- As for the free agent market’s other big fish, Rosenthal quotes the Athletic’s Jayson Stark who hears that the Yankees are doing more than their due diligence to get first-hand accounts of Manny Machado’s character. They likely won’t be disappointed by what they hear, as those close to Machado have nothing but good things to say, while recognizing the occasional on-field gaff.
- Three evaluators from rival teams shared their thoughts on Sonny Gray with George A. King III of the New York Post, noting that the Yankees right-hander still has some solid trade value despite a rough season in the Bronx. “I think he [has value] because with the way starting pitching is right now, you look at him as a reclamation project. There has to be value with what starting pitching has become,” one evaluator for an AL rival said. Between Gray’s good numbers away from Yankee Stadium, his past track record, youth, and one remaining year of arbitration control (at a $9.1MM salary, as projected by MLBTR’s Matt Swartz), it isn’t surprising that at least five teams have reportedly called the Yankees about Gray’s services.
With the GM Meetings now wrapped up, the stage is set for the offseason action to get underway. Of course, we’re still waiting for some significant dominoes to fall … and everyone involved is no doubt curious to see how this year’s market will develop after the 2017-18 dud. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports cites some warning signs on spending levels; readers interested in the higher-level picture will want to give his reasoning a look.
While we wait for some hard data points to be set down, the just-completed meetings left quite a few rumors. We’ve covered many over the past several days; here are a few more worthy of note:
- Though the Yankees seem unsettled at first base, Jon Heyman of Fancred reports that they haven’t reached out to the Diamondbacks on slugger Paul Goldschmidt. The potential rental slugger, one of the game’s steadiest offensive producers, is reportedly on the trading block. While the Yankees got stunning production from Luke Voit over a brief stretch late last year, and still have Greg Bird on hand, it wouldn’t be surprising if they sought to add a bigger piece.
- Unsurprisingly, the Bronx organization seems fixated first on pitching. Beyond its free agent targets, the club is looking into the biggest possible names on the trade market. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweets that the Yanks have opened a line of communication with the Mariners on James Paxton. And the New York delegation to the GM Meetings met with their peers from the Indians, per Jon Heyman of Fancred (via Twitter), with Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco both covered in conversation. It obviously isn’t at all surprising to hear that the Yankees have checked in on these distinguished hurlers, but it’s nevertheless a notable bit of information as the market continues to develop.
- There are quite a few possibilities for the Padres, writes Dennis Lin of The Athletic (subscription link), as the organization is feeling a need to show some real strides in the win-loss department. We’ve heard chatter recently about the desire for a young starter and the series of potential trade pieces, but Lin’s most interesting notes seem to focus on the left side of the infield. Manny Machado is not seen internally as a realistic target, with Freddy Galvis still under consideration at short. If the team really wants to push things forward, though, Galvis or another veteran may only warm the seat up for top prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. At third, Josh Donaldson does not appear to be the first name on the club’s list of targets. Rather, says Lin, the current plan is to seek a new third baseman via trade.
- So, where have the Padres set their sights for a third baseman? There aren’t many obviously available options that would figure to represent everyday pieces. Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported recently, though, that the Pads are interested in pursuing Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez, who recently posted a big campaign on the heels of what now looks to be quite a team-friendly extension. Given the Cincinnati organization’s inclination to begin pushing toward contention, that seems like a tough deal to swing for Padres GM A.J. Preller.
- Acee also tabs the Padres as a suitor for Yankees righty Sonny Gray, who’s being openly marketed. Whether Gray would be seen as fulfilling the club’s rotation needs, or rather serving as a potential complement to a more significant addition, isn’t clear. There are other teams with interest in Gray, of course. Per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, at least five organizations have inquired, and it wouldn’t be surprising to hear of more. Among those contemplating a move is Gray’s former employer. The Athletics evidently think their former staff ace could bounce back in Oakland, per Jon Heyman of Fancred. Of course, it remains to be seen how much the A’s will be willing to stake on a turnaround. Meanwhile, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand hears that at least five teams have inquired with the Yankees on Gray’s availability — the A’s presumably among them. Gray is projected to top $9MM in arbitration earnings this winter, but he thrived away from Yankee Stadium last season and had plenty of encouraging secondary metrics beyond his rudimentary ERA.
