MLB Rumors: Latest on J.T. Realmuto, Cubs and Royals Free Agency
A number of teams have already made moves. Tony La Russa is set to take charge of his first MLB game since 2011 after he was officially announced as the manager of the Chicago White Sox. Meanwhile, the Houston Astros placed Roberto Osuna on waivers, and the Cleveland Indians did the same with Brad Hand.
Other players' futures are also up in the air heading into the first weekend of the MLB offseason. Here's a look at the latest buzz surrounding free agents J.T. Realmuto, Tommy La Stella and Greg Holland.
N.Y. Is a No-Go for J.T.
The Philadelphia Phillies had nine players become free agents when the new league year officially began, and headlining their list—and that of the league as a whole—is all-star catcher J.T. Realmuto.
Realmuto, who will turn 30 in March, slashed .266/.349/.491 this season, with 33 runs, 32 RBI, 11 home runs and 48 strikeouts as the Phillies came up just short of a postseason berth. After he was traded to Philadelphia in 2019 following five seasons with the Miami Marlins, he earned an all-MLB first-team nod, his first Gold Glove and his second consecutive Silver Slugger.
As the Phillies consider what to do about Realmuto, they have reason to rule two teams out of the equation. NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury reported the Del City, Oklahoma native "would like to remain in Philadelphia and is not particularly keen on playing in New York" but added he would head north "if that's where the record-setting money is."
The Phillies are "definitely" going to tender Realmuto a qualifying offer, per Salisbury, who also reported the two sides were undergoing contract negotiations before the league paused in March.
However, with as many players entering free agency as the Phillies have, they will be forced to consider the rest of their roster before they pour money into Realmuto, who is reportedly seeking a record-setting contract worth more than $23 million, per Salisbury.
La Stella Back to Chicago
In a career that has seen him play for four teams in seven years, Tommy La Stella has won a World Series and been named an All-Star.
The Cubs turned to fast-rising Nico Hoerner at second base this season, two years after they drafted him out of Stanford in 2018 with the 24th overall pick. In 48 games for the Cubs this year, he slashed .222/.312/.259, with 19 runs and 13 RBI.
But La Stella would bring power to a Cubs offense that ranked toward the bottom of the league in 2020, with the fourth-worst batting average (.220) and 10th-worst OPS (.705). He posted a .832 OPS in his All-Star season in 2019 and followed that up with a .819 OPS in 2020, packing on 14 doubles, two triples and five home runs.
After clinching the NL Central in a unique season, the 31-year-old's return would be a boost for the Cubs in their efforts to repeat the feat and more in 2021.
Stability for Greg Holland
As the Kansas City Royals enter the offseason with a number of free-agent pitchers, they will not be extending qualifying offers to Greg Holland, Ian Kennedy and Matt Harvey but have interest in a return for Holland, according to Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com.
Holland was a two-time All-Star out of the bullpen during his first five years with the Royals. He underwent Tommy John surgery on Oct. 2, 2015, and entered free agency afterward. He missed the 2016 season before signing with the Colorado Rockies and engineering another All-Star season in 2017, with his league-leading 58 games finished and 41 saves also earning him NL Comeback Player of the Year honors.
The 34-year-old elected free agency for 2018 and spent the next two seasons bouncing around the National League, with stops in St. Louis, Washington and Arizona and their minor league systems.
Holland returned to the Royals on a minor league contract in January but was with the team on Opening Day. Through 28 appearances in 2020, he collected a 1.91 ERA and 31 strikeouts through 28.1 innings.
With a number of hot pitchers on the market, he would be a sneaky pickup, and the Royals would do well to keep him around considering they racked up the third-most saves in the league in 2020 with 19.