Inside Baseball from Jon Heyman brings you news, notes, rumors and more from all 30 MLB teams. For Heyman’s predictions of where remaining free agents may go, click here.
And now, around the majors…
- Their big thing all winter has been whether they’d be able to bring back slugging sensation J.D. Martinez, and there were hints they had a decent chance to upset the Red Sox recently. Owner Ken Kendrick met with agent Scott Boras a third time. The D-backs hired Martinez’s hitting guru. And Martinez’s boyhood friend, Alex Avila, took Martinez’s word to sign with the D-backs. The signs seem pretty positive, at least at the moment.
- Mike Moustakas is seen as a long shot, writes Mark Bowman of MLB.com. The team believes Austin Riley is a year away, so they’d seem mostly likely to be interested in a short deal.
- The Braves are a file-and-trial team, but since they were only 100K apart on Mike Foltynewicz, they offered to split the difference rather than go through the trouble, Bowman reported (also, he had a child on the way). Folty took his chances, flew to Phoenix and lost (at $2.2 million) but got back to see the birth of his first child, Michael Jett Foltynewicz. He may not have loved the process since he “liked” my tweet tweaking the Braves for going to arbitration over the 100K difference (I didn’t know they’d offered to split the difference at the time).
- The Braves will be one of at least 15 teams attending Tim Lincecum’s showcase.
- The Braves are still looking at bullpen help.
- The Andrew Cashner two-year deal was not all that unexpected. Manager Buck Showalter likes Cashner, as has been mentioned in this space. They have been talking since November. In addition to the two years at $16 million with heavy incentives in both years, Cashner has a third-year vesting option that kicks in at 340 innings, and a player option that kicks in with 360 innings in the first two.
- There’s been no extension talk with Adam Jones, Zach Britton or Jonathan Schoop to this point, the players revealed. Those are more spring things, anyway.
- Jones and Britton are among the team’s free agents to be, along with manager Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette. Could be a very interesting season in Baltimore.
- Duquette said it’s more likely they bolster their needy rotation via free agency than trades in an interview with Roch Kubatko of MASN.
- This will surprise some folks, but since 2012, the Orioles have received the second most innings in the AL from pitchers they’ve developed (the Blue Jays have a big lead, with 1,299.2 innings to the Orioles’ 734.2), but still.
- They were expected to be at Tim Lincecum’s showcase Thursday.
Boston Red Sox
- David Price admitted to making some mistakes last year, and good for him. “I could’ve handled it better, absolutely,” Price told the Red Sox media. “But I didn’t, and I’ve moved on.”
- Along the same lines, Jackie Bradley Jr. took his nomination for the “All Overrated Team” in stride, saying it was an “honor.” Nice.
- Great headline from NBC Sports in Boston: “Give Price a Chance.” Price will have $127 million over four years left with an opt-out after the year. It would seem to be a long shot that he’d opt out at this point, but as Masahiro Tanaka showed, these things can be unpredictable.
- Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski has a history of signing Scott Boras clients, but many of those deals were actually done by Tigers owner Mike Ilitch. They included Pudge Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez and Prince Fielder. Left to his own, Dombrowski’s chances may be less than great. He seems to be holding firm on Martinez, and they are still in play.
- It seems to make little sense to give up center fielder Bradley to land Edwin Encarnacion. But if they were to do that, they could play Mookie Betts in center field, then sign a more cost-effective right fielder.
- Betts told Red Sox writers there are no hard feelings over arbitration (he won at $10.5M, compared to Boston’s submission of $7.5M) but would prefer to go year-to-year. “I’m just going to focus on 2018,” he told them. (It will be interesting to see whether more stars do sign earlier considering how tough this year’s free-agent market has been.)
- Xander Bogaerts, meanwhile, suggested he loves playing in Boston.
- Alex Cora has taking a hands-on approach, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.
- The Red Sox haven’t painted bullpen help as a big need, but they did speak to Tony Watson about a possible job.
- They were slated to be at Tim Lincecum’s showcase Thursday.
- New Red Sox exec Tony La Russa said free agents have an “obligation to be reasonable.” He was the president of the D-Backs when they signed Zack Greinke for $206.5 million.
