Rumor Central: Robbie Ross Jr. on Blue Jays' radar?

November, 18, 2017
Nov 18
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Photo by Chris LaFrance/Icon SportswireToronto is reportedly interested in former Red Sox reliever Robbie Ross Jr.

As the Toronto Blue Jays look to add a left-handed bullpen arm this winter, they have reportedly been eyeing a former division rival.

According to Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca, the Blue Jays are showing interest in former Boston Red Sox reliever Robbie Ross Jr.

Injuries limited the 28-year-old to just eight appearances for Boston in 2017, but he has held opposing lefties to a .255 average across 266 major league games dating back to 2012. Ross owns a career 3.92 ERA.

After landing on the disabled list midseason with elbow inflammation, Ross underwent back surgery in late August while finishing up a one-year contract worth $1.825 million. He is expected to be ready for Opening Day.

The Blue Jays' bullpen combined for a 4.21 ERA last season, which ranked 15th in baseball.

-- Nick Ostiller

Rumor Central: Alex Cobb drawing interest from Orioles?

November, 18, 2017
Nov 18
12:56
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AP Photo/Gail BurtonBaltimore reportedly is eyeing right-hander Alex Cobb, who recently became a free agent after declining a qualifying offer from the Rays.

After declining a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Tampa Bay Rays, pitcher Alex Cobb recently became a free agent and already is drawing interest from another AL East team.

According to Jon Morosi of MLB Network, the Baltimore Orioles are eyeing the right-hander as they look to bolster a starting rotation that finished with the worst ERA in baseball last season.

Cobb, 30, went 12-10 with a 3.66 ERA and 128/44 strikeout-to-walk ratio across 179 1/3 innings (29 starts) last season for Tampa Bay -- his first full year since undergoing Tommy John surgery.

He has allowed 2.6 walks per nine innings throughout his six-year career, and the Orioles surrendered the second-most walks in the American League last season.

Cobb is familiar with the AL East, and has found some success against the division's top teams at their home stadiums. He owns a 5-1 record with a 3.15 ERA in seven starts at Fenway Park and is 1-2 with a 3.12 ERA in five starts at Yankee Stadium.

Cobb earned $4.2 million last season with the Rays.

-- Nick Ostiller

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty ImagesFernando Rodney allowed 14 earned runs across 54 1/3 innings for a 2.32 ERA as the Diamondbacks reached the NLDS in 2017.

Entrusting a 40-year-old pitcher to close games last season wasn't always smooth sailing, but the Arizona Diamondbacks liked enough of what they saw from Fernando Rodney in 2017.

According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, the Diamondbacks are open to bringing back the free-agent righty this winter.

"He did a great job for us," Arizona GM Mike Hazen told Heyman at the recent general managers meetings in Orlando.

Rodney, who will be 41 by the time next season rolls around, allowed 14 earned runs across 54 1/3 innings for a 2.32 ERA as the Diamondbacks reached the NLDS. Between May 26 and July 2, he tossed 10 2/3 hitless frames while striking out 16 in what was essentially a no-hitter for the month of June.

Overall, the veteran converted 39 of his 45 save chances on a salary that amounted to $4 million with incentives.

-- Nick Ostiller

Avisail Garcia, Chicago White SoxDennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY SportsComing off a career year, the Chicago outfielder is reportedly garnering trade interest from the A's.

The Oakland Athletics don't appear to be done working the phones after trading away Ryon Healy earlier this week.

According to John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle, the A's have interest in Avisail Garcia of the Chicago White Sox.

Garcia, 26, is coming off a breakout season in which he slashed .330/.380/.506 with 18 home runs and 80 RBIs in 136 games while earning the first All-Star selection of his six-year career.

The outfielder represents the type of right-handed bat the A's are seeking as they plan to move Khris Davis into more of a designated hitter role, per Shea.

Garcia, who is under team control through 2019, is due for a raise this winter after earning $3 million last season. White Sox GM Rick Hahn is willing to move Garcia, according to Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune.

"If there's an opportunity to put us in a better position long term, we'll certainly fully explore it," Hahn said, per Kuc. "Everything is in play."

Oakland finished last in the AL West this past season with a 75-87 record.