- We’ve heard recently that the Cardinals intend to explore the relief market, with one southpaw on the team’s priority list. Accordingly, it’s no surprise to hear that the club is among the many teams to show early interest in veteran lefty Andrew Miller, as MLB.com’s Jon Morosi tweets. Miller is drawing interest after getting some good news on his knee, so there’ll be no shortage of competition. At this point, it’s entirely unclear where he’ll end up.
- The Yankees re-signed infielder Gio Urshela to a minor league contract. The 27-year-old was traded from the Jays to the Yankees in early August and never appeared with New York in the Majors. Urshela is regarded as a quality defender at third base but has yet to deliver much in the way of offense at the big league level. In parts of three seasons with Toronto and Cleveland, he’s a .225/.274/.315 hitter (499 plate appearances). He’s a lifetime .274/.315/.411 hitter in Triple-A, however, and will give the Yanks some defensive-minded depth at the hot corner.
- The Yankees’ interest in Patrick Corbin is widely known, though general manager Brian Cashman made the fact a bit clearer at this week’s GM Meetings, writes Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. Asked if the Yankees were interested in retaining lefty J.A. Happ, Cashman acknowledged having spoken to Happ’s agent — though the agent he mentioned, John Courtright, actually represents Corbin. Both players were already locks to be on the Yankees’ radar this winter, so the slip hardly reveals any new information. That said, Davidoff suggests that the Yankees haven’t been deterred by anything they’ve heard from Corbin’s camp yet, adding that Yankees bullpen coach Mike Harkey was Corbin’s pitching coach in Arizona from 2014-15. Harkey, Davidoff continues, has already offered a positive endorsement in Corbin’s favor.
- Former Astros utility man Marwin Gonzalez is the most versatile defender in free agency this season, and Fancred’s Jon Heyman tweets that he’s garnered at least some level of interest from nearly every club in the game. As a switch-hitter with at least a league average bat and the capability to play as many as six positions (all four infield slots and both outfield corners), “Swiss G” is indeed easy to imagine fitting onto virtually any team’s roster. Meanwhile, former Pirate Josh Harrison, a quality defender at second base with experience at third base and in the outfield corners, has generated some interest from the likes of the Yankees, Reds and Nationals, among others, per Heyman. Both players’ versatility should serve them well this winter.
We took a look yesterday at some of the early chatter on Bryce Harper. While the early chatter has been less voluminous with regard to fellow superstar Manny Machado, there’s little doubt that he will have his moment as well. As the stage-setting GM Meetings draw to a close, let’s check in on some additional notes on the market’s most-hyped free agents.
- Some eyebrows raised this evening when it was observed that the White Sox had unveiled a stage set at Chicago’s United Center featuring Bryce Harper’s name. As Chris Cwik of Yahoo Sports explains, there’s no reason to think this was the beginning of the roll-out of a signing; our readers from the south side can safely inform friends and neighbors that there’s nothing imminent. More likely, it’s part of a recruiting pitch for the popular young free agent, who is in Chicago today. The news shouldn’t be blown out of proportion, clearly, but that doesn’t mean it’s of no consequence. Evidently, the White Sox are serious enough pursuers that they have secured an in-person visit and are putting resources into a pitch. That certainly dovetails with recent reports and public statements from the organization indicating that the club is looking to spend. It also bodes well for Harper’s market that a team such as the White Sox is making a run at him even after he reportedly turned down a $300MM offer to remain in D.C.
- As for the cross-town Cubs, all indications remain that they do not see themselves as a contender for Harper’s services, as ESPNChicago.com’s Jesse Rogers reiterates on Twitter. As Rogers puts it, if the club is “playing possum,” it’s “doing a heck of a job” at selling the act.
- It remains to be seen what stance the Giants will take with regard to Harper, particularly as Farhan Zaidi settles into his new digs atop the club’s baseball operations department. As John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle reports, though, agent Scott Boras certainly seems to see San Francisco as a viable landing spot for his client. Harper, he says, views the organization fondly — and would not only deliver value on the field, but off of it. As for the club’s viewpoint, it’s tough to say whether Harper will be deemed a sensible target. CEO Larry Baer said “there’s no restrictions” for his new top baseball decisionmaker; whether or not to join the bidding on Harper (or other hyper-expensive free agents) is “a judgment [Zaidi] is going to need to make.”
- Of course, as Shea highlights, and Baer himself noted, that sort of outlay did not fit the M.O. of either of Zaidi’s prior two ballclubs — even those pesky division rivals to the south. Speaking of the Dodgers, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times wrote recently that Harper is a player worthy of breaking the mold (and the bank) to acquire. Beyond his qualities as a ballplayer, Hernandez argues that Harper has the star power — and the right kind of attitude — to thrive in Los Angeles.
