Major League Baseball's annual Winter Meetings are set to begin in Nashville in just a few days, so it's possible the next day or so will be very slow on the so-called hot stove. Then again, there have been years in the recent past where the flurry of moves started a day or two before the Winter Meetings, so it's always possible the proverbial floodgates are on the verge of opening.
Let's round up the rest of Thursday's news and rumors.
Yankees may be favorites for Juan Soto
The Yankees have needs in the outfield and most especially the lineup around franchise slugger Aaron Judge, and the Padres may be looking to shed payroll in the form of Juan Soto's walk-year arbitration commitment, which figures to be in excess of $30 million. For those reasons, the Yanks and their vast resources have been heavily connected with Soto in trade talks.
Now Jon Heyman of the New York Post reports that internally the Yanks are more confident about their ability to land Soto than they are their other top target, Japanese ace and recently posted free agent Yoshinobu Yamamoto. As Heyman explains, that's because the number of teams willing to take on Soto's salary and part with prospects in trade is substantially smaller than the number of teams with legitimate designs on Yamamoto. To be sure, Soto's best-in-class on-base skills and power from the left side would be the perfect pairing with Judge in terms of offense.
Mets frontrunners for Yamamoto?
Speaking of Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Heyman in that same piece reports that the industry perceives the Mets as being at the front of the line to sign him. Heyman writes:
"Meanwhile, multiple rival teams believe the crosstown Mets should be considered the favorite for the 25-year-old Yamamoto."
Yamamoto is just 25 years of age, and he boasts ace-level stuff and results. While the team that signs him will owe a substantial posting fee to Yamamoto's NPB club, the Orix Buffaloes, he won't cost his new team a compensatory draft pick unlike stateside free agents who were subjected to the qualifying-offer system. Yamamoto is the best and most coveted free agent in this class not named Shohei Ohtani, so the competition for his services will be fierce, and whatever contract he signs could approach $300 million in total value. The Mets, though, have plenty of revenues, a willing spender in owner Steve Cohen, and obvious needs in the rotation. That they would be the favorites for Yamamoto certainly passes the sniff test.
Red Sox want to do something 'big'
The Boston Red Sox are, well, here's what Jon Heyman had to say on their offseason during a Bleacher Report livestream:
"The Red Sox, I've heard some buzz about them, they were the original team of Babe Ruth, who's been compared to Ohtani. They need to do something big. People tell me that Boston is 'bound and determined to do something big.' Whether it's Ohtani, or something else, they need to do something."
The competition for Ohtani is fierce, of course, with the Dodgers as the favorites and teams like the Rangers and Cubs having been heavily connected to Ohtani in rumors. Past Ohtani, landing starting pitchers Yoshinobu Yamamoto or Blake Snell in free agency would be considered something big. Cody Bellinger could be a fit there and I'd say that counts. If the "something big" happens on the trade market, it could be Juan Soto or, a bit lower on the totem pole, pitchers Tyler Glasnow, Dylan Cease or Shane Bieber.
Twins looking to add starting pitcher
After the departure of Sonny Gray via free agency, the Twins have an All-Star-sized hole in the rotation. Kenta Maeda is also gone and they plan on pursuing at least one starting pitcher this offseason, reports Dan Hayes of The Athletic, who notes that the Twins could also beef up their starting pitching by adding another veteran on a minor-league deal heading to camp.
As of right now, the Twins' rotation would be: Pablo López, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, Louie Varland and Chris Paddack. There's certainly good upside there, but the need for depth is glaring and another frontline man wouldn't hurt in light of the void left by Gray.
Possible Cease deal might have to wait
Everything is fluid with offseason transaction talk, but Ken Rosenthal reports that, for now, the White Sox are inclined to hold onto Cease until after the big free agent starters (Yamamoto and Snell to start) have already signed. It's easy to see the thought process. Once several teams have signed their frontline starters, there will be teams remaining that swung and missed and will be much more desperate to land a pitcher who could qualify as an ace. Then it's time to drive the price up.
Cease, 27, had a 4.58 ERA in his 33 starts last season for the White Sox, but he finished second in AL Cy Young voting in 2022 with a 2.20 ERA and 227 strikeouts in 184 innings. He's under team control for two more seasons before hitting free agency.
If the White Sox don't end up getting a deal to their liking this offseason, they could always hold him until the trade deadline. Injuries and surprise contenders happen in season.