How a 98-Win MLB Team Has Plummeted to 100-Loss Candidate in 2 Years

The sinking ship metaphors are too easy and too cruel for Pittsburgh Pirates fans. Yet, it must be written: In the span of two short years, the Bucs have gone from a team that won 98 games to one that might lose 100. 

It's a plunge that makes Davy Jones' locker look like the shallow end of the community pool.

On Jan. 13, the Pirates traded ace Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros. Two days later, they sent outfielder Andrew McCutchen to the San Francisco Giants. Presto change-o, a weakly whipping white flag replaced their black skull-and-crossbones banner.

Subsequently, two-time All-Star and super-utilityman Josh Harrison released a statement saying "perhaps it would be better for all involved" if he were also dealt, per The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal

No shocker there. As Harrison added in his statement, "I want to win, I want to contend, I want to win championships in 2018, 2019 and beyond." The opportunity to do that in Pittsburgh is sunk.

It didn't have to be this way. In 2013, the Pirates snapped an ignoble streak of 20 consecutive losing seasons and finished 94-68. They beat the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Wild Card Game before losing three games to two to the St. Louis Cardinals in the division series. They were a squad on the rise.

In 2014, Pittsburgh finished 88-74 and snagged another wild-card spot but lost to the San Francisco Giants and postseason buzzsaw Madison Bumgarner in the do-or-die contest.

Then, in 2015, the Pirates peaked at 98-64 before falling again in the NL Wild Card Game, this time to the Chicago Cubs.

Three postseason forays, three dispiriting exits.

That's when the wind began to gust away from Pittsburgh's sails. An 83-loss 2016 was followed by an 87-loss 2017. Only the lowly Reds kept the Pirates from the division cellar in the latter go-around.

A number of factors were responsible for the decline. 

McCutchen, a five-time All-Star and the NL MVP in 2013, endured a steep statistical dive in 2016. Infielder Jung Ho Kang looked like part of the team's future after coming over from Korea in 2015, but a drunk-driving arrest and subsequent prison sentence in his home country derailed that plan. 

In April 2017, Starling Marte was suspended 80 games for a positive performance-enhancing drug test.

Some of that isn't the Pirates' fault. Good players fade. Others make poor choices. 

On the other hand, ownership has been stingy, as Sports Illustrated's Jon Tayler spelled out:

"Keep in mind that [principal owner Bob] Nutting is a billionaire who owns a newspaper conglomerate and is the chairman of a ski resort in Pennsylvania. Keep in mind that, before the 2017 season, Forbes valued the Pirates as being worth $1.25 billion. Keep in mind that the Pirates are revenue sharing recipients, and that their $109 million payroll in 2017 was 25th in the league, some $50 million below the MLB average."

Nutting could have spent more. He could have opened his wallet and built around the largely homegrown, championship-caliber core that emerged beginning in 2013. Instead, the Pirates are initiating a fire sale.

"It's refreshing to come to an environment where the team is willing to continually put resources into the club and continue to move forward and try to provide the best possible product for its fans," Cole said after being traded to the Astros, per Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Take that as you will.

Pittsburgh got some interesting players back in the Cole and McCutchen deals, including a couple who could help in the big leagues in 2018. They also punted on any hope of contention in the near term.

According to FanGraphs' calculation, McCutchen and Cole were worth a combined 6.8 WAR. Add Harrison and we're up to 9.4.

That shoves an 87-loss club perilously close to 100 losses, even if you believe in oft-injured outfield prospect Austin Meadows or 26-year-old right-hander Jameson Taillon (4.44 ERA in 2017).

If you want to take the temperature of the Pirates fanbase, look no further than a Change.org petition aimed at forcing Nutting to sell the team. As of this writing, the petition had vaulted past 48,000 signatures.

"Pittsburgh is a baseball town that is being destroyed by a greedy owner," the petition reads. "There are so many loyal fans who truly care and support this team through thick and thin. We deserve better."

Baseball's economics are tricky. Winning windows close as quickly as they open. McCutchen, in particular, was an obvious trade candidate in his final year of controllability. Sometimes, even local heroes have to go.

At the same time, the grievances against Nutting have merit. Pirates fans aren't wrong to be sharpening their pitchforks on the shores of the Allegheny River.

It's possible 98 wins could become 100 defeats in the span of two years. It's possible the Bucs pulled the plug too quickly and didn't expend enough effort to build around their once-enviable core. 

The sinking ship metaphors are too easy. That said—glug, glug, glug.

                

All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Red Sox Need Manny Machado Blockbuster to Fix Offense, Block Him From Yankees

Once upon a time, Manny Machado and the Boston Red Sox hated each other. Or, at least, it sure looked that way.

We'll get into the particulars of the feud later. First, a proposition: It's time for Boston to put differences aside and make Machado the centerpiece of its lineup.

Bury the hatchet, fix the offense.

The rumor comes courtesy of MLB Network's Jon Morosi, who reported on Dec. 29 the Red Sox were "showing continued trade interest" in the Baltimore Orioles' third baseman.

Machado's name has churned through the rumor mill all offseason. He would be a one-year rental, as he's set to hit free agency next winter and will surely test the market, but he's also one of the best players in baseball.

Not surprisingly, he's been linked to a number of clubs. There's been chatter about the Chicago Cubs and scuttlebutt surrounding the Chicago White Sox, San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals

Oh, and don't forget the New York Yankees, who "may have the best chance of several contenders to land Machado," according to FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman

That makes two good reasons for the Red Sox to acquire MachadoFix the offense and keep him the hell away from the Yankees.

To the first point: Despite winning the American League East in 2017, the Red Sox finished with the fewest home runs and fifth-worst OPS in the Junior Circuit. They have a solid young core centered around outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi, but they could use a game-changing bat.

Machado, a three-time All-Star who's hit 33 or more homers in each of the last three seasons, fits the bill. He's also a plus defender who can man third base or shortstop and is entering his prime at age 25.

If you like WAR, Machado ranks 10th in the game in that category since 2015, according to FanGraphs' measure. 

He's a stud, capital "S," who'd make any team measurably better in the field and in the batter's box.

He won't come free. If you believe a report by MASN's Roch Kubatko, the Orioles rejected an offer from the Cubs that included shortstop Addison Russell, center fielder Albert Almora Jr. and left-handed reliever Mike Montgomery. That's three quality big leaguers.

If the ask is that high, perhaps a trade won't happen—to the Red Sox or anyone else.

Yet, Boston is in a win-now window and engaged in a burgeoning arms race with the Yankees, who have already added National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton this winter. 

New York has a hole at third base and the prospects to swing a swap for Machado. He could pair with Stanton, AL Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge and catcher Gary Sanchez to form a middle-of-the-order gauntlet on par with the Babe Ruth/Lou Gehrig-fronted Murderers' Row of the 1920s.

Needless to say, the Red Sox don't want that.

Much as it would hurt, Boston could build a package around shortstop Xander Bogaerts that might entice the Orioles. They'd then plug Machado in at short, with Rafael Devers manning third, and give the Yanks a run for their money in 2018.

It's a short-term strategy, yes, but with a roster built to compete in the present and a trio of recent titles in its pocket, Boston can and should shoot for the moon.

So far, all the team has done is re-sign first baseman Mitch Moreland and kick the tires on outfielder J.D. Martinez, who will be overpaid after a huge 2017 season. That's not enough.

"We not only have to beat the Yankees, we have to beat the [Houston] Astros, the world champs, because our goal is to not only win our division but to be the world champs," executive Dave Dombrowski said at the December winter meetings, per MLB.com's Ian Browne

Machado would make that lofty goal exponentially more likely, whatever impact a trade for him would have on the Red Sox's future.  

Now, about that feud. 

In April, Machado took out Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia with an aggressive slide, spiking the beloved Boston infielder's calf in the process. Two days later, Sox reliever Matt Barnes threw a fastball at Machado's head.

Barnes was suspended, and Machado was later showered with boos at Fenway Park. 

Still, a change of uniforms can erase a lot of negative memories. And it's worth noting Pedroia and Machado appeared to make amends on the field after Barnes' attempted beanball

Some Red Sox fans will balk at the notion of adding Machado—for the potential price tag, his status as a rental and the bad blood.

Again, though, Boston is among a handful of clubs that should be focused squarely on the here and now. This season could be an epic chapter in the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry, and Machado would be one heck of a character. 

That's Dombrowski's directive: Keep him out of pinstripes, bring him to Beantown. Bury the hatchet, ratchet up the drama.

                 

All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Red Sox Need Manny Machado Blockbuster to Fix Offense, Block Him From Yankees

Once upon a time, Manny Machado and the Boston Red Sox hated each other. Or, at least, it sure looked that way.

We'll get into the particulars of the feud later. First, a proposition: It's time for Boston to put differences aside and make Machado the centerpiece of its lineup.