- Interestingly, the Cardinals, per Jon Heyman of Fancred, “do not seem interested” in Machado despite seemingly lining up from the perspective of roster need. But there has been quite a lot of discussion in St. Louis circles as to whether Harper might be a target. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch laid out the state of affairs recently. The Cards, he says, are seen as “a factor” in the market for Harper. While some would write the St. Louis organization off due to a lack of monster contracts on their ledger, it’s worth bearing in mind that the club has entered significant bids for players such as Jason Heyward (see here) and David Price (see here) in recent seasons, and also sought to acquire Giancarlo Stanton last winter.
- And what of the Yankees? The situation hasn’t really changed since last we checked in, but Joel Sherman of the New York Post takes a crack at thinking through how things may play out. There’s little indication at present that the New York club has any real intention of going for Harper. But Machado makes for a much more intriguing roster fit, and could prove particularly tantalizing.
Lavarnway, 31, has seen action in seven MLB campaigns — including four with the division-rival Red Sox. Since his tenure in Boston wrapped up in disappointing fashion, the one-time top prospect has functioned as a journeyman depth piece.
That may not have been what was once hoped for, but Lavarnway has remained in demand from organizations that want a steady presence on hand in the upper minors. He only saw brief MLB action last year with the Pirates, but turned in a strong offensive season (.288/.375/.485 in 303 plate appearances) for their top affiliate.
Bryce Harper’s free agency — or, as agent Scott Boras termed at the GM Meetings today, “Harper’s Bazaar” — will be one of the most fascinating storylines the 2018-19 offseason has to offer. Boras has already made clear that he’ll be marketing Harper as a future Hall of Famer, given that the few players who’ve reached Harper’s level of production prior to the age of 26 are virtually all enshrined in Cooperstown. Boras doubled down on that thinking today when holding court with upwards of 100 reporters (link, with video, via SNY’s Scott Thompson).
Boras tabbed Harper as a “generational” and “iconic” player — citing the Nationals’ stark increase in attendance, television ratings and overall franchise value since Harper joined the team. While Harper’s presence on the Nats is realistically one of the myriad factors that have effected those changes, those types of milestones could very well carry more weight with some franchise owners than with baseball operations leaders.
As we settle in for the beginning of Harper’s Bazaar — which, in case you were wondering, is “fashionable,” “elite,” “historical” and “has inspirations that deal with great shoes and great hair,” according to Boras — here’s the latest chatter on his market…
- Fancred’s Jon Heyman spoke with Boras this morning, and while the agent wouldn’t tip his hand much in terms of total asking price, he did suggest that players with Harper’s level of accolades at this age often play until they’re 40. That, Heyman notes, could indicate that Boras is seeking a deal as long as 14 years in length for the 26-year-old Harper. The agent also pointed out that the current record average annual value — Zack Greinke’s $34.4MM — went to “a 32-year-old pitcher.” None of that, of course, offers a clear indication as to what Boras is thinking as a viable goal for Harper, though that’s perhaps largely by design. MLBTR estimated a 14-year contract for Harper in our annual Top 50 Free Agents rankings — albeit at a considerably lower annual value than that of Greinke.
- The Nationals’ reported offer to Harper near the end of the season, said to be valued at around a $300MM guarantee, “wasn’t close” to getting the job done, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Boras spoke today about the immense surplus value the Nats reaped from Harper’s pre-arbitration and arbitration seasons and suggested that comparisons to Giancarlo Stanton’s 13-year, $325MM deal have “nothing to do with Bryce Harper.” While many fans grow weary of Boras’ colorful quotes, it’s also a valid point that an extension signed two years prior to a fellow star-caliber player’s free agency should carry much influence over Harper’s eventual contract. Extensions for Stanton and fellow superstar Jose Altuve ($30MM annual value) were signed without the benefit of open-market bidding, Boras noted, and thus shouldn’t be viewed as comparables when looking at Harper’s earning power.
- Heyman further tweets that the Nats’ ~$300MM is currently “off the table,” though the team has still not ruled out signing Harper and would welcome the opportunity for further negotiations — which Boras will surely oblige.
- Both ESPN’s Buster Olney and SNY’s Andy Martino throw cold water on the notion of Harper landing with the Yankees. Olney tweets that a source has “emphatically” told him that Harper to the Yankees is simply “not happening,” while Martino suggests that the Yankees “are not excited enough about Harper” to force the ensuing outfield logjam that would come with signing him (Twitter link, with video).
