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Baseball winter meetings: What moves will the Dodgers and Angels make?

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L.A. needs some help at catcher and in the bullpen, so will they unload any of their many outfielders to get help in those areas? And will they talk to Bryce Harper? What about the Angels, how active will they be as they prepare to take the field under a new manager for the first time since 1999? Many of these questions could be answered this week at baseball’s annual winter meetings, which take place today through Thursday in Las Vegas. We’ll bring you all the news here.

Rangers, Lance Lynn reach deal on $30-million, three-year contract

Lance Lynn
(Bill Kostroun / Associated Press)

A person with direct knowledge of the agreement says free agent right-hander Lance Lynn and the Texas Rangers have reached a deal on a $30-million, three-year contract.

The deal is pending a physical, says the person, who was speaking on condition of anonymity because the contract isn’t complete.

The 31-year-old Lynn has double-digit wins in all six seasons he has been a regular starter since after his rookie year of 2011. He went 10-10 with a 4.77 ERA in 31 appearances with 29 starts in 2018 pitching for the Twins and Yankees.

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Brewers acquire Alex Claudio from Rangers

Alex Claudio / Associated Press
(Tony Gutierrez)

Durable left-hander Alex Claudio was acquired by the Milwaukee Brewers from the Texas Rangers for a draft pick.

Claudio was 4-2 with a 4.48 ERA and one save in 65 relief appearances and one start this year. He has a 13-6 record with 12 saves and a 3.20 ERA in 206 relief appearances and two starts in five big league seasons.

Claudio is eligible for salary arbitration for the first time this winter.

The draft pick is in competitive balance round A, currently projected to be No. 39 overall.

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Edwin Encarnacion goes to Seattle and Carlos Santana to Cleveland in three-team trade

Edwin Encarnacion
Edwin Encarnacion
(Winslow Townson / Associated Press)

Slugger Edwin Encarnacion has been traded to Seattle and first baseman Carlos Santana has returned to the Indians in a three-team deal that also involved Tampa Bay.

The Rays got infielder Yandy Diaz and minor league right-hander Cole Slusser from Cleveland. The Indians also acquired first baseman Jake Bauers.

The swap came Thursday at the close of the winter meetings.

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One way or another, the Dodgers plan to add a veteran catcher this offseason

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts speaks at a news conference during Major League Baseball winter meetings.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts speaks at a news conference during Major League Baseball winter meetings.
(John Locher / Associated Press)

Uncertainty has surrounded the Dodgers at the winter meetings this week. They have the assets and deep pockets to unleash shock waves in the industry. Speculation has swirled. Rumors are rampant. But one thing is certain: The Dodgers are adding a veteran catcher, either in free agency or via trade, this offseason.

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Scott Boras holds court on the Bryce Harper sweepstakes at placid winter meetings

Baseball agent Scott Boras speaks to the media during the Major League Baseball winter meetings in Las Vegas.
(Ben Walker / Associated Press)

Scott Boras climbed atop a platform before a ceiling-scraping imitation fir bedecked with silver, gold and emerald ornaments as dozens of reporters swelled around him. On the penultimate day of the winter meetings, Boras came bearing corrections, metaphors and reassurances about the strength of the market for his premier client, free-agent outfielder Bryce Harper.

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Free agent reliever Jeurys Familia set to return to Mets

Jeurys Familia
(Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press)

The revamped New York Mets bullpen is set to include a very familiar face — longtime reliever Jeurys Familia.

Familia reached a free-agent deal with the team that traded him away last summer, a person with knowledge of the contract told the Associated Press late Wednesday night.

Familia agreed to a $30-million deal over three years. The person spoke on condition of anonymity at the winter meetings because the team had not yet announced the move. Familia likely must pass a physical for the contract to be finalized.

The 29-year-old righty will join a Mets bullpen that recently added major league saves leader Edwin Diaz in a trade with Seattle that also netted longtime All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano, a move made by new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen.

Familia had spent his entire career with New York before being traded to Oakland last July. This move likely means Familia will slide back into a setup role, where he flourished as a rookie in 2014.

