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MLB rumors, free agency and trade updates: Indians more likely to move Kluber or Bauer after Carrasco extension

Heading into December and the winter meetings, baseball’s offseason is starting to heat up. Already we’ve seen some notable signings like Patrick Corbin to the Nationals and some blockbuster trades like Paul Goldschmidt to the Cardinals, but there’s plenty more to come — Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are still on the board, of course. 

As such, we’ll be rounding up all the best rumors, transactions, news and notes from the day. Here’s Thursday’s edition … 

Carrasco extension makes Indians trade more likely

The Indians on Thursday announced that they’d signed right-hander Carlos Carrasco to a contract extension. It reportedly breaks down thus: 

Those are bargain rates for a pitcher of Carrasco’s caliber. Carrasco has been one of the Cleveland starters mentioned in trade talk this offseason. While this low-cost extension no doubt increases his trade value, the real takeaway from the Carrasco extension is this … 

The 2018 digits on Corey Kluber …

And Trevor Bauer … 

Kluber has a much larger sample of dominance, but he’s older. Bauer, who turns 28 next month, is almost five years younger, but 2018 is his lone ace-like campaign. Kluber, assuming his two options are exercised, is locked up through 2021, while Bauer is second-year arbitration-eligible and not slated for free agency until after the 2020 season. Basically, Kluber is the safer bet right now and has an extra year of control, but Bauer offers more long-term upside. 

Either will command a high price in trade, and the Indians — who are pivoting a bit but still aim to win the weak AL Central — are looking for a major-league ready outfielder as part of any return package. Given the heated demand for pitching and the increasingly thin free agent crop of same, the next blockbuster trade of the offseason may involve the Indians. 

Sox re-up with Eovaldi

Another notable starting pitcher is off the board, as the champion Boston Red Sox have reportedly re-signed Nathan Eovaldi, pending a physical. The deal is worth a reported $67.5 million over four years. You can read more here

Twins add Schoop

The Minnesota Twins added a new second baseman on Thursday, inking Jonathan Schoop on a one-year deal. You can read more about that here.

Royals interested in Hamilton

The Kansas City Royals added Chris Owings earlier in the week, and could be after another recent non-tender: Billy Hamilton, per Rustin Dodd of The Athletic. Hamilton is a brilliant athlete — an elite runner and center fielder — but has had difficulty asserting himself as a hitter. He figures to prefer a one-year deal where he can get ample playing time rather than settling for a bench role.

Yanks focused on Happ

Now that Corbin and Eovaldi are off the board, the Yankees’ options for further buttressing their rotation are getting winnowed down by the day. The best three starters left on the market are now Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, and J.A. Happ. We recently broke down the Yanks’ post-Corbin options, and now you can of course remove Eovaldi from the list of possibles. That leads us to this bit of clarity … 

GM Brian Cashman traded for Happ last season leading up to the non-waiver deadline, and he was quite effective across 62 2/3 innings after that trade. Bear in mind that the Yankees have at the front of the rotation Luis Severino, James Paxton, and Masahiro Tanaka, and CC Sabathia is also back in the fold. What they need is depth, and Happ gives them that. He’d make for a sensible addition. 

Reds looking to make a splash

The Reds don’t profile as contenders next season (the SportsLine Projection Model presently tabs them for just 67 wins), even if there’s some impressive young talent in place and on the way. In that regard, adding costly veteran free agents probably isn’t wise, especially in a division that yielded four winning teams in 2018. The Reds, though, badly need to re-engage the fan base and stem those steep attendance declines. That’s why Cincy could be surprising spenders this winter. 

Speaking of all that, here’s Jon Heyman with some specifics … 

A.J. Pollock is a valuable blend of hitting, defense, and base-running, and Dallas Keuchel is probably the best starting pitcher left on the free agent market. Each, however, is in his thirties and thus best suited to a win-now roster. The Reds very likely don’t have that. That said, money is money, and if the Reds top all comers, then they could indeed land one or more top-tier free agents. That probably won’t yield their first winning season since 2013, but it may allow them to sell a few more tickets. That may be the entire point.

Jays open to dealing starters

The Red Sox, Yankees, and Rays last season combined for almost 300 regular-season wins, which means that in 2019 the Blue Jays probably have little hope of contention. As such, why not trade away some vets in exchange for young players to go alongside the high-ceiling likes of Vlad Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and Anthony Alford. That may be thinking of GM Ross Atkins, as Rob Langley of the Toronto Sun reports. Langley writes: 

While the team might not be aggressively shopping starting pitchers Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez, Atkins said there is a strong market for either young pitcher, both of whom regressed significantly this past season due to injury.

“I think there’s a lot of teams that would love to have either guy,” Atkins said.
So, is there potentially enough interest to tempt the Jays to make a move for either hurler if the price is right?

“Yes, absolutely,” the GM said.

That’s pretty emphatic, especially by the standards of top execs. Marcus Stroman is coming off the worst season of his career in terms of both health and results, but he’s just two seasons removed from a top-10 finish in the AL Cy Young balloting. He’s also still just 27 and isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2020 season. 

As for Aaron Sanchez, 26, he’s missed a great deal of time over the last two seasons with blister and finger problems, and over that same span he’s failed to live up to the standards of his earlier years. That said, Sanchez is also two years removed a high finish in the Cy Young vote, and he’s still got upside. No doubt, the Jays can find takers who believe that Stroman and Sanchez can be restored to their former abilities. 

Dodgers eyeing Abreu?

Some scuttle … 

Jose Abreu is going into his age-32 season and is coming off his worst MLB campaign to date: OPS+ of 118 versus a pre-2018 career mark of 142 with 22 home runs in 128 games. Abreu still figures to be a productive bat in the near-term, but it’s possible decline has set in. Otherwise, the White Sox may be looking to position themselves as contenders in 2019, and by all accounts they’re high on Abreu’s steadying clubhouse influence. While they’d part with him at the right price, presumably, they also may not be actively shopping him. 

On the other side, the Dodgers could theoretically use Abreu as a platoon partner for Max Muncy at first base or use Muncy as a multi-positional regular. 

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