Bury the hatchet, fix the offense.

The rumor comes courtesy of MLB Network's Jon Morosi, who reported on Dec. 29 the Red Sox were "showing continued trade interest" in the Baltimore Orioles' third baseman.

Machado's name has churned through the rumor mill all offseason. He would be a one-year rental, as he's set to hit free agency next winter and will surely test the market, but he's also one of the best players in baseball.

Not surprisingly, he's been linked to a number of clubs. There's been chatter about the Chicago Cubs and scuttlebutt surrounding the Chicago White Sox, San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals

Oh, and don't forget the New York Yankees, who "may have the best chance of several contenders to land Machado," according to FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman

That makes two good reasons for the Red Sox to acquire MachadoFix the offense and keep him the hell away from the Yankees.

To the first point: Despite winning the American League East in 2017, the Red Sox finished with the fewest home runs and fifth-worst OPS in the Junior Circuit. They have a solid young core centered around outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi, but they could use a game-changing bat.

Machado, a three-time All-Star who's hit 33 or more homers in each of the last three seasons, fits the bill. He's also a plus defender who can man third base or shortstop and is entering his prime at age 25.

If you like WAR, Machado ranks 10th in the game in that category since 2015, according to FanGraphs' measure. 

He's a stud, capital "S," who'd make any team measurably better in the field and in the batter's box.

He won't come free. If you believe a report by MASN's Roch Kubatko, the Orioles rejected an offer from the Cubs that included shortstop Addison Russell, center fielder Albert Almora Jr. and left-handed reliever Mike Montgomery. That's three quality big leaguers.

If the ask is that high, perhaps a trade won't happen—to the Red Sox or anyone else.

Yet, Boston is in a win-now window and engaged in a burgeoning arms race with the Yankees, who have already added National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton this winter. 

New York has a hole at third base and the prospects to swing a swap for Machado. He could pair with Stanton, AL Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge and catcher Gary Sanchez to form a middle-of-the-order gauntlet on par with the Babe Ruth/Lou Gehrig-fronted Murderers' Row of the 1920s.

Needless to say, the Red Sox don't want that.

Much as it would hurt, Boston could build a package around shortstop Xander Bogaerts that might entice the Orioles. They'd then plug Machado in at short, with Rafael Devers manning third, and give the Yanks a run for their money in 2018.

It's a short-term strategy, yes, but with a roster built to compete in the present and a trio of recent titles in its pocket, Boston can and should shoot for the moon.

So far, all the team has done is re-sign first baseman Mitch Moreland and kick the tires on outfielder J.D. Martinez, who will be overpaid after a huge 2017 season. That's not enough.

"We not only have to beat the Yankees, we have to beat the [Houston] Astros, the world champs, because our goal is to not only win our division but to be the world champs," executive Dave Dombrowski said at the December winter meetings, per MLB.com's Ian Browne

Machado would make that lofty goal exponentially more likely, whatever impact a trade for him would have on the Red Sox's future.  

Now, about that feud. 

In April, Machado took out Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia with an aggressive slide, spiking the beloved Boston infielder's calf in the process. Two days later, Sox reliever Matt Barnes threw a fastball at Machado's head.

Barnes was suspended, and Machado was later showered with boos at Fenway Park. 

Still, a change of uniforms can erase a lot of negative memories. And it's worth noting Pedroia and Machado appeared to make amends on the field after Barnes' attempted beanball

Some Red Sox fans will balk at the notion of adding Machado—for the potential price tag, his status as a rental and the bad blood.

Again, though, Boston is among a handful of clubs that should be focused squarely on the here and now. This season could be an epic chapter in the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry, and Machado would be one heck of a character. 

That's Dombrowski's directive: Keep him out of pinstripes, bring him to Beantown. Bury the hatchet, ratchet up the drama.

                 

All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Yu Darvish to Yankees Would Cement Evil Empire as MLB’s Best Now and For Future

The New York Yankees are the New York Yankees again, supreme leaders of the Evil Empire and the best show in baseball.

They teased that status by coming within a victory of the World Series in 2017 and trading for reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton this winter.

They can etch it in stone by signing right-hander Yu Darvish, the best pitcher on the free-agent market.

As reported by FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman, the Yankees are taking a look at Darvish and "are intent on adding a fine starting pitcher."

To stipulate: The Yankees don't need Darvish or any other arm. After re-signing veteran CC Sabathia and tethering the big lefty to Luis Severino, Sonny Gray, Masahiro Tanaka and Jordan Montgomery, they've got a more-than-capable starting five. 

New York starters finished second in the American League with a 3.98 ERA last season. As constructed, they could repeat the feat in 2018.

On top of that, the Yanks boast one of MLB's elite bullpens, with Aroldis Chapman, David Robertson, Dellin Betances, Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle leading the charge. 

Adding Darvish would be icing on the Big Apple-flavored cake. 

The right-hander comes with crimson flags. He's also the best available pitcher who won't cost the Yankees prospects from their rebuilt farm system. In fact, because Darvish was dealt from the Texas Rangers to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the 2017 trade deadline, he won't even cost the club that signs him a compensatory draft pick.

Here's the case for Darvish: He's a four-time All-Star who has twice finished in the top 10 in AL Cy Young Award balloting. He's averaged 11 strikeouts per nine innings across five big league seasons and posted 19 fWAR between 2012 and 2017, better than all but 17 other pitchers.

That figure is even more impressive because of a Darvish flaw: He missed the entire 2015 season and part of 2016 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

He bounced back in 2017, notching 209 strikeouts in 186.2 innings between the Lone Star State and SoCal. He ended on a decidedly down note with high-stakes postseason meltdowns for L.A., but that may have largely been the result of pitch-tipping, per Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci.  

Pitch-tipping is fixable. A drop in velocity often isn't, and Darvish didn't suffer from that. His average heater clocked in at 94.7 mph last season, a tick above his career average of 94.1.

The stuff is there. There's risk associated with giving the 31-year-old a deal in the range of five years and nine figures, which is what he'll surely command. Like many such contracts, it could amount to value on the front end and a painful drag at the back.

For the Yankees, however, Darvish would gild a squad that's already equipped to compete for a Commissioner's Trophy now and going forward. 

In addition to the pitching assets mentioned above, New York boasts a potent offense led by Stanton, AL Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge and catcher Gary Sanchez. That trio alone could plausibly swat 150 home runs.

Meanwhile, the Yankees have ample talent marinating in the minors, including infielder Gleyber Torres, right-hander Chance Adams and left-hander Justus Sheffield. The latter two could soon slot into the rotation, offering cost-controlled insurance if Darvish gets injured or requires extra rest.

Which brings us to another important point: The Yankees have enough depth on the big league roster and at the MiLB level to treat Darvish with caution, limiting his innings and keeping his arm fresh for October. They can pay him like a horse without riding him into the ground.

Speaking of payment, New York has expressed a desire to stay under the luxury tax. 

"You can have a world championship-caliber team and not have a $200-plus million payroll," principal owner Hal Steinbrenner stated in November, per Newsday's David Lennon. 

Giving $20 million or more per season to Darvish would push the Yankees past the luxury threshold at the moment, meaning they'd either need to eschew that concern or trade a pricey, expendable veteran such as outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury before Opening Day.

New York also needs to shore up holes at second and third base created by the trades of Starlin Castro and Chase Headley, respectively. Torres could fill one slot, but the infield is an area where general Brian Cashman may be forced to expend resources. 

Will that leave enough to sign Darvish? A better question is, are the Yankees better off spending cash or prospects?

They've traversed other avenues to add pitching, as Heyman noted, including the Pittsburgh Pirates' Gerrit Cole and the Detroit Tigers' Michael Fulmer.

Either would deplete the club's minor league ranks and undermine the foundation Cashman has labored to build. Better to go the old Yankee way and take a risk on a free agent who will ding only the bottom line and not the farm.

The AL East is winnable, with the Boston Red Sox searching for offense and the Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays all stuck between retooling and rebuilding. The Junior Circuit, as a whole, is ripe for the taking despite the presence of the Cleveland Indians and defending champion Houston Astros.

The Yankees can be the Evil Empire again. They can be the best show in baseball. They can add to their hoard of 27 world championships while re-emerging as the undisputed bullies of baseball, all while keeping an eye on the next several years.

Which is to say, they can afford to take a risk on Darvish.

          

All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted. 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Yu Darvish to Yankees Would Cement Evil Empire as MLB’s Best Now and For Future

The New York Yankees are the New York Yankees again, supreme leaders of the Evil Empire and the best show in baseball.

They teased that status by coming within a victory of the World Series in 2017 and trading for reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton this winter.

They can etch it in stone by signing right-hander Yu Darvish, the best pitcher on the free-agent market.

As reported by FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman, the Yankees are taking a look at Darvish and "are intent on adding a fine starting pitcher."

