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D.J. Short

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Winter Meetings: Day Three

Thursday, December 13, 2018


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In the past, we saw the bulk of the major offseason moves occur during the Winter Meetings. Times have changed in the sense that it has become the setting for starting or continuing negotiations rather than serving as the conclusion. In other words, we’re probably going to have to wait a while on those mega-deals for Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. We still had some action on Day Three in Las Vegas, mostly on the pitcher side of things …

What’s Happening

We’ll start with left-hander J.A. Happ, who has reportedly reached a tentative agreement to return to the Yankees. As first reported by Mark Feinsand of MLB.com, Happ is expected to receive a two-year contract with an option for a third year. Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the deal is worth between $34-35 million.

One of the most sought-after starters on the open market, Happ was hoping to land a guaranteed third year, but teams weren’t willing to go there with someone who turned 36 in October. The southpaw could still secure in that third year in this new deal if he can reach certain benchmarks in innings pitched and starts.

Happ enjoyed a strong finish with the Yankees after being acquired from the Blue Jays this past July, posting a 2.69 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 16 walks over 63 2/3 innings. He quietly owns a strong 3.48 ERA over the past four seasons.

The Yankees previously acquired James Paxton from the Mariners and re-signed CC Sabathia to a one-year deal, so they are set in their rotation. The big question is what’s next and if that plan possibly include Manny Machado or Bryce Harper. There’s more logic behind a move for Machado, but Cashman told reporters Wednesday that he’s always willing to be flexible if the right opportunity presents itself, calling the Yankees “a fully operational Death Star.” There’s your quote of the week, right there.

Morton is Money

Another notable starter was plucked from the free agent market on Wednesday, as the Rays have reportedly signed right-hander Charlie Morton to a two-year, $30 million contract. Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com reported news of the signing while Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports passed along word of an option for a third year, with the salary based on time missed due to injury.

It’s a nice payday for Morton, who signed a two-year, $14 million deal with the Astros two years ago. Some questioned the move at the time, as Morton threw just 17 1/3 innings in 2016 before undergoing surgery for a severe hamstring strain, but he emerged as an important rotation piece for Houston with a 3.36 ERA over 55 regular season starts. He reached 201 strikeouts in 167 innings this past season while earning his first All-Star selection.

The 35-year-old Morton has an injury history, so he’s never thrown more than 171 2/3 innings in a season before. He was bothered down the stretch this year with a shoulder issue, so the Rays will likely have to be mindful about managing his workload. Fortunately, they seem well-equipped to do exactly that.

The Rays are still expected to utilize the opener in 2019, but they have three starters locked in place with Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell, Morton, and Tyler Glasnow. It’s wide open after that, with Yonny Chirinos, Jalen Beeks, Ryan Yarbrough, and Wilmer Font among the candidates to serve as openers. The Rays will also have Brent Honeywell and Jose De Leon coming back from Tommy John surgery in 2019. There’s flexibility to give Morton some rest, as needed.

We can’t ignore that it’s refreshing to see the Rays spending some cash after a 90-win season. With many teams still in rebuild or reload mode, there’s real opportunity with the Wild Card spots in the American League.

With Happ, Morton, Patrick Corbin, and Nathan Eovaldi all off the board, left-hander Dallas Keuchel is now far and away the top starting pitcher remaining on the market. Japanese left-hander Yusei Kikuchi makes for an interesting alternative. His agent, Scott Boras, told reporters Wednesday that Kikuchi will meet with teams later this month in Los Angeles. As per the posting process, MLB teams have until January 2 at 5 p.m. ET to negotiate with him.

Rangers Dancing with Lance

Rangers starting pitchers ranked second from the bottom in the majors last year with a 5.37 ERA. It’s going to take more than one move to make a major leap forward, but the club addressed their weakness on Wednesday by reportedly agreeing to a three-year, $30 million deal with right-hander Lance Lynn. T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com reported that the deal was close while Mark Feinsand of MLB.com passed along the contract details.