- Stephen Wright claimed he didn’t strike his wife in his domestic abuse case, but said he wasn’t allowed to say more than that. MLB is reviewing the case.
- The Cubs didn’t think they could get Yu Darvish when the winter began, but they believe his World Series troubles helped lower the price where they could fit him under the luxury-tax threshold number of $197 million. Darvish originally sought $175 million for seven years, then lowered it to $125 million over five and finally settled for $126 million over six.
- The Cubs asked Jake Arrieta if he would take the same deal, as FanRag Sports reported, but it appears he didn’t think that was the right price for him there. Arrieta may have been thinking about the fact he has slightly outperformed Jon Lester over the past few years.
- At least one other team acted like it really didn’t try all that hard for Darvish after losing out to the Cubs. It’s possible that may be true (maybe they prefer Arrieta), but leaking unnamed sentiments like that is unbecoming. The reality is that losers in bidding sometimes like to rewrite history and suggest it’s no big loss to them. The other reality is that Darvish preferred the Cubs, and they did the right thing going to that level to get the deal done.
- Cubs president Theo Epstein also mentioned how the trade for Jose Quintana helped, as Quintana’s contract is so reasonable that it allowed them to add another high-priced pitcher.
- The Cubs don’t have a lot of money left if they want to stay under the luxury-tax threshold, which might make signing Greg Holland difficult. But since they are losing two free agents (Arrieta and Wade Davis), it would be a wash in terms of draft picks.
- Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reported that they are getting trade inquiries on Mike Montgomery since signing Darvish.
- The Cubs have done almost everything well in the Theo Epstein-Jed Hoyer years. But as Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic pointed out, the one thing they haven’t done is develop their own pitchers. They have the fewest innings since 2012 from home-grown pitchers, with 30. Still, it’s a pretty darned good record overall.
Chicago White Sox
- The White Sox hired Dave Duncan, arguably the best pitching coach in history, as a pitching consultant. Duncan played with the ChiSox in the early 1970s (a great decade imo).
- Hector Santiago on a minors deal is good value.
- The White Sox, who have done a very nice job negotiating with young players in recent years, lost both their arb cases. Avisail Garcia won $6.7 million, pushing his agent Gene Mato to a 2-0 record in arbitration (he won a big case with Anibal Sanchez years ago, and not many agents can claim to be undefeated in arbitration), and infielder Yolmer Sanchez also won. The Astros and the Rays also were 0-2 with 22 cases in all going to hearing, so it’s pretty clear teams are becoming much tougher forcing situations into arb settings. The players do hold a slim lead in results with a couple to go, though.
- Sadly, there was some symmetry when former pitcher Esteban Loaiza, who made $44 million in his career, was arrested with 44 pounds of cocaine.
- Nice story by Lauren Comitor of The Athletic on how Kim Ng broke into the business.
- Luis Castillo has a chance to be great and C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic did a nice story on how he developed the two-seam fastball.
- Manager Bryan Price described the rotation situation as a 3-1-2-2 proposition. Castillo, Homer Bailey and Anthony DeSclafani are expected to be in there, Brandon Finnegan is likely to be in, Robert Stephenson and Sal Romano are the favorites for the No. 5 spot, with Tyler Mahle and Michael Lorenzen also in the mix for that fifth spot.
- The status of Michael Brantley for Opening Day is unsettled, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported. Brantley had ankle surgery back in October.
- There was a denial from someone in his agency that Logan Morrison declined a $20 million, two-year offer before Yonder Alonso took one for $16 million for two from them, as had been reported. The Indians did show interest, though that exact offer couldn’t be confirmed.
- Jim Thome made the right call to go with the “C” cap rather than Chief Wahoo. Thome also works for MLB, so Wahoo might have been a tough call, anyway.
- RIP to John “Tito” Francona, the father of Terry “Tito” Francona.
- Trevor Bauer won a big arbitration case against the Indians, being awarded $6.525 million vs. the Indians’ number of $5.3 million. It was a big win for the players since it was one of the larger spreads.
