One of the offseason’s top free agents came off the board Friday: Josh Hader agreed to a five-year, $95 million contract with the Astros. With any luck, the rest of the market will get hot and more signings will follow. Four of our top 10 free agents remain unsigned with spring training only a month away. Here are Saturday’s hot stove rumors.
Yankees interested in Middleton, Neris
Middleton, 30, appeared in 12 games with the Yankees last season after coming over in a deadline trade with the White Sox. He pitched well overall, amassing a 3.38 ERA (133 ERA+) and a 2.78 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 50 innings.
Neris, 34, is expected to land a multi-year contract. He’s coming off a two-year run with the Astros that saw him compile a 2.69 ERA (150 ERA+) and a 3.25 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 141 combined appearances.
Astros yet to talk extension with Altuve, Bregman
Astros general manager Dana Brown told reporters on Saturday he hasn’t engaged in extension talks with either second baseman Jose Altuve or third baseman Alex Bregman to this point in time, according to Chandler Rome.
Altuve and Bregman are each slated for free agency after this season, but Brown has been public about his desire to keep both in Houston for the remainder of their careers. Altuve would appear to be more likely to stay — his age makes him likely to accept a shorter, less-lucrative deal.
The Astros made their most notable move of the winter on Friday, signing closer Josh Hader to a five-year pact.
Red Sox will ‘probably’ lower payroll in 2024
At their Winter Weekend event Friday, Red Sox CEO Sam Kennedy said the club will “probably” have a lower payroll in 2024 than it did in 2023. “It probably will be lower than it was in 2023. I don’t know that for sure. We don’t talk about specific payroll numbers,” Kennedy said (via MassLive.com). Team ownership was booed several times during the event.
The Red Sox currently have a $190.5 million payroll for competitive balance tax purposes, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts. That is well below last year’s $225.8 million CBT payroll and this year’s $237 million CBT threshold. Boston’s CBT payroll peaked at $243.7 million in 2019, one year after winning the World Series. They now rank closer to middle of the pack in payroll than near the top.
If the Red Sox do spend between now and Opening Day, chances are it will be on pitching. Their rotation includes Lucas Giolito and Brayan Bello, and then some combination of Kutter Crawford, Tanner Houck, Nick Pivetta and Garrett Whitlock. The Red Sox have finished in last place three times in the past four years, including 2023.
Odor heads to Japan
Rougned Odor has signed with the Yomiuri Giants in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, according to the New York Post. Odor, who is still only 29, started last season with the Padres, though he played only 59 games before being released in July. He did not play the rest of the season. Odor has transitioned into a utility role in recent years and now plays first base, third base, and even some right field in addition to his usual second base. The Giants are Japan’s oldest and most successful franchise with 22 Japan Series titles, though they went 71-70 and missed the postseason in 2023.
White Sox land Brebbia
The White Sox have agreed to a one-year contract worth $5.5 million with righty reliever John Brebbia, reports The Athletic. The contract is pending a physical. Brebbia has filled every role but closer in his career — he has started games as an opener, pitched in middle relief, gotten high-leverage outs, etc. — and chances are he will serve as closer Gregory Santos‘ primary setup man in 2024. Also, the one-year contract makes it likely Brebbia will be a trade candidate at the deadline.