-- Nick Ostiller

Neville E. Guard/USA TODAY Sports

As the San Francisco Giants attempt to rebound from a disastrous 2017, one name on their free agency radar is J.D. Martinez.

According to John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Giants "have had discussions" regarding the veteran slugger.

While it's unclear if San Francisco actually has sat down with Martinez's agent, Scott Boras, Shea notes that the Giants are considering various options to improve an offense that ranked dead last in home runs and OPS last season.

Martinez, 30, slashed .303/.376/.690 with 45 home runs and 104 RBIs for the Detroit Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks in 2017. He really turned it on following his trade to Arizona, batting .302 with 29 homers, 65 RBIs and a 1.107 OPS across 62 games in the National League.

Martinez's .690 slugging percentage was the best in baseball.

ESPN's Jerry Crasnick reported earlier this month that Boras seeks a contract in the $200 million range for Martinez. Bob Nightengale of USA Today later specified that the desired length of such a deal is seven years.

That's less than the $295 million over the next decade still owed to Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, another reported target of the Giants this winter.

-- Nick Ostiller

Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty ImagesSan Diego is reportedly hoping to re-sign a pair of right-handers this offseason, including veteran Jhoulys Chacin.

The San Diego Padres are reportedly interested in bringing back a pair of veteran right-handers next season.

According to AJ Cassavell of MLB.com, the Friars are eyeing reunions with starter Jhoulys Chacin and reliever Craig Stammen.

"Both guys expressed interest when the season ended of potentially trying to re-sign with us and playing in San Diego," Padres GM A.J. Preller told reporters this week at the general managers meetings in Orlando, per Cassavell. "From our standpoint, it's about seeing how the next couple weeks play out. They're two guys we have interest in bringing back."

Chacin, 29, went 13-10 with a 3.89 ERA and a career-high 153 strikeouts in 32 starts for the Padres last season. His 1.79 home ERA was the fourth-lowest in Petco Park's history.

After posting an 8.49 ERA in April, Stammen rebounded in a big way. The 33-year-old compiled a 2.24 ERA across the final five months of the season, pitching San Diego out of several jams with opposing runners on base.

"We've got to see if we line up financially," Preller told Cassavell, who notes that both pitchers had enough success in 2017 to warrant multiyear deals on the open market -- something San Diego might be reluctant to offer as the team keeps an eye toward the future.

Chacin earned $1.75 million last season, while Stammen made $900,000.

-- Nick Ostiller

A.J. Hinch -- Houston AstrosKevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesHouston is reportedly looking to lock up manager A.J. Hinch after he led the Astros to a World Series title in 2017.

A.J. Hinch led the Houston Astros to their first-ever World Series title in 2017, and the franchise is hoping to keep its manager around for the foreseeable future.

According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, the defending champions are "strongly considering an effort to lock [Hinch] up long-term."

The 43-year-old is under contract through 2018 with an option for 2019, per Heyman.

“I’ve learned one thing in baseball and that is that we are always interested in keeping our best talents,” Astros owner Jim Crane told Heyman.

"We think very highly of A.J. Everything’s in sync. Everything’s working. He communicates well with the players. He’s a smart guy, inclusive and has experience beyond his years.”

Hinch placed third in American League Manager of the Year Award voting this past season.

-- Nick Ostiller

Rumor Central: Rangers to extend GM Jon Daniels?

November, 16, 2017
Nov 16
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AP Photo/Tony GutierrezTexas GM Jon Daniels reportedly "isn't going anywhere" as he enters the final year of his contract.

After becoming the youngest general manager in baseball 12 years ago, Jon Daniels of the Texas Rangers will reportedly remain in his role for the foreseeable future.

According to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Rangers are planning to offer a contract extension to their now 40-year-old GM and president of baseball operations.

Daniels "isn't going anywhere" as he enters the final season of his contract, per Wilson, and he might already be discussing a new deal with Texas.

The Rangers have won at least 87 games in six of the past nine seasons, with only two losing records during that span (including this past season's 78-84 finish). Texas also went to back-to-back World Series under Daniels in 2010-11.

Some successful moves that Daniels has made over the years include acquiring Elvis Andrus, Cole Hamels, Neftali Feliz and Jarrod Saltalamacchia in trades as well as signing Adrian Beltre and Yu Darvish.

