Exhibition season is nearly here. In the meantime, we still have plenty of big names left on the board in free agency, including superstar sluggers Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. That means we've got a healthy supply of hot stove buzz in February. To give you an idea of what's out there this Monday, we're here to round up all the notable rumors. As always, our free agent tracker is a great way to catch up on what's already happened on that front.
Let's round up the activity for the day here.
White Sox still after Machado
Surely the bidding for the services of superstars Manny Machado and Bryce Harper is entering the final stages at this point. In recent days, it seems like the White Sox -- long connected to both players -- had settled into the background, but Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reminded us Monday night not to forget about them.
#WhiteSox remain strong factor along with #Padres in Machado sweepstakes, sources tell The Athletic. Machado is said to be first choice of both front offices and preference of #Phillies’ front office as well, though ownerships in SD and PHI might not see it as convincingly.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 19, 2019
Unless something changes rather drastically, it looks like Machado will be signing with the Phillies, Padres or White Sox. The Phillies are the safest bet to contend this season if they add Machado, the White Sox have Machado's best friends Jon Jay and Yonder Alonso (who is actually his brother-in-law) and the Padres have San Diego weather and a big wave of prospects. Obviously, much more enters into the equation and, ultimately, the highest bidder is the most likely winner of the sweepstakes.
Let's just hope this gets resolved sooner rather than later.
Red Sox exec says team has discussed Sale extension
Chris Sale is one of baseball's best starting pitchers. He's also an impending free agent.
The Red Sox would like to change that, however, and have discussed a long-term deal with Sale's representation, per team executive Tom Werner:
It's unclear how realistic an extension is, given Sale's talent and proximity to the open market. Over the last three seasons, he's averaged 200 innings while posting a 151 ERA+ and finishing top five in Cy Young Award voting each year. Sale has never won the award -- that despite receiving votes in seven consecutive seasons.
Of course, with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado unsigned this late into the year, the Red Sox are probably hoping Sale is willing to forego opportunity for the security of locking in a deal -- even if it falls short of his absolute market value.
Kimbrel unlikely to return to Boston
Sale wasn't the only pitcher Werner discussed Monday. He also said that the Red Sox are unlikely to re-sign free-agent closer Craig Kimbrel:
Werner says ‘it’s extremely unlikely’ that the Red Sox re-sign Kimbrel— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) February 18, 2019
Kimbrel and the Red Sox still seemed like a match on paper due to Boston's shaky-looking relief corps. Yet that doesn't seem to be in the cards.
Kimbrel has the most saves of any pitcher ever through their age-30 season. The Braves and Twins have also been tied to him over the course of this winter, though it's unclear if either team remains in the running.
No extension for Castellanos
Nicholas Castellanos remains with the Tigers after an eventful winter of rumors. If Castellanos had his druthers, he'd perhaps stick around with the Tigers long-term, even past this offseason, when he's set to become a free agent. Alas, that doesn't seem likely.
Per Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press, the Tigers have not approached Castellanos about an extension. Instead, he's stuck in the worst-possible spot: His current team doesn't want him for the long haul, and no other teams seem hellbent on acquiring him for the short term. He's essentially an unwanted man until the Tigers' asking price drops or someone gets hurt.
It's too bad, because Castellanos deserves better. His defense isn't great, yet he's posted a 121 OPS+ (while averaging 22 homers and 42 doubles-plus-triples) over the last three seasons. That would fit nicely in the middle of a contender's order -- and still should -- just not until July.
Reds add Dietrich
Earlier today, we explained why we thought the Reds Derek Dietrich to a minor-league deal:. The Reds have since added another piece to their winter, inking utilityman
Dietrich is protean in the sense that he doesn't play any position well. Still, that's not the value here. The value is that he's an above-average hitter who has a 112 OPS+ over the last three seasons. Dietrich needs to be platooned against left-handed pitchers, but that's all right -- he's a capable and quality bench or platoon option to have around.