MLB Power Rankings: How All 30 Teams Stack Up 1 Month from Spring Training

Are there any sweeter words in the dead of winter than "spring training"?

While we're still roughly a month removed from players making their way to their respective preseason camps in Arizona and Florida, a slow-moving free-agent market should make for a busy final month of the offseason.

For now, it's time for an updated look at how all 30 teams stack up.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Offseason rankings are not meant to be a prediction for the year ahead. Instead, they are a look at how teams would stack up with their current rosters if the season started today.
  • These rankings will be updated several more times until the start of the 2018 campaign, so if your favorite club is lower than you would like, there is still time for improvement.
  • A perfect example of this is the Boston Red Sox. If they add the impact power bat most are expecting them to land before the offseason comes to a close, they will undoubtedly climb in the rankings.

Included for each team is an overview of their offseason to date and what to expect going forward as well as a preliminary rundown of what the 25-man roster might look like if the season started today.

Players listed in bold indicate newcomers. Players listed in italics are not on the 40-man roster. An (R) next to a player indicates his rookie status is intact.

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Yu Darvish vs. Jake Arrieta: Which Free-Agent Ace Is Best Big-Money Bet?

Although spring training is just over the horizon, Major League Baseball teams in need of a No. 1 starter still have two free agents to choose from: Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta.

Decisions, decisions.

With a Cy Young Award and World Series ring in his collection, Arrieta owns two pieces of shiny hardware that Darvish doesn't. Arrieta also has the distinction of never having had Tommy John surgery. Despite that, he has only 1,669 professional innings on his arm to Darvish's 2,127.2.

However, Arrieta doesn't have all the advantages.

He has one All-Star nod to Darvish's four. And while both are 31 years old, Arrieta is Darvish's senior by 163 days. Courtesy of the trade that sent him from the Texas Rangers to the Los Angeles Dodgers last July, Darvish also has the advantage of having been barred from a qualifying offer and is thus spared from ties to draft-pick compensation.

So to determine which of them is more worthy of a big-money contract, a deeper dive into their pasts, presents and futures is warranted.

                

Where They've Been

Darvish was only 18 when he began his pro career with the Nippon Ham Fighters of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball back in 2005. Seven years later, he was the proud owner of a sparkling 1.99 ERA over 1,268.1 NPB innings.

That begat a $107.7 million investment—a $51.7 million posting fee plus a $56 million contract—from the Rangers to bring Darvish to MLB in 2012. The right-hander flourished as a rookie with a 3.90 ERA in 191.1 innings and achieved a career peak with a 2.83 ERA in 209.2 innings in 2013.

Since then, Darvish has experienced his share of highs and lows.

Injuries limited him to 22 starts in 2014 before he missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Knowing that, it's understandable if teams have misgivings about handing over a nine-figure deal to a pitcher whose elbow has already been surgically repaired.

But for these clubs, it's worth some comfort that Darvish hasn't missed many beats over the last two seasons.

He returned in 2016 to post a 3.41 ERA in 100.1 innings. Then came a 3.86 ERA in 186.2 innings last year. Along the way, he's struck out 10.7 batters per nine innings while walking 2.8 batters per nine innings.

Thus he has become an above-average BB/9 artist while carrying on as the best K/9 artist in the majors since 2012:

Rank Player K/9
1 Yu Darvish 11.04
2 Max Scherzer 10.91
3 Chris Sale 10.54
4 Stephen Strasburg 10.47
5 Clayton Kershaw 10.15

    

*Per Baseball-Reference.com, minimum 800 IP between 2012 and 2017.

Arrieta's career has humbler beginnings. He was a Baltimore Orioles fifth-round pick in 2007, reached the majors as a 24-year-old in 2010 and then struggled to get off the ground with a 5.46 ERA across parts of four seasons.

The Orioles effectively gave up on him in 2013, sending him to the Chicago Cubs in an early-July trade centered on Scott Feldman. Fast-forward four-and-a-half years, and there's Arrieta standing at the end of the 2017 season with a 2.73 ERA as a Cub.

Arrieta already had a great arm, but the Cubs changed how and what he threw. They raised his arm slot and moved him to the third base side of the rubber. They also freed his slutter, a cutter/slider hybrid that had been sort of a pitch non grata in Baltimore.

"When I go away to righties, when I try and elevate it and I want to expand it off the plate, it's more of a cutter," Arrieta told Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today in 2015. "If I want to use it underneath a lefty's swing or in the dirt for a chase pitch to a righty, I'll use more of a slider, take some velocity off it slightly and increase the break of it."

