Things are heating up in Orlando as we reach the midpoint of Winter Meetings week. Although the big dominos have yet to fall, the rumor mill is churning, and it feels like only a matter of time before the floodgates open.
Tuesday was full of intrigue, so let's cover the most pertinent news and rumblings, leading with a late-breaking update that's a bit ominous:
Ohtani Has UCL Damage
The resounding excitement around Shohei Ohtani was dampened a bit on Tuesday night when reports came out that the Angels' freshly signed Japanese star has a first-degree elbow ligament sprain in his throwing arm. This isn't news to MLB teams, as the issue was openly divulged by Ohtani during the posting process, but until now it wasn't publicly known.
What does this mean? Perhaps very little. His sprain is considered the least severe grade, and Ohtani received a PRP injection in October. He might just move right past it; fellow NPB import Masahiro Tanaka notably pitched through a partially torn UCL in 2014 and it hasn't come back to bite him yet.
But without question, this is cause for concern, especially in the short term. Even if Ohtani shows up in spring training looking healthy and strong, looming uncertainty will shroud him in fantasy drafts. The Angels will undoubtedly play it safe and take every precaution with their prized new acquisition. That's smart for them but makes his fantasy outlook rather nebulous.
Ohtani remains a brilliant talent with almost unprecedented potential, but now there will be a slight counterbalance to the hefty optimism, at least as he enters his rookie year.
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The Orioles are reportedly making Manny Machado available and appear to be quite serious about moving him. We first heard of this possibility last week, but now it's gaining steam. Jon Heyman mentions the Cardinals as a possible landing spot. Buster Olney tweets that the Yankees have expressed interest. And Ken Rosenthal writes that the O's hope to acquire at least two controllable young starters in return.
Last month there were reports of an "ongoing debate" in Baltimore about moving the 25-year-old from third base to short. The latest developments make it sound as though Machado is the one driving this, which would make sense; he's a year away from free agency, and his market will be even stronger if he can prove himself capable at shortstop. Machado is one of the league's finest defenders at third and has a cannon arm. He looked solid in limited time at short last year.
Even in a relatively quiet 2017 campaign, Machado launched 33 homers and drove in 95 runs, and he doesn't turn 26 until next July. Baltimore shouldn't have much trouble reeling in a haul for him.
Mets To Go Without Set Closer?
The New York Mets have a new manager, and if early talk is any indication, he's a different breed. On Tuesday, Mickey Callaway left open the possibility of moving forward without a dedicated closer. That would be a savvy way to win baseball games but it would also create an uninviting situation for fantasy players.
While we don't know much about Callaway as a tactician, him talking about this unorthodox method is very different from actually employing it, so we'll see. Obviously there's a lot of offseason left. In any event, right now it's hard to have much faith in Jeurys Familia as an asset.
Headley Heads Back to San Diego
Looking to shed salary and build up payroll flexibility following the Giancarlo Stanton addition, the Yankees traded Chase Headley, along with right-hander Bryan Mitchell, to the Padres on Tuesday in exchange for prospect Jabari Blash.
Headley spent the first chunk of his career in San Diego, and enjoyed his best season there in 2012 when he posted an .875 OPS with 33 homers and 115 RBI. However, he has never come close to approximating that production since, slashing just .262/.335/.386 over the past three years in New York. The 33-year-old offers minimal upside back in Petco and is a pretty uninspiring offensive addition for the Fathers. Mitchell, however, could be an intriguing sleeper if he vies for a rotation spot.
Relievers Reach Agreements
It has taken a while, but finally some of the free agent veteran relievers are starting to come off the board.
Bryan Shaw inked a three-year deal with the Rockies that is "in the range of $9 million annually." That's quite pricey for a setup man, and Colorado is currently without a closer, so the right-hander could very well get a look. Shaw has never served in the role before but has the chops; he has been extremely reliable and consistent throughout his career.
Meanwhile, the Phillies signed Tommy Hunter to a two-year contract coming off his breakout campaign with the Rays. He'll get around $18 million after posting a 2.61 ERA and 9.8 K/9 in Tampa. The move comes just one day after Philly added Pat Neshek, and either one could be in line for saves in this rebuilt bullpen.
Winter Meetings Quick Hits: Drew Smyly, recovering from Tommy John surgery in June, inked a two-year deal with the Cubs, who will try to reap value down the stretch, and in 2019 ... The Red Sox, suddenly needing an offensive jolt to keep pace with the Yankees, are one of the teams meeting with J.D. Martinez this week, according to Heyman ... Rosenthal reports that the Blue Jays and Cardinals have discussed a Josh Donaldson trade ... It sounds like the Pirates are actively shopping starter Gerrit Cole, and several teams are showing interest ... The Padres are said to be in the mix for Eric Hosmer ... The Marlins, in full sell mode, are listening to offers on both Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna – and unsurprisingly getting plenty of action on both ... Tigers GM Alex Avila indicated on Tuesday that an Ian Kinsler trade may be close ... Per Jeff Passan, the Cardinals are among the clubs showing interest in free agent closer Wade Davis ... Todd Frazier has been discussing a return to the Yankees, which would make sense with Headley now out of the picture ... At one point it sounded like the Giants had some momentum going toward a deal for Billy Hamilton, but now Heyman says those talks have cooled off ... Alex Ogandi signed a minor-league contract with the Indians ... The Rays acquired slugging infielder Ryan Schimpf from San Diego ... The Blue Jays met with CC Sabathia on Tuesday, per George A. King III of the New York Post ... TR Sullivan reports that the Rangers are talking pitchers with the D-Backs, and "Zack Greinke could be in play."