BS Meter on All the MLB Winter Meetings' Top Free-Agency, Trade Rumors

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterDecember 11, 2018

BS Meter on All the MLB Winter Meetings' Top Free-Agency, Trade Rumors

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    Jae Hong/Associated Press

    If anyone's wondering why the air is suddenly so thick with free-agency and trade rumors, it's because Major League Baseball's annual winter meetings are going down in Las Vegas.

    For the sake of helping everyone make sense of it all, we rounded up 10 big ones (plus a couple of smaller ones in a bonus round) and ran them through B/R's B.S. meter.

    There were three possible readings: low if the content of the rumor is plausible, high if it's implausible and moderate if it's somewhere in between.

    Our conclusions were based on how each rumor meshes with previous reports and past trends as well any feelings that came rumbling up through the ol' gut.

The Dodgers May Have an Inside Track at Corey Kluber

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    Kamil Krzaczynski/Associated Press

    According to Jon Morosi of MLB Network, trade talks regarding Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber "intensified" Monday, and the Los Angeles Dodgers were one of the teams involved.

    The two-time Cy Young Award winner has been a regular in trade rumors since the dawn of the 2018-2019 offseason. Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Cleveland is open to moving him or fellow ace Trevor Bauer, whether in a traditional player-oriented swap or more of a salary dump.

    Certainly, the ideal scenario for the Indians involves moving a hefty chunk of salary and getting talent they can plug right in. In particular, Morosi reported they'd like a young outfielder.

    That is where the Dodgers may have an edge. Top prospect Alex Verdugo interests Cleveland, according to Morosi. He's expendable as long as Los Angeles has an outfield logjam. And while the Dodgers may not need Kluber, they'd arguably have baseball's best rotation if they teamed him up with Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Rich Hill and Hyun-Jin Ryu.

    Frankly, there's a lot to sift through regarding Cleveland's aces right now. But specifically regarding Kluber's availability and the Dodgers as a fit, there's not much to be skeptical about.

    B.S. Meter: Low

The Yankees Won't Go to $300 Million for Manny Machado

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    Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    The New York Yankees have often been speculated as a landing spot for Manny Machado, but Jon Heyman of Fancred heard they won't go as high as $300 million to reel in the four-time All-Star.

    That could speak to reservations the Yankees have about Machado's character. After all, owner Hal Steinbrenner told reporters in November that he found Machado's notorious "Johnny Hustle" remarks from October to be "troubling."

    The Yankees also have the luxury-tax threshold to worry about. After they finally got under it in 2018, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported the team's mantra was: "We didn't get under it just to blow back past it."

    And yet the Yankees are projected to be more than $35 million under the $206 million threshold for 2019. There's room to sign Machado for, say, $30 million per year over 10 years.

    As for why the Yankees would want to do that, let's just say adding a 26-year-old slugger would give them a huge leg up in their arms race with the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros. For that, they might be willing to live with an occasional lack of hustle.

    B.S. Meter: Moderate

The Yankees Aren't Keen on Bryce Harper Either

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    Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press

    The suggestion that the Yankees aren't in on Bryce Harper comes straight from the source.

    "At no point all winter have I said I am looking for an outfielder," general manager Brian Cashman said Monday, per George A. King III of the New York Post. "The Harper stuff … I am surprised you are still asking."

    Cashman elaborated that he isn't interested in Harper as a first baseman. He belongs in the outfield, and that's where the team already has Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner, Clint Frazier and Jacoby Ellsbury.

    However, things look a little different in reality than they do on paper. Gardner is past his prime. Ellsbury is basically a sunk cost. Frazier is unproven in the majors. Furthermore, the designated hitter is there for Judge and Stanton. And for Harper, if he were to come aboard.

    What's more, Harper's left-handed bat would balance a lineup that skews heavily to the right, and his power stroke is a perfect fit for Yankee Stadium.

    Throw in how much money the Yankees can spend if they want to, and there's reason aplenty to take their public stance on Harper with a grain of salt.

    B.S. Meter: Moderate

The Phillies Have More Momentum on Manny Machado Than Bryce Harper

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Though the Philadelphia Phillies have been considered a favorite to sign Harper, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reported they "seem to be more on" Machado at the moment.

    With Jean Segura at shortstop and Maikel Franco at third base, the Phillies could carry on without Machado. They're in the market for major upgrades, however. And according to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, their trade for Segura didn't nix their interest in Machado.

    Speaking of Zolecki, he noted last week "there are indications Philadelphia prefers [Machado] over Harper."

    If nothing else, Machado is a better defender than Harper. And while Harper has been the better hitter since the two debuted in 2012, there hasn't been much of an offensive gap between them since 2016.

    Though both are 26 years old, Machado is also likely to come cheaper than Harper. To wit, even MLB Trade Rumors' decidedly generous projections pegged Machado for $30 million less than his superstar counterpart.

    Perhaps the question should be why the Phillies wouldn't be going harder after Machado.

    B.S. Meter: Low

Bryce Harper to the Cardinals Isn't Likely

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Harper would undoubtedly be a huge get for the St. Louis Cardinals. But according to Rosenthal, the 2015 National League MVP "appears to be a long shot" for St. Louis.

    Perhaps the Cardinals are lying low before a surprise attack. They took a big step toward catching the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs in the NL Central when they traded for Paul Goldschmidt. Adding Harper would be a coup de grace.

    However, the Cardinals also added $14.5 million to their 2019 books in the Goldschmidt deal. That brought their 2019 projection to $156.2 million. That's close to the franchise-record $159.7 million payroll with which they opened 2018.

    That is reason enough to believe the Cardinals are all but out on Harper. There's also the reality they don't need his bat now that they have Goldschmidt. Rather than break a huge bank for Harper, they can break smaller banks to fill the more pressing needs in their bullpen.

    B.S. Meter: Low

Noah Syndergaard Isn't Off the Block Just Yet

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    Adam Hunger/Getty Images

    After the New York Mets acquired Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz, general manager Brodie Van Wagenen told reporters Noah Syndergaard would be traded only under "very special circumstances."

    That may not mean he's entirely off the table. According to ESPN's Buster Olney, "other teams say they think the Mets would trade the right-hander for the right offer." Joel Sherman of the New York Post heard something similar, though he clarified the return would have to be "extraordinary."

    Syndergaard won't have a huge salary, and his upside is at least as appealing as his value on the trade market. As such, the Mets don't need to be in a rush to move him.

    But if the question is simply whether Thor can be had, then, sure.

    An ideal Syndergaard trade would fill several of the Mets' biggest needs (e.g., catcher and outfielder) while simultaneously freeing up money to sign a replacement starter. If such a deal presents itself, the Mets would have no choice but to consider it.

    Is such a deal realistic? Probably not. But stranger things have happened.

    B.S. Meter: Moderate

The Mets Are a Long Shot for J.T. Realmuto

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Sherman reported early Monday that the Mets considered themselves "as a long shot" for Miami Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto.

    The problem isn't the fit, but the price. MLB analyst Jim Bowden reported the Marlins wouldn't accept Brandon Nimmo as a centerpiece and would need Amed Rosario or Michael Conforto instead. Van Wagenen told reporters (including MLB.com's Anthony DiComo) that he prefers not to "create a hole by filling another.”

    According to Rosenthal, there could be a possible workaround in the form of a three-team deal with the Marlins and Yankees in which the Mets end up with Realmuto. It would be outside the norm for the Mets to deal with the Yankees, yet outside the norm appears to be a comfort zone for Van Wagenen.

    The catch, per Rosenthal, is that the Mets won't surrender Syndergaard if they're only getting Realmuto back in return. That could be a deal-breaker for the Yankees. Syndergaard is a "real" possibility for them, according to SNY's Andy Martino, but the Mets might prefer one of "10 other scenarios."

    Ultimately, Realmuto might not actually be a long shot for the Mets. But if nothing else, getting him from Miami to New York figures to be an extremely delicate process.

    B.S. Meter: Moderate

The Giants Are Not Close to Moving Madison Bumgarner

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    Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

    Though the Phillies, Brewers, Yankees and Atlanta Braves are potential landing spots for Madison Bumgarner, Morosi reported the San Francisco Giants are not close to moving the left-hander.

