The big news for Friday is that the Yankees have reportedly agreed to terms with infielder DJ LeMahieu on a six-year, $90 million deal that will bring him back the Bronx. The Yankees didn't slow down after locking up LeMahieu, and reports that the club signed free-agent right-hander Corey Kluber to a one-year deal came out shortly after. That's two major names off the board, but that doesn't stop the steady flow of hot stove rumors. Speaking of which, here's what's buzzing around MLB for Friday.
Yankees add Corey Kluber
Veteran right-hander and two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber recently threw for teams, and the Yankees decided it was enough to sign Kluber to a one-year, $11 million deal. The one-year "pillow" contract that gives him a chance to prove he can stay healthy and come close to his former performance level. Here's more on the Kluber/Yankees deal.
The Yankees are definitely in need of rotation help behind ace Gerrit Cole. Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ are all free agents, and there's of course no guarantee that any will return for next season. As well, the Yankees are prioritizing staying under or within range of the luxury tax threshold, and Kluber's salary will help to that end.
Kluber, who turns 35 in April, barely pitched at all in his one season with the Rangers because of shoulder problems. The prior season, a broken forearm limited Kluber to just 35 2/3 largely ineffective innings with Cleveland. All that said, Kluber isn't far removed from pitching at an ace level, and as recently as 2018 he was among the best starting pitchers in baseball.
Phillies make new offer to Realmuto
The Philadelphia Phillies have made a new offer to top free-agent catcher J.T. Realmuto. According to The Athletic's Jayson Stark, the offer is for five years and slightly above the $100 million mark. The offer is believed to be around the same offer from where the Phillies were last March, Stark adds. Those negotiations between the two sides were brought to an abrupt halt due to the league's transactions freeze because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Realmuto, represented by CAA's Jeff Berry, has been said to take the position of Realmuto valued as one of the best players in baseball, not just at the catcher spot, Stark reports. There have been several reports of Realmuto and his camp's asking price, but Stark notes that they have ranged as high as $200 million.
According to MLB Network's Jon Heyman, there is some optimism to the possibility of the Phillies actually closing the deal and retaining their starting catcher. Stark also echoed the same sentiment, citing the Phillies as beginning to position themselves as the favorite to sign Realmuto.
Realmuto is coming off the second-best offensive season of his career, hitting .266/.349/.491 with 11 homers in 47 games. Perhaps the best way to sum up Realmuto is to acknowledge that he hit the ball 95 mph or harder as frequently in 2020 as Aaron Judge, Cody Bellinger, and Pete Alonso did ... and that he accomplished that feat while playing above-average defense behind the plate. Realmuto is more athletic than the standard backstop, and he has averaged seven steals per pop since his first full season. If you're looking for nits to pick, you can bemoan his single-digit walk rate, or his propensity for swinging and missing. Otherwise, the best a fearmonger can do is point to the dicey history of 30-something catchers. Realmuto, nearing his age-30 season, has enough going for him that he's going to get paid -- and he's likely going to be worth it.
The Phillies were said to be one of the MLB clubs cutting payroll this offseason following the abbreviated 2020 season, but it appears the front office has taken a shift since the hiring of Dave Dombrowski as the new president of baseball operations last month. Dombrowski's known to be aggressive when it comes to making win-now signings, so to bring him in and decide to go forth with a payroll shrink (while the rest of the NL East continues to improve) would in itself be somewhat of an oxymoron. In terms of the Phillies 2020-21 offseason to-do list, the club has one significant free agent to re-sign in Realmuto and a bullpen that's in desperate need of improvement.
Blue Jays looking to make big splash after DJ LeMahieu returns to Yankees
The Blue Jays reportedly made a big push to sign LeMahieu, but as noted above he's returning to the Bronx on a six-year deal. That, however, doesn't mean they're giving up on adding a true needle-mover this offseason. Here's this from Jon Morosi:
Right-hander and reigning NL Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer, catcher J.T. Realmuto, and outfielder George Springer are the biggest free agents on the market, and the Blue Jays have legitimate designs on one of them. Each is almost certainly going to command a nine-figure contract, but that's apparently not scaring off Toronto.
The Jays are wisely in buy mode coming off a return to contention in 2020. In that abbreviated season, they won at a .533 clip and returned to the postseason for the first time since 2016. They feature an impressive young core, and the front office appears poised to continue adding useful veterans to the roster via free agency. Given how many teams are refusing to spend this winter, it's a sensible time for such an approach.