MLB free agency is in full swing.
A few star players are on the open market this offseason, including Shohei Ohtani. The two-way sensation is likely to receive the biggest contract in MLB history, and potentially the biggest in the history of North American professional sports.
RELATED: 2024 MLB free-agent rankings: Shohei Ohtani leads top 30; top 30 pitchers; top 30 hitters; When and where will Shohei Ohtani sign and for how much? MLB staff predictions; MLB offseason trade candidates: 9 pitchers who could be dealt
Where will Ohtani and other stars end up? Follow along here for the latest rumors on the top free agents.
Mets, Yankees, Dodgers, Giants, more in on Yoshinobu Yamamoto
Several big-market teams, including both New York clubs and three reported Shohei Ohtani finalists — the Dodgers, Giants and Blue Jays — and two more teams are viewed as serious candidates for Yamamoto, per The Athletic. Those teams could be the Red Sox and Cubs, who have been connected to Yamamoto in other reports.
The Japanese pitching phenom will officially begin meeting with teams on his “short list” next week, The Athletic reported. The Yankees are expected to meet with Yamamoto on Monday while Mets owner Steve Cohen flew to Japan last week to meet with him, The Athletic reported.
Additionally, teams interested in Yamamoto believe that an eight-year, $240 million deal is a “conservative” estimate on what he’ll sign for, as he might sign for up to 10 years and $300 million, according to The Athletic.
If Yamamoto were to sign a $300 million contract, he would become only the second pitcher in MLB history to receive that much money. Gerrit Cole’s nine-year, $324 million pact with the Yankees prior to the 2020 season is the richest contract a pitcher has ever received.
Ohtani picking next home soon?
Ohtani “is expected” to make his free-agent decision by this weekend, MLB Network reported.
It’s believed that the Dodgers and Blue Jays are the top suitors for the two-way superstar, MLB Network added. Ohtani has met with the Dodgers, manager Dave Roberts told reporters Tuesday. That meeting took place on Friday as Ohtani visited the team at Dodger Stadium, which closed down the team store and canceled ballpark tours that day, The Athletic reported. He also visited the Blue Jays’ spring-training facility in Florida, according to FOX Sports and The Athletic reporter Ken Rosenthal.
The Cubs, Giants and Angels have all been reported to be among the other finalists for Ohtani. Cubs president Jed Hoyer denied a recent report that his team was out of the running.
“I don’t know where that came from. There’s nothing to report whatsoever,” Hoyer told reporters on Tuesday.
Yankees ‘likely’ to trade for Juan Soto, keep Alex Verdugo
The Yankees have “intensified” their pursuit of the Padres star and a trade is “likely,” YES reported. The two teams have been discussing a deal centered around Soto for weeks, but talks reportedly stalled prior to the winter meetings. If the Yankees end up acquiring Soto, New York pitchers Michael King and Drew Thorpe could be the headliners in a four- or five-player return as the Padres seek pitching, YES reported.
Outfielder Alex Verdugo isn’t expected to be moved to the Padres after the Yankees traded for him late Tuesday, MLB Network reported.
Orioles nearing deal for Craig Kimbrel
With Felix Bautista out for 2024, the Orioles appear to be close to finding their closer for next season. Baltimore has intensified contract discussions with Kimbrel and is close to a deal, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported. Kimbrel has been one of the game’s most decorated closers since 2010, earning nine All-Star nods. He recorded 23 saves last season with the Phillies. Bautista suffered a UCL injury in August will miss 2024 following Tommy John surgery.
Dodgers could seek trade for Brewers‘ top stars, regardless of Ohtani’s decisions
The Dodgers are expected to entertain multiple trade packages this offseason, including a possible deal for Brewers pitcher Corbin Burnes and shortstop Willy Adames, Rosenthal reported. Burnes is one of the top arms on the trade market this offseason, but Los Angeles has also reportedly shown interest in Dylan Cease. The Dodgers could also seek a reunion with Kiké Hernández, who underwent double-hernia surgery in October, Rosenthal reported.
Could the Red Sox sign another OF to replace Vedugo?
The Red Sox are interested in signing Diamondbacks outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. after trading their full-time right fielder, MLB Network reported. Gurriel had a standout season in Arizona, slashing .261/.309/.463 with 24 homers in the regular season, earning his first All-Star nod. He also played a key role in the Diamondbacks’ run to the World Series.
Yankees still in on Juan Soto after acquiring Alex Verdugo
The Yankees acquired Verdugo on Tuesday night, sending three pitchers to the rival Red Sox in return. Like New York’s reported top trade target, Padres superstar Juan Soto, Verdugo is a left-handed power hitter who figures to gain a boost from playing home games in Yankee Stadium’s famed “short porch” in right field and fills a need in New York’s lineup. Unlike Soto, he is not a perennial All-Star considered one of the very best hitters in the entire sport.
However, according to multiple reports, the Yankees’ acquisition of Verdugo does not take them out of the running for Soto, and the Yankees and Padres are still haggling over the trade return for Soto, per the New York Post.
Dodgers, Blue Jays met with Ohtani
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts confirmed that the team met with the two-way superstar “a couple days ago” and that Ohtani is L.A.’s top offseason priority right now. Roberts said he believes the meeting “went well” and is confident in the Dodgers’ odds of landing Ohtani in free agency. No current Dodgers players were part of the presentation (after three, including Clayton Kershaw, were part of the Dodgers’ last pitch to Ohtani in 2017). Roberts brushed off concerns about revealing the meeting following a report that Ohtani could hold leaks of meetings with teams by saying Ohtani is “his own man” and said he refused to lie about the existence of the meeting.
The Dodgers’ meeting with Ohtani took place at Dodger Stadium. Roberts said he does not know when Ohtani will make his decision. The Blue Jays also met with Ohtani at the team’s Spring Training facility in Florida on Monday, MLB on FOX’s Ken Rosenthal reported.
Angels will not trade Mike Trout
Despite some speculation that they could move their superstar outfielder earlier this offseason, Angels general manager Perry Minasian told reporters at the winter meetings that won’t be the case.
“Mike Trout is not getting traded. 100 percent,” Minasian said.
It was first reported in September that the Angels would be “open” to moving the three-time American League MVP this offseason. Earlier that month, Trout told reporters that he wasn’t “even going to comment” on the possibility of asking for a trade, but indicated he’d like to have discussions with team ownership about the future of the franchise.
