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Hot Stove preheat

With the World Series underway and, weather permitting, over next week, it’s time to take an early look at the Hot Stove. I’ll take a look at which players are likely to be looking for new homes this winter, those who will be calling it a career, and which players might have the biggest free agent impact.

As far as the Yankees are concerned, there could be some major changes in store, including the possibility of some major names in new uniforms next season (and the absence of manager Joe Girardi who we found out on Thursday will not be back in a Yankee uniform). While CC Sabathia could remain in pinstripes with a back-of-the-rotation one-year deal, fellow free agents Todd Frazier and Matt Holliday are unlikely to remain in the Bronx.

Yankees that could be traded over the next several months or during the 2018 season include Chase Headley, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, and Starlin Castro. The Yankees would prefer to move Jacoby Ellsbury rather than Gardner, but Ellsbury’s contract is a huge stumbling block. If both Gardner and Ellsbury remain, then Hicks, who is under the Yankees’ control until 2020, should go so that Clint Frazier can find time as a fourth outfielder/starter-in-waiting.

Glebyer Torres’ progress in recovering from Tommy John surgery and the determination of which position the Yankees prefer he plays will impact whether Headley and/or Castro are eventually moved.

AL East Hot Stove

As far as the Yankees rivals in the AL East go, things could look like this in the coming off-season (FA = Free Agent, TR = trade candidate):

Baltimore

Jeremy HellicksonChris Tillmanand Ubaldo Jimenez (FA) are lumped together because of their poor performances in 2017. Hellickson’s season started as the Philadelphia Phillies’ mistake. Based on his decent 2016 output – 3.71 ERA, 2.9 WAR, 1.153 WHIP, and a 3.42 strikeout to walk ratio – the Phillies made a qualifying offer on Hellickson, who smartly jumped at the one-year, $17.2M contract. No one knows what the Phillies were thinking.

Tillman is coming off an injury-plagued season in which he threw only 93 innings. Since his right shoulder is the problem, it’s unlikely the Orioles will sign him to a deal unless it’s a minimal salaried, incentive-laden pact. Jimenez is coming off a season that is quite possibly his worst-ever season in the Major Leagues. The Orioles would be crazy to bring him back.

Manny Machado and Ubaldo Jimenez, (TR) are entering the final year of their contracts. While much has been made about Machado’s future, not too much has been discussed in the media about Jones. The center fielder has been one of the steadiest players during his 10 years manning the Orioles’ outfield. However, his production has faltered some, and he stands to make $17.3M in 2018. That’s a tough sell to try to move him – unless you find a team to take a chunk of the fiscal responsibility. The guess here is that both will remain Orioles at least until the trade deadline.

Boston

Addison Reed (FA) stepped into the closer role with the Mets when Jeurys Familia was injured and saved 19 of 21 chances. A deadline deal to the Red Sox put him back in a setup role for closer Craig Kimbrel. With teams always looking for closers and considering Reed’s cost ($7.75M last season) he has excellent shot at donning his third uniform in two seasons.

Hanley Ramirez (TR) took a huge drop-off in production from the 2016 season when he hit 30 home runs, with 111 RBI, and an .866 OPS. The only problem is who is going to take the 2017 version of Ramirez (.750 OPS, 23 HR, 62 RBI), who is due to make $22.75M next season? On top of his offensive slump this season, the soon-to-be 34-year old played just 18 games in the field at first base.

Tampa Bay

Alex Cobb (FA) lucked into the perfect time to be a free agent starting pitcher…there is very little to choose from in this year’s crop of starters. After missing all of 2015 and most of 2016 due to Tommy John surgery, Cobb bounced ack well in 2017. After earning $4.2M this past season, Cobb will likely be asking for a three-to-five year deal with a significant bump in pay. The Rays rarely give out those types of deals… so bon voyage to Alex Cobb.

Jake Odorizzi (TR) shouldn’t be traded, considering the Rays have control of him for two more years. But, with Chris Archer, Blake Snell, Erasmo Ramirez, Jacob Faria, and Matt Andriese on the roster, Odorizzi can be used to get a much-needed bat. The Rays are constantly lacking a deep lineup. And, the only way to get that quickly is to make trades or sign high-priced free agents, the latter of which the Rays generally don’t do.

Toronto

Jose Bautista (FA) has played his last game as a Blue Jay. The outfielder was given a warm goodbye by the Blue Jays’ fans during the team’s final homestand. The fans knew the front office was not going to pick up their half of the $17M mutual option included in Bautista’s contract for 2018.

The six-time All-Star has been banged up the last two years and saw his production drop way off. This past season he put up a career-worst .674 OPS and 170 strikeouts. Bautista will have a hard time finding a deal and should receive no more than a one year guaranteed contract in the American League.

Josh Donaldson is entering his fourth year of arbitration eligibility and will be a free agent after the 2019 season. The 2015 AL MVP got off to a terrible start in 2017 and then was one of the hottest hitters in baseball for the final two months of the season. Rumors of a possible Donaldson deal started while regular season games were still being played in September. The Blue Jays are clearly rebuilding, and Donaldson would bring back a hefty return. Toronto has to decide whether it makes more sense to move him early or at the deadline.

Stay tuned for the AL Central and Western division Hot Stove reports next week.

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