To stipulate: The Yankees don't need Darvish or any other arm. After re-signing veteran CC Sabathia and tethering the big lefty to Luis Severino, Sonny Gray, Masahiro Tanaka and Jordan Montgomery, they've got a more-than-capable starting five. 

New York starters finished second in the American League with a 3.98 ERA last season. As constructed, they could repeat the feat in 2018.

On top of that, the Yanks boast one of MLB's elite bullpens, with Aroldis Chapman, David Robertson, Dellin Betances, Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle leading the charge. 

Adding Darvish would be icing on the Big Apple-flavored cake. 

The right-hander comes with crimson flags. He's also the best available pitcher who won't cost the Yankees prospects from their rebuilt farm system. In fact, because Darvish was dealt from the Texas Rangers to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the 2017 trade deadline, he won't even cost the club that signs him a compensatory draft pick.

Here's the case for Darvish: He's a four-time All-Star who has twice finished in the top 10 in AL Cy Young Award balloting. He's averaged 11 strikeouts per nine innings across five big league seasons and posted 19 fWAR between 2012 and 2017, better than all but 17 other pitchers.

That figure is even more impressive because of a Darvish flaw: He missed the entire 2015 season and part of 2016 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

He bounced back in 2017, notching 209 strikeouts in 186.2 innings between the Lone Star State and SoCal. He ended on a decidedly down note with high-stakes postseason meltdowns for L.A., but that may have largely been the result of pitch-tipping, per Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci.  

Pitch-tipping is fixable. A drop in velocity often isn't, and Darvish didn't suffer from that. His average heater clocked in at 94.7 mph last season, a tick above his career average of 94.1.

The stuff is there. There's risk associated with giving the 31-year-old a deal in the range of five years and nine figures, which is what he'll surely command. Like many such contracts, it could amount to value on the front end and a painful drag at the back.

For the Yankees, however, Darvish would gild a squad that's already equipped to compete for a Commissioner's Trophy now and going forward. 

In addition to the pitching assets mentioned above, New York boasts a potent offense led by Stanton, AL Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge and catcher Gary Sanchez. That trio alone could plausibly swat 150 home runs.

Meanwhile, the Yankees have ample talent marinating in the minors, including infielder Gleyber Torres, right-hander Chance Adams and left-hander Justus Sheffield. The latter two could soon slot into the rotation, offering cost-controlled insurance if Darvish gets injured or requires extra rest.

Which brings us to another important point: The Yankees have enough depth on the big league roster and at the MiLB level to treat Darvish with caution, limiting his innings and keeping his arm fresh for October. They can pay him like a horse without riding him into the ground.

Speaking of payment, New York has expressed a desire to stay under the luxury tax. 

"You can have a world championship-caliber team and not have a $200-plus million payroll," principal owner Hal Steinbrenner stated in November, per Newsday's David Lennon. 

Giving $20 million or more per season to Darvish would push the Yankees past the luxury threshold at the moment, meaning they'd either need to eschew that concern or trade a pricey, expendable veteran such as outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury before Opening Day.

New York also needs to shore up holes at second and third base created by the trades of Starlin Castro and Chase Headley, respectively. Torres could fill one slot, but the infield is an area where general Brian Cashman may be forced to expend resources. 

Will that leave enough to sign Darvish? A better question is, are the Yankees better off spending cash or prospects?

They've traversed other avenues to add pitching, as Heyman noted, including the Pittsburgh Pirates' Gerrit Cole and the Detroit Tigers' Michael Fulmer.

Either would deplete the club's minor league ranks and undermine the foundation Cashman has labored to build. Better to go the old Yankee way and take a risk on a free agent who will ding only the bottom line and not the farm.

The AL East is winnable, with the Boston Red Sox searching for offense and the Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays all stuck between retooling and rebuilding. The Junior Circuit, as a whole, is ripe for the taking despite the presence of the Cleveland Indians and defending champion Houston Astros.

The Yankees can be the Evil Empire again. They can be the best show in baseball. They can add to their hoard of 27 world championships while re-emerging as the undisputed bullies of baseball, all while keeping an eye on the next several years.

Which is to say, they can afford to take a risk on Darvish.

          

All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted. 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Riskiest Rumored Offseason Moves That Could Blow Up in MLB Teams’ Faces

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

That's a truism in life and baseball, and it's something all 30 MLB clubs face each offseason as they try to improve their rosters and/or restock their farm systems. 

Inevitably, some trades and signings don't work out. High risk means the possibility of a hefty reward but also the danger of an embarrassing flameout.

Let's take a look at six big offseason risks, all based on credible rumors, that could blow up in teams' faces if they opt to pull the trigger—or, in one case, if they don't.

Begin Slideshow

Can Trade Out of New York Save Matt Harvey’s Collapsing Career?

You know the old saying about New York: If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.

In the case of right-hander Matt Harvey, let's amend it to: If you can't make it there, make it somewhere else.

Once upon a time not so long ago, Harvey was the toast of Gotham. In 2014, the Dark Knight posted a 2.27 ERA and MLB-leading 2.01 FIP en route to a fourth-place National League Cy Young Award finish. 

Tommy John surgery wiped out his 2014 season, but Harvey returned strong in 2015 with a 2.71 ERA and 188 strikeouts in 189.1 innings as the New York Mets marched to the World Series.

Since then, Harvey's star has collapsed.

His 2016 season was derailed by shoulder surgery. In 2017, the wheels truly came off. Harvey was suspended for violating team policy—more on that shortly—and battled further shoulder problems.

He finished with a career-high 6.70 ERA and a career-low 6.5 strikeouts per nine innings. His average fastball velocity dipped from a career-best 97 mph in 2013 to 94.3 mph, while his hard-contact percentage jumped from a low of 26.5 percent in 2013 to a high of 32.5 percent.

The question now: Where does the 28-year-old ex-ace go from here?

The Mets have toyed with the idea of trading Harvey. During the winter meetings, they discussed scenarios with the Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles, per Mike Puma of the New York Post.

Harvey sounded grudgingly resolved to the possibility of a trade as far back as August.

"I never wanted to imagine it would be, but with the injuries I've had and some of the other outside distractions that I have caused, which I am not proud of, it makes those decisions easier for management," Harvey said at the time, per Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News. "It sucks, but it's the way it is."

At the moment, trade talk has died down. Negotiations with the Orioles and Rangers seemingly didn't advance, and it appears Harvey may remain in Queens, per Newsday's Marc Carig.

That could change given the right offer. In the big picture, though, it's worth asking if a move out of New York is what's best for Harvey's sputtering career.

Yes, the Mets are the only professional franchise he's known since they drafted him seventh overall in 2010. Sure, he achieved great success, a high profile and a cool superhero nickname in the blue and orange. 

Harvey also has a lot of baggage in the Big Apple. His injuries and on-field struggles are one thing. Then there's the embarrassing episode that led to his three-game suspension last season. 

It began when Harvey didn't show up at Citi Field for a game. Initially, he blamed a headache. Later reports suggested Harvey was out partying the night before.

"The feeling among other players on the Mets was that Harvey was out Friday night blowing off steam and trying to get over [supermodel ex-girlfriend Adriana] Lima," according to a report in the New York Post (h/t Page Six).

That's lurid tabloid stuff. But Harvey let it bleed into his baseball life, and it became a distraction for a Mets team already beset by injuries and underperformance.

It's never too late to turn over a new leaf. But can the pitcher formerly known as the Dark Knight find that leaf in Flushing, or would he be better suited strapping on a different uniform and starting anew?

That's ultimately up to the Mets, who may believe they can wring a comeback season out of Harvey, who is entering his final season of arbitration before a likely foray into free agency next winter. Perhaps the motivation of a contract year, plus a fresh coaching staff led by new manager Mickey Callaway, will do the trick. 

Harvey is on the right side of 30; it wouldn't be the most improbable turnaround in MLB history.

"The stuff is still there," Mets pitching coach Dave Eiland said, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post. "Health is going to be the key. If he stays healthy, then he's a solid part of the rotation."

Health is the key for other Mets startersincluding Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler—but Harvey's history adds troubling layers.

Let's say he wobbles out of the gate. If he's on the Mets, the fans, media and even his teammates will immediately recall his in-game struggles and off-field issues. It'll all come flooding back, adding burdensome angst and pressure. On a new team, the grace period would be longer.

Ultimately, Harvey will have to produce results wherever he pitches. If his shoulder gives out again or his fastball keeps losing zip, it won't matter what city he calls home.

His checkered history is in New York, however, ready and waiting to smack him in the face.

In the end, the Mets' decision to deal or keep their fallen ace will hinge on whether they think he can contribute in 2018 and the temptation of any trade offers they receive. 

"The most important thing I'm weighing are the opinions of Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland, and they don't want to lose him," general manager Alderson said, per Carig.