Arrieta achieved his peak in 2015, and what a peak it was. He put up a 1.77 ERA in 229 innings overall and finished the year with a microscopic 0.86 ERA over his final 20 starts. Included within was a dominant no-hitter against the Dodgers in August.

Alas, the only way to go after a season like that is down.

Arrieta regressed with a 3.10 ERA across 197.1 innings in 2016 and fell further with a 3.53 ERA across 168.1 innings in 2017. He's holding steady as an above-average K/9 artist, but his BB/9 rate and HR/9 rate have settled around average.

                          

Where They're Going

The extreme upside Arrieta displayed in 2015 was no fluke.

He pitched off a fastball that sat at a career-best 94.6 mph. And since he prefers a sinker to a four-seamer, batters also had movement to contend with. He also didn't skimp on movement with his slutter or curveball, yet he nonetheless kept his location on point.

Well-rounded dominance resulted. He walked only 1.9 batters per nine innings. When batters did swing, he held them to an excellent 76.3 contact percentage. When hitters made contact, he limited them to an MLB-best 84.0 mph in exit velocity.

The trouble is, there's a fair deal of distance between the guy Arrieta was then and the guy he is now.

His 2017 fastball averaged only 92.1 mph, 2.5 ticks below where he was in 2015. He's also been weaning himself off his slutter, as he threw it only 14.2 percent of the time in 2017. These things help explain why his contact rate shot above the league average, as well as why his exit velocity climbed to 87.2 mph.

In Arrieta's defense, none of this got in the way of his being an above-average starter. But any team that signs him will be hoping for something more like the 2015 version of Arrieta. That's a lot to ask.

Mind you, Darvish has his own red flags.

Although he used his trusty slider for 25 percent of his pitches in 2017, its whiff rate fell to a career-worst 14.5 percent. It's still pretty to look at, but that doesn't erase concerns over whether it's past its prime as his go-to out pitch.

Teams also can't be enthused about Darvish's track record as a big-game pitcher.

He got only one more out (10) than he gave up runs (9) in his two World Series starts for the Dodgers against the Houston Astros. Altogether, he owns a 5.81 ERA in 26.1 postseason innings. Despite issues of his own—including 16 walks in his last four outings—Arrieta owns a comparatively better 3.08 ERA in 52.2 postseason innings.

What can be said in Darvish's defense, though, is that there was weird stuff going on in the World Series.

It was alleged that slicker balls were making it tough for all pitchers to throw good sliders. On top of that, one Astros player told Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated that Darvish was tipping his pitches.

Furthering Darvish's defense, his arm appears to be in tip-top shape.

He returned in 2016 with a career-best 93.3 mph fastball, only to beat that mark with a 94.2 mph fastball in 2017. He's also maintaining a deep arsenal. He featured a four-seamer, sinker, slider and curveball in 2017, plus a few changeups and splitters on the side.

Even if his slider is losing something, what he has is more than enough to keep getting by just fine. To wit, his contact rate is staying safely below the league average, and he finished 2017 having allowed just 85.7 mph in exit velocity.

                            

Survey Says: Darvish

To be clear, there's been plenty of interest in both these pitchers throughout the winter.

According to Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram, Darvish is said to be weighing returns to either the Rangers or Dodgers. He's also considering the Cubs, New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins.

Arrieta could still return to Chicago. The Milwaukee Brewers also have interest, according to Jim Bowden of The Athletic. Others have speculated the St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals could be fits.

Of course, either hurler will require teams to invest significant money in a significant risk. They're both older pitchers, after all. The breed isn't known for reliability. 

But between the two, Darvish takes the proverbial cake.

It would be a different story if Arrieta were still functioning like the otherworldly ace he was in 2015. But by all accounts, he isn't the same pitcher anymore.

Even if Darvish doesn't have any upside left, the pitcher he is now is roughly equivalent to the pitcher he's always been. Maybe his slider isn't the same, but he still boasts great stuff and improved control. 

True, he'll likely cost more money than Arrieta. But it's a fair trade-off that he won't require a team to lose one or more draft picks.

Either way, let's end with a plea for all pitching-needy teams out there: Would somebody please sign these guys already?

              

Stats courtesy of Baseball ReferenceFanGraphs, Baseball Savant and Brooks Baseball. Contract data courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.

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Yu Darvish vs. Jake Arrieta: Which Free-Agent Ace Is Best Big-Money Bet?

Although spring training is just over the horizon, Major League Baseball teams in need of a No. 1 starter still have two free agents to choose from: Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta.

Decisions, decisions.