- The Rockies made an early offer to Jonathan Lucroy, as well as Greg Holland, two of their big free agents, but pivoted quickly to Chris Iannetta and Wade Davis. Lucroy hasn’t been connected to a lot of teams lately – though Houston is one.
- Manager Bud Black is experimenting with Charlie Blackmon in the No. 3 spot in the lineup. Blackmon had one of the all-time great seasons at leadoff, with 100-plus RBIs. The guess here is, they don’t tinker with what worked perfectly.
- Thomas Harding of MLB.com did a nice story on the heroic Chad Bettis, who returned last year after testicular cancer returned. Great young man.
- Miguel Cabrera has even more reason to aim for a big comeback. He has a vesting option for $30M for 2024 and ’25 that triggers with a top-10 MVP finish. Of course, the Tigers’ chances to contend are slim, so Cabrera would likely have to do it on his own.
- The Tigers were there to see Tim Lincecum’s showcase Thursday.
- Travis Wood nearly lost a finger on his non-pitching hand in a crossbow incident. The finger is in a splint now. Manager Ron Gardenhire joked that he had developed “a split finger.”
- Justin Verlander came back at Mad Dog Russo’s comment that the Yankees would “have to be” the team to beat in the AL, by making a pretty darned good point. Got to say, Verlander won that round.
- The Astros were better on the field (World Champs) than in the arb room, going 0-2.
- Time for the Astros to lock up manager A.J. Hinch, arguably the best in the business.
Kansas City Royals
- Dayton Moore is thinking of the fans when he tries hard to bring back Eric Hosmer, even though the team appears to be entering a rebuilding phase. More GMs should be like this. It isn’t decided yet, but a pursuit of Mike Moustakas may depend on Hosmer’s decision. If Hosmer returns, they may simply not be able to squeeze Moustakas into their budget.
- In the meantime, Hunter Dozier, a former No. 8 pick overall, is one of many taking reps at first base. The Royals are hoping they are just temporary placeholders for Hosmer.
- Brandon Maurer had his arb case heard Thursday. He had an 8.10 ERA with KC last year. Good luck.
Los Angeles Angels
- The Angels will go with a six-man rotation, they announced. That accommodates new international superstar Shohei Ohtani. This also works nicely for the team since they have had so many pitching injuries in recent years.
- The Angels aren’t discouraged enough about Tim Lincecum’s disappointing few games for them two years ago to prevent them from sending a scout to Seattle to watch Lincecum.
- Albert Pujols has lost 25-30 pounds, Jose Mota said on MLB Network. That should help his troublesome feet.
- If you aren’t excited about Ohtani, you aren’t a baseball fan.
Los Angeles Dodgers
- Some Dodgers people can hardly believe they haven’t been able to unload Matt Kemp yet.
- The two-year deal for Chase Utley, first reported by FanRag Sports, at $2 million (h/t Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times on the price) allows Utley to continue what he likes doing, which is to play baseball, and it gives the Dodgers a little more room on the payroll, as the AAV is just $1 million. They wanted him back to help with the clubhouse, which means to offset Yasiel Puig’s goofiness with his professionalism.
- Utley is not about money. In that way, he is like the new crosstown star Shohei Ohtani.
- One scout, noting how I suggested Utley had an interesting Hall of Fame case, wondered why Utley would have a better case than Jeff Kent, who is stuck at 15 percent. I answered: aura, defense, World Series. He shot back, “It’s probably 80 percent aura.”
- Puig became that rare star player to be fired by his agency, Wasserman. The people at Wasserman wouldn’t say what he has done, but it isn’t hard to imagine that he’s high maintenance. No word on a new agency yet. One agent instructed his workers to hang up if he should call.
- Kenley Jansen said they are “the team to beat” in the NL. That’s fair. They are the NL pennant winners from a year ago.
- Clayton Kershaw gets his team-record eighth Opening Day start.
- The Dodgers were on hand to watch another former Opening Day starter and longtime rival, Tim Lincecum, at his showcase. Now that would be interesting.
- RIP Wally Moon whose “Moon Shots” at the Los Angeles Coliseum helped the Dodgers win a World Series in their second year in L.A. The dimensions were odd at the Coliseum, and no one took advantage like Moon, hitting 39 of his 47 home runs at home over a three-year period.