That's fine. If we're considering what's best for Harvey, though, it's probably a new set of laundryand a chance to make it somewhere else.

         

All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Can Trade Out of New York Save Matt Harvey’s Collapsing Career?

You know the old saying about New York: If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.

In the case of right-hander Matt Harvey, let's amend it to: If you can't make it there, make it somewhere else.

Once upon a time not so long ago, Harvey was the toast of Gotham. In 2014, the Dark Knight posted a 2.27 ERA and MLB-leading 2.01 FIP en route to a fourth-place National League Cy Young Award finish. 

Tommy John surgery wiped out his 2014 season, but Harvey returned strong in 2015 with a 2.71 ERA and 188 strikeouts in 189.1 innings as the New York Mets marched to the World Series.

Since then, Harvey's star has collapsed.

His 2016 season was derailed by shoulder surgery. In 2017, the wheels truly came off. Harvey was suspended for violating team policy—more on that shortly—and battled further shoulder problems.

He finished with a career-high 6.70 ERA and a career-low 6.5 strikeouts per nine innings. His average fastball velocity dipped from a career-best 97 mph in 2013 to 94.3 mph, while his hard-contact percentage jumped from a low of 26.5 percent in 2013 to a high of 32.5 percent.

The question now: Where does the 28-year-old ex-ace go from here?

The Mets have toyed with the idea of trading Harvey. During the winter meetings, they discussed scenarios with the Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles, per Mike Puma of the New York Post.

Harvey sounded grudgingly resolved to the possibility of a trade as far back as August.

"I never wanted to imagine it would be, but with the injuries I've had and some of the other outside distractions that I have caused, which I am not proud of, it makes those decisions easier for management," Harvey said at the time, per Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News. "It sucks, but it's the way it is."

At the moment, trade talk has died down. Negotiations with the Orioles and Rangers seemingly didn't advance, and it appears Harvey may remain in Queens, per Newsday's Marc Carig.

That could change given the right offer. In the big picture, though, it's worth asking if a move out of New York is what's best for Harvey's sputtering career.

Yes, the Mets are the only professional franchise he's known since they drafted him seventh overall in 2010. Sure, he achieved great success, a high profile and a cool superhero nickname in the blue and orange. 

Harvey also has a lot of baggage in the Big Apple. His injuries and on-field struggles are one thing. Then there's the embarrassing episode that led to his three-game suspension last season. 

It began when Harvey didn't show up at Citi Field for a game. Initially, he blamed a headache. Later reports suggested Harvey was out partying the night before.

"The feeling among other players on the Mets was that Harvey was out Friday night blowing off steam and trying to get over [supermodel ex-girlfriend Adriana] Lima," according to a report in the New York Post (h/t Page Six).

That's lurid tabloid stuff. But Harvey let it bleed into his baseball life, and it became a distraction for a Mets team already beset by injuries and underperformance.

It's never too late to turn over a new leaf. But can the pitcher formerly known as the Dark Knight find that leaf in Flushing, or would he be better suited strapping on a different uniform and starting anew?

That's ultimately up to the Mets, who may believe they can wring a comeback season out of Harvey, who is entering his final season of arbitration before a likely foray into free agency next winter. Perhaps the motivation of a contract year, plus a fresh coaching staff led by new manager Mickey Callaway, will do the trick. 

Harvey is on the right side of 30; it wouldn't be the most improbable turnaround in MLB history.

"The stuff is still there," Mets pitching coach Dave Eiland said, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post. "Health is going to be the key. If he stays healthy, then he's a solid part of the rotation."

Health is the key for other Mets startersincluding Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler—but Harvey's history adds troubling layers.

Let's say he wobbles out of the gate. If he's on the Mets, the fans, media and even his teammates will immediately recall his in-game struggles and off-field issues. It'll all come flooding back, adding burdensome angst and pressure. On a new team, the grace period would be longer.

Ultimately, Harvey will have to produce results wherever he pitches. If his shoulder gives out again or his fastball keeps losing zip, it won't matter what city he calls home.

His checkered history is in New York, however, ready and waiting to smack him in the face.

In the end, the Mets' decision to deal or keep their fallen ace will hinge on whether they think he can contribute in 2018 and the temptation of any trade offers they receive. 

"The most important thing I'm weighing are the opinions of Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland, and they don't want to lose him," general manager Alderson said, per Carig.

That's fine. If we're considering what's best for Harvey, though, it's probably a new set of laundryand a chance to make it somewhere else.

         

All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Ranking MLB’s Top 10 High-Impact Targets Still Up for Grabs Post-Winter Meetings

The 2017-18 offseason crop isn't historically rich. It certainly isn't as loaded as the vaunted class of 2018-19 is projected to be.

Still, there are a number of intriguing, game-changing players available via trade or free agency, and many remain on the board as we creep toward the end of 2017.

Let's take a look at the top 10, keeping in mind track record, potential, price tag andin the case of trade targetscontract status and controllability.

We’ll meet a few ace-level arms, several sluggers and one superstar for rent. First, some honorable mentions.

Begin Slideshow

Ranking the Top 5 Prospects Moved in Winter-Meetings Trades

The 2017 MLB winter meetings weren't jam-packed with action. Still, a handful of significant signings and trades were consummated between Monday and Thursday at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Florida. 

Initial reaction focuses on the established big league players who swapped uniforms. But in the case of trades, it's equally interesting to examine the prospects involved.

While none of the game's consensus top MiLB chips were dealt, a number of intriguing, high-upside farm hands will soon be rising through new systems.

Let's take a look at the top five, keeping in mind stats, skill set, ceiling and, as is always the case with prospects, a healthy dose of informed gut feeling.

Begin Slideshow

Yankees Gutting Farm for Manny Machado Blockbuster Would Be Huge Mistake

The baseball world is waiting with bated breath for the Giancarlo Stanton sweepstakes to conclude. Until then, we may not see much action on the trade or free-agent fronts.

In the meantime, another heavy hitter has elbowed into the picture.

The rumor comes courtesy of FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman, who reports the Baltimore Orioles "have received a couple calls of inquiry on superstar third baseman Manny Machado."

That's no shock, considering Machado is among the best all-around talents in the game. However, Heyman adds, the O's "would be willing to listen on any playereven their best player."

Now we're cooking with hot-stove gas.

Machado, if you need a primer, is 25 years old, has made three All-Star teams, won two Gold Gloves and twice finished in the top five in American League MVP voting. Despite a slow start last season, he launched 33 home runs while playing typically excellent defense at third base. Between 2015 and 2017, Machado ranked 10th in WAR, according to FanGraphs.

By any measure, he's a superlative stud entering his prime.

He's also set to hit free agency after the 2018 season as part of a class that should include Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, among many others.

Any club that acquired Machado would get one guaranteed season followed by an explosively expensive question mark. 

Whenever a top-notch free agent or trade target makes the news, the New York Yankees are inevitably name-dropped. So we get the additional note, via Heyman, that "the Yankees and Phillies are among many teams expected to have interest in Machado."

The Philadelphia Phillies have gobs of cash to spend on free agency and are in the midst of a rebuild. Shelling out top prospects for a year of Machado makes zero sense for them.

The Yankees, meanwhile, got within a win of the World Series in 2017 behind a potent mix of young stars and veteran pieces. Adding a player of Machado's caliber would nudge them closer to the defending champion Houston Astros for Junior Circuit supremacy.

New York also has a loaded farm system, headlined by infielder Gleyber Torres, the game's top prospect, per MLB.com.

That's surely where the Orioles' demands would start for Machado, and they'd likely ask for an additional blue chip such as left-hander Justus Sheffield or right-hander Chance Adams, plus ancillary pieces.

On Nov. 24, MLB.com's Jim Duquette opined:

"Trading Machado within the division to New York would be a tough sell to the O's fanbase, but the Yankees are a perfect fit for Machado, given that they don't have a long-term solution at the hot corner and will likely be a front-runner for his services next year when he hits free agency. If the Yanks would part with [Torres] who is coming off Tommy John surgery, that would make it enticing for the Orioles."

Wobbly veteran Chase Headley tops the Yankees' third base depth chart. They could put together a sparkling package that might force the Orioles' hand.

Still, New York should take a hard pass.

Tempting as it would be to pair Machado with right fielder Aaron Judge and catcher Gary Sanchez and form one of the most potent middle-of-the-order combos in the universe, the Yanks need to exercise patience. 

They saved their young chips last winter and at the July trade deadline, trusted their up-and-coming weapons and reached the doorstep of the Fall Classic.

Even after two-way Japanese star Shohei Ohtani spurned them, they're well-positioned to make noise in 2018.

Next winter, they can open the wallet for Machado, Harper or—heck—why not both?

In the meantime, they can keep their MiLB stockpile to augment the roster with cost-controlled talent or swing trades for players who will be more than one-year rentals. 

