The Moonshot: MLB free agency updates and early trade candidates

Well, we believe in exit velocity, bat flips, launch angles, stealing home, the hanging curveball, Big League Chew, sausage races, and that unwritten rules of any kind are self-indulgent, overrated crap. We believe Greg Maddux was an actual wizard. We believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment protecting minor league baseball and that pitch framing is both an art and a science. We believe in the sweet spot, making WARP not war, letting your closer chase a two-inning save, and we believe love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too.

Welcome to The Moonshot.

MLB free agency updates

  • Martin Perez is planning to accept the one-year, $19.65 million qualifying offer to return to the Texas Rangers, sources say.
  • The market for the Tier 2 free-agent starting pitchers — like Jose Quintana — is active, sources say, and resolutions could come shortly after Tuesday when players decide on qualifying offers and team’s set their reserve lists to clear spots on the 40-man roster.
  • The Milwaukee Brewers are highly unlikely to trade either shortstop Wily Adames or right-hander Corbin Burnes despite receiving significant interest, sources say. Instead, they plan on adding around both players this winter. One player who could be dealt: outfielder Hunter Renfroe.
  • On Tuesday, teams have to set reserve lists and clear spots on the 40-man roster. There are likely to be numerous trades so teams can recoup some value for players rather than losing them for nothing in the Rule 5 draft.

— Robert Murray

Unexpected trade candidates ahead of Tuesday’s roster deadline

On Tuesday at 6 p.m., MLB teams will have to set reserve lists for the Rule 5 Draft, meaning some will have to clear roster space in order to make room for prospects they want to protect.

Some valuable talent not quite ready for big-league action can be swiped in the Rule 5 and must be added to the 40-man roster to avoid that from happening. Players who were signed at age 18 or younger must be protected within five seasons and players who signed at age 19 or older need to be protected within four seasons.

As a result, some smaller market clubs (or those who operate as such but aren’t) might part with some big-league talent that can either net them a big return or save them a hefty arbitration salary against the 2023 payroll.

Here are some unexpected names that could be moved:

Brewers, SS, Willy Adames

OK, Ken Rosenthal said this is unlikely (as did Robert, above) … but remember when everyone said it was unlikely the Brewers would trade Josh Hader at last year’s deadline? It’s understandable why Milwaukee wouldn’t want to do this. Willy Adames is one of the most underrated players in the game and will be making under $10 million in 2023 (and is controllable through 2024).

But some teams might be willing to pay over the top for the 27-year-old via trade with how expensive the shortstop market has gotten. Corey Seager signed for $325 million last year. Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, Dansby Swanson and Xander Bogaerts are all expected to land deals north of $150 million. Trading assets for Adames and getting him for two years at about ~$25 million might be the more appealing move for clubs unwilling to spend big.

The Brewers have internal options (Luis Urias, Brice Turang) who can immediately take over at shortstop, too, so they’d be able to re-tool fairly quickly.

Rays, OF, Randy Arozarena

Don’t rule out the Rays doing crazy stuff before today’s deadline. MLB insider Jon Morosi already said we can expect a lot of trades from Tampa as they look to make room on the 40-man. Apparently, their pitching has been a main focus for interested teams, but names like Yandy Diaz, Ryan Yarbrough and … Randy Arozarena are among other possibilities.

Arozarena is the most notable because he’s a Super Two player, projected to earn $4 million after just two years of service time. The 2021 Rookie of the Year should be of interest to countless teams in need of outfield help, and the Rays never hesitate on an opportunity to sell high. With Jose Siri, Manuel Margot and Harold Ramirez as other outfield options, Tampa could act fast and continue their strategy of constantly churning out young, cheap talent before they get too expensive.

Red Sox, OF, Alex Verdugo

One Red Sox beat writer floated the team potentially trading Alex Verdugo — the “crown jewel” of the Mookie Betts trade — this winter after manager Alex Cora urged that the 26-year-old needed to take the “biggest leap” for the Sox in 2023.

He’s been just about average since arriving in Boston before the 2020 season, and will now be due ~$7 million for 2023. The Sox, under Chaim Bloom guidance and their ownership’s cheap approach, may be willing to pull the plug since the former Rays exec can certainly find a 1.8 WAR player at a more cost-effective price.

