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MLB rumors: Rays, Wander Franco close to locking up extension; Eight teams after Steven Matz, including Mets

The pre-Thanksgiving free agent rush has arrived. Aaron Loup signed with the Angels and Anthony DeSclafani  returned to the Giants on Monday. Alex Wood may soon follow DeSclafani back to San Francisco, and more signings are inevitable prior to Thursday. Now here are Tuesday’s hot stove rumors.

Mets unlikely to sign qualified free agent?

The Mets are unlikely to sign a qualified free agent because of the draft pick compensation, reports The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. They would have to surrender their second highest draft pick each time they sign a qualified free agent, and because they received a compensation pick (No. 11 overall) for failing to sign first rounder Kumar Rocker this year, they would forfeit their own first rounder (No. 14 overall) to sign a qualified free agent rather than their second rounder. Here’s the 2022 draft order.

There are 10 unsigned qualified free agents: Nick Castellanos, Michael Conforto, Carlos Correa, Freddie Freeman, Raisel Iglesias, Robbie Ray, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Trevor Story, and Chris Taylor. New York would neither gain nor forfeit a pick for re-signing Conforto, so the draft pick compensation only applies to the other nine players. Keep in mind the Mets already added an extra draft pick when Noah Syndergaard signed with the Angels, and they could gain another should Conforto leave. Despite that, surrendering the No. 14 pick is seen as a dealbreaker.

Reds unwilling to move Castillo and Mahle

Although Sonny Gray is very much on the trade block, the Reds have indicated to other teams that righties Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle are off-limits, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney. Cincinnati dumped Tucker Barnhart and Wade Miley in salary-clearing moves earlier this winter, and more cuts are expected. That said, Castillo and Mahle are excellent, affordable, and under control long-term. They have significant trade value, which also means they offer significant value to the Reds on the field.

Castillo is one of the game’s best pitchers and Gray is a solid veteran on a reasonable contract. Mahle would be a sneaky excellent trade target for contenders and rebuilders alike, however. Similar to Joe Musgrove last year, the 27-year-old Mahle has shown the tools to be more effective than he has been in his career to date, most notably great spin and strikeout rates, and also the ability to suppress hard contact. Keeping him (and Castillo) and building around him moving forward is a sensible move for Cincinnati.

Eight teams in on Matz

Free agent left-hander Steven Matz is expected to make a decision prior to Thanksgiving, reports the New York Post‘s Joel Sherman. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman says eight teams are in on the southpaw: Angels, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Cubs, Giants, Mets, Red Sox and Tigers. The Mets are among the teams to make Matz an offer, reports MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo.

Matz, 30, began his career with the Mets and had a fine 2021 season with the Blue Jays, throwing 150 2/3 innings with a 3.82 ERA. He has averaged 30 starts with a league average ERA in the last three 162-game seasons. A three-year deal in the $30 million to $40 million range, similar to DeSclafani’s new contract with the Giants, could be in the cards. Our R.J. Anderson ranked Matz the No. 30 available free agent this offseason.

O’s dangling Means

The Orioles are dangling left-hander John Means in trade talks, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney. It should be noted every team gauges the market for all their players this time of year, and listening on Means does not necessarily mean Baltimore is intent on moving him. He is under team control through 2024 and is projected to make about $3 million through arbitration in 2022.

Means, 28, has been the O’s best starter the last three seasons and it hasn’t been particularly close either. He missed more than a month with a shoulder injury this past season, though he finished with a 3.62 ERA in 146 2/3 innings in a division with four 90-win teams. Means has significant trade value as an above-average starter with three years of control. That said, he is the rare Orioles player who could part of their next contending team. Keeping him would be justifiable.

Rays close to locking up Franco

The Rays and wunderkind Wander Franco are nearing a record contract extension. The deal will be cover 11 years and be worth $182 million guaranteed, and also include a 12th year club option with escalators that could push the total value into the $225 million range. Once finalized, the contract will smash the record for a player will less than one year of service time, currently held by Ronald Acuña Jr. (eight years and $100 million).



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