Latest On Josh Harrison’s Market

The Dodgers, Giants, Angels, Phillies and Rays are all in on free agent Josh Harrison at the moment, according to Jon Heyman of Fancred.

Reported interest from the Giants and Angels isn’t anything new for Harrison, but this is the first time the Dodgers, Phillies and Rays have been connected to him in any major way this offseason. The 31-year-old Harrison is available on the heels of a below-average season with the Pirates, who declined his $10.5MM club option in favor of a $1MM buyout afterward, but has typically been a decent offensive player and a solid, versatile defender during his career. Consequently, Harrison has drawn widespread interest on the open market.

A .277/.317/.408 hitter in 3,012 plate appearances, Harrison has posted a 98 wRC+ and a 97 OPS+, falling just shy of the league-average mark of 100. He has also accrued significant reps at second, third and in the corner outfield, though the vast majority of his 2018 playing time came at the keystone.

Harrison would provide the Dodgers yet another multi-position defender, and as a right-handed hitter, he’d give the lefty-heavy team some variety among its group of position players. For Philly, Harrison may be a fallback option at third base in the event the team doesn’t sign free agent Manny Machado, though it’s debatable at best whether the former is superior to current starter Maikel Franco. The Phillies already have a quality starter at second in Cesar Hernandez, so it’s doubtful Harrison would see much action there. Unlike both the big-spending Dodgers and Phillies, the Rays operate with a bottom-of-the-barrel payroll. Still, they should be able to afford Harrison, who’d offer them further protection behind second baseman Joey Wendle, third baseman Matt Duffy and corner outfielders Tommy Pham and Austin Meadows.

from MLB Trade Rumors http://bit.ly/2RAM8zX

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Red Sox, Shawn Kelley “In Contact”

The Red Sox and free-agent reliever Shawn Kelley “have been in contact,” Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com reports. Meanwhile, Boston is unlikely to sign either Sergio Romo or Adam Warren in free agency, Cotillo hears.

With Joe Kelly having signed with the Dodgers and Craig Kimbrel currently a free agent, acquiring bullpen help is likely the Red Sox’s top priority at the moment. But president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has suggested the reigning world champions aren’t going to splurge on a reliever, which means their union with Kimbrel could be over. Kelley would represent both a far more affordable but less exciting option, on the other hand, and could give the club a solid late-game arm for a low cost.

While Kelley has experienced some down seasons during his career, the journeyman has typically performed well in recent years. In 2018, which he split between the Nationals and Athletics, Kelley overcame tumbling velocity to post a 2.94 ERA/3.71 FIP and register 9.18 K/9 against 2.02 BB/9 across 49 innings. He did log an unappealing groundball rate (30.2 percent), however, which has been the case throughout his career. Kelley also saw his Nats tenure end unceremoniously when the team designated him for assignment Aug. 1, a day after he allowed a home run and slammed his glove to the ground during a 25-4 loss to the Mets. Upon designating Kelley, general manager Mike Rizzo noted, “If you’re not in, you’re in the way.”

Even though his Washington stint concluded in embarrassing fashion, Kelley was unfazed in Oakland, where he put up tremendous results in a 16 2/3-inning span. The Red Sox will hope for more of that from Kelley if they sign him, though they’re no doubt mindful it would be risky to count on the right-hander. After all, Kelley’s a soon-to-be 35-year-old with a pair of Tommy John surgeries under his belt, and he’s only two seasons removed from recording a hideous 7.27 ERA in 26 frames.

from MLB Trade Rumors http://bit.ly/2U7oc47

Dodgers, White Sox Discussing Joc Pederson

The Dodgers are discussing outfielder Joc Pederson in potential deals, and the White Sox are among the teams they’re talking to, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports. It’s unclear, though, whether the two sides are making progress in those conversations.

Speculatively, trading Pederson could further open up room in LA for free-agent center fielder A.J. Pollock, whom the team is pursuing. And essentially swapping Pederson for Pollock would enable the lefty-heavy Dodgers’ lineup to become more balanced, which is reportedly among their offseason objectives. At the same time, though, waving goodbye to Pederson would mean losing a productive, affordable player who’s under arbitration control through the 2020 season. He’ll earn a reasonable $5MM this year after avoiding arbitration earlier this month.

