The Texas Rangers and free-agent 1B Mike Napoli have mutual interest in a reunion, and both sides have been working on a contract, according to major league sources. However, a deal is not imminent. The slugging first baseman was with Texas for the 2011 and 2012 seasons, and he had a career year with Cleveland in 2016, hitting .239 with 34 home runs and 101 RBI. A move back to hitter-friendly Arlington would be a plus, but the 35-year-old Napoli won't hit for average and will likely struggle to match his power output from a year ago. That said, he'll still be an attractive fantasy power commodity in the middle rounds if you're willing to take on his average drain.
Atlanta Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte signed a five-year, $30.5 million extension through the 2021 season Friday. It includes a $9 million option and $1.025 million buyout for 2022. Mainly due to injuries, he started off slow last year and finished hitting .291 with three home runs, 16 stolen bases and 85 runs in 131 games. Speed and defense are his main assets, but he also has the ability to hit for average (.292 BA in his three seasons), and he ended last year with a strong showing against southpaws. He'll likely be undervalued in fantasy drafts because of his lack of power, but he can be a value pick in the late middle rounds for his 20-theft potential over a full season.
Free-agent first baseman Edwin Encarnacion agreed to a three-year deal with the Cleveland Indians Thursday night, according to sources. Financial terms of the deal weren't given. He's likely to serve primarily as the Indians' primary first baseman, but he will also see at-bats as the designated hitter. Encarnacion has been one of the best power bats in the last five years, and he managed 42 homers and an American League-leading 127 RBI in 2016. His power plays anywhere, but at his age (33) and moving out of one of the best hitter's parks in all of baseball, he should be knocked down a few pegs in terms of fantasy value. Encarnacion will still remain a sought after power bat in the early rounds of drafts, though. As of now, Encarnacion's departure in Toronto opens up more playing time at first base for Justin Smoak.
The Cleveland Indians have targeted free-agent first baseman Edwin Encarnacion in their search for a power bat this offseason. Mike Napoli, Cleveland's first baseman last year, is also a free agent. Encarnacion's agent said he has three- and four-year offers from five teams. Encarnacion's preference would be to stay in Toronto, and we don't blame him. The 33-year-old Dominican has been one of the game's premiere sluggers the last five years, hitting 40-plus homers twice and reaching 30 bombs the other three years. He's becoming more of an injury risk as he ages, though, and a move away from one of the friendliest home parks for hitters will drop his fantasy value even more.
Chicago White Sox starter Jose Quintana is attracting trade interest from the Pittsburgh Pirates, and they have "worked hard" to acquire him. The Pale Hose are rebuilding and have already dealt Chris Sale away. Quintana is young (27) and affordable and would be a nice fit in Pittsburgh. The southpaw went 13-12 last year in Chicago with a 3.20 ERA and 181 K's in 208 innings pitched. He's been reliably consistent in his five years in the bigs, never sporting an ERA over 4.00, and a move to more of a pitcher-friendly environment would only make him more attractive to fantasy owners. Stay tuned.
The New York Mets are expected to enter 2017 with a platoon of outfielders Curtis Granderson and Juan Lagares in center field. Michael Conforto could also see some time there. The Mets are hoping to trade Jay Bruce and his $13 million salary before spring training. Even in his age-36 season, Grandy has the athleticism to play center, although his fantasy value will take a hit in a platoon role. The lefty hit just .237 in 2016 but had 30 home runs in 150 games. With even less playing time, he'll be nothing more than a depth outfielder for his power stroke. Lagares is strictly an NL-only depth option as a defense-first guy.
The Philadelphia Phillies acquired starting pitcher Clay Buchholz from the Boston Red Sox Tuesday, in exchange for second-base prospect Josh Tobias. Buccholz struggled with an 8-10 record and 4.78 ERA last year. The bright side is he finished strong in the rotation after a demotion to the bullpen for a bit. The right-handed veteran should be guaranteed a rotation spot to start the year, but there's no guarantee he'll hold it all season if he struggles. He should merely be a rotational depth arm in deeper fantasy leagues. Tobias, a 10th-round pick in 2015, hit .291 with nine home runs, 69 RBI and 10 steals in 127 games in two Single-A stops in 2016. For now, he's not on the dynasty league radar.
Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen had an extremely disappointing year by his standards for fantasy owners in 2016, hitting just .256/.336/.430 with 24 home runs and 79 RBI. Nagging injuries may have been to blame, however. Through July 31 he hit .241 with 107 K's and only 35 walks. After August 5 he hit .284 with 36 K's and 34 walks. McCutchen also started squaring the ball up more in the second half, especially against offspeed offerings, which he struggled with mightily in the first half. The strong finish gives hope that he can bounce back in 2017. At age 30, he may be starting to decline, but McCutchen likely isn't finished producing high-end fantasy numbers despite his dropoff in speed. He can be had in the early rounds of drafts next spring and could turn out to be a bargain.
Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera signed a five-year extension worth $30.5 million deal on Thursday. The deal includes an $11.5 million option for 2022 and a $12.5 million option for 2023. A 2016 All-Star, he broke out with a .286 average to go along with 15 home runs, 25 steals and 87 runs scored for the Phils. Herrera is now on the map as a useful fantasy outfielder with speed, but beware that his power numbers could tumble a bit. He'll still make for a useful speed target for fantasy owners in the middle rounds of drafts.
The Baltimore Orioles agreed to a one-year, $6 million deal with catcher Welington Castillo Wednesday. The deal includes a $7 million option for 2018. The move officially means Matt Wieters won't be back in Baltimore as a free agent. Castillo does have power (17 HR last year) and career-high 68 RBI, but he whiffs often and won't hit for much average (career .255 hitter). He'll be moving to an even more friendly hitting environment, though, which should make him relevant at least in deep mixed leagues as a low-end starting backstop. Remember, he's likely just keeping the job warm until prospect Chance Sisco is ready for a call-up.
The Chicago White Sox are close to finalizing a deal with former Texas Rangers starter Derek Holland Wednesday. After the trade of Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox, Holland could be in line to round out Chicago's five-man rotation now. The southpaw went 7-9 with a 4.95 ERA and pedestrian 5.6 K/9 in 2016 and won't move the needle much in standard fantasy leagues, especially while moving to another hitter-friendly park.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim traded for Washington Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa in exchange for minor league pitchers Kyle McGowin and Austin Adams Saturday night. Espinosa hit .209/.306/.378 with career highs in home runs (24) and RBI (72) as the Nats' primary shortstop in 2016. He's expected to become the Angels' everyday second baseman, booting Johnny Giavotella out at the keystone. There's a good chance Espinosa struggles to match his power totals from last season, especially in a much weaker L.A. lineup, making him more of a middle infield commodity in deeper fantasy setups in 2017. Espinosa's departure in D.C. leaves the door open for Trea Turner to move to the 6 after Washington acquired Adam Eaton to play center field.
Boston Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval will have a shot to be one of the bigger comeback stories of 2017 after the BoSox sent infielders Travis Shaw and Yoan Moncada to Milwaukee and the Pale Hose, respectively. Boston president of operations Dave Dombrowski says Sandoval is healthy and in the best shape he's been in in years. We've been teased by good health and conditioning before from the Panda, only for him to disappoint. He'll likely be well off most fantasy owner's radars during draft season, and with good reason. Sandoval hasn't reached the 20-homer mark since 2011 with the Giants and struggled mightily from the right side of the plate against lefties (.197) in his first season in Beantown. Still, you can't ignore the opportunity he'll have in a stacked lineup if he can keep the weight off and avoid injuries. He may be worth a late-round flier in deeper leagues as a sleeper corner infielder.
The Chicago Cubs are reportedly close to signing free-agent relief pitcher Koji Uehara to a one-year deal worth $4.5 million. The 41-year-old has closed as recently as 2015 for the Boston Red Sox, but he'll serve mainly as a setup man if he lands in Chicago, with Wade Davis serving as the ninth-inning stopper. Uehara posted a 3.45 ERA and 63 K's in in 47 innings for Boston last year and is an injury risk at his age. He'd serve as a weapon against lefty hitters for Chicago, though, after holding lefties to a .183 average in his career. The righty isn't a big strikeout guy, but he can be useful for his WHIP in deeper leagues or as a handcuff to Davis owners.
Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen was the subject of trade rumors at the winter meetings this week, but with no team willing to match the Pirates' high asking price, he's likely to stick with Pittsburgh for the 2017 season. His disappointing 2016 campaign featured career lows in average (.256), on-base percentage (.336), slugging percentage (.430) and steals (six). Is this the beginning of the end for the former 2013 NL MVP? It's fair to wonder. What is certain is that he shouldn't be taken in the first round of fantasy drafts as an elite fantasy outfielder with his running game all but drying up over the last few years.
Free-agent closer Kenley Jansen is considering a five-year offer in the $80 million range from the Miami Marlins, but no signing is imminent. Jansen is also in discussions with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals. The hard-throwing right-hander is an elite fantasy closer regardless of where he lands. Jansen racked up 47 saves and 104 strikeouts in just 68 2/3 innings in 2016. He'll once again be one of the first closers off the board in fantasy drafts next spring.