The MLB winter meetings are happening in our nation's capital, and rumors are swirling across baseball. Here is what our writers are hearing:
Japanese papers reporting Koji Uehara to Cubs on one-year, $4.5M deal. He'll be 42, gives up some HRs, but K and hit rates still top shelf.— David Schoenfield (@dschoenfield) December 8, 2016
David Schoenfield's take: If it goes down, this looks as if it would be a great signing for the Cubs at that price. Uehara will be 42 years old, he usually finds himself on the DL at some point and he gives up a few too many home runs, but his other numbers are still excellent: Opponents hit .200 against him and he averaged 12.1 K's per nine. His fastball sits at only 86-87 mph, but the deception between his fastball and splitter still leaves batters flailing. Given that Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop both finished the season a little banged up, and that Wade Davis is a health question after two stints on the DL because of a forearm strain, the Cubs needed more depth to compensate for their potential injury risks. But if they add Uehara and everyone does stay healthy, this will be one of the best pens in the majors -- maybe the best when factoring in Carl Edwards Jr. and Justin Grimm. Those guys are all right-handers, but they can all get lefties out. I wouldn't overthink things too much about needing a southpaw.
Huntington's comments about holding McCutchen for PIT echo what rival execs say: PIT's trade talks are exploring value, and not dumping him.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 8, 2016
David Schoenfield's take: There's nothing wrong with the Pirates keeping Andrew McCutchen. I've written that his decline at the plate for a hitter of his caliber was basically unprecedented, signs that he was playing through injuries. They do have to move him out of center field, and if he bounces back at the plate, it either helps the Pirates as contenders or increases his trade value in July.
Marlins, Nationals & Dodgers awaiting word on Kenley Jansen. Possible he decides today but not certain.... https://t.co/AseMadCyFF— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) December 8, 2016
Doug Padilla's take: Since starter Rich Hill signed with Los Angeles, there has been a sense that the Dodgers would bring back Justin Turner or Kenley Jansen -- but not both. Jansen seems like the priority now because he is the last elite closer available on the market, but as his price skyrockets, the Dodgers could put their resources toward Turner instead. Not that Turner's offensive production and defense would be viewed as a consolation prize.
There has been doubt among those in Chapman/Jansen race about how serious LAD are about paying big dollars to a closer. About to find out.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 8, 2016
Jim Bowden's take: The Marlins have the best offer on the table for Kenley Jansen. The Nationals have asked his camp to come back to them before they make a deal, and the Dodgers would like to have him back -- but not at Chapman range.
Rival evaluator on the White Sox trades: "They're kicking some butt."— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 7, 2016
Eddie Matz's take: The Nats finally joined the winter meetings party by acquiring Adam Eaton, but the cover charge sure was steep: two first-round pitchers (Lucas Giolito and Dane Dunning) and a top-50 prospect who throws high-90s cheese (Reynaldo Lopez). I guess they really wanted to move Trea Turner back to shortstop.
The #SFGiants are shopping pitcher Chris Heston. He won 12 games as a rookie in 2015.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 7, 2016
David Schoenfield's take: Hey, the Mariners just acquired a pitcher who threw a no-hitter! What, you don't remember Heston's no-hitter against the Mets in 2015? He had a solid rookie season with the Giants that year, posting a 3.95 ERA while relying heavily on an upper-80s sinker. The Giants weren't buying into him, however. They signed Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, and Heston pitched just five innings in the majors in 2016 and eventually went down to Triple-A with an oblique injury. He'll be something like the No. 6 starter for the Mariners and was attractive because he still has options left. This wouldn't preclude Jerry Dipoto from considering another veteran starter, such as Doug Fister, or maybe another minor trade.
The #Mariners are moving on from Mark Trumbo. A source says "several things would have to happen'' for them to re-engage with him.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 7, 2016
Jerry Crasnick's take: A lot of people were surprised to see the Mariners considering Trumbo, given that Seattle general manager Jerry Dipoto traded him twice (from the Angels to the Diamondbacks in 2013 and from the Mariners to the Orioles in 2015).
As it turns out, the dalliance was short-lived. The Mariners did, indeed, check in on Trumbo, but at the moment, they're planning to stand pat and go with a Danny Valencia-Dan Vogelbach platoon at first base. Fellow free agents Mike Napoli and Chris Carter aren't on Seattle's radar, either. Barring a shift in direction, the Mariners will devote the bulk of their energy to improving the starting rotation.