It’s a surprising deal on the surface for Lynn, who was forced to settle for a one-year, $12 million contract with the Twins this past March. Of course, it was a different situation this time around, as Lynn didn’t have the qualifying offer hanging over him. Still, it was hard to see him getting three years after he posted a mediocre 4.77 ERA over 29 starts and two relief appearances in 2018. He looked like a different pitcher after being traded to the Yankees, though, compiling a 4.14 ERA and 61/14 K/BB ratio over 54 1/3 innings. If he can keep that going through the first half in 2019, the Rangers could have a nice trade chip on their hands.

Tannest Deal Ever

Fresh off inking left-hander Patrick Corbin, the Nationals traded right-hander Tanner Roark to the Reds on Wednesday in exchange for right-hander Tanner Rainey. In case you were curious, it's the first Tanner-for-Tanner trade in MLB history.

MLB Trade Rumors projected Roark in the area of $10 million for his final year of arbitration, so the deal provides the Nationals with some wiggle room for some other moves. Odds are they’ll still end up signing at least one more starter, though likely at a lower cost. As of now, Joe Ross and Erick Fedde project to fill the final two spots in the rotation. According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, free agents Wade Miley and Anibal Sanchez are among the names being considered by Washington.

Roark might not be the big splash Reds fans were hoping for given the discussions the club has reportedly been involved in, but he’s still a respectable rotation piece. The 32-year-old owns a 3.59 ERA for his career, though he checked in at 4.67 (96 ERA+) in 2017 and 4.34 (98 ERA+) in 2018. The home ballpark makes it difficult to expect steady value in mixed fantasy leagues, but Roark is a step toward respectability for the Reds, who have a bunch of uncertainty in their rotation beyond promising youngster Luis Castillo.

Score One for Bour

It wasn’t all about pitching on Wednesday, as the Angels have reportedly added slugger Justin Bour on a one-year deal. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported news of the agreement and Joel Sherman of the New York Post added that the deal includes a $2.5 million guarantee.

Bour is coming off a disappointing year in which he batted just .227/.341/.404 with 20 homers over 141 games between the Marlins and Phillies. The 30-year-old was non-tendered by the Phillies at the end of November, but he’s a fine pickup at this price considering he’s just a year removed from 20 homers and a .902 OPS in 108 games.

As for Bour’s role with the Angels, he would appear to be best-suited for a platoon at first base. He still produced against right-handers last year with an .819 OPS, but he nosedived with a .570 OPS against southpaws. Assuming Shohei Ohtani is cleared to be the regular designated hitter as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery, Albert Pujols could be looking at diminished role going into his age-39 season. As great as his career has been, that’s how it should be if the Angels plan to contend in 2019.

Quick Hits: Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that J.T. Realmuto remains the Mets’ No. 1 target at catcher, though Jon Heyman of Fancred hears that the Rays and Reds are in the mix … Jayson Stark of The Athletic reports that Craig Kimbrel is seeking a six-year contract north of $100 million … Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals were not one of the teams who met with Bryce Harper in Las Vegas this week … Anthony DiComo of MLB.com reports that the Mets have begun preliminary talks with Jacob deGrom’s agents about a possible contract extension … The Reds, Braves, Padres, and Mariners are interested in Yankees right-hander Sonny Gray, per Jon Heyman of Fancred … Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic hears that the Athletics are among the clubs talking to the Rangers about Jurickson Profar … Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports that the White Sox are interested in relievers Jeurys Familia and Adam Ottavino … Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Reds and Dodgers have been talking about a number of different trade proposals, with Matt Kemp and Homer Bailey among the names discussed … Jon Heyman of Fancred reports that the Tigers have signed shortstop Jordy Mercer to a one-year, $5.25 million contract … The Brewers and right-hander Jimmy Nelson avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $3.7 million contract … Buster Posey (hip) is expected to begin running at full speed in mid-January … Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire confirmed Wednesday that Shane Greene will begin 2019 as the team’s closer … New Angels manager Brad Ausmus said Wednesday that he’ll probably hit Mike Trout second in 2019.



D.J. Short is a Rotoworld senior baseball writer and hosts the Rotoworld Baseball Podcast. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook.
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