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It’s been a quiet offseason to this point, but as the MLB rumor mill continues to swirl, it’s only a matter of time before some of the major dominoes on the free-agent market start to fall.
Sluggers Manny Machado and Bryce Harper are still the marquee names on the market, but they’re far from the only impact players drawing early interest from a number of teams.
Ahead is a look at the latest rumors surrounding this year’s free-agent crop.
Yankees doing “extensive” background work on Manny Machado
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There have been varying reports on the New York Yankees interest in Manny Machado so far, but it sounds like the front office is at least still doing its due diligence on the young superstar.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic wrote: “Teams routinely seek background information on potential acquisitions, but the Yankees appear to be doing particularly extensive work on free-agent infielder Manny Machado, sources tell The Athletic’s Jayson Stark. The sources said manager Aaron Boone, front-office members and scouts are among those calling around…Machado, though, is generally well-regarded by those who know him.
Rosenthal then took it one step further, speaking to a former Orioles teammate who offered up the following character review: “I really like him. He was always a good teammate. Good guy, too — he was great with my kids. Now he did some dumb stuff on the field but that never truly reflected the guy I know off the field.”
With incumbent shortstop Didi Gregorius expected to miss a good chunk of 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery and then headed for free agency next offseason, it’s not hard to see how Machado fits on the Yankees roster.
That said, the team could just as easily slide Gleyber Torres over to shortstop and target one of a number of available second basemen.
Regardless, starting pitching help is still the No. 1 priority for the Yankees, so it would be best to temper expectations when it comes to Machado.
Prediction: Machado signs with Phillies
Braves, Cardinals, Phillies among teams showing interest in Craig Kimbrel
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As the top closer on the market and one of the most dominant relievers in MLB history, it’s not surprising to see Craig Kimbrel drawing early interest from a number of contenders.
Jon Morosi @jonmorosi
Source: #Phillies interested in Craig Kimbrel, in addition to their well-documented desire to add a superstar position player. #Braves and #STLCards are among the other possible suitors for Kimbrel. @MLBNetwork @MLB
The 30-year-old recently declined his qualifying offer, so it will cost draft pick compensation to sign him, but that won’t scare closer-needy teams off, and the Braves, Cardinals and Phillies all have some level of uncertainty in the ninth inning.
Arodys Vizcaino has had some trouble staying healthy in Atlanta, Jordan Hicks will need to trim his 5.2 BB/9 rate before the Cardinals trust him with the ninth-inning gig, and Seranthony Dominguez struggled down the stretch in Philadelphia after a strong start to the year.
That said, all of those teams could still be competing with the Red Sox, who figure to make a strong push to retain their all-world closer given their lack of in-house replacement options.
Prediction: Cardinals sign Kimbrel
Braves Showing Interest in Michael Brantley, Wilson Ramos
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The Braves have an excellent young core at the MLB level, a loaded farm system and money to spend as they look to build on a 90-win season.
As they look to defend their NL East title, catcher and right field appear to be the two glaring holes that need to be filled following the departure of veterans Kurt Suzuki and Nick Markakis.
Mark Bowman of MLB.com wrote: “Earlier this week, a source said [Michael] Brantley and catcher Wilson Ramos were among the Braves’ top free-agent targets.”
Both players would be excellent veteran additions to a team on the rise and could provide a needed veteran presence in the locker room.
Prediction: Braves sign Ramos, pivot to Andrew McCutchen to fill RF
Adrian Beltre Could Make Retirement Decision Soon
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Will Adrian Beltre return for his 22nd MLB season?
We don’t have an answer to that question yet, but it sounds like one might be coming soon.
Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News wrote earlier this week: “A source close to Beltre indicated he might decide on whether or not to return for a (22nd) season within the next week or so.”
The 39-year-old posted a 98 OPS+ with 15 home runs, 65 RBI and 2.2 WAR during an injury-shortened 2018 season in which he played only 119 games, so he still has something to offer to a contender.
“We know he is a guy who will perform at well above major league average,” agent Scott Boras told reporters. “We fully expect teams to express interest in that. I will leave it to Adrian on when to direct me to advance or not on that interest.”
Time will tell if the future Hall of Famer is back in action in 2019.
Prediction: Beltre returns on a one-year deal
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted.