The calendar has flipped to 2024, and with the holiday behind us, expect the Hot Stove to get cranking again soon — with 14 of our top 25 free agents still available and lots of money freed up now that Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto are off the market. So who’s heading where? Each weekday, we’ll be bringing you the latest news, rumors and reports from around MLB. Thursday’s edition features plenty of interesting pitching items, from Joey Votto’s market beginning to heat up to the Yankees and Astros expressing interest in one of the top relievers available.
MLB Hot Stove rumors: Thursday, Jan. 11
Joey Votto drawing interest
Votto’s future in the Majors seemed very much up in the air when the Reds opted to let him go at the start of the winter, but the future Hall of Famer (yes, we said) has not in fact retired — and USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that he’s drawing interest from at least three different teams. Given Cincy’s infield situation, the Reds seem unlikely to be one of them, meaning Votto will almost surely be wearing a different jersey for the first time in his 17-year career.
Votto obviously isn’t what he was at his MVP peak, but he could still help a team in the right situation. Despite missing a chunk of 2023 due to a shoulder issue, Votto hit .202/.314/.433 (99 OPS+) with 14 homers and 38 RBI in 65 games. His last relatively full season (129 games) was 2021, during which he homered 36 times with 99 RBI. He can still take a walk, and there’s still some decent power in his bat — even if he has to sell out a bit more for it at this stage, which cuts into his batting average. Add it all up, and Votto would still be a nice option for a team looking for a part-time first baseman/DH, especially in a bench or platoon role.
Yankees, Astros in on Jordan Hicks
While the starting pitching market has dominated discussions so far this offseason, things have been a bit slower going for free-agent relievers. Josh Hader is the clear-cut top option, but another name has been drawing some interest of late: Both the Yankees and Astros, among others, have kicked the tires on fireballer Jordan Hicks, according to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. In 65 appearances last season between the Cardinals and Blue Jays, Hicks pitched to a 3.29 ERA (132 ERA+) and 1.36 WHIP with 81 strikeouts in 65.2 innings. He still had some command issues, and he’ll never be the overwhelming strikeout artist his triple-digit velocity would suggest, but overall the righty had his best and most complete season since his rookie year in 2018. His late-inning experience is sure to attract contenders, especially those who don’t want to meet Hader’s record price tag.