MLB Buzz: Talks continue over Ohtani's status

MLB Buzz: Talks continue over Ohtani's status

The Hot Stove is open for business. As the top free agents begin to ink new deals and clubs begin to make the moves they think will vault them into contention or put them over the top, MLB.com will have you covered with all the latest buzz right here.

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Decision on Ohtani's status could come soon
We could find out soon if Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani plays in Major League Baseball next year.

MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball have agreed in principle on new terms of the posting system that would allow Japanese players to move to MLB. However, under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the MLB Players Association must approve all rules pertaining to the transfer of players from foreign leagues to MLB, and the union has thus far not approved the new posting system. (The previous posting agreement expired on Oct. 31.)

The MLBPA has set a deadline of 8 p.m. ET Monday for the union to approve any new transfer agreement governing the movement of players from Japan to MLB, one source told MLB.com. If there is sufficient progress in talks, the source said the MLBPA is prepared to extend the window.

Conversely, if talks stall and the parties can't agree on a new posting system, Ohtani, 23, could remain in Japan for the 2018 season -- a disappointment for North American fans eager to see the two-way Japanese star.

As first reported by MLB Network Insider Ken Rosenthal and subsequently confirmed by MLB.com with multiple sources, the MLBPA would like MLB and NPB officials to change certain aspects of the agreement, including a shorter window for players to be posted that would less disruptive to the pace of the domestic free-agent market, as well as a rule that would prevent NPB teams from keeping a player if they were unsatisfied with the size of the MLB contract (and, in turn, the amount of "commission" it would receive in the transfer).

Under the previous posting agreement, which expired at the end of the 2017 season, NPB teams could receive a maximum posting fee of $20 million. That aspect of the transfer rules would continue through the current offseason under the new tentative agreement between MLB and NPB, with compensation to Japanese clubs shifting to a percentage of MLB contract value following the '18 season.

O's open to discussing 'pen pieces
Due to roster shortages and contract dilemmas, ESPN's Buster Olney is reporting that the Orioles are willing to listen to offers for their more expensive relievers.

Those pieces reportedly include elite closer Zach Britton and likely Darren O'Day and Brad Brach.

Due to the timing of Baltimore's need to move pieces of its bullpen, it's unlikely that the club can expect as much in return as it would like.

The Orioles were in talks with teams during last season's non-waiver Trade Deadline about Britton. One of the teams most interested during that time was the Dodgers, who have reportedly reached out again.

Britton made $11.4 million last season and is due for a raise in his third year of arbitration before becoming a free agent at the end of 2018.

The Royals were in a similar situation with reliever Wade Davis last winter. He was set to make $10 million in 2017 before hitting free agency. The club ultimately traded him to the Cubs for outfielder Jorge Soler The decision didn't pay off for the Royals. It's a gamble the Orioles may find themselves in if they choose to trade Britton soon. Yet if the offers aren't what they want, the club could keep him until the start of the 2018 season or swap him during the season.

Cardinals make offer for Stanton
The Cardinals have submitted a formal trade offer to the Marlins for 2017 National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton, a source told MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi on Sunday.

The Cardinals have plenty of young talent to offer, including many outfielders to replace Stanton. St. Louis has a glut of outfielders with Dexter Fowler, Tommy Pham, Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk, plus organizational top 10 prospects Tyler O'Neill (No. 4), Harrison Bader (No. 5), Magneuris Sierra (No. 6) and Jose Adolis Garcia ready to contribute.

The Cards have several Major League-ready pitchers to offer, as well, with top prospect Alex Reyes coming off Tommy John surgery and Jack Flaherty (No. 3) and Luke Weaver also rotation options.

Several teams have inquired about what the Marlins would want for their slugger, who still has 10 years and $295 million remaining on his contract with an opt-out after the 2020 season. MLB Network Insider Ken Rosenthal reported Friday that the Giants have also extended an offer.

Additionally, Rosenthal reported that the Red Sox have either submitted or will submit their first trade proposal imminently.

"I know what I want to do. I need to know what you can do," Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said of the interest in Stanton at this week's General Managers Meetings in Orlando, Fla. "Until I know where you're at on the contract, the money, all that stuff, I can't engage."

Rosenthal notes that clubs' initial offers will not necessarily guarantee serious interest in making a deal, as teams may simply be trying to gauge what the Marlins hope to receive for Stanton, who led all of baseball with 59 home runs this year. Several factors make any potential swap tricky; besides the enormous price tag, Stanton's contract also includes a full no-trade clause.