Familia was a combined 8-6 with 18 saves in 24 chances and a 3.13 ERA for the Mets and A’s last season. He has 123 career saves for the Mets, who signed him at age 17.

Andrew Miller, Adam Ottavino and David Robertson are among the other relievers on the free-agent market. The Mets, looking to bounce back from consecutive losing seasons, are hoping for a quick turnaround with Van Wagenen in charge.

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Dodgers ready to add Joe Kelly to their bullpen

Joe Kelly
(Frank Franklin II / Associated Press)

The Dodgers are set to bolster their bullpen by reaching an agreement early Thursday to sign hard-throwing right-hander Joe Kelly to a three-year contract worth $25 million, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

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Angels and free-agent first baseman Justin Bour agree to one-year deal

Justin Bour
(Laurence Kesterson / Associated Press)

Mere hours after manager Brad Ausmus raved about veteran Albert Pujols’ pedigree, the Angels on Wednesday reached a preliminary agreement on a one-year, $2.5-million contract with free-agent first baseman Justin Bour, a person familiar with the deal said.

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MLB notes: Charlie Morton and Rays agree on $30-million, 2-year deal

Charlie Morton
(Frank Franklin II / Associated Press)

The Tampa Bay Rays are perfectly comfortable putting relief pitchers on the mound to begin games. But the chance to add an All-Star to their patchwork rotation, that was too good to pass up.

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Red Sox reach minor league deal with Gorkys Hernandez

Gorkys Hernandez in 2012.
(Alex Trautwig / Getty Images)

The Boston Red Sox have reached agreement with free-agent outfielder Gorkys Hernandez on a minor league deal.

The 31-year-old Hernandez hit 15 home runs while batting .234 with 40 RBIs in 142 games for San Francisco last season. In 2017, he didn’t hit a home run in 310 at-bats.

The Giants recently opted not to offer Hernandez a contract for next year. He got a spring training invite to big league camp with the World Series champion Red Sox.

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Jordy Mercer and Detroit Tigers agree to a $5.25-million, one-year contract

Jordy Mercer
(Justin K. Aller / Getty Images)

A person familiar with the negotiations says shortstop Jordy Mercer and the Detroit Tigers have agreed to a $5.25-million, one-year contract.

The person spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity Wednesday because the agreement was subject to Mercer passing a physical exam.

Mercer had spent his entire seven-season big league career with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The 32-year-old hit .251 with six homers and 39 RBIs last season, down from 14 homers and 58 RBIs in 2017.

His agreement was first reported by Fancred.

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Dodgers hoping for 2019 revival from former rookie of the year Cody Bellinger

As Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Jesus Aquilar looks on, the Dodgers' Cody Bellinger rounds first base after hitting a two-run home run.
As Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Jesus Aquilar looks on, the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger rounds first base after hitting a two-run home run.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The most impactful player the Dodgers can acquire this offseason could be free-agent outfielder Bryce Harper. It could be Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber or Miami Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto.

Or it could be a player meeting with the team’s hitting coaches this week at Dodger Stadium. Because few players offer a more tantalizing combination of cost-efficiency and dynamic ability than Cody Bellinger — if he can recapture the form he displayed during significant chunks of his rookie-of-the-year campaign in 2017. The first step of that process started in meetings between Bellinger and new hitting coach Robert Van Scoyoc and assistant hitting coach Brant Brown.

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Yasiel Puig is talented and available, but will the Dodgers be able to trade him?

Yasiel Puig
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

A few minutes before Andrew Friedman welcomed the media corps to the Dodgers’ suite at the Delano Hotel on Tuesday evening, Cincinnati Reds general manager Dick Williams acknowledged to reporters that the clubs have engaged in various trade discussions at this week’s winter meetings, but said nothing was imminent. He didn’t offer specifics.

