New York Yankees – MLB Trade Rumors 2019-01-23T15:43:10Z WordPress Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Yankees To Sign Danny Farquhar]]> 2019-01-22T15:10:03Z 2019-01-21T23:56:57Z The Yankees have agreed to a minor-league deal with right-hander Danny Farquhar, according to Jon Heyman of Fancred (via Twitter). He’ll receive an invitation to MLB camp,’s Mark Feinsand adds on Twitter.

It’s yet another bit of good news for Farquhar, who has been firmly on the upswing since a terrifying medical episode last year. He has made a remarkable recovery from a ruptured brain aneurysm — incurred in the White Sox’ dugout after an appearance in late April — and received clearance in late November to begin working back toward the mound.

Soon to turn 32, Farquhar will assuredly not enter Spring Training as a favorite to crack a loaded Yankees pen. But he could represent an interesting depth option if he’s able to pick up where he left off. Though he has not been terribly effective in recent years, Farquhar was at times a high-quality reliever for the Mariners and Rays and carries a lifetime 12.3% swinging-strike rate in the majors.

Steve Adams <![CDATA[Reds Acquire, Extend Sonny Gray As Part Of Three-Team Trade]]> 2019-01-23T02:39:41Z 2019-01-21T22:15:18Z After several days of reporting and speculation, right-hander Sonny Gray has officially been traded from the Yankees to the Reds and also agreed to a contract extension with Cincinnati. It’s a three-team deal that also involves the Mariners. Second base prospect Shed Long and a Competitive Balance Round A pick go from the Reds to the Yankees in exchange for Gray and left-hander Reiver Sanmartin. New York, in turn, has flipped Long directly to the Mariners in return for center field prospect Josh Stowers — the Mariners’ second-round pick in the 2018 draft.

Sonny Gray | Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

As part of the trade, Gray has agreed to a new, three-year contract extension with the Reds that’ll span the 2020-22 seasons. He’ll earn $30.5MM over those three campaigns — that’s in addition to his $7.5MM salary for the 2019 season. Along with a $500K signing bonus, the deal reportedly promises $10MM in each of its three years and also comes with a $12MM club option for the 2023 season. There are $500K worth of incentives in each new season of the deal, with that value achievable in full at 190 innings pitched, and his annual salaries can grow based on performance escalators. Gray’s contract doesn’t contain a no-trade clause but stipulates that he be paid a $1MM assignment bonus each time he is traded.

Cincinnati emerged as a front-runner to land Gray last Friday, and his addition will be the third such pickup of the Reds’ offseason, joining lefty Alex Wood and fellow righty Tanner Roark. That trio will be added to a new-look Cincinnati rotation that’s also projected to include holdovers Luis Castillo and Anthony DeSclafani. It’s a group that should give the Reds a vastly more competitive outlook in 2019 while likely pushing names such as Robert Stephenson, Brandon Finnegan, Tyler Mahle, Jackson Stephens and others out of the Major League rotation mix and either into bullpen roles or back to the minors (Stephenson, it should be noted, is out of options).

A change of scenery for Gray, 29, only makes sense after he struggled profusely with the Yankees in 2018 — particularly when pitching at Yankee Stadium. Gray posted a ghastly 6.98 ERA at home in 2018 compared to a 3.17 ERA on the road, and while there’s surely more at play in those splits than the surface-level numbers exhibit, the contrast between the two numbers is unequivocally jarring.

The Reds quite likely found it encouraging that Gray’s velocity remained consistent with its previous levels (93.8 mph average fastball), that his swinging-strike rate remained north of 10 percent and that his ground-ball tendencies (50 percent) remained above the league average. Gray actually allowed home runs at his lowest rate since 2015 as well (0.97 HR/9; 13.3% HR/FB), despite pitching more than 40 percent of his innings at the homer-friendly Yankee Stadium. Of course, he’ll be moving to a similarly hitter-friendly setting in the form of Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park, though the move to the National League should prove beneficial.

With the extension now in place, the trade of Gray differs starkly from Cincinnati’s acquisition of Wood and Roark, each of whom is a pure one-year rental. In essence, it’s a bet that the move into a lower-pressure setting could help Gray in a similar manner that Matt Harvey seemed to benefit following his own trade over from the Mets this past May. Gray, it should be noted, is not far removed from an extended run as a high-quality arm; the former No. 18 overall draft pick entered the 2018 season with a career 3.45 ERA in 770 1/3 innings, highlighted by an All-Star nod and a third-place Cy Young finish in 2015.

While it may be too much to expect for Gray to return to those lofty heights, he at the very least has the potential to help comprise a radically improved Reds rotation and gives the team some long-term stability a a time when many of the pitching prospects acquired over the course of Cincinnati’s rebuild have yet failed to pan out.

Cincinnati will also add a left-handed option to the middle levels of its farm system in the form of Sanmartin. While he wasn’t considered to be one of the organization’s top prospects, Sanmartin reached Double-A for the first time last season, at the age of 22, and pitched to an overall 2.81 ERA with a 58-to-4 K/BB ratio in 67 1/3 innings between Class-A, Class-A Advanced and Double-A. New York originally acquired Sanmartin out of the Rangers organization in a swap that sent righty Ronald Herrera to Texas.

