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MLB rumors: What ‘mystery teams’ are in on Harper and Machado?; Cubs’ Ricketts talks quiet offseason

Pitchers and catchers start showing up in Arizona and Florida for spring training in a little less than a month, but at the moment 19 of our top 50 free agents remain unsigned, including four of the top seven. So, yes, we’re plodding our way through another slow offseason.

Eventually, though, names will start dropping, which is why we’re here to keep track of the day’s hot stove rumblings right here in this roundup post. Make sure you check back often for updates.

Harper, Machado mystery teams abound

Flagship free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado remain unsigned. Harper’s of interest to the Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, and possibly Dodgers. Machado, meantime, has the Phillies and White Sox among his heaviest suitors. However, the market evolves quickly, and from the outside we can’t know everything that’s going on. That’s why the “mystery team” is a ubiquitous presence when it comes to coveted free agents like these two. 

Speaking of which, ESPN’s Buster Olney on Thursday explored the Harper and Machado mystery teams and, best of all, gives us names. Executive summary forthcoming … 

  • Harper mystery teams: Astros, Giants, Braves.
  • Machado mystery teams: Yankees, Padres.
  • Mystery teams interested in either one of the two: Rangers, Twins, Cubs. 

The Astros and Braves certainly make sense for Harper, although it’s hard to see the Giants contending near- to mid-term even with Harper. On the Machado front, the Yankees have long been linked to Machado, but reported budget constraints (self-imposed, it should be noted) have complicated that notion. As well, the Yankee infield is pretty darn crowded at the moment. As for the Padres, they’re one of the mystery teams that we guessed might have designs on Machado. Elsewhere, the Twins are looking to contend in a weak AL Central, and the Cubs, despite much talk of a tight budget (see below), still seem like a plausible destination for either. 

Stated another way, even though it’s mid-January the markets for Machado and Harper still seem fairly wide open. 

Yanks closing in on Gray trade?

Yankees GM Brian Cashman has hardly made a secret of his desire to trade right-hander Sonny Gray coming off his disappointing 2018. That’s especially the case now that the Yankees have added even more pitching depth (see below) … 

Heyman name-checks the Reds, Giants, Brewers, Athletics, Padres, Braves, and Mariners as having at least some interest in Gray. Gray, who’s still on the right side of 30, has in the past pitched at a near-ace level, so there’s bound to be a workable market for him.

Cubs knew last offseason that they’d face a tight budget this time around

To the mounting chagrin of their fan base, the Cubs have been uncommonly quiet this offseason. As of Thursday, their marquee offseason additions are Daniel Descalso and Kendall Graveman. As well, manager Joe Maddon recently shot down any chance of Bryce Harper winding up on the north side. According to multiple reports throughout the winter, the Cubs — despite vast revenues and a win-now roster — are working with a tight budget this offseason. Did this come as a surprise to operators Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer? Not if ownership is to be believed … 

So that’s notable. Epstein and Hoyer last offseason guaranteed more than $160 million to Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood. Darvish and Chatwood put up, respectively, a 4.95 and 5.30 ERA in a combined 143 2/3 innings. Over that span, they walked 116 batters (mostly the work of Chatwood). Those turned out to be two of the worst investments of the winter, and now it turns out those investments compromised the Cubs’ ability to get things done this offseason. 

Phillies want to pair Trout with Harper or Machado

The Phillies have already been active this offseason, what with their additions of Andrew McCutchenJean Segura and David Robertson, and they of course still have room in the budget for one or both of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. But what about the possibility of pairing Harper or Machado with Mike Trout once he becomes a free agent after the 2020 season? That’s reportedly what the Phillies are thinking about. You can read more here about all of that.

Yanks reportedly ink Ottavino

The Yankees have reportedly agreed to terms with right-handed reliever Adam Ottavino on a three-year, $27 million contract. Get more details here.

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