, and that means activity on the free agent market should be ramping up soon. Of course, it's already pretty ramped up by the standards of early December, and Friday occasioned another couple of reported signings:
- The Twins have with veteran catcher Alex Avila.
- The Nationals have to bring back World Series hero Howie Kendrick.
And of course you can get fully up to speed with our updated. As for Friday's rumors, let's dig in.
Red Sox may not trade Betts
It's been speculated for some time that the Red Sox, in an effort to reduce payroll, would seek to trade star outfielder Mookie Betts this winter. After J.D. Martinez declined to use his opt-out, that limited the paths available to the Red Sox for cutting down on salary, so maybe Betts goes. This, of course, would be deeply unwise, as Betts remains an elite performer, and the Sox should be looking to keep intact their impressive core of Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Andrew Benintendi and Eduardo Rodriguez. They should not be looking to tear it down or compromise it in any way.
The good news for Sox fans is that rival execs don't think they'll trade Betts this offseason. That's what they're telling Bob Nightengale of USA Today, anyway. Betts is eligible for free agency after the 2020 season and is due for a big raise in his final year of arbitration. To be sure, Betts will be worth that and more, but given that he has only one more season of control left means that the Sox may not get their asking price. That's actually a good thing for Boston.
Phillies interested in Rendon, Strasburg
The Phillies have made plenty of big moves over the past year-plus, including this week's signing of Zack Wheeler. They might not be done shopping at the top of the market, either. The Phillies are reportedly interested in Anthony Rendon, Gerrit Cole, and Stephen Strasburg, according to Jon Heyman.
Rendon would seem to be the likeliest of the three, as the Nationals feel most confident about retaining Strasburg, per Heyman. Cole, meanwhile, is also drawing interest from the Yankees and Angels, among other perspective big spenders. Of course, Rendon has his fair share of suitors, too, so the Phillies are by no means guaranteed to land any of the three.
Yankees continue negotiations with Gardner
In case you were wondering if the Yankees were moving any closer to re-signing outfielder Brett Gardner, the answer is maybe. The Yankees have made Gardner another offer, continuing talks that seem destined to result in a reunion, per Jon Heyman.
Gardner, 36, is coming off a season in which he hit .251/.325/.503 (117 OPS+) with a career-best 28 home runs. The Yankees could use the outfield help, given Aaron Hicks' Tommy John surgery and Cameron Maybin's free agency.
Pirates willing to talk about Marte
Fully in keeping with offseason expectations, the Pirates are willing to listen to trade offers for outfielder Starling Marte, Jon Heyman tweets. As Heyman notes, the Pirates would like to land a top catcher prospect as part of any return package.
Marte, 31, still adds value on the bases, and this past season at the plate he produced right in line with career norms (120 OPS+). Marte is under contract for $11.5 million in 2020, and his pact includes a $12.5 million club option/$1 million buyout for 2021. That's control with some flexibility from the team standpoint, and it adds to Marte's trade value. While he's not best suited to full-time duty in center field any more, he can still get by at the position while being an asset at the outfield corners.
Japanese slugger Tsutsugo drawing interest
MLB.com's Jon Morosi reports that the market for Japanese slugger Yoshitomo Tsutsugo appears to be heating up. Tsutsugo is probably best suited to being a DH in MLB, and that's why all the suitors that Morosi is hearing about are in the AL. Those suitors are the Blue Jays, Tigers, White Sox, and Twins. Morosi cites the Blue Jays as perhaps being the best fit.
Tsutsugo, 28, has spent the last 10 seasons with Yokohama of Japan's Central League. Over that span, he's batted .284/.382/.525 with 205 home runs. In 2016 alone, he tallied 44 home runs.
Cubs fortifying bullpen
The Cubs have reportedly agreed to a split major-league/minor-league contract with free agent right-hander Dan Winkler. Winkler, 29, has an ERA of 3.68 and a K/BB ratio of 2.95 in five big-league seasons. He enjoyed a standout 2018 with the Braves before struggling in 28 appearances this past season.
Elsewhere, the Cubs are close to bringing back right-hander Brandon Morrow on a minor-league contract, Bruce Levine of 670 The Score reports. Morrow, 35, had a sparkling 1.47 ERA in 30 2/3 innings for the Cubs in 2018, but he missed all of last season after suffering setbacks in his recovery from elbow surgery.