Jerry Crasnick's take: Royals GM Dayton Moore isn't resigning himself to losing Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain and Danny Duffy when they become free agents after the 2017 season. "I think we'll make a run at some of these guys to long-term contracts," Moore said. "I can't tell you who." The Royals finalized a trade to send Wade Davis to the Cubs today. The addition of right fielder Jorge Soler gives the Royals more flexibility to listen to offers for Jarrod Dyson, who is also a year from free agency.
I've heard the Marlins aren't feeling great about their chances of landing Kenley Jansen— Mark Saxon (@markasaxon) December 7, 2016
Mark Saxon's take: Marlins manager Don Mattingly saw Jansen grow from a converted minor league catcher into one of the most dominant relief pitchers in baseball in their time together on the Dodgers, so it's natural that Mattingly would push hard for a reunion in Miami. But the Marlins might have been fighting an uphill battle all along, considering the Yankees have made little secret of their desire to sign one of the top closers and the Nationals lost Mark Melancon and are still in need of a major splash. Also, you can never count out the Dodgers to swoop in and offer the most attractive contract.
Cubs' free agent class after the 2017 season: Wade Davis; Jake Arrieta; John Lackey; Pedro Strop; Brian Duensing; Miguel Montero; Jon Jay.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 7, 2016
Jesse Rogers' take: Even though he's the oldest member of that group, Lackey might have the best chance of returning, if he wants to keep playing. Otherwise, the Cubs are likely to move on from most of those players, though depending on Jay's initial season with the team, he could be a candidate for another year. The biggest storyline will revolve around 2015 Cy Young winner Arrieta. He made it clear after winning the award that he wanted max dollars and wouldn't give the Cubs a hometown discount. It's not clear whether he has changed his position, and his 2017 season will dictate a lot regarding his next contract.
The Rockies give up the highest unprotected pick in next year's draft -- No. 11 overall -- to sign Ian Desmond. 5 years, $70 million.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 7, 2016
Buster Olney's take: Possible Colorado lineup if Desmond plays first base:
2B DJ LeMahieu
LF David Dahl
1B Ian Desmond
SS Trevor Story
(With Gerardo Parra in the mix of outfielders)
Jayson Stark's take: Don Mattingly's connection with Kenley Jansen is the biggest force driving the Marlins' interest in him and his interest in them. But ultimately, this is still going to be about money. Teams and agents who have spoken with Jansen's old team don't expect the Dodgers to approach the $85-$95 million price tag that is being floated. If Jeffrey Loria, the Marlins' owner, wants to write a massive check, the door is wide open for Jansen to wind up in Miami.
Sources tell me that Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians both still in talks with Edwin Encarnación— Marly Rivera (@MarlyRiveraESPN) December 7, 2016
David Schoenfield's take: Both teams need a first baseman or DH, but can the Indians fit Encarnacion into their payroll? They're already at an estimated $103 million, which takes them just beyond where they sat in 2016. But with a low first-year salary, Encarnacion could be viewed as a replacement for Carlos Santana, who has one year left on his contract. For the Rangers, even if they give Joey Gallo a shot at first or DH, Encarnacion fits in, unless they're planning on Shin-Soo Choo as a regular DH and going another direction in the outfield.
Wade Davis played for Maddon from 2009-2012. Free agent after this season. No confirm but Soler could be on the move I'm told. Nothing done— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) December 7, 2016
Jesse Rogers' take: As a big bargaining chip to try to acquire Royals closer Wade Davis, Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler has a lot of unrealized potential. He has endured leg injuries throughout his career, and those have landed him on the disabled list while slowing his progress as a player. He had a keen eye at the plate in the minors but has shown only flashes of that discipline at the major league level. When he's on, he can hit a ball a long way while adding on-base abilities. His best stretch came in the 2015 playoffs against the St. Louis Cardinals, when he reached based in nine straight at-bats. He admitted he wasn't always focused during the regular season, but he stepped up his game in October. Overall, he hasn't advanced as quickly as others in the Cubs organization and has shown little improvement on defense. There's potential there, but will he reach his ceiling?
Source: The Cubs are closing in on a deal for Wade Davis.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 7, 2016
Jesse Rogers' take: Wade Davis would definitely fill a need, as the Cubs want to be deeper at the back end of their bullpen. The team is unwilling to commit long-term to a closer, as they believe they can develop one from within, but in the meantime, Davis would help in their goal of a repeat. Hector Rondon would set up, as he did for Aroldis Chapman, and he would continue to get save opportunities on days Davis couldn't go. The best part of a Davis deal for the Cubs would be that he's a free agent after next season, so they can expect his best effort, and they don't have to commit big dollars beyond the $10 million he'll make in 2017. By then, Carl Edwards Jr. -- or someone else -- could be ready to take over the role.
