Will the last free agent turn out the ... Christmas lights?
A frenzied free agency period continued Sunday, when the Blue Jays and free agent starter Hyun-Jin Ryu agreed to a reported four-year, $80 million deal, per MLB Network's Jon Heyman. USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported the deal includes no opt-out clause, and Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com hears the agreement comes with a limited no-trade clause.
Ryu scored big on the heels of a huge year with the Dodgers. The southpaw went 14-5 with a 2.32 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in 29 starts in 2019, finishing second behind Jacob deGrom in National League Cy Young Award voting. He'll turn 33 years old in March.
The addition addresses arguably the biggest need for the Jays, who now seem like players in a crowded AL East. The team boasts a number of exciting young position players ready to contribute in 2020, with names like Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. atop the lineup card, but its rotation sorely lacks the star power of divisional foes like the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays.
Even with Ryu at the helm the rotation still falls short of those rival clubs, but recent additions Chase Anderson and Tanner Roark further bolster the group for 2020. The organization has also been tied to rumors swirling around Red Sox starter David Price.
With Ryu and fellow southpaw Dallas Keuchel, who agreed to terms with the White Sox on Saturday (more on that in a minute), the pool of free agent starters is now dangerously shallow. Names like Homer Bailey, Ivan Nova and Alex Wood are at or near the top of the list, and impactful additions will be hard to come by for teams in the market for a difference-maker.
Dallas Buyers Club
Not long ago the Indians appeared to be in the driver's seat in the American League Central for years to come, but recent moves have opened a Texas-sized window for another team to join the fray.
The White Sox are hoping their road leads through Dallas.
The Sox and free agent starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel, one of the top remaining starters on the board, reportedly agreed to a three-year, $55.5 million contract late Saturday. The deal includes a vesting option for a fourth year that could bring the total value of the deal to $74 million.
Keuchel famously didn't sign until June after having a qualifying offer attached to his free agency last winter, and in 19 starts with the Braves he went 8-8 with a 3.75 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. For his career the soon-to-be 32-year-old ha a 3.67 ERA and was the American League Cy Young Award winner in 2015 as a member of the Astros.
The Sox have been one of the busiest teams this winter as they attempt to seize on the opening left by the Indians, whose window is quickly closing in the midst of a retool. Saturday's agreement comes on the heels of the team signing Gio Gonzalez to a one-year, $5 million contract on Friday.
Earlier this winter they added two more key pieces in catcher Yasmani Grandal and outfielder Nomar Mazara. Grandal secured one of the first big free agent contracts handed out this offseason, inking a four-year, $73 million contract in November, while the Sox dealt outfield prospect Steele Walker to the Rangers for Mazara in mid-December.
With the additions of Keuchel and Gonzalez, the Sox rotation is shaping up to be an interesting one in both fantasy and real life. Last year's breakout star Lucas Giolito leads the group, with Keuchel, Dylan Cease, Gonzalez and Reynaldo Lopez expected to round out the rotation. Top prospect Michael Kopech is expected back from Tommy John surgery early in the season and Carlos Rodon, who underwent the same surgery last May, could be back at some point in the first half as well.
Brewers Add Smoak, Jays Sign Shaw
The Brewers and Blue Jays swapped first basemen this weekend -- sort of.
Former Blue Jays first baseman Justin Smoak signed a one-year, $4 million contract with the Brewers on Friday, so Sunday the Jays went out and signed former Brewers third baseman Travis Shaw to an identical one-year, $4 million deal to replace Smoak at first base. Smoak's deal with the Brewers includes a $5.5 million club option for 2021.
With the Brewers, Smoak will man first base and could be part of a platoon that features Ryan Braun at first against left-handed pitchers. A switch hitter, Smoak hit .202/.347/.436 against righties last season as compared to .220/.331/.341 against lefties.
"We think Justin’s overall offensive game is a game that’s going to work well not only in our ballpark, but also complement our team very well," Brewers general manager David Stearns said. "This is a player who has elite zone control; he grinds through at-bats. He’s been able to be a powerful player and keep his strikeout rate at or below league average over the last couple years.
"So, this is a very talented offensive player that we’re excited to add to our lineup."
Shaw's 2019 was a nightmare but the 29-year-old hit 63 home runs between 2017 and 2018 as a member of the Brewers. He'll have a good chance to rebound in a park that, while not Miller Park, is still friendly to hitters.
Tigers Bolster Infield With Cron, Schoop
A pair of former Twins will stay in the AL Central -- and will stay teammates -- in 2020.
The Tigers agreed with second baseman Jonathan Schoop and first baseman C.J. Cron on matching $6.1 million deals within a few minutes on Saturday. Both players are expected to be everyday players for the rebuilding Tigers.
