It's 2021, but we're still waiting for the first significant free agent signing of the offseason. San Diego Padres. Hopefully that inspires other teams to act. Here are the latest hot stove rumblings., including only five of the top 25. There were been some notable trades last week thanks to the
Mets out on Sugano
Tomoyuki Sugano, the 31-year-old right-hander from Japan, is expected to make his free-agent decision in the coming days. If he does opt to make the leap to the majors, it doesn't appear that it'll come as a member of the Mets.
According to MLB Network's Jon Heyman, the Mets' main focus is elsewhere. The New York Post's Joel Sherman has since confirmed Heyman's report, suggesting the Mets are out on Sugano. The Giants and Blue Jays are among the teams who remain in pursuit of him.
Sugano has so far spent his entire professional career with the Yomiuri Giants. In nearly 200 appearances, he's tallied a 2.34 ERA and a 4.59 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Sugano recovered from a shaky 2019 that was impacted by hip and back issues to post a 1.97 ERA and a 5.24 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 137 innings in 2020. He's twice won the Sawamura Award, Japan's equivalent of the Cy Young Award.
The Mets are still expected to make a splash this winter, and have been rumored to be a finalist for free agent outfielder George Springer, who entered the offseason ranked by CBS Sports as the top player on the open market. Already this winter, the Mets have added catcher James McCann and retained right-hander Marcus Stroman by way of him accepting the qualifying offer.
Blue Jays, Dodgers after Hendriks
Hendriks, 32 come February, entered the winter ranked by CBS Sports as the best closer available. Here's what we wrote, while placing him No. 20 on our list of top-60 free agents.
The beauty of fastball-slider relievers is you never know which one is going to break out or when. Hendriks is a good example. Over the last two seasons, he's thrown 110 innings of 1.79 ERA ball, and has done so while striking out 161 and walking 24. Was there any real indication that this was coming? Not so much. In the preceding three years (all spent with the Athletics, mind you), he had a 4.01 ERA and a 3.64 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Anyway, here's hoping Hendriks receives the payday he deserves, especially after he followed in the footsteps of Nathan Eovaldi and Brandon Morrow this postseason, going above and beyond and risking injury despite his looming date with free agency. Selflessness ought to be rewarded, after all.
Hendriks is said to live about three hours away in Fort Myers. He lives a lot farther away from Los Angeles, but the Dodgers are also maintaining interest in him, according to Fansided's Robert Murray.
Puig, Duvall drawing interest
Outfielder Yasiel Puig may not have played in the majors last season, but he's drawing interest this winter from a number of suitors, including the Red Sox, Yankees, Astros, Marlins, and Orioles, according to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.
Puig entered the offseason ranked by CBS Sports as the 40th-best free agent available. Here's what we wrote at the time:
Puig isn't the only individual on this list who did not play during the 2020 season, but he is the only individual who did not play because he went unsigned. He did reportedly reach an agreement with the Braves during the summer; that deal subsequently fell apart when he tested positive for COVID-19. There had been talk within the industry that Puig was taking teams' criticism of his maturity seriously, and that he was making a real effort to change. Assuming there's some validity to that, and assuming he's healthy and won't show too much rust from the missed year, then he could prove to be a savvy pick-up and an under-rank.
Puig isn't the only right-handed outfielder the Marlins are showing interest in, by the way. Miami is also keeping tabs on former Brave Adam Duvall, who hit for a 113 OPS+ last season before being non-tendered, per Craig Mish. It stands to reason that some of the other teams mentioned as being Puig suitors could be in play for Duvall, depending on how the market shakes out.
Kluber set for showcase
After making just seven starts in 2019 and one in 2020 due to injuries, free agent starting pitcher Corey Kluber will throw for possibly interested teams on Jan. 13 in Florida, reports Jon Morosi of MLB Network. Morosi names the Red Sox as a team with interest in the right-hander.
In 2019, Kluber took a line drive to the forearm, which caused a fracture and ended his season. Last year, he managed just one inning for the Rangers before being shut down. It turns out the cause was a grade 2 tear to the teres major muscle in his right shoulder, which ended his season prematurely for the second straight season.
The previous five years saw Kluber finish first, ninth, third, first and third, respectively, in AL Cy Young voting, so the upside is obvious. Of course, Kluber is also heading to his age-35 season while coming off a major shoulder injury and racked up a heavy workload in his five prime seasons.
Expect something like an incentive-laden, one-year deal somewhere with a rotation spot available.
Giants add catching depth
The Giants have signed free agent catcher Curt Casali to a one-year, $1.5 million deal, reports John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. Incumbent catcher Buster Posey opted out of the 2020 season, but will return as the starter in 2021. Top catching prospect Joey Bart got 111 plate appearances as a 23-year-old rookie last season, though he has never played in Triple-A and only had 22 games of Double-A experience, meaning he seems ticketed for some more minor-league seasoning.
That leaves the backup catcher role for Casali. In three years with the Reds, he appeared in 167 games, hitting .260/.345/.440 (103 OPS+) with 18 homers and 56 RBI. He homered six times in 76 at-bats last season.