With Chris Sale off the board, Rays now on clock. Astros, Nationals both interested after missing on Sale. But Rays show no sense of urgency— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) December 6, 2016
Jayson Stark's take: Chris Archer might be the closest thing to Sale any team could theoretically trade for right now. But he's under control for the next five years, for a total of $39 million. As such, the Rays' asking price for him is even higher than what the White Sox wanted for Sale, according to one team that checked in, and the Rays have no incentive to lower it. "So they're on the clock," one AL executive said. "But they're not necessarily on the clock with Archer."
Instead, execs from two other clubs said, the two starters the Rays are most motivated to deal are Alex Cobb and Drew Smyly -- because Cobb is a year from free agency, and Smyly is two years away. What's more, the new labor deal all but guarantees that if they walk, the draft pick the Rays would get in return would be so late that the team has more reason than ever to swap players such as this before they hit free agency.
The Rays move so deliberately with most trades they make that the same exec said, "I'd be extremely surprised if they do something before the meetings end."
Mariners in serious talks with free agent Mark Trumbo. He would bring serious thump and length to Mariners... https://t.co/s7ut4bCYNq— Jim Bowden (@JimBowden_ESPN) December 7, 2016
David Schoenfield's take: This is a strange idea, considering Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto has twice traded Trumbo -- once while GM of the Angels and then last offseason, when he basically dumped Trumbo's contract on the Orioles. The Mariners have a thin farm system (though it is better than it was a year ago), so Dipoto should be reluctant to give up a first-round pick to sign Trumbo. On the other hand, few teams are in as desperate a "win-now" mode as the Mariners, given the ages of Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. Right now, they have a platoon of Dan Vogelbach and Danny Valencia penciled in at first base, which could be sneaky good, but Trumbo would add to a power-packed lineup with righty/lefty balance one through nine: SS Jean Segura, RF Seth Smith/Mitch Haniger, 2B Cano, DH Cruz, 3B Kyle Seager, 1B Trumbo, LF Ben Gamel/Valencia, C Mike Zunino/Carlos Ruiz, CF Leonys Martin.
A rival executive said he heard the St. Louis Cardinals' initial offer to Dexter Fowler is in the same range as... https://t.co/sCqjchKmHE— Mark Saxon (@markasaxon) December 6, 2016
Mark Saxon's take: Most people seem to believe Fowler's decision will come down to dollars, and that and other factors could favor the Cardinals. He left money on the table to return to the Cubs and win a World Series. Now is his chance to cash in on free agency. Taxes, both federal and state, are far lower in Missouri than in Canada, so that is a factor. Also, St. Louis is far closer to his Atlanta home.
Jerry Crasnick's take: Now that the White Sox have traded Chris Sale to Boston, it's only natural that general manager Rick Hahn will auction off some of his other veteran pieces in the quest to get younger, cheaper and more athletic. Frazier will be a free agent after the 2017 season, and he's a logical Plan B if the Dodgers are unable to reach an agreement with free agent Justin Turner. At last check, Turner was Los Angeles' preferred option at third base. But a source said the Dodgers are "aggressively'' exploring their alternatives at the position.
Popular theory in the industry: CWS pushed/leaked Nats to the brink of a deal for Sale, then took that leverage to BOS to get last pieces.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 6, 2016
White Sox get a big haul from BOS -- and it's a step down for what they asked for in July, which included Betts and Benintendi.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 6, 2016
Jim Bowden's take: The White Sox got the absolute maximum return possible in a Chris Sale deal, with headliners Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech coming back from Boston. The Red Sox have put themselves in position to be the team to beat in the American League.
If Red Sox are able to sign free agent Mitch Moreland, it will please David Ortiz. In a conversation last week... https://t.co/LSlPBg1j74— Scott Lauber (@ScottLauber) December 6, 2016
Scott Lauber's take: Having traded for Tyler Thornburg to handle the eighth inning, the Red Sox are turning their attention to adding another bat to help replace David Ortiz's production. According to team president Dave Dombrowski, it would ideally be a left-handed hitter who can play first base. Mitch Moreland fits that mold.