“When it’s brought up in the offseason, you’ve obviously got to talk about it, and think about it,” Trout said. “I haven’t thought about it yet. There are going to be some conversations in the winter, for sure. Just to see the direction of everything and what the plan is.”
Beyond Trout, this is obviously a major offseason for the Angels. They stand a real chance of losing their other multi-time MVP winner, Shohei Ohtani, in free agency. They’ve already made a managerial change as well, hiring Ron Washington to replace Phil Nevin.
Minasian told reporters at Washington’s introductory press conference in November that the team plans to be “aggressive” this offseason.
Yoshinobu Yamamoto will wait for Ohtani decision to sign
As the baseball world waits for Ohtani to sign his lucrative deal, it appears one of the other top free agents is also playing the waiting game. Yamamoto is “expected” to sign with a team after Ohtani goes off the board, MLB Network reported. It’s expected that Yamamoto will sign by the end of December, MLB Network added.
Yamamoto will only have a few days at the start of 2024 to pick his new home. His 45-day negotiating window closes on Jan 4, giving teams roughly a month from Tuesday to make their best offers and pitches to the Japanese phenom.
The Red Sox are making Yamamoto one of their top priorities at the winter meetings, according to MLB Network.
Astros not trading Alex Bregman
With Bregman entering the final season of his contract, some have speculated that the Astros would explore trading the star third baseman. But their general manger said that’s not the case.
“I think most teams understand that we’re not moving Bregman,” Dana Brown told reporters. “I don’t know where this whole Bregman rush is coming from, but it’s certainly not coming from us because we need Bregman. He’s a pillar for this club.”
Brown noted though that the two sides haven’t had discussions about an extension this offseason, either. The second-year GM added that the team also hasn’t negotiated new deals with Kyle Tucker and Jose Altuve.
Bregman slashed .262/.363/.441 with 25 homers last season.
Orioles possible front-runners for Dylan Cease
Several teams are reportedly in on a possible trade for the White Sox ace, including the Dodgers, Braves, Cardinals, Reds and more. But the Orioles might be the front-runners to land Cease given their robust farm system and their need for pitching as they look to build off their 101-win campaign in 2023, MLB Network reported.
Ohtani considering return to Angels?
Ohtani has thus far played for just one team in his six-year MLB career, and members of the Angels privately feel confident about their chances of re-signing the two-way star, ESPN reported. Two reasons cited for a reunion? The Angels would afford Ohtani a “routine” and the “most autonomy” of any organization, according to ESPN.
“I don’t have much to say about that yet because I don’t want to let anything out of the bag,” new Angels manager Ron Washington said.
Mets preparing Plan B for Yamamoto sweepstakes
It’s no secret that Yamamoto is one of the Mets’ primary targets this offseaon. Per the New York Post, the Mets are also showing interest in the other premier pitchers on the free-agent market, including Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery and Eduardo Rodríguez, with Snell being the preferred option if they don’t land Yamamoto. New York is viewed as one of the favorites for the 25-year-old pitching phenom from Japan, given its willingness to spend and the pitcher’s preference to play in a big market.
Jordan Montgomery staying in Texas?
After Montgomery played a pivotal role in their World Series triumph, the Rangers are believed to be the favorites to sign the emerging lefty, the New York Post reported. Montgomery was traded to Texas at the deadline last season and went 3-1 with a 2.90 ERA in the postseason. The Red Sox are reportedly among the teams most interested in acquiring Montgomery.
Mariners enter chase for Cody Bellinger
Seattle is displaying interest in one of the top free-agent hitters after its trade to clear some payroll late Sunday, MLB Network reported. The Mariners could be a serious suitor for Bellinger as their spring training facility is near Phoenix, where the star outfielder resides, MLB Network noted. The Giants, Blue Jays and Yankees are also in on Bellinger, but the Bronx Bombers are reportedly more likely to pursue a trade for Juan Soto than to sign Bellinger, according to MLB Network.
Ohtani, Yamamoto may not sign this week
Ohtani and countryman Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the ace pitcher and three-time defending Nippon Professional Baseball MVP who was posted for MLB teams earlier this winter, may force teams to wait a while before making their decisions. Signs are pointing towards both Ohtani and Yamamoto — the top two free agents on the market, per MLB on FOX’s rankings — to waiting until after this week’s winter meetings to sign with a team, per the New York Post.
Ohtani and Yamamoto reportedly may not even meet with teams until the meetings are over. The Dodgers, Cubs, Angels, Blue Jays and Giants are reportedly among the finalists for Ohtani, while “every big-market team” is in the Yamamoto sweepstakes.
Their delay could reportedly hold up several other potential big moves this offseason, most notably the expected trade of Juan Soto. The Padres and Yankees reportedly remain at an impasse over a potential Soto trade, while the Giants and Blue Jays have reportedly also made offers for the All-Star outfielder.
Braves entering Ohtani sweepstakes?
As the chase for Ohtani is reportedly winding down, the Braves are among the teams “still engaged” with the superstar’s camp, MLB Network reported. Atlanta has been previously linked to some of the top pitchers available in free agency and the trade market this offseason, but it missed out on signing Aaron Nola and Sonny Gray. Ohtani won’t be able to pitch again until 2025. The Braves’ consistent success could be a swaying factor with Ohtani, MLB Network noted.
Ohtani has already received multiple $500 million offers
The bidding war to land the two-way superstar appears to have gone as expected to this point, with multiple teams offering him contracts “well north” of $500 million and a $600 million deal possible, the New York Post reported. It’s been speculated for quite some time that Ohtani would receive a record deal as his free agency might be nearing its end.
Jung Hoo Lee set to be posted
The Korean star hitter was posted by his KBO club, the Kiwoom Heroes, as the 45-day window for MLB teams to negotiate a deal with him will open Tuesday, according to multiple reports. Lee, 25, is considered to be the best new international hitter on the free-agency market this offseason. The outfielder dealt with an ankle injury that forced him to miss a considerable amount of time in 2023, but he slashed .349/.421/.575 with 23 homers in 2022. The Yankees, Giants and Padres are among the early suitors for the former KBO MVP, MLB Network reported.
Mariners, Rays discussing possible Randy Arozarena deal?
