Hank Blalock is (a) hitting 375/.435/.552 in Triple A; and (b) has the right to opt-out of his deal with the Rays and become a free agent if they don’t do something with him. Yesterday, Scott Boras told Mark Topkin of the St. Pete Times that he’s poised to do just that:
“I would imagine that we’ll probably know something about Hank in the
next seven days. The time has come. The
time has come. He’s playing third base, obviously he’s hitting well,
he’s a young guy. The thought many teams had about players have come to fruition as
we expected in the first five-six weeks. I think a lot of people
understand Hank’s a better choice for them, so we’ll see. Obviously the
first hurdle is that Tampa Bay has to make their decision.”
He’s not wrong. The Rays obviously don’t need a third baseman, but DH Pat Burrell isn’t hitting for squat right now and Carlos Pena is in a terrible slump and Blalock can play first base too. Maybe the Rays think it’s too much of a jolt to team chemistry to call Blalock up to replace either of those guys, but calling him up to sit on the bench doesn’t enhance his trade value either.
The Mariners would probably trade a prospect, their moose, Ken Griffey’s pajamas and Mike Sweeney’s boxing gloves to have Blalock right now. I’m not sure if they match up well with the Rays’ interests, of course, but I’m having a hard time seeing Tampa Bay simply let a valuable asset simply walk right now.
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.