Long, meanwhile, will head to the Mariners in a surprise development and give Seattle a prospect that is not far from big league readiness. The 23-year-old Long was a 12th-round pick by the Reds back in 2013 but has vastly outperformed that draft billing, rising to the Double-A ranks and hitting at a .261/.353/.412 clip with a dozen homers and 19 stolen bases this past season. Kiley McDaniel and Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs ranked Long seventh among Reds farmhands just last month, noting that the converted catcher still has some defensive question marks at second base. That said, he has the bat to profile as a regular there if he can improve his glovework, and if not, he could move to an outfield corner.

Stowers, in turn, is several years further from the point where he’d need to be added to the 40-man roster in New York. He went a round or two higher in the draft than many expected on the heels of a strong finish to his college season at Louisville, and it seems that given New York’s quick acquisition of him, the Mariners weren’t the only ones who hoped to snag him in the draft’s early rounds. The Yankees will also acquire a pick that is currently slotted in at No. 36 overall but could move a bit, depending on the outcome of the remaining free agents who rejected qualifying offers (and the subsequent draft pick compensation attached to them). The No. 36 slot last season came with a $1.967MM slot value, meaning the Yankees have likely added another $2MM+ to their bonus pool in the 2019 draft.

A trade of Gray has been expected since early in the offseason since Yankees general manager Brian Cashman openly spoke about his desire to find a change of scenery for Gray. Today’s swap gives the Yankees a rotation consisting of Luis Severino, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ and CC Sabathia. With Gray no longer in the fold, the Yankees’ top depth options are Domingo German, Jonathan Loaisiga, Luis Cessa and Chance Adams. The organization likely hopes to have lefty Jordan Montgomery, who underwent Tommy John surgery early last summer, can return late in the 2019 season, though it certainly possesses ample rotation depth even if he’s shelved into the 2020 season.

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported Friday that the Reds were closing in on a deal to acquire Gray. Fancred’s Jon Heyman tweeted over the weekend that Long and the draft pick would likely be involved in the deal, if completed. Rosenthal first added that the trade could hinge on an extension. ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported today that Gray had been traded, confirming Long’s inclusion and adding that he’d been flipped to Seattle for Stowers. Rosenthal reported the extension and the terms of Gray’s new contract, with Bob Nightengale of USA Today adding salary details. Bobby Nightengale Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer added Sanmartin’s inclusion in the swap. Heyman tweeted the trade assignment bonus.

Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Yankees, Reds “Finalizing” Sonny Gray Trade; Reds Trying To Extend Gray]]> 2019-01-23T15:42:36Z 2019-01-21T17:19:59Z 11:19am:’s Mark Feinsand tweets that the Yankees had offers from multiple teams they’d have accepted for Gray as of last Friday, so if talks with the Reds don’t pan out, those proposals could once again come into play.

Jan. 21, 10:08am: Heyman tweets that there’s some optimism from the Reds that they’ll be able to work out an extension before today’s window closes. However, if the extension doesn’t materialize (and, thus, the currently proposed trade does not go through), the Yankees may “look elsewhere” for a trade partner for Gray.

Jan. 20, 4:56pm: A resolution on a Yankees-Reds trade is not expected tonight, and a deadline on a 72-hour negotiation window between Gray and Cincy is sometime late on Monday, Rosenthal tweets.

11:03am:  The Reds are indeed attempting to extend Gray, according to Heyman, who adds the two teams have agreed on a trade package. But whether Gray gets an extension could affect the return for him.

10:37am: It’s possible the Reds are trying to sign Gray to an extension before acquiring him, Rosenthal tweets, though he notes a deal could come together either way.

Jan. 19, 6:08pm: The two sides are “finalizing” the deal, per Heyman, who reports the Yankees will likely receive Long and a draft pick. The Yankees could also land a third piece in the trade, Heyman suggests.

2:31pm: Per Heyman, the Reds would prefer not to include Stephenson in a deal for Gray, and talks now “center around” Long. Stephenson, 22, was the 11th overall selection in the 2015 draft, and has steadily progressed through the Cincinnati farm. In last month’s update, Kiley McDaniel and Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs projected the 6’4″ righty as an average regular, lauding his double-plus arm and 60 grade raw power. Long also projects as a regular, though perhaps not at second, where he has “below average hands” and “clunky footwork,” per Fangraphs’ scouting report.

Jan. 19, 9:02am: Expect Gray to be moved sometime this weekend, per Fancred’s Jon Heyman (Twitter link). The Reds and Yankees are inching closer to a deal, with two prospects and a draft pick the expected return for Gray. Long and Stephenson (currently the #6 and #7 prospects in the Reds system per are the prospects most likely to be headed to New York. It’s not a done deal, however, as the Giants, Brewers, and Braves are still part of the conversation.

Jan. 18, 4:55pm: There are other teams still involved, per Andy Martino of (Twitter link), including at least the Padres and Giants. There have been some discussions of three-team arrangements, Martino also notes.

Jan. 18, 2:33pm: The Reds are “making progress” in their talks with the Yankees regarding veteran righty Sonny Gray, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (via Twitter). It emerged yesterday that the Yanks were nearing a deal involving the starter, though multiple organizations were still said to be involved in talks.

It seems fair now to assume that the Cincinnati club is emerging as a favorite, though it’s certainly too soon to rule out alternatives. The Reds have already added a pair of starters via trade in Tanner Roark and Alex Wood. Like those hurlers, Gray is entering his final season of arbitration eligibility. He’ll earn $7.5MM after agreeing to terms with the Yankees, making him a bit less costly than the other two pitchers.