The Giants are willing to absorb "a sizeable amount" of the money owed to Stanton, per Rosenthal, though such a move would put San Francisco in danger of exceeding the luxury tax limit. This could lead to San Francisco sending a high-priced player or two back to Miami in a Stanton trade. Pitcher Johnny Cueto, who is still owed $89 million, would be a likely candidate given the absence of a no-trade clause in his contract. More >

Stanton wins 2017 NL MVP

Santana continues to draw interest from Red Sox, Phillies
The Red Sox and Phillies remain interested in free-agent first baseman/designated hitter Carlos Santana, according to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi. The two clubs were first reported to have interest in the 31-year-old slugger last week.

Santana slashed .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs for the Indians in 2017. He also won the first defensive honor of his career, being named the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year at first base.

The Red Sox are looking to fill a void at first base with Mitch Moreland also on the free-agent market. The Red Sox are hopeful Hanley Ramirez can play first after undergoing left shoulder surgery, but Boston could also have Ramirez DH.

The Phillies, meanwhile, currently have Rhys Hoskins at first. Hoskins hit 18 homers in 50 games as a rookie last season. A first-base acquisition such as Santana would necessitate a move of Hoskins to left field.

Yanks move to top of Ohtani sweepstakes
The Yankees may be emerging as the favorites to land Shohei Ohtani, if the two-way Japanese phenom does indeed come to the Major Leagues this offseason as he hopes. According to a report from MLB Network Insider Jon Heyman on Friday, "many Yankee competitors are now viewing them as the supreme favorite" to sign Ohtani.

The Yankees' popularity worldwide could bring a player like Ohtani more global exposure. In addition, playing in the American League could give Ohtani an opportunity to both bat and pitch, thanks to the designated hitter.

A National League executive told Heyman that "The Yankees are the favorite, there's no other way to look at it."

MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball still need to work out an agreement on the posting system for Ohtani in conjunction with the MLB Players Association, but Commissioner Rob Manfred has expressed optimism that an agreement would be reached. If that ends up being the case, New York could be the frontrunners in the Ohtani sweepstakes -- which could also include teams like the Dodgers, Mariners and Rangers.

Manfred on deal with NPB

The Yankees and Dodgers play in MLB's biggest markets, but the Mariners and Rangers have also landed Japanese stars -- most notably Ichiro with the Mariners and Yu Darvish with the Rangers.

Still, New York and Los Angeles might hold an advantage for Japanese players, according to Heyman's report, due to the teams' reputation and their history of successful signings, including Masahiro Tanaka and Hideki Matsui for the Yankees and Kenta Maeda and Hideo Nomo for the Dodgers.

Cubs and Yankees finalists for Cobb?
Though several teams have been linked to free agent Alex Cobb so far this offseason, the market for the right-hander could come down to the Cubs and Yankees, according to GammonsDaily.com, which cites "industry consensus" that those two clubs would be finalists for Cobb's services.

Cobb, 30, went 12-10 with a 3.66 ERA for the Rays in 2017, and in six seasons with Tampa Bay, posted a 3.50 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. The Cubs and Cobb had previously been reported to have mutual interest, with Cobb having played for Cubs manager Joe Maddon when Maddon managed the Rays.

But the Yankees' interest in Cobb is a bit surprising given that starting pitching isn't really a need for New York, and signing Cobb could put the franchise over the luxury tax threshold.

Other teams that have been linked to Cobb include the Blue Jays, Orioles and Phillies.

Chatwood drawing widespread interest
Tyler Chatwood has posted sneaky good numbers the last few years for the Rockies and it appears he is about to be rewarded for it.

Now a free agent at age 27, the right-hander is drawing widespread interest from teams and is predicted to receive a multi-year deal, MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reports.

While Chatwood's 4.69 ERA and league-leading 15 losses in 2017 look less than stellar on the surface, the ground-ball specialist actually comes out as above average when accounting for Coors Field and the league-wide uptick in offense.

Chatwood's ERA-, which accounts for such factors, stands at 94, the same mark as Jhoulys Chacin, who finished the season with a 3.89 ERA pitching half his games at Petco Park.

The numbers look even better when isolating what Chatwood has done away from Coors Field in the last couple years. Since the beginning of the 2016 season, Chatwood's 2.57 road ERA ranks second in the NL in ERA, behind only Clayton Kershaw and ahead of Max Scherzer, the 2016 and '17 NL Cy Young winner.

Orioles interested in Cobb, Lynn
Seeking to fill a desperately depleted rotation, the Orioles are showing interest in right-handers Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn, according to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi. Both are considered among the best tier of pitchers behind Yu Darvish and former Oriole Jake Arrieta, who each may be out of the Orioles' price range.

Both Cobb and Lynn rejected qualifying offers, meaning they will have Draft-pick compensation attached.

Cobb went 12-10 with a 3.66 ERA in 29 starts for the Rays in 2017. Overall, in six seasons with the Rays (he missed the entire 2015 campaign due to Tommy John surgery), he posted a 3.50 ERA and 1.22 WHIP.