If acquiring Machado now increased the likelihood of his signing with the Yankees long-term, it might be worth the outlay. But it's nearly impossible to envision a scenario where Machado avoids the market a year from now.

New York should also keep its trade bait for any necessary 2018 deadline deals, as general manager Brian Cashman explained to John Harper of the New York Daily News.

"Whatever we do this offseason, we have to leave room for in-season trades," Cashman said, per Harper. "But we'll be looking at everything. We'll try to gravitate to the best idea."

At the moment, the best idea doesn't involve Machado. Come next offseason, it might.

The Yankees aren't the pre-2016 Chicago Cubs or Cleveland Indians or even Los Angeles Dodgers, trying to break a longstanding World Series drought. They last won it all in 2009, which is a long time only in the Bronx. 

As the well-worn saying goes, good things come to those who wait. Machado is an undeniably good thing. The Yankees, with all their gestating potential and future opportunities, should wait.

               

All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

MLB Rumors: BS Meter on Giancarlo Stanton, Shohei Ohtani, Other Hot-Stove Buzz

With Thanksgiving behind us and the MLB winter meetings set to kick off Dec. 10, the offseason hot stove is stuck somewhere between tepid and ice cold.

To put it another way: Since Justin Upton signed a five-year, $106 million extension with the Los Angeles Angels on Nov. 2, the biggest transactions have been the Oakland A's trading Ryon Healy to the Seattle Mariners and the Texas Rangers signing Doug Fister, per Evan Drelich of NBC Sports Boston.

So...yeah.

Eventually, of course, the top free agents will come off the board and we'll learn the fate of the winter's major trade targets.

In the meantime, let's mine the rumor mill for some choice nuggets and put them through B/R's one-to-five B.S. meter, with one being a near-lock and five being utter B.S.

We'll begin with rumblings concerning the biggest fish (pun intended) on the trading block.

          

A Shot of Giancarlo Stanton With a Dee Gordon Chaser by the Bay?   

The Rumor: The San Francisco Giants might acquire Giancarlo Stanton and Dee Gordon from the Miami Marlins.

The Source: It's widely known the Giants are pursuing Stanton and are the "favorites" to land the Marlins masher, per MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. According to Craig Misch of Sirius XM, the Giants and Marlins have exchanged names in their negotiations.

As for San Francisco's package, Misch names two prospects, pitcher Tyler Beede and power-hitting outfielder/first baseman Chris Shaw, as well as MLB second baseman Joe Panik. On the Miami side, he mentions second baseman Dee Gordon along with Stanton.

Analysis: On the surface, this makes sense. The Marlins' new ownership group, led by Derek Jeter, is looking to shed salary. Getting rid of the more than $280 million (barring a post-2020 opt-out) remaining on Stanton's contract fits the bill as does offloading the minimum $37.9 million owed to Gordon through 2020.

Beede and Shaw are the No. 2 and No. 3 prospects in the Giants' system, per MLB.com, while Panik is a 2015 All-Star and 2016 Gold Glove winner entering his first year of arbitration eligibility.

It's possible the Marlins could extract a richer haul from another suitor, but that's a decent return, considering the Giants are willing to take on "a lot" of Stanton's contract, per Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.

That brings us to Gordon. The 29-year-old speedster hit .308 and stole 60 bases in 2017 and would plug the hole left by Panik's departure. 

Couple his salary with Stanton's, however, and Giants would vault over the luxury tax threshold, as McCovey Chronicles' Grant Brisbee noted. And that's before they fill other holes in the bullpen and at third base.

Despite his payroll-crippling salary, Stanton makes a lot of sense for a San Francisco squad that lost 98 games and finished dead last in home runs and OPS, yet has indicated a rebuild isn't in the offing. 

Adding Gordon's dollars (not to mention his PED baggage) tips the scales toward implausible.

B.S. Meter: Three

      

Shohei Ohtani Getting Fitted for Pinstripes?

The Rumor: The New York Yankees are the front-runners to land Japanese star Shohei Ohtani.

The Source: George A. King III of the New York Post summed up the speculative consensus when he noted "the Yankees are the favorite" to sign the soon-to-be-posted two-way stud.

Analysis: Ohtani's agent, Nez Balelo, asked for a litany of written explanations from all clubs interested in his 23-year-old client's services, as first reported by the Associated Press (h/t the Boston Herald).

Per the report:

"Balelo's memo asks for a team to evaluate Ohtani's talent as a pitcher and as a hitter; to explain its player development, medical training and player performance philosophies and facilities; to describe its minor league and spring training facilities; to detail resources for Ohtani's cultural assimilation into the team's city; to demonstrate a vision for how Ohtani could integrate into the team's organization; and to tell Ohtani why the team is a desirable place to play."

Notably, the memo asked teams not to discuss money. Ohtani can sign only for the league minimum, plus a $20 million posting fee, since he's entering MLB prior to his 25th birthday.

The Yanks aren't the only club that ticks off the non-monetary boxes on Ohtani's checklist.

The Los Angeles Dodgers can make a compelling case as another big-market team with a high profile and a talented roster. The Seattle Mariners have a track record with Japanese players and are planning to make a hard push, according to general manager Jerry Dipoto.

"We're not going to leave a stone unturned in the efforts to do it again if the opportunity arises," Dipoto said on a podcast with Seattle broadcaster Aaron Goldsmith, per Greg Johns of MLB.com. "We'll be responsible in how we do it, but we understand this is a one-time buying opportunity and you have to be prepared."

That said, the Yankees are the best fit. No franchise boasts a richer history. Heck, Ohtani has been called the Japanese Babe Ruth, as Bleacher Report's Scott Miller outlined in March. 

Ohtani isn't coming to the states for dollars. He's coming for eyeballs and a chance to win. The burgeoning Big Apple Yankeeswho got within a win of the World Series in 2017offer both.

The Mariners are an interesting dark horse but bet on Ohtani landing in the Bronx.

B.S. Meter: One

               

Yu Darvish to the Twinkies?

The Rumor: The Minnesota Twins are serious players for free-agent ace Yu Darvish.

The Source: There are an array of second- and third-tier arms on the market, but Minnesota could aim high and go after Darvish, who figures to command a nine-figure deal.

That's according to general manager Thad Levine, who called Darvish "a priority for us," per Jim Duquette of MLB Network Radio.

Analysis: The Twins were one of the coolest surprises of 2017 as they rebounded from a 103-loss campaign to claim the American League's second wild card.

Now, they're hoping to build on that success and shore up their most glaring weakness—the starting rotation.

The Twins have $70.4 million committed for next season, per Spotrac, plus another $15.8 million in projected arbitration salaries, per MLB Trade Rumors. They spent $135.7 million in 2017, which means they've got dough to allocate.

Still, it would take a huge chunk of their available resources to ink Darvish. That leaves precious little for the Twins to plug other holes, including in the bullpen.

Minnesota could surprise, but Darvish or any other top-shelf free agent coming to Target Field feels far-fetched.

B.S. Meter: Four

              

Pads in on Eric Hosmer?

The Rumor: The San Diego Padres could make a play for free-agent first baseman Eric Hosmer

The Source: Both Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic and Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune have noted the Friars' possible interest in Hosmer.

Analysis: The Padres are squarely in the midst of a rebuild and more than a season away from contention.

That said, Hosmer is 28 years old and could have several productive years ahead of him after posting career highs in batting average (.318), hits (192) and OPS (.882) in 2017 with the Kansas City Royals.

Hosmer is represented by superagent Scott Boras and is likely to command a $100 million-plus pact. That's a lot of coin for a club whose contention window has yet to crack open.

The lefty-swinger has a reputation as a clubhouse leader and won a title with K.C. in 2015. He may prefer to go to a winner, but the young Padres could be a sneaky-decent fit.

Assuming the Boston Red Sox or another deep-pocketed contender doesn't overpay for Hosmer, this isn't as implausible as it sounds.

B.S. Meter: Two

               

All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference unless otherwise noted.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Each MLB Team’s Nightmare 2017-18 Offseason Scenario

Every MLB franchise enters the offseason with dreams. Unfortunately, like all dreams, they can curdle into nightmares.

In some cases, it's a club failing to acquire the assets necessary to remain a viable contender or vault toward a title. In others, it's a squad selling low on a bankable asset or letting a key free agent walk away. Some are more nightmarish than others, depending on the strength and status of the roster in question, but none are ideal.

As the hot stove crackles to life, let's run through all 30 teams and identify the winter scenario that would have their front office and fan base waking in a cold sweat.

Cue the music.

Begin Slideshow

Shohei Otani’s Muddied Path to MLB Leaves Worldwide Megastar’s Dream in Flux

Shohei Otani is the most exciting player who might not sign an MLB contract this winter.

To be fair, Otani is arguably the most exciting available player, period. The 23-year-old Japanese stud is a legitimate two-way talent, a gifted pitcher and hitter with the tools to improve a big league roster immeasurably and revolutionize the game.

