Early MLB trade rumors: Rizzo stays in New York, Anderson to the Angels, Montero re-signs with Astros
With MLB’s free agency just heating up, the rumor mill is working overtime to connect the dots for what will likely be a wholesale ground shift
First baseman Anthony Rizzo has agreed to re-sign with the New York Yankees for $17 million each of the next two seasons, plus a $6 million buyout on a year three option. The former Chicago Cub has been a stiff backbone for the pinstripes’ batting order and this will now see him stay in the Bronx.
Rizzo had turned down the Yankees’ qualifying offer of $19.65 million for a single season and while this new deal works out at less per season, its total value sees him earn a minimum of $40 million and could be up to $51 million.
Other breaking news out of Los Angeles: Left-handed pitcher Tyler Anderson will be crossing the tracks in LA to go from the Dodgers to the Angels. He has signed a three-year deal according to sources after a 15-5 season and a 2.57 ERA with the Dodgers in 2022.
Other trades today were made by the Tampa Bay Rays, who aquire right-handed pitchers Santiago Suárez and Marcus Johnsons from the Marlins in exchange for infielder Xavier Edwards and RHP JT Chargois. They have also acquired OF Tristan Peters for IF Brett Wisely who will head to the San Francisco Giants. The Rays also traded OF Miles Mastrobuoni to the Cubs for RHP Alffredo Zárraga.
Over in Houston, their prodigious bullpen is going to remain intact by a factor of one with the news that Rafael Montero has signed a three-year, $34.5 million deal to stay in Space City. There are a series of GP and performance clauses built into the deal that could see his income climb to as much as $36.75 million.
Of the 14 players around the MLB who were tendered qualifying offers, 12 declined them, including the now-signed Anthony Rizzo. Two players, however, accepted the offer with Texas Rangers lefty Martín Peréz and San Francisco Giants outfielder Joc Pederson both taking the $19.65 million, one-year deal.
Very few seasons will see the sheer number of tier-one players on the market at the same time, and with the focus on hot-hitters, the fortunes of Aaron Judge, Shohei Ohtani, and Trea Turner are on the forefront of everyone’s consciousness.
But there are other moves afoot as well, some that are more fundamental and can have longer-lasting implications than simply a short-term ticket to the playoffs.
We are still waiting to see where four of baseball’s premier shortstops, who are all free agents will end up. They can offer teams who need to anchor their infield and leadoff batting orders experience and leadership for the foreseeable future. Aside from Trea Turner, the market is also shuffling to accommodate Xander Bogaerts, Dansby Swanson, and Carlos Correa. And with these names on the shopping list, it is no small wonder that the same teams are sniffing around two or more of them at the same time.
Teams on the prowl
The early indications that Philadelphia were interested in Trea Turner have not subsided, although their recent interest in Xander Bogaerts indicates that they are looking to hedge their bets in case Turner falls through.
The Phillies president of baseball operations, Dave Dombrowski, spent time with the Red Sox and it was he who signed Bogaerts six-year, $120 million extension with that club back in 2019. With Bogaerts now on the market again, the Phillies are looking to sign a top-level shortstop and move Bryson Stott over to second base.
Boston Red Sox
The biggest need for Boston is in the offense, with their outfield decidedly lacking in production. And while losing Bogaerts will hurt them, they are likely to replace him with a like-for-like replacement, with most rumors centering on them picking up Dansby Swanson from Atlanta.
In the outfield, they are reportedly showing strong interest in nabbing Bryan Reynolds from the Pirates, despite reports coming out of Pittsburgh that there is little desire to let him go. The Sox are also reported to be interested in several of the Diamondbacks’ outfielders. As an organization, the Diamondbacks have outfielders in spades, all but one hitting from the left side, and giving up one or more would not seriously dent their productivity.
While the Braves would love to keep Dansby Swanson in the fold, they are reported to be in the race, if not the outright favorite, to pick up Trea Turner from the Dodgers. Their focus in these trades seems to be their bullpen rather than their bats, with Jesse Chavez being re-signed and Nick Anderson reportedly to follow suit. After swapping Jake Odorizzi for Kolby Allard from the Rangers, the Braves are likely to use some of that spare cash that they have laying around for making sure that they can stay competitive in the June trade window.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The fourth corner of this middle-infield swap-o-rama is the Dodgers, and while they are not at all happy at the prospect of losing Trea Turner, they are rumored to be in the race for picking up Carlos Correa. Some TrueBlue fans will not be happy at the thought, but management seems to feel that any ill feeling will be swept aside by the uber-talented shortstop’s productivity.
While there was a shaky start to proceedings when Clayton Kershaw was not offered a QO, and it looked like Texas would go all-in for him, but recent rumblings are that he is all but guaranteed to re-sign with LA.
The Astros are the strongest side in the game at the moment, and losing some of their players to free agency is unlikely to bother them much. It certainly never has in the past, where the club’s development has been shown to be as deep as any in baseball. Their biggest hole to fill is the same as back in June, when they picked up Christian Vazquez from Boston. Catcher.
Dusty Baker is keen on using Martín Maldonado for his knowledge and defensive ability. Let’s face it, there are few catchers in the game today who can come close to him behind the dish. But playing him means eating an almost automatic out with the bat, and while the Astros are productive enough to wear that most of the time, there are games when the offensive production outweighs the defense.
Reports are that the Astros are heavily interested in Willson Contreras and although the Cubs have issued him a QO, he has declined it indicating his willingness to test the waters elsewhere. The Astros offered José Urquidy for him straight up back in June but that deal was shut down by Cubs ownership. They could wind up with their man in the end anyway.
The best of the rest
Beyond the big teams, it seems as if the Angels will keep hold of Shohei Ohtani for at least another year, indicating that he was not available at any price. The Red Sox have made the same position clear for Rafael Devers, although there is still speculation that the slimmest sliver of a chance exists that the Dodgers may be able to reunite Devers with Mookie Betts.
Aaron Judge is going to occupy as much time as anyone else in the league, perhaps leaving it to the last minute before signing anywhere. The Yankees are squarely focussed on keeping him, although with the way that he was treated by the New York fans in the fall fresh in his mind, he will want to keep all doors open. Let’s face it, every team in baseball will want him, and while the Giants are favorites at the moment, it is anyone’s guess as to where he will end up.
Justin Verlander is reportedly shopping for a deal similar to Max Scherzer’s three-year, $130 million contract. The market for the Astros ace will be hot, and nearly everyone in baseball will be after him. It is not at all clear who is the frontrunner in this race, and conventional wisdom would be that could be an indication that he might prefer to stay in Houston. Astros owner Jim Crane says that he is “staying in the middle of that” until it gets settled and that he hopes the absence of a state income tax in Texas will give the Astros an edge.