With the holidays right around the corner, Major League Baseball’s offseason is likely about to enter a lull. That doesn’t mean the next week won’t feature any action, however, as players and teams look to complete their business ahead of the slowdown period. Below, CBS Sports will keep track of all of Thursday’s rumors, news, and moves.
Red Sox in on Swanson?
The Red Sox “appear to be seriously considering” signing free agent shortstop Dansby Swanson, reports Jon Heyman of the New York Post. They join the Cubs, Dodgers and Braves among known suitors, though it’s possible at least one of the teams listed is simply monitoring the situation instead of pushing hard for his services. To wit, Heyman reports the Dodgers are on the “periphery” while the Braves are being cautious.
Swanson, 28, has spent the entirety of his seven-year MLB career with the Braves. Last season, he had a career year, hitting .277/.329/.447 (115 OPS+) with 32 doubles, 25 home runs, 96 RBI, 99 runs, 18 stolen bases and 5.7 WAR. While he’s plenty of capable of being a productive offensive player — just look at last season’s numbers — a good portion of his value comes from being an excellent defender at shortstop.
Swanson is easily the biggest-name position player left on the free agency market. He’s already seen fellow shortstops Trea Turner (11 years, $300 million), Xander Bogaerts (11 years, $280 million) and Carlos Correa (13 years, $350 million) sign gigantic deals this offseason, so the expectation here is a big payday, even if inferior to those three.
Conforto garnering interest
The Marlins, Cubs and Astros are among the teams looking into signing free agent outfielder Michael Conforto, according to Heyman.
Conforto swings lefty and throws right and could handle center field if need be, though he is much more suited to playing in a corner spot (most of his MLB playing time has come in right field). He missed all of the 2022 season after an offseason shoulder surgery required surgery in April, wiping out his season while he was unsigned.
A career .255/.356/.468 (124 OPS+) hitter, Conforto has been inconsistent while showing flashes of star upside with the bat. Assuming he’s fully recovered, he could end up being a steal for whatever team signs him for 2023.
Yankees want Benintendi back, but …
Heyman also reports that the Yankees would be good with bringing back outfielder Andrew Benintendi, though not at the five years he and his agent appear to be seeking. The Yankees acquired Benintendi last season just before the trade deadline, but an injury ended his season after just 33 games in pinstripes. Overall, he hit .304 with a .373 on-base percentage, but he only slugged .399 with five home runs. He was a 20-20 guy for the Red Sox in 2017, though his power has dissipated since.
Orioles add Frazier
The Orioles have signed second baseman Adam Frazier to a one-year deal, the club announced.:
Major League Baseball is a copycat league. If a strategy works well for one team, then it’s just a matter of time before others co-opt it. (This is especially true for strategies that save money, and only untrue for strategies that cost money.) Some team is going to look at what the Cleveland Guardians did all summer, spraying line drives and slapping seeing-eye singles and blooping duck farts, and decide that’s The New Thing. The same team can thank their lucky stars that Frazier will be available. He prefers his pitching wedge to his driver, so to speak, and he has enough of a track record to envision him singling and hustle-doubling his way to a decent output. He should come relatively cheaply, too, having had a tough go at it since the 2021 All-Star Game
Mets close to signing defensive catcher
Free agent catcher Omar Narváez has signed a one-year, $8 million deal plus a $7 million player option with the Mets, according to Heyman. The 30-year-old Narváez swings left-handed and was an All-Star in 2021 for the Brewers. He hit just .206/.292/.305 (71 OPS+) with 12 doubles and four homers in 296 plate appearances last season, but his value comes from behind the plate. He’s a highly-valued framer who rarely allows passed balls.
James McCann is the incumbent catcher for the Mets with Tomás Nido also in the picture and there’s 21-year-old top prospect Francisco Alvarez as well. There’s plenty of offseason left and the Mets won’t be quiet, in all likelihood, but that’s at least one too many catchers on the major league roster if all goes well.
Cubs sign Boxberger
The Cubs have reached an agreement with veteran reliever Brad Boxberger, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. The deal will pay him $2.8 million, or just short of his $3 million club option that was declined by the Brewers earlier this offseason. (It’s worth noting that Boxberger passed through waivers at that point, meaning the Cubs passed on claiming him to save $200,000.)
