Shohei Ohtani’s narrowing market has dominated headlines today, though not every club joined in on the action. At least three teams didn’t respond to the request made last week by Ohtani’s agent asking for each MLB club to pitch itself to the Japanese star via a seven-point written explanation. It isn’t known which teams didn’t submit the information, though it’s probably safe to assume the Marlins were one, as they’re the only team known to have declined a pursuit of Ohtani’s services. Unless a club had received some knowledge about Ohtani’s preferred destinations and knew not to bother, it doesn’t seem like there’s any reason why a team wouldn’t have at least tried to attract his attention. Not even trying for Ohtani “would be the general manager’s version of failing to run out a ground ball”. The Yankees weren’t one of the teams that made it through to the interview stage with Ohtani, though his agents at CAA reportedly tried to at least give New York some further consideration. It seems as if Ohtani simply prefers to play closer to the West Coast, and thus while the Yankees made a lot of sense for him on paper, there wasn’t any need to include them in the next stage of candidates. The Rangers are one of the teams reportedly still in the hunt to sign Ohtani, though if they’re at a disadvantage if Ohtani is favoring West Coast teams, with a more unique way for the Rangers to stand out, a six-man rotation. This would give Ohtani a schedule more akin to his one start-per-week schedule in Japan, plus give him more opportunity for at-bats in between his starts. Beyond just favoring Ohtani, a six-man rotation might also help the Rangers keep Cole Hamels and Martin Perezfresher, while allowing the club to manage Matt Bush’s innings in a possible transition to starting pitching. Texas manager Jeff Banister has spoken in favor of a six-man rotation in the past, and given the Rangers’ lack of starting pitching depth, now might be as good a time as any to be creative.
The Miami Marlins have agreed to the “general framework” of trades with the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants to move 2017 National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton. The deals are pending Stanton’s approval. The right fielder has a full no-trade clause as part of the 13-year, $325 millioncontract he signed with Miami in 2014. The Giants met with Stanton’s representatives in Los Angeles on Thursday. Olney also reported that Stanton’s representatives received approval to meet with the Cardinals. Since Stanton could veto any trade, it was noted the 28-year-old holds all the cards: “Giancarlo Stanton is in control here, due to full no-trade. If he wants to wait on the Dodgers, he can — even if that means saying no to everyone else this offseason and revisiting in July/August or next winter”. The Marlins were prepared to accept Giants second baseman Joe Panik and top prospects Tyler Beede and Chris Shaw in return for Stanton as long as San Francisco was willing to assume at least $250 million of the remaining $295 million on Stanton’s contract. Pitcher Sandy Alcantara is at the center of St. Louis’ offer and the Cardinals’ deal includes more money than that of San Francisco. Any trade is “expected to be finalized” in the next two to three days. However, any deal with the Cardinals may prove to be a nonstarter. Of course, that shouldn’t preclude the Marlins from evaluating all their options. Miami’s season ended a little over two months ago, so the team has acted quickly to try to move its best player. Stanton can all but cease ongoing trade negotiations if he wants another team to enter the mix.
The Yankees could still go out and improve on a 2017 season that ended at the doorstep of the World Series. This, despite how their only offseason move of note has been finding a new manager. The job that belonged to Joe Girardi for a decade now belongs to Aaron Boone, a man with baseball bloodlines and a loaded resume of baseball achievements. Although managerial experience isn’t among the latter, the hope is he can put the Yankees in the World Series much like he once did in 2003. A quick glance at the Yankees’ payroll makes it look like their next move should be doing what they usually do during the winter. They are only projected to spend $156 million in 2018, $40 million short of where they opened 2017. That’s license to go full-Steinbrenner on the free-agent and trade markets. New York’s mission is to get under the luxury tax, which precludes it from its typical brand of lavish spending. Most winters, that would be a problem. Here’s a look at why it’s not this time around.
