B.S. Meter on Trevor Bauer to Mets and Latest MLB Free Agency, Trade Rumors
MLB offseason proceedings finally appear to be gathering sustained momentum.
It started last week when the Toronto Blue Jays agreed to terms with star outfielder George Springer. It looked like Toronto would also bring in Michael Brantley, only for the Houston Astros to swoop in and re-sign him to a two-year deal.
In the American League East, the New York Yankees acquired right-hander Jameson Taillon from the Pittsburgh Pirates shortly after signing Corey Kluber. Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox added versatility with Enrique Hernandez and also signed right-hander Garrett Richards. Plus, the two sides came together for a deal as New York sent reliever Adam Ottavino to Boston as a means of salary relief.
The San Diego Padres have stayed busy, re-signing utility man Jurickson Profar to essentially finalize their positional group. The shortstop carousel began Tuesday as Marcus Semien, Andrelton Simmons and Freddy Galvis all found new homes. In Philadelphia, the Phillies brought back All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto, which seemed all but impossible a few months ago.
Let's look at some of the latest rumblings and determine which rumors appear authentic and which are more fanciful notions.
Mets Turning Focus to Bauer
The New York Mets were expected to be major players this offseason. They have been just that, though not in the way many figured.
They have made key signings, notably catcher James McCann and right-handed reliever Trevor May. But the Mets' most impactful move was one of the biggest blockbusters of the offseason, acquiring megastar shortstop Francisco Lindor and right-hander Carlos Carrasco in one fell swoop.
Adding Lindor and Carrasco had financial ramifications. The Mets settled with Lindor for $22.3 million in his final year of arbitration, and Carrasco will make $12 million in each of the next two seasons. Nevertheless, New York is still swimming at the deep end of the pool when it comes to potentially expensive free agents.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported the Mets' pursuit of Trevor Bauer began to intensify after the Blue Jays signed George Springer, and Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reported New York (along with the Los Angeles Angels) is seen as one of the favorites to sign Bauer. USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported New York has made a "formal" offer to Bauer.
Bringing Bauer to Queens makes plenty of sense, even after adding Carrasco. It is unknown when Noah Syndergaard will be cleared to return as he continues to rehab from Tommy John surgery. Moreover, both he and Marcus Stroman will be free agents after 2021.
However, there is still room for skepticism. New York's estimated 2021 payroll is at $180 million, per Roster Resource. Although Mets president of baseball operations Sandy Alderson suggested the $210 million luxury-tax threshold is not a hard cap, he did call it a "significant consideration."
Signing Bauer alone could push New York past the threshold. It seems logical, then, that Feinsand reported New York has not made Bauer an offer that would eclipse Gerrit Cole's $36 million record for annual average value (AAV).
Additionally, the Mets have other needs. Jon Heyman reported the team has interest in center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., and New York could also use a left-handed reliever after missing out on Brad Hand.
Having said that, the Mets were finalizing a deal Wednesday to send left-hander Steven Matz to the Toronto Blue Jays, per ESPN's Jeff Passan, thus clearing over $5 million in payroll space. Might this be a precursor to a greater push for Bauer?
Let's not forget the Angels loom large in desperate need of a front-line ace. Toronto might also make a play for Bauer, though that's less likely in light of recent moves.
B.S. Meter: The fit makes sense, but will the money work for Bauer?
Bauer Wants $250 Million, 'Holding Out' for Dodgers
We should stay on Bauer for a second because his financial preferences are a mystery.
Bauer's agent, Rachel Luba, has maintained the initial stance (from October) regarding her client's openness to all deal structures. But some in the industry believe the right-hander has a particular number in mind...and a specific team he'd like to pitch for in the coming years.
One agent told The Athletic that Bauer is looking for $250 million, adding his camp is "holding out" for the Los Angeles Dodgers to become involved.
From a money perspective, the $250 million appears to be a hefty figure. Say Bauer gets $36 million a year, tying Cole's AAV record. The contract would have to be about seven years long to surpass the $250 million mark, and it would be even longer with a lesser AAV figure.
For one thing, it seems unlikely any front office will dole out $250 million guaranteed to anyone not named Francisco Lindor (ahem, Mets extension coming?). As well, Bauer previously suggested a willingness to sign one-year deals and thus might be inclined to lean toward a shorter contract.
When it comes to the Dodgers, ESPN's Jeff Passan reported L.A. is "monitoring" Bauer's market. However, he noted the Dodgers' focus remains on adding a right-handed infield bat. Moreover, both Corey Seager and Clayton Kershaw will be free agents next year, and L.A. might prefer some flexibility to extend Cody Bellinger and Walker Buehler down the road.
Perhaps the Dodgers would be willing to blow by the luxury-tax threshold to sign Bauer. Maybe they will even put together a tremendously lucrative offer for one or two years.
