Annoyingly, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi have been doing a blog that’s not a blog for FOXSports. Rosenthal is the best in the biz at putting legitimate rumors out there, but FOX has made it more and more difficult to access his latest tidbits, with too much content that doesn’t carry over to RSS and nothing being carried over to twitter. FOX just wants people checking the website at random intervals, apparently.
Also, in many cases, there’s no way to tell what is written by Rosenthal and what comes from Morosi, who simply doesn’t have Rosenthal’s track record in this game. That’s not a knock on Morosi, but it’s a ridiculous call from FOX and it’s incredible that Rosenthal puts up with it.
OK, enough complaining. Let’s check out the latest to see what Rosenthal, or perhaps Morosi, has for us:
*The Mariners have discussed Edwin Jackson with the Tigers and also like center fielder Curtis Granderson, though talks “are not all that serious,” according to FOXSports.com’s source.
The Tigers have way too much money tied up in horrible contracts and may choose to move Jackson, who is due $5 million-$6 million in arbitration and is two years away from free agency. Granderson is less likely to go, particularly to the Mariners, who already have an excellent center fielder in Franklin Gutierrez.
The report mentions right-handers Brandon Morrow and Shawn Kelley as possibilities for the Tigers in a Jackson trade. Detroit would insist on more than those two, though. Morrow still hasn’t made it as a closer or a starter, and Kelley is probably a setup man at best.
The Tigers are in need of a closer and could well target David Aardsma instead. Aardsma likely has more trade value than Morrow and Kelley combined, and the Mariners have the potential to cobble together a pretty good bullpen without him, particularly with top prospect Phillip Aumont on the way. Aumont is another pitcher the Tigers are surely asking about in return for Jackson, though he’d be hard to pry away.
Aardsma and a second-tier prospect for Jackson may well make sense for both teams. The Tigers would get a closer who is under control for three more years and save some money in the process. The Mariners would win from a talent standpoint.
*Agent Bean Stringfellow said the Red Sox, Braves, Nationals, Astros and Orioles are five of the eight clubs currently showing interest in free agent Billy Wagner.
That’s awfully straight-forward talk from Stringfellow, but of the five teams mentioned, only the Astros come as much of a surprise. It seems unlikely that they’ll come up with the cash to bring Wagner back to Houston. Atlanta, Washington and Baltimore all have to be rather appealing to Wagner from a location standpoint. The Virginia native likely would prefer to remain on the East Coast, and he’ll have the opportunity to do so.
There’s been talk of Wagner potentially accepting arbitration and staying with the Red Sox, but it’s highly unlikely that he’ll go that route. He’ll get a fair amount of cash and a guaranteed deal as a free agent. If he accepted arbitration, perhaps he could get a higher salary on a one-year deal, but it wouldn’t be in the form of a guaranteed contract. If he struggles or gets hurt during spring training, the Red Sox could cut him and owe him just one-sixth or one-quarter (depending on the timing) of his salary. The Red Sox are also perhaps the only interested team that wouldn’t use him as a closer.
*The Nationals are “drawing strong trade interest” in 30-year-old outfielder Josh Willingham.
The Nats buried Willingham at the beginning of last season, giving him just 35 at-bats in April, but as Lastings Milledge, Austin Kearns and Elijah Dukes all faltered, he stepped up and went on to hit .260/.367/.496 with 23 homers in 427 at-bats. That’s not out of line with his career 840 OPS. The problem is that he’s a big liability in the outfield, and he has a history of back problems.
Washington’s current plan is to go with an outfield of Willingham, Nyjer Morgan and Dukes next year, with Adam Dunn at first base. The team has been trying to upgrade its defense, though, and Willingham’s departure could help in that regard.
Willingham is due about $5 million next season and is under control for two more years, so he’s an attractive piece. The Nationals won’t give him away like the Marlins did last year, but they should consider moving him if it’d bring in a legitimate young starting pitcher.
In light of the Astros’ deal for veteran designated hitter Carlos Beltran on Saturday, the Yankees are thought to be intensifying their pursuit of free agent Edwin Encarnacion, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. The Yankees never made an official offer to Beltran, but remain in need of a DH/first baseman to give them a little more power outside of a Tyler Austin–Greg Bird combo in 2017.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, are reportedly withdrawing their interest when it comes to the Encarnacion sweepstakes. According to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, they will look for a hitter to beef up their lineup without taking a “big plunge” on the 34-year-old.
Encarnacion enjoyed another All-Star run with the Blue Jays in 2016, hitting at a .263/.357/.529 clip with 42 homers and a league-leading 127 RBI in 702 PA. He’s expected to command a significant contract in free agency, and agent Paul Kinzer said that a potential deal is unlikely to be finalized before the Winter Meetings as Encarnacion is not close to agreeing to any offer. Interested teams include the Blue Jays and the Astros, though Beltran’s signing appears to have effectively taken Houston out of the running for the slugger.
The Nationals are trying to go big this offseason, and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal notes that they are still in trade talks for White Sox’ left-hander Chris Sale and Pirates’ center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Both players figure to command a big return, as Sale delivered another Cy Young-worthy performance in 2016 and, despite a downturn in his production rate, McCutchen is still one of the more coveted sluggers in the National League.
In 2016, Sale led the league in complete games, with six, and turned in a 3.34 ERA and 5.2 fWAR in 226 2/3 innings. While teams have been sniffing around the White Sox’ ace since the trade deadline, the club is expected to maintain a high asking price — so high, said FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, that it may keep the left-hander in Chicago for the foreseeable future.
According to Heyman, four other teams are reportedly in the mix for Sale, including the Red Sox, Astros, Rangers, and Braves, though parts of Rosenthal’s tweet hinted that the Red Sox were maintaining their interest in hopes of striking a more affordable deal. Should the Nationals pursue a deal for Sale, it’s likely that they’d have to move shortstop/center fielder Trea Turner, which they appear reluctant to do.
McCutchen, meanwhile, is also drawing interest around the league after batting .256/.336/.430 with 24 home runs in 675 PA during 2016. He didn’t appear to lose much power in his eighth season with the Pirates, but took considerably fewer walks and struck out at a career-high clip.
The Nationals were said to be in the lead for McCutchen on Thursday, and there was some expectation that the club would wrap up a trade for the center fielder by the non-tender deadline on Friday. FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi pointed out that the Rangers were also talking to the Pirates, however, and no deal has come to fruition as of yet.