Fasten your seatbelts, baseball fans, because the Hot Stove is on the verge of boiling point. Shohei Ohtani has wrapped up his meetings, and a slew of minor trades have gone down just so teams in the mix could acquire more international bonus pool money. In a similar vein, Giancarlo Stanton could decide his future as soon as this week.
And to top it all off, could the Tampa Bay Rays be considering an Evan Longoria trade?
You know what time it is, folks. This is the Rumor Roundup.
Ohtani finishes meetings amidst trades
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported yesterday afternoon that Japanese two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani had wrapped up all of his meetings with the seven teams he picked as finalists and that a decision could be forthcoming soon. Oddly enough, that is not the major story regarding Ohtani today.
Rather, the news comes from a pair of small trades made by teams in the running to sign the highly coveted international free agent. In one instance, the Los Angeles Angels reported they had sent outfield prospect Jacob Pearson to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for international bonus money, adding to their paltry bank of just over $1.3m to offer Ohtani. Financial terms of the trade were not disclosed.
In a similar vein, the Seattle Mariners traded catcher David Banuelos to Minnesota for international bonus money, adding to their $1.5m bank. In a twist that surprised many, however, an article penned by John Shea of The San Francisco Chronicle suggested that Ohtani doesn't want to go to a team that already has Japanese players to "avoid taking attention" away from them and that he also would prefer to play on a team that "hasn't had a Japanese superstar" for the sake of avoiding being compared to them.
If Shea's report is true, then the Mariners would theoretically be out of the running due to their deep ties to a pair of Japanese sensations in former AL Rookie of the Year Kaz Sasaki and future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki. Simply put, Ohtani's decision just became all the more intriguing.
Stanton decision looming?
Miami Marlins outfielder and reigning NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton's future has been the story of the offseason and with the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals reportedly having frameworks of respective trades for Stanton in place, it's now just a matter of the star player agreeing to waive his full no-trade clause. At long last, fans could finally receive clarity on the situation.
According to Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports, Stanton is expected to make a decision of some sort by the end of the week and that the Giants actually view Stanton's hometown Los Angeles Dodgers as a greater threat than the Cardinals. Given the defending NL champs' stacked outfield and sky-high payroll, however, it seems unlikely they would want to take on the ten years and $295m remaining on Stanton's deal even if he can opt out after 2020.
One thing is certain. The Marlins are desperate to trade Stanton, and he doesn't want to go to a team on the verge of a rebuild. That would seemingly knock out San Francisco, who finished last in the NL West in 2017, but that was more due to bad luck than it was from lack of talent. Losing ace Madison Bumgarner for two months also hurt.
Stanton will play baseball somewhere in 2018, so here's hoping forthcoming news gives a clue where.
Evan Longoria on the move?
The St. Louis Cardinals are also in the news for a reason not named Giancarlo Stanton. It's been known around the league for a while that St. Louis is interested in closer Alex Colome, who notched an MLB-best 47 saves in a Rays uniform in 2017. However, a new report from Derrick Goold of The St. Louis Post Dispatch suggests the Cardinals could look to add another piece to a trade with Tampa Bay.
That piece is three-time All-Star third baseman Evan Longoria, who had the second-worst season of his career in 2017 to the tune of a .261/.313/.424 slash line, though he slugged 20 home runs with 86 RBI and won his third Gold Glove. Longoria is an interesting piece to include in any trade because being Tampa Bay's all-time leader in home runs and RBI, he will surely command a nice haul of prospects.
There's just one potential hiccup. Longoria has $81m remaining on his deal, which expires in 2022. His contract also holds a $13m club option and a $5m buyout for 2023. That's a lot to take on in a trade, especially for a 32-year-old player. Moreover, there is no way the penny-pinching Rays would cover any of what remains on the deal.
That said, I will roll with two theories regarding this rumor, if it even holds water at all. Either the Cardinals are looking to acquire Longoria as a way to further convince Stanton to come to St. Louis, or they view the third baseman as a fallback option in case Stanton does not want to move to the NL Central.
One thing is certain. If the Rays trade Longoria, Colome, or both, it means Tampa Bay is headed for a long and lengthy rebuild that may or may not conclude with the team being moved.