MLB Rumors: Sifting Through the Latest Buzz on Free Agents and Trades

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2020

MLB Rumors: Sifting Through the Latest Buzz on Free Agents and Trades

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    With less than a month to go before the start of spring training, there is still time for MLB teams to improve both in free agency and on the trade market.

    Slugger Nicholas Castellanos is the top name remaining on the free-agent market, while superstars Kris Bryant, Mookie Betts and Francisco Lindor continue to hear their names pop up in the trade rumor mill.

    There's no telling how it will all play out before the start of the 2020 season, but we can find clues in the latest buzz.

    Ahead is a roundup of some notable rumors that have been reported in recent days and a breakdown of how they might impact the teams and players involved.

    Let's get to it.

Reds Eyeing More Moves, Interested in Brock Holt

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    Brock Holt
    Brock HoltBillie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

    The Cincinnati Reds began the offseason with their sights set on contending in 2020, and they've taken numerous steps to improve a roster that went 75-87 last year.

    The Reds have signed Mike Moustakas (four years, $64M), Shogo Akiyama (3/$21M) and Wade Miley (2/$15M) in free agency, and they might not be done adding pieces.

    "Dick Williams, the Reds' president of baseball operations, said he's 'pretty sure' the Reds will have more changes to their roster before the start of spring training," wrote Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

    One name Nightengale mentioned as a potential target is versatile veteran Brock Holt.

    The 31-year-old is coming off another strong season in a part-time role with the Boston Red Sox. In 295 plate appearances, he hit .297/.369/.402 for a 101 OPS+ while playing all four infield positions and both corner outfield spots.

    He's not a star, but Holt is the kind of player who fits on all 30 MLB rosters and makes any team he's on better with the flexibility he gives his manager.

    MLB Trade Rumors predicted a two-year, $8 million deal at the start of the offseason, which would be money well spent for a Reds team on the rise.

Mets, Pirates Have 'Reopened' Starling Marte Trade Talks

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    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    The New York Mets continue to search for a center fielder.

    Brandon Nimmo is penciled into the starting spot, but he has graded out as a below-average defender in center with minus-7 defensive runs saved and a minus-9.9 UZR/150 in 719.1 innings.

    The team has been linked to Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Starling Marte more than once during the offseason, and those talks have reportedly picked back up in recent days. According to MLB writer Robert Murray, the Mets and Pirates have "reopened" trade talks surrounding the dynamic outfielder.

    The two teams have at least exchanged names in the past with Nimmo among the players discussed, per Jon Heyman of MLB Network. However, Heyman noted the Pirates may prefer prospects as they embark on a rebuild.

    That's where things get tricky.

    The Mets have one of the thinnest farm systems in baseball, ranked 27th in B/R's latest rankings, so putting together a viable package could be tough.

    Marte, 31, has turned in back-to-back 20-20 seasons for the Pirates, hitting .295/.342/.503 with 23 home runs and 25 steals in a 2.9-WAR season last year. He's owed a reasonable $11.5 million in 2020 with a $12.5 million club option for 2021, so he would be more than a rental for the Mets, which no doubt raises his acquisition cost.

    It makes perfect sense for the Pirates to flip Marte to the highest bidder. It just remains to be seen if they will and if that is, in fact, the Mets.

Nicholas Castellanos the Rangers' No. 1 Target?

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    Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

    Throughout the slow-moving markets of Ozuna and Castellanos, the Texas Rangers have been consistently linked to both sluggers.

    That's not surprising given the team's lack of a middle-of-the-order presence to help Joey Gallo shoulder run-production duties.

    Willie Calhoun has some upside, Todd Frazier is still good for 20-plus home runs and Danny Santana is fresh off an out-of-nowhere 28-homer, 112 OPS+ season.

    Still, adding another power bat could go a long way.

    According to TR Sullivan of MLB.com, if the Rangers do add another hitter in free agency, Castellanos appears to be their top target.

    The 27-year-old posted a 121 OPS+ with a whopping 88 extra-base hits last season, finishing on a tear following a trade to the Chicago Cubs.

    His well-below-average defense in the outfield has undoubtedly limited his market, but the Rangers could be willing to overlook that if it means adding his bat to the lineup. They could even consider moving him to first base, where he would be a clear upgrade over incumbent Ronald Guzman.

    The Rangers seem serious about contending after adding Corey Kluber, Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles to the starting rotation. Castellanos could be the final piece of the offseason puzzle.