While the 26-year-old Pederson has never been effective versus left-handed pitchers, who have held him to a woeful .181/.266/.317 line since he debuted in 2014, it has been a different story against righties. Most recently, Pederson posted an overall .248/.321/.522 line (126 wRC+) in 2018 with 25 home runs and 2.7 fWAR over 443 plate appearances. Despite his limitations against same-handed hurlers, Pederson has approached or exceeded 3.0 fWAR in three of the past four seasons. That type of production would be welcome in Chicago, whose outfield ranked dead last in fWAR (minus-1.2) in 2018. The unit has since lost one of its regulars, now-Ray Avisail Garcia, who was merely a replacement-level player last season, though it did add Jon Jay in free agency. Jay had a subpar 2018 in his own right, however, and hasn’t offered particularly strong production over the past few years.

Jay’s now part of a group which also includes Daniel Palka, Adam Engel and Leury Garcia, though all three of those outfielders registered underwhelming results last year. Fortunately for the White Sox, they do have a premier outfield prospect in Eloy Jimenez, whom they figure to promote early in the season and who could make a significant impact from the get-go. But Jimenez’s presence isn’t going to prevent the White Sox from trying to upgrade elsewhere in the grass, evidenced by their interest in Pederson and their pursuit of free-agent standout Bryce Harper.

from MLB Trade Rumors http://bit.ly/2FDW4Cy

Poll: How Much Money For Manny?

As an elite, in-his-prime player, Manny Machado isn’t the type of free agent who comes along very often in Major League Baseball. With that in mind, Machado (and fellow 26-year-old superstar free agent Bryce Harper) no doubt came into the offseason with designs on signing one of the richest contracts in the history of the sport. Entering the winter, MLBTR predicted Machado would eclipse Giancarlo Stanton’s record $325MM extension from 2014. Meanwhile, FanGraphs’ Kiley McDaniel and Fancred’s Jon Heyman forecast that Machado would earn less than Stanton, but they did peg him to surpass the $275MM guarantee Alex Rodriguez received as a free agent in 2007.

While Machado may still outdo Stanton or at least Rodriguez, his childhood idol, his future earning power looks far less certain two-plus months into his trip to the open market. Free agency has been a surprisingly protracted process for Machado – who, along with Harper – remains available just a few weeks from spring training. And there has been a stunning lack of publicly reported teams after Machado, who counts the White Sox and Phillies among his most ardent suitors. Reports over the past week have indicated the White Sox issued either a seven-year, $175MM offer or an eight-year, $250MM proposal to Machado, either of which would’ve looked like a light guarantee for him at the beginning of the offseason. However, agent Dan Lozano released a strongly worded statement swatting down those rumors and insisting “reports on the details of the White Sox level of interest in Manny are completely wrong.”

Shortly after Lozano sent his denial to the media, new reports emerged suggesting serious interest in Machado stretches beyond Philadelphia and Chicago. There are supposedly two unnamed teams in the mix for Machado, and one, it seems, has put out the richest offer for the four-time All-Star infielder. Machado is reportedly primed to choose the highest bidder, but it’s unclear how close he is to signing. When the former Oriole and Dodger finally does put pen to paper, though, do you expect him to reel in a record-breaking guarantee?

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from MLB Trade Rumors http://bit.ly/2szIJCD

