It's 2020, and next month pitchers and catchers will begin ambling into spring training camps. Before we get into that mindset, though, we've still got a few available free agents -- and perhaps a blockbuster trade or two -- to get off the board. On that front, let's take a look at what the MLB rumor mill is churning out for Thursday.
Dodgers talks about Betts may be more heated than Lindor
As the calendar flips to 2020, the Dodgers remain in contact with the Indians about star shortstop Francisco Lindor, but they are balking at including top prospect Gavin Lux in a trade package, according to MLB.com's Jon Morosi. As a result, Los Angeles has increased their discussions with the Red Sox about Mookie Betts, to the point where they might be more heated than their talks with Cleveland about Lindor. Morosi says Betts trade could involve multiple players going to the Dodgers.
The Dodgers pursued Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon earlier this offseason and missed out on both. They did bring in former All-Star closer Blake Treinen, but they also lost Hyun-Jin Ryu to free agency, so the winter has been a net negative. Betts, a free agent after 2020, or Lindor, a free agent after 2021, would obviously change that. The Dodgers have a deep prospect base behind Lux and could seek a starting pitcher to replace Ryu in an expanded trade. Mike Clevinger would be an obvious target.
Braves, Nationals, Twins make four-year offers to Donaldson
Veteran third baseman Josh Donaldson is the best free agent left standing, and interest in him finally appears to be heating up. According to Mark Feinsand of MLB Network, the Braves, Nationals, and Twins have each made a four-year offer to Donaldson worth around $100 million. Feinsand goes on to note that the Dodgers likely still have some level of interest in Donaldson and that the Rangers, despite reports that they're out on Donaldson, may still be on the fringes.
Donaldson, a former AL MVP who turned 34 earlier this offseason, is fresh off an impressive bounce-back season with the Braves. In 155 games with Atlanta, Donaldson put up a 127 OPS+ with 37 home runs. He also logged almost 1,300 defensive innings at the hot corner and according to advanced defensive metrics got back to being a force with the glove.
Third baseman Anthony Rendon's signing with the Angels provided some clarity to the Donaldson situation, but big names like Nolan Arenado and Kris Bryant on the trade market mean that teams in need of third base upgrades still have options. Acquiring a star at the position by trade, however, of course costs young talent in return. In light of that reality, Donaldson remains the most appealing solution available.
Even odds that Arenado gets traded
The Rockies have for much of the offseason been shopping star third baseman Nolan Arenado, despite the fact that less than a year ago they signed him to an eight-year, $260 million contract extension. Now, though, the Rockies seem to want to get out from under that commitment, and it seems increasingly likely to happen. On Thursday, MLB.com's Jon Morosi reported that there's now a 50-50 chance that Arenado gets traded this offseason. Morosi adds that the Dodgers are not the most likely landing spot for Arenado, as the Rockies would prefer not to trade him within the NL West.
Arenado, 28, is a productive hitter even after you adjust for the distorting effects of Coors Field (129 OPS+ in 2019 and a 122 mark for his career). He's also of course a legendary fielder at the position, and that figures to remain the case, at least for the near future. Since the Rockies are likely looking at an Arenado trade for payroll relief, they probably won't be getting much in return. If they do want some fetching young talent coming back their way, then they'll need to kick in significant cash to offset the financial commitment. Arenado does have an opt-out after 2021, but if he doesn't use it then the team that trades for him will be on the hook for more than $230 million.
Ozuna market heating up
Slugging outfielder Marcell Ozuna remains a free agent in advance of his age-29 season, but perhaps that will soon change. MLB.com's Mark Feinsand tweets that the Reds, Rangers, and incumbent Cardinals are among those pressing to sign Ozuna for 2020 and beyond. Last season for St. Louis, Ozuna put up an OPS+ of 107 with 29 home runs in 130 games. He's also not that far removed from a 2017 season with the Marlins in which he cracked 37 homers in 157 games with an OPS+ of 147.
Harris, Chirinos next in line?
According to Feinsand, right-handed reliever Will Harris and catcher Robinson Chirinos could be the next two free agents to sign. Some details:
The next two free agents to come off the board could be Will Harris and Robinson Chirinos. Per sources, Harris has multiple multi-year offers worth $6-7M annually, while Chirinos is said to be close to making a decision.— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) January 2, 2020
Harris, 35, is coming off a dominant 2019 for the Astros (1.50 ERA with 62 strikeouts and 14 walks in 60 innings), and for his career he boasts an ERA+ of 145 across parts of eight seasons. Chirinos, meantime, is also 35 and also coming off a quality season in Houston (105 OPS+ with 17 home runs in 114 games). He's also a solid defender, particularly when it comes to blocking pitches. The Rangers, Astros, and Rays are among the teams with some level of interest in Chirinos.
Red Sox sign Plawecki
Sources tell Robert Murray that the Red Sox have agreed to terms with veteran catcher Kevin Plawecki on a contract for 2020. Plawecki, who turns 29 in February, has batted .218/.304/.332 with 17 home runs in 296 games across parts of five major-league seasons. In 2019, he put up an OPS+ of 64 in 59 games with the Indians.
White Sox sign Robert to long-term contract
The White Sox have reportedly signed top prospect outfielder Luis Robert to a six-year contract extension. Get the details here.