As MLB and the Players Association trade offers (and public barbs) without finding much middle ground, spring training inches ever closer.
Many big-name free agents have found 2021 homes in recent weeks, but arguably the biggest fish, reigning NL Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer, remained without a team as the calendar turned to February. As pitchers and catchers prepare to report, the right-hander is still unsure where, and to whom, he will report.
Things do seem to be moving toward a conclusion, though. On Thursday, Bauer's agent, Rachel Luba, tweeted "Down to 2," presumably in reference to the serious suitors for her client's services. The Mets are widely believed to be one of those two teams, and while some premature delineation suggested the two sides had a deal, the erroneous reporting was quickly disputed by multiple media members.
The other team remains less certain, though the Dodgers have been viewed as silent lurkers in the Bauer sweepstakes all along. The team lacks an obvious need for the 30-year-old -- they've already got six above-average starters for what's assumed to be five spots -- but for an organization with deep pockets and a desire to defend its World Series title a player like Bauer certainly doesn't hurt their chances of repeating.
Where he ends up will be just as interesting as what kind of deal he secures. Prior to becoming a free agent, Bauer had extolled the virtues of signing one-year deals to be allowed to move freely to contending teams every offseason, but recent reports make it sound as though he's backed off that stance. SNY's Andy Martino has reported the Mets' initial offer to Bauer that was made in January was for four years with an average annual value north of $30 million.
Runners-up for Bauer, or teams not interested in swimming in the deep end of the free agent pool, might pivot to the remaining serviceable starters like Jake Odorizzi, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker, among others. The Cardinals and Phillies were reported to be shopping in such a section, according to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, and teams with an eye on a deep postseason run like the Blue Jays may not be done adding, either.
With camps right around the corner -- barring an agreement between MLB and the MLBPA that pushes the start of the season back, as MLB has been proposing -- many of these free agents are likely to land gigs in the coming weeks. As they do, checking the Rotoworld Player News page will be a vital part of fantasy players' daily regimen as draft season descends upon us.
Movement has been taking place in the reliever market as well, and some recent deals could signal a changing of the guard at the closer position for a few teams.
The most noteworthy deal struck in the past 48 hours was Alex Colome coming to terms with the Twins on a one-year deal with a mutual option for a second year. The contract will pay him $5 million in 2021 with a $5.5 million option (or $1.25 million buyout) for 2022.
Colome enters a closer picture that was already somewhat cloudy in Minnesota. Taylor Rogers saved 30 games during a terrific 2019 season and notched another nine saves last year, but he fell out of favor near the end of the 2020 regular season and wasn't being drafted as a locked-in closer by early drafters this spring. The presence of Tyler Duffey, who has been stellar since the start of the 2019 season, further clouded Rogers' outlook, and the addition of Colome throws the roles of all three into question.
The Athletic's Dan Hayes, who reported the terms of the Colome deal, expressed his belief that both Colome and Rogers earn save chances, with Duffey and offseason addition Hansel Robles also getting opportunities over the course of the season. That sounds like a mess for fantasy players to try to navigate, and though Colome is the one on which to speculate -- the 32-year-old has 138 career saves and was nearly spotless closing games for the White Sox last season -- none of the quartet should garner a super-high draft cost.
Elsewhere, the Reds also further muddied their already-murky bullpen waters with the addition of free-agent reliever Sean Doolittle. The affable left-hander signed for $1.5 million with the possibility to earn more by reaching certain incentives.
The team raised eyebrows in the early days of the offseason by first trading Proven Closer Raisel Iglesias to the Angels and then non-tendering the assumed heir apparent, Archie Bradley, a few days later. That left righty Lucas Sims and southpaw Amir Garrett -- both very good in their own right -- as the likely candidates to earn the job, but even then, the emergence of hybrid starter/reliever Tejay Antone last season left open the possibility that neither Sims nor Garrett might grab hold of the role.
Doolittle adds to the confusion, given his history as a closer and the fact that both he and Garrett are lefties who can also retire right-handed hitters. This battle will be one to watch in spring, but those drafting before teams break camp will be left betting on skills or, even worse, trying to read the tea leaves.
A less-confusing situation exists in Arizona, where the Diamondbacks sure seem to have signed their 2021 closer when they agreed to terms with Joakim Soria. The 36-year-old, who spent the past two seasons with the Athletics, will get $3.5 million guaranteed from the Snakes.
Soria quietly posted a 2.28 ERA with a nice 2.97 FIP (and a decidedly less-nice 5.15 xFIP) for the A's in 2020, and the Diamondbacks were on the hunt for a replacement at the closer position after trading away the aforementioned Bradley during last season. Stefan Crichton ended up saving five games for the club and appeared to be the odds-on favorite to hold the job in 2021 before Soria's signing, but Soria -- who has 223 career saves -- is getting capital-c Closer money (for a team like the Diamondbacks, at least) and seems like the favorite to have the job when the season opens. Draft accordingly.
