MLB Free Agency Roundup: Mitch Haniger to SF after 6 years with Mariners
SAN DIEGO (AP) – Cole Kuiper saw a report on Twitter: Aaron Judge was nearing a deal with the San Francisco Giants. Cole called his father, Giants broadcaster Duane Kuiper, to share the good news.
Then the report was scrubbed, and Cole had to get back to his vacationing dad.
“I called him to tell him Judge is a Giant, but now I can’t get ahold of him to update him on the retraction,” Cole Kuiper posted on Twitter on Tuesday.
Ah, baseball’s winter meetings in the social media age.
While much of the majors awaited the resolution of Judge’s free agency, Taijuan Walker, Mitch Haniger, Cody Bellinger, Josh Bell, Tommy Kahnle and Andrew Heaney all found new homes. Negotiations continued for some of the top free agents, including shortstops Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson, along with catcher Willson Contreras and left-hander Carlos Rodón.
“This marketplace is very aggressive, particularly aggressive for elite players,” super agent Scott Boras said.
St. Louis president John Mozeliak and manager Oliver Marmol recently spent time with Contreras and his representatives. The NL Central champions have an opening behind the plate after Yadier Molina retired.
“This is a guy that loves to win, who wakes up thinking about it, goes to sleep thinking about it,” Marmol said of Contreras, who began his big league career with the Cubs. “And we’ve seen quite a bit across the way.”
Walker’s $72 million, four-year contract with Philadelphia was the team’s second major free agent deal at the winter meetings after it reeled in shortstop Trea Turner on Monday with a $300 million, 11-year contract.
A person familiar with the negotiations confirmed the Walker move to the AP on condition of anonymity because it was pending a physical.
The 30-year-old Walker went 12-5 with a 3.49 ERA in 29 starts this season for the New York Mets, one of Philadelphia’s NL East rivals. The Phillies made it to the World Series this year before losing to the Houston Astros.
Bell agreed to a $33 million, two-year contract with Cleveland, and Bellinger, another Boras client, reached a $17.5 million, one-year deal with the Chicago Cubs. Haniger got a $43.5 million, three-year deal with San Francisco.
Bell played for Washington and San Diego last season, batting .266 with 17 homers and 71 RBIs in 156 games.
Cleveland is coming off a surprising 2022 season, going 92-70 and winning the AL Central for the first time since 2018. The addition of Bell gives the Guardians more power for their lineup after they hit just 127 homers this year — the second-lowest total in the majors.
The switch-hitting Bell also is expected to benefit from restrictions on defensive positioning coming to the game next year.
A person familiar with the negotiations confirmed the Bell contract on condition of anonymity because the deal was pending a review of medical records.
Bellinger, the 2019 NL MVP, was cut by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Nov. 18 after the 27-year-old outfielder hit .210 with 19 homers, 150 strikeouts and a .654 OPS in 144 games.
“Got a track record of a lot of success and dynamic defense,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “I remember when he first got in the league — first base, smooth hands, dynamic center fielder, great outfielder. Hadn’t had the success he had early on, but definitely a lot of potential for a great player.”
Bellinger figures to play center for the Cubs, but could see some time at first. He had a $17 million contract this season and likely would have received a slight raise in arbitration.
The 31-year-old Haniger dipped to 11 home runs and 34 RBIs in 57 games for Seattle last season, a year after the former All-Star outfielder had 39 homers and 100 RBIs for the Mariners.
“The interest was mutual, which is kind of what you need to make these deals,” said Farhan Zaidi, the president of baseball operations for San Francisco.
The 33-year-old Kahnle is going back to the New York Yankees on an $11.5 million, two-year contract, and the 31-year-old Heaney agreed to a $25 million, two-year deal with the Texas Rangers.
Kahnle and Heaney each pitched for the Dodgers this year. Kahnle, who played for New York for 2 1/2 seasons beginning in 2017, posted a 2.84 ERA in 13 relief appearances. Heaney went 4-4 with a 3.10 ERA in 16 games, 14 starts.
A person familiar with the contracts for Kahnle and Heaney confirmed the deals on condition of anonymity because there was no immediate announcement of each move.
The Yankees are one of the teams waiting to hear from Judge, who set an American League record with 62 homers for the Bronx Bombers this season. He also tied for the major league lead with 131 RBIs and just missed a Triple Crown with a .311 batting average.
San Francisco also is in the mix, and there likely are more teams lurking on the periphery of the market for the 6-foot-7 outfielder.
“I’m probably not going to comment on that today,” Zaidi said. “Obviously, there’s been stuff out there. It’s really noisy.”
New York manager Aaron Boone said he was in the shower when he saw the report about Judge and the Giants.
“A lot of unknown right now. … Yeah, we haven’t heard anything,” Boone said.