Rumor Central: Will the Reds re-sign Zack Cozart?

October, 17, 2017
Oct 17
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Zack CozartJamie Sabau/Getty ImagesAll-Star shortstop Zack Cozart likely enhanced his market value by hitting .297/.385/.548 this season.

One of the key decisions facing the Cincinnati Reds is whether to make a serious effort to re-sign shortstop Zack Cozart, who is eligible for free agency following a career year.

In an interview with Zach Buchanan and C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Reds general manager Dick Williams says he will "continue to talk to Zack and see if there's something that can be worked out there."

Williams, at least publicly, is keeping an open mind about retaining the 32-year-old Cozart, who posted a .297/.385/.548 slash line with 24 homers and earned his first All-Star berth this year.

The Reds, however, have no plans to spend lavishly on free agents, so Cozart might need to take a hometown discount in order to stay in Cincinnati. Buchanan and Rosecrans reported last week that it is unlikely the Reds would give Cozart a qualifying offer worth $17.4 million.

If the Reds do spend in free agency, they may be more inclined to use the resources on the more glaring need of starting pitching.

If Cozart lands elsewhere, Williams said 23-year-old Jose Peraza, who had just a .297 OBP in his first full season in the majors, would be the "primary candidate" to take over at shortstop.

-- Doug Mittler

Kevin LongAP Photo/Kathy WillensKevin Long served as the Mets' hitting coach the last three seasons under Terry Collins.

Kevin Long appears to have made a favorable first impression in the New York Mets' managerial search.

Long, the Mets’ hitting coach the last three seasons, is the favorite as the front office begins the interview process to replace Terry Collins, tweets ESPN’s Buster Olney.

Bob Klapisch of The Record (Bergen County) also is reporting that Long, who reportedly interviewed for the job last week, is the early top choice.

The 50-year-old Long has drawn praise for his communication skills and is credited with helping Daniel Murphy to alter his swing and become one of baseball’s elite hitters. Long served as hitting coach of the New York Yankees from 2007-14 and managed in the minor leagues.

While Alex Cora has become the hot name for several openings, the Astros’ bench coach “is not considered high on the Mets’ list of candidates,” reports Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News.

According to various reports, the Mets will interview Cora on Tuesday. White Sox bench coach Joe McEwing, Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway and Mariners third-base coach Manny Acta will be interviewed this week.

-- Doug Mittler

Rumor Central: Is R.A. Dickey leaning toward retirement?

October, 17, 2017
Oct 17
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Brad Mills/USA TODAY SportsR.A. Dickey pitched a club-high 190 innings in his first season in Atlanta.

The Atlanta Braves apparently want R.A. Dickey back, but will the 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner return for a 16th big league season?

Dickey has yet to publicly declare his intentions, but David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution makes an educated guess that the 42-year-old right-hander will hang up his spikes.

”It’s seemed since the last week of the season that he was leaning heavily toward retiring, and at this point I’d be surprised if the knuckleballer decides to continue his career,” writes O’Brien. “If he did, the Braves would likely pick up his $8 million option for 2018. But again, I don’t think they’re going to have to make that call.”

Dickey was 10-10 with a 4.26 ERA and a team-high 190 innings after signing with Atlanta last winter. Picking up the option on Dickey, who has a $500,000 buyout, would give the Braves a durable starter at a reasonable price.

Dickey won a Cy Young Award in 2012, when he was 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA for the New York Mets.

While they await word from Dickey, the Braves’ office is dealing with more pressing matters as Major League Baseball continues its investigation into the club's international signings that prompted the resignation of general manager John Coppolella. O’Brien reports the results of the investigation will not be announced until after the World Series.

- Doug Mittler

Rumor Central: Fredi Gonzalez favorite for Tigers' manager job?

October, 16, 2017
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Fredi GonzalezDavid John Griffin/Icon SportswireMarlins third-base coach Fredi Gonzalez has previous managerial experience with Florida and Atlanta.

Could Fredi Gonzalez cash in on his past ties to Detroit general manager Al Avila to become the next skipper of the Detroit Tigers?

John Perrotto of FanRag Sports reports Gonzalez, currently the third-base coach of the Miami Marlins, is considered the favorite to succeed the departed Brad Ausmus as manager of the Tigers. Perrotto notes Gonzalez worked with Avila as far back as 1992, when Gonzalez managed the Marlins' Class A Erie affiliate and Avila was a front-office executive for the expansion club.

