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Black Friday of course means MLB offseason rumors you can trust at a price you can afford. We’re here to provide just that, as we put Thanksgiving behind us and shift our focus to the upcoming Winter Meetings. Now here’s what’s buzzing across baseball.
The Yankees’ main objective this offseason is to repair the lineup around Aaron Judge, and GM Brian Cashman has already indicated that the team hopes to add multiple outfielders this winter. Speaking of which, Jon Heyman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees indeed have serious interest in trading for Padres outfielder Juan Soto and/or inking free-agent outfielder Cody Bellinger.
Soto is one of the best pure hitters in baseball, and his elite combination of power and patience would be an ideal fit for the Yankees. In a perfect world, he’d be a DH, but the Yankees of course have Giancarlo Stanton as the primary in that role. The Padres are believed to be looking to cut payroll this offseason, and Soto is probably in line for a salary in excess of $30 million in his final trip through the arbitration process. That salary commitment plus the fact that 2024 will be Soto’s walk year means the cost in trade likely won’t be prohibitive.
As for Bellinger, the former NL MVP is coming off an excellent bounceback season with the Cubs and is still just 28 years of age. We ranked him as the No. 3 available free agent this offseason, but we also noted that his sub-par quality of contact numbers raise concerns about how sustainable his work in 2023 really is. Bellinger clearly has upside, but he’s also a risk.
Elsewhere, Heyman adds that the Yankees will also consider fortifying the rotation behind ace and AL Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole. That could lead to a reunion with veteran Jordan Montgomery, who just earned a World Series ring with the Rangers. Montgomery, who turns 31 in late December, was traded by the Yankees to the Cardinals in August of 2022. He enjoyed a standout 2023 season (3.20 ERA, 3.46 K/BB ratio in 188 2/3 innings) with the Cardinals and then with the Rangers after the deadline deal that sent him to Texas.
Twins looking to cut payroll
The reigning AL Central champs are looking to shed some salary obligations for 2024, Robert Murray reports. As Murray notes, that could lead to the Twins’ deciding to shop veteran catcher Christan Vazquez, who’s coming off a disappointing season and is owed $10 million for each of the next two years. Outfielder Max Kepler is another potential trade candidate for Minnesota. Right now the Twins have less than $100 million committed in salary for 2024, and ace Sonny Gray is a free agent and may be headed elsewhere.
Jung Hoo Lee to be posted in early December
Korean outfielder Jung Hoo Lee is indeed poised to make the jump to MLB, and Jeeho Yoo reports that he’s expected to be posted soon after the Thanksgiving holiday period concludes. Coming into the offseason, we ranked the 25-year-old Lee as the 15th-best available free agent. Here’s part of our write-up:
Lee fractured his ankle in July, ending his season and hindering his ability to further audition for MLB scouts. He’s regarded as a plus runner and defender, and he’s demonstrated appreciable bat-to-ball skills. Lee had a 91% contact rate this season, including a 97% contact rate against fastballs, according to data obtained by CBS Sports. He’s not a big-time slugger (23 of his 65 career home runs came in 2022), and that puts the onus on him making a full recovery so that he can contribute in the field and on the basepaths. Teams always have concerns about how KBO hitters will fare against MLB pitching. The recent success of Ha-Seong Kim, Lee’s former teammate, should provide them with some peace of mind.
Interest in his services is expected to be intense, particularly in light of the thin crop of impact free-agent hitters not named Shohei Ohtani.