    Bumgarner may be a popular name on the trade rumor mill, but the Giants don't exactly seem determined to move him. As Morosi previously reported, they're merely "willing to engage" in trade talks.

    Indeed, new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has to be open to everything as he seeks to retool an expensive and aging roster. If he gets a chance to flip Bumgarner for major leaguers or MLB-ready prospects, he'll have to seriously consider doing it.

    Then there's the question of whether Bumgarner even has that kind of value. He's only a year away from free agency. And as FanGraphs' Jeff Sullivan covered, the left-hander's talent is fading fast.

    The Giants may only move Bumgarner for an exorbitant package that probably isn't coming.

    B.S. Meter: Low

The Braves Really Want Dallas Keuchel

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    According to Heyman, the Atlanta Braves have 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel "atop their wish list."

    As if on cue, MLB.com's Mark Bowman reported the Braves "have not had any discussions regarding Keuchel." That could indicate he's not on their wish list at all.

    Or it could mean the Braves simply haven't yet discussed anything with Keuchel directly.

    They're certainly in the market for a starter, and Keuchel would fit them like a glove. He'd bring good control to a rotation that just finished last in the NL in walk rate. Plus, his ground-ball magnetism would fit well with an infield defense that suffocated grounders in 2018.

    Atlanta should also have the money to make it work. Bowman previously reported the Braves entered the offseason with $60 million to spend. Deals for Josh Donaldson ($23 million) and Brian McCann ($2 million) don't even account for half of that.

    B.S. Meter: Low

The Cubs' Kyle Schwarber Is Not Available in Trade Talks

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Several teams have asked after Kyle Schwarber, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, but the Chicago Cubs have told them the slugger is not available.

    Schwarber is coming off the best season of his career, punctuated by an .823 OPS, 26 home runs and surprisingly strong defense in left field. And at 25, he is young enough to still have unexplored upside.

    Schwarber's shortcomings are plainly evident, however. He strikes out a lot. He struggles against left-handed pitching. And despite his solid work in left in 2018, he still fits the mold of a player who needs the designated hitter position as a fallback.

    There's also the reality the Cubs could live without Schwarber. He could be replaced on a full-time basis by Ian Happ, whose offensive upside arguably equals Schwarber's.

    It's hard to believe the Cubs wouldn't trade Schwarber if the right opportunity (e.g., a deal for an ace starting pitcher) presented itself. Perhaps all that needs to happen is the right team give them a call.

    B.S. Meter: High

Bonus Round

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    Hamish Blair/Getty Images

    Yusei Kikuchi Prefers the Giants

    Per Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle, Japanese left-hander Yusei Kikuchi "really likes San Francisco," and the Giants "might be his first choice."

    Perhaps this is because Kikuchi caught wind of the kind things Zaidi said about him. Or perhaps it's as simple as him wanting to pitch in a pitcher-friendly home ballpark for a wealthy team in a city that's closer than most to home.

    B.S. Meter: Low

       

    Brandon Belt Is On the Block

    Meanwhile, Nightengale reported the Giants are getting calls on first baseman Brandon Belt, who is available.

    Nothing out of line here. The 2016 All-Star is a solid buy-low candidate following two straight injury-marred seasons. For their part, the Giants must think about opening up first base for Buster Posey. It also wouldn't hurt to get out from under the $51.6 million Belt is owed through 2021.

    B.S. Meter: Low

       

    The Diamondbacks Don't Want to Rebuild

    The Arizona Diamondbacks bid adieu to a franchise icon when they traded Goldschmidt to the Cards. Nonetheless, Rosenthal reported "they are not interested in a teardown."

    It sounds suspicious, but this could be the Snakes being practical. Zack Greinke's market is limited by his remaining contract ($104.5 million) and, according to Heyman, his 15-team no-trade list. Otherwise, David Peralta is the only notable trade chip the D-backs wouldn't be selling low on right now. Robbie Ray, Jake Lamb, Steven Souza Jr. and Archie Bradley each suffered hits to their value in 2018.

    B.S. Meter: Moderate

       

    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs. Special thanks to Roster Resource for payroll projections.