Good morning, Mets fans and welcome back to another edition of the hot stove rumor roundup! As we kick off another week, starting pitching has become a hot topic among teams looking to upgrade their rotations. But the interest does not lie in the current pool of free agents.
Astros Prefer Trading for Starter to Signing
Jon Morosi of MLB Network is reporting that the Houston Astros have actively scoured the trade market on starting pitchers, and are more inclined at this point to acquire a starter in a deal with another team rather than sign one of the many available, albeit pricier names. As one executive has informed Morosi, Houston has inquired on nearly every available starter on the block.
Despite having a handful of young, flame-throwing studs in Forrest Whitley (#8 in MLB Pipeline‘s top 100 list), Josh James (#95), Cionel Perez, Corbin Martin, and J.B. Bukauskas, the Astros are chiefly focused on finding at least one proven starter to fill in the holes left behind by Charlie Morton and Dallas Keuchel, who are both expected to sign elsewhere this winter.
It had already been speculated that Mariners left-hander James Paxton is a target for the Astros, though such other names as Madison Bumgarner, Zack Greinke, Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Sonny Gray, and our very own Noah Syndergaard have all been discussed among teams this offseason, and could possibly be on their radar as well. Of course, a few arms come with logistical hangups of its own, with every pitcher aside from Syndergaard, Paxton, and Greinke expected to hit free agency following the 2019 season, and Greinke’s annual fee of $34MM for the next three years an albatross any way you slice it.
Rangers Could Try Dealing Minor
Minor, who is owed $19MM across the next two seasons, doesn’t look to be the most attractive option at first glance given his 4.18 ERA, 34.4% groundball rate, and 1.4 HR/9 in 28 starts this past year. It’s worth noting that most of Minor’s figures are a residual effect of a brutal first half. The 31-year old put together a 3.23 ERA and 1.3 HR/9 rate through his last 17 starts after two months of an uglier 5.76 and 1.7, respectively.
Given the likelihood that Texas endures a down year in 2019 as it works to rebuild a barren starting rotation, Minor could turn out to be a useful weapon for more confident teams either in need of a back-end starter or potential innings eater, which he was in a breakout 2017 for the Kansas City Royals (2.55 ERA, 10.2 K/9 against 2.5 BB/9 in 66 games) that ultimately won him the contract in the first place. Minor had been rehabbing from Tommy John surgery in the Atlanta Braves’ organization the prior two years.
Braves, Kimbrel Reunion Unlikely
Speaking of the Braves, Mark Bowman recently published an inbox piece for MLB.com and discussed the Braves’ present chances of bringing All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel back into the fold. Similar to the likes of Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, it is “highly unlikely” that the Braves will bring back Kimbrel due to the righty’s current asking price.
Despite maintaining success across his time in San Diego and Boston, the 31-year old Kimbrel undoubtedly enjoyed his most dominant seasons with Atlanta. The righty averaged 46 saves a year between 2011 and 2014, with an ERA ranging between just 1.01 and 2.10 as he boasted a 4.74 K/BB ratio through 273 games. Kimbrel whipped together an 11.3 bWAR and 11.6 fWAR in that time, and has since amassed a strong, though less formidable 8.2/7.5.
This isn’t to say, however, that the Braves won’t pursue a closer altogether. While Arodys Vizcaino and A.J. Minter both pose solid late-inning threats, entrusting either option with the ninth inning and in turn neglecting such forces as Cody Allen, Jeurys Familia, and Zach Britton, each of whom carries a similarly impressive pedigree.