The calendar has flipped to February, with teams officially starting to report to spring training — and with a decent number of our top 25 free agents still available, plenty of those 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. Friday’s edition features plenty of interesting pitching items, including the Giants ramping up pursuit of one of the best hitters still remaining on the market and what the future could hold for Clayton Kershaw and a couple of other aging superstars.
MLB Hot Stove rumors: Friday, Feb. 9
Rangers agree to deal with Garcia
Just months after he helped slug them to their first-ever World Series title, the Rangers appeared set to take right fielder Adolis Garcia to an arbitration hearing this week. But instead, the two sides were able to work out a deal — not just for 2024, but for the next two years. Per Jon Heyman of the New York Post, Garcia has signed a two-year, $14 million contract, one that comes with “a ton of escalators” based on availability and performance.
This technically isn’t a contract extension, as Garcia was entering his first year of arbitration and wasn’t set to hit free agency until after the 2026 season. But this deal avoids the ugliness of a hearing, buying cost certainty for both sides until the outfielder’s contract year — at which point Texas will likely have decided whether to hand Garcia a long-term extension or allow him to test the market.
García, 30, continued his late-career breakout by hitting .245/.328/.508 (123 OPS+) with 29 doubles, 39 homers, 107 RBI, 108 runs and nine steals last season — good enough to start his first All-Star Game. It was in October, though, where he truly etched his name into Rangers lore: He earned ALCS MVP honors after hitting five homers with 15 RBI in a seven-game win over the Astros, then delivered a walk-off bomb to win Game 1 of the World Series against the Diamondbacks. In 15 playoff games, he slashed a blistering .323/.382/.726 with eight homers and 22 RBI. With Evan Carter already establishing himself as a young star and top prospect Wyatt Langford banging on the door, the Rangers seem likely to let Garcia walk when the time comes; in the short-term, though, he’s an integral part of one of the deepest lineups in baseball, and this deal keeps him locked up at a very reasonable number.
Astros now focused on Bregman extension
One of the first questions we had in the wake of Jose Altuve’s five-year extension with the Astros was: What does this mean for Alex Bregman? Like Altuve, Bregman is entering his final season of team control, and like Altuve, Bregman is a Scott Boras client. With less than two months to go until the start of the regular season, Houston GM Dana Brown understands there’s limited time to negotiate, telling reporters on Thursday that “at some point, we will make an offer” to the third baseman (via The Athletic).
The team would surely like to make Bregman another Astro for life. As we laid out earlier this week, however, he presents a far trickier case than Altuve. While both players have the same agent, Bregman is three years younger, and figures to be in line for a more substantial payday in 2025 free-agent market that projects to once again be a bit light on impact position-player talent. Maybe Bregman just really values remaining with the only professional organization he’s ever known; but with Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker up for extensions of their own soon enough — and the Astros’ payroll already among the highest in the league — some hard choices will have to be made.
Bregman, 29, is coming off a season in which he hit .262/.363/.441 (122 OPS+) with 28 doubles, four triples, 25 homers, 98 RBI and 103 runs, to go along with his typically sturdy defense at the hot corner. The two-time All-Star has twice finished in the top five of MVP voting and has been — along with Altuve — a fixture on this Astros group that has gone to the ALCS seven straight years, a stretch that includes four pennants and two championships.
Rays extend president, manager
In the midst of the most sustained run of success in franchise history, Tampa is unsurprisingly keeping the band together, announcing on Thursday that the contracts of president of baseball operations Erik Neander and manager Kevin Cash have been extended. The deals for each Neander and Cash “will carry into and beyond the team’s planned 2028 move” into a new ballpark, reports the Tampa Bay Times, though exact terms of the deals aren’t yet known.
Neander, 40, joined the Rays as an intern in 2007 and worked his way up the ladder. He was named general manager in 2016 and promoted to president of baseball operations in 2021. Cash, 46, has been the Rays manager since the beginning of the 2015 season, taking over after the highly publicized departure of Joe Maddon. Cash is now the longest-tenured MLB manager after Terry Francona’s retirement at the end of the 2023 season.
With Neander and Cash in leadership positions, the Rays have made the playoffs five straight seasons — one more appearance than they’d made in their first 21 years of existence. They won the franchise’s second AL pennant in 2020, but an ALDS loss in 2021 and Wild Card Series loss last season — despite 100- and 99-win seasons, respectively — have left a little lingering disappointment. Still, it’s hard to argue that anyone has done more with less, and the team’s development machine shows no signs of slowing down in 2024.
Red Sox sign Fulmer
The Red Sox have signed right-handed reliever Michael Fulmer to a two-year deal, reports Chris Cotillo of MassLive. Fulmer is coming off elbow surgery (UCL revision, a few years after Tommy John) and is unlikely to pitch in 2024, making this really an investment in his rehab with an eye toward 2025.
New Red Sox chief baseball officer Craig Breslow worked with Fulmer when the two were with the Cubs last season. In 58 appearances for Chicago, Fulmer pitched to a 4.42 ERA and 1.33 WHIP with 65 strikeouts against 28 walks in 57 innings. The 2025 season will be Fulmer’s age-32 campaign.