The hot stove is quite cold at the moment, with only four of our top 60 free agents having signed. There have not been any notable trades either. The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are usually the busiest each offseason, so things could pick up soon. Here are the latest hot stove rumblings.
Arenado remains a fit for the Cardinals
On the field, Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado remains a fit for the Cardinals, though the team's finances may stand in the way of a trade, reports The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal. Arenado is owed $199 million through 2026 and he can opt out of his contract next offseason. Arenado also has a full no-trade clause, limiting Colorado's leverage.
Rosenthal notes the Cardinals have just under $60 million coming off their books next offseason, potentially clearing the way for Arenado long-term. That said, every team has suffered losses during the pandemic, and it's unclear when revenues will return to normal. Even with a vaccine, will fans show up to ballparks in droves? Or will some wait to return to ballgames?
Arenado's situation is very similar to Giancarlo Stanton's situation with the Marlins three years ago. He's owed a ton of money, limiting potential trade partners, and he's in complete control thanks to his no-trade clause. Miami had little leverage and traded the reigning NL MVP for an insignificant package. The Rockies may be forced to do the same with Arenado.
Red Sox have interest in Happ
Veteran southpaw J.A. Happ is a popular free agent this offseason. The Red Sox are the latest team to show interest in Happ, according to MLB.com's Jon Morosi. The Angels, Blue Jays, and Rangers have also been connected to the lefty in recent weeks. Happ, 38, has been a steady innings-eater throughout his career and he bounced back from a rough 2019 nicely in 2020.
Eduardo Rodriguez is expected to be ready for spring training after missing 2020 with COVID-19 and an associated heart ailment. He and Nathan Eovaldi are the only locks for Boston's Opening Day rotation, though Chris Sale is expected back from Tommy John surgery at midseason. Happ isn't flashy, but he will take the ball every five days like clockwork, and the Red Sox were woefully short on pitchers who could do that this past season.
Giants won't limit pitching search to bounce-back candidates
With Kevin Gausman back in the fold, the Giants will not necessarily limit their pitching search to bounce-back candidates, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi told John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. Gausman accepted the $18.9 million qualifying offer two weeks ago and will join Johnny Cueto atop the rotation. Here's what Zaidi told Shea:
"I wouldn't necessarily say that's where we'll wind up. We're in a better position to roll the dice on additional pitching moves now that we have Gausman in the fold, bringing us veteran certainty to the front of our rotation. I wouldn't limit our opportunities to just bounce-back guys."
The Giants lost Drew Smyly to free agency last week, and former top prospect Tyler Beede is still rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Their rotation behind Cueto and Gausman includes Tyler Anderson (non-tender candidate), Logan Webb (5.47 ERA in 2020), and Andrew Suarez (zero starts in 2020). Other in-house rotation candidates include Shaun Anderson, Anthony Banda, Rico Garcia, and Conner Menez.
Wacha among popular free-agent pitchers
Right-hander Michael Wacha is among the most popular free-agent pitchers on the market, reports ESPN's Buster Olney. That's despite an unsightly 6.62 ERA with nine home runs allowed in 34 innings in 2020. Wacha's fastball velocity was up a tick though, and both his strikeout (23.7 percent) and swing-and-miss (11.4 percent) rates were his best since his fabulous rookie year in 2013.
At age 29, Wacha is one of the youngest starting pitchers on the free-agent market. He does have some similarities to Kevin Gausman in that he is a former highly regarded prospect who saw an uptick in velocity and strikeouts in his contract year. Gausman made good on his one-year deal with San Francisco in 2020. Some team will hope Wacha can do the same for them in 2021.
Patton drawing MLB interest
Spencer Patton, a righty reliever who has spent the last four seasons with the Yokohama DeNa BayStars in Japan, is drawing interest from MLB teams, reports MLB.com's Jon Morosi. The former Cubs and Rangers righty had a 4.92 ERA with 65 strikeouts in 53 innings in 2020. In four years in Japan, Patton pitched to a 3.68 ERA with 243 strikeouts in 205 2/3 innings.
Several fringe big leaguers have gone to Japan, had success, then carried that success over to MLB when they returned. Colby Lewis is perhaps the most famous example. More recently, Braves righty Chris Martin and Padres righty Pierce Johnson have done it. Martin signed a two-year deal worth $4 million when he returned to MLB. Johnson got two years and $5 million. Patton's asking price figures to be in that neighborhood.