The potential return remains to be seen, and obviously hasn’t quite been nailed down. Jon Heyman of Fancred reports (Twitter links) that the organizations are still discussing different prospects — second baseman Shed Long and catcher Tyler Stephenson among them — while a draft pick could also be part of the return. (That would have to be the Reds’ 2019 competitive balance pick, which is a valuable sandwich-round selection currently slotted in at No. 36 overall.)

If they can wrap up an agreement, the Reds would certainly present quite a different rotation than the ones they have trotted out in recent years. Roark, Wood, and (hypothetically) Gray all have their warts, but each has found plenty of success in the majors. They’d likely join Anthony DeSclafani and hard-throwing Luis Castillo to round out the starting five under new manager David Bell.

It’s notable, of course, that none of Roark, Wood or Gray comes with control rights beyond the ’19 season. The same is also true of recently acquired outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp. It’s possible that the Reds simply prefer one-year commitments at this time, which would allow them the chance to reevaluate their future needs after the conclusion of the 2019 season.

Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Yankees Notes: Happ, Gray]]> 2019-01-21T05:06:33Z 2019-01-21T05:06:33Z
  • The Reds were willing to offer J.A. Happ a three-year contract and give him more in guaranteed money than the $34MM he received from the Yankees in a two-year deal (with a $17MM vesting option for 2021).  New York’s offer, however, included a higher average annual value than Cincinnati’s offer.  Rosenthal speculates that Happ could have based on his decision on a desire to return to a contender, or perhaps the fact that pitchers are generally wary of the hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark.
  • The Happ situation could be a reason the Reds are looking to work out an extension with Sonny Gray before acquiring him from the Yankees, a tactic that Rosenthal says has surprised some rival agents and executives.  While Gray’s success outside of Yankee Stadium has made him a popular bounce-back candidate on another team, Rosenthal wonders if the right-hander might want to lock in a multi-year payday now in the wake of his 2018 struggles.  Gray might welcome a chance to avoid a free agent market that has become less friendly to veterans, and Cincinnati offers him a familiar face in pitching coach Derek Johnson (Gray’s former coach at Vanderbilt).

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Reports: Yankees Have Discussed Nolan Arenado Pursuit, But Trade "Far Fetched" ]]> 2019-01-20T05:43:37Z 2019-01-20T05:43:37Z
  • 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.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Yankees Close To Dealing Sonny Gray]]> 2019-01-23T15:43:10Z 2019-01-17T23:13:56Z 5:13pm: “A few teams” remain in talks with the Yanks, per Jack Curry of  the YES Network (via Twitter).

    3:49pm: The Athletics and Padres are involved, while the Reds do not appear to be, according to’s Andy Martino (Twitter link).

    Heyman hears that the Giants have entered the picture (Twitter link). Contrary to Martino, he also suggests that the organizations previously rumored to have interest have dropped back — including the A’s and Pads as well as all of the other ballclubs listed below.

    3:11pm: David O’Brien of The Athletic tweets that any trade of Gray won’t include the Braves. There have been no recent discussions between New York and Atlanta, per O’Brien.

    1:51pm: Heyman now tweets that the Yankees are “close” to trading Gray. He adds that New York is receiving interest in right-handed relievers Jonathan Holder and Tommy Kahnle, as well.

    1:45pm: The Yankees, who reportedly reached an agreement with Adam Ottavino this afternoon, are “working hard” on a trade of right-hander Sonny Gray, per Fancred’s Jon Heyman (Twitter link). The team’s effort “appears to be getting more serious,” Heyman writes, noting that previous suitors for Gray have included the Reds, Giants, Brewers, Padres, Athletics, Braves and Mariners. It’s not clear that any of those clubs are at the forefront of New York’s current efforts to move Gray, though.

    Gray and the Yankees agreed to a $7.5MM salary for the 2019 season recently. While GM Brian Cashman had previously suggested that the Yanks could hold Gray into the 2019 season despite voicing a preference to find a change of scenery for Gray, that possibility became less likely when CC Sabathia was cleared to resume baseball activities following a December angioplasty procedure. With Sabathia back on track for the ’19 season, Gray once again became a more superfluous piece for the Yanks.

    A change of scenery for Gray, 29, only makes sense after he struggled profusely with the Yankees in 2018 — particularly when pitching at Yankee Stadium. Gray posted a ghastly 6.98 ERA at home in 2018 compared to a 3.17 ERA on the road, and while there’s surely more at play in those splits than the surface-level numbers exhibit, the contrast between the two numbers is unequivocally jarring.

    Teams interested in Gray are undoubtedly encouraged by the fact that his velocity remained consistent with its previous levels (93.8 mph average fastball), that his swinging-strike rate remained north of 10 percent and that his ground-ball tendencies (50 percent) remained well above league average. Gray actually allowed home runs at his lowest rate since 2015, as well (0.97 HR/9; 13.3% HR/FB) despite pitching more than 40 percent of his innings at the homer-friendly Yankee Stadium.

    The righty isn’t far removed from one of the American League’s better arms — he was an in-demand trade commodity at the 2017 deadline when the Yankees acquired him — and he entered the 2018 season with a lifetime 3.45 ERA, 3.67 FIP, 7.8 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 770 1/3 innings. Prior to 2018, he’d only had one season with an ERA higher than 3.55 — an injury-marred 2017 season — and had even finished third in 2015 American League Cy Young voting. While Gray surely has a long way to go to get back to that level, he’s a quality buy-low option whose $7.5MM salary should be affordable for just about any team in need of pitching help.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Yankees To Sign Adam Ottavino]]> 2019-01-17T19:20:22Z 2019-01-17T18:47:54Z 12:47pm: Fancred’s Jon Heyman tweets that Ottavino will be guaranteed $27MM over the three-year term.

