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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Baseball

Report: Gerrit Cole is Phillies’ top free agent target

Gerrit Cole

The Philadelphia Phillies made one of the biggest splashes on the free agent market last year by adding Bryce Harper. It looks like they may be poised to do something similar this year.

According to Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Phillies plan to focus on upgrading their rotation this offseason and have made free agent pitcher Gerrit Cole their top target. The Phillies may also look at other free agent starters if they have to, and could add multiple arms, though it’s not clear if they would both be top-tier arms.

The Phillies have made improving their starting pitching the top priority of the offseason. It was a problem spot for them last season, as Phillies starters posted a 4.64 ERA. Only Aaron Nola had an ERA under 4 among Philadelphia starters.

Cole is coming off a Cy Young-caliber season that saw him post a 2.50 ERA. He should be in very high demand, though there’s been some indication that Philadelphia might not fit with one of his preferences for his free agent destination.

MLB execs expect at least one superstar to be traded during winter

Mookie Betts

A number of MLB superstars have been mentioned as possible trade targets this offseason, and apparently executives are anticipating that at least one big move will be made on that front before the start of the 2020 season.

Multiple MLB team executives told Jon Morosi of MLB.com that they expect at least one of Mookie Betts, Kris Bryant or Francisco Lindor to be moved this winter.

Franchises typically build around players like Betts, Bryant and Lindor, all of who were All-Stars last season. However, the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs are looking to trim payroll this winter, and Betts and Bryant are projected to command massive salaries in arbitration. Betts has one year of arbitration eligibility remaining while Bryant has two. The Red Sox have already admitted that keeping Betts and slugger JD Martinez in 2020 and beyond would be difficult, and Martinez chose not to opt out of his contract.

The Cubs could explore other possibilities for trades to retool under new manager David Ross, and Betts seems more likely to be traded than Bryant.

Cleveland is in a slightly different position. While the Red Sox and Cubs want to trim payroll to remain under the luxury tax, the Indians play in a much smaller market and have never had the payroll of teams like Boston and Chicago. Lindor is not set to hit free agency until after the 2021 season, but owner Paul Dolan already hinted that the team will not be able to keep him for long. We have heard of one team that could pursue Lindor if the Indians decide to move on from the star shortstop.

White Sox, Jose Abreu reportedly discussing long-term contract extension

Jose Abreu

Jose Abreu is a free agent this offseason and could be looking at re-signing with the Chicago White Sox.

Abreu and the White Sox are discussing a long-term contract extension, according to a report from ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

Initially an international free agent, Abreu signed a 6-year, $68 million deal with Chicago six years ago. He opted out of the deal after three years and signed one-year contracts each of the last three seasons, making $16 million last year and $13 million the year before.

The White Sox extended Abreu a qualifying offer for $17.8 million next season, which would hinder his suitors in free agency, as teams would be reluctant to lose a draft pick to sign him. If he does not want the one-year deal, some long-term security could make sense for both parties.

Turning 33 in January, Abreu has made All-Star teams in consecutive years for the Sox and led the league in RBIs last season with 123. He has a career .862 OPS, though that mark was at .834 last season. The White Sox could use his steady bat in a lineup that now features emerging youngsters Eloy Jimenez and Joan Moncada.

Report: Rival teams believe Cubs could trade Willson Contreras

The Chicago Cubs could be about to embark on an offseason of significant change, and it could start at the catcher position.

According to Jeff Passan of ESPN, multiple teams believe that the Cubs will make catcher Willson Contreras available for trade this offseason as part of a retooling effort.

Barring any changes, the Cubs are likely facing a payroll approaching $190 million for Opening Day 2020. Kris Bryant and Javier Baez are both heading for arbitration hearings that will make them both more expensive. Contreras is, too, and the price will only keep going up. Yasmani Grandal leads a crop of intriguing free agent catchers, and the Cubs may go that route instead.

Contreras hit .272 with a career-high 24 home runs for the Cubs last season in 105 games. He has been a source of frustration for the team at times, which could also help them be comfortable with opting to move on.

Rangers reportedly have interest in Josh Donaldson

Josh Donaldson

Josh Donaldson will be one of the top position players available on the free agent market this offseason, and the Texas Rangers reportedly will have interest in him.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan on Friday reported the Rangers’ interest in Donaldson. Passan says Texas is prioritizing third base and starting pitching.

The Rangers went 78-84 last season and have had three straight losing years. Before that, they won the AL West in 2015 and 2016.

Texas used Asdrubal Cabrera at third base for most of the season before releasing him in August and going with Logan Forsythe and Isiah Kiner-Falefa.

Even though he is turning 34 in December, Donaldson should have a sizable market in free agency. He rebounded from a down 2018 season filled with injuries to club 37 home runs for the Braves. Atlanta has said they have interest in re-signing the 2015 AL MVP.

Report: Ben Cherington a candidate to head up Pirates’ front office

Pittsburgh Pirates logo

Ben Cherington is a candidate to join the Pittsburgh Pirates’ front office, according to a report.

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported on Twitter Thursday that Cherington has emerged to serve as Pittsburgh’s new head of baseball operations.

If word about this leaked to Rosenthal, it likely means a deal is close.

Cherington, 45, spent most of his career in baseball working for the Boston Red Sox. He joined the organization in 1999 and spent time as a co-general manager, vice president, and general manager of the Red Sox before resigning in 2015 after Dave Dombrowski was hired. Cherington has been with the Blue Jays the last three years.

The Pirates are looking for new leadership after firing GM Neal Huntington. They also need a new manager after firing Clint Hurdle.

Chili Davis looking for multi-year contract from Mets

New York Mets

The New York Mets are still weighing whether or not to bring back hitting coach Chili Davis for the 2020 season, and it sounds like they could be unwilling to give the three-time World Series champion the type of contract he is seeking.

Davis and the Mets have been discussing a new contract, and Mike Puma of the New York Post reports that Davis is looking for a multi-year deal.

The Mets hired Davis prior to last season, and the results were pretty good in his first year with the club. New York ranked 11th in Major League Baseball with a .257 team batting average and 13th in runs scored. It’s possible the Mets aren’t completely sold on Davis and would prefer to give him another one-year deal, and that could have something to do with the way his time with the Chicago Cubs came to an end.

After spending three seasons with the Boston Red Sox from 2015-2017, Davis was hired by the Cubs. He lasted just one year in Chicago after players reportedly gave negative feedback about him.