Friedman declined to address the revelation, which Williams offered after reports surfaced that the two clubs have been in regular contact, but the Dodgers’ goals are not a secret. The president of baseball operations has said he wants to trade from the team’s surpluses in the outfield and starting pitching to upgrade elsewhere. And atop the list of trade chips the Dodgers would welcome moving is the name that has constantly emerged on the rumor mill this offseason and in offseasons past: Yasiel Puig.

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Angels remain active in chase for pitchers and a defensively oriented catcher

Billy Eppler
(Gregory Bull / Associated Press)

Angels general manager Billy Eppler was in bed Sunday morning when his 4-year-old son climbed onto the mattress, wiggled himself between his parents, placed his head on a pillow and coughed and sneezed in his father’s face.

It was the day before baseball’s winter meetings officially started in Las Vegas. Eppler knew in the moment the encounter with his son would throw a wrinkle in his plans for the week.

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Andrew McCutchen, Phillies agree to $50-million, three-year deal

Andrew McCutchen
(Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

A person familiar with the negotiations told the Associated Press on Tuesday that all-star outfielder Andrew McCutchen and the Philadelphia Phillies have agreed to a $50-million, three-year contract.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the agreement, which includes a club option for 2022, is subject to a successful physical.

McCutchen was an all-star each season from 2011 to 2015 and spent nine years with Pittsburgh before he was traded to San Francisco last winter. He was dealt to the New York Yankees on Aug. 31 and hit .255 with 20 homers and 65 RBIs in 155 games overall this year.

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Pitcher Ivan Nova acquired by White Sox from Pirates

Ivan Nova
(Keith Srakocic / Associated Press)

Right-hander Ivan Nova has been acquired by the Chicago White Sox from the Pittsburgh Pirates for minor league pitcher Yordi Rosario and $500,000 in international signing bonus pool allocation.

A 31-year-old right-hander, Nova was 9-9 with a 4.19 ERA in 29 starts last season, striking out 114 in 161 innings. He is 78-64 with a 4.26 ERA in nine seasons with the New York Yankees (2010-16) and Pirates (2016-18).

Nova has an $8.5-million base salary next year in the final season of a $26-million, three-year contract, then can become a free agent.

A 19-year-old right-hander, Rosario was 1-4 with a 2.57 ERA in 11 starts and three relief appearances last year in the Dominican Summer League and Arizona Rookie League. He struck out 70 in 56 innings.

The trade was announced Tuesday at the winter meetings.

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Dodgers hint at their game plan as wheeling and dealing begins in Vegas

Alex Verdugo
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

The Dodgers’ suite at the Delano Las Vegas looked the part on the first full day of baseball’s winter meetings. Their contingent was packed in a room. A projector and screen were set up. Activity and discussion ceased once the media showed up for their daily briefing.

In that room, the Dodgers will decide whether to make a run at slugger Bryce Harper in free agency, or catcher J.T. Realmuto or pitcher Corey Kluber via trade. They have the means — the money to sign high-end free agents and the resources to acquire premium talent from other teams — to make a splash and leave the meetings a different ball club. But the objective isn’t to win the week.

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Philadelphia Phillies are poised to make a splash with Bryce Harper or Manny Machado

Manny Machado
(Harry How / Getty Images)

In this era of tanking and belt-tightening, a team such as the Philadelphia Phillies stands out this offseason for two qualities: They are actually trying to win in 2019 and they are actually willing to spend to compete.

This combination, once commonplace but now increasingly rare as teams grow wary of albatross contracts and the competitive balance tax, positions the Phillies as a centrifugal force at the winter meetings. The conventional wisdom of the agents and executives huddled in suites and cluttering the casino floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas is that Philadelphia will probably net one of the two prizes on the free-agent market: outfielder Bryce Harper or infielder Manny Machado.

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Angels reportedly pursued pitchers Nathan Eovaldi and Patrick Corbin before they signed elsewhere

Nathan Eovaldi
Nathan Eovaldi
(John Locher / Associated Press)

Before most had settled into the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino workrooms in Las Vegas for the first day of baseball’s winter meetings, the Angels on Monday had already churned the rumor mill.