Moreland, who won a Gold Glove this year, could push Hanley Ramirez into more of a designated-hitter role. After posting only a .720 OPS, Moreland isn't likely in position to command more than a one-year deal -- no small detail for a Red Sox team that is determined to stay below the $195 million luxury-tax threshold. The Cleveland Indians also have some interest as an alternative to free agent Mike Napoli.
Given mutual interest between Trumbo and the Orioles, they're meeting again today to try to work out differences.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 6, 2016
David Schoenfield's take: Despite hitting 47 home runs in what could be a career season, Mark Trumbo was worth just 1.6 WAR in 2016, thanks to bad defense and a below-average OBP. The power is nice, but if the rumors of a $75 million contract prove accurate, this could end up being one of the biggest overpayments of the offseason.
The #Mariners continue to maintain a dialogue with Mike Napoli. He remains one of their first base options.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 6, 2016
Jerry Crasnick's take: The Mariners currently have a platoon arrangement at first base, with Danny Valencia and Dan Vogelbach, so they can afford to stand pat at the position. Mike Napoli would provide an obvious power upgrade, but he's looking for a multiyear deal, and that might not be part of Seattle's plan. The Mariners seem more intent on adding a starter after they traded Taijuan Walker to Arizona. General manager Jerry Dipoto has said the team will most likely try to fill that need via a trade.
The best indication that Edwin Encarnacion isn't getting the offers he's looking for: Agent Paul Kinzer telling... https://t.co/wQcD64sQPr— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) December 6, 2016
Jayson Stark's take: Kinzer headed for the winter meetings last weekend, hoping to get Encarnacion signed with the Blue Jays, Astros or Yankees this week. But all three have moved on. If he's looking for a deal anywhere close to the four-year, $80 million offer from Toronto that he turned down early in the offseason, he essentially has to generate a whole new market.
While the Indians and Rockies have showed legitimate interest at these meetings, there is no indication that a deal with either club is close. Rangers GM Jon Daniels has downplayed his team's chances of jumping into this bidding. A source who spoke with the Red Sox front office described the chances of Boston making a run at Encarnacion as "very unlikely" unless other moves change the look of their team and payroll.
The team seemingly best-positioned to make major cost-efficient moves in hours/days ahead: The Rangers. Some big-time free agents need them.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 6, 2016
David Schoenfield's take: The Rangers need to make some big moves. Although Texas won the division handily, keep in mind that both the Mariners (plus-61) and Astros (plus-23) had better run differentials than the Rangers (plus-8). The Rangers, however, went 36-11 in one-run games, the best such record of all time. Meanwhile, the Astros have added offensive depth in Carlos Beltran, Josh Reddick, Brian McCann and Nori Aoki (and will get full seasons from Alex Bregman and Yulieski Gurriel), and the Mariners have made several moves to improve holes from last season. At the moment, the Rangers look like the third-best team in the division.
The White Sox and Nationals are far down the road on a trade that will send Chris Sale to the Nationals in... https://t.co/6fuG9bur3j— Jim Bowden (@JimBowden_ESPN) December 6, 2016
David Schoenfield's take: The time is now for the Nationals, and if you can get Chris Sale, make it happen. Giolito was considered the top pitching prospect in the minors entering 2016, but he hasn't dominated at the upper levels of the minors and was terrible in 21 innings with the Nationals (26 hits, seven home runs, more walks than K's, and his fastball velocity averaged "just" 93.3 mph). His stuff has backed up, and the command of his fastball and curveball need improvement. Is he a future ace or mid-rotation starter? Robles could be a star after playing well in Class A at 19, but he's likely two or three years away.
Cards GM John Mozeliak said team has considered platoon solution for center field, which could be where interest in Jarrod Dyson comes in— Mark Saxon (@markasaxon) December 5, 2016
Mark Saxon's take: Last season, 90 percent of Dyson's plate appearances came against right-handed pitchers. If the Cardinals platoon Dyson with Tommy Pham in center field and move Randal Grichuk to left, they would still have a more dynamic fielding unit than they had in 2016, when Brandon Moss and Matt Holliday often were playing the outfield.
Here's how Mozeliak characterized the team's thinking on a platoon: "That is definitely part of our thinking or potential thinking. It's not necessarily what our goal is." It sounds like Dyson is more of a fallback.
Sources: O's willing to discuss 4-year deal w/Trumbo in the range of $52m-$55m; counter was $75m-$80m, w/ full no-trade. So it stalled.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 5, 2016
Eddie Matz's take: This could just be posturing -- much like the Orioles did during last year's winter meetings with Chris Davis -- in an effort to get Trumbo's camp to flinch. If it's sincere, and the O's are ready to move on, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sure, Trumbo led the majors in home runs last season, but he's a liability in the outfield, and Baltimore already has a first baseman (see: Davis, Chris). In other words, $70 million or $80 million is an awful lot to pay for a DH.
