MLB's Winter Meetings are just around the bend, and that means activity on the free agent market should be ramping up soon. Of course, it's already pretty ramped up by the standards of early December, and Friday occasioned another couple of reported signings:
And of course you can get fully up to speed with our updated Free Agent Tracker. As for Friday's rumors, let's dig in.Red Sox may not trade Betts
It's been speculated for some time that the Red Sox, in an effort to reduce payroll, would seek to trade star outfielder Mookie Betts this winter. After J.D. Martinez declined to use his opt-out, that limited the paths available to the Red Sox for cutting down on salary, so maybe Betts goes. This, of course, would be deeply unwise, as Betts remains an elite performer, and the Sox should be looking to keep intact their impressive core of Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Andrew Benintendi and Eduardo Rodriguez. They should not be looking to tear it down or compromise it in any way.
The good news for Sox fans is that rival execs don't think they'll trade Betts this offseason. That's what they're telling Bob Nightengale of USA Today, anyway. Betts is eligible for free agency after the 2020 season and is due for a big raise in his final year of arbitration. To be sure, Betts will be worth that and more, but given that he has only one more season of control left means that the Sox may not get their asking price. That's actually a good thing for Boston.Pirates willing to talk about Marte
Fully in keeping with offseason expectations, the Pirates are willing to listen to trade offers for outfielder Starling Marte, Jon Heyman tweets. As Heyman notes, the Pirates would like to land a top catcher prospect as part of any return package.
Marte, 31, still adds value on the bases, and this past season at the plate he produced right in line with career norms (120 OPS+). Marte is under contract for $11.5 million in 2020, and his pact includes a $12.5 million club option/$1 million buyout for 2021. That's control with some flexibility from the team standpoint, and it adds to Marte's trade value. While he's not best suited to full-time duty in center field any more, he can still get by at the position while being an asset at the outfield corners.Japanese slugger Tsutsugo drawing interest
MLB.com's Jon Morosi reports that the market for Japanese slugger Yoshitomo Tsutsugo appears to be heating up. Tsutsugo is probably best suited to being a DH in MLB, and that's why all the suitors that Morosi is hearing about are in the AL. Those suitors are the Blue Jays, Tigers, White Sox, and Twins. Morosi cites the Blue Jays as perhaps being the best fit.
Tsutsugo, 28, has spent the last 10 seasons with Yokohama of Japan's Central League. Over that span, he's batted .284/.382/.525 with 205 home runs. In 2016 alone, he tallied 44 home runs.Cubs fortifying bullpen
The Cubs have reportedly agreed to a split major-league/minor-league contract with free agent right-hander Dan Winkler. Winkler, 29, has an ERA of 3.68 and a K/BB ratio of 2.95 in five big-league seasons. He enjoyed a standout 2018 with the Braves before struggling in 28 appearances this past season.
Elsewhere, the Cubs are close to bringing back right-hander Brandon Morrow on a minor-league contract, Bruce Levine of 670 The Score reports. Morrow, 35, had a sparkling 1.47 ERA in 30 2/3 innings for the Cubs in 2018, but he missed all of last season after suffering setbacks in his recovery from elbow surgery.
The 2020 MLB Winter Meetings will be held in sunny San Diego.
Baseball's annual Winter Meetings will take place in sunny San Diego next week. The Winter Meetings are traditionally the four busiest days of the offseason. Last year there were four trades and 10 free-agent signings during the Winter Meetings, including the Andrew McCutchen signing, the Charlie Morton signing, and the Carlos Santana/Edwin Encarnacion three-team trade.
Here are the details for the 2019 Winter Meetings:
Where: Hilton San Diego Bayfront
When: Sunday, Dec. 8 to Thursday, Dec. 12
We here at CBSSports.com and on CBS Sports HQ will of course provide around-the-clock Winter Meetings updates and analysis. We'll have all the latest rumors and break down any and all trades and free-agent signings. It's a hectic week but a very fun one. The offseason doesn't get any better.
Here is everything you need to know about this year's Winter Meetings.What events take place at the Winter Meetings?
Technically, the Winter Meetings are a minor-league event. MLB teams just tag along. Minor-league clubs get together to network, seek potential employees, discuss industry trends, handle business matters, and attend seminars.
Here are the Winter Meetings main events:
It should be noted MLB and minor league teams are currently negotiating a new Professional Baseball Agreement, the contract that keeps everyone working together. MLB has proposed eliminating 42 minor league teams as part of a large minor league overhaul and, understandably, minor league teams are not happy. The PBA expires after next season and this week's negotiations could be contentious.The All-MLB Team
MLB will reveal its inaugural All-MLB Team at the Winter Meetings. The All-MLB Team will reflect performances from the 2019 season and there will be one single All-MLB Team covering both leagues. There won't be separate American League and National League teams.
The inaugural All-MLB Team will be selected through a combination of fan voting and a panel consisting of media members, broadcasters, former players, and other baseball officials. If you're hoping to vote for this year's All-MLB Team and haven't already, you're out of luck. Voting closed earlier this week. Sorry.
The All-MLB Team will be revealed during the Winter Meetings next Tuesday. The team will consist of a catcher, a first baseman, a second baseman, a shortstop, a third baseman, three outfielders regardless of specific outfield position, a DH, five starting pitchers, and two relief pitchers.