With a Cy Young Award and World Series ring in his collection, Arrieta owns two pieces of shiny hardware that Darvish doesn't. Arrieta also has the distinction of never having had Tommy John surgery. Despite that, he has only 1,669 professional innings on his arm to Darvish's 2,127.2.

However, Arrieta doesn't have all the advantages.

He has one All-Star nod to Darvish's four. And while both are 31 years old, Arrieta is Darvish's senior by 163 days. Courtesy of the trade that sent him from the Texas Rangers to the Los Angeles Dodgers last July, Darvish also has the advantage of having been barred from a qualifying offer and is thus spared from ties to draft-pick compensation.

So to determine which of them is more worthy of a big-money contract, a deeper dive into their pasts, presents and futures is warranted.

                

Where They've Been

Darvish was only 18 when he began his pro career with the Nippon Ham Fighters of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball back in 2005. Seven years later, he was the proud owner of a sparkling 1.99 ERA over 1,268.1 NPB innings.

That begat a $107.7 million investment—a $51.7 million posting fee plus a $56 million contract—from the Rangers to bring Darvish to MLB in 2012. The right-hander flourished as a rookie with a 3.90 ERA in 191.1 innings and achieved a career peak with a 2.83 ERA in 209.2 innings in 2013.

Since then, Darvish has experienced his share of highs and lows.

Injuries limited him to 22 starts in 2014 before he missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Knowing that, it's understandable if teams have misgivings about handing over a nine-figure deal to a pitcher whose elbow has already been surgically repaired.

But for these clubs, it's worth some comfort that Darvish hasn't missed many beats over the last two seasons.

He returned in 2016 to post a 3.41 ERA in 100.1 innings. Then came a 3.86 ERA in 186.2 innings last year. Along the way, he's struck out 10.7 batters per nine innings while walking 2.8 batters per nine innings.

Thus he has become an above-average BB/9 artist while carrying on as the best K/9 artist in the majors since 2012:

Rank Player K/9
1 Yu Darvish 11.04
2 Max Scherzer 10.91
3 Chris Sale 10.54
4 Stephen Strasburg 10.47
5 Clayton Kershaw 10.15

    

*Per Baseball-Reference.com, minimum 800 IP between 2012 and 2017.

Arrieta's career has humbler beginnings. He was a Baltimore Orioles fifth-round pick in 2007, reached the majors as a 24-year-old in 2010 and then struggled to get off the ground with a 5.46 ERA across parts of four seasons.

The Orioles effectively gave up on him in 2013, sending him to the Chicago Cubs in an early-July trade centered on Scott Feldman. Fast-forward four-and-a-half years, and there's Arrieta standing at the end of the 2017 season with a 2.73 ERA as a Cub.

Arrieta already had a great arm, but the Cubs changed how and what he threw. They raised his arm slot and moved him to the third base side of the rubber. They also freed his slutter, a cutter/slider hybrid that had been sort of a pitch non grata in Baltimore.

"When I go away to righties, when I try and elevate it and I want to expand it off the plate, it's more of a cutter," Arrieta told Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today in 2015. "If I want to use it underneath a lefty's swing or in the dirt for a chase pitch to a righty, I'll use more of a slider, take some velocity off it slightly and increase the break of it."

Arrieta achieved his peak in 2015, and what a peak it was. He put up a 1.77 ERA in 229 innings overall and finished the year with a microscopic 0.86 ERA over his final 20 starts. Included within was a dominant no-hitter against the Dodgers in August.

Alas, the only way to go after a season like that is down.

Arrieta regressed with a 3.10 ERA across 197.1 innings in 2016 and fell further with a 3.53 ERA across 168.1 innings in 2017. He's holding steady as an above-average K/9 artist, but his BB/9 rate and HR/9 rate have settled around average.

                          

Where They're Going

The extreme upside Arrieta displayed in 2015 was no fluke.

He pitched off a fastball that sat at a career-best 94.6 mph. And since he prefers a sinker to a four-seamer, batters also had movement to contend with. He also didn't skimp on movement with his slutter or curveball, yet he nonetheless kept his location on point.

Well-rounded dominance resulted. He walked only 1.9 batters per nine innings. When batters did swing, he held them to an excellent 76.3 contact percentage. When hitters made contact, he limited them to an MLB-best 84.0 mph in exit velocity.

The trouble is, there's a fair deal of distance between the guy Arrieta was then and the guy he is now.

His 2017 fastball averaged only 92.1 mph, 2.5 ticks below where he was in 2015. He's also been weaning himself off his slutter, as he threw it only 14.2 percent of the time in 2017. These things help explain why his contact rate shot above the league average, as well as why his exit velocity climbed to 87.2 mph.