But a $250 million commitment is not in the cards, from L.A. or any other suitor.
B.S. Meter: Dodgers could be in the mix, but $250 million? Nah.
Rockies Unsure How to Handle Trevor Story
Colorado Rockies star Trevor Story is one of many marquee shortstops slated to hit the open market next winter.
Considering the Rockies appear nowhere close to contention in the NL West, this could make Story a top trade candidate. But if Colorado also hopes to deal third baseman Nolan Arenado, might it look to extend Story and make him the cornerstone player?
The Rockies front office is apparently grappling with this dilemma. Buster Olney of ESPN reported league personnel feel Colorado should make a decision on Story's future, but the Rockies have not hinted at their direction.
It seems ridiculous for general manager Jeff Bridich to rest on his laurels. Story is a five-tool shortstop who has an .877 career OPS and led the NL in steals and triples in 2020. He could be a building block for the Rockies or any other team that needs an impact shortstop.
However, teams in the market for a shortstop seem to prefer stopgap options. The Blue Jays reportedly signed Marcus Semien to a one-year deal, and Andrelton Simmons got a one-year pact from the Minnesota Twins. It is hard to envision Didi Gregorius gets a multiyear deal.
Clubs are thinking short-term at shortstop, likely with next year's class in mind. This might make it less likely for the Rockies to find a suitable trade partner and acquire proper value. So they should extend Story, right? Well, it might not be that straightforward.
The Rockies appear to be having difficulties finding a team to take on Arenado's salary. Say the Rockies retain the star third baseman and he struggles again in 2021. Might Arenado not use his opt-out following the season if he figures he won't make as much on the open market? That could speak to why Colorado is hesitant to extend Story, as it would not want to be saddled with two massive contracts.
B.S. Meter: The indecision is real
Mets Considered Likely Landing Spot for Kris Bryant
Back to the Mets.
Buster Olney reported Monday "informed speculation" suggests New York is one of the two likely landing spots for Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, with the other being Toronto. However, the Blue Jays' recent agreement with Marcus Semien likely sets its infield. So…Bryant to New York?
Andy Martino of SNY.tv reported earlier this month the Mets and Cubs had talks before New York acquired Francisco Lindor, but there is no indication the clubs have spoken since. Martino also reported a Bryant trade appeared imminent, yet the former NL MVP remains in Chicago.
The Cubs are not likely to get a big return if they deal Bryant now. The 29-year-old is coming off a career-worst .644 OPS in 2020, and his exit velocities have mostly trended down since his rookie season in 2015. He is also owed $19.5 million this season before hitting the open market in 2022.
New York might not have to pay a big price for Bryant, but it may have to deal with overcrowding if the universal DH is not implemented.
Bryant at the hot corner would likely mean moving J.D. Davis to the outfield, where the Mets already have options and could still look to add more.
New York could flip Brandon Nimmo to Chicago. But the 27-year-old had an .888 OPS in 2020 and is under club control through 2022. Trading Davis is unlikely given those years of control, and the Mets won't up Dominic Smith for one year of Bryant.
If the Mets can get the Cubs to pay down a chunk of Bryant's salary and find a way to thin the herd in the outfield without giving away too much, maybe a deal gets done. But it seems like a lot of work for New York, particularly to have Bryant for just one season.
The Cubs also do not have to settle. They can hope Bryant rebuilds his value with a strong first half and sparks a bidding war ahead of the deadline or even makes his case for a new contract.
B.S. Meter: Bryant-to-Mets is a long shot
Giants In on a Pair of Veteran Outfielders
The San Francisco Giants have a number of outfielders on the roster, in addition to a plethora of talent on the farm. Naturally, they are still after at least one veteran outfielder.
Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported the Giants have interest in both Eddie Rosario and Jackie Bradley Jr.
Each guy has upside. Bradley would make a massive impact in run prevention, which is important if the Giants are content with their buy-low adds (like Alex Wood) in the pitching staff. The Gold Glover is also coming off a season in which he posted a respectable 118 OPS+. Rosario can hit for power and puts the ball in play with consistency, though he is far less proficient with the glove.
Signing another outfielder would afford San Francisco options. Mauricio Dubon can play either middle infield spot and thus could split time between the outfield and one of those spots. Guys like Alex Dickerson could also become trade chips.
But Dubon might not have anywhere to play if the Giants add another outfielder.
San Francisco is reportedly finalizing a three-year deal with utility infielder Tommy La Stella, who is primarily a second baseman. With veterans Brandon Crawford and Evan Longoria entrenched at shortstop and third base, respectively, Dubon has nowhere to go.
The Giants could use Dubon as part of an outfield platoon or maybe even look to deal him. But both seem unlikely, especially since Dubon could be Crawford's replacement at shortstop when the latter becomes a free agent in 2022, and San Francisco would probably prefer he gets consistent at-bats.
