Spring training is two weeks away and we now know there won't be a universal DH and an expanded postseason in 2021. Twenty-seven of our top 60 free agents remain unsigned, so expect a flurry of activity between now and the start of camp. Here are the latest hot stove rumblings.
Rays bring back Archer on one-year deal
The Rays signed free-agent starter Chris Archer to a one-year, $6.5 million deal, reports ESPN's Jeff Passan. Archer, 32, will return to Tampa, where he spent the first seven years of his MLB career. The veteran righty missed the 2020 season due to thoracic outlet surgery, and the Rays will hope for a bounce-back campaign in 2021. Here's more on the signing.
Reds agree to one-year deal with Doolittle
The Reds have agreed to a one-year contract worth $1.5 million with free-agent lefty reliever Sean Doolittle, reports MLB.com's Jon Morosi. Cincinnati traded Raisel Iglesias and non-tendered Archie Bradley earlier this offseason, plus Michael Lorenzen is expected to move into the rotation next year. Doolittle would fill an obvious void in the back of the bullpen. .
Doolittle, 34, was limited to 11 games and 7 2/3 innings by knee and oblique injuries in 2020. He threw 60 innings with a 4.05 ERA in 2019, picking up 29 saves along the way, and was an All-Star as recently as 2018. It is not unreasonable to think Doolittle can have a strong bounce-back season with good health in 2021. If he does, he could either help the Reds contend for a postseason spot, or be flipped for a prospect at the trade deadline.
Red Sox, Phillies among teams in on Gonzalez
The market for free-agent utility man Marwin Gonzalez is heating up, and the Red Sox and Phillies are among the half-dozen teams with interest, according to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand and NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury. Boston signed super utility man Enrique Hernandez to a two-year contract last month, though he and Gonzalez are versatile enough to co-exist on the same roster. That's not an issue.
Gonzalez, 32 next month, probably should not be an everyday player at this point in his career, though a switch-hitter who can play just about any position has obvious value as a bench player. The Athletics, Braves, Brewers, and Nationals stand out as potential landing spots in addition to the Red Sox, though that is just my speculation. Gonzalez is likely looking at a low-base salary one-year contract.
Encarnacion plans to play in 2021 (and 2022)
Free-agent slugger Edwin Encarnacion intends to play two more seasons his agent, Paul Kinzer, told MLB Network's Jon Morosi. Now 38, Encarnacion is third on the active list with 424 career home runs, behind only Albert Pujols (662) and Miguel Cabrera (487). He would need two monster seasons in 2021 and 2022 to reach 500 career homers, though it's not completely impossible.
With the White Sox last year, Encarnacion had his worst season in more than a decade, posting a 70 OPS+ and losing playing time down the stretch. Decline production at his age is usually a recipe for a forced retirement. The fact MLB likely won't have the universal DH in 2021 doesn't help either. Encarnacion is a respected veteran and has long had a reputation as a clubhouse leader, though the odds are stacked against him at this point.
Padres extend Preller
The Padres have signed GM A.J. Preller to a contract extension through 2026, the team announced. Preller also added president of baseball operations to this title. "A.J. has skillfully built both a playoff-caliber Major League club and a top tier minor-league system," owner Peter Seidler said in a statement. Preller joined San Diego in August 2014 and has built the club into a powerhouse. The Padres had the third best record (37-23) and second best run differential (plus-84) in baseball in 2020 and added Blake Snell, Yu Darvish and others to the roster this winter.