MLB Rumors: Cubs chasing multiple stars;  Justin Verlander and Trea Turner start the Winter Meetings in style

MLB Rumors: Cubs chasing multiple stars; Justin Verlander and Trea Turner start the Winter Meetings in style

Major League Baseball’s annual winter meetings kicked off Sunday with the news that Fred McGriff was inducted into the Hall of Fame via the Contemporary Era Committee. The hope is that this was the start of a crazy multi-day baseball activity, jam-packed with a free-agent signing frenzy and even a few high-profile trades. San Diego hosts winter meetings and we have seen a lot of activity there before. The last time it was there, we saw Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon and Gerrit Cole sign nine-figure deals amid a flurry of moves.

If history repeats itself here, it will be a huge start to see the biggest names in free agency leave the roster this offseason. We are also starting off on the right foot.

Let’s round up the news and rumors for Monday here. We’ll be updating this throughout the day, so definitely check back.

The Cubs pursue Murphy; could sign two shortstops

The Cubs were expected to be active this winter. It looks like they are trying to keep that promise. You can add Chicago to the list of teams chasing athletics receiver Sean Murphy, according to Jon Morosi. In addition, the Cubs, who have been able to interest Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson, could well follow the plan of the Rangers last winter and sign two of the three, by brand of fine sand. Feinsand adds that Swanson and Bogaerts would be the likely pair, with Bogaerts leaving shortstop. It’s unclear how likely the Cubs are to add Murphy and/or both infielders, but thanks to them for getting creative.

Verlander signs with the Mets

Justin Verlander, winner of Ace and AL Cy Young signed a two-year, $86 million deal with the Mets. The whole story here.

The Mets lost Jacob deGrom in free agency to Rangers, so replacing him with Verlander was the logical move here for a team with such deep pockets after a 101-win season. Verlander is reuniting with Max Scherzer, as the two were teammates with the Tigers from 2010 to 2014.

Phillies sign Turner

The Phillies landed their star shortstop. Trea Turner joined the defending NL champions on a massive 11-year, $300 million deal. He reunites with his buddy Bryce Harper, who was his teammate all those years with the Nationals.

The 11-year tenure lowers Turner’s average annual value to $27.3 million, the 17th-highest in baseball in 2023 (among players currently under contract). This gives the Phillies a bit more wiggle room when it comes to the Competitive Balance Tax in the immediate future. They still plan to add a starting pitcher this offseason.

Kershaw deal finally official

All the way back November 10, reports said the Dodgers and left-handed legend Clayton Kershaw were in the process of finalizing a one-year contract worth approximately $17 million. Generally speaking, once journalists get wind of such things, there are only a few days – sometimes less than that – before the deal becomes official, unless there is a problem. There has been absolutely nothing reported on the deal since then, so what was going on?

It’s hard to say now. The Dodgers announced the one-year deal as official and it’s worth $20 million.

Given that Walker Buehler will likely miss all of 2023 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Dodgers’ rotation currently consists of Kershaw, Julio Urías, Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May, with Ryan Pepiot possibly involved. They sure aren’t done and will add another veteran rotation arm this offseason, possibly as early as those winter meetings.

Kershaw was 12-3 with a 2.28 ERA (184 ERA+), .94 WHIP and 137 strikeouts on 23 walks in 126 1/3 innings last season. He is heading into his 35th season and has played all 15 MLB seasons for the Dodgers.

Simply, an ongoing marriage here makes a lot of sense for both parties.

Taillion with a hot market

Right-handed pitcher Jameson Taillon is one of the mid-level starters in the free agent market and he’s not committed to draft pay, since the Yankees haven’t offered him a qualifying offer. So far, the market for him is “deep”, according to MLB.comwith the Mets, Phillies, Cubs and Orioles among the contenders.

Taillon, 31, was 14-5 with a 3.91 ERA (100 ERA+), 1.13 WHIP and 151 strikeouts against 32 walks in 177 1/3 innings last season . It posted 1.3 WAR.

The Mets have Verlander, Max Scherzer, Carlos Carrasco and possibly Tylor Megill and David Peterson in their current rotation. They probably would have targeted Taillon as a low-rotation guy anyway, so we’ll assume signing Verlander doesn’t impact their interest here.

