It's MLB Winter Meetings week, which would usually provide lots of rumor fodder and player movement. Last year, for example, the dust had just settled on the Yankees signing Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon to the Angels. This time around, it's been mostly crickets aside from the White Sox trading for Lance Lynn and signing Adam Eaton.
Still, rumors persist. Let's take a look.
Yankees, Pirates have talked Bell and Taillon
The Yankees and Pirates have discussed first baseman Josh Bell and righty Jameson Taillon in trade talks, reports Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. It's unclear how serious talks are at the moment. Bell had a poor 2020 and Taillon is working his way back from his second career Tommy John surgery, so the Yankees are likely looking at both as "buy low" targets.
Bell, 28, slugged 37 home runs in 2019 but has really struggled since. The Yankees are set at first base (Luke Voit) and DH (Giancarlo Stanton), so they don't have an obvious spot for Bell, but this could be a situation where they're looking to add a talented player for pennies on the dollar, and will figure out where he plays later. Taillon, 29, has the velocity and spin rates teams crave, or at least he did prior to his latest elbow reconstruction. Both players are under team control through 2022.
Molina balks at 'ridiculous' offer from Cardinals
Free agent catcher Yadier Molina has balked at a "ridiculous" offer from the Cardinals, reports Mark Saxon of The Athletic. Terms of the offer are unknown. Saxon says Molina is believed to be seeking at least a one-year deal worth $10 million, with an option for 2022. The Yankees and Mets were said to be in the hunt for Molina, though the Yankees did not non-tender Gary Sanchez and the Mets are reportedly nearing a deal with James McCann. The two New York teams are presumably out of the race.
Molina, 38, has spent his entire 17-year career with the Cardinals and, truth be told, it's hard to see him leaving at this point in his career. He's a legend in St. Louis. With another team, he's just an aging catcher nearing the end of his career. Molina made $20 million each of the last three seasons but at his age and with declining production, a pay cut is inevitable. The Cardinals are said to be cutting costs this winter as well.
Mets eye (two?) big fish
The Mets are "moving closer" to signing either outfielder George Springer or starting pitcher Trevor Bauer, according to Bob Klapisch of the Newark Star-Ledger. Of course, the report has an "and/or" on the two, suggesting it might be possible to land both.
Bauer, 29, won the NL Cy Young last season with a 1.73 ERA and 100 strikeouts against 16 unintentional walks in 73 innings for the Reds. Along with two-time Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom, that would be quite the pair of aces in front of a nice mid-rotation arm in Marcus Stroman.
Springer, 31, is a three-time All-Star with MVP votes in three of the last four seasons and an impressive playoff resume. Last season, he hit .265/.359/.540 (140 OPS+) with 14 homers, 32 RBI and 37 runs in 51 games. He'd provide a boost atop most any batting order in baseball.
Springer was ranked as our top free agent this winter, and Bauer is the best starter on the market. Even landing one of these guys would be huge news for the Mets. Both? Get outta here. That would really be something.
Schwarber has suitors
Just a 60-game season removed from a monster second half, Kyle Schwarber hit free agency last week after the Cubs non-tendered the slugger. There is a market for the guy who hit 38 homers in 2019 and mashes righties, unsurprisingly. Bruce Levine of 670 The Score in Chicago reports that the Yankees, Blue Jays and Angels are among the teams showing interest in Schwarber. Take note that Angels manager Joe Maddon worked with Schwarber during their shared time in the Cubs dugout.
Schwarber hit just .188/.308/.393 with 11 homers last season, but he hit .250/.339/.531 (122 OPS+) in 2019 and has raw power like few others.
Mets close to deal with McCann
In other Mets news... the team and free agent catcher James McCann are closing in on a four-year deal, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The two sides have been connected for weeks, and a deal could get done soon.
McCann, 30, hit .289/.360/.536 (144 OPS+) with seven homers and 15 RBI in 31 games last season for the White Sox. He was an All-Star in 2019 after a monster offensive first half, but tailed off after the break. Past the bat, McCann has great value behind the plate. This would plug an obvious hole for the Mets behind the plate. Read more on McCann's potential deal with New York here.
KBO MVP moving to Japan
Former Pirates third-round pick Mel Rojas Jr. never got higher than Triple-A here in North America, but he's found his footing overseas. The 30-year-old won MVP in Korea Baseball Organization last season after hitting .349/.417/.680 with 47 homers and 135 RBI in 142 games. He's now signed a two-year, $5 million deal with Hanshin in Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan (via Buster Olney). Rumors connected several MLB teams to Rojas in recent weeks. Perhaps if he continues to mash in Japan, the time will come for him to make an MLB impact. Eric Thames comes to mind as a recent player who became a star in Korea before returning to make an impact in MLB.
Mariners sign Flexen
The Mariners have signed righty Chris Flexen to a two-year, $4.75 million contract, reports Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. Flexen, 26, had a 3.01 ERA with 132 strikeouts in 116 2/3 innings for the Koosan Bears in Korea in 2020. He spent parts of three seasons with the Mets from 2017-19, going 3-11 with an 8.07 ERA in 68 innings. Flexen has more walks (54) than strikeouts (49) in the big leagues. Clearly, the Mariners believe his success in Korea in 2020 can translate over to MLB.