MLB rumors: Yankees have ‘positive conversation’ with Aaron Judge; Chris Flexen could be hot trade target

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The MLB offseason is underway and soon the major trades and free agent signings will arrive. Until then, here are the important offseason dates and deadlines you need to know, as well as our top 50 free agents and top 20 trade candidates. Now here are Saturday’s hot stove rumors.

Steinbrenner has spoken to Judge

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Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner has spoken to marquee free agent Aaron Judge on more than one occasion since New York’s season ended, he said during a YES Network interview. Steinbrenner added the Yankees will do “everything we can” to re-sign Judge.

“I have had more than one conversation with Aaron since the season ended. I’ll leave it at that. A very positive conversation,” Steinbrenner said. “… I have made it clear to him that is our wish. He means a lot to this organization and I made it clear to him we’re gonna do everything we can to make that happen.”

Thus far the Yankees and Giants are the only teams known to have interest in the 62-homer man and likely AL MVP. Judge figures to get 7-8 years, possibly nine, at north of $36 million per season. Few teams are willing to commit that much to a player who will turn 31 soon after Opening Day, though Judge’s value to the Yankees transcends what he does on the field.

White Sox interested in Murphy

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The White Sox are among several teams with interest in Athletics catcher Sean Murphy, reports 670 The Score. Murphy is an excellent all-around catcher who will remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2025. He is Oakland’s best player and also one of their most expensive players, thus making it likely he will be moved as part of their scorched earth rebuild. In fact, Murphy is our No. 1 offseason trade candidate.

Of course, the White Sox owe Yasmani Grandal $18.25 million next season, the final year on his contract. Grandal had a miserable 2022 and doesn’t have much trade value at that salary, even with the lack of quality catching around the league. Trading for Murphy and salary dumping Grandal could be the plan, not that it will be easy. There figures to be an aggressive bidding war for Murphy.

Angels have checked in on Senga

The Angels have checked in on free agent right-hander Kodai Senga, reports MLB.com. The Cubs, Dodgers, and Rangers are known to have interest in Senga as well. The Halos always seem to need pitching, plus playing with the great Shohei Ohtani could appeal to Senga. The soon-to-be 30-year-old has spent his entire career with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in Japan.

Our R.J. Anderson ranked Senga the No. 27 prospect this offseason. Here’s his write-up:

Senga, 29, is expected to pursue a big-league contract this winter after spending the first 11 seasons of his career with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league. He’s an accomplished right-hander who posted a 1.89 ERA and a 3.18 strikeout-to-walk ratio this season across 148 innings. Senga’s best pitches are his lively mid-90s fastball and his devastating “ghost” forkball, a true out pitch in the majors or anywhere else … He’s capable of stair-stepping with that combination, raising the heat before burying the fork. He also throws a decent curveball.  

Senga, it should be noted, is a true free agent; he doesn’t have to go through the posting process and is free to negotiate and sign with any team at any time. 

Mariners getting calls about Flexen

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The Mariners continue to get calls about right-hander Chris Flexen, GM Jerry Dipoto told the Seattle Times. Flexen also drew interest at the trade deadline. Seattle currently has six starters for five rotation spots — Luis Castillo, Robbie Ray, Logan Gilbert, George Kirby, Marco Gonzales, and Flexen — and trading one for a much-needed bat is sensible.

Flexen, 28, has thrown 317 1/3 innings with a 3.66 ERA in two years with the Mariners. He spent 2020 in Korea and reinvented himself after a rough start to his MLB career with the Mets. Flexen is owed $8 million in 2023 and will become a free agent after the season. Gonzales, the other logical trade candidate, is owed $18.5 million from 2023-24. He has a 4.05 ERA in 326 1/3 innings the last two years.

Braves sign Anderson

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The Braves have signed former Rays righty Nick Anderson to a one-year major league contract, the team announced. He will earn $875,000 at the big league level and $180,000 in the minors, according to ESPN. Anderson, 32, did not pitch in an MLB game in 2022 and has appeared in only six MLB games since 2020 due to a variety of arm injuries. In 2019 and 2020, he was one of the most dominant relievers in the sport, striking out 42.2 percent of the batters he faced. At this point Anderson is a lottery ticket, and the Braves hope their low-cost one-year contract will pay off.

Astros re-sign Montero

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The World Series champion Astros have re-signed setup man Rafael Montero. It’s a three-year deal worth $34.5 million and the $11.5 million average annual value will make Montero the fifth highest paid reliever in baseball in 2023. The 32-year-old is one of manager Dusty Baker’s most trusted late-inning arms. Montero and Ryan Pressly will again form one of the game’s best setup man/closer combinations next season.

Mejdal a candidate to rejoin Astros

In the wake of GM James Click leaving the organization, Orioles assistant GM Sig Mejdal will be a candidate to rejoin the Astros, reports USA Today. Mejdal spent 2012-18 with the Astros before joining the O’s when GM Mike Elias left Houston to take the job in Baltimore. Mejdal is said to have a strong relationship with Astros owner Jim Crane, and a poor relationship with Crane likely contributed to Click’s departure.

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