In Arrieta's defense, none of this got in the way of his being an above-average starter. But any team that signs him will be hoping for something more like the 2015 version of Arrieta. That's a lot to ask.

Mind you, Darvish has his own red flags.

Although he used his trusty slider for 25 percent of his pitches in 2017, its whiff rate fell to a career-worst 14.5 percent. It's still pretty to look at, but that doesn't erase concerns over whether it's past its prime as his go-to out pitch.

Teams also can't be enthused about Darvish's track record as a big-game pitcher.

He got only one more out (10) than he gave up runs (9) in his two World Series starts for the Dodgers against the Houston Astros. Altogether, he owns a 5.81 ERA in 26.1 postseason innings. Despite issues of his own—including 16 walks in his last four outings—Arrieta owns a comparatively better 3.08 ERA in 52.2 postseason innings.

What can be said in Darvish's defense, though, is that there was weird stuff going on in the World Series.

It was alleged that slicker balls were making it tough for all pitchers to throw good sliders. On top of that, one Astros player told Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated that Darvish was tipping his pitches.

Furthering Darvish's defense, his arm appears to be in tip-top shape.

He returned in 2016 with a career-best 93.3 mph fastball, only to beat that mark with a 94.2 mph fastball in 2017. He's also maintaining a deep arsenal. He featured a four-seamer, sinker, slider and curveball in 2017, plus a few changeups and splitters on the side.

Even if his slider is losing something, what he has is more than enough to keep getting by just fine. To wit, his contact rate is staying safely below the league average, and he finished 2017 having allowed just 85.7 mph in exit velocity.

                            

Survey Says: Darvish

To be clear, there's been plenty of interest in both these pitchers throughout the winter.

According to Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram, Darvish is said to be weighing returns to either the Rangers or Dodgers. He's also considering the Cubs, New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins.

Arrieta could still return to Chicago. The Milwaukee Brewers also have interest, according to Jim Bowden of The Athletic. Others have speculated the St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals could be fits.

Of course, either hurler will require teams to invest significant money in a significant risk. They're both older pitchers, after all. The breed isn't known for reliability. 

But between the two, Darvish takes the proverbial cake.

It would be a different story if Arrieta were still functioning like the otherworldly ace he was in 2015. But by all accounts, he isn't the same pitcher anymore.

Even if Darvish doesn't have any upside left, the pitcher he is now is roughly equivalent to the pitcher he's always been. Maybe his slider isn't the same, but he still boasts great stuff and improved control. 

True, he'll likely cost more money than Arrieta. But it's a fair trade-off that he won't require a team to lose one or more draft picks.

Either way, let's end with a plea for all pitching-needy teams out there: Would somebody please sign these guys already?

              

Stats courtesy of Baseball ReferenceFanGraphs, Baseball Savant and Brooks Baseball. Contract data courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.

Follow zachrymer on Twitter

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Report: Curtis Granderson, Blue Jays Agree to 1-Year, $5M Contract

Veteran outfielder Curtis Granderson agreed to a one-year deal worth $5 million with Toronto Blue Jays, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

The deal also reportedly includes incentives.

Max Wildstein of Sporting News provided his thoughts on the deal:

Granderson, 36, split his 2017 season between the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers, hitting .212 with a .775 OPS, 26 homers and 64 RBI. It was his 10th season in the last 11 with 20 or more home runs.

He was traded to the Dodgers in August and offered a mixed bag in his 36 regular-season games with the team, hitting just .161 but belting seven homers and recording 12 RBI.

Given L.A.'s depth in the outfield, however, the team ultimately decided against re-signing Granderson.

While the veteran outfielder isn't going to hit for a high average or get on base at an efficient clip, he still provides plenty of pop at the plate and a veteran presence in the clubhouse. Granderson's reached the postseason seven times, so his experience will be valued in Toronto.

If nothing else, Granderson offers the Blue Jays a platoon outfielder who can step into the lineup against right-handed pitchers. But given his consistent power, he'll likely see plenty of action this season.

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Report: Felipe Rivero, Pirates Agree to 4-Year, $22M Contract Extension

The Pittsburgh Pirates and closer Felipe Rivero have reportedly agreed to a four-year, $22 million contract extension, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic and Bob Nightengale of USA Today:

Rivero, 26, went 5-3 in 2017 with a 1.67 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 21 saves in 23 opportunities and 88 strikeouts in 75.1 innings. 

