Now that the Giancarlo Stanton craziness has ended with the slugger’s trade to the New York Yankees and Shohei Ohtani has picked the Los Angeles Angels, the MLB Hot Stove can now enjoy a long-awaited return to normalcy. We now know where the competition will be across the league, at least ahead of the next flurry of signings, and highly touted players can now look for their next contract in peace.
It so happens that the heat on the stove has been turned up this week thanks to the Winter Meetings going on, with players like Eric Hosmer, Jake Arrieta, and a slew of others could well end their week with massive contracts that raise the bar for next year’s stacked class of Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and, possibly, Clayton Kershaw.
Buckle up, everyone. This is the Rumor Roundup.
The many suitors of Jay Bruce
Lefty slugger Jay Bruce had a strong 2017, slugging 36 home runs with 101 RBI despite hitting just .254 for the New York Mets and the Cleveland Indians and teams are taking notice. According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, four teams are currently “eyeing” Bruce as a possibility for next year: the Mets, Colorado Rockies, Seattle Mariners, and Toronto Blue Jays.
Each of these teams would be a solid fit for Bruce, a three-time All-Star. The Mets would certainly love to have his offense back in the lineup, particularly with young star Michael Conforto still recovering from shoulder surgery and unlikely to be ready for Opening Day, but he is not a strong defensive outfielder or first baseman and would be better suited as a DH for an American League team. The same goes for the Rockies, who would be paying more for Bruce’s potential at hitter-friendly Coors Field than they would his defensive prowess.
Toronto and Seattle are the two teams most likely to be preparing a major offer for Bruce. The Blue Jays need a big bat in the middle of the lineup to compensate for losing Jose Bautista. Kendrys Morales has the DH spot claimed and Justin Smoak is locked in as the first baseman, but right field is still a question mark and perhaps management has a rotation between the three in mind, or maybe one of Morales and Smoak could be traded later this week.
With Seattle, the team’s reasoning for signing Bruce is simple. Missing out on Shohei Ohani has them desperate to make an addition of some sort and Bruce is enough of a draw. However, his path to at-bats isn’t as clear in the Emerald City. Newly acquired Ryon Healy has first-base locked down for now, Nelson Cruz is a strong DH, and a young outfield of Mitch Haniger, Ben Gamel, and Guillermo Heredia shouldn’t be touched.
Either way, expect more teams to be in the hunt for Bruce as the week progresses.
Phillies interested in Jake Arrieta
Now that Ohtani is signed, Jake Arrieta could be the most in-demand pitcher on the free agent market and according to Heyman, the Philadelphia Phillies are interested. This could come from GM Matt Klentak’s familiarity with Arrieta when both were part of the Baltimore Orioles, but adding a big-name veteran in free agency is not what the rebuilding Phillies need to do right now even if Arrieta has gone 64-29 with a 2.67 ERA since 2014, winning both an NL Cy Young and a World Series over that stretch.
Arrieta is also a client of notorious agent Scott Boras who, according to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, has also reached out to the Washington Nationals about Arrieta. Given all the money the Nats have committed to both Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer, however, this marriage seems highly unlikely.
This means more likely that Arrieta will take his time looking for his next contract, but stay tuned!
Eric Hosmer headed west?
First baseman Eric Hosmer is one of the more in-demand hitters on the market and the San Diego Padres have not been shy about their interest in him. As a result, Heyman reports the team is “strongly in the mix” for his services. After ranking fourth in the American League with a .318 batting average and matching a career high with 25 home runs, plus 94 RBI and his fourth Gold Glove, it’s no secret Hosmer won’t come cheap.
The Padres are an interesting destination for him. Here is a player who won a World Series ring with the Kansas City Royals just a few seasons ago and developed a reputation as an intense presence on the field and strong clubhouse leader, so why would he be inclined to go to a San Diego squad that isn’t anywhere close to playoff contention? Adding Hosmer would also mean Wil Myers moves to the outfield, a move he has already OK’d according to Heyman.
But the Padres have money to spend and that does all the talking in the world of MLB free agency. Hosmer hasn’t shown his hand yet but if he winds up signing with San Diego, it wouldn’t exactly be a surprise at this stage.
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