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MLB rumor roundup: Dodgers still eyeing Yamamoto, Alvarez open to Mets extension

We’ve got all the latest Hot Stove rumors from around the Majors on Monday, including the Dodgers’ plans after landing Shohei Ohtani, where things stand in the bidding for Yoshinobu Yamamoto and the Mets’ extension talks with a star rookie.

Francisco Alvarez of the New York Mets reacts after hitting a grand slam against the Philadelphia Phillies during the third inning of the second game of a doubleheader at Citi Field on September 30, 2023 in New York City. Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

The baseball world is still reeling from Shohei Ohtani’s bombshell over the weekend, but Hot Stove season waits for no one — if anything, action figures to finally pick up now that the sport’s best player has chosen his destination. Plenty of big names remain available, and the teams who missed out on landing Ohtani figure to be extra motivated.

Who’s heading where? Each weekday, we’ll be bringing you the latest news, rumors and reports from around MLB. Monday’s edition features plenty of interesting items, from what’s next for the Dodgers after landing Ohtani to where things stand in the sweepstakes for Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto. (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: Monday, Dec. 11

Dodgers still in on Yamamoto

Landing Ohtani gives L.A. arguably the most formidable offensive trio in baseball next season alongside Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman. But with the two-way star likely not taking the mound until 2025, Andrew Friedman and Co. now have to get to work on what is still the team’s biggest weakness: its very shaky starting rotation. Clayton Kershaw is a free agent entering his age-36 season who was last saw getting rocked by the Diamondbacks in the NLDS; Julio Urias’ career is in limbo after more disturbing assault allegations; Walker Buehler hasn’t pitched since undergoing Tommy John surgery in early 2022; Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May are expected to miss most if not all of 2024 with serious surgeries of their own.

That’s a lot of uncertainty, and L.A. needs to add multiple arms this winter. You might think that shelling out $700 million for Ohtani would prevent them from shopping at the top of the pitching market, but these are the Dodgers we’re talking about — and per Jon Heyman, the team remains in the running for the best available starter, Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto. At just 25 years old with true frontline stuff, Yamamoto figures to command quite the bidding war, with the Yankees and Mets the rumored favorites right now. Los Angeles might not have the means to outbid either of the New York teams — or other big-market clubs who figure to be involved, like the Cubs or Giants — but they did just land Yoshinobu’s countrymate in Ohtani, and L.A. would offer the big market and instant contention that the righty reportedly seeks.

J.D. Martinez market beginning to warm up

With the Dodgers finding a very expensive new designated hitter, last year’s DH will have to look elsewhere for work in 2024. But after slashing .271/.321/.572 with 33 homers in 2023, Martinez figures to have plenty of suitors, with Heyman naming the Diamondbacks, Mets, Mariners and even Angels among those interested in the 36-year-old. Arizona and Seattle would seem to make the most sense as ostensible contenders located on the West Coast with glaring needs at DH, but in a market thin on impact bats, this bidding war could get surprisingly intense even if he only commands a one- or two-year deal.

Alvarez open to extension with Mets

Among the lone bright spots in a lost season in Queens was the play of Alvarez, who arrived with much fanfare as the team’s top prospect and proceeded to pop 25 homers while holding his own defensively behind the plate. He looks like a piece for new president David Stearns to build around, so it’s no surprise that Tim Healey reports both team and player are interested in hammering out a long-term extension. For Alvarez, a deal would offer meaningful security at a demanding and difficult position, while New York could buy out years of free agency at a below-market price — an increasingly common trend around the league these days.

Dodgers, Yankees working on (minor) trade

Bringing in Ohtani — and, just as significantly, resigning reliever Joe Kelly — leaves the Dodgers with a bit of a roster crunch on their hands, as they now have to clear a couple of spots on the 40-man. It seems the Yankees are willing to help them out, for a cost:

Rosenthal’s report is obviously light on specifics, but you can surmise that this probably won’t qualify as any kind of blockbuster — these are organizational depth pieces, most likely. That said, the fact that it’s the Dodgers and Yankees involved makes it notable absent any other context.

Activity on the reliever market

Amid the Ohtani hysteria this weekend, a couple of notable lefty relievers found new homes. First up: Will Smith, fresh off winning a third straight World Series ring with the Rangers, has signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Kansas City Royals. Team success aside, the 34-year-old lefty had a bumpy 2023, putting up a 4.40 ERA in 57.1 innings while losing the closer’s role to Jose Leclerc. It seems unlikely that K.C. will give Smith a shot to make it four in a row, but hey, don’t put anything past Bobby Witt Jr.

Elsewhere, Evan Petzold reports that the Tigers inked southpaw Andrew Chafin to a one-year deal with a team option for 2025. Chafin, 33, is coming off a 2023 season in which he pitched to a 4.73 ERA in a combined 51.1 innings across stints with the Diamondbacks and Brewers. With the AL Central in absolute shambles right now, Detroit has a chance to make some real noise 2024, and upgrading a bullpen that ranked 17th in reliever ERA last year was a priority for president of baseball operations Scott Harris.