Andy Martino of SNY.tv reports that the Padres have told the Mets that top prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. is untouchable in trade talks. The two teams are rumored to be discussing a potential Noah Syndergaard trade, and the Mets are surely going to demand that Tatis come back to them in any eventual deal. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Rays and Reds are also among the teams that have interest in Syndergaard. The Reds’ pitching staff has been in a shambles for years and the team has new leadership that is determined to clean up the mess. Cincinnati has a strong farm system with top prospects such as third baseman Nick Senzel, flamethrowing starter Hunter Green, outfielder Tayler Trammell and third baseman Jonathan India that may entice the Mets into letting go of one of their aces. Syndergaard’s fantasy value would take a hit if he moves to hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.
Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com reports that the Giants are willing to engage in trade talks with teams regarding Madison Bumgarner. They’ve already been reported to have participated in talks with the Phillies and Brewers. Bumgarner has just one year left on his contract with the Giants, who went 73-89 and finished 18.5 games behind the Dodgers this year. The ace left-hander went 6-7 with a still-solid 3.26 ERA in 21 starts after missing the first nine weeks of the 2018 campaign with a broken pinkie he suffered while being drilled by a come-backer in spring training. That ERA looks good but there are warning signs all over the place. His strikeout rate dropped from his normal range of nine or more strikeouts per game down to only 7.57 K/9 this year while his xFIP rose to a career-worst 4.32 mark. The veteran hurler is one of the two faces of the franchise (along with Buster Posey), which would make it hard for the Giants to let him go — but it might be the right move for their long-term competitive cycle.
Andy Martino of SNY.tv reports that the Mets are being “aggressive” in trade talks regarding the Mariners’ Robinson Cano. The Mariners are tearing down their roster in a rebuilding effort. They’ve already dealt away catcher Mike Zunino to the Rays and ace starter James Paxton to the Yankees. Shortstop Jean Segura has been mentioned in trade rumors of late, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them move speedy second baseman/centerfielder Dee Gordon either. The 36-year-old Cano is still owed a whopping $120 million over the next five seasons and missed half of the 2018 campaign after getting suspended for performance-enhancing drugs, which might mean the Mariners will have to take another unpleasant contract back in order to unload Cano. Or they could include a good player on a team-friendly contract in order to entice another team to take Cano and his contract. Martino speculates they could include closer Edwin Diaz along with Cano in a deal with the Mets for Jay Bruce and his bad contract. Bruce suffered through an injury-marred 2018 season that saw him bat just .223/.310/.370 with nine homers and 37 RBI in 94 games. Bruce will earn $28 million over the next two years and would represent a savings of nearly $100 million for the Mariners if the deal gets done. Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that the Tigers, Marlins, A’s, Rays, and Blue Jays make up Jay Bruce’s five-team no-trade list. Notably absent from the list are the Mariners. Cano has a full no-trade clause in his contract but might be willing to waive it to go back to New York to play for the Mets or Yankees, whom the Mariners have also engaged in trade talks. Cano may see the writing on the wall indicating his time in Seattle is drawing to a close. The Mariners acquired Mallex Smith from the Rays in the Zunino deal and he is penciled into the centerfield job, which would move Gordon to second base and potentially put Cano out of the starting lineup. If Cano wants to continue to be an everyday starter and perhaps play for a contending team he may want to waive that no-trade clause.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today hears that the Indians are “much more inclined” to trade Trevor Bauer as opposed to Corey Kluber or Carlos Carrasco. The reason is cost certainty — Bauer is set to get huge raises via salary arbitration over the next two seasons and could be more expensive than Kluber or Carrasco, both of whom are on relatively team-friendly deals and have longer track records of success than Bauer.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Brewers and Astros are two clubs that have shown interest in J.T. Realmuto. The Dodgers, Braves, Nationals and Phillies have also been connected to Realmuto, but the Braves and Nats have signed catchers and the Marlins reportedly would prefer not to trade him within the division. Sherman puts the odds of a Realmuto trade going down this offseason at 35 percent. Realmuto joins free agents Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos to make three of the top four catchers in baseball up for grabs this winter (those three along with Yadier Molina comprised the top four catchers on ESPN’s Player Rater this year). It would be very surprising if the Astros and Dodgers don’t each grab one of the trio as both teams are top championship contenders with gaping holes behind the plate. The Red Sox will probably swoop in for the last one of the three to find a new team. The Astros need to replace their tandem of Evan Gattis (free agent, mostly a DH these days anyway) and Brian McCann (signed with the Braves). The Dodgers need to replace Grandal (free agent). The defending champion Red Sox have offensive black holes Christian Vasquez, Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart as their unappetizing current options behind the plate. It is rare to see so many top catchers available and to have so many elite teams in dire need of one. A bidding frenzy may develop, or on the other hand the teams may wait to see which catcher’s price drops the most since there are plenty to go around.
