B.S. Meter on the Top MLB Free-Agency and Trade Rumors

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistNovember 12, 2018

B.S. Meter on the Top MLB Free-Agency and Trade Rumors

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    Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    As we charge toward mid-November, the MLB hot stove is crackling to life. That means rumors will swirl like so many autumn leaves in a stiff breeze.

    We raked up the biggest ones that involve marquee players and teams from top markets and put them through the B/R B.S. meter.

    The meter has three readings: low (meaning the rumor is likely to come to fruition), moderate (meaning the rumor is suspect but not implausible) and high (meaning we're calling utter B.S.).

    All rumors come from credible MLB sources. In making these determinations, we used available information, a look at past trends and, as ever, a dash of gut feeling.

Rumor: The Cubs Won't Be Big Spenders on Bryce Harper or Anyone Else

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    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    The Chicago Cubs have been linked repeatedly for some time to top free-agent targets, including outfielder Bryce Harper.

    They might not have an appetite to spend big this winter, however, according to ESPN.com's Jesse Rogers.

    "If the Cubs are playing possum for Harper [etc.] then they're doing a heck of a job because even other agents (not [Scott] Boras) at the meetings don't believe they will be spending big," Rogers wrote.

    That said, the Cubs did exercise their $20 million option on left-hander Cole Hamels. Maybe that and a few lesser moves will constitute their offseason. But for a club in win-now mode with a recent history of opening its wallet wide, that's far from a sure bet.

    B.S. Meter: Moderate

Rumor: The Chicago Cubs Might Trade Kris Bryant

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    Matt Marton/Associated Press

    Sticking with the Cubs, we've got the mother of all "say whaaat?" rumors, and it's centered on superstar third baseman Kris Bryant.

    According to ESPN.com's Buster Olney, the Cubbies "are willing to discuss trade proposals for almost all of the players on their roster," including Bryant, per sources.

    Bryant, Olney notes, had shoulder issues and underwent two disabled list stints in 2018. Concurrently, he hit .272 with 13 home runs in 102 games. 

    He's also into his arbitration years, meaning he'll get progressively more expensive before he hits free agency after the 2021 season.

    All that stipulated, it's difficult, if not impossible, to imagine that Chicago would trade the 2016 NL MVP, especially after a down year when his value might be depressed.

    Executive Theo Epstein didn't slam the door on a Bryant trade, but he came close.

    At the general managers meetings, Epstein said the Cubs had no "untouchable" players on the roster, per Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune

    He later clarified those remarks.

    "I answered a general question about whether we have untouchables," Epstein said, per Sullivan. "Like most every organization, we will listen to anything, but that's just an operating philosophy. We are lucky to have some impact players, and we are looking to add to them, not subtract."

    The Hamels extension bears that out. This one stinks from a mile away.

    B.S. Meter: High

Rumor: The Yankees Are Seeking Trades for Corey Kluber and Other Top SPs

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    According to Fancred Sports' Jon Heyman, the New York Yankees hope to add two starting pitchers this winter even after they re-upped veteran lefty CC Sabathia.

    New York, Heyman adds, met with the Cleveland Indians about Carlos Carrasco and Corey Kluber at the GM meetings. According to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, they also spoke to Seattle about James Paxton.

    Any of those arms would be a significant upgrade for the Yankees, whose starting pitchers fizzled in their Division Series loss to the Boston Red Sox. Kluber, in particular, would give them a bona fide ace to pair with the mercurial Luis Severino.

    Adding a top-level pitcher via trade would cost the Yankees multiple high-end prospects. They could look to free agency instead; Heyman name-dropped left-handers Patrick Corbin and J.A. Happ as possible FA targets.

    The Yanks have the minor league chips to swing a major trade or two, however, and are active on the wheeling-and-dealing front. This one makes sense.

    B.S. Meter: Low

Rumor: The Diamondbacks Might Move Paul Goldschmidt and Zack Greinke

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The Arizona Diamondbacks are coming off a disappointing season in which they sank to third place in the National League West and missed the playoffs.

    They could consider drastic measures, Heyman reports, including trading All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and ace Zack Greinke.

    Hang on.

    The Diamondbacks are one year removed from a postseason appearance. Goldschmidt is the face of the franchise and is signed for an affordable $14.5 million in 2019. Yes, he'd fetch a massive prospect haul in his contract year, but it's nearly impossible to imagine him in another uniform.

