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Blockbuster MLB Moves That Could Make Waves During Spring Training

Jacob Shafer

Spring training is nearly upon us, and a number of marquee free agents and possible trade targets are flapping unsigned in the breeze. Welcome to the new reality in today's MLB offseason market.

Maybe all the top names will sign at the eleventh hour before the exhibition slate begins. If not, here's a look at five blockbuster moves that could occur during spring training, including four seismic signings and one major trade.

We'll begin with the trade and work our way up.

Edwin Encarnacion Is Traded to the Houston Astros

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When the rebuilding Seattle Mariners and general manager Jerry Dipoto acquired veteran slugger Edwin Encarnacion in a three-team trade with the Cleveland Indians and Tampa Bay Rays in December, it seemed obvious they'd trade him before spring training.

Yet, Encarnacion remains a member of the M's.

The Houston Astros have shown interest, according to Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. They could be content to roll with the combo of Tyler White and Yuli Gurriel at designated hitter, Divish adds, but the 32 home runs and 107 RBI Encarnacion logged for the Indians in 2018 would look mighty nice in Houston's already dangerous lineup.

The 'Stros are trying to hang with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees among the American League elite. If they're willing to swallow most of the minimum $25 million remaining on Encarnacion's contract, they could add a dangerous masher at a nominal prospect cost.

Craig Kimbrel Signs with the Boston Red Sox

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The Boston Red Sox need a proven arm in the back end of their bullpen as they embark on their title defense. Craig Kimbrel, who made three straight All-Star appearances during his three years as Boston's closer, remains unsigned as of this writing.

Yes, Kimbrel turns 31 in May and could be a payroll drag on the back end of any long-term contract. 

That said, the fact that he's languishing without a deal this close to spring training and the Sox are in desperate need of a player of his ilk ought to broker a compromise.

Something in the neighborhood of three years and $40 million feels about right.

Dallas Keuchel Signs with the Los Angeles Angels

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Dallas Keuchel eclipsed 200 innings in 2018 with the Astros and put the injury concerns surrounding his past neck issues firmly in the rearview. Yet the 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner hasn't inked a contract in his first free-agency foray. 

Keuchel turned 31 on Jan. 1. He's a ground-ball artist who doesn't light up the radar gun. His market has developed slowly.

Here's one obvious suitor: the Los Angeles Angels.

The Halos need to build a winner before Mike Trout hits free agency following the 2020 season, and their rotation finished 19th with a 4.34 ERA in 2018.

Keuchel won't land nine figures, but something in the neighborhood of the three-year, $75 million deal Jake Arrieta signed last winter with the Philadelphia Phillies could be a palatable outcome for Keuchel and the Angels.

Manny Machado Signs with the Chicago White Sox

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We already made the case for Manny Machado to sign a highly lucrative, short-term contract and bet on himself to earn a longer deal with a monster 2019.

With the 26-year-old superstar still unsigned, that case hasn't gotten any weaker.

The Chicago White Sox have been persistently linked to Machado. They're a young squad on the rise with money to burn and a chance to make noise in the weak, winnable American League Central.

A long-term deal is possible, but the ChiSox might lure Machado in with a one-year deal in the $35 million range and a possible second year plus an opt-out.

He'd get paid handsomely now with a little insurance and an opportunity to cash in next winter.

Bryce Harper Signs with the Philadelphia Phillies

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Like Machado, Bryce Harper is looking for a job. Also like Machado, he's 26 years old and is a generational talent.

Harper is apparently unwilling to sign a high-dollar, short-term deal, according to MLB Network's Jon Heyman. That might remove rumored perusers such as the San Francisco Giants from the running.

The Philadelphia Phillies have been connected to Harper all winter, however, and have the need and budget flex to ink him for the long haul.

It's simply an educated guess, but six years and $225 million seems within reason for the Phils and enough to move Harper's needle.


All statistics and contract information courtesy of Baseball Reference.

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