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MLB off-season rumours blog: all eyes on Ohtani

Los Angeles Angels Shohei Ohtani - The Canadian Press

The winter meetings are underway in Nashville as the MLB off-season gets set to kick into high-gear. Here is a roundup of all the latest moves and rumours from around the league.

TSN Blue Jays Reporter Scott Mitchell and TSN Baseball Insider Steve Phillips unveiled their Top 50 MLB Free Agents last month.

Blue Jays take first big step in Ohtani sweepstakes?

According to multiple reports, superstar two-way player Shohei Ohtani met with the Toronto Blue Jays at their headquarters in Florida. 

Ohtani is the biggest name on the market, and reports are swirling that his contract could finish in excess of $600 million.

The New York Post's Jon Heyman indicates that if Ohtani met with the Blue Jays at their headquarters, that would establish them as a "serious player" for Ohtani. 

Heyman also reported that Ohtani told people close to him that he has "a positive feeling about Toronto," among other teams - including the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts confirmed to reporters that the team met with Ohtani at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles "a couple days ago" and that the meeting "went well," Anthony Castrovince of MLB Network reports. 

Ohtani earned his second American League Most Valuable Player award last season after hitting .304 with 44 home runs and pitching to a 3.14 earned runs average with 167 strikeouts in 132.0 innings.  

Red Sox leading for free agent P Lugo, also in on Yamamoto 

The Boston Red Sox are "stepping up efforts" for free agent pitcher Seth Lugo, according to MLB Network's Jon Heyman.

“We’re going to be as aggressive as we can possibly be to fill the rotation,” Red Sox general manager Craig Breslow said earlier this week.

Lugo, 34, is coming off a strong season with the San Diego Padres, where he posted a 3.57 ERA with 140 strikeouts in 146.1 innings across 26 starts. 

Heyman notes that there are four or five other teams interested in Lugo, including the Atlanta Braves. 

Additionally, Jon Morosi indicates that Japanese pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto is one of the Red Sox' "top priorities" at the MLB Winter Meetings. 

Yamamoto is one of the premier names on the free agent market, as the 25-year-old has won three consecutive Sawamura Awards, the equivalent of MLB's Cy Young award.  

Rodriguez picking up steam

Right-handed pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez is reportedly nearing a contract with an unnamed team.

MLB Network's Jon Morosi reports that Rodriguez has met with multiple teams and may sign a contract in the next few days.

Rodriguez had perhaps the best season of his career last year with the Detroit Tigers, pitching to a 3.30 earned runs average with 143 strikeouts in 152.2 innings.  

The native of Venezuela opted out of the final three years of his five-year, $77 million contract that was signed ahead of the 2021 season.

Glasnow trade likely to follow Ohtani signing

MLB Network's Jon Morosi reports that the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs are among teams discussing a trade for pitcher Tyler Glasnow with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Morosi also notes that the trade could happen shortly after Ohtani is signed. 

The six-foot-eight right hander is one of the most interesting arms reportedly available on the trade market, as he features a dominant slider and fastball combination, but has struggled with injuries for most of his career.

He set a new career high with 21 starts in 2023, and pitched to a 3.53 ERA with 162 strikeouts in 120.0 innings (also a career high for a single season). 

Mariners interested in Bellinger?

The Seattle Mariners are interested in signing free agent outfielder Cody Bellinger, according to MLB Network's Jon Morosi.

Viewed by many - including TSN's Steve Phillips and Scott Mitchell - as the best hitter on the market this season outside of Ohtani, Bellinger hit .307 with 26 home runs and 97 runs batted in for the Chicago Cubs last year.

He finished 10th in National League Most valuable Player voting and earned a Silver Slugger award. 

Cardinals "actively" shopping Canadian outfielder O'Neill

The St. Louis Cardinals are seeking a trade partner for Canadian outfielder Tyler O'Neill, per general manager John Mozeliak. 

“Getting him everyday at-bats is going to be really difficult given the way our outfield, we predict, will line up,” Mozeliak said.

“So when you’re looking at exploring the trade market … and when you think about what’s best for everybody in the end, it probably makes sense if we’re going to do something."

The Cardinals are expected to regularly start Lars Nootbaar in left field, Tommy Edman in centre and youngster Jordan Walker in right, per The Athletic's Katie Woo. Dylan Carlson is currently expected to fill in as the reserve outfielder. 

O'Neill earned Gold Glove awards in 2020 and 21, but has struggled to stay on the field due to various injuries the past two seasons. He's played just 168 of a possible 324 games in the last two years.

Still only 28 years old, O'Neill slugged 34 home runs in 2021 and could revitalize his career with regular playing time. 

Cubs talking to 1B Hoskins about possible deal

The Chicago Cubs are actively engaged in contract talks with former Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins, per Morosi.

Hoskins, 30, missed all of 2023 after tearing his ACL in Spring Training. In his last season of action, he hit .246 with 30 HR and 79 RBI to help lead the Phillies to the playoffs and eventually the World Series,

Bryce Harper's transition to full-time first baseman for Philadelphia eliminated the need to keep Hoskins around. 

Angels' Trout not going to be traded this offseason

Los Angeles Angels general manager Perry Minasian told reporters on Tuesday that outfielder Mike Trout is "not getting traded."

Rumours were circulating that the three-time MVP and future Hall-of-Famer could be on the move this offseason as the Angels look to rebuild.

Trout played just one game beyond July 3 this past year, as a fourth-straight season was cut short due to injuries. He hit .263 with 18 home runs in 82 games. 

Multiple teams interested in utilityman Kiner-Falefa

Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who spent the last two seasons with the New York Yankees, is drawing interest from "about 12 teams," according to MLB Network's Jon Heyman. 

Kiner-Falefa, 28, hit .242 with six homeruns in 113 games this season for the Yankees. His OPS+, which assigns a numerical value to a hitter's overall production at the plate for a season, was 78, where 100 would be the rating of a league-average hitter.

The native of Honolulu, HI made multiple appearances at third base, left field, centre field and right field for the Yankees last year.    

Mets sign shortstop Iglesias

The New York Mets have signed shortstop Jose Iglesias to a minor league contract with a camp invite, per's Anthony DiComo. 

Iglesias, 33, was not signed to play in 2023. The former All-Star last played in 2022 with the Colorado Rockies, where he hit .292 in 118 games. 

In 1,096 career MLB games split between the Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Cincinnati Reds, Baltimore Orioles, Los Angeles Angels and Rockies, Iglesias has hit .279 with 47 home runs and 438 runs scored.