The Winter Meetings are done, and right when MLB's Hot Stove is bubbling ferociously. Signings have been few and far between since the Giancarlo Stanton trade to the New York Yankees, but teams are being more engaged with players as the market sets itself. We're now at the point where at or around Christmastime, there should be signings aplenty.
Not only that, trade talks are happening all over the place, with the Yankees once again at the forefront. The million dollar question: will they continue to add pieces or roll with what got them to Game 7 of the ALCS in 2017? More importantly, will they make a run at Bryce Harper next winter?
Buckle up, baseball fans. This is the Rumor Roundup.
The future of Bryce Harper
Washington Nationals star outfielder Bryce Harper will be the biggest name on the free agent market next offseason and he will receive a record-setting contract. If it isn't in the $30-$40m a year range, it will be an absolute shock. The real question is simple: will Harper remain in Washington despite the team's repeated playoff failures, or will he seek greener pastures on another squad, perhaps in a bigger market?
We finally appear to have some clarity on that matter. Per Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the Nationals expect Harper to test the free agent market next winter, but also hope to re-sign him. Washington could certainly keep Harper on a long-term, record-setting deal, especially with owner Ted Lerner's history of a "spare no expense" approach, but Harper will be 26 years old this time next year and will want to go to a team where he can be in a regular position to contend for a World Series.
That said, there are many places that satisfy that condition. The Houston Astros and New York Yankees are two that come to mind, but a deal for Harper would definitely risk putting both teams over the luxury tax threshold depending on how their respective payrolls look in a year.
Either way, Harper is bound for a contract that will shatter the one Alex Rodriguez received in 2001. It's just a matter of which team will give it to him.
New York Yankees not done
The New York Yankees have been busy Bronx beavers this offseason. On top of hiring a gutsy new manager in Aaron Boone, they traded second baseman Starlin Castro and two prospects to the Miami Marlins to land reigning NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton, and third baseman Chase Headley was dealt to the San Diego Padres shortly after and shed another $13m from the payroll.
The crazy part is that despite a deep minor league system that could easily fill holes in the infield and in the starting rotation, the Yankees appear nowhere close to done. Longtime beat writer Bryan Hoch of MLB.com reported the team is hunting for a starting pitcher, be it via bringing back lefty CC Sabathia or another arm, and also mentioned Arizona Diamondbacks infielder Brandon Drury as a potential target. Hoch also mentioned the Yankees reached out to the Baltimore Orioles about star infielder Manny Machado.
In another twist, George A King III of The New York Post reported that GM Brian Cashman had reached out to the Pittsburgh Pirates about acquiring right-hander Gerrit Cole for a package built around young outfielder Clint Frazier. This confirmed Hoch's earlier report that Cole was on Cashman's radar, along with Diamondbacks lefty Patrick Corbin and Kansas City Royals southpaw Danny Duffy.
The more likely option is a reunion with Sabathia, but Cashman is clearly exploring all his options, so stay tuned.
Where's Zack Cozart?
Shortstop Zack Cozart had a career season for the Cincinnati Reds in 2017, setting new career highs with a .297 batting average, 24 home runs, and 63 RBI en route to his first All-Star selection. And yet, his name has barely popped up this offseason. That's strange given his posting a 5.0 WAR on a last-place team and being a decent enough fielder.
Well, there finally appears to be movement on Cozart's front. Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Los Angeles Angels are interested in signing the 32-year-old to play third base for them as a defensive stud in Andrelton Simmons has shortstop locked down. Cozart has never played third base in his MLB career, but his veteran presence is just what this Angels team needs, especially after adding Ian Kinsler to play second base.
Money could be the deciding factor and Cozart is still talking to other teams, but keep an eye on this story just the same.