"He has that allure, it grabs your attention," Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said, per USA Today's Bob Nightengale. "When you see a guy hit a ball 500 feet, and throw a ball 100-mph, it's a pretty unique skillset."

That's a contender for understatement of the offseason. It also encapsulates Otani's allure. Comparisons to Babe Ruth have been floated, including by Bleacher Report's Scott Miller:

"Shohei Ohtani is Babe Ruth come back to life a century later in Japan. In leading Hokkaido Nippon Ham to the Japan Series title last October as a starting pitcher and an outfielder/designated hitter, the Fighters won by virtue of both his power right-handed pitching and lethal left-handed swing."

All that said, Otani's path to The Show is a crooked, blurry line.

Under current MLB rules, Otani is eligible to receive no more than the minimum salary of $545,000 in 2017, since he'd be entering the league before his 25th birthday. Most teams can't offer that much because of international signing restrictions. He also wouldn't hit salary arbitration until 2020 at the soonest.

Meanwhile, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters—Otani's employer in Japan—are demanding a $20 million posting fee from whatever franchise inks their burgeoning megastar.

According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Major League Baseball Players Association has tentatively agreed to extend the deal that made such machinations possible, even though it reeks of a raw deal for the player.

Tacking a $20 million rider onto any pact Otani signs shifts the calculus. In a flash, he goes from a Black Friday bargain to a ledger-tipping expenditure.

In a way, this makes Otani's decision to play stateside unique and laudable, as Sherman explained:

"Because there is such a strict limit on how much Otani can be paidand that he is willing to come now rather than wait two years, turn 25 and have no restrictions and (health permitted) perhaps get $200 million or moreindicates what a true recruiting free agency this would be, with teams trying to sell why they are the best landing spot regardless of how much Otani could be immediately paid."

If he comes to the big leagues, it'll be with the team that offers him an ideal location, optimum eyeballs and a chance to win. There's something refreshing about that.

It also makes the picture as clear as pine tar and explains why Otani's posting agreement was initially fought by the MLBPA.

Yes, he owns a 2.52 ERA and 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 543 NPB innings and posted a .942 OPS as a hitter in 2017.

He's also a test case for MLB's international signing system and a lightning rod for controversy, through no fault of his own.

"I don't know if it will be possible," Otani said of hitting and pitching in the big leagues, per the Associated Press (h/t New York Times). "But I want to hear what teams over there say and what kind of situations might be available. Until that process has started, I can't say how it might work out."

He may as well have been speaking about his nascent MLB career. Variables are swirling like late-autumn leaves.

If Otani's primary concern were his bank account, he'd stay in Japan for now, as ESPN's Buster Olney outlined:

"Some current agents say their strong recommendation to Otani would be for him to wait to jump to MLB after the 2019 season, because that’s when he would be eligible to take offers from all teams without restriction.

"As one agent noted, this would be in the first year after the free agency of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, when Otani could benefit from salary ceilings raised even higher."

Instead, it seems Otani wants a piece of the action now. He wants to measure himself against the game's best, salary be damned. Put a feather in his cap, even as you scatter uncertainty in his MLB future.

"The surplus value of this player is so great because he is going to be paid such a fraction of what he is actually worth that essentially he can do whatever he wants and it would still be a huge benefit," an unnamed executive told Sherman.

Shohei Otani is the winter's most exciting player. As we wait for the procedural and monetary cleats to drop, he's also its most enigmatic.

      

All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Red Sox Should Run Away From $100 Million Eric Hosmer Mistake

The Boston Red Sox are going to make moves this winter.

Sure, they've won back-to-back American League East titles, but each time they've failed to advance past the division series. They already fired their manager, John Farrell. 

Now, expect executive Dave Dombrowski and his brain trust to be aggressive in the free-agent and trade markets.

On the free-agent side of the ledger, here's a name you're going to hear linked to Boston: Eric Hosmer.

In fact, it's already happening. According to FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman, "there is an expectation" the Sox will target Hosmer to fill the void at first base. That's not confirmation from the front office, but it's enough of a rumor to hang our hats on. And it's only early November.

On the surface, Hosmer makes sense for Boston. Scratch deeper, however, and the Red Sox should run away from a Hosmer signing—fast and far.

First, to stipulate: Boston needs an upgrade at first base.

Mitch Moreland got the bulk of the starts last season and acquitted himself well enough, hitting 22 home runs with a .769 OPS. Moreland is also 32 years old and a free agent himself.

Hanley Ramirez made just 18 starts at first last year and is a designated hitter going forward (provided he can still hit). Rookie Sam Travis is intriguing but not a sure bet. Brock Holt is a versatile utility player, yet he's no one's idea of an everyday first baseman. 

Enter Hosmer, who turned 28 in October and posted career highs in average (.318), hits (192) and OPS (.882), and tied a career high with 25 homers in his contract year with the Kansas City Royals.

That's the profile of a guy any team with a need at the position would covet, right? It depends on the price tag.

The Royals, Heyman reported, could be willing to offer Hosmer a $100 million pact to remain in K.C. It would be a bold move by general manager Dayton Moore to keep a popular franchise figure in town, and Boston should step aside and let him make it.

An unnamed National League executive said he expects Hosmer's agent—the infamous Scott Boras—to seek eight years and $200 million for his client, per Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star

A nine-figure contract for Hosmer would hamper Boston's ability to upgrade in other areas, including the starting rotation. And it's possible Hosmer's 2017 stat line was more an anomaly and less a harbinger of things to come.

Hosmer was an All-Star in 2016, but he also struck out a career-topping 132 times and posted a respectable but less-robust .761 OPS.

Prior to that, he'd never hit as many as 20 home runs in five full big league seasons. In 2014, even as the Royals won the pennant, he hit just nine.

The Red Sox are looking for thump after hitting the fewest home runs in the American League last season and the 27th fewest in baseball, ahead of only the Atlanta Braves, Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants. Hosmer isn't guaranteed to provide it. 

The projection systems aren't bullish. Steamer foretells a .288/.358/.480 slash line with a scant eight home runs, per FanGraphs. Even if you think that's pessimistic—and it is—it shows where the low bar is set.

Hosmer is reportedly a great clubhouse presence and a natural leader. Those intangibles count for something. Maybe he could speed up the timetable of Boston's talented young offensive core. 

"What does he mean to a franchise? Well, he means a lot," Moore said in a recent interview with 610 Sports. "I don't know if you can measure that."

Intangibles don't hit the ball over the fence, however, and they aren't worth crippling the budget.

Instead of throwing gobs of cash at Hosmer, the Red Sox should sign a less-expensive player such as Carlos Santana, who has averaged 24 homers a season over the past seven years, owns a solid .365 career on-base percentage and who posted 10 defensive runs saved at first base for the Cleveland Indians in 2017.

Santana is three-and-a-half years older than Hosmer and will likely command far fewer years and dollars. Other options include Logan Morrison, Yonder Alonso and Lucas Duda, all of whom have pop but wouldn't bust the bank.

The Red Sox are going to make moves this winter. They have to if they want to fend off the ascendant New York Yankees for AL East supremacy.

When it comes to Hosmer, however, Boston should move away.

              

All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Red Sox Should Run Away From $100 Million Eric Hosmer Mistake

The Boston Red Sox are going to make moves this winter.

Sure, they've won back-to-back American League East titles, but each time they've failed to advance past the division series. They already fired their manager, John Farrell. 

Now, expect executive Dave Dombrowski and his brain trust to be aggressive in the free-agent and trade markets.

On the free-agent side of the ledger, here's a name you're going to hear linked to Boston: Eric Hosmer.

In fact, it's already happening. According to FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman, "there is an expectation" the Sox will target Hosmer to fill the void at first base. That's not confirmation from the front office, but it's enough of a rumor to hang our hats on. And it's only early November.

On the surface, Hosmer makes sense for Boston. Scratch deeper, however, and the Red Sox should run away from a Hosmer signing—fast and far.

First, to stipulate: Boston needs an upgrade at first base.

Mitch Moreland got the bulk of the starts last season and acquitted himself well enough, hitting 22 home runs with a .769 OPS. Moreland is also 32 years old and a free agent himself.

Hanley Ramirez made just 18 starts at first last year and is a designated hitter going forward (provided he can still hit). Rookie Sam Travis is intriguing but not a sure bet. Brock Holt is a versatile utility player, yet he's no one's idea of an everyday first baseman. 

Enter Hosmer, who turned 28 in October and posted career highs in average (.318), hits (192) and OPS (.882), and tied a career high with 25 homers in his contract year with the Kansas City Royals.

That's the profile of a guy any team with a need at the position would covet, right? It depends on the price tag.

The Royals, Heyman reported, could be willing to offer Hosmer a $100 million pact to remain in K.C. It would be a bold move by general manager Dayton Moore to keep a popular franchise figure in town, and Boston should step aside and let him make it.