- The Dodgers are our early favorite to sign Bryce Harper.
- The Marlins are still looking for an outfielder, with Melky Cabrera and Jon Jay on their radar, as was reported in this space, and possibly also Jose Bautusta. Craig Mish, a Sirius radio personality with Marlins ties, suggested Cabrera is the first choice, with Jay a backup plan. But perhaps considering the price, one Marlins person suggested he thought Jay and Bautista might have the best chance. To this point, however, there wasn’t much evidence of a lot of contact with Bautista.
- Mish also suggested there was talk involving J.T. Realmuto between the Marlins and Astros. An Astros-connected person suggested in this space weeks ago they like Realmuto, but an official with one of the teams thought that report might have overstated things a bit.
- Wei-Yin Chen projects as a starter – if he can make it back, the team says.
- Brad Ziegler, who did a great job in the second half, will be the closer.
- The Sea Creature race is no more, Andy Slater, a Miami radio personality reported.
- As far as the home run sculpture by Red Grooms, which we’ve heard Derek Jeter doesn’t love (and the mayor also seems happy to be rid of), one person said he believed that it could cost in the millions to remove it and place it elsewhere for safe keeping. If true, feels like the money can be better spent elsewhere.
- Broadcasters take note: Tim Healey of the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel tells us Jorge Guzman, top pitching prospect, wants his name pronounced like George. Not exactly as shocking as when Mike Stanton told us he wanted his name pronounced Giancarlo. Some people still don’t have that right. It’s like John-Car-Lo (with the J pronounced like Frere Jacques). Also, three syllables, not four.
- The word on the Marlins’ new business president Chip Bowers is that he is very capable. He comes from the Golden State Warriors, which is recommendation enough.
- Maybe I’m getting old, but I don’t mind Derek Jeter’s facial hair policy calling for only well-groomed facial hair. Some of these beards have gotten out of control in recent years, imo. They might as well look good this year.
- The Marlins say ticket sales are way up from this time last year. It’s hard to actually say what the Marlins’ ticket sales were last year. Their attendance is listed as 1.6 million, but the actual attendance probably was short of 1 million.
- The Brewers are still working on their rotation, and it would be a surprise for them to do nothing more, as they have obviously determined this is the time to go for it.
- It is quite possible they simply prefer Jake Arrieta to Yu Darvish. They were definitely in the mix for Darvish.
- Very nice feature by Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on the great Corey Knebel and what the Brewers are doing with the rest of the bullpen.
- They were slated to be in attendance for Tim Lincecum’s showcase Thursday.
- Rare non-baseball note: Aaron Rodgers will be on hand to watch girlfriend Danica Patrick in the Daytona 500, the Journal Sentinel reported.
- The Twins have looked into Chris Archer, but a trade of Archer would presumably require one of their top prospects, such as Nick Gordon, something the Twins may not be willing to do. Minnesota actually has a plethora of great shortstop prospects (Royce Lewis, others), so they should consider it. The other name heard connected to a possible Archer trade is Max Kepler. But as the person who told me that speculated “Kepler plus plus.” Yes, It would have to be much more than just Kepler alone.
- The Twins made a superb move last year, but they could be in for a tougher season if they don’t add some starting pitching. Ervin Santana will miss the first few weeks of the season after needing finger surgery recently. It’s a shame the team didn’t figure out that was needed sooner.
- The Twins added Chris Heisey as a possible pinch hitter/bench player.
New York Mets
- It’s interesting to note that two of the most fascinating figures this spring are on minor-league deals. That would be Shohei Ohtani and Tim Tebow, the former Heisman winner. Word is, if Tebow has a decent spring, the Mets would love to place him at Double-A Binghamton. Of course, if he doesn’t, he’s a monster draw in Florida, at Port St. Lucie.
- The Mets are looking at starting pitching, but they continue to say Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn are unlikely. Cobb is likely to be priced out, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Lynn, who doesn’t appear to be finding the market to be what one might think. He has a career ERA plus of 122, which is exemplary, so teams may be underrating him. Could that work to the Mets’ benefit?