Blue Jays Have 'Checked In' on Francisco Lindor

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    Francisco Lindor
    Francisco LindorJason Miller/Getty Images

    A recent article from Shi Davidi of Sportsnet revealed the Toronto Blue Jays made a run at signing Didi Gregorius earlier this offseason.

    The front office was serious enough about a move that they informed rising star Bo Bichette of their intentions, making it clear he was still viewed as the team's shortstop of the present and future.

    In that scenario, Gregorius would have manned second base, and fellow up-and-comer Cavan Biggio would have moved into a super-utility role.

    Gregorius wound up signing with the Philadelphia Phillies, but that hasn't stopped the Blue Jays from pursuing other potential infield upgrades.

    Based on the picture above, you can probably guess where this is going.

    Davidi wrote: "The Cleveland Indians have floated four-time All-Star Francisco Lindor on the trade market all offseason, and like any sane front office, the Blue Jays have checked in."

    Toronto's front office sounds open to the idea of making a splash on the trade market.

    "We're also extremely open to something of significant impact," general manager Ross Atkins told reporters earlier this month. "But that's more than likely only going to occur via trade, but the likelihood of that occurring is still very hard to say. Executing trades of significant impact is very difficult to do."

    Even if Lindor is not moved this offseason, there's a good chance he will be dealt before he hits free agency following the 2021 season. The Blue Jays are a team to watch as that situation unfolds.

Red Sox Asking Price for Mookie Betts Includes Taking On David Price

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    Mookie Betts
    Mookie BettsMaddie Meyer/Getty Images

    There has been little movement on the Mookie Betts trade market since Boston Red Sox owner John Henry said in September the team would look to trim payroll.

    However, Buster Olney of ESPN recently provided some interesting details on the team's mindset:

    "Chaim Bloom, the head of baseball operations for the Red Sox, seems patient in his talks with other teams about Mookie Betts, with the asking price perceived as too high by rival evaluators. Boston has indicated to other teams, according to sources, that any team that lands Betts will also have to take David Price (or Nathan Eovaldi presumably), with either most or all of the money owed to Price, $96 million. That means assuming well over $100 million for the pitcher and Betts, who will make $27 million in the upcoming season, his last before reaching free agency -- and that's for starters.

    "The Red Sox are also asking for two high-end prospects to front the deal. In some respects, what Boston is asking for is something akin to what Seattle got for Edwin Diaz -- to get the closer, the Mets also assumed the bulk of the money owed to Robinson Cano, and gave up star prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn."

    That's a ton of money to take on, especially if "high-end prospects" are going the other way.

    Price, 34, is no longer the top-of-the-rotation starter he was in his prime, though he remains a useful rotation piece when healthy.

    A nagging left wrist injury limited him to 22 starts last season, and he finished with a 4.28 ERA (113 ERA+) and 1.31 WHIP with 128 strikeouts in 107.1 innings.

    Will anyone be willing to pay such a steep price? Will the Red Sox come down from that lofty ask?

    This story is no less compelling than it was three months ago.

Nolan Arenado, Rockies Headed for a Split?

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    Nolan Arenado
    Nolan ArenadoJohn McCoy/Getty Images

    On Feb. 26, 2019, Nolan Arenado signed an eight-year, $260 million extension ahead of his final year of club control. The Colorado Rockies were fresh off a 91-win season and a second straight playoff appearance, and the present and future appeared to be bright.

    What in the world happened?

    With largely the same roster last year, the Rockies cratered to 71-91 to finish fourth in the NL West. Now, less than a year after signing that long-term deal, Arenado has found himself on the trade block.

    The team recently pulled back on trade talks after testing the market.

    "With the season coming up and spring training on the horizon, we are going to start focusing on that," Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich told reporters. "We have listened to teams regarding Nolan, and really nothing has come of it. We are going to move forward pretty much as we expected—with Nolan in the purple and black and as our third baseman."

    However, the damage was already done.

    "There's a lot of disrespect from people there that I don't want to be a part of," Arenado told Thomas Harding of MLB.com via text. "You can quote that."

    He later added: "I'm not mad at the trade rumors. There's more to it."

    The Rockies' inactivity this offseason has only added to speculation that they could be getting ready to blow things up. Jeff Passan of ESPN drew an interesting comparison to Giancarlo Stanton, who signed a huge extension with the Miami Marlins, only to be traded for a middling return when he wanted out of a non-contending situation and the Marlins had little leverage in negotiations.

    There is little question Arenado's relationship with the Rockies is eroding, and it could come to a head before the offseason is over.

             

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.