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As we work our way toward the MLB Winter Meetings – Major League Baseball's flagship offseason event – rumors of free agent signings and blockbuster trades are in abundance. Wednesday is no exception, so let's dive in right now to what's buzzing around the sport. 

Mets still in the market for starters

The Mets added former Yankees right-hander Luis Severino on a one-year contract Wednesday night, and they're not done. The club is still planning to add multiple starting pitchers, according to SNY. Severino is merely the first, and they remain in the hunt for Orix Buffaloes ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the top starter on the free agent market this offseason.

"The Mets have been active on the starting pitching market. They're not done. They might not even be done in the short-term. Luis Severino is one of several guys they're going to acquire for that rotation depth," said SNY's Andy Martino. "... As we've said all along, the Mets are going to sign two, three, or more of this mid to back of the rotation starting pitchers. This is merely one of them."

This was not an especially deep pitching free agent class to begin with and already two top starters (Sonny Gray and Aaron Nola) have signed. Yamamoto, Jordan Montgomery, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Blake Snell are the best available. The second-tier market includes Lucas Giolito, Marcus Stroman, and Michael Wacha.

Cease trade talks intensifying

Trade talks involving White Sox righty Dylan Cease are intensifying, so much so that a trade before the Winter Meetings is possible, according to MLB.com. The Braves and Dodgers have been connected to Cease this offseason, and many other clubs have undoubtedly checked in as well. Our R.J. Anderson recently broke down why Cease is so appealing.

Cease, 28 next month, is one year removed from being the runner-up for the AL Cy Young. He took a step back this past season, throwing 177 innings with a 4.58 ERA, though Chicago's league-worse defense didn't help him, and Cease still offers premium stuff and two years of team control. He's one of the most coveted starters on the trade market and for good reason.

Yankees talking specifics in potential Soto deal

The Yankees appear to be prioritizing improving a lineup that was sorely lacking this past season outside of Aaron Judge, and more specifically GM Brian Cashman has indicated he wants to add multiple outfielders to the mix for 2024 and beyond. All of that is prelude to the ongoing and quite credible rumors that the Yankees are targeting Padres batsman Juan Soto in trade. 

On that front, SNY's Andy Martino has an update on where things stand

"Talks between the Yankees and the San Diego Padres about a Juan Soto trade have progressed to the point of exchanging names on players, league sources say. San Diego's initial ask was very high -- understandably so -- and the teams are not close to an agreement."

Getting to the kicking-around-specific-names stage certainly indicates momentum, but the "not close" part is important, too, and duly noted. 

As for fit, Soto is an ideal one for the flagging Yankees offense. The 25-year-old lefty masher is one of the best pure hitters in baseball thanks to his elite combination of power and patience/on-base skills. In an ideal world, he'd be a DH, but the Yankees of course have Giancarlo Stanton as the primary in that role. The Padres are believed to be looking to cut payroll this offseason, and Soto is probably in line for a salary in excess of $30 million in his final trip through the arbitration process. That salary commitment plus the fact that 2024 will be Soto's walk year means the cost in trade would be notable but likely not entirely prohibitive. 

In an offseason in which Shohei Ohtani is a free agent, nothing will challenge his capacity to draw headlines, but a potential Yankees trade for the likes of Soto would come closer than any other plausible thing. 

Jays GM bats down Bichette rumors

We recently explored the hypotheticals of a Bo Bichette trade while noting that such a thing was unlikely to come to pass. The 25-year-old Bichette is a capable defensive shortstop who consistently puts up excellent numbers at the plate, and he's under contract at modest rates through 2025. Needless to say, such a profile would exact a tremendous return in trade. The Blue Jays, however, are presumably in contending mode, and no contender should have any business trading a player like Bichette. Sure enough, Jays GM Ross Atkins is saying there's nothing to the speculation: 

In the offseason, situations are always fluid, which means even the firmest of declarations can be undermined, but the Jays certainly seem to have no intention of dealing their best player. Given their present aspirations, that's as it should be. 

Reds ink Pagán

The Reds have agreed to a two-year contract with right-handed reliever Emilio Pagán, Mark Feinsand reports. Feinsand adds that the deal is pending a physical. According to Ken Rosenthal, the deal will guarantee Pagán $16 million and include a player option after the first year. 

Pagán, 32, is coming off a 2023 season for the Twins in which he pitched to a 2.99 ERA and 3.10 K/BB ratio in 69 1/3 innings. For his career, he owns an ERA+ of 112 across parts of seven MLB seasons. In 2019, he picked up 20 saves as a member of the Rays

Royals sign Hampson

The Royals have signed super utility man Garrett Hampson to a one-year contract, the team announced Wednesday. ESPN reports the deal is worth $2 million. Hampson, 29, had a fine season with the Marlins in 2023, hitting .276/.349/.380 in 98 games while playing all three outfield positions as well as second and third bases. Miami non-tendered Hampson earlier this offseason rather than pay him a projected $1.3 million through arbitration, so things worked out nicely for him.