Pitchers and catchers have started reporting to Florida and Arizona. In the meantime, we still have plenty of big names left in free agency, including superstar sluggers Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. That means we’ve got a healthy supply of hot stove buzz in February.
To give you an idea of what’s out there this Wednesday, we’re here to round up all the notable rumors. As always, our free agent tracker is a great way to catch up on what’s already happened on that front.
Let’s round up the activity for the day here.
Padres met with Machado
Padres GM A.J. Preller traveled to Miami to meet with Manny Machado at some point within the last week, reports Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Acee and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic say it is unclear whether the two sides are closing in on an agreement, though other teams remain in the mix. San Diego had representatives meet with Bryce Harper in Las Vegas a few weeks ago.
The Padres fit nicely as a mystery team for Machado and there are several reasons they should pursue him despite not being in position to seriously contend in 2019. Mostly, it’s because Machado is a star-caliber producer in his mid-20s and the team has a boatload of high-end prospects on the cusp of the big leagues. They might not win much in 2019, but the potential is there for the Padres to break out as a contender in 2020, and Machado would help the cause.
Astros had deadline deal for Harper
Over the winter it was reported the Astros had a deal in place to acquire Bryce Harper at the 2018 trade deadline. On Thursday, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow confirmed that yes, that is true. A trade agreement was in place.
The Harper trade was nixed by Washington’s ownership. The Nationals were out of race last summer and they did trade away several veteran players, including Daniel Murphy and Gio Gonzalez, but apparently a Harper trade was too much to stomach. Houston could’ve used Harper in the outfield and at DH. They were going to send a package fronted by pitching prospect J.B. Bukauskas to the Nationals in the deal.
Twins extend Polanco, Kepler
Polanco’s deal is expected to be for five years and $25.75 million with a vesting option for the sixth and a club option for the seventh year, while Kepler’s extension is for $35 million over five years and a club option for a sixth. The club has not confirmed the deals.
Polanco, 25, was set to enter his final pre-arbitration year in 2019 before becoming arbitration-eligible for the first time in 2020. Kepler, 26, was arbitration-eligible for the first time this season after having already agreed to a $3.1 million deal for the 2019 season as a Super Two player. A new long-term extension could potentially supersede the prior agreement.
The switch-hitting Polanco became the Twins’ starting shortstop midway through the 2016 season and is a career .272/.329/.420 hitter. He received an 80-game suspension during spring training last year for the use of a performance-enhancing substance. Once he returned, Polanco posted a career-best slash line of .288/.345/.427 in 77 games.
In 2018, Kepler hit .224/.319/.408 with a career-high 20 home runs last season. Kepler has spent the past three seasons as Minnesota’s primary right fielder (+15 Defensive Runs Saved, +11 Ultimate Zone Rating, +32 Outs Above Average). He’s expected to continue to be the club’s everyday right fielder in 2019, with Eddie Rosario in left and a healthy Bryon Buxton set to return to center field.
Blue Jays nearing deal with Axford
The Toronto Blue Jays are nearing a deal with reliever John Axford, Fancred’s Jon Heyman reports. Shi Davidi of Sportsnet says that the agreement between Axford and Toronto is on a minor league contract that would pay him $1.65 million if he makes the roster.
Axford will return to his hometown organization, where he opened the 2018 campaign before being traded to the Dodgers prior to the trade deadline. The 36-year-old posted a 4.41 ERA and 8.8 K/9 across 51 innings with the Blue Jays last season. The veteran relief pitcher should have a good chance at vying for an Opening Day spot out of the bullpen with Toronto.