A three-year, $58.5 million contract seemed high for free-agent first baseman Jose Abreuwho turns 36 on Jan. 29. The Athletic’s Keith Law criticized the Astros for paying him that much. But the competition for Abreu, according to major-league sources and media reports, perhaps explains how, even at an advanced age, he exceeded his previous three-year, $50 million deal with the White Sox.
The Fathers and Guardians also made Abreu three-year offers. The Red Sox considered him their top outside priority, though the size of their offer was not known. The Marlins were in the mixas were the Cubs and Rays. Other teams might have been involved as well.
• As The Athletic’s Dennis Lin wrote, the Padres have every reason to take a measured approach this offseason, seeking to add depth more than star power. But some in the industry believe general manager A.J. Preller will follow his usual formula, and at least attempt to do something big.
Abreu appealed to the Padres and other clubs in part because he was ineligible to receive a qualifying offer after getting one from the White Sox (and accepting it) in 2019. The Padres, after exceeding the luxury-tax threshold last season, would forfeit a second- and fifth-round pick, as well as $1 million from their international signing bonus pool for signing a free agent who rejected a qualifying offer — Xander Bogaerts, for example. Such a penalty would be especially painful for a San Diego team that depleted its farm system at the deadline with trades for Juan SotoJosh Bell, Josh Hader and Brandon Drury.
The obvious course for the Padres, then, would be to find a first base/DH type to fill the role projected for Abreu, plus another starting pitcher and bullpen and bench help. But Preller, as first reported by the New York Postis exploring the shortstop market. Perhaps his inquiries are simply the routine due diligence GMs perform at this time of year. But according to major-league sources, Preller recently asked Bogaerts’ agent, Scott Boras, whether the shortstop would be willing to play other infield positions. Others say Preller, like pretty much every other GM, fancies Trea Turner, too.
Bogaerts would make particular sense for the Padres if he was willing to play first base or second short-term, then possibly move to third if Manny Machado opts out after next season. Soto, meanwhile, could leave as a free agent after 2024, potentially creating another offensive void.
The Padres, after re-signing pitchers Robert Suarez and Nick Martinezmoved within $1 million of the first luxury-tax threshold according to Fangraphs. They’re already all-in. The only question is how far they will go.
• Whatever the Padres do, they need to figure out where to play Fernando Tatis Jr.who will be coming off multiple wrist surgeries, a shoulder operation and an 80-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs that ends on April 20.
Ha-Seong Kim emerged as a top defensive shortstop last season, ranking among the top eight at the position in both Outs Above Average and Defensive Runs Saved. Of the free-agent shortstops, only Carlos Correa and Dansby Swanson are comparable defensively.
The Padres were talking about playing Tatis in center before he was suspended. He also can fill a void in left if free agent Jurickson Profar signs with another club, or right if the Padres move Soto back to his original position. Second base could be another option, with Jake Cronenworth moving to first.
Much depends, obviously, on what the Padres accomplish this offseason.
• The Astros are in discussions with free agent Willson Contreras and plan to meet with him at the winter meetings, according to a source briefed on the situation.
Rather than Urquidy, Contreras would cost the Astros their second-highest draft pick and $500,000 from their international bonus pool. Contreras, meanwhile, would not need to worry about losing playing time in the middle of his walk year.
The Astros like Contreras in part because he can play left field, particularly at Minute Maid Park, which has the second-smallest left field in the majors after Fenway Park. Most of Contreras’ limited time in left was in 2016, his rookie season. But in theory, he could alternate with Yordan Alvarez in left and at DH while also catching on occasion.
The question is whether Contreras, 30, still would want to be paid like a catcher while playing a less significant defensive role.
• Cardinals GM John Mozeliak, in a telephone conversation Tuesday, made it clear the team’s No. 1 priority is acquiring an everyday catcher. Asked about the possibility of adding a shortstop, Mozeliak said, “Tommy Edman is a very, very good shortstop.”
Mozeliak allowed that a change in the marketplace could prompt him to adjust at short, but it’s doubtful he could strike a bargain in free agency or in a trade. As for the outfield, Mozeliak said the Cardinals have numerous options, describing top prospect Jordan Walker “as the biggest wild card.” He did not rule out a veteran addition, but such a player likely would be a backup behind Tyler O’Neill, Dylan Carlson and Lars Notable.
• Shortly after the season ended, Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto told reporters his preference would be to land a shortstop who would be willing to play second base. But considering the expected prices for the big four shortstops, the Mariners are more likely to pursue a left-handed hitting second baseman who can platoon with Dylan Mooreas well as a right-handed hitting outfielder.
The Brewers’ Kolten Wongearning $10 million, is one option at second, but the Mariners also could pursue more affordable options who would remain with the team longer. The Rays, for example, feature three such youngsters — Jonathan Aranda and switch-hitters Taylor Walls and Vidal Brujan — as well as Brandon Lowewho is under club control through 2026 at a below-market salary. Lowe, however, appeared in only 65 games last season due to back and triceps injuries, so the Rays would be selling low.
• Speaking of the Rays, they always check in on the top of the market, so it’s not exactly a surprise they have made contact with Jacob deGrom, the best pitcher available in free agency. It’s also not exactly a surprise that club officials are pessimistic about their chances, knowing deGrom’s average annual value is expected to exceed $40 million in a deal of at least three years.
Such an amount would represent about half the Rays’ club-record $83.9 million payroll in 2022, and they’re already at an estimated $67.7 million for 2023. Still, they will occasionally splurge, in their own way. They will pay Tyler Glasnow $25 million in 2024, the second year of his two-year extension. They also offered Freddie Freeman two deals last offseason in free agency, according to ESPN — six years, $140 million or seven years, $150 million.
Their appeal to deGrom could include the opportunity to pitch in his native Florida, a state that does not charge income tax, as well as the chance to work under one of the game’s top pitching coaches, Kyle Snyder. But other teams almost certainly would be willing to pay considerably more.
• The Mets recently re-assigned amateur scouting director Marc Tramuta, making him a high-level evaluator who will work in both the amateur and international markets. The team, which has not yet announced the move, currently is conducting an interview process, but one club source expects a promotion from within.
Tramuta joined the Mets as an assistant scouting director in 2012, and became their amateur scouting director in December 2016. His first-round picks included left-hander David Petersonthird baseman/outfielder Brett Batyoutfielder Jarred Kelenic (traded for Edwin Diaz/Robinson Canó), outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong (traded for Javier Baez) and pitcher Kumar Rocker (whom the Mets did not sign).
A Mets official declined comment when asked about Tramuta, saying the team does not discuss employee-related matters.
(Top photo of Contreras: Jamie Sabau / Getty Images))