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MLB rumors: Nationals not ruling out Bryce Harper reunion; Blue Jays acquire Clayton Richard from Padres

The offseason marches on, and thanks to a relatively cool hot stove to date we’ve got plenty of big names still on the board. To give you an idea of the buzz that’s out there on Sunday, we’re here to round up all the notable trade and free agency rumors. As always, our Free Agent Tracker is a great way to catch up on what’s already happened on that front. Now let’s jump in … 

Nats not ruling out Harper

The Nationals already have one highly notable signing this offseason in lefty Patrick Corbin (six years, $140 million), and as MLB.com’s Jamal Collier reports they’re still not fully ruling out bringing back the most coveted free agent of all — Bryce Harper

The biggest looming item on the Nationals’ to-do list is a resolution on Harper’s free agency as his decision carries over into the New Year. It’s familiar territory for Washington, because his free agency has loomed over the franchise for years.

While the Nationals have not ruled out a reunion with Harper, they have also prepared themselves for life without him.

Collier’s piece also includes an update on the Nats’ search for a second baseman, so give it a read. As for Harper, the Nats according to multiple accounts approached the outfielder during the season about a $300 million offer. That, however, didn’t get it done. Post-Corbin, it seems doubtful the Nationals would be willing to pay market rates for Harper this winter. With the Dodgers perhaps serious about Harper and the widespread suspicion that the Cubs‘ tight budget limits may be not quite so tight, a record contract for Harper seems likely. 

Also working against a Harper reunion is that Washington is in pretty good shape in the outfield. Phenom Juan Soto returns, as does veteran Adam Eaton, and top prospect and 2019 NL Rookie of the Year watch-lister Victor Robles has a clear path to the starting job in center. Harper’s camp has hinted at a willingness to play first base, but the Nats aren’t likely to move on from Ryan Zimmerman given his stature in the organization and minimum $20 million left on his contract. All that said, if the market falls short of Harper’s expectations, then perhaps the Nats will seek out a reunion. Harper, after all, is the kind of player you make room for. 

Braves keeping tabs on Kimbrel

Despite showing signs of decline from his legendary peak, free agent closer Craig Kimbrel is reportedly seeking a six-year pact. That seems highly unlikely to happen, and if Kimbrel’s market really craters, then his original team may be looking to swoop in. Here’s this nugget from MLB.com’s Mark Bowman

If Craig Kimbrel’s market drops to the point where he is willing to accept a three-year deal, the Braves may entertain a reunion if they still have the funds necessary to pay the closer who will likely receive a yearly salary of at least $18 million. 

There are a lot of qualifiers in there, but the Braves are in contending mode and they have a need in the bullpen. Investing in what’s likely Kimbrel’s decline phase is of questionable wisdom, but even in decline he’d probably be an upgrade for the Braves. GM Alex Anthopoulos has already added Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann this offseason, and he still has work to do in what’s looking like a highly competitive NL East — at least if the Braves want to repeat as champs. 

Blue Jays acquire Clayton Richard

The Toronto Blue Jays acquired left-hander Clayton Richard from the San Diego Padres for cash considerations and minor league outfielder Connor Panas. The teams announced the deal Sunday evening.

Richard, 35, was designated for assignment when the Padres signed infielder Ian Kinsler on Dec. 20. He started 27 games and posted a 5.33 ERA last season and will earn $3 million in 2019, the final year of his contract. Over 158 2/3 innings and 27 starts with the Padres, Richard pitched to a 4.68 FIP with 6.13 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 rates before undergoing season-ending left knee surgery in late August.

The Blue Jays rotation for 2019 is now expected to be Richard, Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Ryan Borucki and the recently signed Matt Shoemaker



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