Any free agent market in any sport needs the top tier players to make deals and set the market before everything else can resolve itself. In an offseason where the free agent market has been as slow as we've seen it in 25 years, that's even more important.
Today we'll look at one of the men who's expected to set the market for starting pitchers, as well some other tidbits from around the league as pitchers and catchers creeps ever closer. Will a key piece of free agent market finally fall into place by Spring Training? Let's take a look. This is the Rumor Roundup.
Yu Darvish is expected to be the man who sets the tone for the rest of the starting pitchers who are looking for teams. Once he's signed, lower-tier free agents like Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn, and Andrew Cashner will probably start to work out their own deals—as will Jake Arrieta, who is in the same category as Darvish but has somehow flown completely under the radar over the last few months.
So where will Darvish go? Last night, CBS Sports' Matt Snyder has compiled a handy snippet of all the Darvish-related rumors team-by-team. Here's what we know:
- The Milwaukee Brewers, who are still looking for starting pitching help after their spasm of activity last week, are, according to FanRag, "strongly" in for the righty, and are apparently one of the most aggressive teams going after him, and there seems to be room in the payroll.
- Los Angeles Times beat writer Andy McCullough is under the impression that Darvish wants to return to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and that he is delaying signing anywhere to see if the Dodgers, who don't want to come any closer to the luxury tax threshold and won't re-sign him without a corresponding move, can move some salary.
- On the other hand, the Texas Rangers' MLB.com beat writer TR Sullivan said earlier this week "It seems obvious—reading all the signs—that Darvish wants to return to the Rangers." The roadblock is that the Rangers seem not to be interested, but Sullivan speculates that Darvish may be waiting for them to blink.
- The Chicago Cubs, with room under the luxury tax and a need in the rotation, are considered favorites for his signature, though not overwhelmingly so.
- The Minnesota Twins are in on proceedings but don't want to go beyond a five-year contract and aren't expected to beat out the Cubs in a bidding war.
- The Philadelphia Phillies are not expected to bid high but are monitoring the situation and could jump in if they think the terms become favorable, per Ken Rosenthal.
- The New York Yankees could get involved at a reasonable price, but like the Dodgers will not flout the luxury tax.
So, that's a whole lot of Not Very Clear, especially so given the dueling beat writers in LA and Texas who are convinced that their own team are Darvish's front-runners. The Cubs seem to be front runners, but the Brew Crew could come in and ruin the party if they want to push their own payroll up a little bit. Watch this space.
Realmuto not moving
After the initial phase of the Miami Marlins' latest great firesale, several other players took umbrage with the team's direction and asked for a trade. Christian Yelich got his wish last week, but it looks unlikely that his former teammate, catcher JT Realmuto, will be getting a similar accommodation.
According to Miami Herald beat writer Barry Jackson, the Marlins traded Yelich because they were afraid he would become a detriment to the locker room if he was retained. The Marlins are in no such hurry to deal Realmuto because they believe he will be a "good soldier" if he stays in south Florida. It's worth noting that while Yelich's agent made noise about his client wanting out (at the players behest), Realmuto's agent has not been instructed to make a similar scene.
Unless that tune changes, the Marlins will likely keep Realmuto as they begin their 3,493th post-fire sale rebuild.
No market for Joseph
With Rhys Hoskins and Carlos Santana firmly ensconced in the Phillies' lineup, there isn't a lot of room for Tommy Joseph. The Phils shopped him after Hoskins was promoted and began to devour National League pitching, but had no takers then and according to The Athletic's Matt Gelb (h/t MLB Trade Rumors) haven't found any yet this winter either. Now that Santana has arrived and pushed Hoskins to the outfield, Joseph will find himself even further down Gabe Kapler's depth chart at first base.
Some of that may change when (if?) the free agent market finally shakes out, but for now it looks like Joseph will be the odd man out in Clearwater this spring, unless someone gets hurt between now and the beginning of the year, in Philly or otherwise. Joseph has a minor league option remaining, so if he isn't dealt before Opening Day it's entirely possible that he'll be sent to Triple-A Lehigh Valley to serve as depth and wait until a potential trade opportunity comes along.