-- Nick Ostiller

Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsJurickson Profar will be due a raise via arbitration this offseason.

Despite another down season offensively for the Texas Rangers, former top prospect Jurickson Profar has drawn interest from many clubs, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports.

One of those teams is the New York Yankees, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Sherman notes that the Yankees' excess pitching has caught the eye of the Rangers.

Profar, 24, was once the game's No. 1 prospect but battled several major injuries on his way to consistent playing time in the majors. He showed flashes of his potential with the club in 2016 but struggled out of the gate this year (.135 batting average in April), resulting in a demotion to the minors. Despite performing well with Triple-A Round Rock (.287 average), Profar was never called back up after a two-game stint in July. Grant noted in August that Profar was reportedly frustrated that the Rangers didn't trade him ahead of the July 31 deadline.

While the Yankees have no dire need for infielders, Profar represents a buy-low candidate for the team -- a view the rest of the league likely shares. Sherman writes that New York is looking to make a move ahead of Monday's deadline to set 40-man rosters for the Rule 5 draft, but Grant indicates Texas isn't in any rush to part ways with Profar.

Profar will be due a raise this offseason via arbitration from the $1.05 million he made in 2017 and is set to become a free agent following the conclusion of the 2020 campaign.

-- Kyle Brasseur

Giancarlo Stanton -- Miami MarlinsJasen Vinlove/USA TODAY SportsAfter a 59-homer season, Giancarlo Stanton will be in high demand this winter.

As many as eight teams are in discussions with the Miami Marlins regarding outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, with six of those clubs said to be "serious," Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports. Might the San Francisco Giants be the most determined of the group?

That's the case, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Nightengale notes that a deal isn't close, but the Giants have been aggressive in their pursuit.

Further lending to this notion, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com tweeted earlier this week that Giants prospect Heliot Ramos has been discussed as a potential trade piece in a package to acquire Stanton. Ramos, the 19th pick in this year's draft, impressed in his professional debut, hitting .348 in 35 games for the Rookie-level AZL Giants.

Stanton has been a hot name on the market following a 59-homer campaign that has him among the finalists to take home the National League MVP on Thursday night. The 28-year-old is entering the fourth season of a 13-year, $325 million contract that is set to start paying him at least $25 million annually beginning in 2018 and contains an opt-out after 2020.

In addition to the Giants hitting an MLB-low 128 home runs last season, their outfielders combined to post a .684 OPS, which was also by far the worst mark in the majors.

--Kyle Brasseur

Rumor Central: Early return for Julio Urias?

November, 16, 2017
Nov 16
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Julio UriasJayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY SportsJulio Urias underwent season-ending shoulder surgery last June.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have always played things conservatively with prized left-hander Julio Urias, but the 21-year-old might force their hand as he recovers from shoulder surgery.

Urias is progressing well in his rehab and could return to the majors as early as May, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports, citing Dodgers officials.

Urias had surgery in late June to get his left anterior capsule repaired, and his initial timetable for recovery was placed at 12-14 months.

At the time, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said Urias' recovery should be aided by his youth, and that he expected the former top prospect to return to his accustomed level.

Urias made his major league debut as a 19-year-old in 2016 and impressed with a 3.39 ERA in 77 innings. He made five starts for the Dodgers last season, posting a 5.40 ERA before being sent down to the minors, where the injury occurred.

-- Kyle Brasseur

Rumor Central: Angels pursuing Tigers' Ian Kinsler?

November, 16, 2017
Nov 16
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Ian Kinsler -- Detroit TigersJesse Johnson/USA TODAY SportsIan Kinsler is owed $11 million in the last year of his contract.

The Detroit Tigers have a valuable trade piece in second baseman Ian Kinsler, and at least one team has emerged as a potential suitor for his services.

The Los Angeles Angels have "been having extensive internal discussions" about trading for Kinsler, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports. Fenech notes the Halos have had a longstanding interest in Kinsler, but a deal does not appear to be imminent.

Kinsler, 35, is coming off his worst season offensively, as he hit .236 with a .725 OPS (both career lows). However, he did still manage to hit 22 home runs and steal 14 bases and remains one of the top defensive options at second base. Kinsler's option for 2018 vested this year, and he'll make $11 million before becoming a free agent at the end of next season.