                  

This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

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Cardinals’ Yadier Molina Says He Plans to Retire After 2020 Season

St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina expects to retire after his contract runs out following the 2020 season, according to Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com.

The 35-year-old signed a three-year extension prior to the 2017 season worth $60 million that starts in 2018. If he finishes the deal, he will have played 17 years in the majors, all with the Cardinals. 

       

This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

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Cardinals’ Yadier Molina Says He Plans to Retire After 2020 Season

St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina expects to retire after his contract runs out following the 2020 season, according to Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com.

The 35-year-old signed a three-year extension prior to the 2017 season worth $60 million that starts in 2018. If he finishes the deal, he will have played 17 years in the majors, all with the Cardinals. 

       

This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

Get the best sports content from the web and social in the new B/R app. Get the app and get the game.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Cardinals’ Yadier Molina Says He Plans to Retire After 2020 Season

St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina expects to retire after his contract runs out following the 2020 season, according to Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com.

The 35-year-old signed a three-year extension prior to the 2017 season worth $60 million that starts in 2018. If he finishes the deal, he will have played 17 years in the majors, all with the Cardinals. 

       

This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

Get the best sports content from the web and social in the new B/R app. Get the app and get the game.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Andrew McCutchen Reportedly Traded to Giants After 9 Years with Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates traded one of the best outfielders in franchise history Monday, reportedly sending Andrew McCutchen to the San Francisco Giants, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

The move is bound to be unpopular with a segment of Pittsburgh's fanbase. No player was more synonymous with the Pirates' turnaround a few years ago than McCutchen.

In his first three years with the team, Pittsburgh averaged 98 losses a season. Slowly but surely, the Pirates improved, and McCutchen played a key role as they reached the postseason three straight years from 2013 to 2015.

On one hand, it's a shame McCutchen won't begin and end his career with the same team—something that is increasingly rare in modern sports. On the other hand, the time to trade him was now if the franchise was ever going to let him go.

This isn't remotely the same as when Pittsburgh let Barry Bonds walk following the 1992 season, which is the last time the Pirates lost a hitter as historically good as McCutchen.

Bonds' departure is a clear demarcation point in the Pirates' history. They made the National League Championship Series in each of Bonds' last three years in Pittsburgh. In the 20 years after his departure, the team failed to make the postseason.

Bonds was in the prime of his career and coming off an MVP season when he signed with the San Francisco Giants.

McCutchen, on the other hand, turned 31 in October and has shown a slight decline from when he was a regular contender for National League MVP—winning the award in 2013. After a poor 2016, he rebounded in 2017 with a .279/.363/.486 slash line, 28 home runs and 88 RBI.

Were the Pirates still a contending team, they likely would've held on to McCutchen. Instead, they won 78 games in 2016 and 75 games in 2017. McCutchen's contributions in 2018 likely weren't going to make much of a difference for Pittsburgh in terms of returning to the postseason.

In addition, McCutchen only has one year left on his current contract after the Pirates exercised his $14.5 million option for 2018. Meeting McCutchen's asking price in free agency would put a big strain on Pittsburgh's payroll, which is to say nothing about whether re-signing an aging outfielder during a rebuilding period is a sensible use of the team's resources.

Rather than watch McCutchen leave at the end of the year and receive nothing in return, the Pirates got back some pieces that can strengthen their farm system.

The inevitable promotion of Austin Meadows will help soften the blow of losing McCutchen for fans in Pittsburgh. Meadows, the No. 9 pick in the 2013 draft, batted .250 with four home runs, 36 RBI and 11 stolen bases in 72 Triple-A games in 2017.

The 22-year-old is the 17th-best prospect in baseball according to MLB.com and will become one of the faces of the new era of Pirates baseball.

As for the Giants, Jarrett Parker's power in the minor leagues didn't translate to MLB when he was given the opportunity to play in the big leagues for long stretches over the past two seasons. Parker would've been a liability offensively for a team with playoff aspirations such as San Francisco.

In that respect, McCutchen is a big upgrade.

The one question is whether McCutchen will improve the Giants defense, which was an issue with Denard Span.

McCutchen has been a center fielder for almost the entirety of his MLB career, and his defense has slipped as he entered his 30s. If he struggled to patrol the gaps at PNC Park, then he'll have an even harder time guarding the spacious outfield at AT&T Park.

McCutchen's contributions at the plate should outweigh his poor defense, which makes this trade a logical move for a Giants team that aims for big improvement in 2018.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Andrew McCutchen Reportedly Traded to Giants After 9 Years with Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates traded one of the best outfielders in franchise history Monday, reportedly sending Andrew McCutchen to the San Francisco Giants, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

The move is bound to be unpopular with a segment of Pittsburgh's fanbase. No player was more synonymous with the Pirates' turnaround a few years ago than McCutchen.

