Former Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart has returned to his family-run agency – Sports Management Partners – which he’ll operate with his wife, Lonnie Murray, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (Twitter link). Stewart previously represented Matt Kemp and Chris Carter, among others, but he had to leave the business when the D-backs hired him in 2014. The fact that Murray remained with the agency while Stewart served as a GM led to conflict-of-interest questions, as Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic detailed last March. Now for a few updates on notable agency changes that have happened this week: One year before he’s scheduled to hit the open market, Rays right-hander Alex Cobb has switched agencies from ACES to Beverly Hills Sports Council, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Cobb was a high-end starter from 2013-14, but he missed all of 2015 thanks to Tommy John surgery and posted ugly results in his return last season. Over an admittedly small sample size (22 innings), the 29-year-old logged an 8.59 ERA to go with 6.55 K/9 – his lowest since 2011.
Even though the Padres non-tendered right-hander Tyson Ross last week, there’s “mutual interest” in a reunion, general manager A.J. Preller revealed Monday (via AJ Cassavell of MLB.com). Preller added that “a market didn’t develop” for a Ross trade, leading to the non-tender decision, but he did inform the 29-year-old upon cutting him that the team wanted him back – just not for an estimated $9.6MM. Ross has been a front-line starter in the past, but he suffered a shoulder injury on opening day last season and didn’t pitch again in 2016. He underwent thoracic outlet surgery in October and should return to full strength by April. More from the National League: Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton has drawn trade interest – including from the Rangers – but Cincy has a high asking price because it doesn’t believe the 26-year-old has reached his ceiling, a source told Mark Sheldon of MLB.com. Additionally, the Reds realize replacing the baserunning dynamo and defensive ace would be a daunting task. “Billy is an integral part of the defense and pitching,” commented GM Dick Williams.
The Indians are discussing a multi-year contract with slugger Edwin Encarnacion, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. Cleveland’s interest in Encarnacion was first reported earlier today, and it appears as though the Tribe has more than just a cursory interest — talks are “serious,” Hoynes writes, though there’s no indication that the two sides are close to any sort of agreement. With Mike Napoli a free agent, the Tribe have been connected to several first basemen this offseason, though Encarnacion (the top first base option on the market) was widely considered to be beyond Cleveland’s financial reach. When asked if this was the case, however, Indians director of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said “you don’t have to curb expectations. We are being exhaustive in exploring options to improve our position player club.” A source tells Hoynes that the Tribe’s run to Game 7 of the World Series may have generated as much as $48MM in extra revenue for the club, which could provide Antonetti and company with some unexpected payroll flexibility. It could be something of a perfect storm for Cleveland, as the team’s extra money coincides with a possible downturn in Encarnacion’s market — potential suitors like the Blue Jays, Astros, Yankees have acquired other players, while the Red Sox and Rangers have both shown only lukewarm interest. The draft pick compensation tied to Encarnacion (due to his rejection of the Jays’ qualifying offer) has also reportedly factored into his relatively quiet market, and giving up the 27th overall pick of the 2017 draft to sign Encarnacion is surely a major consideration for the Indians as well.
The latest from around the AL West… It is “unlikely” that the Rangers will sign a “big ticket” free agent, GM Jon Daniels told reporters (including Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News). Texas has been linked to the likes of Edwin Encarnacion, Ian Desmond, Mark Trumbo and other notable free agent names this winter, and the team has notable question marks at first base, center field and DH. If free agency isn’t as likely an option for the Rangers, they could continue to pursue trades. To that end… The Rangers asked the Braves about Ender Inciarte but talks “went nowhere,” Evan Grant tweets. Inciarte has drawn trade chatter ever since the Braves acquired him as part of the Shelby Miller trade with the D’Backs last offseason, but it is clear Atlanta regards the defensive standout as a building block in center field. Also from Grant in an appearance on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (Twitter link), the Rangers don’t have interest in dealing Rougned Odor or Nomar Mazara
Committing an unprecedented sum of money in an attempt to offset unprecedented lapses in performance, the Giants announced Monday that they obtained the closer they sought by agreeing to a four-year contract with free-agent right-hander Mark Melancon. An industry source confirmed Melancon’s contract is worth a total of $62 million.
4:05pm: The Rangers are also interested in trading for Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan reports (via Twitter). Soler has become something of a forgotten man in a crowded Cubs outfield, though he is still just 24 and under contract through 2020. 3:22pm: The Rangers are showing some interest in Mark Trumbo, tweets Yahoo’s Jeff Passan, but it’s not clear exactly how strong the interest is. Texas is looking for a right-handed bat, though, he notes. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, meanwhile, tweets that he believes Carlos Gomez is the Rangers’ “preferred plug-and-play” option in center field, but the length of the contract he’s seeking plays a role in the team’s interest
DEC. 5: The Astros announced that Beltran has passed his physical, making the contract complete. DEC. 3: The Astros have agreed to a one-year, $16MM deal with free agent DH Carlos Beltran, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes (Twitter links). Beltran is an MVP Sports Group client.
There’s a “mystery team” pursuing Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen, according to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). Pittsburgh is said to be looking for a taker for its longtime star. To this point, the Nationals have been tied most closely to the former MVP center fielder. The Dodgers, too, have been mentioned recently as having interest, while the Rangers and Mariners have also been connected.
The draft pick forfeiture that is attached to Edwin Encarnacion has been hampering his market, reports ESPN’s Jayson Stark. The lack of a draft pick attached to Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday made them more attractive short-term options for the Astros and Yankees, and Stark calls Encarnacion a “textbook case for why the union made eliminating first-round draft-pick compensation such a top priority” in the recent CBA negotiations. Here’s the latest on Encarnacion’s market… Toronto’s signing of Steve Pearce “certainly” spells the end of Encarnacion’s time in Toronto, tweets Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi. On paper, it’s possible to see Pearce, Encarnacion, Kendrys Morales and Justin Smoak coexisting on the same roster, but certainly there’s some redundancy there. The Indians have checked in on Encarnacion, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter). Cleveland definitely has a need at first base with Mike Napoli hitting free agency, and Encarnacion could split time there and at DH with Carlos Santana. However, financial constraints are always a factor for the Indians, and while they’re coming off a deep World Series run, spending at the likely levels that are necessary to sign Encarnacion would represent a significant departure from past tendencies for Cleveland. ESPN’s Jim Bowden reports that the Rangers are also a team to watch on Encarnacion, noting that GM Jon Daniels has a history of acting opportunistically when a player’s market changes. Bowden, too, calls Cleveland a sleeper team in the Encarnacion sweepstakes. He also floats the idea of Encarnacion following the path of Yoenis Cespedes from last winter: signing a three-year deal with a high annual value and an opt-out clause after the first year
The Reds are willing to listen to offers for center fielder Billy Hamilton, as ESPN’s Buster Olney reported last week, and the Rangers are among the teams eyeing him, Olney tweets. With both Ian Desmond and Carlos Gomez currently on the open market, Texas has an obvious need in the middle of its outfield. Desmond spent the lion’s share of 2016 in center, and the Rangers are now “far from optimistic” that they’ll be able to re-sign him. The interest in Hamilton makes sense, then, as the 26-year-old has been a valuable member of the Reds since becoming a full-time major leaguer in 2014. As evidenced by his .248/297/.334 batting line in 1,547 plate appearances, Hamilton hasn’t contributed much at the plate, but his defensive and baserunning excellence combine to give him a high floor.