The 53-year-old Gonzalez has previous experience as manager of the Marlins and Atlanta Braves, compiling a 710-692 record over 10 seasons. The Braves won the NL East title under Gonzalez in 2013.

Perrotto adds there also is “some sentiment” in the Tigers’ organization to hire Gabe Kapler, a former Detroit outfielder who is the director of player development for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

- Doug Mittler

Alex CoraDoug Murray/Icon SportswireAlex Cora is in high demand this week as the Astros continue the ALCS against the New York Yankees.

Alex Cora is a busy man this month, splitting time between his duties as bench coach of the Houston Astros and handling inquiries from teams looking to fill managerial openings.

Cora may be in such high demand that "it would be an upset" if he does not land one of the four vacancies, reports Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. The Boston Red Sox, New York Mets, Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies are searching for skippers, and all have either talked to Cora or will shortly.

ESPN's Scott Lauber reports the Red Sox list Cora as their "top managerial prospect" and interviewed the 41-year-old Sunday in New York, where the Astros will play Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees on Monday night.

ESPN's Marly Rivera adds Cora will be part of the first round of interviews for the Mets and Tigers, and Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News says Cora will interview for the Mets' job this week.

Cafardo also linked Cora to the Phillies last week.

Cora, a former major league infielder who is well respected for his communication skills, has interviewed for previous managerial openings with the Rangers and Diamondbacks. Though he has not managed in the major leagues, he has served as a skipper for a winter league team in Puerto Rico.

-- Doug Mittler

Rumor Central: Would Cardinals have interest in Greg Holland?

October, 13, 2017
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Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesGreg Holland could have plenty of options after saving 41 games for the Colorado Rockies this season.

The St. Louis Cardinals are expected to “pounce” on Greg Holland once the closer formally declines his player option and becomes a free agent, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

Holland has yet to make a public decision as to whether he will exercise the $15 million option and does not have to do so until after the World Series. The 31-year-old right-hander has enhanced his market value after recording a league-high 41 saves for the Colorado Rockies this season.

Should Holland seek free agency, he could be aiming for a contract similar to the four-year, $62 million deal Mark Melancon signed with the Giants, suggests Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post.

Holland would appear to be a logical fit for the Cardinals, who struggled to find a reliable closer in 2017 and are likely to consider several options this winter.

Earlier this month, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the Cardinals have already had discussions with Juan Nicasio, who was acquired in a September trade with the Phillies. Goold added the Cardinals also have interest in Japanese closer Yoshihisa Hirano.

- Doug Mittler

Rumor Central: Yonder Alonso open to returning to Mariners?

October, 12, 2017
Oct 12
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Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty ImagesMariners first baseman Yonder Alonso would reportedly welcome a return to Seattle in free agency.

As Yonder Alonso heads into free agency unsure of his next destination, the first baseman reportedly wouldn't mind returning to the Pacific Northwest.

According to Greg Johns of MLB.com, Alonso is open to a return to the Seattle Mariners after they acquired him from the Oakland Athletics in mid-August.

"I love it here," Alonso told Johns. "It's awesome, a first-class group, and they treated me well. I'd love to be back here. I think the future here is very bright, and we're very close to winning, and I would definitely want to be a part of that."

The first-time free agent is coming off a breakout season in which he slashed .266/.365/.501 with 28 home runs and 67 RBIs while making the American League All-Star team. Alonso, 30, hit .265 with six homers and 18 RBIs in 132 at-bats following the trade to Seattle.

He had never hit more than nine home runs in a season prior to 2016.

Mariners GM Jerry DiPoto told Johns that Alonso is a "strong consideration" for Seattle in a free-agent market that includes fellow first basemen Lucas Duda, Mitch Moreland, Logan Morrison and Carlos Santana.

"Yonder did a nice job for us," Dipoto said, per Johns. "First of all, I think he's a good guy in the clubhouse, and we got to experience that. He shows up to work every day. He hits right-handed pitching. He did that for us. ... I think he gave us a presence after we got beyond the middle of our order."

Alonso, who earned $4 million last season, has also played for the Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres throughout his seven-year career.

-- Nick Ostiller

Matt KlentakBill Streicher-USA TODAY SportsPhillies general manager Matt Klentak reportedly is considering several internal candidates to replace Pete Mackanin.