As the Mariners are seeking more hitting help, it’s believed that they’ve discussed a possible trade for the Rays’ star outfielder along with third baseman Isaac Paredes, MLB Network reported. Both Arozarena and Paredes were pivotal to the Rays’ success in 2023. Arozarena slashed .254/.364/.425/ with 23 homers and 83 RBIs. Paredes slashed .250/.352/.488 with 31 homers this past season.
Giants frontrunners for Yamamoto?
While the Giants have reportedly coveted Ohtani for a long time, they also appear to be serious contenders for another Japanese superstar: three-time defending Nippon Professional Baseball MVP Yamamoto, who is No. 2 behind Ohtani on FOX Sports’ 2024 free-agent rankings after being posted to MLB teams earlier this offseason.
There is “a lot of buzz” around the Giants and Yamamoto, per the San Francisco Chronicle, with some other teams believing the Giants have an edge in the bidding war for his services.
Yankees still far apart from Padres in talks for Soto; Blue Jays in mix
The Yankees don’t appear to have a trade for Soto imminent as they and the Padres are still “far apart” in trade talks, FOX Sports’ and The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, among others, reported. The Padres are seeking major-league pitching or near-major league pitching, according to Rosenthal. However, the Yankees feel the Padres’ asking price of Michael King, Drew Thorpe and as many as “four or five other prospects” is a bit too much, SNY reported.
Elsewhere, the Blue Jays have engaged the Padres about a deal for Soto, and other teams could follow suit depending on what happens with Othani, Rosenthal reported.
A few West Coast teams inquiring about Brewers‘ Corbin Burnes
The Dodgers, Giants, Padres and Angels are among a group of teams that are “enamored” with the right-handed ace, MLB Network reported. The Brewers have “engaged teams” recently in trade talks involving their top pitcher as he enters his final season of team control, ESPN reported.
Burnes could be one of the best pitchers, if not the best, to be traded this offseason. The 29-year-old has been an All-Star the last three seasons, winning the NL Cy Young in 2021. He went 10-8 with a 3.39 ERA in 32 starts last season.
Dodgers to re-sign Joe Kelly
The Dodgers are nearing a deal to bring back reliever Kelly but are also interested in Lucas Giolito, The Athletic reported. Kelly, 35, was reacquired by the Dodgers at the trade deadline last season and made just 11 appearances following the move, posting a 1.74 ERA during that time.
The Ohtani war loses fighters
The Rangers, Red Sox and Mets have reportedly turned their attention away from the star two-way player, and zeroed in on other key free agents, per ESPN. That doesn’t mean bidding won’t be fierce for the 29-year-old, as the Dodgers, Angels, Cubs and Jays are all confirmed to be in the mix.
As far as the Giants, they’ve long been rumored to be interested in Ohtani’s services, but their status in the running is currently unknown.
Soto race continues to heat up
The Soto era in San Diego could be over long before most expected when the Padres acquired the power-hitting outfielder in 2022. With a massive payroll that features more than six players making north of $10 million. The Padres will be forced to cut costs to avoid heavy arbitration costs, and Soto is expected to make more than $30 million next season before becoming a free agent in 2024. The Padres likely won’t be able to salvage the type of haul they lost when they originally traded for Soto, but could get substantial returns from the Yankees, Phillies, Nationals and Cubs.
Yamamoto’s projected salary surfaces
The baseball world knew it would take a large lump sum to land one of the game’s biggest international free agents in recent memory. There are over eight teams reportedly vying for him, and according to multiple executives, the lowest total he’ll accept is around $200 million. Others have said his salary will be more than $250 million, meaning that nearly $40 million will have to go to his current team, the Orix Buffaloes. Yamamato will meet with teams following December’s winter meetings.
Brewers expected to sign top prospect to record deal
Milwaukee is expected to give Jackson Chourio an eight-year extension that will be worth close to $80 million, the New York Post reported. The deal for the 19-year-old is reportedly the richest ever for a player who has yet to play in an MLB game. Chourio is ranked as the second-best prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline.
Rangers taking ‘wait-and-see’ approach to free agency
While the Rangers are looking to repeat as World Series champs and are viewed as one of the favorites to sign Ohtani, they’re currently in “wait-and-see” mode because of the possible termination of their local TV contract, FOX Sports’ and The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported. The Rangers reportedly make $111 million per year from their current local TV deal, which is a number they might have to make up if they want to add to their already projected $218.6 million payroll for next season, Rosenthal added.
When will a Dylan Cease trade happen?
White Sox general manager Chris Getz is signaling to teams that he’ll hold off on trading the right-handed ace until some of the top free-agent pitchers sign, Rosenthal reported.
If the White Sox opt to drag the process out a bit on trading Cease, the Orioles and Reds could go from possible top suitors to dropping out of the race, according to Rosenthal. The Dodgers and Braves have already been reported to be in on the 27-year-old pitcher who has two years of team control left. But the Cardinals are also interested in Cease, even after signing three starters, according to Rosenthal.
Blake Snell ‘badly’ wants to pitch for hometown team, Angels also interested
The reigning NL Cy Young winner is looking to pitch for his hometown Mariners, NBC and MassLive reported. The Seattle native began his MLB career on the East Coast, pitching for the Rays before pitching with the Padres over the last few seasons.
If the Mariners don’t want to sign Snell, he’s receiving interest from at least one other West Coast team. The Angels are “very interested” in the southpaw, who turns 31 in December.
Snell won his second Cy Young of his career in 2023, riding a strong second half of the season to finish 14-9 with 234 strikeouts and a 2.25 ERA.
Could the Yankees sign both Cody Bellinger and Yamamoto?
The Yankees have been linked to both the star outfielder and Japanese pitching phenom in the first few weeks of free agency. But it might be unlikely that they’ll sign both because owner Hal Steinbrenner has said teams shouldn’t have to spend $300 million to win a title and their projected payroll for next season is already at $248.2 million, according to Rosenthal.
New York has spent in a major way over the last handful of offseasons, signing Aaron Judge and Carlos Rodon to massive contracts last year. Yamamoto is projected to receive over $200 million and Bellinger appears to be in line for a big payday as he’s viewed as the second-best hitter on the free-agent market.
Mariners could add another pitcher
Even though their rotation is viewed as a strength, the Mariners are believed to be in the market for a starting pitcher, according to Rosenthal. However, Rosenthal noted that the Mariners’ lineup for next season is mostly unsettled, leaving the possibility that they could flip some pitching for hitting.