Both players are coming off decently productive 2019 seasons, and both should immediately rank among the more potent hitters in a pedestrian Tigers lineup. In 125 games last year, Cron batted .253/.311/.469 with 25 homers and 78 RBI, and Schoop hit .256/.304/.473 with 23 homers, 59 RBI and 61 runs scored across 121 games at the keystone for the Twins.
“Adding Jonathan and C.J. is a step towards accomplishing our offseason goal of making the ballclub better heading into the 2020 season,” Tigers general manager Al Avila said in a team release. “We’re excited to have them join our organization, and we expect both players will inject significant power to our lineup. Defensively, C.J. will provide stability at first base, while Jonathan will lead the middle of our infield.”
It may be a few years before signings on the margins like this make a difference for the Tigers, but props to them for making their team better in 2020 regardless.
Quick Hits: Free agent third baseman Josh Donaldson has a pair of four-year offers on the table from the Nationals and Twins. The offers are believed to be in the range of $90 million or more over four years. No other team has yet been willing to commit to more than three years for the aging former MVP. The Nationals seem like the best fit for Donaldson, who would slide right into the slot vacated by Anthony Rendon when he left to join the Angels. The Twins would likely open their third base job by moving Miguel Sano to first base. The Dodgers are also still in talks with Donaldson, as are the Braves. Donaldson reportedly prefers to stay in Atlanta all things being equal, and has assured the Braves that they will have a chance to meet or beat any offer he gets from another team. The 34-year-old made $23 million last season on a one-year contract with the Braves, slashing .259/.379/.521 with 37 home runs, 94 RBI and 96 runs scored ... Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that the Astros have agreed to a two-year, $7 million contract with Martin Maldonado. The 33-year-old backstop reportedly turned down more lucrative offers elsewhere to remain in Houston. One of the best in the business behind the plate, Maldonado should once again work wonders with the Astros' pitching staff ... Tigers signed RHP Zack Godley to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Mark Feinsand of MLB.com says that Godley will be paid $1.5 million if in the majors, with another $1.5 million possible in incentives. He will be under team control for 2021 and 2022, as well. It's a sensible gamble for Detroit, as Godley has shown flashes of brilliance in the past before stumbling to a 5.97 ERA in 2019 ... Bruce Levine of WSCR-AM reports that the White Sox have had discussions with Edwin Encarnacion's representation. Levine says that the two sides began having talks at the Winter Meetings and they have continued throughout the month. The White Sox have an opening at designated hitter, so Encarnacion makes sense as a fit on the South Side. He will turn 37 in a few weeks but is coming off another productive season ... MLB Network's Jon Heyman hears the Marlins are working to sign free agent catcher Francisco Cervelli. Jorge Alfaro is locked in as the Marlins' everyday catcher, but Cervelli would be a good backup who can also play first base as needed. The 33-year-old hit .213/.302/.348 in 48 games between the Pirates and Braves this past season. Cervelli had a career-best offensive year in 2018, though, and is a nice low-risk veteran addition for the rebuilding Marlins ... Rangers acquired OF Adolis Garcia from the Cardinals for cash considerations. The 26-year-old was designated for assignment by three Cardinals earlier in the week, so the Rangers scooted in and bought him at a discount. He was a monster at Triple-A Memphis in 2019, slashing 253/.301/.517 with 32 home runs, 96 RBI, 14 stolen bases, and 96 runs scored in 132 games. He'd be an intriguing fantasy commodity if he worked his way into regular big league at-bats ... The Mets have released the specifics of injured outfielder Yoenis Cespedes' renegotiated contract. Cespedes was set to earn $29.5 million in 2020 prior to injuring his ankle in a fall at his ranch. His new contract contains a base salary of $6 million dollars, which is the smallest amount he could earn and represents a huge savings for the Mets if Cespedes is unable to play in the upcoming season. Cespedes will get an additional $5 million if he is on the roster for Opening Day. He also has a large number of incremental playing time bonuses that could earn him an additional $9 million dollars if he reaches 650 plate appearances. There are also bonuses for awards such as MVP, Silver Slugger, Gold Glove etc. that could result in another $4 million. If he gets traded he could get another $2 million. If he hits every milestone (very unlikely) he could max out at $26 million ... Ian Kinsler has announced his retirement from baseball. Kinsler is still owed $4.25 million by the Padres but will work out a financial settlement with the club and remain in the organization in a front office role. The 37-year-old admitted that the herniated cervical disk injury that ended his 2019 season "was a factor in my decision." Kinsler will retire just one hit shy of 2,000 for his career. He batted .269/.337/.440 with 257 home runs and 243 stolen bases over 14 seasons, making four All-Star teams along the way.