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Brewers add Wong to crowded infield
The Brewers, who'd been quiet all offseason, couldn't pass up the opportunity to sign a Gold Glove-winning second baseman on Wednesday.
The only problem? The position was already manned by one of the organization's brightest young stars.
As it turns out, signing Kolten Wong to a two-year, $18 million deal doesn't spell trouble for Keston Hiura -- it just means he'll have to get a different glove. The deal with Wong, who was non-tendered by the Cardinals earlier in the offseason, will push Hiura to first base, replacing a defensive weak spot with a strength and bolstering their lineup at the same time.
Wong hit .265/.350/.326 with a homer and five steals in 53 games last season while winning his second consecutive Gold Glove at the keystone, but he was surprisingly not offered a contract by the Cardinals at the outset of the offseason. Given his defensive acumen, the 30-year-old should start everyday for the Brewers.
He could also hit in a coveted spot in the lineup if manager Craig Counsell sees fit. Since the start of the 2017 season, Wong owns a .273/.356/.398 line, good for a .326 wOBA and 103 wRC+. The Brewers have other options to hit atop their order -- the return of Lorenzo Cain is a boon for the Crew, and young Luis Urias could also hit his way to the top of the order if healthy -- but Wong might make sense to bat leadoff with Cain, Christian Yelich and Hiura to follow, oscillating between left- and right-handed hitters to present a challenge for opposing pitchers and managers.
As has been the theme with this column, Wong's usage will be something to watch when the Brewers start playing spring games. With 15/15 upside, if he's hitting atop the lineup he'll be an intriguing MI option in deeper mixed leagues.
Quick Hits: The Angels announced Tuesday that they have suspended pitching coach Mickey Callaway. "Late yesterday we were made aware of allegations reported in The Athletic," a statement from the team reads. "This morning we suspended Mickey Callaway and will work closely with MLB to conduct a full investigation." The suspension stems from a report from Britt Ghiroli and Katie Strang of The Athletic which detailed Callaway's conduct in sending lewd messages to five women who work in sports media over the course of "five years, multiple cities, and three teams." There were even screenshots of the messages in the report, but that apparently wasn't enough for the Angels to fire him. Still, it would be a surprise if that wasn't the ultimate outcome here. For what it's worth, Alden Gonzalez of ESPN reports that Callaway has denied any wrongdoing, "which protects him from being fired without an investigation." Odds are the process has something to do with whether he'll get his salary. Look for a quick resolution here ... ESPN's Jeff Passan reports that the Twins have re-signed veteran slugger Nelson Cruz. Dan Hayes of The Athletic says it is a one-year, $13 million contract. Cruz will turn 41 years old this July and is strictly a DH option at this point in his career, but he was a monster for the reigning AL Central champions in 2019-2020, posting a combined .308/.394/.626 batting line with 57 home runs and 141 RBI in 173 games. They'll try to run it back in 2021 and maybe stage a little deeper postseason push. Minnesota also signed Andrelton Simmons and J.A. Happ in late January, so this has been a strong finish to what had been a quiet winter ... Buster Olney of ESPN reports that the indication from the Rockies is that they are not willing to discuss Trevor Story in any trade proposals. That's their current position, anyway, which general manager Jeff Bridich essentially laid out in a conversation with reporters on Tuesday when discussing the Nolan Arenado trade. The reality, of course, is that the Rockies are unlikely to contend in 2021 and Story is slated for free agency after the season, so they seem likely to either extend him (unlikely) or trade him (likely) before the deadline. Story is slated to make $18.5 million this season ... According to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the Rays are a "surprise entry" in the running for free agent slugger Marcell Ozuna. Ozuna's market may have shrunk a bit with the recent reports indicating that there will be no universal DH in 2021, so perhaps the cost-conscious Rays really could sneak in here. The 30-year-old was said to be looking for a four-year contract as recently as late January after flourishing to the tune of a .338/.431/.636 batting line with 18 home runs and 56 RBI over 60 games with the Braves last season. He might be the next big chip to sign ... the Angels acquired OF Dexter Fowler and cash considerations from the Cardinals for a player to be named later or cash considerations. The Cardinals will send $12.75 million, and with deferrals, the Angels will only have to pay Fowler $1.75 million. The outfielder struggled to a .233/.317/389 line with four homers in 31 games in 2020 with 101 plate appearances. While he posted an .851 OPS in his first year with St. Louis, he's struggled with the bat since, and he's likely nothing more than a stopgap until the Angels decide to bring Jo Adell up to finish out the 2021 campaign ... Robert Murray of FanSided reports the Brewers are still interested in signing free agent third baseman Justin Turner. There seemed to be a thought that the Brewers would be out on Turner after they signed Wong, but that doesn't appear to be the case. Murray does not that the Dodgers are still favorites to land the right-handed hitting infielder, but there's at some some competition. Turner was good in 2020 with a .307/.400/.460 line in 175 plate appearances, and he'd certainly help lengthen the Brewers' -- or any other club's -- lineup ... According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, free agent right-hander Chris Archer has reached an agreement with the Rays. It'll be a one-year, $6.5 million deal, per ESPN's Jeff Passan. