Buy or Sell Dansby Swanson and Latest MLB Trade and Free-Agency Rumors
Most of the big-name free agents and several of the top trade candidates are off the board, but the rumor mill for Major League Baseball's 2022-23 offseason just keeps twirling.
Let's play a game of "Buy or Sell" with the latest.
To clarify, we're not buying or selling whether certain rumors exist. We sought to judge whether they're early warnings of signings or trades that will or won't happen, which involved making a nice stew of logic and gut instinct.
Let's start with the latest on the last man standing among the four elite shortstops who entered free agency in November.
The Red Sox Are Serious About Dansby Swanson
The Rumor: From Jon Heyman of the New York Post comes word that, after losing Xander Bogaerts to the San Diego Padres, the Boston Red Sox have turned their attention to Dansby Swanson:
Buy or Sell: Buy
Sans Bogaerts, Boston's in-house solutions at shortstop involve either moving Trevor Story (and his weak arm) off second base or filling the hole with Enrique Hernández.
As options go, those are bad. To that end if no other, the Red Sox's supposed interest in Swanson passes the smell test.
And dare we say that Swanson could actually prove to be an upgrade over Bogaerts? The former is certainly the superior defender, and he could really be a menace at Fenway Park if he were to squeeze more out of a pull-power stroke that's about as dangerous as Bogaerts'.
The bigger question here might be whether the Red Sox are willing to make Swanson a serious offer, but there's room for optimism. Though six years and $160 million obviously didn't get it done for Bogaerts, those figures probably get them closer to Swanson.
Alex Speier @alexspeier
The Red Sox offer to Bogaerts was for 6 years and roughly $160M - a higher AAV (roughly $27M) than he got from SD ($25.5M), but with such a massive gap in term that it wasn't close <a href="https://t.co/uqaU854bFu">https://t.co/uqaU854bFu</a> via <a href="https://twitter.com/BostonGlobe?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@BostonGlobe</a>
This is not to say that the other clubs in the mix for Swanson aren't also serious suitors, but the Red Sox are surely be counted as one of those as well.
Max Fried Could Be a Trade Candidate
The Rumor: As for what Swanson's incumbent team is up to, MLB.com's Jim Callis said on MLB Network's Hot Stove on Tuesday that he's "hearing some Max Fried rumors on the block" and that nobody should be "shocked" if the ace left-hander gets moved.
Buy or Sell: Sell
Hard sell, more like.
We're partly taking a cue from ESPN's Buster Olney, who was quick to debunk Fried's availability:
We're assuming Olney heard from sources that Atlanta isn't dangling Fried, though simple logic also works against the idea.
Atlanta is one of the foremost win-now teams in baseball, having won the World Series in 2021 and 101 games last season. Fried has been a huge part of both efforts as he's pitched to a 2.74 ERA in the regular season and had some huge moments in the playoffs.
Teams like that generally don't trade players like that, and it's not like Fried has one foot out the door. He isn't due for free agency until after 2024.
One could point out that Fried's projected $12.2 million salary is part of the reason Atlanta is straying uncomfortably close to the $233 million luxury-tax threshold for 2023, but that's no cause to hit the panic button. Liberty Media, which owns the team, seems to have the capital for a higher-than-normal payroll.
Michael Conforto's Market Is Taking Shape
The Rumors: After missing all of 2022 because of a shoulder injury, Heyman reports that Michael Conforto has three teams after him. Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, meanwhile, has the outfielder's contract wishes straight from Scott Boras:
Anthony DiComo @AnthonyDiComo
Michael Conforto is seeking a short-term contract of "probably a couple years with an opt-out," according to his agent Scott Boras, after missing all of this season with a shoulder injury.<br><br>Conforto is "back to full health," per Boras, and talking to "a number of teams."
Buy or Sell: Buy
All of this is an easy buy, including Boras' insistence that Conforto's shoulder is healthy.
The 29-year-old's injury was bad enough to require season-ending surgery in April, but the prognosis even then was that he would be recovered in time for spring training. That time is nearly here.
More interesting is that Boras and Conforto, who put up a 134 OPS+ between 2017 and 2020, are on the lookout for a multiyear deal. That stands in stark contrast to Boras' approach with Cody Bellinger, as they were strictly interested in one-year deals after the 2019 NL MVP was non-tendered by the Los Angeles Dodgers in November.
Still, it makes some sense. Conforto, who turns 30 on March 1, 2023, is older than Bellinger. So if he can find a deal that offers the best of both worlds—i.e., a decent guarantee and a chance to reenter the open market if he's able to bounce back in 2023—he should take it.
As for which teams are in on Conforto, Heyman specifically pointed to the Miami Marlins, Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros. All three have need of another hitter—none more so than the Marlins after they finished last in the NL in runs this year.
