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MLB rumors: Yankees’ Luis Castillo speculation shot down; Blue Jays, Mets frontrunners for George Springer

Spring training is a month away and the hot stove is kinda sorta starting to heat up. We’re up to 16 signings among our top 60 free agents, including six in the new year. Here’s our look at what the Yankees still need to do after signing DJ LeMahieu and Corey Kluber, and here are the latest hot stove rumblings.

Reds GM shoots down Castillo/Yankees rumors

Cincinnati Reds ace Luis Castillo’s name was thrown around in trade rumors over the weekend, with speculation that the right-hander would be dealt to the New York Yankees. However, the rumors proved to be just that: rumors. Reds general manager Nick Krall issued a statement calling the idea that Castillo was on his way to the Bronx “completely false.”

“[The rumors] are completely false,” Krall told Bobby Nightengale of The Cincinnati Enquirer. “We intend to have [Castillo] as a member of our rotation for 2021.”

It does appear that Krall was engaging in discussions though. According to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, the Reds informed teams that they now intend to hold onto Castillo, but they tested the waters for a potential trade. Cincinnati specifically asked the Yankees for shortstop Gleyber Torres as the headliner in a possible trade, Heyman added. Torres is coming off a down year (.243/.356/.368), but the 24-year-old is a two-time All-Star and should return to form.

Castillo, 28, had a 3.21 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 89 strikeouts with 24 walks over 70 innings in the abbreviated 2020 season. The hard-throwing right-hander will make $4.2 million with the Reds in 2021 and won’t become a free agent for another three seasons. He’ll be atop Cincy’s rotation for 2021 possibly alongside right-hander Sonny Gray, who has also had his name mentioned in trade rumors this winter.

Springer decision expected this week

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Top free agent George Springer is expected to make his free agent decision this week, according to Jon Morosi of MLB Network. As of now, the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets are the frontrunners, Morosi adds. 

CBS Sports ranked Springer as the No. 1 free agent available this winter. Here’s what we had to say about the center fielder:

Springer nets the top spot over Realmuto because the league has always shied away from megadeals for catchers. Only one backstop had an AAV exceeding $20 million in 2020, whereas eight outfielders did. On a talent basis, Springer is an above-average center fielder who has notched an OPS+ north of 120 in six of his seven seasons and who has homered 20-plus times in five of those seven seasons. Springer has done a remarkable job of cutting into his strikeout rate over the years without impacting his walk rate, and in 2020 he punched out in a career-best 17.1 percent of his plate appearances. The only thing Springer doesn’t do, for the most part, is steal bases. He’s succeeded in 61 percent of his career attempts, including 52 percent over the last five years, and should seldom be given the green light. It’s unclear if or how teams will hold the Astros‘ sign-stealing scandal against Springer; unlike Jose Altuvehe appeared to be a willing recipient of the “bangs.” 

Springer, 31, has been a mainstay with the Houston Astros since the club drafted him as the 11th overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft. He finished the abbreviated 2020 season with a .265/.359/.540 slash line to go along with 14 home runs, six doubles, two triples and 32 RBI in 222 plate appearances. He’s a career .270/.361/.491 (131 OPS+) hitter who is very comfortable in the leadoff spot. The three-time All-Star has finished as high as seventh in MVP voting and won the 2017 World Series MVP. 

The Blue Jays have missed out on top targets this offseason, but with several top free agents still on the board, they still have time to make a splash before spring training. Toronto lacks a natural center fielder, and the addition of Springer would be an ideal fit, adding a veteran hitter to a very young and talented roster.

The Mets, led by new owner Steve Cohen, have been going for it this offseason. The have a full outfield in Queens, but Springer would be an upgrade over Brandon Nimmo in center. Adding Springer would also help the Mets keep Jeff McNeil in his most comfortable position at second base, full-time.

Tanaka garnering ‘strong interest’ from Japan

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Free agent starter Masahiro Tanaka remains unsigned, and while the Yankees, his longtime club, remain in contact, there is a “good change he pitches elsewhere,” MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports. Tanaka, 32, is garnering strong interest to return to Japan to pitch, and there is the likelihood of the veteran righty receiving a much bigger contract, Heyman adds.

The Yankees signed Tanaka to a seven-year, $155 million contract back in 2014 after he spent seven seasons pitching for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Nippon Professional Baseball League.

Phillies add prospect in trade with Boston

The Philadelphia Phillies acquired infielder C.J. Chatham from the Boston Red Sox for a player to be named later or cash, the teams announced on Monday. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Phillies designated right-hander Victor Arano for assignment. 

According to MLB’s Pipeline, the 26-year-old Chatham is ranked as the 14th-best prospect in Boston’s farm system. He spent the 2020 season at the Red Sox’s alternate training site. The Red Sox drafted Chatham in the second round of the 2016 MLB Draft. He reached the Triple-A level for the first time in 2019, and hit .302/.330/.430 with an .760 OPS in 20 games. He’ll likely slot into a bench/utility role with the Phillies for 2021.

Padres get Musgrove in three-team trade

The Padres have added yet another starter. They’ve acquired Joe Musgrove in a three-team trade with the Pirates and Mets. Here are the full trade details:

  • Padres receive: RHP Joe Musgrove
  • Mets receive: LHP Joey Lucchesi
  • Pirates receive: RHP David Bednar, LHP Omar Cruz, OF Hudson Head, RHP Drake Fellows, C/OF Endy Rodriguez

The Padres get Musgrove for Bednar, Cruz, Head, Fellows, and Lucchesi. The Mets get Lucchesi for Rodriguez. The Pirates get all that for Musgrove. Musgrove is the third high-end starting pitcher the Padres have acquired in the last month, joining Yu Darvish and Blake Snell.

Nats nearing deal with Lester

The Nationals are nearing an agreement with free agent lefty Jon Lester. Lester will step in as the team’s No. 4 starter behind Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin, and push Joe Ross and Erick Fedde down a peg on the depth chart. Lester had a rough 2020 with the Cubs, throwing 61 innings with a 5.16 ERA. He can still be counted on to eat innings though — Lester made at least 31 starts every year from 2008-19, plus another 12 in the 60-game 2020 season.



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