    To move Greinke, an unnamed executive told Heyman, Arizona could have to take on a third of the $105 million he's still owed. Greinke remains a productive pitcher; swallowing that much money just to get rid of him would be a bad look for the Diamondbacks.

    Anything is possible, but both players will begin the 2019 season in the desert.

    B.S. Meter: High

Rumor: The Mets Could Make a Play for J.T. Realmuto

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    J.T. Realmuto is coming off an excellent season with the lowly Miami Marlins and has expressed a desire, through his agent, to be traded.

    Mike Puma of the New York Post indicated the New York Mets are likely to engage the Marlins about Realmuto.

    They have a need behind the plate, but they also have a shallow farm system. Puma speculated they could offer a young outfielder such as Brandon Nimmo or Michael Conforto, but that might not be enough.

    The Mets are coming off a losing season and should be looking toward a rebuild. Realmuto makes far more sense for contenders such as the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers, to whom he's also been linked, per the Post's Joel Sherman.

    B.S. Meter: High

Rumor: The Giants Will Trade Madison Bumgarner

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Rumors about the San Francisco Giants' willingness to deal ace Madison Bumgarner have been percolating since last season at the July 31 trade deadline.

    New president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi did nothing to quash them. "Everything has to be on the table," he told reporters Nov. 7, addressing a potential Bumgarner swap.

    Bay Area fans would surely be heartbroken if their ace and postseason hero rode out of town on his trusty steed. But their contending window appears to be closing—if it's not already closed—they have a weak farm system and Bumgarner is entering his contract year.

    The 6'4", 242-pound lefty could fetch multiple top prospects from an array of contenders, even coming off an injury-marred season (notably a broken left pinky).

    There's a decent chance the Giants will keep MadBum at least until the 2019 deadline and try to make noise in the NL West, but his value will be lower as a half-season rental.

    B.S. Meter: Moderate/Low

Rumor: Yasiel Puig Could Be on the Trading Block, and the Dodgers Like Harper

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    This rumor dates back to last season, but it only recently came to light and could have repercussions this winter.

    The Dodgers, per Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times, tried to acquire Bryce Harper from the Washington Nationals prior to 2018's non-waiver trade deadline. Their offer, according to Castillo's sources? Yasiel Puig.

    The Nats didn't bite. But if the Dodgers were willing to deal Puig last summer, surely they'd listen to offers this offseason. 

    Whether there would be any takers is another matter. Puig brings talent but also a checkered history. The other piece of this rumor, obviously, is that L.A. had and may still have serious interest in Harper.

    Renting him for a half-season is not the same as handing him the massive contract he'll command this winter. But the marriage makes sense.

    B.S. Meter: Moderate

The Red Sox Might Sign a Top Japanese SP

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    Hamish Blair/Getty Images

    The Boston Red Sox's biggest need might be a closer if Craig Kimbrel exits via free agency. But the defending champs could also pursue a top Japanese starting pitcher.

    Yusei Kikuchi doesn't have nearly as much hype as Shohei Ohtani did last winter, but the 27-year-old owns a 2.81 ERA in eight seasons in Japan and could be a nice addition to the Sox rotation behind ace Chris Sale and left-hander David Price.

    Boston executive Dave Dombrowski said the Red Sox "have a pulse" for Kikuchi, who's expected to be posted soon, per WEEI.com's Rob Bradford.

    A source told Bradford the club's interest is "lukewarm," but that could change as the process unfolds.

    B.S. Meter: Moderate/Low

The White Sox Could Go After Bryce Harper and Manny Machado

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    Harper and fellow superstar free agent Manny Machado will be linked to every team with two nickels to rub together until they sign somewhere.

    Here's an interesting possible dark-horse suitor: the Chicago White Sox.

    As reported by MLB Network's Jon Morosi, Chicago could go after both Harper and Machado. It would be a huge course change for the ChiSox, who have been stockpiling young talent and grinding through a rebuild. But players of Harper and Machado's caliber could make them instantly competitive in the weak American League Central.

    Plus, as Morosi noted, the White Sox have the second-lowest committed payroll for 2019.

    It's highly improbable any team will land Harper and Machado. However, unlikely as it sounds at first, it makes some sense that the White Sox would get one or the other.

    B.S. Meter: Moderate    


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.