Former Gold Glove shortstop Stephen Drew is reportedly one of six players in a prominent free agent class at shortstop. As reported by USA Today, Drew has a $6.5m qualifying offer from the Red Sox which he has declined. Other free agents to reportedly have similar absences include shortstops J.J. Hardy and Troy Tulowitzki, outfielder Michael Bourn and first baseman Prince Fielder.
UPDATED, 4:28pm: Sal Paolantonio has a source to clarify that Drew had rejected the Red Sox’s qualifying offer but that Baltimore could sign him as a free agent. Here’s a revised post with Paolantonio’s comment.
UPDATE, 6:20pm: As expected, the Chicago Cubs have made pitcher Jason Hammel their first free agent acquisition, acquiring him from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for a player to be named.
Unsurprisingly, Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon is excited about the addition of an experienced pitcher to the mix, although Hammel (he’s from . . . OKAY YEAH . . . we’re on it) had a bad 2018 season with the Reds.
Kevon Looney’s versatility will be one of the biggest ways the Cubs can improve in 2019. According to the AP, Looney will be the “deciding vote” between lefty pitchers such as Jose Quintana and Brandon Morrow in the club’s offseason rotation.
While Chicago may use last year’s acquisition of veteran Sam Smith as a leadoff hitter, they apparently plan to use Smith primarily as a lefty specialist, another long-term prospect for the organization.
Joel Klatt has a list of his top offseason signings, and adds right-hander Jake Arrieta to the list in Houston, saying: “A capable pitcher, a quality starter who will cost a little bit more because of his track record, but you can’t deny what he did last year” in Philadelphia.
Chris Sale is perhaps the most desired free agent on the market this year. The Boston Red Sox lefty posted a 2.11 ERA with 220 strikeouts in 245 innings with one complete game in 2018, becoming the first pitcher since Roger Clemens to have at least 220 strikeouts in 250 innings with one complete game since Hideo Nomo in 1998.
Philadelphia Phillies’ Jon Lester speaks to the media during spring training in Clearwater, Florida. Photograph: Mike Marot/AP
That Nomo was famously considered overrated is no longer a topic of debate among Sox followers, especially after Drew and Andrew Benintendi had two unforgettable big hits and a walk-off homer to win Game 1 of the ALDS, then both delivered back-to-back homers to defeat the Indians in Game 5.
The Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg won’t be back on the mound in 2019 for the Nationals, as he was reportedly considering retirement in May. But until he can find work, Strasburg is enjoying a second star-studded summer as a teammate of Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy, the highest-paid players in the game.
Strasburg was 11-8 with a 2.73 ERA and eight complete games in 30 starts for the Nationals in 2018, which are perhaps another interesting bonus for him in this free agent class. Then again, he might not be ready yet. Strasburg has been dealing with a bone spur in his pitching elbow, which suffered a small tear during his session of head-to-head batting practice on 4 October, according to MLB.com. The last time Strasburg had a strong season after a minor injury was in 2015, when he was 11-6 with a 2.60 ERA in 28 starts.
The Astros were one of the biggest prizes on the table earlier this year, but they landed closer Ken Giles in a trade with the Blue Jays on Wednesday. The Astros lost the AL pennant to the Red Sox after a ninth-inning collapse in Game 5 of the ALCS, including a clutch single by J.D. Martinez to send the game into extra innings.
It’s been an exciting offseason thus far.