    12:42pm :The Yankees have agreed to terms on a contract with free-agent reliever Adam Ottavino, ESPN’s Jeff Passan tweets. Robert Murray and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic had reported seconds prior that the two sides were closing in on an arrangement believed to be worth roughly $25MM over three years (Twitter link). Ottavino is represented by All Bases Covered Sports Management.

    Adam Ottavino | Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

    Ottavino, a New York native who went to high school in Brooklyn, has been connected to the Yankees since before the offseason even began. His addition comes on the heels of a breakout 2018 season with the Rockies in which the 33-year-old righty pitched to a 2.43 ERA with 13.0 K/9, 4.2 BB/9, 0.58 HR/9 and a 43 percent ground-ball rate in 77 2/3 innings of relief.

    Ottavino joins an already loaded New York relief corps that features Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Chad Green and fellow offseason signee Zach Britton. That group is impressive on its own, before even considering 25-year-old righty Jonathan Holder, who may not yet be a household name but has nevertheless emerged as a quality reliever in his own right. Certainly, no bullpen is ever a sure thing to produce, given the year-over-year volatility of relief pitchers, but in terms of sheer talent and upside, there’s arguably no better collection of bullpen arms in baseball right now.

    It should be noted that while Ottavino had a career year in 2018, the two prior seasons garnered more mixed results. Ottavino underwent Tommy John surgery in May 2015 and missed the majority of that season as well as a notable chunk of the 2016 campaign. When he returned in July 2016, he was nothing short of excellent, pitching to a 2.67 ERA with a 35-to-7 K/BB ratio and a preposterous 61.9 percent grounder rate in 27 innings.

    The 2017 season, however, was brutal for Ottavino, as he averaged 6.6 walks and 1.35 homers per nine innings pitched en route to a 5.06 ERA. Coming off that campaign, few would’ve believed that the righty would put himself in position to score this type of three-year deal on the open market, but his remarkable bounceback effort was an eye-opener. Ottavino’s 12.1 percent swinging-strike rate isn’t commensurate with the whiff rate you’d expect for someone averaging 13 punchouts per nine innings, and his 26.1 percent opponents’ chase rate on out-of-zone pitches is well below the league average for a reliever. Nonetheless, today’s agreement serves as evidence that the Yankees are convinced of his ability to at least approach his 2018 output as he enters his mid-30s.

    In effect, Ottavino will be replacing right-hander David Robertson, who signed with the Phillies on a two-year deal worth a guaranteed $23MM a couple of weeks back. Britton, the team’s other marquee addition, had already finished out the season in manager Aaron Boone’s bullpen following a deadline trade with the Orioles. In that sense, then, one could argue that the bullpen hasn’t definitively improved. Of course, improving on a relief corps that posted the game’s fourth-best ERA (3.38) and the game’s highest strikeout percentage (30.2 percent) is no small feat. At the very least, swapping out Robertson for Ottavino will ensure that the Yankees’ bullpen should maintain its already elite status, even if one or two of the team’s top relievers take a step back in ’19.

    The recent additions of Ottavino and DJ LeMahieu, former Rockies teammates now reunited in the Bronx, have added $21MM worth of luxury tax hits to the Yankees’ ledger. That should put them firmly above the $206MM cutoff even if they’re successfully able to find a taker for Sonny Gray and his $7.5MM salary. As Jason Martinez outlines at Roster Resource, the Yankees’ luxury tax payroll currently projects to just north of $224MM, while their actual in-season 2019 payroll — assuming an even $9MM per year breakdown of Ottavino’s deal — currently rests around $209.5MM.

    However, the Yankees dipped south of the luxury tax line last season, which reset them back into the lowest penalty bracket. As such, they’ll be faced with a relatively tame penalty — a 12 percent overage tax on every dollar north of the $206MM cutoff point.

    The three-year, $27MM value of Ottavino’s contract is likely a bitter pill for the Rockies to swallow, as Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post observes (Twitter link). The Rox handed out a pair of three-year deals worth that exact amount when signing Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee an offseason ago, both of whom struggled through awful seasons in year one of those contracts. That pair of signings, however, combined with the $52MM pact given to Wade Davis, surely restricted the Rockies’ ability to make an earnest effort to re-sign Ottavino this winter.

    Generally, though, Ottavino’s contract falls well within range of what was reasonably expected heading into the offseason. We at MLBTR ranked him 21st on our annual ranking of the game’s Top 50 free agents, predicting that he’d secure a three-year, $30MM pact with the Yankees.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Yankees Looking For Rotation Depth]]> 2019-01-17T06:35:13Z 2019-01-17T03:57:59Z
  • Even as they look for a deal to send out starter Sonny Gray, the Yankees are seeking another rotation asset, according to Jon Heyman of Fancred (Twitter link). It stands to reason that such a player would be a depth piece, whether a veteran on a minor-league deal or an optionable hurler acquired via trade, or perhaps a swingman type who’d initially work out of the bullpen. After all, even without Gray, the Yanks appear to have five rotation spots accounted for. It’s certainly understandable that the club would like to account for any starts that end up being missed by that unit, however. Otherwise, the New York org is said still to be looking at the relief market.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Diamondbacks Acquire Tim Locastro]]> 2019-01-16T21:18:06Z 2019-01-16T21:11:04Z The Yankees announced Wednesday that they’ve traded infielder/outfielder Tim Locastro to the Diamondbacks in exchange for minor league lefty Ronald Roman and cash. Locastro was designated for assignment earlier this week in order to open a spot on the Yankees’ roster for DJ LeMahieu. Arizona’s acquisition of Locastro fills the team’s 40-man roster.