Cobb, 30, had spent his entire six-year MLB career with the Rays. He declined Tampa Bay's $17.4 million qualifying offer. The O's have seen plenty of Cobb over the years, and he's pitched well against them, with a 2.70 ERA in 12 career starts against Baltimore.

Lynn, 30, went 11-8 with a 3.43 ERA in his first season back from Tommy John, compiling a healthy 186 1/3 innings to prove he still is capable of the longevity he showed before surgery.

Orioles starters had an MLB-worst 5.70 ERA in 2017, and Baltimore's focus in the early part of the Hot Stove season appears to be on improving in that department. Add that four members of their rotation last year -- Jeremy Hellickson, Chris Tillman, Wade Miley and Ubaldo Jimenez -- are free agents proves a clear void for Baltimore.

Yankees pursuing Profar?
There doesn't seem to be an obvious place for Jurickson Profar given the Yankees' current roster alignment and the prospects to come on the horizon. But New York has nonetheless expressed interest in acquiring the former top prospect from the Rangers, according to MLB Network insider Joel Sherman. And the interest makes sense when you look below the surface a bit.

Once the top prospect in the game, Profar is still just 24 years old. He's disappointed at the big league level due to injuries and poor production, but he also has the ability to play anywhere on the field. The Yankees may be set in the infield and most spots in the outfield, whether it's with incumbents like Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro, or prospects Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres. But few players match the potential versatility Profar can bring: basically, an ability to back up at any position.

Profar's diving catch in left

The Rangers are interested in the Yankees' abundance of young pitching, according to Sherman. That group includes Luis Cessa, Bryan Mitchell, Caleb Smith, Chasen Shreve, Jonathan Holder and others who have made limited impact at the Major League level. The Rangers consider starting pitching a priority this offseason.

And this might be the time for Texas to part ways with Profar if it feels he'll bring back a significant return. Profar is out of options, meaning he needs to make the 25-man roster next season or be exposed to waivers. If exposed, it stands to reason plenty of teams would take a shot at a player who was considered the best prospect in the sport as recently as four years ago.

But shoulder injuries derailed his development early, forcing Profar to miss the entire 2014 and '15 seasons. When he returned, Profar's production flatlined at the big league level (.660 OPS in 307 plate appearances) as a 23-year-old in '16. He managed just 70 plate appearances with Texas in '17, hitting .172 with no home runs.

Profar played mostly shortstop at Triple-A Round Rock last season, though he has experience at second base, third, first and the outfield. He played center field for the Netherlands in last spring's World Baseball Classic.

Red Sox prioritizing free agents over Stanton
Although the Red Sox are expected to make a big splash during free agency this offseason, and trade talk surrounding Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton continues to be one of the biggest Hot Stove storylines, Boston currently appears to be focusing more on baseball's marquee free agents than the National League MVP Award winner.

That includes right fielder J.D. Martinez and first basemen Eric Hosmer and Carlos Santana. Heyman reported on Friday that signing one of those three is a more realistic move for the Red Sox.

Is Hosmer a fit for Boston?

Trading for Stanton would mean taking on another $200 million-plus contract. The Red Sox already have left-hander David Price inked to a seven-year, $217 million deal that lasts through the 2022 season.

Stanton's contract is for 13 years and $325 million, running through 2027, and entering '18, he will have 10 years and $295 million remaining on his deal. The 28-year-old, who mashed 59 home runs last season, also has full no-trade protection and can opt out following the '20 season.

D-backs open to bringing back Rodney
The D-backs are reportedly open to re-signing reliever Fernando Rodney, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman.

Arizona is looking to shore up its bullpen this winter, and bringing back Rodney can help in that pursuit. The D-backs signed him to a one-year deal last winter to become their closer, and if re-signed, he could fill that role again in 2018.

The 40-year-old veteran posted a 4.23 ERA and converted 39 of 45 save opportunities in 2017. Rodney is a three-time All-Star (2012, '14 and '16) and ranks 26th on MLB's all-time saves list, tied with Bruce Sutter and Jason Isringhausen with 300.

Rays show interest in Joey Bats
The Rays have faced Jose Bautista as a division rival for the last decade, but now they're interested in bringing him in as a free agent, according to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi.

The former Blue Jay hit a career-low .203 last season with a career-high 24.8 percent strike-out rate, but he did launch 23 home runs. He recently said he'd be willing to play any outfield or infield corner position and designated hitter instead of just his customary right field.

The Rays have open spots at first base and designated hitter, although left fielder Corey Dickerson could easily slide back to DH.

Morosi did note that the two parties have not had an extensive dialogue yet, but the teams did have discussions last winter when Bautista was a free agent before returning to Toronto.

