Sun, Dec 15, 2019

We’re working our way toward the meat of the MLB offseason of 2019-20, which means pretty much all the action has yet to transpire. That said, rumors regarding free-agent player and team pairings and potential trades are already circulating, and we’re here to get you up to speed on all the scuttle. We also have a rundown of all of the key dates in this year’s offseason and our ranking of the top 50 free agents on the market, and here’s an explainer on the “luxury tax” and its implications for the winter

Now here’s what’s buzzing for Wednesday.

Yankees release Ellsbury, cut Bird

Prior to the Rule 5 Draft protection deadline Wednesday night, the Yankees released Jacoby Ellsbury and designated Greg Bird for assignment, the team announced. The moves cleared 40-man roster spaces for prospects the Yankees protected from the Rule 5 Draft. Ellsbury has not played since the 2017 ALCS and is owed $26 million in 2020, the final year on his seven-year, $153 million contract. He is one of the biggest free agent busts in baseball history.

As for Bird, the slugging first baseman has had trouble staying healthy the last few years, appearing in only 140 of 638 possible games since 2016. He hit .194/.287/.388 in those 140 games. The Yankees have seven days to trade, release, or put Bird through waivers now that he’s been designated for assignment. Given his injury history and projected $1.3 million salary in 2020, there’s a good chance he will slip through waivers unclaimed and remain in the organization as a non-40-man roster player.

Reds acquire De Leon from Rays

The Reds have acquired right-hander Jose De Leon from the Rays for cash and a player to be named later, the team announced. Tampa needed the 40-man roster spot to a prospect prior to Wednesday’s Rule 5 Draft protection deadline. De Leon came over from the Dodgers in a Logan Forsythe trade three years ago but missed most of the last two years with Tommy John surgery.

For the Reds, De Leon gives them a depth option — he can be sent to Triple-A next year without having to pass through waivers — with some upside. It was not too long ago that De Leon was considered one of the top 100 prospects in the game. The 27-year-old could regain his old form as he gets further away from elbow reconstruction, and a small market team like Cincinnati should always be willing to roll the dice on former top prospects when they are available for basically free.

Wheeler market heating up

Outgoing Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler is going into his age-30 season and coming off a solid year in Queens. In a career-high 195 1/3 innings this past season, Wheeler registered an ERA+ of 102 with a K/BB ratio of 3.90. He also boasted an FIP of 3.48. He’s made 60 starts over the last two seasons, and Wheeler still boasts excellent stuff. As such, he’ll have a healthy market this winter. 

Speaking of which, Jon Morosi on MLB Network recently laid out the four leading contenders for Wheeler’s services: the Angels, White Sox, Padres, and Twins. All of those pass the smell test. The White Sox and Padres need rotation help if they’re going to be surprise contenders in 2020, and the Angels ar