    Locastro, 26, has just 15 MLB plate appearances to his name, but he’s a .307/.402/.443 hitter with six homers, 33 doubles, two triples and 30 stolen bases (in 34 attempts) in just 114 games of Triple-A experience in the Dodgers’ system. New York acquired him from the Dodgers earlier this offseason, but Locastro didn’t last the full offseason on the Yankees’ 40-man roster following several infield additions, including LeMahieu and Troy Tulowitzki.

    Locastro has played all over the field in the minors and has spent most of his time at second base and shortstop. He does have a pair of options remaining, and he’ll give the D-backs some additional depth in both the infield and the outfield following today’s reported agreement with former Mets infielder Wilmer Flores (for which they’ll now need to make a corresponding move following the acquisition of Locastro).

    As for the 17-year-old Roman, he’s yet to even begin his professional career with the D-backs in earnest. He signed as an international amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic back on July 2 when this year’s international class kicked off and has not pitched for any of the team’s Rookie-level affiliates. He’ll presumably head to the Yankees’ affiliate in the Dominican Summer League this coming season, where he’ll make his in-game pro debut.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Braves Notes: Anthopoulos, Catching, Markakis, Relief Pitching, Pollock, Gray]]> 2019-01-16T14:58:18Z 2019-01-16T14:58:18Z The Braves burst out of the gates this winter with the signings of Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann, but it has been crickets in Atlanta ever since. Here’s the latest …

    • Appearing at a team-sponsored event, GM Alex Anthopoulos discussed the status of the team’s roster-building efforts, as attendee and SB Nation contributor Stacy Marlow documented (Twitter links). Unsurprisingly, he did not divulge much in the way of specifics, but did provide some worthwhile snippets. Anthopoulos suggested the team was not heavily engaged on a “quiet” catching market, but would not rule out a move if the right opportunity comes along. He also seemingly reiterated a familiar stance on free agent outfielder Nick Markakis, indicating that the sides are still keeping an open line and weighing a reunion.
    • The Braves relief unit is certainly an area of potential improvement, but Anthopoulos’s comments suggest he has been lying in wait in hopes of securing good value in that area. He says that he only just spoke with a free agent reliever for the first time recently, indicating that the club has not been in on the quality pitchers that have already signed — many of them for fairly hefty salaries. Anthopoulos added that his expectation is that contract demands will begin to drop as Spring Training approaches. As we’ve often discussed over the past two years, teams are exhibiting much greater patience in free agency. Whether players and their agents can match that discipline and regain some leverage remains to be seen.
    • Most tantalizing, however, were Anthopoulos’s comments regarding one possible swap that’s evidently in the works. “There’s one trade concept right now that 70% of the deal we would agree to, the 30% is probably where we are going back and forth,” he said. “I don’t know if we are going to get it done, but the main piece of the deal I think we ultimately would be ok, it’s the add on.” Certainly, this not-yet-completed arrangement could involve any number of possible players, but it’s at least notable to learn that there could soon be some action.
    • One significant factor in the development of the offseason for the Braves, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription link), is the team’s hesitation to part with a draft selection to sign a player who declined a qualifying offer. There were six such players, only two of whom have signed to this point. Several are at least hypothetical targets for Atlanta, with the team reportedly showing real interest in outfielder A.J. Pollock. Rosenthal writes that the Braves are worried about the draft compensation that would be required to land Pollock — in their case, a second-round pick that’ll end up being sixty-something overall. Specifically, he says, the Braves “value the selection more than most clubs” because of the amateur talent penalties the team was slapped with in late 2017. If that is indeed a position the team itself holds, it’s somewhat less than compelling. The Braves certainly aren’t alone in valuing draft selections. Like their competitors, they must consider the future talent pipeline. It’s especially tough to see the club as uniquely situated when it still possesses a bounty of young talent at the major and minor league levels.
    • One possibility that’s seemingly still on the table for the Braves is a move to land Sonny Gray of the Yankees. Gabriel Burns of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently discussed the concept, on the heels of a report from Jon Heyman of Fancred (Twitter link) that suggested the Braves could still be pursuer as the New York org again tries to make a deal on the veteran righty. As Burns explains, it’s not exactly a perfect fit, given Gray’s recent struggles and the Braves’ own needs, but it’s possible to imagine a match and the org has clearly shown prior interest. What’s most interesting, perhaps, is what a hypothetical acquisition of Gray would mean for Julio Teheran — another still-youthful, not-inexpensive starter who is looking to regain his prior form. Understandably, the Braves do not appear to view the rotation as the first order of business. The opening in right field no doubt remains the top priority, with some of the other possibilities discussed above arguably also rating as greater needs. All said, there’s still quite a bit of work to do this winter for Anthopoulos and co.
    TC Zencka <![CDATA[3 Remaining Needs: AL East]]> 2019-01-15T16:39:02Z 2019-01-15T16:39:02Z In the final installment of our 3 Remaining Needs series, let’s take a look at the division that boasted the best and worst teams of the 2018 season. The AL East perfectly reflects the class warfare plaguing the American League, as the gap between the competitive upper class and, well, the Orioles could not be more stark. Even within the upper crust, however, there is plenty of variance, as the low-payroll Rays have done their best to keep pace with payroll behemoths in Boston and New York. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays have taken a step back but are still looking to prepare their roster for an anticipated influx of premium young talent.