Spoiler alert: Mike Trout will be on the All-MLB Team. No inside info here, just a hunch.Rumors! Trades! Signings!
Of course, almost all baseball fans associate the Winter Meetings with the hot stove, and for good reason. All 30 front offices -- it's not just the general manager or president of the baseball operations, it's their assistants as well as trusted scouts and analytics folks -- are in one place, and deals are inevitable. It's a chance to meet face-to-face and negotiate.
Historically, the Winter Meetings are the four busiest days of the offseason. There are non-stop rumors in the Twitter era, so much so that it's tough to separate the legitimate rumors from the noise. Teams and agents both use the media to push their agenda. No doubt about it. Inevitably, trades and free-agent signings take place. Lots of them. Several a day. It's a lot of fun.
Already Zack Wheeler and Yasmani Grandal have signed. Scott Boras tends to drag things out with his top clients, so there's no guarantee Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon or Stephen Strasburg will sign during the Winter Meetings. There are still lots -- lots -- of free agents out there, and many will sign within the next week.
Here are some key storylines to watch during the Winter Meetings next week:
Also, all 30 MLB managers meet with the media during the Winter Meetings to give a "state of the team" press conference. It's usually the first time they're asked about the new player the team just signed or a new coach they just hired, things like that. Every once in a while some news comes out of those media sessions, like a position change or injury update.The Rule 5 Draft
The annual Rule 5 Draft takes place Thursday morning and is the unofficial end of the Winter Meetings. Everyone packs up and heads home after that. Any player selected in the Rule 5 Draft must remain on their new team's active 26-man major league roster the entire 2020 season, or be placed on waivers and offered back to their former team.
Only players not on the 40-man roster are eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 Draft. It's a way to give minor leaguers blocked in their current organization a chance at the big leagues. This year's pool of eligible players includes:
There are some exceptions based on age, but, generally speaking, those are the eligible players. Baseball America's J.J. Cooper put together a list of the best available players, if you're interested. Keep in mind MLB will add a 26th roster spot next season. That will make it that much easier to carry a Rule 5 Draft player all year. The Rule 5 Draft could be busier than usual.
Teams seem to be getting better at finding quality players in the Rule 5 Draft these days. Joe Biagini, Mark Canha, Odubel Herrera, Brad Keller, and Victor Reyes are among the Rule 5 Draft success stories in recent seasons.Can fans attend the Winter Meetings?
Officially, the Winter Meetings are closed to the public. You can't just walk in and attend the trade show or workshops, for example. Those are for teams and people in the industry.
You are, however, free to roam the hallways of the Hilton San Diego Bayfront and watch everything that goes on, which I assure you is not as exciting as it sounds. You'll see famous faces walk by -- mostly team executives, but some players also stop by as well, particularly those who live locally or are looking for a job -- but you won't see Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and Indians GM Mike Chernoff sitting in the lobby discussing a Lindor trade, for example. Those talks happen behind closed doors, in the team suites.
If you're an ambitious job-seeker hoping to hand out resumes at the Winter Meetings, by all means, go for it. I wish you the best of luck. If you're a fan just wanting to stake out the lobby and hallways, it's probably not worth the trip, especially if you're not close by and can't easily walk or drive over one afternoon.
Speaking from experience, being on-site at the Winter Meetings is not as exciting as you may think. You can follow all the rumors, trades, and signings just as quickly and easily from home.
Updated 3:53 PM;Today 3:50 PM
During an appearance Friday in Stamford, Conn., New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said he’s still talking to the agents for reliever Dellin Betances, outfielder Brett Gardner, shortstop Didi Gregorius and catcher Austin Romine, all of whom are free agents after spending 2019 in the Bronx.
MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports progress is being made with Gardner.
“Yankees made another offer to Brett Gardner so the sides continue to talk. Gardy has made clear he prefers to return to them for a 13th season. They love him as well, and with Hicks sidelined to start the year, it’s hard to imagine Gardner and the Yankees not working things out.”
The 36-year-old Gardner hit a career-high 28 home runs in 2019 and would be a good insurance policy in the outfield while Aaron Hicks recovers from Tommy John surgery.
While Gardner seems like a good bet to return to New York, the same cannot be said for Gregorius, Betances or Romine.
NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury reports the Phillies “are engaged in talks” with Gregorius. The Gregorius-Phillies rumors are red-hot this week, following Philadelphia’s decision to not tender contracts to infielders Maikel Franco and Cesar Hernandez.
Gregorius struggled in 2019 as he played his way into shape following Tommy John surgery. He hit .238 with 16 home runs in 82 games. But from 2015-17, he averaged 24 home runs and 81 RBI per season.
The Phillies also have shown an interest in Betances, who missed the start of the 2019 season with a strained right lat, then tore his left Achilles tendon upon his return to the roster. So Betances’ body of work will have to do the talking for him in free agency. And the 31-year-old has an impressive resume with four All-Star appearances and a 2.36 ERA over eight seasons.
As for Romine, he was a candidate to sign with the Phillies until Philadelphia re-signed non-tender candidate Andrew Knapp on Monday.
Mike Rosenstein may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @rosenstein73. Find NJ.com on Facebook.