Tampa Bay declined 2011 options on Dan Wheeler at $4 million and Willy Aybar at $2.25 million, but Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times reports that the Rays may try to re-sign both players to lesser salaries.
Aybar batted just .230/.309/.344 in 309 plate appearances while playing mostly designated hitter, so giving him a $275,000 buyout is a no-brainer given his weak performance and the abundance of veteran DH-types available this offseason. However, giving Wheeler a $1 million buyout instead of a $4 million option is somewhat surprising.
He had a 3.35 ERA and 46/16 K/BB ratio in 48 innings this season after posting a 3.28 ERA in 2009 and a 3.12 ERA in 2008. Tampa Bay’s bullpen was very deep this year, but the Rays may lose Rafael Soriano and Joaquin Benoit to free agency and whether you view Wheeler as a fallback plan or simply a viable setup man $4 million was a reasonable price.
Orioles third baseman Manny Machado will become a free agent after the 2018 season and there hasn’t been much in the way of progress on a contract extension between the two sides. It seems as if Machado will test the open market next offseason.
The Phillies, currently with relatively minuscule obligations for the 2018 season and beyond, are expected to be big players for Machado, as well as other potential free agents like Bryce Harper. In fact, the Phillies may not even want to wait until next offseason, as Roch Kubatko of MASN reports that the club has expressed interest in Machado to the Orioles. In return, the O’s have been doing their homework on the Phillies’ minor league system.
Kubatko notes that the Orioles like, in particular, Phillies prospects Sixto Sanchez and Scott Kingery. The Phillies may be hesitant to part with either considering they can get Machado for a lot of cash but no prospects next winter. MLB Pipeline rates Sanchez as the Phillies’ best pitching prospect and the second-best prospect overall in the system. Kingery is third overall and the top infielder. While the Phillies’ system is among the best in baseball, its notable weakness is pitching, so parting with Sanchez — who throws in the upper 90’s and can hit triple digits — would be a big ask. Kingery is seen as the club’s next second baseman of the future, so much so that the Phillies are shopping Cesar Hernandez at the Winter Meetings.
As usual with rumors during the Winter Meetings, there may be some smoke but no actual fire here. The Orioles are likely to get continued interest in Machado from many teams between now and the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. They are simply doing their due diligence by seeing what the Phillies and others have to offer for Machado.