Jorge Velandia, currently a special assistant to general manager Matt Klentak, has emerged as a "strong candidate" for the managerial vacancy of the Philadelphia Phillies, reports Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

Salisbury reports Klentak had a "lengthy interview" on Wednesday with Velandia, who has worked in a variety of roles for the Phillies over the last eight seasons. Velandia, a 42-year-old native of Venezuela, was a utility infielder for six clubs over parts of eight major league seasons and has managed in the Venezuelan winter leagues.

Velandia is one of three internal candidates who are being interviewed for the job, joining third-base coach Juan Samuel and Triple-A Lehigh Valley manager Dusty Wathan, reports Todd Zolecki of MLB.com.

"[Velandia] fits the mold of the young, energetic, analytically-inclined candidate the Phillies seem to be seeking," writes Zolecki, who also reports that interviews with external candidates will begin next week.

The Phillies began their search after announcing that Pete Mackanin would not return as manager and instead was reassigned to a front-office role.

- Doug Mittler

Rumor Central: Short stay in Arizona for J.D. Martinez?

October, 11, 2017
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Joe Mahoney/Getty ImagesJ.D. Martinez is likely to be a popular name on the free-agent market after his strong second half in Arizona.

Arizona Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen said Tuesday that the team is interested in keeping its roster mostly intact with few financial constraints on the franchise.

What he didn't say is whether star slugger J.D. Martinez, a pending free agent, will be one of those returning.

Hazen was noncommittal about the future of Martinez at his season-ending news conference, stopping short of calling the 30-year-old a priority, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. Martinez is due for a hefty raise after hitting .303 with 45 home runs and 104 RBIs this season. The outfielder was acquired by Arizona from the Detroit Tigers in July and hit .302 with 29 home runs and 65 RBIs in 62 games with the D-backs.

The Diamondbacks have 14 players eligible for salary arbitration and are likely to see their payroll rise from $105 million this past season.

"I’m not anticipating a lot of challenges with being able to bring the group back as constituted if, in fact, that’s what we chose to do," Hazen said. "I’m assuming, just organically, I would anticipate there would be some changes. We’re going to have needs in various areas. I don’t think a large majority of that will be driven by [finances] specifically."

Martinez left little doubt where he would like to be after the Diamondbacks' elimination at the hands of the Dodgers on Monday.

“Arizona was awesome. This team was great,” Martinez said, per Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “This is, obviously, some of the best times I had in my life since playing professional baseball. Going down the stretch and being apart of this, especially with this group of guys, it’s awesome. Obviously, I would love to come back, but I don’t know what the future holds or wherever God wants me to go. But, I hope it’s here.

“But if it’s not, I mean, Arizona will always hold a special place in my heart.”

- John Silver


New York Mets general manager and Dartmouth graduate Sandy Alderson reportedly has his eyes on a fellow Big Green alumnus to fill the team's managerial vacancy.

According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, the Mets have reached out to former Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus and the two sides have already had at least one conversation.

The Tigers chose not to renew Ausmus' contract following the season, ending a four-year tenure at the helm in Detroit that saw him compile a 314-332 record with one playoff appearance and two last-place finishes.

New York is in search of a manager to replace Terry Collins, who resigned after a 70-92 season. The Mets went 551-583 during his seven years on the job.

Heyman notes that the Mets are looking at a long list of candidates, including hitting coach Kevin Long, Los Angeles Dodgers bench coach Bob Geren, Houston Astros bench coach Alex Cora, Oakland Athletics third base coach Chip Hale and Cleveland Indians first base coach Sandy Alomar Jr.

Ausmus played 18 years as a catcher and is reportedly a candidate in the Philadelphia Phillies' managerial search as well.

-- Nick Ostiller

Rumor Central: Will the Cardinals shop Jedd Gyorko?

October, 9, 2017
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Jedd GyorkoAP Photo/Jeff RobersonJedd Gyorko has hit 50 home runs over the last two seasons, which could make him attractive trade bait.

No individual has hit more home runs for the Cardinals over the past two seasons than Jedd Gyorko. But will those 50 long balls be enough to keep the third baseman in St. Louis?

Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the Cardinals are pleased with the production of Gyorko, who took over for Jhonny Peralta at third base early in the season and hit .272/.341/.472 with 20 homers. The Cardinals, however, could consider shopping Gyorko as trade bait for other needs, particularly a true power bat.

