Another day gone, another day where the MLB Hot Stove inches closer to its boiling point. Today brings a flurry of news and rumors, some of which could soon set the landscape for free agents looking for a new deal.
Giancarlo Stanton's representatives have met with a team to discuss a potential deal, Shohei Ohtani is about to be posted and has one very interested suitor, and a seemingly forgotten Jay Bruce could be headed back to a former team. Might I add, there has also been a trade!
Finish your coffees and strap in, baseball fans. This is the Rumor Roundup.
Giancarlo the Giant?
The San Francisco Giants have long been interested in acquiring Giancarlo Stanton now that the Miami Marlins appear intent on trading him and that possibility took a step forward yesterday. ESPN's Buster Olney reported that Stanton's representatives, with the Marlins' approval, met with the Giants brass in Los Angeles on Thursday, likely to get an idea of whether Stanton would approve a trade to the Bay Area.
No formal offer has been officially submitted, it seems, but the Giants are in the hunt for a big bat and Stanton would be a great fit on the team. He holds the cards since he has a full no-trade clause, but the longstanding rumor is that he prefers a move to the west coast and would love to play for his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers. The St. Louis Cardinals have also shown interest in Stanton and submitted an offer to the Marlins last week, though Stanton has little interest in moving to the Midwest.
That could mean San Francisco has a fighting chance, so stay tuned.
Yankees plan Ohtani pursuit
Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani is expected to be formally posted by the Nippon Ham Fighters today and the New York Yankees will be among the many teams to pursue him. Pete Caldera of The Bergen Record reported earlier today that GM Brian Cashman plans to aggressively woo Ohtani and that the Yankees plan on letting him pitch and hit. Per Caldera, Cashman called Ohtani "the next great talent that's available in baseball."
This means the Yankees will formally submit a $20m bid to the Fighters just so they may speak to Ohtani and his representatives, and the team has $3.5m of international spending money to offer him as a bonus on top of his minor league contract, per current MLB rules. The Texas Rangers, Chicago Cubs, Seattle Mariners, and Cincinnati Reds have also been linked to Ohtani.
Soon, the Yankees and other teams will play the waiting game as Ohtani decides where he will write his ticket. New York is a market where he could land major endorsements, but Seattle's longstanding ties to Japan could also be alluring. Either way, expect Ohtani to take his time in selecting his new team.
Jay Bruce's Flushing return?
Jay Bruce hit 36 home runs and had 101 RBI with the New York Mets and Cleveland Indians in 2017 and is now on the open market, and the Mets appear interested in bringing him back. Mike Puma of The New York Post is reporting that New York is interested in bringing Bruce back to Citi Field on a three-year contract, though Bruce is seeking a five-year commitment. Marc Carig of Newsday also reported the team's interest in bringing Bruce back.
Nice as Bruce returning to the Big Apple would be, it's just not going to happen. Yes, Bruce offers protection in case young outfielder Michael Conforto's shoulder isn't fully healed in time for Spring Training, and he can also play first base in the event that Dominic Smith is still raw. But no matter how you slice it, the man is a defensive liability (-11 defensive runs saved in 2016) who is probably better suited as a DH going forward.
Still, stranger things have happened in free agency before, so don't count this story out entirely even though the Mets don't have a lot of money to spend.
A tale of two trades
To close out today's rumor roundup, there are two notable trades that happened yesterday afternoon. In one, according to the team's official Twitter, the Atlanta Braves traded veteran reliever Jim Johnson to the Los Angeles Angels for minor league lefty Justin Kelly. Johnson, who turned 34 last season, had 22 saves for Atlanta in 2017 while posting an atrocious 5.56 ERA, while the 24-year-old Kelly pitched at five different levels of the Angels' system last season and posted a 3.53 ERA in 25 games, six of which were starts.
Just how the Angels plan on using Johnson is a mystery. Cam Bedrosian is a strong internal candidate to be the closer, but Johnson also twice led the majors in saves with 51 and 50 in 2012 and 2013. He's not the dominant arm he used to be and has struggled with his control in recent years, but expect him to at least get a look as a stopper in SoCal.
The other trade that went down involved the Tampa Bay Rays sending veteran righty Brad Boxberger to the Arizona Diamondbacks for minor league pitcher Curtis Taylor, according to Marc Topkin of The Tampa Bay Times. Boxberger is 29 and has struggled with injuries each of the past two seasons, but he still posted a 3.38 ERA out of the Rays' bullpen in 2017 and had a K/9 of 12.3. He also led the AL with 41 saves in 2015 and could wind up being Arizona's closer depending on manager Torey Lovullo's plans.
In the 22-year-old Taylor, the Rays receive a low-level prospect who went 3-4 with a 3.34 ERA in 13 starts at A-ball last season. He's not much in terms of overall return, but enough when it comes to dealing Boxberger.