Slowly but surely, free agency season is in full swing. Several top names like Zack Cozart, CC Sabathia, Carlos Santana, and many others have signed new contracts and the rest of the free agency dominoes will soon follow.
Japanese righty Yu Darvish appears to be the next man on the move if the latest rumors are true. As always, the question is where he will sign. Will he join a regular championship contender again, or will he opt to join a smaller market squad that still needs a few pieces to contend for a title? Oh, and the Boston Red Sox have finally made, well, an interesting move.
Strap in, ladies and gentlemen. This is the Rumor Roundup.
Yu Darvish takes a meeting
Yu Darvish had a forgettable postseason to the tune of going 2-2 with a 6.14 ERA, but teams pay for regular season performance and the right-hander did well in that regard in 2017. Darvish went 10-12 with a 3.86 ERA for the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers last season and struck out 209 hitters in 186.2 innings and teams in the market for a front-line starter are taking notice.
La Velle E. Neal III of The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported yesterday afternoon that the Minnesota Twins were pursuing Darvish and "speaking more optimistically than they ever have" regarding big-name free agents. Minnesota was the second AL Wild Card team in 2017 and has a great young core under manager Paul Molitor, and Darvish would boost a pitching staff already featuring youngster Jose Berrios and veteran Ervin Santana. Playing at pitcher-friendly Target Field could also boost Darvish's numbers.
But Minnesota has to compete with a Midwestern neighbor. Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago also reported yesterday afternoon that Cubs front office tandem Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer flew to Dallas on Monday and that meeting with Darvish was a "likely destination," and Dylan Hernandez of The Los Angeles Times quoted a tweet from Darvish himself confirming that a meeting with the Cubs took place, one that lasted three and a half hours and without an interpreter so Darvish could improve his English.
Darvish would be a fine addition to a Cubs rotation that has already added Tyler Chatwood this offseason and adding him would all but confirm lefty Mike Montgomery would come out of the bullpen again unless he is traded. No disrespect to Montgomery, but Darvish's performance speaks for itself and his name is immediately one to watch this week.
Red Sox re-sign Moreland
The Boston Red Sox's top priority this offseason was improving an offense that ranked last in the American League in home runs and this was addressed yesterday by, drumroll please, re-signing Mitch Moreland to a two-year, $13m deal. Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston reported the signing, also adding that Moreland could earn more money via unspecified incentives.
Moreland wasn't awful for Boston last season, posting a line of .246/.326/.443 with 22 home runs and 79 RBI. He was also a strong defensive first baseman, posting an Ultimate Zone Rating of +4. Moreland also hit .247 against left-handed pitching, slightly better than his .241 career mark against southpaws.
Moreland's defense suggests that bringing him back might have been because of new manager Alex Cora, who has fully embraced analytics, thinks highly of him. The move instantly takes Boston out of the running for Eric Hosmer, the top first baseman on the market, and still leaves the lineup wanting for a more powerful bat. Perhaps Dave Dombrowski has a trade brewing prior to a run at JD Martinez, or another move entirely, but retaining Moreland alone won't improve Boston's standing in the AL East.
Christian Yelich "unhappy"
The new Miami Marlins owners, Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter, cannot catch a break. It was reported yesterday that catcher JT Realmuto had requested a trade in wake of the latest fire sale that saw Dee Gordon, Marcell Ozuna, and Giancarlo Stanton all traded, and ESPN subsequently reported outfielder Christian Yelich as being "unhappy."
However, it is important to note that Yelich did not formally request a trade, and the report stated he would listen to the front office's plans for the upcoming rebuild before making his next move. Yelich just turned 26 and hit .282 with 18 home runs and 81 RBI in 2017, and he already has a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger on his young career resume. He has $58.25m due to him through 2022 thanks to a team-friendly extension signed a few years ago.
The Marlins are playing a dangerous game with this fire sale, especially in alienating players already on the team. Yelich was friends with Stanton, Gordon, and Ozuna, so it's no wonder he's unhappy with the state of the roster as it is now. However, baseball is a business, and it behooves the Marlins to keep Yelich on the team right now because he gives Miami's dwindling fanbase reason to come to Marlins Park.