In his first three years with the team, Pittsburgh averaged 98 losses a season. Slowly but surely, the Pirates improved, and McCutchen played a key role as they reached the postseason three straight years from 2013 to 2015.

On one hand, it's a shame McCutchen won't begin and end his career with the same team—something that is increasingly rare in modern sports. On the other hand, the time to trade him was now if the franchise was ever going to let him go.

This isn't remotely the same as when Pittsburgh let Barry Bonds walk following the 1992 season, which is the last time the Pirates lost a hitter as historically good as McCutchen.

Bonds' departure is a clear demarcation point in the Pirates' history. They made the National League Championship Series in each of Bonds' last three years in Pittsburgh. In the 20 years after his departure, the team failed to make the postseason.

Bonds was in the prime of his career and coming off an MVP season when he signed with the San Francisco Giants.

McCutchen, on the other hand, turned 31 in October and has shown a slight decline from when he was a regular contender for National League MVP—winning the award in 2013. After a poor 2016, he rebounded in 2017 with a .279/.363/.486 slash line, 28 home runs and 88 RBI.

Were the Pirates still a contending team, they likely would've held on to McCutchen. Instead, they won 78 games in 2016 and 75 games in 2017. McCutchen's contributions in 2018 likely weren't going to make much of a difference for Pittsburgh in terms of returning to the postseason.

In addition, McCutchen only has one year left on his current contract after the Pirates exercised his $14.5 million option for 2018. Meeting McCutchen's asking price in free agency would put a big strain on Pittsburgh's payroll, which is to say nothing about whether re-signing an aging outfielder during a rebuilding period is a sensible use of the team's resources.

Rather than watch McCutchen leave at the end of the year and receive nothing in return, the Pirates got back some pieces that can strengthen their farm system.

The inevitable promotion of Austin Meadows will help soften the blow of losing McCutchen for fans in Pittsburgh. Meadows, the No. 9 pick in the 2013 draft, batted .250 with four home runs, 36 RBI and 11 stolen bases in 72 Triple-A games in 2017.

The 22-year-old is the 17th-best prospect in baseball according to MLB.com and will become one of the faces of the new era of Pirates baseball.

As for the Giants, Jarrett Parker's power in the minor leagues didn't translate to MLB when he was given the opportunity to play in the big leagues for long stretches over the past two seasons. Parker would've been a liability offensively for a team with playoff aspirations such as San Francisco.

In that respect, McCutchen is a big upgrade.

The one question is whether McCutchen will improve the Giants defense, which was an issue with Denard Span.

McCutchen has been a center fielder for almost the entirety of his MLB career, and his defense has slipped as he entered his 30s. If he struggled to patrol the gaps at PNC Park, then he'll have an even harder time guarding the spacious outfield at AT&T Park.

McCutchen's contributions at the plate should outweigh his poor defense, which makes this trade a logical move for a Giants team that aims for big improvement in 2018.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Howie Kendrick Reportedly Re-Signs with Nationals on 2-Year Contract

Howie Kendrick reportedly will return to the nation's capital after agreeing to a two-year deal worth $7 million with the Washington Nationals.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today first reported the agreement, with Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic confirming.

Kendrick finished the 2017 season in Washington after the Nationals acquired him in July in a trade with the Philadelphia Phillies.

All things considered, the 34-year-old was a pleasant surprise last season. Between his time with the Phillies and Nationals, he batted .315 with nine home runs and 41 RBI. His .368 on-base and .475 slugging percentages were both the highest of his career.

Kendrick continued to be a versatile defender as well. According to Baseball Reference, he played 63 games in the outfield, 15 games at second base and four games at first base.

Re-signing Kendrick makes a lot of sense for the Nationals.

Adam Eaton is signed through the 2021 season, but he's also coming off a year in which a torn ACL limited him to 23 games. Jayson Werth is a free agent as well. Throw in what could be termed a relative breakout season for Michael Taylor, and there are some big question marks about Washington's outfield beyond Bryce Harper.

Kendrick doesn't address all of those questions, but he at least gives the team another option as a fourth outfielder.

The Nationals may also need him to play at second to start the 2018 season depending on the health of Daniel Murphy. Murphy had surgery on his right knee in October, and the team didn't hide the fact he's facing a lengthy rehabilitation. 

The presence of Kendrick means the team doesn't need to scramble to find a replacement for Murphy should his recovery linger beyond Opening Day.