Dodgers in ‘supreme position’ for Ohtani, who is expected to sign at winter meetings
Los Angeles remains the heavy favorite for Ohtani, the New York Post reported Wednesday. While Ohtani’s agent Nez Balelo and the two-way superstar’s camp are keeping information close to the vest, rival executives still perceive the Dodgers as being in “supreme position” for Ohtani given how the club has kept a large amount of space on its usually heavy payroll, enough to sign Ohtani and make multiple other moves.
The Dodgers currently have just over $122 million, roughly the MLB average, of committed payroll for 2024 per Spotrac.
Other reasons the Dodgers are considered the favorites for Ohtani is his affinity for Southern California — a reason he signed with the nearby Los Angeles Angels in his initial free-agency period after the 2017 season — and his desire to possibly remain there, which is why a return to the Angels has not been completely ruled out either. The Dodgers also reportedly view Ohtani as the next in a long line of “historic figures” of baseball to wear their iconic blue threads.
MLB executives reportedly expect Ohtani to sign during next week’s winter meetings, meaning a resolution to one of the biggest free agencies in sports history could be coming soon.
Dylan Cease trade talks have ‘intensified’
Trade negotiations surrounding the White Sox ace have “intensified” over the past 48 hours and some close to the situation believe that a trade could be done prior to the winter meetings, MLB Network reported. The Braves, Cease’s hometown team, are among the finalists, MLB Network added.
Cease has been viewed as perhaps the best pitcher to possibly be moved this offseason. The 27-year-old right-hander finished second in Cy Young voting in 2022 and has two years left of team control.
It’s unclear who the other finalists might be, though the Dodgers have been heavily linked to him throughout the offseason.
The winter meetings take place in Nashville, running from Dec. 4-7.
Trade talks around Soto have ‘heated up’ between Yankees, Padres
The Yankees and Padres have begun exchanging names of other players in trade talks involving Soto, though the two teams aren’t close to an agreement, SNY reported. It isn’t known which players have been discussed, but the Padres are “looking” at some of the Yankees’ top prospects and young players, such as Jasson Domínguez and Anthony Volpe, in addition to pitchers Michael King and Clarke Schmidt, according to SNY.
Soto is entering the final year of team control and the Padres’ payroll situation makes it likely that the team will end up trading him at some point, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal recently reported. The Yankees have been rumored to be one of the top suitors for Soto before the offseason even began.
Yankees saving No. 18 jersey for Yamamoto
It’s been widely reported that Japanese ace Yamamoto is the Yankees’ No. 1 target this offseason — to the point that the team has already saved him a jersey. According to SNY, New York has withheld issuing a No. 18 jersey over the past year in order to save it for Yamamoto. The number has special significance in Japanese baseball as it is usually the number worn by a team’s best pitcher. Yamamoto, who just won his third consecutive Nippon Professional Baseball MVP award, has been wearing the number with the NBP’s Orix Buffaloes.
Many Japanese pitchers have worn the number or an adjacent one when coming over to Major League Baseball. Kenta Maeda has worn it since debuting with the Dodgers in 2016 and Hiroki Kuroda wore it with both the Dodgers and Yankees. Others like Masahiro Tanaka and, of course, Ohtani have worn Nos. 19 and 17 at the MLB level, respectively.
Giants want Yamamoto or Ohtani
After striking out on top targets like Aaron Judge and Carlos Correa last offseason and missing the playoffs again in 2023, the Giants have set their sights on both Yamamoto and, of course, his countryman who is already an established MLB superstar. San Francisco is pursuing both Ohtani and Yamamoto “very aggressively” and “devoting their full heart and finances” towards landing one of them, per MLB Network.
The Giants have been widely reported to be one of the most aggressive teams in pursuing Ohtani this offseason, but may fall behind in the sweepstakes for the two-way superstar due to the dimensions of Oracle Park, according to the New York Post. The Giants’ home field has a deep right field that is famously unfriendly to left-handed power hitters looking to rack up home runs.
Blue Jays getting trade calls on Vlad Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette
Toronto is receiving interest from other teams in its two young, star infielders, Rosenthal reported. The push for Guerrero and Bichette seems to be related to the fact that there aren’t many premier hitters available in free agency this offseason, while the Blue Jays duo is under team control for only two more years. It would make “little sense,” though, for Toronto to trade either as it’s pursuing Ohtani and looking to finally get over the hump in the playoffs, Rosenthal added.
There wasn’t any mention of which teams are inquiring about Guerrero and Bichette in Rosenthal’s report, but the Cubs were reportedly in discussions with Toronto about its shortstop earlier in November.
Alex Bregman drawing trade interest
Similar to Guerrero and Bichette, the Astros third baseman has also been a trade target even though it’s unlikely he’ll be moved, Rosenthal reported. Bregman is entering the final year of his current deal and the Astros are “likely” to lose him in free agency, but the chances of him being traded are slim because the Astros are still a title contender and have been willing to lose multiple star players via free agency in the past, according to Rosenthal.
Dylan Cease has several suitors on trade market
“More than a dozen teams” have already inquired about the White Sox ace, Rosenthal reported. Cease could be the top pitcher moved via trade this offseason, as Chicago general manager Chris Getz has already said the team is “open for business” after two disappointing seasons. Cease, who finished second in AL Cy Young voting in 2022, turns 28 in December and still has two years left of team control, which would likely net Chicago a “monster return” if it opted to move him, according to Rosenthal.
The Dodgers have been reported as a top suitor for Cease, but the Braves are also reportedly in the mix after missing out on a pair of their top free-agent pitching targets.
Ballpark could factor into Ohtani’s decision
As several things will likely weigh into Ohtani’s free-agent decision, the home ballpark could be more of a factor than the location of where Ohtani will play next, ESPN reported. Some executives believe that Ohtani would like to play in a more hitter-friendly ballpark, which they think could hurt the Giants’ chances to land him and help a team like the Blue Jays, according to ESPN. It was initially believed that playing on the West Coast was among Ohtani’s chief priorities, as was the case when he signed with the Angels in 2017, but executives don’t believe that will play much of a factor in Ohtani’s decision, ESPN added.
