Spring training is roughly two months away and 13 of our top 50 free agents remain unsigned. We're still waiting on the trade market to pick up too. There were two notable signings on Saturday with Dansby Swanson picking the Cubs and J.D. Martinez headed to the Dodgers.
Here are Saturday's hot stove rumors as we await another round of signings and trades.
Several teams pursuing Conforto
The Astros, Marlins, and Rangers are among the teams interested in free agent outfielder Michael Conforto, reports The Athletic. Agent Scott Boras told reporters, including MLB.com, he is seeking a "short-term (contract), probably a couple of years with an opt-out," for Conforto, who missed 2021 with a shoulder injury that eventually required surgery. The Astros are also in the mix for Jurickson Profar and Michael Brantley, per the New York Post.
Texas has spent lavishly on the rotation this offseason but they badly need left field help -- their left fielders hit .186/.253/.256 in 2022 -- and Houston needs to either re-sign or replace Brantley for their left fielder/DH mix. Conforto, 29, slashed .232/.344/.384 with 14 home runs in 125 games in 2021, his last healthy season. He hurt his shoulder diving for a ball during an offseason workout last year.
Kepler drawing interest
Following the Joey Gallo signing, Twins outfielder Max Kepler is drawing a lot of trade interest, according to the New York Post. Minnesota now has five lefty hitting outfielders for the two corner spots and DH: Gallo, Kepler, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, and Matt Wallner. Excluding Gallo, who was just signed, Kepler is the oldest and most expensive of the group, making him the obvious trade candidate.
Kepler, 30 in February, is owed $8.5 million in 2023 with a $10 million club option for 2024. His bat has plateaued at league average since a 36-homer season in 2019. He's an excellent defensive right fielder and it should be noted he is one of the most shifted hitters in the league. The new anti-shift rules could give Kepler's bat a boost. The Dodgers, Giants, Mariners, and Yankees are among the teams known to be seeking an outfielder.
Blue Jays may not trade Jansen
The Blue Jays were open to trading catcher Danny Jansen for a starting pitcher, but after signing Chris Bassitt, they're not certain to trade Jansen, reports MLB.com. Toronto is deep in catchers -- Jansen joins All-Star Alejandro Kirk and top prospect Gabriel Moreno on the depth chart -- which is why Jansen ranked among our top trade candidates at the outset of the offseason.
Free agency has been picked clean of quality catchers and the best trade candidate (Sean Murphy) has been dealt. If you want a viable everyday catcher, Jansen is your best (only?) option, even as the Mets are reportedly shopping James McCann. The 27-year-old is a solid defender and a 15-homer bat, and he comes with two years of team control. The Diamondbacks, Rays, and Red Sox are among the clubs that could use help behind the plate.
Pirates sign Hedges
The Pittsburgh Pirates have agreed to sign free agent catcher Austin Hedges, reports Jon Heyman. It's a one-year, $5 million deal.
Hedges, 29, hit a paltry .163/.241/.248 (42 OPS+) last season and though he's a stellar defensive catcher, his offense dragged him down to a -0.4 WAR. He is a great defender, though. He allowed just one passed ball in over 839 innings of action behind the plate. He scored out at 11 defensive runs saved and 1.2 defensive WAR, one of the best catchers in baseball on a rate basis.
The Pirates had a vacancy at catcher, so it appears Hedges will be the primary starter for the Pirates in 2023.