King of clubs? Teams start to show cards at winter meetings
By BEN WALKER
AP Baseball Writer
LAS VEGAS (AP) - Deal the New York Yankees in for the Manny Machado tournament. And J.T. Realmuto? A lot of teams already are sitting at that table.
The baseball winter meetings began in earnest along the Vegas Strip on Monday, and clubs slowly started to show their cards.
Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler are attracting trade interest, the Mets say. Corey Kluber and Madison Bumgarner keep popping up in swap speculation. But still no indication of where hometown slugger Bryce Harper might go.
A couple of moves got done - speedy outfielder Billy Hamilton sprinted to the Kansas City Royals, pitcher Tyson Ross went to Detroit.
The Yankees, as usual, were on the prowl.
Always ramping up the rivalry with the champion Boston Red Sox, the Yankees linked themselves to Machado. General manager Brian Cashman said he's been talking to the infielder's agent.
"So we are definitely focused in the marketplace on those areas of need and he, obviously, is available and solves that area of need," Cashman said. "So, not going to deny we've had a conversation. Or two."
Whether that's substance or merely a smoke screen, the Yankees could use help with shortstop Didi Gregorius expected to miss at least half of next season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Realmuto, the prized Miami catcher, is highly coveted.
"I think a lot of teams are taking to the Marlins. I would anticipate his market picking up while we're down here," new Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen said.
Not so fast, countered Miami manager Don Mattingly.
"I look at him as part of our club," he said.
"He knows how much we like him and what we think about him. He's handling everything fine. J.T.'s a tough kid. He's a big-time leader. It's why we love him. It's why a lot of teams love him," he said.
Maybe Realmuto gets traded before the meetings end Thursday, maybe not. In the meantime, don't expect any movement on contentious MLB-wide issues.
Sure, there's a lot of discussion about banning or limiting shifts. And plenty of debate about ways to spark offense.
But in a sign that nothing is imminent, Commissioner Rob Manfred isn't planning to attend the annual gathering.
Also in play:
NOW HEAR THIS
Phillies manager Gabe Kapler plans to be publicly critical of his players more in his second season after his team's late fade.
Philadelphia led the NL East in early August, then went 16-33 and wound up with its sixth straight losing season.
"One thing that I can do immediately that I think will really resonate well with our fans in Philadelphia is ... as much as I illuminate some of the things we're doing very well, I can be a little more assertive in illuminating the things that we need to work on. And I'm committed to taking that step," he said.
A NEW PITCH
The Seattle Mariners made an interesting move, claiming infielder Kaleb Cowart on waivers from the Los Angeles Angels and also announcing him as a right-handed pitcher. A prep star on the mound and at the plate, the 26-year-old Cowart has not pitched since the Angels drafted in the first round in 2010. He hit .134 with 10 RBIs in 47 games with Los Angeles last season.
Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash will continue the strategy he began last season - namely, using relief pitchers to start games.
"I think right now we're discussing internally whether we do it two times through the rotation or three times through the rotation," Cash said.
Cash might move around more guys on the diamond, too.
"I'm personally a big fan of shifting. And I think we're going to see it, we've already seen the infield take over heavily. I think we're going to see more outfield shifting," he said.
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