Trade Rumblings: Giants, Longoria, Gray, Yankees, Arenado

The latest from the trade market…

  • Giants third baseman Evan Longoria lamented the slow-moving free-agent process in an Instagram post Friday, criticizing the advent of new metrics which he believes devalue players. Regardless of whether you agree with Longoria’s stance, one doesn’t need analytics to figure out he disappointed in 2018, his first year with the Giants, as the former Rays superstar slashed a mere .244/.281/.413 in 512 plate appearances. On the heels of that subpar showing, San Francisco’s “gauging” interest in Longoria on the trade front, Jon Heyman of Fancred reports. Although, as Heyman points out, moving Longoria would be a significant challenge for the Giants. Not only is he a 33-year-old coming off a career-worst season, but Longoria has another $72.5MM left on the extension he signed as a Ray in 2012, and his contract also includes a $2MM assignment bonus in the seemingly improbable event the Giants trade him.
  • The Reds are reportedly close to acquiring Yankees right-hander Sonny Gray, but he had been on the Giants’ “radar,” Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets. For the most part, though, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi is seeking controllable hurlers who come with minor league options, per Schulman, and Gray didn’t fit either category. Gray’s only under wraps for another year, though adding him would have meant a return to the Bay Area – where he largely held his own in Oakland from 2013-17 – as well as a reunion with former A’s executive Zaidi.
  • In a juicier Yankees-related note, GM Brian Cashman has held internal discussions regarding a potential offseason or in-season trade for Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, according to Andy Martino of SNY.tv. With Arenado entering his last year of control, in which he’ll earn between $24MM and $30MM, his eminently successful Colorado tenure may be nearing an end. However, trade whispers surrounding the soon-to-be 28-year-old are “far fetched,” Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post hears from multiple sources. Of course, if the Yankees want to upgrade at third before the season, 26-year-old free agent Manny Machado represents a younger, arguably better option than Arenado, but it doesn’t seem the Bombers are pursuing the former.

from MLB Trade Rumors http://bit.ly/2AW01OH

East Notes: Rays, LeMahieu, Realmuto, Braves, Mets

Count the Rays among the teams that chased second baseman DJ LeMahieu during his trip to the open market, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Before LeMahieu joined the division-rival Yankees on a two-year, $24MM guarantee, Tampa Bay was “very much in on” him, Topkin writes. Now, with spring training approaching, it’s possible the Rays’ roster may be set, suggests Topkin, who runs down the team’s options at each position. However, Topkin still doesn’t rule out further moves, including a trade for Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, who has garnered serious interest this month from the Rays and several other teams.

More from the East Coast…

  • With the Braves looking for help in the grass, general manager Alex Anthopoulos revealed Saturday that there are “probably” three outfielders available who fit what the club is seeking, David O’Brien of The Athletic tweets. Anthopoulos added one or more of those players has been in trade discussions but has not made it into the rumor mill, per O’Brien, who surmises that free agents A.J. Pollock and Nick Markakis and Diamondbacks outfielder David Peralta could make up at least a couple of the Braves’ targets. The Braves have been connected to all three throughout the winter, and the easiest to acquire would likely be Markakis, who capped off a four-year run in Atlanta with a solid showing in 2018. But as a 35-year-old corner outfielder with an unspectacular resume, it’s obvious Markakis – unlike Pollock – is not a candidate to land a long-term contract.
  • Before he agreed to sign with the Twins on Saturday, left-hander Martin Perez drew interest from the Mets, Jon Heyman of Fancred relays. However, the Mets wanted Perez as a depth piece, which helped point him to a better opportunity in Minnesota, Heyman reports. Coming off a miserable 2018 in Texas, Perez wouldn’t have been a clear upgrade over anyone in the Mets’ rotation – a group that features reigning NL Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz and Jason Vargas. The Mets’ top depth starting possibilities include Seth Lugo, though he may be too important to their bullpen to move to the rotation if a need arises, and recent minor league pickup Hector Santiago.
  • Back to the Braves, who should get back a couple of their own key pitchers in time for spring training. Both starter Mike Soroka and reliever Darren O’Day are on track to return after injury-shortened seasons, Gabe Burns of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution details. The 21-year-old Soroka was terrific during a five-start, 25 2/3-inning major league debut in 2018, but he last took the mound June 19 on account of shoulder inflammation. He’s now a favorite to win a starting spot in Atlanta heading into 2019, Burns observes. O’Day, meanwhile, underwent season-ending hamstring surgery in late June, but the Braves nonetheless took him from the Orioles a month later in a deal headlined by Kevin Gausman. The 36-year-old O’Day had been amid another quality season before he went down, continuing a long run of effectiveness. With a $9MM salary, he’s currently the Braves’ most expensive reliever.

from MLB Trade Rumors http://bit.ly/2RF7eNI

Cubs Notes: TV Network, Maddon, Harper, Russell

The Cubs’ 15-year deal with NBC Sports Chicago is set to expire at the end of 2019, so they plan to launch their own regional sports network in time for the 2020 season, president of business operations Crane Kenney told Jordan Bastian of MLB.com and other reporters Saturday. “We are going to have our own channel. We’ve got a seat at a much larger table, so we’ve been involved in conversations not locally, but more nationally, on how we’ll launch our channel and who we’ll launch it with,” said Kenney, who added the Cubs “will do it with a strategic partner” and that “the details of that will be more apparent in probably the next 30 days.” Kenney also hinted that another baseball team will be involved, though he revealed it won’t be a local club, according to Bastian.

