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MLB rumor roundup: Which team could be ‘sleeper’ in Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes?

We’ve got all the latest Hot Stove rumors from around the Majors on Wednesday, including a team to watch out for in pursuit of Shohei Ohtani and an ace the Phillies have their eye on.

Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels hits a single in the third inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on July 30, 2023 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

We’re now almost two weeks removed from the Rangers’ World Series win, and we’re still waiting for the first offseason domino to fall. With the non-tender deadline coming up on Friday, Nov. 17, and Winter Meetings the first weekend in December, it shouldn’t be too much longer until the Hot Stove starts really warming up.

Each weekday, we’ll be bringing you the latest news, rumors and reports from around MLB. Thursday’s edition features plenty of interesting items, from a new entrant into the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes to the Phillies eying a new ace to the Yankees and Mets checking in on an outfielder on the trading block. (As a reminder, here are our top 25 free agents as well as the 10 most interesting trade candidates this winter.)

MLB Hot Stove rumors: Thursday, Nov. 16

Blue Jays a ‘sleeper’ to land Ohtani

Ohtani is the big fish of this free-agent pond, and most people believe that someone like the Dodgers or Giants will be the ones to reel him in. But Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic has another name beyond the usual suspects to keep your eye on: the Toronto Blue Jays, whom Rosenthal calls a “potential sleeper”. And while it’s unknown whether Ohtani has interest in heading to Canada, it certainly make sense on paper, as Toronto has 1) money to spend 2) a clear need at DH (and for a left-handed bat in the middle of an otherwise righty-heavy order) and 3) they can offer the superstar the chance to join a contention-ready roster. Don’t rule it out.

Don’t rule out the Cubs, either

Chicago is ready to get aggressive after landing Craig Counsell earlier this month, and ESPN’s Jesse Rogers says “the timing could finally be right” for the Cubs to land Ohtani after they were one of seven finalists he considered when he first came to the States back in 2018. Again, while Ohtani fits everywhere, he’d be particularly appealing on the North Side given the Cubs’ desperate need for a DH — and Chicago’s huge media market, one that he’d dominate from the moment he stepped foot inside Wrigley Field.

Rogers also notes that the Cubs are interested in potential deals for Mets first baseman Pete Alonso or Brewers righty Corbin Burnes, and would be interested in floating young slugger Christopher Morel in a package for either player.

Phillies eying Yamamoto

The list of teams interested in 25-year-old Japanese phenom Yoshinobu Yamamoto continues to grow, with the Philadelphia Inquirer reporting that the Phillies have done “significant work” on the NPB star as he gets set to come to America. With Aaron Nola hitting the market, the Phils will need to add at least one and potentially two arms behind Zack Wheeler and Ranger Suarez this winter, and Yamamoto’s age and ace upside make him awfully intriguing.

Angels not planning to rebuild ‘in any capacity’

So much for those Mike Trout trade rumors? During the press conference to introduce new manager Ron Washington, Angels GM Perry Minasian pledged that the Angels would be aggressive in improving their depleted roster this winter, pushing back at the notion that L.A. is in for a long and painful rebuild. It’s easy to ignore that sentiment as mere November bluster, especially given how little talent the Halos have both at the Major League level and in a subpar farm system. But they will have a good amount of money to spend — they’re currently set to sit around $154.9 million in payroll for the 2024 season — and this hasn’t exactly been the most forward-thinking franchise in recent years.

Yankees, Mets among teams in on Margot

Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that “at least five teams” have inquired about a trade for Rays outfielder Manuel Margot, including both the Yankees and Mets. Margot isn’t much of a force at the plate, hitting .264/.310/.376 with four homers and 38 RBI in 99 games last season, but he’s a plus athlete who can credibly play all three outfield spots — and, more to the point, there simply aren’t many proven outfielders available this winter. Margot is entering the final year of his contract, so the always cost-conscious Rays could look to get something for him now to avoid letting him walk for nothing.