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. Friday’s edition features plenty of interesting pitching items, from the Astros leading the pack for Josh Hader to the Yankees shifting focus from the rotation to the bullpen.
MLB Hot Stove rumors: Friday, Jan. 19
Astros ‘trying to sign’ Hader
We wrote yesterday that Hader’s slow market was making things difficult for the rest of this year’s crop of relievers, but there may finally be some momentum on that front. The Astros are “trying to sign” the All-Star closer, according to a report from The Athletic.
Of course, plenty of teams have kicked the tires on the lefty, but none have been willing to come close to his reported price tag: A contract that would make him the highest paid reliever ever, surpassing Edwin Díaz’s five-year, $102 million deal from last offseason. On the one hand, Hader is coming off another excellent season in which he saved 33 of 38 games for the Padres with a 1.28 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 85 strikeouts in 56.1 innings. On the other, teams are less inclined to break the bank for closers than ever before, which has left Hader in a bit of a bind — and held up the market for everyone else.
The Astros could be the exception, though. Yes, Houston already has a stud closer in Ryan Pressly. But you can file that under “nice problems to have”: You can never have too many high-leverage relievers, especially come playoff time. This is an Astros team urgent to win right now, with Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman both set to hit free agency next winter, and Houston’s lineup simply doesn’t have too many holes to speak of. With Blake Snell reportedly demanding a stratospheric contract and Jordan Montgomery seemingly set on a reunion with Texas, adding a difference-maker in the bullpen is one of the only ways for GM Dana Brown to give his roster a significant boost ahead of spring training. Plus, while Pressly is as sturdy as they come, there are question marks for this unit behind setup man Bryan Abreu.
Yankees focused on bullpen
With Snell asking for the moon and Montgomery looking elsewhere, it appears that Marcus Stroman will indeed be Brian Cashman’s last significant addition to the Yankees’ rotation this winter. But there are other ways for a team to shore up its pitching staff: Acccording to The Athletic, Cashman has now turned his attention to adding an impact reliever or two.
It feels like Hader would have to lower his ask significantly for the lefty to be a fit in New York, but his holding up the market means that there are still plenty of quality relievers available. The team has previously been linked to former Astros setup man Hector Neris, while former Rays righty Robert Stephenson and former Angels lefty Matt Moore would make sense as well. The Yankees have patched over their rotation issues with a lights-out bullpen in recent years, but right now there’s not a ton in the way of certainty behind closer Clay Holmes.
Duvall considering Red Sox reunion
Coming off a season in which he hit .247/.303/.531 (119 OPS+) with 21 home runs and 58 RBI for the Red Sox — with better corner outfield defense than you might think — Adam Duvall stands as one of the more intriguing under-the-radar options available this winter. And it seems like he’s narrowing things down: The 35-year-old is “likely” to pick between either the Red Sox or the Angels, according to Jon Heyman of the New York Post.
There is always the possibility that another team enters the bidding late, but Duvall seemed awfully comfortable hitting at Fenway Park last season, while few teams need more outfield help than the Angels right now. Duvall would likely slot into a platoon with the lefty-hitting Jarren Duran and Wilyer Abreu in Boston, while Los Angeles could always use some insurance in case Mike Trout and Taylor Ward can’t stay healthy.
Brewers interested in veteran first basemen
The Brewers don’t seem to have much interest in dealing their veterans and kicking off a rebuild, which begs the question: What does this team need to add in order to have a chance at repeating in the NL Central?
One of Milwaukee’s biggest holes is at first base, so it’s no surprise that the Brewers have had conversations with both Carlos Santana and Garrett Cooper in recent days, according to Robert Murray of FanSided.
Santana came over to Milwaukee at last year’s trade deadline, batting .249/.314/.459 (109 OPS+) with 11 home runs and 33 RBI in 52 games. Cooper, conversely, is coming off arguably the worst season of his career, posting a 96 OPS+ between the Marlins and Padres. His batted-ball metrics paint him as a bit unlucky though, and he has a long track record of big-league production. The Brewers’ current projected first baseman is Jake Bauers, whom the team obtained from the Yankees earlier this offseason.