Here’s more on the North Siders:

  • Even though the Cubs won’t pursue an extension with Joe Maddon this offseason, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Saturday he wants the manager to stick around beyond 2019. “I sure hope so,” said Epstein, who, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune writes, is “betting that Maddon remains as manager past this season.” The Cubs have been resoundingly successful in their four years under Maddon, who will turn 65 in February, as they’ve gone 387-261 with a playoff appearance in each season, two NL Central titles and their drought-breaking World Series championship in 2016.
  • Maddon indicated earlier this week that the Cubs aren’t going to sign free-agent outfielder Bryce Harper, and third baseman Kris Bryant threw more cold water on that possibility Saturday (via Bastian). “He’s not signing here,” Bryant said of Harper, a longtime friend who had been a speculative target for the Cubs entering the offseason. However, because the Cubs are seemingly maxed out on spending, they haven’t been in the Harper market this winter. The team’s easily slated to run a franchise-record Opening Day payroll in 2019, as Jason Martinez of Roster Resource estimates, and Epstein “emphasized” Saturday that he can’t go over budget, per Gonzales.
  • Epstein also spoke this week about shortstop Addison Russell, who, to the disgust of many observers, remains in the Cubs’ plans despite incurring a 40-game suspension for domestic violence. As Patrick Mooney of The Athletic relays in a subscription piece, Epstein stated Friday that the Cubs’ initial reaction was to move on from Russell. But they’re instead primed to keep the 24-year-old Russell and pay him a $3.4MM salary, in part because Epstein learned that “domestic violence experts do not believe in zero tolerance.” Rather, they advocate “a second chance if the offender is willing (to) do the difficult work of stabilizing his life and relationships and growing so this doesn’t happen again.” The Cubs are giving Russell that second chance, though Epstein noted “people have the right to boo” Russell, and the team’s prepared to “move on instantaneously” from him if he squanders his opportunity. Notably, Epstein added that Melissa Reidy, Russell’s ex-wife whose abuse allegations led to his suspension, was supportive of the Cubs’ choice to keep him in the fold, saying: “She felt like this was Addison’s best chance to get his life in order and get support from us with the incentive of earning his way back to the Cubs.”

from MLB Trade Rumors http://bit.ly/2FL3eE1

Red Sox Notes: Bogaerts, Betts, Sale, Porcello, Bullpen, Catchers

Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston reported earlier this month that the world champion Red Sox had been discussing a contract extension with an unnamed player. It turns out that player was shortstop Xander Bogaerts, according to Drellich, though he adds that the two sides never came close to an agreement during their talks. The 26-year-old Bogaerts is now slated to make $12MM in 2019, potentially his last season with the Red Sox. Meanwhile, outfielder Andrew Benintendi – who, according to industry speculation, was an extension target for the Red Sox earlier this offseason – said Saturday he and the team haven’t talked about a new pact, Drellich relays. The 24-year-old Benintendi still has another pre-arbitration season remaining, meaning the Red Sox aren’t in danger of losing him for a while.

