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MLB rumors: Reds trying to extend Sonny Gray before finalizing trade; Cubs have thought about trading Ben Zobrist

We’re less than four weeks away from spring training. Cactus League and Grapefruit League games are less than six weeks away. At the moment 18 of our top 50 free agents remain unsigned, including four of the top seven. There is still some time to go in the offseason, for sure, but usually all the top free agents are signed by now. 

We’re going to keep track of the day’s hot stove rumblings right here in this roundup post. Make sure you check back often for updates.

Reds trying to sign Sonny Gray to extension before finalizing trade

The New York Yankees and the Cincinnati Reds have reportedly agreed on a trade package for Sonny Gray — we have more specifics of the deal here. The Yankees are likely to receive infielder prospect Shed Long ( ranked Long as the seventh-best Reds prospect) and a draft pick.

On Sunday, Jon Heyman of Fancred reported that the Reds are attempting to extend Gray before the trade is finalized. Gray is a potential free agent at the end of the 2019 season — along with other recent Reds additions in Alex Wood, Tanner Roark, Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp. And Gray, like a growing number of players, might not see free agency as prosperous as it once was.

It’s also worth noting that Derek Johnson, Gray’s former pitching coach at Vanderbilt, is the new Reds pitching coach so Gray might be open to spend more years in Cincinnati. Heyman added that it isn’t known how the trade package might be reconfigured on the chance Gray says no to the extension offer, but the Reds are confident Gray will say yes.

White Sox, Dodgers in discussion about a Joc Pederson trade

The Los Angeles Dodgers are discussing outfielder Joc Pederson in potential deals, and the Chicago White Sox are among the teams they’re talking to, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. If the Dodgers trade Pederson, they could open up room for free agent center fielder A.J. Pollock, who they have been in discussions with this winter.

Pederson is an affordable player who’s under arbitration control through the 2020 season. He’ll earn $5 million this year after avoiding arbitration earlier this month.

The 26-year-old hit at least 25 home runs in three of the last four seasons, earning an All-Star spot during his rookie season in 2015. He slashed .248/.321/.522 during the 2018 season. 

The White Sox’s current outfield includes this offseason’s addition of Jon Jay along with Daniel Palka, Adam Engel and Leury Garcia. They do have their top prospect, outfielder Eloy Jimenez, waiting for his promotion which could come as early as next season and make an immediate impact on the franchise.

Zobrist’s situation illustrates Cubs‘ budget crunch

All offseason, we’ve heard via many, many reporters that the Cubs really don’t have any extra money to spend in free agency. We’ve heard from club president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer that they would have to be creative in order to add a free agent. That is to stay, make a salary dump trade or two that gets them comfortably under the budget, freeing the club to add in free agency. Lots of names have been bandied about on this front, one of them being Ben Zobrist. The 37-year-old utility man has one year and $12.5 million left on his deal, so it makes sense to hear his name in trade rumors. He’s heard it, too. Via The Athletic

“I’m one of the pawns,” Zobrist said while talking to reporters Saturday. “You kind of recognize where you’re at as a player and then you own it. I don’t have a no-trade clause at this point, so I could be traded. But I’m not going to give it too much thought. I’m thinking about preparing myself for the upcoming season and connecting with my teammates.”

Anyone still holding out hope the Cubs are going to all of a sudden sign someone like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado simply hasn’t been listening to the message coming from Chicago’s north side. Anything else they are going to do this offseason — without a trade — will be very minor. 

Lots of teams in on Harrison

Free agency didn’t come at a great time for the versatile Josh Harrison. He was an All-Star in 2017, but last season slashed just .250/.293/.363 (80 OPS+) with three stolen bases in 97 games. He did suffer a fracture in his hand after being hit by a pitch early in the season, shelving him for weeks, so it’s possible that ruined his whole season. There are lots of teams looking into adding Harrison, per Jon Heyman: 

By defensive runs saved, Harrison was slightly above average at third and above-average at second in 2017, though he regressed to below average at second base in 2018. In looking at the teams involved with Harrison, an everyday starting job appears pretty unlikely and instead he’ll be deployed as a utility backup with a few starts a week and the chance to play into a more regular role. 

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