CBS Sports recently highlighted Boxberger as a potential value signing.:
We’ll concede that Boxberger employs an unusual and perilous formula for success. Last season alone, he ranked in the 40th percentile in whiff rate; the third percentile in chase rate; and the 20th percentile in walk rate. In English: he’s not a big bat-misser, or zone-expander, and he’s prone to issuing his share of free passes. He’s nevertheless maintained a shiny ERA by suppressing quality of contact with a three-pitch mix: low-90s heater, changeup, and slider.
It’s not the sexiest or most reliable profile, and it’s one that could very well fall apart. Boxberger has enjoyed a good deal of success over his last 146 innings, however, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone if he proves to be worth more than $3 million in 2023.
Orioles interested in Wacha
The Orioles are showing continued interest in free-agent right-hander Michael Wacha, according to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Wacha’s market could move quickly now that Noah Syndergaard and other pitchers of similar expected value have latched on with new clubs.
Wacha, 31, started 23 games for the Red Sox last season. He amassed a 3.32 ERA (127 ERA+) and a 3.35 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 127 innings. CBS Sports ranked him as the 32nd0-best free agent available this winter, writing:
Wacha has become a back-of-the-rotation nomad, pitching for a different team in each of the past four seasons. He might make it five-for-five following his strongest effort since 2018. Wacha’s arsenal remains centered around verticality, as you would expect based on his arm slot. For our money, the most interesting part about his season was his embrace of a “sinker.” The quotation marks are necessary because this isn’t your standard sinker that aims to disrupt worms and ant colonies alike. Wacha’s ranked fifth in Induced Vertical Break, behind Kenley Jansen, Drew Smyly, Josh Hader, and Bailey Falter — or, the Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 7 sinkers most prone to being hit in the air. Put another way, Wacha’s sinker would have above-average “rise” for a four-seam fastball, meaning he’s not going to turn into Framber Valdez or Logan Webb anytime soon. (It would be cool if he did though; scientists would get a kick out of it.) We won’t go so far as to credit Wacha’s weird sinker for his year (he threw it only 13 percent of the time) or suggest it’ll change his career. We just think it’s neat.
The Orioles have already added one veteran starter to their rotation this winter, inking Kyle Gibson to a one-year pact worth $10 million.
Twins weighing post-Correa moves
The Twins are weighing what to do now that Carlos Correa has signed with the Giants, according to Dan Hayes of The Athletic. While Minnesota’s interest in Dansby Swanson and Carlos Rodón is known, Hayes adds that the Twins have been receiving calls on various veterans, including outfielder Max Kepler, starters Sonny Gray and Kenta Maeda, and infielder Luis Arraez.
Arraez, 25, may be a surprising inclusion. He’s posted a 120 OPS+ for his career, and just won the American League batting title by hitting .316/.375/.420. Rest assured, the ask is high. Hayes notes that “team officials said they’d consider dealing [Arraez] as part of a package for a prominent pitcher.”
It’s unclear if the Twins will move any of the others. Kepler would seem most likely to go from a practical perspective. Not only do the Twins have other outfielders they can slot into his spot, but they would free up additional funds for other pursuits by trading Kepler and his $8.5 million salary.
Nationals bring back Ramírez
Erasmo Ramírez had a productive 2022, compiling a 2.92 ERA in 86 innings with the Nationals. They rewarded him for his service on Thursday, re-signing him to a one-year deal worth up to $2 million, according to Jon Heyman of the New York Post. Ramírez, 32, will be pitching in his 12th big-league season.
D-Backs add reliever
The Diamondbacks have signed right-handed relief pitcher Scott McGough, according to the Arizona Republic. It’s a two-year deal. McGough, 33, was the Dodgers’ fifth-round pick in 2011 and was sent to the Marlins in 2012 in the Hanley Ramirez trade. He appeared in six games for the Marlins in 2015 (9.45 ERA, 2.40 WHIP), but has spent the last four seasons in Japan and seems to have really come into his own. In 53 2/3 innings last year for Yakult, he had a 2.35 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 59 strikeouts against 11 unintentional walks.