the 22-year-old Verdugo, according to Jon Morosi of MLB.com.
In 33 games last season, Kluber posted a 20-7 record to go along with a 2.89 ERA and 222 strikeouts. After winning the second American League Cy Young Award of his career in 2017, he once again finished as a finalist in 2018. The Reds, Brewers, and Phillies have
Giants sign switch-pitcher Venditte
The Giants have signed ambidextrous reliever Pat Venditte, the team announced Friday. Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area reports Venditte received a one-year contract worth $585,000. The Giants are his fifth MLB team and he goes down as the team’s first free agent signing under new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi.
Venditte, 33, spent this past season as an up-and-down depth arm with the Dodgers, Zaidi’s former team. He allowed four runs in 14 innings with Los Angeles and had a 1.75 ERA with 62 strikeouts in 51 1/3 innings in Triple-A. For his MLB career, Venditte has a 4.45 ERA and 51 strikeouts and 64 2/3 innings. Venditte has a minor league option remaining and figures to again be an up-and-down depth arm in 2019.
Profar goes to A’s in three-team deal
Friday morning the Athletics, Rangers, and Rays swung a seven-player, three-team trade that includes two big leaguers, five prospects, one draft pick, and some international bonus money. :
Long story short, the A’s get a new middle infielder, the Rays get a bullpen arm and a draft pick, and the Rangers restock their minor league cupboard. The trade almost certainly ends Jed Lowrie’s time with the Athletics since Profar will presumably take over at second base (or shortstop with Marcus Semien sliding over to second).
Phillies, Yankees are ‘lead teams’ for Britton
The Phillies and Yankees are among the “lead teams” for free-agent southpaw Zach Britton, reports Jon Heyman of Fancred. Both clubs have been seeking bullpen help since the start of the offseason. Britton, who turns 31 on Saturday, finished 2018 with the Yankees and had a 3.10 ERA in 40 2/3 total innings this past season after returning from offseason Achilles surgery.
Philadelphia already added righty Juan Nicasio and lefty Jose Alvarez in separate trades earlier this offseason. A lockdown veteran closer to push Seranthony Dominguez into an Andrew Miller-esque moment of truth role would be their ideal pickup. The Yankees are pretty well set at the end of games with Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, and Chad Green. They want depth behind those guys and quality depth too, given their interest in bringing Britton back.
Red Sox waiting on Kimbrel?
The Red Sox appear to be waiting to see what happens with free agent Craig Kimbrel before making any moves to address their bullpen, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand. It’s a curious strategy given that Kimbrel is , a demand that might keep him on the free-agent market well into January and even February. Other top relievers like Adam Ottavino and David Robertson could sign before Kimbrel.
Boston already lost Joe Kelly to free agency and they could lose Kimbrel as well. Their 2019 payroll, including projected arbitration salaries, currently sits at $232 million or so. Signing a top free agent reliever would push them close to (or over) the $246 million threshold that triggers the harshest luxury tax penalties. At the moment the Red Sox have Ryan Brasier and Matt Barnes penciled in as their setup man and closer for next year, though not necessarily in that order.
Giants willing to talk reliever trades
The Giants are waiting for some free-agent relievers to sign to open up trade possibilities for their own relievers, reports Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area. Specifically, San Francisco seems ready to discuss lefties Will Smith and Tony Watson now that Andrew Miller is off the board. I imagine the Giants are at least willing to listen to offers for other relievers like Sam Dyson and Mark Melancon as well, though Melancon is owed $28 million from 2019-20.
Smith, 29, posted a 2.55 ERA with 77 strikeouts in 53 innings in 2018, his first season back from Tommy John surgery. He’s due to become a free agent next offseason, making him a one-year rental and an obvious trade chip for a team that figures to retool if not outright rebuild. The 33-year-old Watson had a 2.59 ERA with 72 strikeouts in 66 innings this past season. He is owed $3.5 million in 2019 with a $2.5 million club option for 2020, though his contract includes several millions in incentives as well.
Phillies, Mets among teams after Minor
According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Phillies and Mets are showing the heaviest trade interest in Rangers lefty Mike Minor. The Mets are on Minor’s 10-team no-trade list, however. The Phillies are not. The 30-year-old Minor made 28 starts with Texas in 2018 and pitched to a 4.18 ERA with 132 strikeouts in 157 innings. He is owed $9.5 million in 2019 and another $9.5 million in 2020.
It should be noted that, while Minor was serviceable as a starter in 2018, he was dominant as a reliever for the Royals in 2017, throwing 77 2/3 innings with a 2.55 ERA and 88 strikeouts. His ability to start is nice, but it could be Minor is most useful to a contending team as a short reliever, and his contract makes him more affordable than most top free-agent relievers. Depending how he’s used going forward, Minor could be a sneaky good pickup for team looking to win the next two years.
Milwaukee deals Domingo Santana to Seattle
Santana was squeezed out of a spot in the Brewers’ outfield following the acquisitions of Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain last offseason and only wound up playing in 85 games for the club in 2018. During that time, he slashed .265/.328/.412 with five home runs and 20 RBI, which was a noticeable decline from his breakout 2017 campaign. Santana will most likely be contending for the starting job in left field during spring training alongside Jay Bruce and Mallex Smith.
Zavolas was an 18th-round draft pick in June. The 22-year-old right-hander had a 3.03 ERA with 41 strikeouts in 38.2 innings between High-A Modesto and short-season Everett. Gamel, 26, hit .272 with 14 doubles, four triples, one homer and 19 RBI in 101 games last season. In parts of three big-league seasons with the Yankees (2016) and Mariners (2016–2018), he is a career .269 hitter with 13 home runs and 83 RBI in 268 career games.