Hot Stove Rumor Roundup: Catchers Up for Grabs

Good morning Mets fans, and happy Friday! While time seems to have stood still through the Mets’ negotiations with the Seattle Mariners over Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz, there were, in fact, other headlines around baseball yesterday that will certainly shape the rest of the offseason.

Blue Jays Shopping Martin, Pirates Trying to Move Cervelli 

Yahoo Sports‘ Jeff Passan has the scoop for both teams, noting that both the Toronto Blue Jays’ Russell Martin and Pittsburgh Pirates’ Francisco Cervelli have drawn interest from a number of teams. The former club will attempt to find a taker for an expendable, expensive player, while the latter looks to move a possible trade chip for a 2019 season that doesn’t promise to be all that competitive anyway.

Martin, 35, hit just .194/.338/.325 in 2018, and has generally regressed at the plate since 2016, slashing .218/.338/.375 while throwing out just 19% of baserunners and missing over 70 games in each of the past two years with shoulder and oblique injuries. With Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire both impressing behind the dish in 2018 and likely costing very little through their many controllable years, Martin – who played 21 games at third last year as a result – is simply no longer needed. While his $20MM due next year (wrapping up a five-year, $90MM pact) would need to be absorbed to an extent, Martin’s seven defensive runs saved catching and five framing runs above average could play out well for a team in need of an established veteran presence.

Cervelli’s offensive numbers, for the most part, tell a much more pleasant story. His 12 homers, 57 RBI, and .809 OPS all made for career-highs, and since he first joined the Pirates in 2015, Cervelli owns the majors’ third-best walk-rate (11.5%), third-best wRC+ (110), and fourth-best fWAR (9.4). However, like Martin, Cervelli has had numerous issues staying on the field, as he has never played in more than 130 games in a season across his 11-year career. A -12 DRS going back to 2017 could also be a cause for concern, as the upcoming 33-year old is in line to make $11.5MM in 2019 before hitting free agency.

Meanwhile, Jon Heyman of FanCred Sports is reporting that the Mets and Giants have recently talked to the Marlins regarding their catcher, J.T. Realmuto.

Padres, Richards, Agree to Two-Year Deal

According to Passan, the deal between the San Diego Padres and former Los Angeles Angels ace Garrett Richards is worth a guaranteed $15MM with up to $3MM available in incentives (Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports had initially reported that the two sides had come to an agreement on a contract itself). Still only 30 years of age, Richards’ season was cut short over the summer when it was revealed that the righty had damaged his UCL for the second time in three years.

The Tampa Bay Rays recently struck a similar deal with Nathan Eovaldi while he recovered from Tommy John surgery through the 2017 season, and likewise the Minnesota Twins with Michael Pineda and Chicago Cubs with Drew Smyly entering 2018. Richards is slated to make between $5-$8MM more than either of the three, but in fairness, Richards has combined for a higher bWAR over the last five years (7.6) than the combined average between the three (7.1).

Granted, Richards’ output in 2018 wasn’t too far out of line from what he had strung together the prior four years as a mainstay in Anaheim’s rotation (when healthy). With a 3.15 ERA/3.38 FIP, a 1.168 WHIP, and 2.67 K/BB ratio since 2014, Richards has a decent chance to contribute with San Diego in 2020 if his rehab goes to plan. While his 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings last year was a career-best, he assumed a far worse burden by averaging four walks and 1.3 homers per nine, and he hasn’t made more than 20 starts in a season since 2015 – combining for just 28 in the meantime.

Reds Heavily Interested in Keuchel

While the Cincinnati Reds have plenty of work to do with their current roster before making a serious bid in the NL Central division in the near future, the team has its sights set on its first possible building block – at least as it relates to their starting rotation, which finished with a 5.02 ERA (14th in the National League), 1.42 WHIP (14th), 39% hard-hit rate (11th), and 1.62 homers allowed per nine (15th) last season. The prime target at the moment is left-hander and 2015 AL Cy Young recipient Dallas Keuchel, whom the Reds, per Heyman, are “all over.”

Keuchel, who will be 31 in January, averaged a pedestrian 6.7 K/9 this past year, but made up for it by whipping up a career-best 34 starts and keeping the ball on the ground 53.7% of the time. Shockingly enough, such a figure was his lowest since his debut season in 2012, but still made for the best in the majors, while his 3.6 fWAR ranked ninth in the American League. MLB Trade Rumors projects Keuchel to earn up to $82MM in a four-year deal this offseason, an annual salary the Reds have never handed out to a free agent.

Heyman has also cited J.A. Happ as a potential person of interest for the Reds, though it’s unclear whether he is seen as an add-on or an alternative. Conventional wisdom would point to the latter, since Happ himself is projected to make $48MM over three years, though at 36 years of age and having experienced pitching in the National League before, he may be a more feasible goal for Cincinnati.

Brewers Likely to Non-Tender Schoop

Coming off a down year for the ages between the Baltimore Orioles and Milwaukee Brewers, second baseman Jonathan Schoop is reportedly expected to be non-tendered by the Milwaukee Brewers ahead of tomorrow’s deadline, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. Schoop, 27, hit just .233/.266/.416 in 131 games, putting up a brutal .577 OPS with the Brewers alongside a 30.6% K-rate.

The general expectation in July had been that the Brewers would get Schoop back on his feet and race for a postseason berth full steam with contributions from the 2017 All-Star. Instead of getting a taste of the .280/.316/.479 line he enjoyed from 2015 through 2017, the Brewers benched him and his -0.2 oWAR in favor of Travis Shaw, who had been knocked off his natural position at third base after the deadline to accommodate Mike Moustakas.

Schoop, who is projected to make $10.1MM this offseason in arbitration, would instead hit the market headed by a handful of players coming off similar rough patches, such as DJ Lemahieu (1.2 oWAR – his worst mark since 2014), Brian Dozier (.696 OPS and only 81 runs scored, his lowest totals since 2013) and Daniel Murphy (played only 91 games played due to microfracture surgery in his knee, ended with his lowest oWAR since 2009 at just 1.1). As the youngest player in the bunch, however, Schoop is sure to find a clean slate somewhere.

About Jack Hendon 161 Articles
Jack Hendon (@jack_hendon99 on Twitter) is a sophomore at Haverford College, special assistant/statistician for the baseball team, prospective English major and psychology minor, and contributor to MetsMerized Online. He was seven when he saw Carlos Beltran take strike three in the 2006 NLCS, and since then has concentrated his love for the Mets through writing about particular fan memories, while also devoting time to recapping games, analyzing pitchers, and heckling (when appropriate) at Citi Field. LGM!