The Halos received a combined .601 OPS from their second basemen last season, the worst mark in the majors. Los Angeles has been connected to numerous potentially available options at the position since the offseason began, including the Philadelphia Phillies' Cesar Hernandez and free agents Neil Walker and Zack Cozart (who would need to move off shortstop).

-- Kyle Brasseur

Steven Branscombe/USA TODAY SportsMike Moustakas hit a franchise-record 38 home runs for the Royals last season.

As Mike Moustakas tests free agency for the first time in his career, he could have a homecoming in mind.

Moustakas, an L.A. native, has the Los Angeles Angels No. 1 on his wish list, an MLB insider tells ESPN's Jerry Crasnick.

Moustakas is one of the top free agents available (No. 13 on Keith Law's Top 50) after hitting a franchise-record 38 home runs for the Kansas City Royals last season. The 29-year-old received a qualifying offer from the Royals, so signing him will result in the forfeiting of a draft pick.

As Crasnick notes, the Angels have Luis Valbuena atop their depth chart at third base, though he also played a good deal of first base this year. Valbuena hit .199 with 22 home runs and 65 RBIs, playing a big part in the Halos' larger issues at the hot corner (.713 OPS, 25th in the majors).

In addition to third base, the Angels could be looking to upgrade at second base this winter. Crasnick reports free agents Neil Walker and Zack Cozart are on the team's list, though Cozart, an All-Star for the first time with the Cincinnati Reds this year, would need to be willing to move off shortstop.

Rumor Central: Cubs, Alex Cobb share mutual interest?

November, 15, 2017
Nov 15
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Alex CobbGene J. Puskar/AP PhotoChicago reportedly reached out to Cobb when free agency began and had preliminary discussions with his agent at the recent GM meetings.

There are plenty of connections between the Chicago Cubs and pitcher Alex Cobb.

The right-hander has spent all six years of his career with the Tampa Bay Rays, a team that current Cubs manager Joe Maddon ran for the first half of that time period. Cobb's pitching coach in Tampa Bay, Jim Hickey, joined Maddon's Chicago staff in the same role earlier this month.

According to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times, it's why Cobb and the Cubs share mutual interest in each other this winter. ESPN's Jesse Rogers confirmed that Chicago reached out to Cobb when free agency began and had preliminary discussions with his agent, Danny Horwits, at the recent GM meetings.

Cobb posted a 3.66 ERA and 128/44 strikeout-to-walk ratio across 179 1/3 innings last season for the Rays -- his first full year back on the mound since undergoing Tommy John surgery.

The 30-year-old received a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Rays earlier this month.

In an interview with MLB Network Radio, Cobb was complimentary of both Maddon and Hickey. "I don't hide the fact that I've got the most respect for Joe Maddon and what he did for me coming up as a player," Cobb said.

Rogers believes that a four-year deal makes sense for Cobb and the Cubs, although he notes that the sides have not exchanged numbers yet.

Cobb earned $4.2 million last season with Tampa Bay.

-- Nick Ostiller

Jonathan LucroyMark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsThe defending champions are reportedly eyeing the veteran catcher in free agency.

Fresh off winning the World Series, the Houston Astros have begun to poke around the free-agent market this week.

According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, the defending champions have expressed interest in veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy. Heyman notes that a potential advantage the Astros may have over other suitors is that Lucroy lives relatively close to Minute Maid Park.

Lucroy, 31, hit .265 with six home runs across 123 games with the Texas Rangers and Colorado Rockies last season. It was the fewest number of long balls for Lucroy since his rookie year in 2010.

However, he slashed .310/.429/.437 over his final 46 games with the Rockies -- a boost aided perhaps by playing in the hitter-friendly Coors Field.

Signing Lucroy would likely push Houston's incumbent backstops Brian McCann and Evan Gattis into platoon roles at designated hitter. Although Lucroy has been a better defensive catcher than both of them throughout his career, he struggled slightly on that side of the ball in 2017.

Lucroy just completed a five-year, $11 million contract originally signed with the Milwaukee Brewers.

-- Nick Ostiller

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