Bautista's two-run smash

Walker reunion in Pittsburgh?
With some uncertainty in their infield, the Pirates are looking into a reunion with hometown hero Neil Walker, a source tells Morosi.

The Pirates are uncertain if third baseman Jung Ho Kang will be able to re-enter the country after his off-field troubles, so the team is considering other options.

A native of Pittsburgh, Walker was a first-round pick of the Pirates in 2004 and spent the first seven years of his career in black and yellow. Primarily playing second base, Walker slashed .272/.338/.431 with 93 home runs and 26 steals in 836 games.

Without Kang, the Pirates have Rookie of the Year runner-up Josh Bell entrenched at first base with Jordy Mercer penciled in at shortstop. Beyond that, Josh Harrison will man either second or third base. Pittsburgh's other internal options include David Freese, Sean Rodriguez and Adam Frazier.

Rays, Cardinals discussing Colome deal 
The Cardinals, who are known to be in the market for bullpen help, are in talks with the Rays regarding a possible trade for closer Alex Colome, sources told MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi.

St. Louis is looking for a closer, with Trevor Rosenthal out through the 2018 season following Tommy John surgery and with Juan Nicasio and Seung Hwan Oh departing the club in free agency.

Colome tallies his 47th save

Colome, 28, led the Major Leagues with 47 saves last season while recording a 3.24 ERA in 66 2/3 innings. He was also an American League All-Star in 2016, when he locked down 37 saves and struck out 71 batters in 56 2/3 frames while pitching to a 1.91 ERA.

Colome is a particularly attractive target for the Cardinals considering he has three years left of arbitration eligibility.

Angels exploring infield options
The Angels are looking for infield help, and they're showing interest in Zack Cozart and Neil Walker, according to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick. Meanwhile, free-agent third baseman Mike Moustakas has the team atop his wish list. Anthony Fenech of The Detroit Free Press is reporting that the Angels have had "extensive internal discussions" about trading for Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler.

As currently constructed, the Angels are slated to start Luis Valbuena at third base and Kaleb Cowart at second, although they could use an upgrade as they ranked 21st and 28th in WAR at those positions, respectively.

Los Angeles' interest in Cozart would be contingent upon him being willing to move off shortstop as it already has Gold Glover Andrelton Simmons entrenched there. Cozart has never played an inning away from shortstop in his seven-year career, but he did slash a career-best .297/.385/.548 with a career-high 24 home runs and seven triples in 2017.

Walker could play second or third but has largely stuck to second base in his career. He slashed .265/.362/.439 with 14 home runs for the Mets and Brewers last season -- similar numbers to another veteran infielder the Angels expressed interest in: Kinsler.

Moustakas, who was born in Los Angeles and went to high school in Chatsworth, would likely be the most expensive of the infielders rumored to be tied to the Angels. He set a Royals record with 38 home runs, finishing tied for fifth in the league in that category.

Astros in mix for Lucroy
The Astros are "among teams" taking a look at catcher Jonathan Lucroy, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman.

Heyman noted that Lucroy's home is not far from Houston, making the defending World Series champions a potential fit for the backstop, but there are also other clubs interested in acquiring the services of the 31 year old,.

If the Astros were to bring on Lucroy, it could push incumbents Brian McCann and Evan Gattis into a timeshare at designated hitter while also likely seeing some time at catcher.

Lucroy spent his first six seasons with the Brewers before being dealt at the non-waiver Trade Deadline each of the past two years. In 123 games last season with the Rangers and Rockies, the two-time All-Star batted .265 with six home runs, 40 RBIs and a .716 OPS. This was well below the .292 average, 24 homers, 81 RBIs and .855 OPS he posted the year before.

Interest in Cain heating up
The Blue Jays and Mets were the first teams to reach out to free agent center fielder Lorenzo Cain, according to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick, but several more could be interested.

Cain is the premier center fielder on the market after posting a .300/.363/.440 slash line with 15 homers and 26 stolen bases for Kansas City last season. He would be an upgrade over Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares in center for the Mets, but could conceivably shift to right field in Toronto with Kevin Pillar up the middle there.

Notable Free Agent: Cain

Several other teams have holes to fill in the outfield, including the Giants, Rangers and Mariners. San Francisco has been perhaps the most active teams in rumors with reported interest in Boston's Jackie Bradley Jr., Cincinnati's Billy Hamilton and Miami's Giancarlo Stanton in trades.

The Rangers will be losing Carlos Gomez in free agency but could start the season with Delino DeShields in center field and one of Joey Gallo, rookie Willie Calhoun or Drew Robinson in left field if they don't make a move. Seattle, meanwhile, is slated to start Guillermo Heredia in center and could use an upgrade.