Ace closers Melancon, Chapman also emerge as trade chips
By Chad Thornburg
The MLB rumor mill continues to churn as potential transactions dominate the headlines. The free-agent and trade markets are heating up with the General Managers Meetings set to wrap up Thursday in Boca Raton, Fla.
Here's a look at some of the top Hot Stove stories from around the big leagues:
Atlanta's Simmons headed West?
Late Wednesday evening, reports surfaced that the Braves were in trade negotiations with a National League West team for a deal involving shortstop Andrelton Simmons, according to ESPN.com. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the mystery trade partner was not the Giants, leaving the Rockies, Padres, Dodgers and D-backs as the remaining candidates.
MLB.com's Mark Bowman spoke with sources who said that the Braves are listening to teams that inquire about Simmons, but a deal did no appear imminent.
Simmons, 26, hit .265 with 44 RBIs last season and is widely regarded as one of the best defensive shortstops in the Majors (he collected Wilson's 2015 Defensive Player of the Year honors). A second-round pick in the 2010 Draft, Simmons will be entering his fifth season in the Majors.
A potential Simmons trade wasn't the only rumor surrounding Atlanta on Wednesday. The club also reportedly re-signed catcher A.J. Pierzynski for the 2016 season.
Multiple Major League sources confirmed that Pierzynski agreed to a one-year deal, pending a physical exam. The 18-year veteran batted .300 with nine homers last season, serving as the Braves' starting backstop for 104 games.
Melancon reportedly on the block
Pirates closer Mark Melancon's name has been a frequent subject of rumors this offseason, and CBSSports.com reported Tuesday that Pittsburgh has made the right-hander available for trade.
Melancon, 30, was one of the best closers in the Majors last season, recording 51 saves and winning the Trevor Hoffman NL Reliever of the Year Award. He's scheduled to become a free agent at the end of next season and is projected to earn $10 million in 2016 through the arbitration process.
"We wouldn't be doing our jobs if we didn't explore what might be out there," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said.
If Melancon does head elsewhere, the Pirates could slot left-hander Tony Watson into the ninth inning. Watson's 1.61 ERA since the 2013 All-Star break is the lowest mark in the Majors in that span.
Boston interested in Reds' Chapman? Aroldis Chapman could be on Boston's radar this winter as the Reds appear willing to entertain offers for the left-handed closer.
"We'll listen to anybody," said Reds president of baseball operations Walt Jocketty. "We're willing to listen, and I think we have to in our situation. We're not going to trade guys just for the purpose of trading them. We have to make sure we get the right value to build this team into a contending club for the next couple years."
Boston's deep pool of prospects and depth at multiple positions could provide a perfect trade partner for the Reds, if they're looking to move Chapman. The Red Sox head into the winter needing to upgrade their pitching staff after consecutive last-place finishes.
Chapman, 27, posted a 1.63 ERA and struck out 116 batters in 66 1/3 innings last season, regularly lighting up the radar gun. The lefty would likely net Cincinnati a significant trade haul.
Cubs headed into an active offseason
The Chicago Cubs, fresh off their first postseason appearance since 2008, could be significant players this winter. Club executives have been actively discussing potential trades and free-agent deals this week.
"Certain agents are looking to move it along pretty quickly, and teams seem more prepared on the trade front at this point in the offseason than in other years," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said.
Chicago is expected to meet with marquee free-agent starters David Price, Zack Greinke and Jordan Zimmermann, and selling free agents on coming to the North Side should be much easier with the Cubs coming off a 97-win season and a trip to the NL Championship Series.
Mariners talk Gardner trade with Yankees
Like most clubs, the Mariners have been working the free-agent and trade markets this week, and they've reportedly discussed a deal for Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner, according to the New York Post.
Gardner, a first-time All-Star selection this year, batted .259 with 20 stolen bases and 16 homers in 151 games.
The talks are in the early stages, according to the report, but the Yankees would likely seek young pitching talent in return. Mariners lefty James Paxton, 27, is a possibility; he's 12-8 with a 3.16 ERA in 30 career big league starts.
Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.