BS Meter on All the Top MLB Free-Agency and Trade Rumors
While the GM meetings generally don't feature the same flurry of activity that next month's winter meetings will bring, teams often lay the groundwork for deals that will take place later in the offseason.
At the very least, this week will likely provide the MLB world with a wealth of new trade rumors and speculative landing spots for top free agents.
In the meantime, let's take a look at some of the notable rumors already circulating and run them through the B.S. meter.
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Nicholas Castellanos to the Miami Marlins?
The Miami Marlins are not yet ready to contend, but they could be in the market to add a few free-agent pieces this offseason.
Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald wrote: "According to multiple sources, the Marlins want to add at least two relievers in free agency and at least one starting position player, likely an outfielder or first baseman, and potentially two."
For a team that finished 29th in the majors with 3.8 runs per game, finding ways to upgrade the offense won't be difficult. Nicholas Castellanos has emerged as one potential target.
The team is "believed to be interested" in the South Florida native, according to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com, despite his defensive shortcomings.
Castellanos, 27, posted a 121 OPS+ with 58 doubles and 27 home runs last season, exploding for a huge second half after the Detroit Tigers traded him to the Chicago Cubs at the deadline. His poor defensive metrics (-9 DRS, -4.9 UZR/150) in the outfield watered down his value, though.
B.S. Meter: High
While I buy that the Marlins are interested in Castellanos, I doubt it's a two-way street. He finally got a taste of contention in Chicago after years of losing in Detroit. After that, it's hard to see him signing on for a rebuild and more losing.
Didi Gregorius to the Cincinnati Reds?
The New York Yankees opted against extending a qualifying offer to Didi Gregorius after a disappointing 2019 season during which he played in only 82 games and finished with an 87 OPS+ and 0.6 WAR.
Prior to that, the 29-year-old averaged 27 doubles and 24 home runs over the previous three seasons. In 2018, he logged a 124 OPS+ with career highs in home runs (27) and WAR (4.2).
Even though he is clearly the No. 1 option on the free-agent market for teams in need of a shortstop, that's a relatively short list of teams.
According to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the Cincinnati Reds are showing early interest in Gregorius, which makes some sense.
With Jose Peraza regressing, Jose Iglesias reaching free agency and Derek Dietrich outrighted off the 40-man roster, the Reds' only established middle infield option on the roster is Freddy Galvis, who had his club option exercised. Even if Nick Senzel moves back to the infield, the Reds could sign Gregorius to man shortstop and use Galvis in a super-utility role.
B.S. Meter: Low
Gregorius began his career in Cincinnati, so there's already a connection, and the team seems committed to contending in 2020. If he can be had on a reasonable two-year deal, it would be money well spent.
Texas Rangers to Make a Splash?
The Texas Rangers are one of the more compelling teams to watch this offseason.
Despite a shaky starting rotation behind Mike Minor and Lance Lynn and an offense with a number of holes, they still finished with 78 wins last season. They have money to spend this offseason and a deep farm system to tout on the trade market.
Although the Rangers haven't pursued top-tier free agents in recent years, general manager Jon Daniels told reporters that they're open to big-game hunting this winter.
"The last couple of years, we really haven't explored it. We didn't feel it was the right time. This year, we are going to look at everything. Our goal is to get better, period. There are a couple of spots more [available] than others. We have signed [top free agents] before and at some point I have to suspect we will again."
The starting rotation and third base are both areas of need, and those two positions feature some of the marquee names on this year's market. Since signing Shin-Soo Choo to a seven-year, $130 million deal in December 2013, the Rangers haven't handed out a free-agent contract larger than the three-year, $30 million pact Lynn signed last winter.
Will they change their approach this time around?
B.S. Meter: Low
The money is there, and the Rangers' areas of need line up with some of the top talent on the market. They could have a tough time luring any top arms to Arlington, but they have to be considered serious contenders to sign a big bat.
Willson Contreras on the Move?
Given their significant pitching need and limited payroll flexibility, there is increasing speculation that the Chicago Cubs might flip one of their homegrown star position players this offseason.
According to Jeff Passan of ESPN, catcher Willson Contreras could be the guy to go:
"Multiple teams in search of catching help believe Cubs catcher Willson Contreras will be available this winter. The Cubs will get creative this winter, and with a deep catching free-agent market, they could trade Contreras and begin retooling under new manager David Ross."