  • As with Bogaerts, the Red Sox are at risk of losing outfielder and reigning AL MVP Mookie Betts in the near future. Betts, 26, is entering his penultimate year of arbitration control, in which he’ll earn $20MM (a record for a player in Year 2 of arb eligibility). Unsurprisingly, though, the Red Sox want to keep Betts in the fold for the long haul. CEO Sam Kennedy stated Saturday (via Drellich) that “we’ve made it crystal clear that we want him a part of the Red Sox organization long term.” Betts, for his part, said: “Contract things are kind of tough to come up with, especially with both sides and kind of how the economics and all those things work. I love Boston, love my teammates, love the fans and all those types of things, so we’ll just continue to see what happens.” While Betts does appear open to signing an extension with the Red Sox, he doesn’t seem averse to testing the open market, per Drellich.
  • Two key members of Boston’s starting staff, left-hander Chris Sale and righty Rick Porcello, could each hit free agency a year from now. The soon-to-be 30-year-old Sale suggested Saturday that he’s willing to discuss an extension, but the Red Sox haven’t broached the subject yet. “My phone is on if they call me,” he said (via Ian Browne of MLB.com). “Obviously nothing has happened up until this point. If they call, I’d answer.” Sale also indicated that his left shoulder – which was a problem at times late last season, when he dealt with a massive drop in velocity – is no longer an issue. As for Porcello, 30, he also revealed that no extension talks have taken place, though he’d “love to” discuss a new contract with the club, Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com tweets. For now, Porcello’s on track to wrap up the four-year, $82.5MM pact he signed with the Red Sox in April 2015.
  • Having lost Joe Kelly to the Dodgers and Craig Kimbrel to the open market, Boston’s “actively engaged with multiple free-agent relievers,” Cotillo writes. While Cotillo doesn’t rule out a Kimbrel re-signing, he notes an addition could come in the $2MM to $3MM neighborhood. Kimbrel will certainly earn far more than that, though there are several other free agents who could be possibilities for the Red Sox in that price range.
  • Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Thursday he doesn’t expect that all three of the team’s catchers – Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart – will be on its Opening Day roster, Sean McAdam of BostonSportsJournal.com reports (subscription required). Because all of those players are out of options, a trade is likely coming. Dombrowski noted that “there’s interest, but we still haven’t made a deal we feel comfortable making.” All three catchers had abysmal offensive seasons over 200-plus plate appearances in 2018, but if defense is Boston’s main concern, the odd man out may be Swihart. After all, the former high-end prospect has accrued little playing time as a backstop over the past few years.

from MLB Trade Rumors http://bit.ly/2RVYkKN

Dodgers Interested In A.J. Pollock

Free agent outfielder A.J. Pollock is a “target” for the Dodgers, tweets Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

Los Angeles, which values balance, flexibility, and the platoon advantage perhaps as much as any team in baseball, currently finds itself with a dearth of right-handed options at play. There’s Justin Turner, of course, but the switch-hitting Yasmani Grandal has left, and the club sent Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp away in a December swap with the Reds, leaving Chris Taylor and the Austin Barnes/Russell Martin duo as the only penciled-in regulars who hit from the right side. IF/OF Enrique Hernandez demonstrated, for the first time, an ability to produce against same-side arms last year, but the 27-year-old’s meager .221/.288/.377 (82 wRC+) career line vs. righties isn’t likely to suffuse the aggregate-loving front office with much hope.

Though the team’s lefties – Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, and Max Muncy among them – rank as arguably the premier crop in the league, the team was often exposed against southpaws last season, especially late in games, or when facing a bullpen-heavy staff, and can’t hope to always rely on a platoon carousel around the diamond. Indeed, LA’s 2018 bunch was among the worst ever in late-game situations, speculatively owing to its limited bench options in crunch time, given the team’s propensity to hunt for opposite-side advantages in the middle innings.

Pollock, then, offers the perfect antidote, though perhaps not at the right price. As the premier center-fielder on the market, the 31-year-old remains in protracted limbo after early-offseason demands were deemed too high by a number of interested clubs. Recent demands are nebulous, though many have speculated the oft-injured outfielder may be forced to settle for a short-term, high-AAV deal, which would seem to place him right up any number of alleys in Los Angeles.

In his last two, injury-marred campaigns, Pollock’s offensive output has slipped considerably from his 2014-15 peak, when he delivered back-to-back 130 or higher wRC+ seasons. His center-field defense, however, has remained plus, at least per DRS, but he’s swiftly approaching the age at which even generational talents begin to experience a rapid diminishment in their ability to chase down fly balls. The Dodgers, under Friedman, aren’t a team that will tolerate age-related decline in any facet, so any long-term deal with Los Angeles may be predicated on the 31-year-old eventually agreeing to move to a corner spot.

from MLB Trade Rumors http://bit.ly/2U4gM1A