Jayson Stark of The Athletic reports that the Phillies talked to the Diamondbacks about Paul Goldschmidt. Stark hears that the two sides discussed a deal that would have included right-hander Zach Eflin and several young players, but talks broke down when the Phillies tried to include aging first baseman Carlos Santana. If the Diamondbacks are going to rebuild it doesn’t make sense for them to take back Santana and his hefty contract. He is owed $20.3 million in 2019, $20.8 million in 2020 and has a $17.5 million team option for 2021 with a $500,000 buyout. The Diamondbacks are considering a teardown after finishing in third place with an 82-80 record. They are losing eight good players to free agency, including starting pitcher Patrick Corbin and outfielder A.J. Pollock. Their toughest task would be trading Zack Greinke and the $104.5 million remaining on his contract over the next three years. Goldschmidt is a perfect fit for the Cardinals, who need a slugging corner infielder — and they might be ready and able to take on Greinke’s money as well.
The Twins claimed 1B/DH C.J. Cron off waivers from the Rays. Cron was surprisingly designated for assignment by the Rays last week despite hitting a career-best 30 homers with a .253/.323/.493 batting line over 140 games in 2018. The market isn’t kind to first base/DH types these days, but he fits an area of need for the Twins. Cron, who turns 29 in January, earned $2.3 million in 2018 and has two years of team control remaining. His signing could be an indication the Twins plan to keep Miguel Sano at third base for another year despite his size and lack of athleticism.
Donaldson Joins the Braves
The Atlanta Braves signed third baseman Josh Donaldson to a one-year, $23 million contract. The deal was reported early on Monday and has now been made official by the club. Donaldson surely could have received a multi-year pact from someone, but it looks like he’s ready to bet on himself bouncing back following an injury-shortened 2018 campaign. If healthy, he will provide the Braves with a potent middle-of-the-order bat. Donaldson was limited to just 52 games this season due to issues with his calf, so the idea would be that he’d try for a rebound campaign before testing the market again next offseason. It’s a great deal for the Braves, who will get one of the top three players on the market this winter without having to shell out a franchise-altering contract to Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. Donaldson’s $23 million will cost them only 5-10% of the $300-400 million it will take to land Harper or Machado and doesn’t carry the long-term risk of paying big money to a player in his late thirties. Donaldson will be reunited with Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos, who brought him to Toronto while he served as the Blue Jays’ general manager. That trade following the 2014 season sent Brett Lawrie, Franklin Barreto, Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin to the Athletics.
Donaldson took his game to a new level with the Blue Jays — in his first season with his new team he won the AL MVP Award by batting .297/.371/.568 with 41 home runs and led the league with 123 RBI and 122 runs scored. He also led the Blue Jays to their first playoff appearance in 22 years. He was nearly as good in 2016 and 2017 before the injury bug started taking its toll. He missed 49 games in 2017 with a calf injury and then had his 2018 season wrecked by another calf injury. He limped through 36 games with the Blue Jays early in the first half of this season and clearly wasn’t himself as he turned in a lackluster .234/.333/.423 slash line with five homers and 16 RBI in 137 at-bats. He went back on the disabled list and was eventually traded to the Indians. He played in 16 September games for the Tribe and performed much closer to his normal clip: .280/.400/.520 with three homers in 50 at-bats. It was a very small sample but if you compare that to his career .275/.367/.507 slash line it gives the Braves a lot of confidence that his injury woes are behind him. The soon-to-be 33-year-old Donaldson said in his press conference that playing on the artificial surface for 90 games per year in Toronto’s Rogers Centre and division rival Tampa Bay’s dome caused a lot of wear and tear that led to his leg injures and he expects the natural grass fields of Atlanta and the National League to ease the stress on his calves.
With Donaldson aboard, we expect Johan Camargo to shift into a super utility role. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Braves plan for Johan Camargo “to become their Marwin Gonzalez,” who played nearly every day all over the field for the Astros the last few seasons. Camargo would also be the obvious fallback option should young infielders SS Dansby Swanson or 2B Ozzie Albies get hurt or struggle at the plate. The super-young Albies in particular seems shaky after a Jekyll and Hyde season that saw him put up a .281 batting average with 20 home runs, 55 RBI and 74 RBI in the first half of the year, and just a .226 batting average with four home runs , 17 RBI and 31 runs in the second half. Albies will be entering his age 22 season and might need some additional seasoning in the minor leagues if he slumps badly again in the spring. Camargo hit a quality .272/.349/.457 wih 19 home runs and 76 RBI in 464 at-bats and was a plus defender as well.