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Don Mattingly is fine with Harold Baines going into Hall of Fame ahead of him

Don Mattingly
(Julio Aguilar / Getty Images)

Don Mattingly says he’s not dwelling on whether he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

A day after Harold Baines was a surprising choice for the Hall, Mattingly says he’s content knowing what he accomplished on the field.

The Miami manager was a six-time All-Star, won nine Gold Gloves at first base for the Yankees and hit .307 lifetime. Mattingly was the 1985 AL MVP and four times finished in the top seven of the MVP voting.

Mattingly finished with 2,153 hits, 222 home runs and 1,099 RBIs in 14 seasons in a career limited by back trouble.

“I just didn’t play long enough. Wasn’t able to stay healthy long enough to really put that pile of numbers together,” he said at the winter meetings. “So there was a period of time that I could hit with anybody and do things on the field at my position and with the bat that nobody was doing.”

Baines also was a six-time All-Star. He never finished higher than ninth in MVP voting, and had 1,628 RBIs, 384 home runs, 2,866 hits and a .289 average in a 22-year career, mostly as a designated hitter.

“When I think of myself, when you see Harold, played 22 years or something like that and you end up with a pile of numbers that grow and grow, you know, I think Harold had 2,800 hits. I hit 21-something. I do it in 13 years, 12 years, less than 13,” Mattingly said.

Baines and Lee Smith were elected Sunday by a 16-member panel picked by the Hall. Baines’ choice raised debate about whether the likes of Dale Murphy, Dave Parker or Dwight Evans also deserved to be in Cooperstown.

“Just happy for Harold and Lee. I played with Lee just a brief time in New York and watched Harold over the years. He’s a great hitter,” Mattingly said.

“I don’t worry much about myself from the whole situation, because quite honestly, the Hall of Fame comes, if you get in, you say, OK, write ‘HOF’ on the ball, and after that your life’s going to be the same.”

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Mariners claim former Angel Kaleb Cowart off waivers

Kaleb Cowart
(Mark J. Terrill /Associated Press)

As baseball’s winter meetings got underway Monday at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, the Angels relinquished control of one of their former first-round draft picks to a division rival.

Switch-hitting infielder Kaleb Cowart, picked 18th overall in the 2010 draft, was claimed off waivers by the Seattle Mariners.

Cowart, 26, made his major league debut in 2015, but offensive struggles dimmed his stock. He batted only .177 with a .241 on-base percentage in 162 games over parts of four seasons for the Angels, for whom he primarily played at second and third base.

But it’s Cowart’s pitching skills the Mariners were drawn to. Cowart was a highly touted pitcher coming out of his Georgia high school. The Mariners are going to test him as a two-way player in spring training.

The transaction leaves the Angels with three openings on their 40-man roster.

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Outfielder Billy Hamilton agrees to contract with Royals

Billy Hamilton
Billy Hamilton
(Morry Gash / Associated Press)

Speedy outfielder Billy Hamilton is running to the Kansas City Royals.

A person familiar with the negotiations says the Royals and Hamilton have agreed to a $5.25-million contract for next season that includes up to $1 million in incentives. The person spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal was pending a physical.

Hamilton made $4.6 million with Cincinnati last season, when he was their everyday center fielder. The Reds didn’t offer him a contract for next year.

Hamilton is considered the fastest player in the majors and stole at least 50 bases four straight seasons before dipping to 34 last season. He’s outstanding in the field, but he struggled at the plate — he’s a career .236 hitter.

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Angels will be on the lookout for pitching and catching help

The Angels have engaged in conversations with Yasmani Grandal as the team looks to fill a void at catcher.
The Angels have engaged in conversations with Yasmani Grandal as the team looks to fill a void at catcher.
(Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)

Two months ago, on the day after his team wrapped its third straight losing season, Angels general manager Billy Eppler sat on the dais in the Angel Stadium interview room and announced his commitment to bolstering a pitching staff that has combusted often during his tenure.