It may have felt like Luis Severino was their only dependable starter at any given moment, but Yankees starters did well enough to finish with a 3.98 ERA in 2017. Only four teams did better. Up next is the doable task of improving on that performance. Severino will be back, and there’s little reason to expect worse from him. He may get by on electric stuff and little else, but he proved something in 2017: The grind of a full major league season won’t necessarily stop him from staying healthy or from maintaining his stuff. After Severino is Masahiro Tanaka. In light of the 4.74 ERA he put up in 2017, it looks like he did himself a favor by not opting out of his contract. And considering how he finished the year with a 3.12 ERA over his final 19 starts, however, he did the Yankees a favor by not opting out. New York can also look forward to a full season of Sonny Gray. Acquired in a July blockbuster with the Oakland Athletics, he managed a 3.72 ERA in 11 starts thereafter. Not his best work but in line with his track record as an above-average starter. Then there’s Jordan Montgomery, who’s fresh off an overlooked rookie season that featured a 3.88 ERA in 29 starts. Even if some regression is in order, he still makes the grade as a good No. 4 starter.
Even Aaron Judge may be powerless to push the offense higher. It would be asking a lot of him to repeat the 1.049 OPS and 52 homers that won him the AL Rookie of the Year even if he was fully healthy. Following surgery on his left shoulder, it’s asking too much. Still, a Judge regression wouldn’t be the end of the world for this offense. Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird could pick up whatever slack Judge lets out. The former was good enough to post an .876 OPS with 33 homers in 2017, but his excellent finish (a .944 OPS and 17 homers over 50 games) indicates he still has unexplored upside. The latter was a forgotten man who re-emerged with a .910 OPS and 11 homers over 42 games (postseason included) at the end of the year. The Yankees offense also stands to get a boost from full seasons from 2017 breakout star Aaron Hicks, who was limited to 88 games, and veteran second baseman Starlin Castro, who was limited to 112 games. It would also help if Didi Gregorius stayed his course and matured even further as an offensive threat. The big question is what the Yankees will get out of the designated-hitter and third-base slots that were offensive black holes for much of 2017. However, there are in-house options to fall back on here as well. Clint Frazier is a big-time sleeper coming off an unspectacular rookie season. Gleyber Torres will be arguably baseball’s best prospect if he recovers well from Tommy John surgery. Not to be overlooked is Miguel Andujar, who packs a promising bat at third base. The Yankees will be heard from before the offseason is over. Everyone can count on that. But even as things stand, the cheapest Yankees team in years should be one of the best Yankees teams in years.
Robbie Erlin’s contract with the Padres will pay him $650K in 2018. The left-hander was eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter, though he and the Padres avoided the process by agreeing to that one-year deal, which fell just shy of MLBTR’s projected $700K salary for Erlin. After undergoing Tommy John surgery in May 2016, Erlin missed all of the 2017 season recovering from the procedure. The Padres have also signed GM A.J. Preller to a three-year contract extension. Preller’s new deal will keep him with the team through 2022. The Padres and Preller struck the agreement back in October, who notes that the GM had been under control through 2019 until then. The team turned its full attention to securing Preller for the long haul after re-upping manager Andy Green through 2021 back in August. While the Padres’ front office was reportedly split on retaining Preller in the wake of his suspension, his extension makes it obvious that he has the support of team brass. Executive chairman Ron Fowler and managing partner Peter Seidler believe Preller and Green are the tandem that will eventually bring an end to the Padres’ playoff drought, perhaps by 2020.
The Twins and Aaron Boone recently had mutual interest in a front office role before Boone was hired to be the Yankees’ new manager. The Indians are interested in a reunion with Austin Jackson “but at the right price”. Jackson proved to be a big bargain for the Tribe in 2017, as he signed a minor league deal and then hit an outstanding .318/.387/.482 over 318 plate appearances while seeing time at all three outfield positions. Jackson would bring a right-handed presence to a projected Cleveland outfield that currently features three left-handed hitters (Michael Brantley, Bradley Zimmer, Lonnie Chisenhall), though there’s certainly question as to whether Jackson can sustain his production, given his .385 BABIP from last season and his recent history of subpar offensive numbers.
With Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, and Mike Moustakas all hitting free agency, there has been wide speculation that the Royals could be entering a rebuild phase. This is the general consensus around the league, even if Hosmer is re-signed. The club itself is unsure about its contention plans for the immediate future, as the exact level of the rebuild is still in question, “club officials see rebuilding scenarios that include” Hosmer on the roster. This would seemingly put K.C. in an awkward decision this winter, as spending nine figuresto re-sign Hosmer doesn’t seem to make much sense for a team that already has an eye towards reloading its farm system, though GM Dayton Moore is reportedly not keen on the idea of a full teardown.