Quick Hits: Kenley Jansen underwent a successful heart surgery on Monday to treat his atrial fibrillation. It’s the second time he’s had the procedure. Jansen is expected to need 2-8 weeks to recuperate, so he should be fine for the beginning of spring training. … Braves signed C Brian McCann to a one-year, $2 million contract. He became a free agent late last month after the Astros declined his $15 million club option for 2019. He turns 35 in February and batted just .212/.301/.339 with seven home runs and 23 RBI in 63 games this year. He has a long history of success in Atlanta and could experience a late-career resurgence with the Braves, where he will split time with Tyler Flowers while replacing Kurt Suzuki, who recently signed with the Nationals. … Brewers and C Erik Kratz avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year contract. He’ll get a $300,000 guarantee and up to $1.2 million if he remains on the major league roster throughout the 2019 season. Kratz batted just .236/.280/.355 across 219 plate appearances with Milwaukee in 2018. … Chris Archer underwent surgery Tuesday to repair a bilateral hernia. Archer dealt with groin and abdominal issues off and on during the 2018 regular season and was limited to 148 1/3 total innings between the Rays and Pirates. The recovery time for this procedure is typically six weeks, so the 30-year-old right-hander should be 100 percent leading into the start of spring training in February. He went 6-8 with a 4.31 ERA in 27 starts for the two teams. On the plus side, his 3.59 xFIP indicates he actually pitched better than his middling ERA makes it seem. He makes for a nice bounceback candidate this year in a nice environment for pitchers in Pittsburgh. … The Tigers signed Matt Moore to a one-year, $2.5 million contract. The former elite prospect went 3-8 with a 6.79 ERA in 12 starts and 27 relief appearances for the Rangers in 2018. He just hasn’t been the same guy since undergoing elbow surgery in 2014 and is a case study in warning fantasy owners not to take for granted that an injured pitcher (like Alex Reyes, Brent Honeywell or Michael Kopech for example) will come back from TJ surgery as good as new. … Matt Gelb of The Athletic reports the Phillies have strong interest in reliever Andrew Miller, who posted a 4.24 ERA, 1.38 WHIP and 45/16 K/BB ratio in 34 innings while battling injuries this year. Prior to this year he was one of the most effective relievers in baseball. … The Rangers signed right-hander Jesse Chavez to a two-year contract for approximately $8 million. The 35-year-old went 5-2 with a stellar 2.55 ERA in 62 relief appearances for the Rangers and Cubs this year. … Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Patrick Corbin is visiting with the Phillies on Tuesday. Corbin is the top starting pitcher on the free agent market after going 11-7 with a 3.15 ERA in 33 starts for the Diamondbacks this year. … Marlins signed OF Harold Ramirez to a minor league contract. Ramirez, a former highly-regarded prospect with the Pirates, won the Eastern League batting crown this past season while putting up a .320/.365/.471 batting line with 11 homers and 16 steals over 120 games in Double-A. … Pirates signed OF Lonnie Chisenhall to a one-year, $2.75 million contract. He has been limited to just 111 games over the past two seasons, but he’s quietly put up a .297/.368/.503 batting line in that time and is likely to fill in for Gregory Polanco (shoulder surgery). … Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports reports that the Cardinals have Mike Moustakas “on (their) radar.” He finished with a .251/.315/.459 batting line with 28 home runs and 95 RBI last season for the Royals and Brewers, although he hit just .234/.306/.423 from May 1 on. … The Mets have hired Jim Riggleman as their new bench coach. The Mets sought to provide manager Mickey Callaway with a more experienced bench coach and they certainly have one in Riggleman. The 66-year-old has managed for five different teams and been a bench coach for several other clubs. He served as the Reds interim manager for most of this season after Bryan Price was fired in early May. … Nationals signed RHP Henderson Alvarez to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Alvarez was an All-Star in 2014 when he posted a 2.65 ERA for the Marlins, but he’s made just seven starts in the big leagues since then. … Blue Jays claimed RHP Oliver Drake off waivers from the Rays. The Jays were one of a major league-record five teams that Drake pitched for this past season. … Derek Dietrich has elected free agency. He cleared waivers after being designated for assignment and is now free to sign on with another organization. He will not have trouble finding another major league job after batting .265/.330/.421 with 16 homers, 45 RBI and 72 runs scored for the Marlins this year. … Tommy Joseph signed a one-year, $1 million deal with the LG Twins in the Korea Baseball Organization. … According to Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com, the Dodgers, Twins, and Nationals have all had at least preliminary discussions with free agent second baseman DJ LeMahieu. … Jon Heyman of FanCred Sports hears that the Mets have checked in on “big free agent pitchers,” including left-hander J.A. Happ.