An unnamed National League executive said he expects Hosmer's agent—the infamous Scott Boras—to seek eight years and $200 million for his client, per Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star

A nine-figure contract for Hosmer would hamper Boston's ability to upgrade in other areas, including the starting rotation. And it's possible Hosmer's 2017 stat line was more an anomaly and less a harbinger of things to come.

Hosmer was an All-Star in 2016, but he also struck out a career-topping 132 times and posted a respectable but less-robust .761 OPS.

Prior to that, he'd never hit as many as 20 home runs in five full big league seasons. In 2014, even as the Royals won the pennant, he hit just nine.

The Red Sox are looking for thump after hitting the fewest home runs in the American League last season and the 27th fewest in baseball, ahead of only the Atlanta Braves, Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants. Hosmer isn't guaranteed to provide it. 

The projection systems aren't bullish. Steamer foretells a .288/.358/.480 slash line with a scant eight home runs, per FanGraphs. Even if you think that's pessimistic—and it is—it shows where the low bar is set.

Hosmer is reportedly a great clubhouse presence and a natural leader. Those intangibles count for something. Maybe he could speed up the timetable of Boston's talented young offensive core. 

"What does he mean to a franchise? Well, he means a lot," Moore said in a recent interview with 610 Sports. "I don't know if you can measure that."

Intangibles don't hit the ball over the fence, however, and they aren't worth crippling the budget.

Instead of throwing gobs of cash at Hosmer, the Red Sox should sign a less-expensive player such as Carlos Santana, who has averaged 24 homers a season over the past seven years, owns a solid .365 career on-base percentage and who posted 10 defensive runs saved at first base for the Cleveland Indians in 2017.

Santana is three-and-a-half years older than Hosmer and will likely command far fewer years and dollars. Other options include Logan Morrison, Yonder Alonso and Lucas Duda, all of whom have pop but wouldn't bust the bank.

The Red Sox are going to make moves this winter. They have to if they want to fend off the ascendant New York Yankees for AL East supremacy.

When it comes to Hosmer, however, Boston should move away.

              

All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

How Yu Darvish’s Back-to-Back World Series Duds Will Impact Free-Agent Worth

Yu Darvish is an ace. Someone is going to pay him accordingly. Let's get that out of the way.

In fact, Darvish and Jake Arrieta might be the only true aces on an otherwise muddled starting pitching market. Normally, that equals a straight line to a massive nine-figure contract.

There's a blemish on Darvish's resume, however, and it could impact his worth this winter as he tests free agency. We're speaking about his back-to-back dreadful World Series starts, which linger in the collective consciousness like dry champagne on the walls of the visitors' clubhouse at Dodger Stadium. 

Fair or not, the last image we all got of Darvish was of the right-hander failing spectacularly on the biggest stage after the Los Angeles Dodgers rented him for just such an occasion.

A quick recap: After coming to the Dodgers from the Texas Rangers in a trade-deadline swap for a package highlighted by power-hitting prospect Willie Calhoun, Darvish posted a 3.44 ERA in nine regular-season starts along with an impressive 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings.

He wasn't expected to be the club's No. 1 heading into the postseason; that title belonged to Clayton Kershaw. With lefty Rich Hill also on hand, all Darvish needed to do was be a solid supporting player.

He struck out seven and allowed one run in five innings in his division series start against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He followed that up with 6.1 innings of seven-strikeout, one-run ball against the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series. The Dodgers won both games. 

Then the Fall Classic rolled around, and Darvish wilted like an autumn leaf under the glaring lights.

In his first start, in Game 3 at Minute Maid Park, he lasted a scant 1.2 innings against the Houston Astros and yielded six hits and four runs. The Dodgers lost, 5-3.

He got a crack at redemption in Game 7, but this time surrendered five runs (four earned) in 1.2 frames as L.A. fell, 5-1.

Manager Dave Roberts gave Darvish as much rope as he could in the deciding contest and allowed him to face eventual World Series MVP George Springer with a runner on base in the second inning. Here was the result, in case you have short-term memory issues:

With that, Darvish's World Series ERA ballooned to 21.60. That's over the legal U.S. drinking age, which is fitting for the SoCal faithful.

Darvish has plenty going for him. Since crossing the Pacific from Japan in 2012, he's made four All-Star appearances, finished among the top 10 in Cy Young Award balloting twice and averaged 11 strikeouts per nine.

He's also 31 years old and missed the 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, so there's risk as well as upside.

Nonetheless, it seemed a foregone conclusion Darvish would command a Fort Knox payday. Now, his World Series faceplant may move the money needle southward.

He won't be forced to settle for a scrub's salary. After he and Arrieta, the free-agent cupboard is stocked with second-tier options such as Lance Lynn, Andrew Cashner and Tyler Chatwood.

New York Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka can opt out of his contract—as I argued he should—which would add another ace to the mix.

Regardless, Darvish will draw ample interest. MLB Trade Rumors posited a six-year, $160 million deal from the Cubs. Even if it's not the Cubbies who cut the check, that sounds about right, if a tad high.

A great World Series showing that guided the Dodgers to their first title since 1988 could have pushed Darvish even higher. Maybe he could have joined the rarefied $200 million club.

As MLBTR's Tim Dierkes wrote in making his salary projection, "Darvish recorded a mere 10 outs in his two brutal World Series starts for the Dodgers. With those ugly outings fresh in our minds, projecting him to receive the winter’s largest contract creates cognitive dissonance."

No one will weep for Darvish, least of all grieving Dodgers fans. Missing out on a few million dollars—or even tens of millionswhen you're going to get filthy rich regardless isn't cause for public mourning. 

This was a missed opportunity for one of the game's top hurlers, however, there's no two ways about it. 

"I had bad days and that means somebody else had a great day," Darvish said after Game 7, per David Waldstein of the New York Times. "I try to think of it that way, and sometimes it works. Maybe this time it didn't work because I let my teammates down."

As crass as it sounds, he probably let his agent and accountants down, too.

               

All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

How Yu Darvish’s Back-to-Back World Series Duds Will Impact Free-Agent Worth

Yu Darvish is an ace. Someone is going to pay him accordingly. Let's get that out of the way.

In fact, Darvish and Jake Arrieta might be the only true aces on an otherwise muddled starting pitching market. Normally, that equals a straight line to a massive nine-figure contract.

There's a blemish on Darvish's resume, however, and it could impact his worth this winter as he tests free agency. We're speaking about his back-to-back dreadful World Series starts, which linger in the collective consciousness like dry champagne on the walls of the visitors' clubhouse at Dodger Stadium. 

Fair or not, the last image we all got of Darvish was of the right-hander failing spectacularly on the biggest stage after the Los Angeles Dodgers rented him for just such an occasion.

A quick recap: After coming to the Dodgers from the Texas Rangers in a trade-deadline swap for a package highlighted by power-hitting prospect Willie Calhoun, Darvish posted a 3.44 ERA in nine regular-season starts along with an impressive 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings.

He wasn't expected to be the club's No. 1 heading into the postseason; that title belonged to Clayton Kershaw. With lefty Rich Hill also on hand, all Darvish needed to do was be a solid supporting player.

He struck out seven and allowed one run in five innings in his division series start against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He followed that up with 6.1 innings of seven-strikeout, one-run ball against the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series. The Dodgers won both games. 

Then the Fall Classic rolled around, and Darvish wilted like an autumn leaf under the glaring lights.

In his first start, in Game 3 at Minute Maid Park, he lasted a scant 1.2 innings against the Houston Astros and yielded six hits and four runs. The Dodgers lost, 5-3.

He got a crack at redemption in Game 7, but this time surrendered five runs (four earned) in 1.2 frames as L.A. fell, 5-1.

Manager Dave Roberts gave Darvish as much rope as he could in the deciding contest and allowed him to face eventual World Series MVP George Springer with a runner on base in the second inning. Here was the result, in case you have short-term memory issues:

With that, Darvish's World Series ERA ballooned to 21.60. That's over the legal U.S. drinking age, which is fitting for the SoCal faithful.

Darvish has plenty going for him. Since crossing the Pacific from Japan in 2012, he's made four All-Star appearances, finished among the top 10 in Cy Young Award balloting twice and averaged 11 strikeouts per nine.

He's also 31 years old and missed the 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, so there's risk as well as upside.

Nonetheless, it seemed a foregone conclusion Darvish would command a Fort Knox payday. Now, his World Series faceplant may move the money needle southward.

He won't be forced to settle for a scrub's salary. After he and Arrieta, the free-agent cupboard is stocked with second-tier options such as Lance Lynn, Andrew Cashner and Tyler Chatwood.

New York Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka can opt out of his contract—as I argued he should—which would add another ace to the mix.

