It is spring training eve., and, in less than two weeks, the Cactus League and Grapefruit League seasons will begin. Real live baseball is approaching. Here are the latest hot stove rumblings.
Cubs shoot down Bryant/Mets trade talk
While speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer shot down recent reports connecting the Mets to third baseman Kris Bryant. Here’s what Hoyer said, via MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian:
“That’s what I’m saying (the reports are incorrect). Yeah, I mean, I think I would say that … We were involved in a lot of rumors this year that were, some were just completely inaccurate, and then I would say that some were just sort of exaggerated — the seriousness of those discussions. Certainly, teams called us and we had discussions. But as far as like active discussions, right now things are quiet. And like I said, they have been for some time.”
Bryant will earn $19.5 million in 2021, his final season of team control before becoming a free agent. He’s been a popular name on the trade rumor circuit all winter, but that salary and his down 2020 season (.644 OPS) have made finding a trade partner difficult. Chicago’s best bet is to hope Bryant rebounds and can be traded at the deadline.
In other Cubs news, Hoyer confirmed the team is “not currently engaged in any trade talk,” though he did say they may soon sign a reliever to an MLB contract. There are five relievers among our unsigned top 60 free agents: Trevor Rosenthal (No. 38), Shane Greene (No. 46), Trevor Cahill (No. 53), Tyler Clippard (No. 58), and Tony Watson (No. 59).
Phillies invite Mathis, Herrera to spring training
The Phillies have signed veteran catcher Jeff Mathis to a minor-league contract, the team announced Tuesday. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports Mathis will earn a $1.8 million base salary at the MLB level. The 37-year-old will compete with Andrew Knapp for the backup catcher’s job behind J.T. Realmuto. Three years ago our R.J. Anderson profiled Mathis, who’s entering his 17th MLB season despite being one of the worst hitters in history.
Also on Tuesday, the Phillies announced center fielder Odubel Herrera has been invited to spring training as a non-40-man roster player. Herrera, 29, has not played since May 2019, when he was suspended the rest of the season under MLB’s domestic violence policy. Philadelphia dropped him from its 40-man roster last offseason, though the club still owes him $10.35 million in 2021 under the terms of the contract extension he signed in Dec. 2016. It is unlikely he will play meaningful games for the Phillies ever again.
Yankees sign Chirinos
The Yankees have signed veteran backstop Robinson Chirinos to a minor league contract, reports The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds Chirinos will earn $1 million at the MLB level with another $500,000 in incentives. He is currently third on their catching depth chart behind Gary Sanchez and Kyle Higashioka.
Chirinos, 36, produced a .475 OPS in 82 plate appearances with the Rangers and Mets in 2020. He is one year removed from hitting .238/.347/.443 with 17 home runs as the primary catcher for the AL champion Astros. Chirinos has never been a highly regarded defender behind the plate, so if he doesn’t hit, his value to his team is limited.
Pujols undecided about future
. He is entering the final season of his 10-year, $240 million contract with the Angels, but even if the National League adopts the universal DH in 2022, Pujols figures to have trouble finding a roster spot given his below-average offense the last few years. Pujols needs 84 hits to pass Paul Molitor and move into sole possession of 10th place on the all-time list.