    [Previous installments: NL WestNL EastNL CentralAL West, AL Central]

    Baltimore Orioles

    • Trade Mychal Givens. It’s a no-brainer for the Orioles to sell off their veteran pieces for prospects, only they don’t have much to sell off. Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner can be shopped, but they’d be salary dumps if they’re moveable at all and they might be better off providing a veteran base for a rotation that should have younger arms auditioning for at least two turns out of every five. The O’s have invested too much in Dylan Bundy over the years to trade him now for pennies on the dollar; better to hang onto the upside. That leaves Givens (10.3 K/9) as the most attractive piece on an otherwise barren roster. Once the major free agent bullpeners are off the market, teams should come calling for a hard-throwing late-inning arm with three seasons of control remaining.
    • Sign trade bait for July. With a hugely uncertain roster situation, the Orioles should be willing to take some risks and snap up whatever the market leaves. While they’re not likely to snag any major free agents, even on pillow deals, they should be scouring the bargain bin for vets on one-year deals that could potentially bring something back at the trade deadline. Frankly, the particular position doesn’t matter so much as the value opportunity that’s presented. Needless to say, the same reasoning also supports active waiver-wire scanning, such as the team’s recent claims of Rio Ruiz and Hanser Alberto.
    • Boost their international operations. The O’s longstanding aversion to spending on international amateur talent is well-documented. That was beginning to change before the club turned over the reins to new GM Mike Elias, but the org’s initial foray onto the market did not exactly go without a hitch as the club’s top reputed targets (Sandy Gaston and the Mesa brothers) landed elsewhere. That served as a reminder that bringing in top talent — not to mention, unearthing lower-cost gems — involves more than having and spending the available funds.

    Boston Red Sox

    • Replace/re-sign Craig Kimbrel. The Red Sox haven’t done much work to rebuild their bullpen as of yet, but the degree to which they’ll need to is still unknown. With no clear market developing for Kimbrel at this time, a reunion is not at all out of the question. If they don’t bring him back to Boston, they’ll need to do something to bolster a unit currently over-reliant on holdovers Ryan Brasier and Matt Barnes.
    • Explore upgrades at catcher. Boston somehow managed to win a World Series in a season where its catchers batted a combined .194/.246/.288 in 619 plate appearances. Regardless of the defensive Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon can frame and throw with the best of them, and Blake Swihart (if he ever catches) may yet turn into something if given any semblance of an opportunity, but the catcher position in Boston was an utter black hole on offense last season. It wasn’t quite as bad as having a pitcher hit each time through the order, but it was closer than any AL team should be. That the team hasn’t done anything to this point suggests it may not be at the top of the priority list, but it’s hard to deny that there’s an opportunity to improve. Speaking of backstops …
    • Resolve the status of Blake Swihart. The Red Sox need to finally determine if Swihart has any kind of real role with the team. Again, it’s tough to criticize a team that won a World Series in 2018, but even Boston’s most steadfast defenders have to concede that the team didn’t exactly manage its roster all that effectively as pertains to Swihart. Boston wouldn’t put Swihart behind the plate, wouldn’t put him in the field and wouldn’t DH him. Swihart had just 48 plate appearances through May 31 in 2018 despite not spending a single day on the disabled list or in the minors. He had 99 PAs prior to the All-Star break — again, without a DL stint or any time in the minors. He can’t be optioned, and the Sox clearly don’t have a spot for him. It may have worked in 2018, but the Sox were effectively operating with a 24-man roster for a good chunk of 2018. They need more flexibility, and Swihart probably would like a chance to actually play somewhere.

    New York Yankees

    • Trade Sonny Gray. Once Brian Cashman began the offseason by declaring Gray would be traded, there seemed little room for negotiation. The market for Gray may not fully materialize until all of the top starting arms are off the market, but there doesn’t seem to be much value in bringing him back to New York. There’s no room in the rotation at present, even if there are questions around the age and durability of their top five. Still, the Yanks are not shy about in-season acquisitions and they have depth in Triple A they can rely on. Specifically, Domingo German (5.57 ERA) and Luis Cessa (5.24 ERA) underperformed last season relative to advanced metrics like FIP and xFIP.
    • Seriously pursue a premium free agent. No, the Yanks do not need Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. The club won 100 games last year and is a threat to do so again (in a highly stratified American League) without making further upgrades. Still, this division — more so than the two other wings of the AL — promises to host a year-long battle. And … well … this is the Yankees we are talking about. What good is it being a financial behemoth if you can’t use your might to elbow out other teams when rare market opportunities come along? We’re not here to say that the Yankees must land one of these two players, or that they simply have to pursue both even if it makes a mess of the team’s roster and financial planning. But it would be odd if the Yanks didn’t at least put in a strong bid for either or both. With the allure of the pinstripes and New York City helping the cause, they just might come away with a bargain.
    • Add another relief arm. Whether or not the club makes any other notable roster moves, this seems like an easy way to improve. The bullpen has been a notable strength in the Bronx of late, and that promises to continue. But the deeper the unit is, the more support it can provide to a highly talented but somewhat risky rotation. Limiting the wear and tear on the starting unit will not only max out its results all year long, but give the Yankees the best chance of having a powerful staff when crunch time comes late in the season.

