MLB rumors: Phillies' mind-set entering Bryce Harper meeting; two teams after Moustakas

This was the intro to our rumor roundup on Monday: "The slog that has become the Major League Baseball offseason continues into the second week of January with dozens and dozens of unsigned free agents. Spring training is five weeks away and we're seemingly waiting on Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado to sign and start moving the rest of the market. Until then, it's rumor mill time. Let's dive in."

Nothing has really changed, at least in terms of big moves. So let's get to it again! 

Phillies set to meet with Harper

The Phillies are ramping up their pursuit of Bryce Harper. The club's brain trust is heading to Las Vegas to meet face-to-face with Harper this weekend, though they remain interested in Manny Machado. They're just covering all their bases. Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports says it's possible the Phillies could land both superstars this winter, though that is "unlikely."

As is his M.O., it appears Scott Boras is waiting for Machado to come off the board and set the market before seriously engaging teams about Harper. Boras typically takes his best clients deep into the offseason to get top dollar. The Phillies and White Sox are expected to pivot to Harper should they miss out on Machado, who is also being pursued by the Yankees.

White Sox, Phillies monitoring Moustakas

The Phillies and White Sox, two teams pursuing Manny Machado, are monitoring Mike Moustakas as a fallback option, reports MLB.com's Jon Morosi. Philadelphia would attempt to trade incumbent third baseman Maikel Franco should they sign Machado or Moustakas, with the Padres a potential landing spot.

Moustakas, 30, hit .251/.315/.459 with 28 home runs in 152 games for the Royals and Brewers in 2018. He signed a one-year deal worth $6.5 million with Kansas City in March after the free agent market froze him out of a larger contract. Moustakas hit 38 home runs in 2017, a new Royals single-season record.

Mets among teams in touch with Dozier

The Mets have spoken to free agent infielder Brian Dozier recently, reports Jon Heyman of Fancred. His market is starting to heat up in general. The Mets added Robinson Cano earlier this winter, and they have Jeff McNeil as a backup, so on the surface Dozier doesn't make much sense. He does have some shortstop experience though, and could give third base a try. There's no harm in asking if he's open to it.

Dozier, 31, has seen his performance slip quite a bit since hitting 42 home runs in 2016. He hit .215/.305/.391 with 21 home runs in 151 games for the Twins and Dodgers last year, though there are some indications he had bad luck, which suggest a bounceback is possible. Several contenders need second base help, including the Angels, Brewers, Dodgers, Nationals and Rockies. For what it's worth, the Mets are said to be short on money.

Angels after Smith, Watson

The Angels have been in "constant contact" with the Giants about lefty relievers Will Smith and Tony Watson, reports Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic. The Halos have been busy this offseason, but they have yet to do much to bolster their bullpen aside from swapping Jose Alvarez for Luis Garcia. In fact, the Angels non-tendered Blake Parker, one of their best relievers the last two years, so their bullpen is no better now than it was in September, on paper.

Angels GM Billy Eppler has made several small moves this season, including acquiring Jonathan Lucroy, Trevor Cahill, Matt Harvey, Justin Bour and Tommy La Stella. They've reportedly been the runner-up for several big name players, including Nathan Eovaldi, Zach Britton and Wilson Ramos. The Giants are said to be open to shopping Smith and Watson, their two best relievers, but also two impending free agents. With the free agent market thinning out, San Francisco is poised to cash Smith and Watson in as trade chips.

Brewers' Bumgarner talks becoming clearer

On Monday, word leaked that the Brewers and Giants had at least discussed a possible deal that would send lefty Madison Bumgarner to Milwaukee. On Tuesday, Jon Morosi of MLB Network reported that the Giants would need a young starting pitcher such as Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff or Freddy Peralta in return. 

Each of those three pitchers is expected to have a shot at the Brewers rotation for 2019, has good upside and is under team control through at least 2024. It's easy to see why the Giants would be interested in such a deal. On the Brewers end, they'd have to decide that coughing up one of these guys and all the future years of control would be worth it for one shot at a deep playoff run with Bumgarner, who is a free agent after this season. 

Given that Ryan Braun will be 35, Lorenzo Cain will be 33 and that there are so many questions about the rotation next season, the Brewers might just decide it's worth it. Stay tuned. 

Red Sox talking extension with ... someone

The Red Sox have been talking about an extension with one of their younger players, reports NBC Boston, though it's unclear what player it is:

The Sox have recently had extension talks with one of their current players, talks that may pick up again soon, sources told NBC Sports Boston. It's unclear which player the Sox engaged, but indications are it is a player who would require a large commitment — hence, a possible reason the team is engaging one player, rather than a bevy all at once.

The mind immediately jumps to reigning MVP Mookie Betts, but other candidates that make sense would be Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi. The report speculates that it's a no for Betts and Bogaerts but Benintendi stands out as the "likely candidate" for an extension.

Benintendi, 24, wouldn't hit free agency until after the 2022 season, so an extension could buy cost certainty through his arbitration years and maybe buy out one or two of his free agency years. It's a practice not all too uncommon (players like Buster Posey and Anthony Rizzo did the same) and it -- at the time of signing -- appears mutually beneficial. The player guards against a career-altering injury costing him millions while the team locks up a young player for what could turn out to be a club-friendly deal, should the player maintain his current path. 

Benintendi hit .290/.366/.465 (123 OPS+) with 41 doubles, six triples, 16 homers, 87 RBI, 103 runs and 21 steals last year while playing good defense in left field. He probably hasn't yet peaked. 

No progress on Castellanos to Braves talks

During the winter meetings a month ago, there was a rumor floating around that the Tigers and Braves were talking about a possible swap that would send outfielder Nick Castellanos to the Braves. 

It makes sense for the Braves to pursue Castellanos from an offensive perspective. Right now the starting left fielder (or right if they  move Ronald Acuna to center) appears to be Adam Duvall, who hit .195/.274/.365 last season. Castellanos slashed .298/.354/.500 with 46 doubles, five triples and 23 homers for a terrible Tigers team last season. Of course, the Braves might not want to give up a bunch for him, as he's a free agent after next season and is a total liability on defense. 

Meantime, he's one of the Tigers' best chances to get a good return right now without compromising the long-term health of the franchise, so it isn't too surprising to see this: 

Perhaps they'll look at someone like Adam Jones or Carlos Gonzalez in free agency. 

White Sox targeting Manny's friends

As the White Sox pursue free-agent superstar Manny Machado, they are trying to do everything they can to make their club an enticing destination. That includes trading for his brother-in-law, Yonder Alonso, and now signing close friend Jon Jay. The trio call themselves the Miami Baseball Brotherhood. Full story here

Dodgers acquire reliever from Rays

Dodgers president Andrew Friedman has hooked up with his former club on a minor deal. Right-handed reliever Jaime Schultz heads to L.A. with minor-league right-handed pitcher Caleb Sampen going to the Rays

Schultz, 27, had a 5.64 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 35 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings for the Rays last season as a rookie. In 178 1/3 career Triple-A innings, he has a 4.04 ERA and 1.47 WHIP with 242 strikeouts. Walks are a problem, but there's upside in the strikeout rate. 

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Snyder has been a baseball writer with CBS Sports since 2011. A member of the BBWAA, he's now covered every World Series since 2010. The former Indiana University baseball player now lives on the... Full Bio

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