The Hot Stove has been barely at a simmer this week, with only one major signing coming down the pike. We are less than a month away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training so we should start to see the big dominos begin to fall. This week, the Blue Jays added a free agent reliever that could be a starter, while rumors begin to swirl about a Josh Hader/Astros reunion. Let's jump in!
Yariel Rodríguez signs a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays
It was reported that free agent right-hander Yariel Rodríguez and the Toronto Blue Jays are in agreement. Francys Romero reported that the deal is for four years and $32 million, but the team should announce full details once he passes his physical in the next few days. Rodríguez has had a unique journey to a major league career. He began playing professional baseball in his home country of Cuba as a starting pitcher but moved to a bullpen role when he played in Japan for three seasons. It was announced earlier that Rodríguez was hoping to land with a team as a starter, but we should know more as spring training ramps up early next month.
The Blue Jays currently have a full 40-man roster, so they will have to make a roster move to add Rodríguez to the squad. The 27-year-old pitched returned to a starter role in last year's World Baseball Classic, but it is still up in the air what role he will have going forward. The Jays' current fifth starter is Alek Manoah, and to say he had a disappointing season in 2023 is the understatement of understatements. However, he is just one season removed of being a dark horse Cy Young contender, and it seems foolish to move away from some of his age and his talent level. If the Jays wish, they could send him to the minors to stretch him out, or they could use him as a multi-inning reliever to build up his stamina before the make a push for the playoffs. Honestly, he gives me Raisel Iglesias vibes. Iglesias signed a seven year contract with the Reds and was used as a starter during his first two seasons with Cincinnati. However, he and the team agreed to move to bullpen and the rest was history. While I am not saying that Rodríguez will become an Iglesias level closer, I feel in the end, that is what his role will become.
From a fantasy baseball standpoint and his ultimate role up in the air, it seems unwise to roster him in leagues where you can pick up and drop players throughout the season. Outside of the World Baseball Classic, he didn’t pitch last year so it could a rocky start to the season for the 27-year-old right-hander.
Astros are making a push to sign Josh Hader
According to Ken Rosenthal and Chandler Rome of The Athletic, the Houston Astros are “making a push” to sign left-hander Josh Hader. The 29-year-old has been one of the best closers over the past few years, and if this move comes to fruition, it would have a major fantasy impact. The Astros have a great bullpen, which includes fireballer Bryan Abreu and closer Ryan Pressly.
Pressly has been in Houston’s closer since 2020 and has racked up 102 saves since he took over the role. This past season, the 34-year-old took a slight step back, posting a 3.58 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 74/16 K/BB ratio, and 31 saves across 65 ⅓ innings. The veteran has struggled to stay on the field and has missed time with knee soreness and neck spasms. In all respects, Bryan Abreu has been better than Pressly over the past two seasons. Over that period, the right-hander has a 1.84 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 188/57 K/BB ratio, and seven saves across 132 ⅓ innings. I thought this might be the season that Abreu would take that next step and supplant Pressly as closer. I guess I will get partial credit if this move happens.
MLB Quick Hits: Félix Bautista (elbow) isn’t ruling out the possibility of returning prior to the conclusion of the 2024 season.… Jarren Duran (toe) has been fully cleared for spring training… Kendall Graveman will miss the 2024 season after undergoing surgery to repair the labrum in his right shoulder… Mariners acquired RHP Daniel Durate from the Reds for cash considerations… Rangers signed RHP José Ureña to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.… Nationals hire Sean Doolittle as a pitching strategist… Mets signed INF Yolmer Sánchez to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.… Mets signed C Austin Allen to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training… Mariners signed RHP Ty Buttrey to a minor league contract… Blue Jays claimed C Brian Serven off waivers from the Cubs… Yuli Gurriel has reportedly drawn interest from MLB teams this winter… Giants acquired C/OF Cooper Hummel from the Mets for cash considerations… Jackson Holliday was selected as MLB’s number one prospect according to Baseball America… Yankees designated OF Oscar Gonzalez for assignment… Yankees finalized two-year deal with RHP Marcus Stroman… Royals signed C Sandy Leon to a minor league contact and invited him to spring training… Yankees signed INF/OF Josh VanMeter to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training… Mariners signed RHP Austin Voth to a one-year contract… Dodgers signed RHP Jesse Hahn to a minor league contract… Reds signed LHP Tyler Gilbert to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training… Daniel Mengden has signed with the CTBC Brothers of the Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan… Kirk McCarthy has signed with the CTBC Brothers of the Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan… Dodgers signed LHP Stephen Gonsalves to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring contract… Dustin May (elbow) has started a throwing program… Rangers OF prospect Wyatt Langford has been invited to major league spring training… Red Sox prospect SS Marcelo Mayer (shoulder) is expected to be a full-go by spring training… Pablo López was tabbed as the Twins Opening Day starter… Braves OF Jordan Luplow to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training… Manny Bañuelos has signed with the Rakuten Monkeys of the Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan…Rangers INF Justin Foscue has a chance to break camp with the Rangers… Phillies invited INF Scott Kingery among other non-rostered players to spring training… Yankees signed INF José Rojas to a minor league contract… Angels signed 3B/OF Hunter Dozier to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training… Brewers have expressed interest in 1B Garrett Cooper… Tiger claimed RHP Devin Sweet off waiver from the Giants… Tigers designated INF Tyler Nevin for assignment… Red Sox have hired Driveline’s Kyle Boddy to serve as a Special Advisor to Craig Breslow and the Red Sox on pitching research and development… Fernando Rodney is reportedly attempting a comeback... Jasson Domínguez (elbow) is doing well and will return sometime in the summer…Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Thursday that Anthony Rizzo has been cleared for spring training… Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told reporters Thursday that Giancarlo Stanton is “in a really good place” between his diet and offseason conditioning… Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Thursday that Carlos Rodón has already reported to spring training… Twins signed RHP Matt Bowman to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training… The Angels and Red Sox are in the bidding for free agent outfielder Adam Duvall… James Naile has signed with the Kia Tigers of the Korea Baseball Organization… Christopher Morel appears unlikely to be traded and figures to be a key part of the Cubs lineup…