Tuesday morning brought relatively big news on the MLB Hot Stove, which has actually been very cold all offseason so far. The Braves signed All-Star starting pitcher Charlie Morton to a one-year, $15 million deal. Perhaps fittingly, two of the biggest rumors here on the same day are at least indirectly related to the move. Let's do a quick rumors roundup.
Rays open to trading Snell
The Rays declined a $15 million option on Morton and they might be sticking to their money-saving ways with another starting pitcher. Though they aren't "actively shopping" him, they are open to trading 2018 Cy Young winner Blake Snell, per Mark Feinsand of MLB.com.
The last we saw of Snell, he was being controversially removed from Game 6 of the World Series, only to see the bullpen blow the lead just a few batters later. Will that be the lasting image of him in a Rays uniform?
Snell, a 27-year-old lefty, was 4-2 with a 3.24 ERA (131 ERA+) and 63 strikeouts in 50 innings last season. He made six playoff starts, pitching to a 3.03 ERA. In his 10 World Series innings, he only allowed four hits while striking out 18.
It could be argued this is the optimal time for the Rays to trade Snell. He's set to make $11.1 million next season, $13.1 million in 2022 and $16.6 million in 2023 (there are Cy Young vote escalators as well). Though his upside is huge, he hasn't worked deep into games since 2018 -- and even then, it was mostly in the first half.
Expect every team with hopes of contending in the near future to at least have a conversation with the Rays front office on Snell.
Mets expect to be aggressive
Also, in light of the Morton news, there's this nugget on the Braves' NL East rival Mets:
Braves have been aggressive so far, and the Mets will not be far behind, aiming at the best available players. A source says about the Mets targeting more more than one of the big four of the winter (Springer, Realmuto, Bauer, Lindor): "It's all true."— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) November 24, 2020
The Mets absolutely have needs behind the plate and in the rotation behind ace Jacob deGrom, so perhaps Realmuto and Bauer are the top priorities. But it would be awfully hard to pass on Springer if in the market and trading for Lindor also would make sense.
Perhaps the main, overarching point here is to get used to this new normal under Steve Cohen as the owner: The Mets are going to be involved in rumors for most big names in play moving forward. Not that they'll be alone in pursuit of a certain catcher ...
Blue Jays in on Realmuto, more
The Blue Jays are among the (likely many) suitors for the services of Realmuto, far and away the best catcher on the free agent market, reports Craig Mish of MLB Network.
Realmuto, 29, is a two-time All-Star who hit .266/.349/.491 (123 OPS+) with 11 homers and 32 RBI in 47 games for the Phillies last season. He's also one of the best framers in baseball and has in the recent past led the majors in caught stealing percentage. That is to say, he's the all-around best catcher in baseball.
The Blue Jays' fit is pretty obvious. Right now they have Danny Jansen, Reese McGuire and Alejandro Kirk behind the plate. Teaming Realmuto with their pitching staff would be a boost, just as it would to the exciting offense that already has Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Teoscar Hernandez, Lourdes Gurriel and Vladimir Guerrero.
Reds open to moving Gray
The Reds are open to the idea of trading starter Sonny Gray, though it doesn't sound at all like they are actively shopping him or anything. Weighing their options would be more accurate, according to the report from Rosenthal:
Rival clubs report the Reds are open to moving Gray, whose recent performance and affordable contract make him more appealing than most of their players. As teams do with all trade possibilities, the Reds are gauging what they might get in return, and weighing how they might reallocate their savings.
Gray, a 30-year-old right-hander, is a two-time All-Star who resurrected his career in Cincinnati after a sub-par stint with the Yankees. In his 11 starts last season, he was 5-3 with a 3.70 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 56 innings. He was 5-1 with a 1.94 ERA through August and then he dealt with back issues and poor performance in September. He finished seventh in Cy Young voting in 2019.
Gray is owed $10,166,667 in both 2021 and 2022 before a $12 million club option in 2023. Given the market for starting pitching and Gray's upside while he's still in his prime years, this is a very affordable deal for teams in need to rotation help. It's just a matter of sending the Reds back the pieces to get the deal done. Presumably, with the Reds' window of contention open, they'd want immediate MLB help back and not prospects from the lower levels of the minors.
Giants after Lester?
The Giants have interest in adding a starting pitcher, and lefty free agent Jon Lester appears to be on their radar, according to Jon Morosi of MLB.com. Lester finished his six-year deal with the Cubs when they declined to pick up his seventh-year option earlier this offseason. The wily lefty heads to his age-37 season with quite a resume -- one that could land him in Hall of Fame arguments five years after he retires. He is clearly in his age-related decline phase, however. He went 3-3 with a 5.16 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 42 strikeouts in 61 innings last season. He was an All-Star and got Cy Young votes in 2018, but there's been a steady fall since.
The Giants in recent years, however, have jarred something loose in pitchers like Drew Smyly, Drew Pomeranz and Kevin Gausman. Though the fences have been moved in, Oracle Park still plays as a pitcher's yard, too. As such, it's possible a short-term deal here could make sense for both sides.