Maybe the Giants still go after Bradley or Rosario and flip the likes of Dickerson and Donovan Solano. For now, however, their positional group looks set.
B.S. Meter: La Stella deal makes outfield addition unlikely
Marlins Doing Preliminary Work on Anthony Santander
The Miami Marlins had a specific approach last winter: Sign veteran players to plug holes and hope they stick.
While the Marlins seem like a good candidate to repeat this strategy, they are also pursuing controllable assets. Roch Kubatko of MASN reported they have been in talks with the Baltimore Orioles for outfielder Anthony Santander, though the extent of those talks is unknown.
Santander showed encouraging signs of breaking out in 2020. The 26-year-old posted an .890 OPS with 11 homers and 13 doubles. Santander also upped his walk rate, while his strikeout rate fell from 21.2 percent in 2019 to 15.2 percent.
Miami could use a slugging presence in the outfield. The Marlins ranked 13th in the NL in slugging last year, and prospects like Jesus Sanchez and Monte Harrison did not appear ready in their brief showings. JJ Bleday is still likely a year or two away.
Santander would give the Marlins an impact bat and potential foundational piece. Aside from his growth at the dish, Santander posted eight defensive runs saved and a 4.3 UZR/150 mark in right field last season. He could fit in seamlessly with some of the up-and-comers, especially since Starling Marte is set to hit the open market in 2022 and Lewis Brinson is struggling to live up to his billing.
But the Orioles are not likely to sell low on Santander, who has yet to enter the arbitration process and is under club control through 2024. For the Marlins' part, do they want to pay a premium for a guy who, despite his potential, only has 176 career games in the bigs?
Miami has every reason to inquire about Santander's availability, considering Baltimore is years away from contending. But the price is likely to be too high.
B.S. Meter: Marlins are more likely to pursue an Adam Duvall or Joc Pederson in FA
Brewers Have 'Overwhelming' Price for Josh Hader
The Milwaukee Brewers are maintaining a steep asking price for left-handed reliever Josh Hader.
Robert Murray of FanSided reported the Brewers are listening to offers for Hader, but the cost is said to be "overwhelming."
Hader has been one of the most dominant relievers in baseball over the last four years. The 26-year-old won back-to-back Trevor Hoffman NL Reliever of the Year Awards in 2018 and 2019. He ranks second in fWAR among relievers since 2017 and first in skill-interactive ERA (SIERA) during that time frame.
Although Hader had a more pedestrian 3.79 ERA in 2020, he ranked in the 90th percentile or higher in exit velocity, hard-hit rate and whiff percentage. He also threw more sliders (.038 batting average against), which could bode well for his effectiveness in the long run.
Milwaukee has every reason to set a high price. But the Brewers also have incentive to trade Hader and maximize his value sooner than later.
Hader will make $6.7 million in 2021, his first year of true arbitration eligibility after qualifying for Super Two status last season. He should see steady increases until he hits the open market in 2024.
The Brewers operate with a low payroll and would likely prefer not to pay a large salary to a reliever, no matter how dominant Hader has been. Also, the longer Milwaukee waits to move Hader, the more it risks wasting an opportunity to infuse young talent into an underwhelming pipeline.
But the Brewers are still trying to be competitive, which makes sense considering the rest of the NL Central has cut costs this winter.
Hader's ability to throw multiple innings in any leverage makes him an invaluable weapon for manager Craig Counsell and an imperative part of Milwaukee's success. The Brewers should keep asking for the world, knowing they can keep an open dialogue moving forward.
B.S. Meter: Nothing out of the ordinary here
Milwaukee Interested in Justin Turner
As has been established, the Brewers are likely to retain Josh Hader in the interest of being competitive this summer. In fact, Milwaukee might hope to add an impact bat.
Turner is an obvious fit considering Milwaukee's lack of production at the hot corner last season. Eric Sogard had a .560 OPS, and Luis Urias (.602 OPS) was hardly any better. Turner, on the other hand, hit .307 with an .860 OPS in 2020 and had a .302/.382/.503 slash in seven years with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
There are some major obstacles to signing Turner, however. The 36-year-old is seeking a four-year deal, per Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times. As well, Murray reported the Brewers have "some room but not a lot" on their payroll.
Additionally, Heyman reported three other teams are thought to be in on Turner, including the Dodgers. The Long Beach native is likely to give L.A. the last chance to make an offer, and maybe they will meet in the middle at three years (Castillo reported the Dodgers prefer a two-year deal). The Dodgers are also fresh off a World Series win and are primed to repeat. They are in much better shape than Milwaukee.
Heyman's initial list included the Blue Jays, and Toronto is likely done adding in the infield after signing Marcus Semien. That could help Milwaukee's case. But the Dodgers still stand a better chance of inking Turner than the Brewers, if push comes to shove.
B.S. Meter: A lot would have to go right for the Brewers to sign Turner