MLB rumors: White Sox make formal offer to Machado; Phillies shift focus after Robertson signing

It's 2019 and things should begin to pick back up in baseball's offseason. We have plenty of big names on the board with 26 of our top 50 free agents still unsigned. We're going to keep track of the day's hot stove rumors and rumblings right here in this handy post, so make sure you check back for updates. Here's the latest from Thursday.

White Sox driving hard for Machado, Harper

The two teams we knew were looking to spend big this offseason for sure heading in were the Phillies and White Sox. In the case of the latter, the Sox have made a formal and serious offer to Manny Machado, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today. The report states the deal is "likely closer to $200 million than $300 million," so that's not going to cut it just yet. The report says the negotiations are ongoing, though, so the White Sox surely have a real shot. 

They are also after Bryce Harper. The report says they haven't made a formal offer but have been in "constant contact" with Harper and his agent, Scott Boras. 

It's surprising how few teams are serious bidders in the sweepstakes for either superstar and the tea leaves appear to be saying that only the Phillies and White Sox are talking to both players. Speaking of which ... 

Philly adds Robertson to bullpen, shift focus to Harper and Machado now

The Philadelphia Phillies agreed to a deal with free agent relief pitcher David Robertson, the team announced Thursday (full story here). It will be a two-year deal that guarantees him at least $23 million, reports Mark Feinsand of MLB.com. The contract contains a club option for a third season. 

Robertson, who will turn 34 on April 9, is coming off a 2018 season that saw him finish with a 3.23 ERA and an 8-3 record. Robertson was one of the best free agent relief pitchers available this offseason, and CBS Sports ranked him No. 22 on our Free Agent Tracker.

After improving their infield, outfield and bullpen this offseason, now the Phillies will be focused on landing Manny Machado or Bryce Harper. Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that rival teams believe that the Phillies will make the highest offer to each of the top free agents.

Market for Britton heats up

Somewhat related here is that the market for lefty reliever Zach Britton appears to be picking up after the Robertson signing. The Cardinals had been in on Britton but signed Andrew Miller and the Phillies were in on Britton but signed Robertson. That might seem to indicate Britton is losing bidders, but there are still plenty out there, most notably the Yankees, per Jon Heyman. 

Jeff Passan of ESPN reports that Britton "looks like the next reliever to go" and also mentions the Yankees. Prior to the Robertson signing, Jayson Stark of The Athletic reported that the Yankees were in on Britton and also mentioned Adam Ottavino

Britton, a 31-year-old lefty, returned from a ruptured Achilles tendon in June and appeared in 41 games last season (16 with the Orioles and 25 with the Yankees). He pitched to a 3.10 ERA and 1.23 WHIP with 34 strikeouts and 21 walks in 40 2/3 innings. He was the single best reliever in baseball in 2016, but battled arm issues in 2017 and didn't yet return to form last season. He did go through September without giving up an earned run, but he coughed up runs in two of his four playoff outings and the walks were still an issue. 

Phillies looking to meet with Harper

The Phillies have been looking to make a big splash this offseason and so far they've added Robertson, Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura and some relief depth. Still, those aren't huge moves considering the team wants Manny Machado and/or Bryce Harper. We know they've met with and courted Machado and above it's mentioned that they are interested in Harper as well. They haven't met with him, though that seems like it's soon to change, via their general manager: 

Right now their outfield appears to be Nick Williams in left, Odubel Herrera in center and Andrew McCutchen in right. Surely Cutch could flip to left if the Phillies are able to land Harper. You make room for players of his caliber and McCutchen's already shown himself flexible to move away from center field. 

Path clear for Kimbrel return to Red Sox?

Before the Robertson signing with the Phillies, Rob Bradford of WEEI in Boston reported the following on the market for closer Craig Kimbrel

Kimbrel's market would seem to be down to the Red Sox, Philadelphia and maybe Atlanta. (With the caveat, of course, that there are those tricky mystery teams laying in the weeds.)   

