In 2012, the A’s shocked all of baseball by coming out of nowhere to scoop up Yoenis Céspedes, that winter’s most intriguing international player. Could Oakland pull off a similar feat this offseason? This week, the A’s made a formal pitch for 23-year-old Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani, The Chronicle has learned. The Giants, and many other teams, will do so before the weekend. Ohtani’s Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, is expected to post him immediately after major-league owners formally approve the new posting system Friday afternoon. Ohtani’s agency, CAA, sent questionnaires to all 30 teams to help the two-way player decide his future home. He will have 21 days to make the decision. The A’s pitch centers on the core of players the team is developing with an eye toward going into a new stadium with a winning club. Oakland’s key youngsters are about Ohtani’s age: first baseman Matt Olson is 23 and third baseman Matt Chapman is 24. Top pitching prospect A.J. Puk is 22. The A’s aim to have a new stadium in 2023; if the team gains the same state waiver that the 49ers and Warriors received in order to expedite the process, the timeline might move up as much as a year and a half. Oakland also can offer something many teams will not: The A’s are willing to let Ohtani occasionally play in the outfield on days he’s not starting. That might resonate with Ohtani, who mostly has been limited to being a designated hitter in Japan after playing 54 games in the outfield as a rookie in 2013. In addition, Oakland highlighted manager Bob Melvin’s experience. Melvin is a two-time Manager of the Year and he excels with young players. He’s had particularly good relationships with Japanese stars such as Ichiro Suzuki, who played for Melvin in Seattle, and Hideki Matsui in Oakland, as well as longtime friend Hideo Nomo.
The A’s and Giants are among the teams that can spend the least on Ohtani based on the current international spending rules. The maximum they can offer as a signing bonus is $300,000, while a handful of clubs can offer $3 million to 3.5 million. The Dodgers, Rangers and Mariners are among the teams considered front-runners to land him. No one expected Céspedes to sign with the A’s in 2012 — the Cuban slugger inked a four-year, $36 million deal during spring training — and his acquisition kick-started a run of three consecutive postseason appearances for Oakland. Perhaps the A’s can convince Ohtani he’s the piece of the puzzle that could help them do something similar.
Trade negotiations between the Marlins and Giants regarding 2017 National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton may be heating up. Members of San Francisco’s front office were meeting with Stanton’s representatives in Los Angeles. The meeting is to see if Stanton would approve a move to the Giants. Stanton has a full no-trade clause as part of the 13-year, $325 million contract he signed with the Marlins in 2014. It makes sense for Giants representatives to feel out the 28-year-old before they continue working on a deal with Miami. There’s no question Stanton would be a massive improvement in the Giants outfield. He has 15 home runs and a .456 slugging percentage in 382 career plate appearances. Stanton, meanwhile, led the majors with 59 homers, 132 RBI and a .631 slugging percentage. Acquiring Stanton would come with some risk for San Francisco, though. The 2017 season was the first time he had appeared in 150-plus games since 2011. While a solid defender, Stanton, a right fielder, wouldn’t necessarily solve the Giants’ defensive issues, either. Denard Span’s minus-7.5 ultimate zone rating was 16th among 17 qualified center fielders, per FanGraphs, and Stanton won’t be playing center field anytime soon. Still, Stanton’s arrival would build a lot of excitement in the Bay Area after a disappointing 64-98 season.
The Mets and outfielder Jay Bruce could be headed toward a reunion this offseason with Marc Carig of Newsday reporting mutual interest between the two sides. Bruce spent parts of the 2016 and 2017 seasons with New York before being traded to the Cleveland Indians in August. The outfielder spent most of his first nine seasons with the Cincinnati Reds before coming to the Mets in 2016, where he struggled mightily to the tune of a .219 average and .685 OPS in 50 games. He was much better in 2017 after the team picked up his player option, posting a .256 batting average with .841 OPS and 29 home runs before being dealt. Despite playing only 103 games with the team, he ranked third on the Mets with 2.7 wins above replacement last year. Adding his time in Cleveland, Bruce had a career-high 36 home runs to go with 101 RBI, only the second time in his career he topped 100 RBI. While there are always questions about his consistency, the 30-year-old has three All-Star appearances and would provide some much-needed offense to a Mets team full of question marks. He can play first base if Dominic Smith isn’t quite ready to take over the role, or right field isn’t 100 percent in his return from shoulder surgery.
The Rays traded reliever Brad Boxberger to the Diamondbacks for minor-league righty Curtis Taylor on Thursday. The trade is the first move of the offseason for both clubs and comes one day before Tampa Bay would be forced to decide whether to tender Boxberger a contract for next season. Boxberger was considered by some to be a non-tender candidate for a Rays team that will be faced with decisions on players like Brad Miller and Adeiny Hechavarria tomorrow, so today’s move allows the Rays to get something back for a player they may have let go for nothing. Boxberger, 29, has appeared in only 57 games over the last two seasons due to injury, registering a 4.02 ERA and 4.38 FIP in 53.2 innings. The ex-Padre had a career year for Tampa Bay in 2015, earning an All-Star selection en route to a 3.71 ERA while saving 41 games on the year. Boxberger, who is under control for two more seasons, has not closed since 2015, so it’s likely he’ll slot into a set-up role for an Arizona club that could use Archie Bradley Jr. to save games in 2018. Fernando Rodney’s likely departure in free agency means the D-Backs will be active in their search for back-end bullpen help this winter. Taylor, 22, was Arizona’s fourth-round pick in the 2016 draft and posted a 4.04 ERA and 1.251 WHIP in 13 starts for Single-A Kane County this year. The Canadian-born righty was ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 14 prospect in Arizona’s system at the end of the year and could project as a hard-throwing reliever in the majors.
The Angels acquired reliever Jim Johnson and international bonus money from the Braves for minor-league left-hander Justin Kelly, according to a club announcement. Johnson, 34, struggled to a 5.56 ERA and 4.22 FIP in 56.2 innings for Atlanta in 2017 after signing a two-year, $10 million deal with the club in October 2016. He recorded 22 saves on the year before relinquishing the closer role in July and struggling in the second half of the year (8.35 ERA in 18.1 second-half innings). Johnson is the first bullpen addition for an Angels club that will have to revamp part of its relief corps this winter— relievers Bud Norris, Jesse Chavez, Andrew Bailey and Huston Streetare all free agents while righty Yusmeiro Petit already departed for a two-year deal with the Athletics. Johnson will join Blake Parker, Cam Bedrosian, Keynan Middleton and Jose Alvarez as relievers projected to be with Los Angeles at the start of the camp, though other additions are likely as well. Kelly, 24, was a 33rd-round pick by the Halos last year and appeared at five minor-league levels in 2017. Over 63.2 innings between rookie-ball and Triple-A, the southpaw worked to a 3.53 ERA and 8.1 K/9 in 25 appearances (six starts). He wasn’t ranked by MLB Pipeline as one of the Angels’ top 30 prospects.
Yankees could still keep catcher Austin Romine for his projected $1.2MM salary. Even if he is not kept on the 40-man roster, Romine could be targeted to return on a minors pact. Of course, he’d also then have a chance to see if he could score a MLB slot with another organization. Romine limped to a .218/.272/.293 slash line in 252 plate appearances last year, but is generally regarded as a solid defender. It seems likely that the decision will come down to a question of whether the Yanks simply think they can do better with youngster Kyle Higashioka or another open-market option to complement regular Gary Sanchez.