- USA Today’s Bob Nightengale writes that many executives and agents throughout the industry feel that Harper will ultimately land with the Phillies, though that opinion appears largely predicated on a belief that the Yankees (and not the Phillies) will ultimately sign Manny Machado — a scenario that is entirely plausible but is by no means a given at this stage of the offseason. It’s always interesting to hear where the popular industry opinion lies at a given time, though it’s often best taken with a grain of salt; there were similar columns written regarding the Yankees and Eric Hosmer this time a year ago, for instance.
- The Giants have been an oft-suggested landing spot for Harper over the past several seasons, but Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area cites multiple sources in calling the interest “overblown.” One Giants exec tells Pavlovic that the team is “shocked” to be so frequently connected to Harper, adding that the Giants would only be in play for the outfielder if he “really, really” wanted to be a Giant and spurned larger offers elsewhere.
Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez will undergo surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder this offseason, general manager Brian Cashman tells reporters at the GM Meetings in Carlsbad, Calif. (Twitter links via Lindsey Adler of The Athletic). The shoulder has bothered him since 2017 and been treated with cortisone shots in the past, but Sanchez aggravated it while working out in Tampa this past week.
The timeline for Sanchez’s recovery is about three months, and the current projection is that he’ll be ready for Opening Day. That timeline will push Sanchez’s recovery right up to the point at which pitchers and catchers are set to report to Spring Training. Any setbacks or delays, then, could call into question his availability for the beginning of the regular season. In the event that he’s not ready, however, Cashman indicated the team is comfortable with Austin Romine stepping up as the primary catcher early in the 2019 season (Twitter link via SNY’s Andy Martino).
Sanchez, who’ll turn 26 in December, endured multiple DL stints in 2018 for a different injury — a right groin strain that limited him to 89 games and 374 plate appearances in 2018. It seems safe to assume that the groin injury, paired with the now-known left shoulder troubles, played a significant role in the downturn in Sanchez’s prodigious offensive output. After hitting a combined .284/.354/.568 with 53 home runs and 32 doubles through 754 plate appearances between 2016-17, Sanchez slumped to a .186/.291/.406 slash line this past season.
TODAY: The deal has been announced by the Yankees.
YESTERDAY, 6:53pm: Sabathia confirmed on Brandon Steiner’s podcast earlier this week that he plans for 2019 to be his final season.
5:31pm: The two sides are, in fact, in agreement on a contract, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports (on Twitter). The deal is pending a physical.
5:24pm: The Yankees and left-hander CC Sabathia are working through the “final details” of what will be a one-year, $8MM contract for the 2019 season, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter link). Sabathia, according to Sherman, had little interest in exploring the open market and instead preferred to quickly hammer out a one-year pact to return to the Bronx for what could very well be the final season of his illustrious career. Sabathia is represented by Kyle Thousand of Roc Nation Sports.
Sabathia, 38, will slot back into the Yankees’ rotation behind Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka, though the team will surely be in the market to add some additional rotation help. Lefty J.A. Happ is set to hit the open market, while fellow southpaw Jordan Montgomery will miss a significant chunk of the 2019 campaign after undergoing Tommy John surgery earlier this year. Top prospect Justus Sheffield headlines the team’s internal options, with righties Chance Adams, Jonathan Loaisiga and Domingo German also serving as depth. Sonny Gray, too, remains in the organization for now, but general manager Brian Cashman has indicated that expects to find a trade partner for the change-of-scenery candidate.
The Yankees, though, who dipped back under the luxury tax threshold this season, will undoubtedly be in the mix for any top-end starters that could be available this winter. On the free-agent market, that includes lefties Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel, Happ and perhaps Japanese southpaw Yusei Kikuchi. The trade market could yet bear further enticing options, with recent reports indicating that the likes of Corey Kluber and James Paxton could become available.
Sabathia may not be the dominant arm that he once was, but the crafty veteran still gave the Yankees a strong 2018 season and would be a fine fifth starter behind the presumptive external options the Yankees plan to add. Sabathia, after all, notched a 3.65 ERA with 8.2 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 1.12 HR/9 and a 44.4 percent ground-ball rate over the life of 29 starts and 153 innings this past season. His swinging-strike and chase rates were the best they’d been since 2012, and his fastball velocity still checked in a bit north of 90 mph — roughly in line with his past four seasons.