Firing Dusty Baker after he helped the team win 95 and 97 games showed how desperate the Nationals are to win a World Series while Harper is still under contract. The 2015 National League MVP may ultimately re-sign with Washington after the 2018 season, though that can't be taken for granted.

Kendrick isn't the kind of player who puts the Nationals over the top in their quest for a World Series ring, but the depth and experience the 12-year veteran provides can be invaluable for a title-contending team.

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Howie Kendrick Reportedly Re-Signs with Nationals on 2-Year Contract

Howie Kendrick reportedly will return to the nation's capital after agreeing to a two-year deal worth $7 million with the Washington Nationals.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today first reported the agreement, with Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic confirming.

Kendrick finished the 2017 season in Washington after the Nationals acquired him in July in a trade with the Philadelphia Phillies.

All things considered, the 34-year-old was a pleasant surprise last season. Between his time with the Phillies and Nationals, he batted .315 with nine home runs and 41 RBI. His .368 on-base and .475 slugging percentages were both the highest of his career.

Kendrick continued to be a versatile defender as well. According to Baseball Reference, he played 63 games in the outfield, 15 games at second base and four games at first base.

Re-signing Kendrick makes a lot of sense for the Nationals.

Adam Eaton is signed through the 2021 season, but he's also coming off a year in which a torn ACL limited him to 23 games. Jayson Werth is a free agent as well. Throw in what could be termed a relative breakout season for Michael Taylor, and there are some big question marks about Washington's outfield beyond Bryce Harper.

Kendrick doesn't address all of those questions, but he at least gives the team another option as a fourth outfielder.

The Nationals may also need him to play at second to start the 2018 season depending on the health of Daniel Murphy. Murphy had surgery on his right knee in October, and the team didn't hide the fact he's facing a lengthy rehabilitation. 

The presence of Kendrick means the team doesn't need to scramble to find a replacement for Murphy should his recovery linger beyond Opening Day.

Firing Dusty Baker after he helped the team win 95 and 97 games showed how desperate the Nationals are to win a World Series while Harper is still under contract. The 2015 National League MVP may ultimately re-sign with Washington after the 2018 season, though that can't be taken for granted.

Kendrick isn't the kind of player who puts the Nationals over the top in their quest for a World Series ring, but the depth and experience the 12-year veteran provides can be invaluable for a title-contending team.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Yu Darvish Rumors: Yankees, Cubs, Dodgers Among Teams on Pitcher’s Shortlist

The Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins, Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers are all on free-agent starting pitcher Yu Darvish's shortlist, according to Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram

Per that report, "Darvish, the source said, isn't sweating the lengthy free-agent process, meaning he's not at a point where he's starting to consider taking less money."

The free-agent market has moved at a snail's pace, slowed by the trade talks surrounding players such as Giancarlo Stanton and Gerrit Cole. Alongside Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Eric Hosmer and J.D. Martinez remain available, as many teams have avoided the temptation to hand out lucrative long-term contracts. 

That may also have to do with next year's free-agent crop, which will include superstars Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Clayton Kershaw and Josh Donaldson, among others. For teams looking to avoid the luxury tax this year to save funds—or simply looking to have the money available to make a historic offer to players like Harper—committing to a contract in the seven-year, $200 million range this offseason is hardly practical. 

Darvish, 31, may not get a deal that lucrative, but it would hardly be surprising to see him land a contract in the $25 million-per-year range. While health has been a past concern, Darvish was largely excellent in 2017, finishing 10-12 with a 3.86 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 209 strikeouts in 186.2 innings. 

He was a liability in the postseason, however, going 2-2 with a 6.14 ERA and 1.36 WHIP.

Still, for teams in need of an ace, a player of Darvish's stature is worth a significant financial investment. And all of the clubs on his list were postseason entries last year except for the Rangers. A pitcher such as Darvish could be the difference between winning the World Series and simply reaching the postseason. Or between reaching the postseason and remaining at home.

So free agency may be moving slowly, but Darvish is still likely to sign a lucrative deal eventually.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Yu Darvish Rumors: Yankees, Cubs, Dodgers Among Teams on Pitcher’s Shortlist

The Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins, Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers are all on free-agent starting pitcher Yu Darvish's shortlist, according to Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram

Per that report, "Darvish, the source said, isn't sweating the lengthy free-agent process, meaning he's not at a point where he's starting to consider taking less money."

The free-agent market has moved at a snail's pace, slowed by the trade talks surrounding players such as Giancarlo Stanton and Gerrit Cole. Alongside Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Eric Hosmer and J.D. Martinez remain available, as many teams have avoided the temptation to hand out lucrative long-term contracts. 