Contreras, 27, has a 113 OPS+ and 11.5 WAR in four MLB seasons, and he has an absolute cannon behind the plate. However, he remains a below-average pitch framer and has dealt with some injuries the past two seasons.
Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic offered up the following logic:
"From the Cubs' perspective, Contreras is the only player in the core group who can both net the type of return they're craving and also be replaced internally without a dramatic drop-off. Victor Caratini may never be as offensively impactful as Contreras, but talent evaluators around the league were impressed by how he performed in 2019 when given opportunities. In 279 plate appearances last season, Caratini delivered a 108 wRC+, had a strong 10.4 percent walk rate and consistently made hard contact. He also brings the type of plate approach the Cubs lack."
B.S. Meter: Moderate
The Cubs have a talented roster, but they were largely lacking in the fire and enthusiasm that Contreras brings to the field every day. I see the logic, but trading him could do more harm than good.
Madison Bumgarner to the Atlanta Braves?
Fresh off back-to-back NL East titles and with a dynamic young core in place, the Atlanta Braves are well-positioned for long-term success.
The one area they need to address is the starting rotation.
With Dallas Keuchel hitting the open market once again and Julio Teheran joining him, Atlanta has two spots to fill in the starting rotation behind the trio of Mike Soroka, Mike Foltynewicz and Max Fried.
Top prospects like Ian Anderson and Kyle Wright have a chance to develop into impact rotation members, but this team doesn't have the luxury of waiting around for that to happen in an extremely competitive division.
Adding a veteran starter seems like a must, so it should come as no surprise that longtime San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner has emerged as an early target.
Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area identified the Braves as the "clear favorite" to sign Bumgarner if he decides to leave San Francisco and noted that the team has made him "a priority" to begin the offseason.
The 30-year-old returned to workhorse form in 2019, posting a 3.90 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 207.2 innings while recording 20 quality starts.
B.S. Meter: Low
This seems like an ideal fit for both parties. The Braves would get an experienced workhorse to solidify their young staff, while Bumgarner would have a chance to join a title contender for the homestretch of his career.
Josh Donaldson to the Washington Nationals?
Earlier this month, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reported that the Philadelphia Phillies and Texas Rangers were showing early interest in Josh Donaldson. Given both teams' desire to contend in 2020, financial flexibility and need for an upgrade at the hot corner, that was no big surprise.
The latest report from Feinsand added the Washington Nationals to the list of suitors. It also contained this interesting note:
"[Anthony] Rendon is considered the top free-agent position player available this offseason, but one executive suggested that teams in the market for a third baseman might not wait around for Rendon—who is repped by Scott Boras, an agent who has been known to be deliberate with his free-agent clients—to make a decision when a player such as Donaldson is available."
If the Nationals start to get the sense that a reunion with Rendon is not in the cards, could they pivot to Donaldson as a replacement? Since Donaldson is expected to command far fewer years, that might be the Nats' preferred outcome considering all of the money they already have on their books.
In terms of immediate impact in 2020, swapping out Rendon for Donaldson might prove to be a negligible difference for the Nationals. After all, Donaldson slugged 37 home runs and tallied 6.1 WAR for the Atlanta Braves last season.
B.S. Meter: Moderate
Bringing back Rendon is likely priority No. 1 for the Nationals, and their interest in Donaldson could be more of a fallback plan. I don't buy that they would jump the market and sign Donaldson while Rendon is still weighing his options.
Gerrit Cole Unlikely to Sign Until January?
Get your fake surprised face ready.
"According to industry sources, agent Scott Boras has indicated to teams that [Gerrit] Cole is unlikely to sign anywhere before January," Andy Martino of SNY.tv recently wrote.
When the dust settles on this offseason, there's a good chance Cole will have signed the richest contract ever given to a pitcher. Teams that are serious about pursuing him will happily wait around into next year if it means they're still in the running to sign him.
It bears watching how Boras markets fellow clients Stephen Strasburg and Hyun-Jin Ryu when Cole is such a focal point on the starting pitching market.
Regardless, it sounds like we'll be treated to the waiting game with Cole.
B.S. Meter: Low
We're talking about Scott Boras and someone who could wind up being the highest-paid pitcher in MLB history. We'll be lucky if this doesn't drag into February.