Cubs and Reds eyeing multiple pitchers via trade
The NL Central contenders are “among the teams active in trade conversations” for Guardians pitcher Shane Bieber and Rays pitcher Tyler Glasnow, MLB Network reported. The Cubs have already been linked to several pitchers in the free-agent market, though many other high-spending teams are competing for the same pitchers, which could leave them empty-handed. Chicago trying to add a quality starting pitcher sooner rather than later could also help in its pursuit of Ohtani, according to MLB Network.
Yoshinobu Yamamoto wins third consecutive Nippon MVP
Yamamoto, FOX Sports’ No. 2 free-agent pitcher, was named Most Valuable Player of the Nippon Professional Baseball Pacific League for a third consecutive season on Tuesday. The Orix Buffaloes ace also won his third straight Eiji Sawamura Award, which is Japan’s equivalent to MLB’s Cy Young Award.
Yamamoto joins Hisashi Yamada and Ichiro Suzuki, who also played with the Buffaloes before transitioning into MLB, as the third player in NPB history to win three straight MVP awards.
The 25-year-old tossed 171 innings with a 1.16 ERA and 176 strikeouts this season.
Yankees ‘not believed’ to be in on Ohtani
Don’t expect the league’s most historic spender to be in on the biggest free agent in the sport’s history. The Yankees “are not believed” to be players in the Ohtani sweepstakes given their financial commitments to Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Carlos Rodon and Gerrit Cole, ESPN reported. New York is “strong” on pursuing Yamamoto, however.
Braves turning to Dylan Cease?
After losing out on Aaron Nola and Sonny Gray in free agency, it appears the Braves are eyeing one of the top pitchers on the trade market. Atlanta has entered the trade chat for Cease, USA Today reported.
The White Sox’s right-handed ace could be the top pitcher moved via trade this offseason. White Sox general manager Chris Getz recently told reporters that the club is “open for business.” The Dodgers have already been among the reported suitors for the 27-year-old.
Cease took a bit of a step back in 2023 after his second-place finish in the AL Cy Young voting in 2022. He went 7-9 with a 4.58 ERA in 33 starts.
Shota Imanaga posted
The sweepstakes for the other top Japanese pitcher in free agency are also officially open. Imanaga was reportedly posted by the Yokohama BayStars on Monday morning.
Imanaga has been one of the best pitchers in Nippon Professional Baseball over the past few seasons. Nicknamed “The Throwing Philosopher,” the 30-year-old southpaw went 7-5 with a 2.66 ERA in 24 starts last season.
Imanaga likely won’t command the same amount of buzz as Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who is expected to receive a contract over $200 million. But Imanaga has already been linked to a few teams, including the Dodgers and Yankees.
Which teams could be dark horses for Ohtani?
The Red Sox, Braves and Blue Jays could be surprising candidates to land Ohtani, MLB Network reported. Ohtani “is said to love hitting at Fenway Park,” while the Blue Jays are “serious about pursuing Ohtani.” Still, the report from MLB Network indicates that the Dodgers are still the favorites to land Ohtani.
Yoshinobu Yamamoto to start meeting with teams
After being posted on Nov. 20, Yamamoto’s free agency will take its first step this week. He’ll begin to meet with interested teams either over the phone or via Zoom as he spends time in Japan, SNY reported. Yamamoto is expected to narrow down his options ahead of the Winter Meetings on Dec. 4-7 and will meet with the presumed finalists there, SNY added in its report.
Yamamoto is “expected to be deliberate” with his free agency process due to the amount of interest he’s received, MLB Network reported. His agent recently said that he’s already heard from up to 15 teams interested in signing the right-handed pitcher. In addition to the reported top suitors, the Mariners are also entering the chase for Yamamoto, as they could sign him and move a part of their pitching depth for hitting, MLB Network reported.
Mariners could turn to Jeimer Candelario to replace Eugenio Suárez at third base
Seattle reportedly traded Suárez to the Diamondbacks earlier Wednesday for reliever Carlos Vargas and catcher Seby Zavala in an apparent cost-cutting move, but Candelario is an option to fill the new vacancy at the hot corner, per MLB Network.
Turning around and signing Candelario might not be very cost-effective, as the 30-year-old is expected to receive a three- or four-year deal worth somewhere around $60-$70 million, but he would definitely mark an upgrade at the position.
Candelario hit .251 with an .807 OPS and 22 home runs with the Nationals and Cubs last season. Suárez, who hit .232 with a .714 OPS last year, had served as the Mariners’ primary third baseman the past two years.
Yamamoto prefers to play with fellow Japanese players, has heard from 10-15 teams
As the free agency of the 25-year-old phenom officially opened Tuesday, Yamomoto’s agent (Joel Wolfe) told Japanese media that his client “wants to play with Japanese players,” something that hasn’t been common among Japanese players upon signing with MLB clubs.
The Mets, Red Sox and Cubs are rumored to be among the top Yamamoto suitors with a Japanese player on their squad. The Blue Jays and Cardinals also have a player from Japan or someone he played with on Team Japan during the World Baseball Classic. Wolfe said that Yamamoto has been spending some time in the United States and recently played golf with Lars Nootbaar. MLB on FOX insider Ken Rosenthal has previously speculated that Ohtani will wait until Yamamoto signs to make his decision.
Wolfe added that he’s already heard from “at least” 10 teams but “no more” than 15. He also stated that Yamamoto “has no geographic preferences” regarding where he’ll play.
Dodgers looking to land Ohtani and Yamamoto
The Dodgers are potentially in play to add FOX Sports’ top two free agents this offseason, MLB Network reported.
Obviously, Ohtani is the big fish and could end up signing the biggest contract in the sport’s history. Yamamoto, meanwhile, was posted by the Orix Buffaloes on Monday and his 45-day negotiating window opened on Tuesday.
The Dodgers have been widely viewed as the favorite to sign Ohtani for quite some time, with some speculating that their relative inactivity last offseason was in preparation to make a run at signing the two-way star this year. Los Angeles is also among the betting favorites to sign Yamamoto.
Cubs looking to trade for Bo Bichette?
Chicago is looking at more than just the free agent market to make a big splash this offseason, discussing a possible trade to land Toronto’s shortstop, MLB Network and Locked On Sports reported. If the Cubs were to acquire Bichette, they would reportedly move him to third base as Dansby Swanson is a Gold Glove shortstop for Chicago.