The Mets Are Listening on Carlos Carrasco
The Rumor: Regarding Conforto's former team, Joel Sherman of the New York Post hears that the New York Mets "are listening" to trade offers for veteran righty Carlos Carrasco.
Buy or Sell: Buy
Carrasco has earned Cy Young Award votes on two different occasions, and he's coming off a year in which he posted a respectable 3.97 ERA over 152 innings.
That a guy with those creds is perhaps slated to be a No. 5 starter in 2023 speaks to how loaded the Mets rotation is after deals with Verlander, Koudai Senga and José Quintana.
And yet, it makes sense that the Mets would have some willingness to move Carrasco.
As effective as he was in 2022, he wasn't so good that a Tylor Megill or a Joey Lucchesi would be hard-pressed to do as well or better. Carrasco, who's 35 years old, also logged just 12 starts and a 6.04 ERA in 2021. It might be a good idea to sell high.
Plus, moving him would clear $14 million from a payroll that's historically heavy. Unnecessary, perhaps, yet one could hardly blame Mets owner Steve Cohen if he'd like to save a little money.
The Yankees Can't Find Takers for Josh Donaldson and Aaron Hicks
The Rumor: Elsewhere in New York, Heyman hears the Yankees "have been unable to find takers" for Josh Donaldson or Aaron Hicks on the trade market.
Buy or Sell: Buy
Gee, one wonders why there's not much interest out there in these two guys.
Maybe it's because both of them are older players who have clearly slipped beyond their prime years. Hicks, 33, has been good for just an 83 OPS+ and 1.5 rWAR over the past two seasons. Donaldson, 37, played a good third base this year but managed just a 94 OPS+ on the other side of the ball.
Now add in that Donaldson doesn't always make the best impression on his teammates and that he was suspended and fined this May for his "Jackie" remark toward Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson.
Last but not least, also add in that neither Hicks nor Donaldson is cheap. The former has $31.4 million left on his contract, while the latter is still owed $29.8 million.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a pair of players more untradeable than these two. If the Yankees do eventually move them, one assumes it would involve eating a whole bunch of money or taking on a similar albatross contract (or two) from another team.
The Twins Are Getting Interest in Sonny Gray and Kenta Maeda
The Rumor: Per Dan Hayes of The Athletic, right-handers Sonny Gray and Kenta Maeda are among the Minnesota Twins players who "have drawn trade interest."
Buy or Sell: Sell
It seems other teams would really like it if the Twins went into sell mode, as Hayes notes that Max Kepler and reigning American League batting champion Luis Arraez have also been floated as trade candidates.
Still, it doesn't feel like an accident that Gray and Maeda, both of whom are slated for free agency after 2023, are only surfacing in the rumor mill now.
The Twins, after all, lost a big piece when Correa signed with San Francisco. He was their best player amid an unspectacular 78-84 effort in 2022, and even Swanson wouldn't fully replace his lost production.
The catch is that the AL Central looks more wide-open than most other divisions. It's telling that, even sans Correa, the Twins project to be on par with the Chicago White Sox in 2023.
That plus the expanded playoff field provides the Twins a good excuse to give contending a shot. If it doesn't work out, nothing will stop them from trying to rent out Gray and Maeda at the trade deadline.
The Astros Are Circling Daulton Varsho
The Rumor: As reported by Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the Houston Astros and Arizona Diamondbacks are engaged in trade talks involving outfielder Daulton Varsho:
Bob Nightengale @BNightengale
The dormant trade market is finally waking up.<br>The Houston <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Astros?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Astros</a> and Arizona <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Dbacks?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Dbacks</a> have engaged in trade talks about Dbacks outfielder Daulton Varsho. The asking price remains steep.
Buy or Sell: Buy
It perhaps ought to be surprising that the Diamondbacks are open to moving Varsho, who's fresh off breaking out with 27 home runs and superb defense in 2022.
The Snakes have a surplus of outfielders, however, and general manager Mike Hazen hinted in October that he might subtract from it to make deals on the winter market.
The Astros' interest in Varsho adds up and then some. They need another left-handed bat in a lineup that skews right-handed. And they could use another outfielder, especially if they'd rather have Yordan Alvarez at designated hitter.
What's less certain is whether Houston and Arizona are ideal trading partners. Hazen mentioned the possibility of moving an outfielder for a "right-handed-hitting slugger." The Astros don't have any of those to spare.
Still, that may not preclude some kind of swap. To throw one idea out there, the Astros might entice a third team to get involved in talks with Arizona by putting one of its pitchers on the table. Say, Luis Garcia or top prospect Hunter Brown.