    Tampa Bay Rays

    • Make another free agent splash. A big name would surely help the club draw some fans to the park, and perhaps help jump start a still-flagging ballpark effort. More importantly, the team can still tap into some funds to improve its chances of sneaking up on the BoSox and Yanks. As things stand, there’s still just under $60MM on the books for 2019. With a number of quality free agents still out there and awaiting a deal, the Rays should be willing to be aggressive in doling out short-term money to get significant pieces. Charlie Morton could deliver great value, and adding Avisail Garcia may be a decent risk, but there’s no reason to stop there.
    • Make a run at J.T. Realmuto. Whether or not the free agent market offers another golden opportunity, the Rays should see if they can pull of an intra-state coup by coaxing the Marlins to send their star backstop up the coast. There’s nothing wrong with a Mike ZuninoMichael Perez pairing behind the dish, but Realmuto is the game’s best. The Tampa Bay front office would have flexibility in resolving the preexisting options, particularly since Perez can still be optioned. He’d be a nice depth piece and could perhaps also remain on the roster as part of a three-catcher mix. Alternatively, the Rays could still deal away Zunino.
    • Add some veteran bullpen pieces. The Rays’ fascinating bullpen usage has shown no small amount of promise. Part of the strategy, of course, is to lean on a high volume of young pitching. But it’s hard to deny the value of veteran leadership and of established, steady performance. The current Tampa Bay bullpen unit features just one player — Chaz Roe — with more than three years of MLB service time. Allocating some remaining funds to one or more quality free agents would seem to make sense. Old friend Sergio Romo is among the many remaining possibilities.

    Toronto Blue Jays

    • Prepare for potential spring trades. Entering the winter, it seemed that veteran first baseman Justin Smoak would pop up in the rumor mill with some frequency. We broke down his potential suitors in anticipation of just that, but nothing of note has materialized to this point. There has been more chatter surrounding righty Marcus Stroman, but no indication to date that there’s any momentum toward a deal. Things may be quiet now, but more and more of the offseason business is stretching up to and into Spring Training, when teams will see their rosters in the flesh and injuries will begin to pop up. The Jays should anticipate some late-breaking interest in these players and be ready to pounce on any good opportunities that come up.
    • Put the payroll space to work. Neither Smoak nor Stroman need to be moved for purely financial reasons. Indeed, the Jays should also be willing at least to poke around for bargains on the market. The Jays are only projected to have a payroll of roughly $110MM next season right now, well below recent levels of spending. The team has a variety of players who have a decent amount of MLB experience but who have yet to establish themselves fully. It’s fine to give opportunities to players of that kind, but that shouldn’t be allowed to clog things up if there’s a chance to add better talent — even if it costs a bit of money. The Toronto organization could find some opportunities to acquire talent as teams make final payroll decisions, whether that takes the form of snagging unwanted arbitration-year players or taking on an under-water contract that’s packaged with prospects.
    • Add to the bullpen. The Jays have little in the way of established arms at the back of the ’pen, and even if they don’t realistically expect to contend, there’s value in having a few stabilizing pieces to prevent a constant churn of DFAs and other various 40-man machinations throughout the course of the season. Scooping up some useful arms on one- or even two-year deals can also always yield a viable summer trade chip. Last year, the club enjoyed some opportunities at the trade deadline due to its arsenal of veteran relievers, and there’s good reason to pursue a similar course again.
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pitching Market Rumors: Giants, Gray, Rangers, Allen, Scrabble]]> 2019-01-15T01:35:23Z 2019-01-14T23:21:25Z The pitching market continues to proceed at a steady but unhurried pace, with today’s reunion between the Giants and Derek Holland marking the latest signing of note. Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle was among those to cover the news from the team’s perspective. While the organization has undergone front office changes since Holland wrapped up a solid performance on a one-year deal in 2018, new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi still made the call to bring back the southpaw. That was due in no small part to the club’s positive experience with him last year, both on and off the field. Zaidi emphasized that the team still wants to find more rotation depth this winter, though it’s far from clear that any further MLB signings will be pursued. It certainly seems possible that the club will add plausible rotation pieces via trade or on minor-league deals.

    Here’s the latest on the pitching market:

    • Talks surrounding Sonny Gray have “ramped up” since Yankees’ lefty CC Sabathia was cleared to resume baseball activities last week, Fancred’s Jon Heyman tweets. The Yankees are discussing Gray with six teams, including the Reds, per Heyman, though previous reports had indicated that Cincinnati’s interest had cooled off since adding Alex Wood and Tanner Roark. Gray agreed to a $7.5MM salary over the weekend, falling shy of MLBTR’s $9.1MM projection and perhaps making him a bit more appealing to clubs who’ve already added a fair bit of payroll this offseason.
    • The Rangers are maintaining interest in adding some free-agent arms to their bullpen and have been in recent contact with the representatives for right-handers Adam Ottavino and Cody Allen, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (Twitter links). However, the likelier route is that the Rangers will add multiple lower-cost relievers rather than one higher-end piece. Rosenthal adds Adam Warren to the list of potential Texas targets and notes that the Rangers are also still looking to add an infielder. Meanwhile, La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes that the Twins still have interest in Allen. Minnesota was connected to Allen earlier this winter and has since signed Blake Parker, though they’re still in the market for additional relief help. Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey knows Allen quite well from his days in the Indians’ front office.
    • Free-agent lefty Marc Rzepczynski is hosting a showcase for big league teams tomorrow, tweets Fancred’s Jon Heyman. The 33-year-old southpaw struggled tremendously in 2018 both at the Majors and in Triple-A, and he’ll look to audition for clubs on what figures to be a minor league deal with a chance to reestablish himself as a credible option. “Scrabble” has worked as a lefty specialist for the bulk of his career, as he hasn’t topped 50 innings since 2011 despite averaging 64 MLB appearances per season from 2012-17. In his career, he’s held lefties to an awful .225/.296/.305 batting line through 857 plate appearances.
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Yankees Designate Tim Locastro For Assignment]]> 2019-01-14T21:40:45Z 2019-01-14T21:40:24Z The Yankees announced Monday that they have designated infielder/outfielder Tim Locastro for assignment. His spot on the 40-man roster will to to veteran DJ LeMahieu, whose previously reported two-year deal is now official.