- Jason Vargas is a logical fit for the Mets. They are keeping tabs on him.
- New Mets manager Mickey Callaway says he’s “been around some pretty good arms, but this is the best group of arms and stuff I have seen.” Some of his old Indians pitchers took offense, and some Mets people seem to disagree – saying they’d like to get another pitcher.
- Callaway has generally been a breath of fresh air. Hopefully, his bosses won’t clamp down.
- Jose Reyes and Wilmer Flores are taking reps in the outfield since the Mets are expected to start the season with only four full-time outfielders. Callaway seems to be off to a nice start in Mets camp.
- The Mets signed speedster Matt den Dekker, a former Met who could add to their small “d” contingent, with Travis d’Arnaud and Jacob deGrom.
- The Mets came very close to adding Eduardo Nunez before signing Todd Frazier. They were talking to Nunez about a deal, believed to be in the same ballpark, before deciding to go for Frazier.
- The Mets showed earlier interest in Tim Lincecum but they were not expected to be in Seattle Thursday for his latest showcase.
- Good friends A.J. Ramos and Giancarlo Stanton were thinking about rooming together in Manhattan. That arrangement could work for the former Marlins, especially because they would rarely be home at the same time.
New York Yankees
- The Yankees were said to be working on trades for pitchers who could fit into their luxury tax threshold situation. It remains a mystery who those starters may be though, because Yankees people don’t believe the Rays would trade them Chris Archer or Jake Odorizzi.
- The Yankees are such an early favorite to land Manny Machado at some point (most likely as a free agent) that competing teams are openly talking about it.
- Ken Rosenthal’s interesting scenario whereby the Yankees would engage with the Rays and Orioles in a three-way trade, with Machado coming to the Yankees, and the Yankees sending Miguel Andujar and Jacoby Ellsbury to the Orioles and other prospects to the Rays. That could make some sense (and one official with one of the other teams seemed to think it was good fodder), but a Yankees person saw it as improbable since “the Orioles and Rays don’t deal with us.”
- The Yankees suggest they have less than $17 million to go under the $197 million threshold. But that may depend on how much is counted for benefits, as some project their space under the threshold to be $22 million. In any case, it isn’t a lot to add a Moustakas or an Alex Cobb, barring a trade.
- Jacoby Ellsbury to this point hasn’t indicated a willingness to waive his no-trade to too many places (the Giants might be the only one). He thinks he can win the center field job. But Yankees people acknowledge that Aaron Hicks is the favorite. Hicks played well last year, until the ALCS, when he hit .080.
- New Yankees manager Aaron Boone called his entrance as Yankees manager “surreal.”
- David Lennon of Newsday wrote that no one has more to prove than Boone.
- The Yankees went to scout Tim Lincecum’s showcase. He does like the big stage.
- The A’s are suggesting their winter spending is likely done.
- A’s people complimented catcher Bruce Maxwell for saying he would stand for the anthem this year. In the wake of his legal troubles, that is probably a wise idea. He still has a charge hanging over his head after being accused of pulling a gun on a pizza delivery person.
- Jane Lee of MLB.com suggested Kendall Graveman and Sean Manaea had solid spots in the rotation, with a competition for the final three spots between Andrew Triggs, Jharel Cotton, Daniel Mengden, Daniel Gossett and Paul Blackburn.
- Jarrod Parker, who showed such promise as a young pitcher, told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle he was retiring. As mlbtraderumors.com noted, he had a 3.68 ERA from 2010-2012 at age 22-24. That was before two Tommy John surgeries, and also two mishaps where he fractured his elbow.
- Kapler told Phillies writers they could “shock” people. That could be true, but more likely in 2019. They still need front-end starters to be a serious contender, at least from here.
- The Phillies are still looking for bullpen help even after adding Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter, and were in touch with Tony Watson.
- They were expected to attend Tim Lincecum’s throwing session Thursday.
- Sean Casey’s Field of Dreams is a wonderful undertaking for one of baseball’s all-time great guys. They attended Tim Lincecum’s showcase Thursday.