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported back in December that the Rays had discussed a possible reunion with Archer, and now the two sides have finally worked out the terms. The right-hander began his MLB career with the organization, so it's a comfortable landing spot for him to attempt to turn things around after he missed all of 2020 following June surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. He also had a rough 5.19 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 23 starts with the Pirates in 2019 ... Mike Puma of the New York Post reports that Jackie Bradley "has been seeking a significant contract, perhaps beyond four years." Most projections have JBJ getting a two-year deal, so four years would be quite the ask. The Mets are one team very much in the mix to sign the center fielder, but Puma notes that it's "hard to pinpoint" where the team is in negotiations with Bradley. The 30-year-old put up a .283/.364/.450 batting line with seven home runs and five stolen bases across 55 games with the Red Sox last season. The Giants and Phillies also have interest in Bradley, while the Red Sox appear likely to move on at this point ... Giants president Farhan Zaidi said Thursday that "it's a possibility but it's not a certainty" that Brandon Belt (heel) will be ready for Opening Day. It's fitting then that the Giants just finalized their three-year, $18.75 million free agent contract with Tommy La Stella, who could fill in at first base if Belt needs more rehab time following October surgery to remove a bone spur in his right heel. Belt was an under-the-radar stud during the condensed 2020 campaign, delivering a stellar .309/.425/.591 batting line in 51 games (179 plate appearances) for San Francisco ... According to MLB.com's Anthony DiComo, the Mets have expressed interest in free agent utilityman Marwin Gonzalez. Gonzalez is reportedly drawing late-offseason attention from several different clubs and should do pretty well for himself in the end despite struggling to a .211/.286/.320 batting line over 53 games (199 plate appearances) with the Twins during the abbreviated 2020 campaign. The versatile 31-year-old would be another nice depth addition in Queens for his ability to play a wide range of positions defensively, some of them quite well ... WEEI's Rob Bradford reports that the Rays, Brewers, and Mets are all showing "significant interest" in free agent starter Rich Hill. Hill, a native of Boston, was also thought to be a target of the Red Sox at one point, but Bradford says they "have seemed to veer off" after acquiring Martin Perez and Garrett Richards. The veteran left-hander put up a strong 3.03 ERA, 1.164 WHIP, and 31/17 K/BB ratio over 38 2/3 innings (eight starts) last year with the Twins. He would be a nice late-offseason addition for a range of different teams ... Orioles signed RHP Felix Hernandez to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Jon Heyman of MLB Network says that King Felix will make $1 million if in the majors. Hernandez inked a minor league deal with the Braves last offseason before ultimately opting out, and he produced an ugly 5.42 ERA in his last three seasons in Seattle. However, he should have no trouble getting a rotation spot in Baltimore given the state of their pitching staff. Slated to turn 35 in April, Hernandez figures to struggle in 2021 in Camden Yards and in the AL East ... Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports that the Blue Jays "have been in contact" with free agent catcher Yadier Molina. The expectation is -- and has been -- that Molina will ultimately return to St. Louis, but Heyman notes that there are "a couple other teams" still in play for the future Hall of Fame catcher as the start of spring training draws closer and closer. Yadi would usually have already arrived at the Cardinals' complex in Jupiter, Florida by now. At last check, the 38-year-old was seeking a two-year contract, and the Cards had only offered him one year. He batted just .262/.303/.359 with four home runs over 42 games during the truncated 2020 season ... FanSided's Robert Murray reports that free agent right-hander Chase Anderson has reached an agreement with the Phillies. It's a one-year contract, per Jon Heyman of MLB Network, and will carry a $4 million guaranteed salary. Anderson became a free agent in late October when the Blue Jays made the easy decision to decline his $9.5 million club option for 2021, paying him a $500,000 buyout instead. The 33-year-old struggled to the tune of a 7.22 ERA over 33 2/3 innings in 2020, but he was an effective major league starter not long ago with the Brewers and he should get a chance to compete for one of the final spots in the Philadelphia rotation ... Phillies signed LHP Matt Moore to a one-year, $3 million contract. Moore rejuvenated his career -- yet again -- last season in Japan, working to an impressive 2.65 ERA, 1.118 WHIP, and 98/26 K/BB ratio over 85 innings with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks of Nippon Professional Baseball. The 31-year-old former top prospect will aim to win a rotation spot in Phillies camp this spring. Philly has not opened a regular season with a left-handed starter since Cole Hamels in 2015 ... Dan Hayes of the Athletic reports that the Twins acquired RHP Shaun Anderson from the Giants in exchange for OF LaMonte Wade Jr. Anderson provides help in the middle innings for the Twins, as the right-hander appeared in 18 games last year with a 3.52 ERA during the truncated 2020 season. Wade Jr., on the other hand, has shown flashes in the minors, but thus far has not handled MLB pitching very well as seen in his career .626 OPS over 95 MLB at-bats.