The Cubs have reportedly been linked to several top free agents this offseason as they look to make a push for the postseason in 2024 after falling just short this year. The team has already hired manager Craig Counsell to a record-setting contract and is in the mix to sign Ohtani, among others.
Bichette, who turns 26 in March, hit .304 with 20 homers last season, earning the second All-Star nod of his career. He’s signed through the 2025 season.
Josh Hader expected to leave Padres, and may have a new suitor?
Hader, viewed as the top reliever on the market, has been linked to the Rangers and Phillies for much of the offseason. But the Cubs could also be a suitor, MLB Network reported. Hader’s past working relationship with Counsell in Milwaukee and Chicago’s desire to build its roster to try to entice Ohtani are two of the reported reasons why the Cubs could be in the mix for the five-time All-Star closer.
Hader has recorded 165 saves since 2018. Adbert Alzolay emerged in the closing role for the Cubs in 2023, recording 22 saves before missing the end of the season due to injury.
Which pitchers are most likely to be traded?
In addition to several top-of-the-rotation starting pitchers available in free agency, there are a few more who might be available via trade.
MLB on FOX insider Ken Rosenthal believes that Tyler Glasnow, Dylan Cease and Shane Bieber are the most likely to be traded, in that order.
“Generally speaking, when we talk about guys like this and they continually get mentioned as trade possibilities, they get traded,” Rosenthal said on “Foul Territory.” “It doesn’t always happen … but I would not be surprised to see any of those pitchers moved.”
Rosenthal said Glasnow is the one he views as most likely to be traded because the Rays’ projected payroll is over $40 million more than their record high.
Rosenthal added that he would’ve ranked Brewers ace Corbin Burnes at the top of the list earlier in the offseason, but he’s “hearing things out of Milwaukee” that indicate the team will try to make a playoff run in 2024. However, Rosenthal mentioned that he still wouldn’t be surprised to see Burnes traded this offseason.
Will Ohtani wait for Yoshinobu Yamamoto to sign before making his decision?
The courting of Ohtani has begun, but the superstar free agent could take longer than expected to sign his new deal. Ohtani “perhaps will be better off waiting” until after Yamamoto signs, which could come after the Winter Meetings in early December, according to FOX Sports and The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. “I think it’s going to move slower than people think,” an American League executive told Rosenthal. “There’s a lot to be answered.”
Yamamoto was officially posted Monday, meaning his 45-day window to negotiate and sign a deal will run through early January.
Max Scherzer makes pitch for Ohtani to join Rangers
With the Ohtani sweepstakes already well underway, everyone is polishing their selling points. Even fellow MLB stars are joining in on the action, with Scherzer stating his case on why Ohtani should join the defending champs in Texas. “Money’s great, but winning’s better,” Scherzer said. “If you want to come win, that’s better than money. I promise.”
The Rangers have been one of several possible suitors to land Ohtani in the early part of free agency, but Scherzer didn’t say if his team was making a run to sign him. Ohtani, of course, did not make the playoffs once while playing for the Angels the past six seasons. “I have no knowledge,” Scherzer said. “I have not talked to anybody within the Rangers organization about Ohtani. But if you asked me if [I’d want to play with him], the answer would be yes.”
Dodgers looking at big names in trades
Los Angeles could be eying multiple stars to add via trade this offseason. One team executive believes that the Dodgers might make an attempt to trade for Brewers ace Burnes and shortstop Willy Adames, MLB.com reported. The Dodgers are also “in talks” with the White Sox to trade for Dylan Cease, USA Today reported.
The Dodgers have already been linked to several starting pitchers on the free-agent market as they look to fix their rotation. As for Adames, he would help the Dodgers fill a potential void at shortstop, although the team has said that Gavin Lux is on track to be the starter there in 2024.
Rangers believed to be favorite to land Josh Hader
As the Phillies made the first big signing of the offseason Sunday, it appears they’re unlikely to make a big splash to help their bullpen. The Phillies have “shown very little appetite” in signing Hader this offseason, leaving the Rangers as “heavy favorites” to sign the star closer, USA Today reported. The Phillies and Rangers have reportedly been the two teams most linked to Hader in the opening weeks of free agency.
Brandon Woodruff drawing significant interest
The former Brewers starter won’t have any problem finding suitors in free agency even though he isn’t expected to pitch in 2024. Woodruff is already drawing interest from “a majority of MLB teams,” MLB Network reported. Milwaukee surprisingly opted to non-tender Woodruff on Friday, making the two-time All-Star a free agent. The Brewers’ decision came a month after Woodruff underwent surgery to repair a capsule in his throwing shoulder. The 30-year-old made only 11 appearances last season.
Yamamoto still on Phillies‘ radar
With the Phillies reportedly re-signing Aaron Nola to a seven-year, $172 million contract on Sunday, Philadelphia plans to continue bolstering its pitching staff, which could still include the 25-year-old Japanese ace, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Brewers non-tender Brandon Woodruff
Milwaukee non-tendered Woodruff, its former ace, ESPN reported. The right-hander was limited to 11 games last season due to a shoulder injury and is expected to miss most of the 2024 season due to surgery. Since becoming a full-time member of the Brewers starting rotation (2019), Woodruff has posted a combined 2.93 ERA and 1.02 WHIP across 595.0 innings (103 starts). This past season, he posted a 2.28 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and 74 strikeouts across 67.0 innings.
Yamamoto could hit open market next week
Yamamoto is expected to be posted by the Nippon Professional Baseball league’s Orix Buffaloes on Monday, meaning the 45-day negotiation window with MLB teams would start Tuesday for the 25-year-old phenom, per ESPN. Several teams are expected to pursue Yamamoto, who’s ranked No. 2 in our top-30 free agents of 2024.
Rays‘ Tyler Glasnow trade talks remain in preliminary stage
At various points in his six-year tenure with the Rays, Glasnow has served as the team’s ace. He might be offering those services elsewhere next year. The 30-year-old right-hander will likely be traded this offseason, per ESPN. He is due a Rays-record $25.4 million in 2024, while the demand for pitching across the league remains exceptionally high. Glasnow went 10-7 with a 3.53 ERA and 162 strikeouts over 121 innings (21 starts) this past season.
The chances of a Glasnow trade will be higher once the top free agent pitchers sign, per MLB Network.