He has honored that promise, but the pitching moves Eppler has made since October have appeared from a surface level to be lateral. They have not been so transcendent as to require formal ceremonies, like the signing that took place last week in Washington, when the Nationals introduced former Angels farmhand Patrick Corbin as the newest addition to one of baseball’s staunchest rotations.

So as the Angels’ contingent joins the baseball industry at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas for the annual winter meetings beginning Monday, expect Eppler to remain active in the same sector on which he declared his intentions earlier in the offseason. He’ll also continue to look at catchers, as the Angels haven’t solved that conundrum in the wake of releasing Francisco Arcia in November.

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Spotlight will be on Bryce Harper and Manny Machado

Manny Machado.
(Harry How / Getty Images)

In the months after the 2015 season, Major League Baseball teams doled out nine-figure free-agent contracts like they were bats and balls, essential items needed to field a team, rather than time bombs that ticked closer to detonation with each passing day.

The deals only look astounding in retrospect. At the time, they seemed reasonable. Arizona lured Dodgers ace Zack Greinke with a $206.5-million package. Boston topped that by investing $217 million in pitcher David Price. The Cubs landed outfielder Jason Heyward for $184 million. Baltimore paid $161 million to re-sign first baseman Chris Davis. The list of $100-million men included Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto, Tigers outfielder Justin Upton and Tigers pitcher Jordan Zimmerman.

The eight-figure spending was just as exorbitant: The pitching quartet of Jeff Samardzija, Wei-Yin Chen, Mike Leake and Ian Kennedy made a combined $320 million. Even the small-market Kansas City Royals completed a franchise-record $72-million deal to retain outfielder Alex Gordon.

The final tally of free-agent money was $2.4 billion, which dwarfed the $1.4 billion given out the previous winter, according to Spotrac. As the dollars piled up, the consensus of the executives, agents and analysts throughout the industry was this: Just wait until the winter of 2018.

From a distance, the class of free agents glittered, a group that figured to fetch billions of dollars on the open market: The youthful duo of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado led the way, but the supporting cast was riveting. Clayton Kershaw could opt into free agency. So could Price. Former MVPs such as Josh Donaldson and Andrew McCutchen would be available, as would pitchers including Dallas Keuchel, Matt Harvey and Garrett Richards.

And get this: The industry would convene for the 2018 winter meetings in Las Vegas, a fittingly glamorous locale for the baseball bazaar. The metaphors wrote themselves.

The long-awaited moment arrived Sunday as the industry gathered at the Mandalay Bay resort to kick off the meetings this week. But the once-anticipated market of riches is not expected to materialize. The expectation is only Harper and Machado, a pair of 26-year-olds with a combined 10 All-Star appearances, are guaranteed to cash in.

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This could be a busy winter meetings for the Dodgers

Cleveland pitcher Trevor Bauer could be a target for the Dodgers.
(Paul Sancya / Associated Press)

Last winter, the Dodgers were a prosperous behemoth in hibernation. They committed just approximately $4 million to two free agents and the motivation behind the only major trade they completed — acquiring Matt Kemp from the Atlanta Braves for Adrian Gonzalez, Charlie Culberson, Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy — was salary relief.

The prevailing theory for their restraint was the following: Los Angeles wanted to slide far enough under the tax threshold to have the space to absorb in-season acquisitions without facing a tax penalty. That way the Dodgers could reset their tax rate before investing heavily in this winter’s free-agent class.

They succeeded in retaining enough financial flexibility to add Manny Machado and a few other veterans during the summer for an October run while remaining under the $197-million tax line. Whether the second half of the assumption plays out remains to be seen, and the answer could come in Las Vegas this week at baseball’s annual winter meetings.

Bryce Harper and Machado, the jewels of this free-agent class, remain unsigned. A reunion with Machado isn’t happening, with Corey Seager returning to play shortstop next season and beyond, but speculation whirls around the Dodgers and Harper even after the club denied a report that minority owner Magic Johnson led a Dodgers contingent in a meeting with the slugger in Las Vegas. That does not mean interest is nonexistent, but recent history suggests that making the necessary commitment for Harper isn’t likely.

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