Verdugo has just 30 home runs, a .768 OPS and 108 OPS+ across 351 games with the Sox. It just hasn’t been good enough, especially since he’s been surrounded by guys like Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers and JD Martinez for the entirety of his tenure.

With Kiké Hernandez and Rob Refsnyder already in the picture for 2023 and Jarren Duran still believed to be an asset (though, we’re not sure about that), the Sox outfield could be set without Verdugo if they wish to have it that way.

Either that, or they can chase an equally/more expensive option that will give them the results they want.

— Thomas Carannante

The latest episode of The Baseball Insiders

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Cocktail recipes perfect to enjoy around the MLB Hot Stove

Howdy, weary traveler! Put your bags down by the fire and stay a while. The baseball offseason has arrived, and the action will be hot and heavy — four separate times over the next three months at 13-minute intervals. These full-bodied beverages will make it all go down smoother.

Trader Jerry’s Rum Punch — Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto has culled these spices from far and wide for an elegant sip that will overwhelm you and make you forget alllllll about a 20-year playoff drought (or was that 5 minutes? What happened to time?!). This concoction is equal parts Antiguan rum, pineapple extract, Venezuelan rum, Moroccan rum, and rum-pineapple extract.

Scott Boras Chorus — This cocktail’s got legs so strong ZZ Top would be jealous. Its hue is so golden even Brooks Robinson would get blinded. It packs a more powerful punch than Mike Tyson strapped to Evander Holyfield carrying an, uh … an … alcoholic punch! This cocktail costs $34,000.Hot Toddy – For when Todd Helton inevitably gets only 52.4% of the Hall of Fame vote. Come on, man! Be as irate as the real Todd by consuming this warm concoction that’s Just Hot Vermouth.

Trea Turner’s Tequila Sunrise — The most coveted drink on the market, but tastes remarkably bitter in October.

Xander Bogaerts’ Opt-Out Clause — After just one sip, you’ll be loyal to this buzzworthy drink forever — but only at the right cost.

The Fake Account — After four of these, JefffPazzzzzzan will start looking better and better. Cal Ripken Jr. to the Marlins? Why not? Pazzzzzzan says so.

Judgment Day — The first time you order it, it’ll be a little too sweet, the giant ice cube will be a little too big, and the glass will crack 2/3 of the way through. But the second time? Oh, baby, it’ll be unreal. Bet on yourself!

RizzOld Fashioned — Comes as a package deal with the Judgment Day

Lieutenant Dans’ Alcoholic Gruel — Attention! Report to the flight deck at 0600 hours and slop down this combination mash liquor and oatmeal.

Winter Meetings Warmer — Soothe yourself to sleep with this seasonal combination of whiskey, cream and nutmeg. Wake yourself back up by realizing the Rays just traded Randy Arozarena at 1:14 AM EST.

Bob Nightengale’s Kahlua Surprise — It’s just Kahlua in a shoe, baby!

— Adam Weinrib

What if Oneil Cruz could consistently make contact?

Oneil Cruz made some serious highlights last season. You may remember him crushing a line drive at 122.4 miles per hour, the hardest-hit ball of the Statcast era. Or hammering a 434-foot home run completely out of PNC Park, the second-longest home run of the season for the Pirates. Or rocketing this throw to first at 97.8 miles per hour, the fastest infield throw of the Statcast era. Or just laughing his a** off as he got caught trying to stretch a double into a triple.

What you might not remember is him striking out 126 times in 361 plate appearances. He had more strikeouts than hits and walks combined. He struck out in 34.9 percent of his plate appearances, the third-highest mark in the league among players with at least 300 plate appearances last season.

Cruz’s rookie season was defined by extremes and — at 6-foot-7, with blazing speed, a rocket arm and the ability to generate obscene outliers in things like exit velocity and distance — he seems uniquely designed to deviate from baseball norms. He does things we’ve never seen before, with an aesthetic that is one-of-a-kind, and that alone is enough to make him one of the most interesting players in baseball.

But he has the potential to be so much more than just interesting.

In imagining what a satisfying second season for Cruz looks like, it would be nice to see some more of the simple plays made, in and among the once-in-a-generation feats of skill and athleticism — bat on ball, pitches out of the zone being left to their own devices, putting the onus on opposing pitchers to beat his bat speed, on opposing infielders to beat his foot speed.

His ceiling is unbelievably high. Time to build the floor.

— Ian Levy

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