Cubs ‘more likely’ to sign Ohtani than Cody Bellinger; eyeing Pete Alonso, Yamamoto
As Chicago prepares to make its case to sign the two-way superstar, it may say goodbye to its top star from last season. The Cubs are “more likely” to sign Ohtani this offseason than Bellinger, who might be “as good as gone,” ESPN reported. Bellinger enjoyed a comeback season with the Cubs, though he was almost moved at the trade deadline in the middle of his one-year deal. A pair of other favorites have reportedly also emerged to sign Bellinger.
The Cubs, meanwhile, have recently generated buzz in the Ohtani sweepstakes. They now have the second-best odds to sign the soon-to-be two-time AL MVP.
Ohtani and Bellinger are ranked as the two best hitters in free agency this offseason by FOX Sports.
The Cubs are also looking at other star players to acquire this offseason. If the Mets make Alonso available for trade, the Cubs are expected to offer a package that would center around 24-year-old Christopher Morel, according to ESPN. The Cubs are also expected to be in on the sweepstakes for Japanese pitchers Yamamoto and Shota Imanaga and could pursue a trade for Brewers ace Corbin Burnes, ESPN added in its reporting.
Who could be a sleeper team in the Ohtani sweepstakes?
One rival executive believes that the Blue Jays might be an outside candidate to land Ohtani, FOX Sports and The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported. However, Rosenthal noted a pair of issues that the Blue Jays and other possible AL East suitors might have in trying to land Ohtani, speculating that the competitive division and inconsistent weather could deter him from signing with one of those teams.
Angels prepare to be ‘aggressive’ this offseason
While many expect the Angels to lose Ohtani this offseason, that isn’t going to be a deterrence for Angels general manager Perry Minasian to try and still win in 2024.
“We’re going to be aggressive this offseason and we’re going to make this team better,” Minasian said at the introductory press conference for new manager Ron Washington.
As Minasian said he’s already heard from people who “wouldn’t mind joining the party over here,” Washington made a big proclamation.
“If you remember now — I was in Texas, and guess what we did? We ran the Angels down,” Washington said. “Now I’m in California, with the Anaheim Angels — well, the Los Angeles Angels. I’ll get that in my head. Once we get things together, we get these guys together in spring training and start to work, our whole focus is gonna be to run the West down. And you can take that to the bank and deposit it.”
Giants in on several top free agents
San Francisco is “in” on the sweepstakes to land Cody Bellinger, Matt Chapman and Blake Snell in free agency this offseason, MLB Network reported. The Giants are looking to land a big free agent this offseason after turning out empty-handed last offseason, coming up short in trying to sign Aaron Judge and reneging on a contract agreement with Carlos Correa due to a failed physical.
The Giants are looking to get back to the postseason after two underwhelming seasons in 2022 and 2023.
At least eight teams seeking multiple pitchers in free agency; Yankees ‘among most active’ teams in pitching market
The Cardinals, Mets, Red Sox, Cubs, Dodgers, Pirates, Angels and Giants are among at least eight teams looking to add two pitchers in free agency this offseason, MLB Network reported. The free-agent market this offseason features more than 10 starters who were top-of-the-rotation pitchers for their teams last season, including a few with possible Cy Young upside.
While the Yankees aren’t listed among those eight teams, they’re “among the most active teams in the starting pitching market,” MLB Network reported. New York has shown interest in Aaron Nola and Yamamoto so far, according to MLB Network.
Dodgers among ‘most interested’ in Yamamoto
In addition to the Yankees, the Dodgers are also preparing to pursue the Japanese phenom, MLB Network reported. Yamamoto, 25, is viewed by some as the best non-Ohtani pitcher on the free-agent market this offseason and ranked No. 2 overall on Jordan Shusterman’s free-agent rankings.
Yamamoto will reportedly be posted within the next week. Teams will then have 45 days to negotiate a deal with the right-hander. While the Dodgers and Yankees are among the betting favorites to land Yamamoto, the Mets currently hold the best odds to land him.
West Coast teams, Phillies in on Blake Snell
The Cy Young candidate is garnering great interest on the free-agent market. The early set of favorites to land Snell include the Dodgers, Giants, Phillies and Padres, MLB Network reported. Snell reestablished himself as one of the game’s top pitchers this past season with San Diego after a relatively non-remarkable stretch.
NL West teams early suitors for Matt Chapman
Arguably the best infielder on the free-agent market this offseason, Chapman is receiving early interest from Diamondbacks and Giants, MLB Network reported. Both teams are reportedly looking to add at third base, and Chapman could receive a deal worth up to $150 million, MLB Network reported earlier in November.
The Diamondbacks are looking to add after making a surprise World Series run while the Giants could reunite Chapman with Bob Melvin, their recently hired manager who spent five years with the third baseman in Oakland.
Rangers, Phillies ‘strong candidates’ to sign Josh Hader
After both teams made deep postseason runs (with the Rangers winning the World Series), Texas and Philadelphia are seeking to solidify their bullpens, making them “strong candidates” to sign Hader, MLB Network reported. The lefty is widely considered to be the best bullpen arm on the market this offseason as he’s been an All-Star in five of the past six seasons.
Mets will listen to offers on Pete Alonso
As Alonso enters the final year of team control, the Mets aren’t actively seeking to move their star first baseman but are open to offers, ESPN reported. Scott Boras, Alonso’s agent, told reporters at the GM Meetings that his client wants an extension prior to the 2024 season.
“[Mets president of baseball operations David Stearns] certainly views Pete as a core part of their team and we just kind of let him know when it comes to the Polar Bear we’re not in contract hibernation,” Boras said. “We’re open to listening. Pete has directed me to listen to what they have to say and we’ll go from there.”
Why the Dodgers, Rangers and Red Sox are in the Ohtani sweepstakes
The two-way superstar is choosing from any number of clubs this offseason. There are at least three teams he has “expressed affinity” for in the past that will be in the hunt for his services in this second round of free agency: the Dodgers, Rangers and Red Sox, per ESPN. Los Angeles, of course, is considered the favorite, reportedly because of its winning pedigree, its track record in development and its coaching acumen, in addition to its location. Texas is believed to be a real candidate for Ohtani’s services because it just won the World Series but also for showing a strong interest in him when he first came from Japan. Ohtani is interested in Boston, meanwhile, because he likes visiting there as well as playing in Fenway Park.
Could Ohtani take a short-term contract?
