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MLB‘s hot stove caught fire before the holidays, gifting fans with an assortment of trades and signings to dissect before the New Year.
The final days of 2018 figure to offer a momentary respite. Rumors can wait a few days as players, general managers and reporters spend some well-earned family time.
Have no fear: There’s still plenty of trade chatter to tide everyone over for a few days. Looming free-agent decisions have fueled associated trade possibilities, and one done deal has everyone waiting for the next shoe to drop.
Let’s break down some of baseball’s juiciest trade rumors.
Dodgers Continue to Pursue Corey Kluber
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The Los Angeles Dodgers made an unconventional move for a big-market title contender when they sent Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood and Matt Kemp to the Cincinnati Reds in a seven-player deal that brought back nobody who will factor into next year’s major league plans. Right from the start, it felt like the opening act to an accompanying big move.
Noting the sudden outfield opening, spectators quickly wondered if signing Bryce Harper was phase two. Yet as noted by Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan, the free-agent outfielder would still push them over the $206 million luxury tax threshold.
With October and November in mind, they could instead bolster an already strong rotation by acquiring an ace from the Cleveland Indians.
According to MLB.com’s Jon Morosi, the two teams have resumed talks for Corey Kluber. While last month’s rumors included Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco, the AL Central champions are now more focused on moving the two-time AL Cy Young Award winner after reaching a team-friendly extension with Carrasco.
Jon Morosi @jonmorosi
Sources: #Indians trade dialogue over the past week has been heavier on Corey Kluber than Trevor Bauer, although at this point a deal is not expected before Christmas. @MLB @MLBNetwork
Assuming club options are exercised, Kluber will earn $40.5 million over the next three seasons. That’s an incredible bargain for a front-line hurler who has exceeded 200 innings and 220 strikeouts in each of the last five seasons while posting a 2.85 ERA and 31.0 WAR, the most of any starting pitcher.
After moving Puig, the Dodgers have less outfield depth to offer the Indians, who lost Michael Brantley to the Houston Astros. Yet Michael J. Duarte of NBC Sports Los Angeles said a source still expects the two sides to reach an agreement:
Michael J. Duarte @michaeljduarte
Next order of business for the #Dodgers is Corey Kluber.
Per Source: #Dodgers and #Indians are once again discussing a trade centered around Corey Kluber. One rival executive told me: “I’d be blown away if Dodgers don’t get Kluber.”
Morosi said the Dodgers are willing to include Alex Verdugo, MLB.com’s No. 32-rated prospect. They would then seek a right-handed replacement hitter, with Nicholas Castellanos of the Detroit Tigers drawing interest.
As for why Cleveland would trade Kluber on an affordable deal after three straight division titles? Good question. Given the division’s lack of competition, the Indians may believe they can contend while simultaneously building for the future. It’d make sense if they significantly improved a top-heavy lineup in the process, but Puig represented the best immediate boost the Dodgers could have exchanged. (They’re not moving Cody Bellinger for Kluber, per Morosi.)
If the Dodgers can’t complete the deal, expect them to pull off at least one other marquee signing (Harper, A.J. Pollock) or trade (J.T. Realmuto).
Miguel Andujar Available “For the Right Price”
Entrenched in the Manny Machado sweepstakes, the New York Yankees would eventually have an infield logjam to address if he picks pinstripes.
The superstar free agent would immediately play shortstop, but Didi Gregorius will eventually return from Tommy John surgery. While they could let him go next offseason, Fancred’s Jon Heyman said the Yankees would “love” to retain him.
That could make Miguel Andujar the odd-man out. Heyman wrote that the third baseman “appears to be on the block, for the right price.”
Some Yankees fans will wince at the idea of trading a 23-year-old who batted .297 with 27 homers and 92 RBI as a rookie. Yet those surface numbers could overinflate his true worth.
Despite his high average, Andujar mustered a pedestrian .328 on-base percentage on account of drawing just 25 walks in 606 plate appearances. He’s also a liability at the hot corner, where he committed 15 errors and minus-25 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). Rafael Devers’ minus-13 DRS represented the second-worst mark at third base.
Besides, it can’t hurt to test the market. Across the Big Apple, New York Mets fans also cringed at every rumor involving Noah Syndergaard. Yet nothing has materialized from new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen exploring his options, and Heyman said the ace is now likely to stay in Queens.
This is likely just a case of Yankees general manager Brian Cashman doing his due diligence. Unless they’re willing to accept that Andujar’s glove should be hidden as a first baseman or designated hitter, it’s also probably contingent on Machado choosing the Evil Empire.
Andujar is a valuable young player, but not someone who should garner an untouchable tag. Then again, it’s poor business practice to make anybody entirely off limits.
Padres Discuss Marcus Stroman with Blue Jays
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Although labeled “aggressive as any team” at MLB’s winter meetings by USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale, the San Diego Padres have yet to make a significant offseason splash. Don’t count them out just yet.
Already linked to Syndergaard and Sonny Gray, the Friars are looking to improve a rotation that posted an NL-low 5.09 ERA last season. Along the same lines of Gray, they are reportedly interested in buying a promising young pitcher after a down year.
Per Morosi, the Padres and Toronto Blue Jays have discussed a deal for Marcus Stroman. Although the 27-year-old righty relinquished a 5.54 ERA in an injury-plagued campaign, he still wields a career 3.91 ERA and 3.62 fielding independent pitching (FIP).
Since the start of 2015, no qualified starter has produced a higher ground-ball rate than Stroman’s 61.4 percent. San Diego’s infield is better equipped to convert those batted balls into outs after signing second baseman Ian Kinsler, who won his second Gold Glove Award in 2018.
Stroman, however, appears uninterested in leaving Toronto:
Marcus Stroman @MStrooo6
Wagwan. Rumors are waste. Rogers Centre is my second home. Canadian cultured fam! 🇨🇦
While seeking immediate upgrades, the Padres aren’t ready to contend just yet. Per Heyman, they “remain realistically shooting for 2020.” Yet they’re also interested in 30-year-old southpaw Dallas Keuchel, another ground-ball specialist who submitted a 3.74 ERA over 204.2 frames last season.
Morosi said they are unwilling to move top prospects Fernando Tatis Jr., Francisco Mejia or Mackenzie Gore for Stroman. That’s hardly a surprise after his subpar season, especially since the Padres refused to include Tatis in any offer for Syndergaard.
Their farm system, ranked as MLB’s best by Bleacher Report’s Joel Reuter in September, features plenty of more talent to pique Toronto’s interest. Morosi suggested pitchers Michael Baez and Logan Allen, but perhaps the Blue Jays can convince general manager A.J. Preller to part with Chris Paddack or Adrian Morejon.
Unless the Padres flip some of their prized prospects, it makes little sense to sell Stroman—who will spend two more seasons under team control—following a career nadir.
Note: All advanced stats are courtesy of FanGraphs.