    New York acquired the 26-year-old Locastro from the Dodgers earlier this season, sending minor league righty Drew Finley to Los Angeles in return. Locastro, however, doesn’t appear as though he’ll get the opportunity to suit up for the Yankees unless he clears waivers and works his way back into the MLB picture following an outright assignment.

    Locastro has just 15 MLB plate appearances to his name, but he’s a .307/.402/.443 hitter with six homers, 33 doubles, two triples and 30 stolen bases (in 34 attempts) in just 114 games of Triple-A experience. The Yankees referred to Locastro as an outfielder only, likely indicative of how they planned to use him, but he’s played all over the field in the minors and has spent most of his time at second base and shortstop. He does have a pair of options remaining, so he could be viewed as a depth piece by another club.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Yankees Sign DJ LeMahieu]]> 2019-01-14T21:35:36Z 2019-01-14T21:35:45Z Jan. 14: The Yankees have now announced the deal.

    Jan. 11, 7:50pm: The deal promises LeMahieu $12MM in each of its two seasons, Jon Heyman of Fancred tweets.

    11:43am: LeMahieu is heading to the Yankees, tweets Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. His contract is believed to be a two-year deal with a guarantee in the range of $24MM.

    11:40am: The Yankees are closing in on a two-year contract with free-agent second baseman DJ LeMahieu, reports Jack Curry of the YES Network (Twitter links). New York’s plan for LeMahieu is to use him as a multi-positional asset, where he’ll see time at second base, third base and even at first base, per Curry.

    DJ LeMahieu | Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

    With LeMahieu and Troy Tulowitzki now in the fold, Manny Machado looks to be less of a fit in the Bronx than ever, although the addition of those two players certainly doesn’t preclude a signing. There’s been talk earlier this winter of the possibility that the Yanks could yet move an infielder, and Tulowitzki’s league-minimum salary doesn’t represent much of an impediment if the Yankees decide to alter their course. That said, there’s no denying that today’s agreement with LeMahieu does seem to make that long-speculated match with Machado considerably less plausible.

    The Yankees’ infield now likely consists of Miguel Andujar at third base, Tulowitzki at short, Gleyber Torres at second base and Luke Voit at first, with LeMahieu filling in as a versatile super-sub and Greg Bird also on hand as an option at first base. Didi Gregorius, of course, will join that mix later this season when he is sufficiently recovered from Tommy John surgery. It’s a crowded mix but a deep and highly talented one that should provide the Yankees plenty of insurance against injury while also allowing them to field a strong lineup even on days when their top bats are resting.

    LeMahieu, 29, is perennially among the game’s premier defensive second baseman and has consistently hit for average, though his overall production has wavered somewhat on a year-over-year basis. LeMahieu won a surprise National League batting title when he hit .348/.416/.495 in a career year back in 2016, but while he followed that up with a high-quality .310 average in 2017, his power fell off, as he slugged just .409 that season and posted a .099 ISO (slugging minus batting average). This past season, most of his pop returned, but his overall output checked in at .276/.321/.428 — rather pedestrian production when considering his hitter-friendly home setting (86 wRC+).

    All in all, LeMahieu generally rates as an average or better overall hitter with premium defensive skills. He’s batted a combined .309/.369/.429 across the past four seasons and been one of the toughest strikeouts in the league over that span, punching out in just 14.2 percent of his plate appearances. And while some will make a point to note that his home/road splits are rather pronounced, he’ll be moving from Coors Field to yet another one of the game’s premier hitters’ parks, Yankee Stadium.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Yankees Confident Miguel Andujar's Defense Will Improve]]> 2019-01-13T14:33:34Z 2019-01-13T14:33:34Z In the wake of the Yankees’ agreement with infielder DJ LeMahieu, their talks with free agent Manny Machado “are either dormant or completely dead,” ESPN’s Buster Olney writes (subscription required). Although Machado would greatly improve the Yankees’ infield, they haven’t been willing to approach his exorbitant asking price, and there’s no obvious free spot in their infield with LeMahieu and Troy Tulowitzki having come aboard this offseason. While the Yankees could trade third baseman Miguel Andujar to open up room for Machado, it seems they’re more inclined to bet on the former, as Olney details. Andujar excelled at the plate in 2018, his rookie year, but had a horrific time in the field. However, Andujar has consistently demonstrated a willingness to better his defense – including this winter – and the Yankees are confident his work will yield positive results in 2019. If not, Olney posits the Yankees could make a run at Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado should he reach free agency a year from now.