Ohtani seemed destined for a long-term contract worth $500 million or more before suffering a torn UCL for the second time in his six-year MLB career in August. While his inability to pitch consistently until at least 2025 changes the equation a bit, he still figured to be in line for similar deal. But according to ESPN, Ohtani is open to taking a shorter-term contract with an “exceedingly high” average annual value (AAV).
Ohtani would still likely break the AAV record for an MLB contract, but if he takes a shorter-term deal in hopes of reentering free agency while still in his prime as a fully healthy two-way threat, that could allow other candidates aside from big-market favorites like the Dodgers and Giants to enter the bidding for his services.
What’s Ohtani prioritizing?
As the baseball world wonders where Ohtani will play next, the belief is that he’s “probably less concerned with geography and more concerned about the quality of the team he’s going to” compared to when he was a free agent six years ago, MLB Network reported. That could give teams like the Dodgers, Cubs and Braves, the last of which Ohtani is purportedly “very intrigued by,” over other potential suitors, according to MLB Network.
Favorites emerging in Cody Bellinger sweepstakes
The Cubs, Giants and Yankees are viewed as the favorites to land the 2019 NL MVP, according to USA Today and MLB Network. Bellinger had a bounce-back season with Chicago last season, appearing to successfully bet on himself as he signed a one-year deal to join the Cubs last offseason. Bellinger is expected to receive a much larger payday than the $17.5 million contract he signed last offseason and is ranked as FOX Sports’ second-best available free-agent hitter.
The Yankees are expected to be in the Bellinger sweepstakes until the very end as they likely prioritize signing him over trying to trade for Soto, MLB Network added in its report.
Cubs interested in Rhys Hoskins?
Chicago views the veteran first baseman as a “good fit” for its roster, The Athletic reported. The Cubs could lose two of their top hitters in free agency this offseason with Bellinger and Jeimer Candelario both hitting the market. While signing Hoskins wouldn’t be a direct replacement for either player (should they lose them), he’d give them much-needed help at first base. He hit 30 homers with a .246 batting average and a .794 OPS with the Phillies in 2022 before tearing his ACL during spring training last season.
Phillies not interested in trading Nick Castellanos
Contrary to previous notions, the Philadelphia Phillies are not interested in trading Nick Castellanos, as they consider the 31-year-old to be an integral component to their team, per ESPN.
Castellanos is entering the third year of a five-year, $100 million deal he signed with the Phillies ahead of the 2022 season, and has been part of the team’s deep playoff appearances the last two seasons.
Yamamoto’s posting window set to open ‘soon’
The Orix Buffaloes, which Yamamoto pitched for over the past seven seasons, are likely to post Yamamoto for MLB teams within the next week, per MLB Network. Teams will have 45 days to negotiate and agree to a contract with Yamamoto, 25, once he’s posted. The Japanese pitcher is viewed by many as the top pitcher on the loaded free-agent market.
Brewers ‘open to moving virtually any player’
Days after manager Craig Counsell departed Milwaukee, the Brewers are open to trading anyone to help “sacrifice its present for its future,” Rosenthal reported. If the Brewers opted to sell this offseason, Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Willy Adames and Christian Yelich could be among the players traded this offseason, according to Rosenthal.
Cody Bellinger at ‘top’ of Yankees‘ free-agent list
The Yankees are ready to make major moves this offseason, and Bellinger is their top target. The team has already touched base with his agent, Scott Boras, per the New York Post. Bellinger is considered to be the top non-Ohtani hitter on the free agent market this offseason after his resurgence with the Cubs in 2023. The 28-year-old hit .307/.356/.525 with 25 homers this past season.
Phillies moving on from Nick Castellanos?
Philadelphia is “open to the idea” of trading its right fielder as his “streaky ways and disappointing performance in the NLCS could result in an offseason change,” MLB.com reported. Castellanos only hit .042 in the Phillies’ seven-game loss in the NLCS, but he hit well in the regular season after struggling in his first year in Philadelphia. He hit .272/.311/.476 with 29 home runs and 106 RBIs in the regular season, earning an All-Star nod.
He’s entering the third year of a five-year, $100 million deal he signed with the Phillies ahead of the 2022 season, so trading him could potentially save the Phillies up to $20 million in payroll.
Bryce Harper is the Phillies’ long-term first baseman
Phillies president Dave Dombrowski said that Harper will be the team’s first baseman moving forward and that free agent Rhys Hoskins — Philadelphia’s first baseman before he tore his ACL in spring training this past year — was informed of the decision. Harper served as the team’s first baseman for the bulk of 2023 after he returned from his offseason Tommy John surgery.
Eduardo Rodríguez has open mind about locale
The veteran lefty, who rejected a trade to the Dodgers at the deadline, has reportedly informed teams he has no geographic restrictions. Rodríguez went 13-9 with a 3.30 ERA over 152.2 innings this past season with the Tigers.
Jordan Montgomery receiving interest from Red Sox
Officials for the Red Sox “have spoken” with Montgomery’s agent as the southpaw hits free agency following his strong World Series run with the Rangers, MLB Network reported. Montgomery, 30, went 4-2 with a 2.79 ERA in 11 starts with the Rangers, who acquired him from the Cardinals before the trade deadline in July. He also went 4-2 in the postseason, posting a 2.90 ERA over his six postseason outings (five starts).
The Red Sox desperately need starting pitching help after they ranked 25th in quality starts last season and Montgomery is just one of several high-end starters on the free-agent market.
Jonathan India emerging as a trade candidate?
The Reds second baseman has been a “popular name” among executives at the general managers meeting, though Cincinnati isn’t “motivated to move” India, according to MLB Network. India was speculated to be a possible trade candidate at the deadline this past summer due to the Reds’ influx of young infield talent.
After winning NL Rookie of the Year in 2021, India has dealt with injuries that have forced him to miss multiple months in each of the past two seasons. He hit .244/.338/.407 with 16 homers in 119 games last season.
Zack Greinke unsure if he’ll pitch in 2024
The 40-year-old hasn’t decided whether he’ll pitch next season, Royals GM JJ Picollo told reporters. Greinke pitched with the Royals in 2023, going 2-15 with a 5.06 ERA in his second season back in Kansas City after he spent the first seven seasons of his career there from 2004-10. Greinke, a six-time All-Star, won the AL Cy Young with the Royals in 2009.
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