The hunch here is the Robertson signing makes Kimbrel to the Phillies less likely unless they miss on both Harper and Machado and decide to go with some extra beef in the bullpen. At the very least, the Phillies surely have a little less interest in Kimbrel now and we can increase the chances that he returns to either the Red Sox or Braves

Miami wants big return for J.T. Realmuto

The Miami Marlins' asking price for All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto continues to be very high, and Miami is prepared to carry the him into spring training, according to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. Miami has made clear that they are seeking at least a top prospect or promising young big leaguer with controllable years of service time, and more, in return for Realmuto. The fact that Realmuto is still a Marlin tells you everything you need to know about the team's asking price for their All-Star catcher, a rival executive told Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

The expectation during this hot stove season has been that the Marlins will trade Realmuto and likely do so for a heavy return. Realmuto, who turns 28 in March, has two years remaining in arbitration before qualifying for free agency in 2021. At the end of the 2018 season, Realmuto's agent, Jeff Berry of CAA, told MLB Network radio that his client was not interested in signing an extension with the Marlins. 

There have been a number of teams -- the Dodgers, Astros, Rays and Padres are the frontrunners -- that have expressed some level of interest in Realmuto.

Realmuto hit .277/.340/.484 with 30 doubles and 21 homers in 125 games last season. 

Potential Indians trade of Kluber, Bauer losing steam

One of the biggest rumors of this offseason has been the Cleveland Indians shopping one (or both) of their star right-handers, Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer. But according to Rosenthal, the chances of the Indians trading them seems to diminish by the day. One rival executive told Rosenthal that the Indians currently are more aggressive on acquiring "cheap roster fillers" than completing a blockbuster involving a starting pitcher.

It's doubtful the Indians would make Kluber or Bauer available in July if they are in contention, but a number of other starting pitchers — from the DBacks' Robbie Ray to the Giants' Madison Bumgarner to the Blue Jays' Marcus Stroman — might have greater value at the deadline, provided they pitch well in the first half.

At the moment, teams can still choose from a long list of free-agent starters, including left-handers Dallas Keuchel, Wade Miley, Gio Gonzalez and Derek Holland and right-handers James Shields, Ervin Santana and Edwin Jackson.

Cards may hang onto Jose Martinez

Even after trading for Paul Goldschmidt, the St. Louis Cardinals still have a lot of issues they must address this offseason. At the Winter Meetings in December, the Cards entertained inquiries about first baseman/outfielder Jose Martinez as they were prepared to deal him before the 2019 season begins. The motivation behind St. Louis' intent to trade Martinez being that they don't have a fit for him and he has value to other teams, the Rays, Astros and Dodgers were among those who showed interest.

But the Cardinals were reportedly never particularly eager to trade Martinez, who slashed .305/.364/.457 while starting the third-most number of games for the team last season. According to Rosenthal, the Cardinals are even less willing to move Martinez than they were previously.

Dexter Fowler's two years with the Cardinals have not been great. Fowler has hit .230/.328/.410, and he's played in only 208 of 324 possible games. Also, Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak called Fowler out for his effort level during a radio interview this past July. Fowler hasn't played well, and it seems there's a rift with the front office. The right offer could sway the Cardinals, but St. Louis could end up hanging onto Martinez for protection in case Fowler fails to bounce back.

Mets after lots of free agents

The Mets are, per Andy Martino of sny.com, "actively pursuing" free agents that can fit in center field, the infield or the bullpen. He names relievers Adam Warren and Justin Wilson along with the versatile Marwin Gonzalez and infielder Asdrubal Cabrera. The report also says they are looking to trade a catcher and that would probably be Kevin Plawecki

The Mets have already added the likes of Robinson Cano, Wilson Ramos, Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia this offseason but they could certainly use more, notably bullpen depth and a starting outfielder while Yoenis Cespedes recovers from surgery on his heels.

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