Aroldis Chapman to me on whether the Cubs have reached out: "The Cubs have never expressed any interest in... https://t.co/X8hCum6tSP— Marly Rivera (@MarlyRiveraESPN) December 5, 2016
Marly Rivera's take: I just spoke to Aroldis Chapman about his contract negotiations. He told me he has not evaluated any offers yet and will do so this week.
Chapman: "The only thing I have expressed is that I would like a six-year contract. I know that doesn't mean that I will get it, but that's what I would like to sign. There are rumors out there that I requested $100 million, and that's not true at all. I believe he who deserves something does not need to demand it."
The Dodgers announce signing of Rich Hill.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 5, 2016
Andrew Marchand's take: Add Rich Hill to the ever-growing list of "guys the Yankees aren't getting." Hill goes to the Dodgers, which leaves the free-agent starting pitching market very barren. Jason Hammel and Doug Fister could be possibilities for New York.
At 4/$62 million, Melancon's deal is a record. But as one NL evaluator notes: "That'll soon be broken."— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 5, 2016
Buster Olney's take: For now, it appears two clubs, maybe more, are all-in in the star closer market -- the Yankees and the Marlins -- with Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen still on the board and Mark Melancon joining the Giants.
Not hearing anything has changed since the day the Cubs acquired Aroldis Chapman, there's no momentum towards a... https://t.co/E717K7kQsM— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) December 5, 2016
Jesse Rogers' take: If Kenley Jansen falls into their lap, the Cubs would be interested in adding him, but a trade for a closer -- either this winter or midseason, as they did last year -- is more likely. They have internal candidates who can at least start the year pitching the ninth inning, thereby giving the Cubs time to evaluate.
The number of AL teams with decent-paying 1B/DH type of roles remaining is shrinking quickly. Maybe BOS; Texas; O's; Cleveland.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 5, 2016
David Schoenfield's take: In other words, the glut of the 1B/DH types won't all be paid what they might expect to get paid. I'll throw out one more team: The Royals could use a DH to replace Kendrys Morales (who signed with the Blue Jays), though they paid Morales just $9 million in 2016. Given all the free agents they'll have after 2017, the Royals want to make one final push, but they'll probably look for a DH on a one-year deal, maybe somebody such as Pedro Alvarez or Chris Carter.
The Rangers are among the teams taking a look at Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 5, 2016
David Schoenfield's take: I love the idea of Billy Hamilton on the Rangers. Although he hasn't won a Gold Glove, he's an elite center fielder with blazing speed. Ian Desmond held his own in transitioning from shortstop to center field, but Rangers center fielders combined for minus-4 Defensive Runs Saved, while Hamilton was plus-15 in just 119 games the past season. He also had a .369 OBP in the second half, and though I'm not completely buying that improvement, at a minimum he'd slot in as a nice No. 9 hitter in the AL.
The Marlins are telling agents they're "considering all options" in their closer hunt, but Kenley Jansen still... https://t.co/UiCRegztEv— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) December 5, 2016
Jayson Stark's take: The Marlins have concluded that the tragic death of Jose Fernandez leaves such a hole in their rotation that their best path to contention is to build a dominant bullpen. While they've mulled all three of the prominent free-agent closers, sources say Kenley Jansen is their top choice, with Mark Melancon as Plan B and Aroldis Chapman a distant Plan C.
Signing Jansen would cost the Marlins a first-round pick, which would be the 14th pick in the first round. But owner Jeffrey Loria is said to be contemplating whether to sign off on sacrificing that pick and making a potentially record-setting, five-year offer to Jansen, who pitched for manager Don Mattingly in Los Angeles. One friend said Mattingly was pushing hard for Jansen.
On Encarnacion: Sources who familiar with him says Rangers could be an interesting match. Market leverage for EE appears to be dropping.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 5, 2016
Jim Bowden's take: The Texas Rangers are the team to watch on Edwin Encarnacion, as team president Jon Daniels is always opportunistic during market changes, as he was last July, when the Indians' deal with Jonathan Lucroy fell apart, and he swooped in to land him. The Indians are also a sleeper team if the market falls further. Encarnacion's smartest option might be to do what Yoenis Cespedes did last year -- take a three-year deal with an opt out after Year 1, so he can go back on the market next offseason.