Speaking of teams targeting Taillon as a low rotation guy, the Phillies have Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola and Ranger Suárez among their top three. Stud prospect Andrew Painter could also feature by the end of the year, but they will still need a lower rotational depth – with Bailey Falter – to get through the regular season.

The Cubs have Marcus Stroman, Kyle Hendricks, Justin Steele and possibly young Hayden Wesneski in the rotation. They have depth (Adrian Sampson, Javier Assad, Keegan Thompson as swing man) but could use more upside. The Orioles are missing ace John Means as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. They have already signed Kyle Gibson to team up with Dean Kremer, Kyle Bradish and top prospect Grayson Rodriguez. If they’re looking to fight again, they’ll need more in the rotation.

Twins make batting champ available

Would the Twins trade utility Luis Arraez? A report from The Athletic says it’s possible, as long as it’s the “right deal” with the Twins looking for help to get started.

Arraez, 25, led the AL with a .316 batting average last season while making his first-team All-Star and also earning a Silver Slugger. He had 31 doubles, eight homers, 49 RBIs, 88 runs, a 130 OPS+ and 4.4 WARs last season. He walked 50 times against just 43 strikeouts in 603 plate appearances. He played the most at first base, but also saw significant time at second and fumbled a bit at third.

Arraez will hit refereeing for the first time this winter and he’s not eligible for free agency until after the 2025 season.

The Twins rotation, right now, would be Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, Tyler Mahle, Kenta Maeda and Bailey Ober.

Put after Benintendi

It could be a busy week for the Mets. They have signed Verlander and are pursuing Taillon, and are also in the mix for Andrew Benintendi, reports the New York Post. Former center fielder Brandon Nimmo is a free agent, though the Mets can slide Starling Marte to center with Benintendi and Mark Canha at the corners.

Benintendi, 28, cut .304/.373/.399 with five home runs in 126 games for the Royals and Yankees last season. He did not play after Sept. 2 due to hooking surgery, although the Yankees hoped he could play in the World Series if they left the ALCS. Our RJ Anderson ranked Benintendi 18th among free agents this offseason.

Big market for Vázquez

Free agent wide receiver Christian Vázquez was traded from the Red Sox to the Astros last season and now finds himself with no shortage of suitors. The teams interested so far, according to Ken Rosenthal, are the Cubs, Cardinals, Padres, Guardians and Twins. The Diamondbacks and Giants are also interested, from Pete Abraham.

Vázquez, 32, hit .274/.315/.399 (99 OPS+) with 23 doubles, nine home runs, 52 RBIs and 2.1 WARs last season.

Angels sign Estevez

The Angels have signed right-handed reliever Carlos Estévez to a two-year contract, the team announced. The deal is worth $14 million guaranteed, report it New York Post. Estévez was an under-the-radar free agent entering the offseason:

Last season, the 29-year-old pitched 57 innings with a 3.47 ERA and 54 strikeouts with the Rockies. As is always the case with former Rockies pitchers, the Angels hope the move to Coors Field will help Estévez find consistency in his business and improve his performance.

Blue Jays make Heaney an offer

The Blue Jays have made an offer for left-handed free agent Andrew Heaney, Sportsnet reports. Heaney struck out 35.5% of the batters he faced in 2022 and had one of the highest swing and miss rates in baseball, although he was always very homer-prone, which makes him prevented from rising to the top of an MLB rotation.

Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman and José Berríos are the only locks for Toronto’s rotation at the moment. Yusei Kikuchi, last year’s left-handed signing, could join the rotation after being demoted to the bullpen this summer. Heaney or otherwise, the Blue Jays should add at least one starting pitcher this offseason.

Rays interested in Dalbec

The Rays are among the clubs interested in Red Sox first baseman Bobby Dalbec, according to Sean McAdam. Dalbec, 27, is a former top prospect who posted 101 OPS+ in nearly 900 trips to the plate in the majors. He has immense raw power, but struggles to make consistent contact, with a near 35% strikeout rate.

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