We’re three weeks into free agency and with the non-tender deadline approaching there’s plenty of chatter in the baseball world as teams look to make improvements for the 2021 season and beyond.
Here are some of the latest rumblings from around Major League Baseball.
Rays making catching a priority
The Tampa Bay Rays started Mike Zunino, Michael Perez and Kevan Smith at catcher throughout the 2020 season. Unfortunately, they didn’t have particularly strong seasons and none of them are currently signed to the roster.
Ronaldo Hernandez, a 23-year-old with no MLB experience, is currently at the top of the team’s depth chart so it’s no surprise Jim Bowden of The Athletic reported the team is prioritizing the position in the off-season.
If the Rays look to free agency the options would include Alex Avila, Tyler Flowers and Matt Wieters, while some have suggested they could also re-sign Zunino.
The trade market would open up more options. If Tampa does work the phones, could the Toronto Blue Jays be a fit?
Toronto has five catchers – Danny Jansen, Reese McGuire, Alejandro Kirk, Riley Adams, Gabriel Moreno – on the 40-man roster and the two teams have a recent trade history with the Rays acquiring Eric Sogard from the Blue Jays in 2019 for minor leaguers Curtis Taylor and Edisson Gonzalez.
Speaking of Toronto…
Could the Blue Jays be a fit for Arenado?
The eight-time Gold Glove recipient is owed nearly $200 million over the next six years, but he can opt out after the 2021 season that’ll see him earn $35 million. The opt-out option, plus the fact he has a no-trade clause, could complicate potential trade discussions.
Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors speculated over the weekend the Blue Jays could be among the team with a shot at making a move for Arenado. Adams wondered if outfielder Randal Grichuk and his remaining contract might be a worthwhile asset to include in a package to offer the Rockies.
Happ garnering interest from Red Sox, others
The Blue Jays are reportedly interested in reuniting with J.A. Happ, but they’ll have another AL East team to contend with.
MLB insider Jon Morosi is reporting the Boston Red Sox are interested in the 38-year-old lefty who has typically performed well at Fenway Park over the years. Happ made $17 million with the New York Yankees in 2020.
Nationals are in on LeMahieu, Bryant
DJ LeMahieu declined his one-year, $18.9-million qualifying offer from the Yankees earlier in November. The Yankees are still considered frontrunners to sign the star infielder who has finished top-four in AL MVP votes in each of the past two seasons and won batting titles in 2016 and 2020.
The Mets and Blue Jays are also interested in LeMahieu and now the Washington Nationals have entered the chat. Washington has also kicked tires on Cubs star third baseman Kris Bryant, according to Jon Morosi. Bryant was an all-star selection in 2019 but had a down 2020 campaign.
Ohtani frustrated after rough year
Shohei Ohtani and internet trolls have both described the Los Angeles Angels star’s 2020 season as “pathetic.” Ohtani slashed .190/.291/.366 with seven home runs in 44 games this past season and only pitched on two occasions in part due to a flexor strain.
“If I could, I would compile better numbers, get more playing time and wouldn’t feel useless. I was frustrated I couldn’t get it done, and that was the hardest,” Ohtani recently told Yuichi Matsushita of the Kyodo News. “I’d pretty much never experienced the feeling of wanting to do something but being completely unable to do it.”
Ohtani won AL Rookie of the Year in 2018 after hitting 22 home runs and also starting 10 games as a pitcher. He didn’t pitch for the Angels in 2019.
Rays explain why Renfroe was designated for assignment
Hunter Renfroe had 85 home runs and 190 RBIs from 2017-2019 with the San Diego Padres yet his first year with the Rays was a trudge and the team designated the 28-year-old right fielder for assignment over the weekend.
Rays vice president of baseball development Peter Bendix explained the decision in an interview with MLB.com.
“We figured that it was best for everybody involved to let him get into the free-agent market at this point rather than waiting until the non-tender deadline and happen later,” Bendix said. “Not closing the door on anything with him, but just figured it was better to do it now.”