Regardless, Darvish will draw ample interest. MLB Trade Rumors posited a six-year, $160 million deal from the Cubs. Even if it's not the Cubbies who cut the check, that sounds about right, if a tad high.

A great World Series showing that guided the Dodgers to their first title since 1988 could have pushed Darvish even higher. Maybe he could have joined the rarefied $200 million club.

As MLBTR's Tim Dierkes wrote in making his salary projection, "Darvish recorded a mere 10 outs in his two brutal World Series starts for the Dodgers. With those ugly outings fresh in our minds, projecting him to receive the winter’s largest contract creates cognitive dissonance."

No one will weep for Darvish, least of all grieving Dodgers fans. Missing out on a few million dollars—or even tens of millionswhen you're going to get filthy rich regardless isn't cause for public mourning. 

This was a missed opportunity for one of the game's top hurlers, however, there's no two ways about it. 

"I had bad days and that means somebody else had a great day," Darvish said after Game 7, per David Waldstein of the New York Times. "I try to think of it that way, and sometimes it works. Maybe this time it didn't work because I let my teammates down."

As crass as it sounds, he probably let his agent and accountants down, too.

               

All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Masahiro Tanaka Should Opt Out of Yankees Megadeal, Become Elite FA

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. As New York Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka enters the most pivotal offseason of his MLB career, he'd do well to heed those four words.

Here's the part where some stomachs will turn. We're going to talk about a professional athlete choosing between being really rich and really, really, ridiculously rich. 

That's the reality of modern sports. It's a business, as players and executives alike constantly remind us, and business is booming.

Here's the situation for Tanaka: The New York Yankees right-hander has three years and $67 million remaining on his contract. He could ride it out and line his bank account with more money than you or I will ever see.

Or, he could pull the opt-out ripcord written into his deal and seek untold riches on the open market.

It's not a risk-free proposition. Tanaka may opt out only to find another, more lucrative offer isn't waiting for him. His 2017 stat line features glaring blemishes, as we'll delve into shortly.

It says here, however, Tanaka should take the plunge, leave the $67 million on the table and become an elite free agent. Yes, we said elite.

OK, first the case against Tanaka opting out.

While the burgeoning Yankees charged to within a game of the World Series, Tanaka endured easily his worst season since coming over from Japan.

He posted an MLB career-high 4.74 ERA and suffered through a few abysmal stretches, including the calendar month of May, when he coughed up 13 earned runs in 29.2 innings.

It was worth wondering if New York's former ace was legitimately broken.

"As far as it being one of the worst slumps in my career, I probably have to agree with that," Tanaka said in late May, per Fox Sports. "You have to grind it out. You can't put your head down."

He performed better in the second half, and finished the regular season on a crescendo by tallying 15 strikeouts in seven shutout innings Sept. 29 against the Toronto Blue Jays.

In the playoffs, meanwhile, he posted a 0.90 ERA across three starts with 18 strikeouts and three walks in 20 frames. By and large, he resembled the Tanaka of old.

A handful of stout outings don't erase a season of turmoil, but Tanaka boosted his stock.

Enough to net more than three years and $67 million from someone this winter?

Tanaka has logged 1,989.1 innings between MLB and Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball and has battled injuries, including a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament diagnosed in 2014.

He opted not to have Tommy John surgery at the time and hasn't needed it since, but that specter hangs over any long-term contract. 

On the other hand, he turned 29 Nov. 1. Age isn't a significant factor. And he'd be part of a free-agent crop that isn't bursting with aces.

Jake Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award with the Chicago Cubs in 2015 but has endured ups and downs since.

Yu Darvish, another Japanese right-hander, missed the 2015 season due to Tommy John surgery and was knocked around in two World Series starts by the Houston Astros

Both Arrieta and Darvish will command $100 million-plus contracts anyway, make no mistake. But neither is without warts, and they're clearly at the head of the 2017-18 class. Consider this, though: Tanaka is two years younger than Darvish and nearly three years younger than Arrieta.

Which pitcher would you commit payroll-depleting years and dollars to? The fact that it's a tough choice says it all.

Tanaka has until Saturday to make his Hamlet-esque decision: to opt out or not to opt out.

If he does, he'll draw interest from an array of suitors. The Cubs could lose Arrieta. The Dodgers could wave goodbye to Darvish. Likewise, the Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels and any number of other deep-pocketed franchises will be sniffing after starting pitching.

Given his spotty 2017 and the ever-present injury pall, Tanaka won't vault past the $200 million threshold crossed by the likes of David Price with Boston (cautionary tale) or Zack Greinke with the Arizona Diamondbacks (redemption tale).

He can expect more dough than what's left on his Yanks contract, howeverand he may get it from the Yankees themselves. They remain top spenders, despite their recent commitment to youth and internal development, and there's uncertainty in the rotation behind Luis Severino and Sonny Gray.

Whatever uniform he dons in 2018, this is the offseason for Tanaka to be bold, to seek greater fortune and, yeah, turn a couple of stomachs. 

In this case, his venture could mean millions gained.

                  

All statistics and contract information courtesy of Baseball-Reference.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Masahiro Tanaka Should Opt Out of Yankees Megadeal, Become Elite FA

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. As New York Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka enters the most pivotal offseason of his MLB career, he'd do well to heed those four words.

Here's the part where some stomachs will turn. We're going to talk about a professional athlete choosing between being really rich and really, really, ridiculously rich. 

That's the reality of modern sports. It's a business, as players and executives alike constantly remind us, and business is booming.

Here's the situation for Tanaka: The New York Yankees right-hander has three years and $67 million remaining on his contract. He could ride it out and line his bank account with more money than you or I will ever see.

Or, he could pull the opt-out ripcord written into his deal and seek untold riches on the open market.

It's not a risk-free proposition. Tanaka may opt out only to find another, more lucrative offer isn't waiting for him. His 2017 stat line features glaring blemishes, as we'll delve into shortly.

It says here, however, Tanaka should take the plunge, leave the $67 million on the table and become an elite free agent. Yes, we said elite.

OK, first the case against Tanaka opting out.

While the burgeoning Yankees charged to within a game of the World Series, Tanaka endured easily his worst season since coming over from Japan.

He posted an MLB career-high 4.74 ERA and suffered through a few abysmal stretches, including the calendar month of May, when he coughed up 13 earned runs in 29.2 innings.

It was worth wondering if New York's former ace was legitimately broken.

"As far as it being one of the worst slumps in my career, I probably have to agree with that," Tanaka said in late May, per Fox Sports. "You have to grind it out. You can't put your head down."

He performed better in the second half, and finished the regular season on a crescendo by tallying 15 strikeouts in seven shutout innings Sept. 29 against the Toronto Blue Jays.

In the playoffs, meanwhile, he posted a 0.90 ERA across three starts with 18 strikeouts and three walks in 20 frames. By and large, he resembled the Tanaka of old.

A handful of stout outings don't erase a season of turmoil, but Tanaka boosted his stock.

Enough to net more than three years and $67 million from someone this winter?

Tanaka has logged 1,989.1 innings between MLB and Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball and has battled injuries, including a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament diagnosed in 2014.

He opted not to have Tommy John surgery at the time and hasn't needed it since, but that specter hangs over any long-term contract. 

On the other hand, he turned 29 Nov. 1. Age isn't a significant factor. And he'd be part of a free-agent crop that isn't bursting with aces.

Jake Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award with the Chicago Cubs in 2015 but has endured ups and downs since.

Yu Darvish, another Japanese right-hander, missed the 2015 season due to Tommy John surgery and was knocked around in two World Series starts by the Houston Astros

Both Arrieta and Darvish will command $100 million-plus contracts anyway, make no mistake. But neither is without warts, and they're clearly at the head of the 2017-18 class. Consider this, though: Tanaka is two years younger than Darvish and nearly three years younger than Arrieta.

Which pitcher would you commit payroll-depleting years and dollars to? The fact that it's a tough choice says it all.

Tanaka has until Saturday to make his Hamlet-esque decision: to opt out or not to opt out.

If he does, he'll draw interest from an array of suitors. The Cubs could lose Arrieta. The Dodgers could wave goodbye to Darvish. Likewise, the Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels and any number of other deep-pocketed franchises will be sniffing after starting pitching.

Given his spotty 2017 and the ever-present injury pall, Tanaka won't vault past the $200 million threshold crossed by the likes of David Price with Boston (cautionary tale) or Zack Greinke with the Arizona Diamondbacks (redemption tale).

He can expect more dough than what's left on his Yanks contract, howeverand he may get it from the Yankees themselves. They remain top spenders, despite their recent commitment to youth and internal development, and there's uncertainty in the rotation behind Luis Severino and Sonny Gray.

Whatever uniform he dons in 2018, this is the offseason for Tanaka to be bold, to seek greater fortune and, yeah, turn a couple of stomachs. 

In this case, his venture could mean millions gained.

                  

All statistics and contract information courtesy of Baseball-Reference.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com