“Given the uncertainty of what positions will have to be adjusted to make room for slugger ‘X,’ Gyorko doesn’t know if he will be the Cardinals’ third baseman or a utility player,” writes Hummel. “Or he could be somebody else’s third baseman, second baseman or utility player.”

Adding to Gyorko’s value is his affordability. The 29-year-old will make a reasonable $22 million over the next two seasons, with a $13 million option for 2020.

- Doug Mittler

Rumor Central: Twins, Paul Molitor talking new contract?

October, 6, 2017
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Paul MolitorBrace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty ImagesPaul Molitor managed the Twins to the playoffs one year after a 103-loss season.

After Paul Molitor took the Minnesota Twins from a 103-loss club to the postseason in one year, it would appear to be a slam dunk that the Hall of Famer would return as manager.

The Twins’ front office wants Molitor back in 2018, “but there was still work to be done to make that a reality,” reports Mike Berardino of the Pioneer-Press.

The 61-year-old guided the Twins to an 85-77 record and their first trip to the playoffs in seven years, where they lost to the Yankees in the AL wild card game on Tuesday. He is likely the heavy favorite to be named AL Manager of the Year.

Money could be an issue. Berardino reports Molitor’s current three-year deal that expired after this season was worth less than $4 million over three years. Former manager Ron Gardenhire, who won six division titles, reportedly was making $2 million a year when he was fired after the 2014 season.

La Velle E. Neal of the Star Tribune also reports that Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine want Molitor back but says the possibility of some changes to the coaching staff may be one reason a new contract has not been completed.

- Doug Mittler

Juan NicasioDilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesJuan Nicasio had four saves in a September cameo with the St. Louis Cardinals.

The St. Louis Cardinals might want Juan Nicasio around for more than just a one-month rental.

Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch reports the Cardinals have "already had conversations" with Nicasio about returning next season, "possibly to his September role as closer."

The 31-year-old Nicasio converted all four of his save opportunities in nine appearances for the Cardinals after being acquired from the Phillies. The Phillies had obtained Nicasio a few days earlier on a waiver claim from the Pirates.

Nicasio is eligible for free agency after posting a 2.61 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 76 appearances for three teams this season.

The Cardinals struggled to find a reliable closer in 2017 and are likely to consider several options this winter. Goold adds that the Cardinals also have interest in Japanese closer Yoshihisa Hirano, who had 29 saves this season for the Orix Buffaloes. The Cardinals looked to the international market for a reliever two offseasons ago when they signed South Korean right-hander Seung-Hwan Oh.

-- Doug Mittler

Rumor Central: Could Matt Bush be a starter next season?

October, 4, 2017
Oct 4
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Jim Cowsert/USA TODAY SportsMatt Bush has a 3.08 ERA and 1.18 WHIP over two seasons in the Rangers' bullpen.

The Texas Rangers have had “conversations” with Matt Bush about moving the right-hander from the bullpen to the starting rotation, reports T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com.

The 31-year-old Bush has emerged as a dependable reliever for the Rangers the last two seasons and served as the primary closer this year from late April until the end of June. Bush, a converted shortstop whose career was nearly derailed by personal and legal problems, owns a 3.08 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 11 saves in 115 career appearances.

Building a 2018 rotation is an offseason priority for the Rangers, who have plenty of question marks once you get past Cole Hamels and Martin Perez. Bush could be one of the many options to consider next spring.

-- Doug Mittler

Rumor Central: Justin Upton to enter free agency?

October, 4, 2017
Oct 4
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Justin UptonAP Photo/Chris CarlsonJustin Upton will be one of the top outfielders on the market if he enters free agency.

While Justin Upton enjoyed his brief time with the Los Angeles Angels, the veteran outfielder might still dip his toe in the free-agent waters.

Jon Paul Morosi of MLB Network reports it is "increasingly likely" that Upton will opt out of the $88.5 million and four years left on his contract.

The 30-year-old Upton hit .245/.357/.531 in 27 games for the Angels after being acquired in an Aug. 31 salary-dump deal with the Detroit Tigers. Given the positive experience in Anaheim, Morosi says Upton "could leverage the opt-out into adding years and dollars onto his current agreement with the Angels."

Upton set career highs with 35 homers, 109 RBIs and a .901 OPS for the Tigers and Angels. He would be one of the top hitters on a free-agent outfield market that includes, among others, J.D. Martinez and Lorenzo Cain.

- Doug Mittler

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