That may also have to do with next year's free-agent crop, which will include superstars Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Clayton Kershaw and Josh Donaldson, among others. For teams looking to avoid the luxury tax this year to save funds—or simply looking to have the money available to make a historic offer to players like Harper—committing to a contract in the seven-year, $200 million range this offseason is hardly practical. 

Darvish, 31, may not get a deal that lucrative, but it would hardly be surprising to see him land a contract in the $25 million-per-year range. While health has been a past concern, Darvish was largely excellent in 2017, finishing 10-12 with a 3.86 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 209 strikeouts in 186.2 innings. 

He was a liability in the postseason, however, going 2-2 with a 6.14 ERA and 1.36 WHIP.

Still, for teams in need of an ace, a player of Darvish's stature is worth a significant financial investment. And all of the clubs on his list were postseason entries last year except for the Rangers. A pitcher such as Darvish could be the difference between winning the World Series and simply reaching the postseason. Or between reaching the postseason and remaining at home.

So free agency may be moving slowly, but Darvish is still likely to sign a lucrative deal eventually.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

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Jake Arrieta Rumors: Brewers Are ‘In’ on Former Cubs Star and Mike Moustakas

The Milwaukee Brewers are reportedly pursuing Jake Arrieta and Mike Moustakas in free agency, though it's unclear how close the team is to signing either player.

MLB analyst Jim Bowden reported the news, noting the Brewers plan to trade Travis Shaw if they land Moustakas.

Arrieta, 31, spent the last four-plus seasons with the National League Central rival Chicago Cubs, emerging as one of the best starting pitchers in the sport.

    

This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

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MLB Hall of Fame Umpire Doug Harvey Dies at Age 87

Former umpire Doug Harvey, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010, died of natural causes Saturday at the age of 87, according to Ben Weinrib of MLB.com.

Commissioner Rob Manfred provided a statement acknowledging his impact on the game:

"Hall of Famer Doug Harvey was one of the most accomplished umpires of all-time. Known for his strong presence and communication skills, he umpired some of the most memorable moments ever, including from behind the plate for Kirk Gibson's walk-off home run to open the 1988 World Series. A generation of umpires learned as a result of Doug's example, his eagerness to teach the game and his excellent timing behind the plate.

"On behalf of Major League Baseball, I send my deepest condolences to Doug's family, his friends and the umpiring community."

Harvey currently ranks fifth in MLB history with 4,673 games worked.

     

This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

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Andrew McCutchen Trade Rumors: Latest on Pirates Star After Gerrit Cole Deal

The Pittsburgh Pirates already announced they traded pitcher Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros and reportedly could move outfielder Andrew McCutchen as well.

On Sunday, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com reported he spoke with some teams that believe Pirates general manager Neal Huntington will "be more receptive to trade offers" for McCutchen. Crasnick noted the San Francisco Giants are one of several teams that have discussed a potential McCutchen trade with the Pirates.  

The Giants' interest makes sense considering they were last in the league in home runs in 2017 on the way to a 64-98 record. It was a significant fall after they reached the playoffs in 2016, and McCutchen would give them a power bat to insert into the lineup in an effort to avoid another long-ball shortage in 2018.

Elsewhere, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported earlier this month the New York Mets had also talked with the Pirates about McCutchen.

As for Pittsburgh, moving McCutchen—who has been a franchise cornerstone in recent years—would further signal a rebuild after it traded Cole.

The National League Central figures to be competitive in the immediate future with the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers, and landing additional young pieces for McCutchen would help the Pirates retool for down the road after missing the playoffs two straight years.

McCutchen would be a significant addition for any team considering he was the 2013 National League MVP and a five-time All-Star. He has topped the 20-homer mark in each of the last seven years and played well in 2017 with a .279/.363/.486 slash line to go with 28 long balls and 88 RBI.

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Yankees Rumors: NY Interested in Yu Darvish After Astros Trade for Gerrit Cole

The New York Yankees didn't trade for pitcher Gerrit Cole but reportedly have their eyes on someone else: free-agent starter Yu Darvish.

On Sunday, John Harper of the New York Daily News reported general manager Brian Cashman's interest in Darvish "is very real, largely because he believes this stalled free-agent market gives the Yankees a chance to get the Japanese star pitcher at a 'reasonable' price."

According to Harper, New York thinks it could sign Darvish to a five-year deal worth between $80 and $90 million.

The Yankees had targeted Cole, but the Pittsburgh Pirates announced Saturday they traded him to the Houston Astros.

    

This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

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