The 2023 MLB Winter Meetings are officially underway, and although we’ve had just one major trade so far, the rumors are flying fast and furious. Throughout the next few days, we’ll be keeping track of and rounding up all the information you need to know. Monday’s edition includes potential timelines for both Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the latest on trade talks for Juan Soto, a reliever looking to reset the market and where the Mariners might look after their shocking decision to deal Jarred Kelenic. (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. 4
Ohtani decision could come ‘within the next week’
The Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes have been a state secret so far, with a distinct lack of favorites, finalists or mystery teams. But it looks like we could have some clarity on the biggest free agent in baseball history, at least per a report from Jon Morosi:
Where do things stand as we appear to be reaching the home stretch? We broke down the market for Ohtani here — the Dodgers and Giants remain the favorites, but keep an eye on the Blue Jays, Cubs and even a dark horse like the Braves — and recent reports indicate his eventual contract could threaten $600 million.
Speaking of Japanese free agents in position to break the bank: We could also be getting a decision on Yamamoto soon, as the 25-year-old ace is set to arrive in the States soon to start vetting offers.
Yoshinobu Yamamoto is coming to the U.S. within the next week to meet with MLB teams. The Mets will be among those teams.— Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) December 4, 2023
Name to watch in a potential Soto trade
Everyone had assumed that Soto was eventually bound for the Yankees — the fit was too neat, New York’s need for exactly Soto’s type of bat too great — but over the weekend talks between A.J. Preller and Brian Cashman appeared to cool. The Blue Jays were one of the teams that stepped into that void, and while Toronto doesn’t have the same amount of young starting pitching (San Diego’s biggest ask in any Soto return), they do have one interesting name in particular.
Alek Manoah’s name has come up in Juan Soto trade talks with the Padres. Could be a good change of scenery guy.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 4, 2023
Granted, Manoah fell apart last season, getting sent all the way down to Toronto’s rookie-level complex as the team attempted to rebuild his mechanics and confidence. But it was just two years ago that he was in serious AL Cy Young consideration, and he’s still just 25 years old. Who knows whether Preller has any interest, and Manoah certainly isn’t enough to serve as the centerpiece of a deal, but he’s an interesting name nonetheless.
Hader wants record contract
It’s been relatively slow going on the reliever market thus far this offseason, with everyone waiting on the one marquee name: former Padres lefty Josh Hader. Hader is far and away the most appealing option available this winter, and he and his representatives seem to be keenly aware of that fact — with Ken Rosenthal reporting that the All-Star is hoping to land the biggest contract ever for a reliever. that mark currently held by Edwin Diaz and his five-year, $102 million pact he signed with the Mets, but given how great the 29-year-old Hader was in 2023 (1.28 ERA, 85 strikeouts in 56.1 innings) it’s not out of the question.
Where will Mariners look after Kelenic deal?
Seattle is still reeling from GM Jerry Dipoto’s decision to send Jarred Kelenic to the Braves in order to get out from under the salaries of Marco Gonzales and Evan White, a move that sure looks like a pure salary dump from the Mariners’ perspective. Kelenic has yet to find it at the plate in the Majors, but he was still by far the best option Seattle had in either corner outfield spot, and now Dipoto has to try and find an upgrade. Soto is obviously the best corner outfielder available, but it’s hard to see Dipoto (and owner John Stanton) having the stomach for that as he enters the final year of his contract. A more likely target: someone like the Twins’ Max Kepler, who was solid last season but is also a year away from free agency and is expendable on a Minnesota roster that’s heavy on lefty corner bats.