St. Louis Cardinals
- Luke Gregerson is excited to have a chance to finish where he started, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
- Bud Norris adds to the bullpen mix, but from here, the closer’s job remains in question. Of course it’s always nice to have a player named Bud in St. Louis (Bud Smith was a past Cardinals player).
- The Cardinals were also going to see Tim Lincecum.
San Diego Padres
- Wil Myers will have a first base glove when he arrives. But there’s still hope they can sign Eric Hosmer.
- The Padres, who took a look at Tim Lincecum last year, were there with two scouts Thursday.
- Scott Miller of Bleacher Report did a wonderful feature on Jake Peavy’s rough last couple years, and his comeback efforts.
- The Kevin Towers life celebration is Feb. 25 at PETCO Park. It is open to the public.
San Francisco Giants
- The Giants have been talking to Tony Watson. It will be interesting to see if they can stay under the luxury tax threshold. It may not be imperative for them, as they’ve never gone way over.
- The Giants have been keeping closer tabs on Tim Lincecum than anyone else, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he ended up back there. At least a dozen teams were expected to be at Lincecum’s showcase Thursday, however.
- The Giants didn’t want to trade Joe Panik when the Mets inquired. There was a rumor of a possible Juan Lagares for Panik trade awhile back. That may have been before the Mets signed Todd Frazier, however.
- Johnny Cueto said, “I honestly believe we have a team that can take us to the World Series.”
- Mike Leake finished 3-1 with a 2.53 ERA over his last five starts, so there’s extra hope for him.
- Hishashi Iwakuma is scheduled to start throwing in March, reports Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. Iwakuma had offseason shoulder surgery.
Tampa Bay Rays
- The price tag for Chris Archer should be enormous due to his contract. He has five years remaining at a reasonable rate. While some might suggest he is not as consistent as he should be, he remains extremely popular among teams around the league.
- Rays GM Erik Neander told reporters they are looking for both buy and sell type options.
- Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times wrote a nice piece on how Neander rose to become the team’s GM. He is very well regarded by Dodgers president Andrew Friedman, who was the Rays’ GM before going to L.A.
- It doesn’t appear Colby Rasmus is aiming for a comeback yet.
- Ybor City, the site of the proposed new Rays stadium, is a very nice spot. But people who live in Tampa Bay worry about traffic congestion, saying the entry streets will be jammed.
- The Rays outrighted Micah Johnson, who’s done some serious traveling this winter, from the Braves to the Reds to the Giants to the Frays.
- J.D. Martin, a No. 1 pick by the Indians back in 2001, has signed minors deal with the Rays, as Ken Rosenthal first reported. He will try the knuckleball as he endeavors to make it to the majors for the first time since 2010.
- Jake Odorizzi won his arb case at $6.3 million rather than the $6.05 million proposed by the team. He and Collin McHugh have won two straight years, the first to do so since Kyle Lohse. That shouldn’t affect Odorizzi’s trade value much, however.
- The Rangers were scheduled to be there for Tim Lincecum’s showcase Thursday. He helped beat them in the 2010 World Series.
- Matt Bush is determined to crack the rotation, reports T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com.
- With their cost-efficient buys, the Rangers seem to be setting themselves up for bigger times ahead, when they have a new stadium.
Toronto Blue Jays
- Troy Tulowitzki is said to feel great. He had a spur removed from his heel in the winter. He’d probably benefit from getting off the Toronto turf. And don’t think the Blue Jays wouldn’t be happy to accommodate him. They would.
- The Curtis Granderson contract at $5 million has to be seen as a player breakthrough in an impossible market, especially for older players.
- The Jays got a bit smarter by adding Yalie Craig Breslow, as was first reported by Robert Murray of FanRag Sports.
- As we try to figure out where some remaining stars may wind up, don’t forget that Scott Boras already has close to 55 percent of the Nationals’ payroll (as MLB Network noted). Greg Holland and Jake Arrieta would appear to be candidates. One issue, Nationals people appear to be concerned about the luxury-tax threshold, though they have tens of millions coming off the books next year (Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Matt Wieters, Gio Gonzalez, Sean Doolittle, Shawn Kelley and Ryan Madson can all become free agents).
- Here are 7 teams with the best chance to sign Harper.