The calendar has flipped to February, just weeks away from the official start of spring training — and with a decent number of our top 25 free agents still available, plenty of teams still have work to do if they plan on making a run at a World Series. 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 the Blue Jays fielding interest in Alek Manoah to where the Twins might look to reinvest their savings from the Jorge Polanco trade to the Mets getting some more bullpen help.
MLB Hot Stove rumors: Thursday, Feb. 1
Toronto fielding calls on Manoah
With the pitching market as barren as it is, perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that several teams have inquired about Blue Jays righty Alek Manoah this offseason, according to MLB.com. But Toronto is telling teams they have no plans to move him, seemingly intent on giving Manoah every chance to win the No. 5 starter job behind Kevin Gausman, Chris Bassitt, Jose Berrios and Yusei Kikuchi. (And don’t count out recently signed Cuban righty Yariel Rodriguez, either.)
Manoah looked to be one of the game’s brightest young stars after a sensational 2022 campaign in which he finished third in AL Cy Young voting. But his 2023 was about as bad as could be imagined, including a 5.87 ERA in 19 starts and a trip back to the team’s Minor League complex in Florida in order to rework his mechanics. Oh, and did we mention he received an injection for a shoulder issue after the season? Still, the righty just turned 26, and it makes sense that the Jays wouldn’t be thrilled at the prospect of selling low right now.
Twins planning to reinvest Polanco savings
The Twins entered this offseason knowing they’d need to shed some payroll, given the uncertainty surrounding the future of their TV deal with Diamond Sports. Their trade of long-time infielder Jorge Polanco earlier this week did just that, trimming nearly $6 million from the balance sheet in addition to the four-player package Seattle sent to Minnesota. A little breathing room finally in hand, now it’s time for president Derek Falvey to get to work, as he told MLB.com:
“With the trade and the way the cash all worked, we have some savings here just in this transaction alone that adds into the flexibility we have going through the free-agent market,” president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said. “We still think there are ways that we can utilize some of that money to address other ways to improve the club.”
“I think we’re going to be flexible and open-minded to what it looks like with adds to the infield, what it looks like with adds to the outfield,” Falvey said. “And maybe there’s an opportunity to continue to add on the pitching side — I think our focus might turn more to the position player route.”
Despite losing Sonny Gray and Kenta Maeda so far this winter, the Twins’ rotation still projects as a relative strength in 2024, so it’s no surprise that the team is focusing on the position player side of things. As for who Minnesota might target: Some center field insurance for the oft-injured Byron Buxton couldn’t hurt, and Alex Kirilloff and Royce Lewis have extensive health issues themselves at each corner infield spot. Adam Duvall could make some sense here, as could a reunion with Donovan Solano.
Mets nearing deal with Diekman
The Mets are nearing a contract agreement with free-agent lefty Jake Diekman, per a report from The Athletic. Contract terms are unknown, though presumably it is a one-year deal for the 37-year-old, who was very good with the Rays last year after being released by the White Sox. Tampa helped him get back to where he was earlier in his career more than they helped him find a new level: Even at his advanced age, Diekman still brings a funky lefty delivery and should contribute to a remade Mets bullpen that also features Austin Adams, Jorge López, Michael Tonkin and the recently re-signed Adam Ottavino behind a healthy Edwin Díaz in a remade Mets bullpen.