Three weeks. Only three weeks until pitchers and catchers begin reporting to spring training camps across Arizona and Florida. I can’t wait. Six of our top 50 free agents remain unsigned, so there’s still some hot stove work that has to be done between now and then, but at least real live baseball is fast approaching. Here are Sunday’s hot stove rumors.
Blue Jays checked in on Lindor
Like most teams, the Blue Jays checked in with the Indians about star shortstop Francisco Lindor this offseason, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. Toronto also made a run at free agent Didi Gregorius before he signed with the Phillies. Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins recently said he is “extremely open to something of significant impact,” Davidi notes, and Lindor would certainly qualify.
Of course, the Blue Jays have a stellar shortstop in Bo Bichette, who posted a 144 OPS+ in 44 games last year. Bichette did play some second base in the minors though, and Cavan Biggio has experience all over the field, so Toronto could easily shift players around to accommodate Lindor at shortstop. The Blue Jays have been active this winter and there’s no harm in placing a call.
Mets, Pirates rekindle Marte talks
The Mets and Pirates have reopened trade talks regarding outfielder Starling Marte, according to MLB reporter Robert Murray. A deal is not believed to be imminent, however. The two sides discussed Marte earlier in the offseason and the fit is obvious. Pittsburgh is likely to begin trading veterans for prospects soon, and the Mets need a legitimate center fielder.
I reckon the conspiracy theorists among us believe the Mets are rekindling their pursuit of Marte to shift the conversation away from recently dismissed manager Carlos Beltran. Eh, maybe, though I think it’s mostly about a good team pursuing a good player who fills an obvious roster need. Marte would give New York a true center fielder and dynamic all-around presence.
D-Backs GM not optimistic about making big trade
Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen is not optimistic about making a blockbuster trade before spring training, he told The Athletic’s Zach Buchanan. “I do think the further you get into the offseason, the harder those bigger trades are … I would probably be a little less optimistic about something bigger happening. But, you never know. I wouldn’t say never,” Hazen said.
The D-Backs have had an active offseason, mostly notably landing Madison Bumgarner, though they’ve also added Kole Calhoun, Junior Guerra, Hector Rondon, and Stephen Vogt. Arizona has been mentioned as a possible landing spot for Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant. Hazen doesn’t sound optimistic about making a big trade, but that could change with one phone call.
Cards have to increase offer to get Ozuna
To bring back Marcell Ozuna, the Cardinals will have to “up their offer,” reports Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Recent reports indicate Ozuna is deciding between the Cardinals and the Rangers, though the Reds are said to be in the mix as well. Ozuna declined the $17.8 million qualifying offer in November. He’s in line for a lucrative multi-year contract at age 29.
Even after trading Randy Arozarena and Jose Martinez to the Rays, the Cardinals are very deep in outfielders. They have Harrison Bader, Dexter Fowler, Tyler O’Neill, and Lane Thomas available, plus Tommy Edman can play the outfield as well. Despite that, St. Louis could easily make room for Ozuna in their outfield and in their lineup. It’s just a matter of making the money work.
Cards re-sign Wieters
As expected, the Cardinals have agreed to a deal with catcher Matt Wieters, reports MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. It’s a one-year deal worth $2 million guaranteed and Wieters can earn another $1 million in incentives. He socked 11 home runs backing up Yadier Molina last season and a reunion made sense for both sides.
The Cardinals do have Molina’s possible heir apparent in young Andrew Knizner, who appeared in 18 games last season. With Molina likely a few years away from retirement and Wieters now around as his backup, it could free up Knizner as a trade chip. The Rockies reportedly want a catcher as part of any Nolan Arenado trade package. Hmmm.
Rangers sign Nicasio
The Rangers have signed veteran right-hander Juan Nicasio to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, reports USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. Texas will have several bullpen spots up for grabs in camp after trading away setup man Emmanuel Clase in the Corey Kluber deal. Luis Garcia, Nick Goody, Luke Farrell, Ariel Jurado, and Yohander Mendez are all in the mix.
Nicasio, 33, has struggled the last two seasons, pitching to 5.34 ERA in 89 1/3 innings with the Mariners and Phillies. He has been excellent at times throughout his career — Nicasio posted a 2.61 ERA with three teams in 2017 — and he’s always missed bats (9.9 K/9 since 2015). There’s no such thing as a bad minor-league contract. Nicasio could be a sneaky-good pickup for the Rangers.