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Biggest contender holes after run of major trades

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Agents and executives have noted a trend — a concerning trend, for the veteran players — that will soon manifest for the middle class of the free-agent market: Teams are filling some of their big needs through trades.

The St. Louis Cardinals just landed Paul Goldschmidt to play first base in a deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The New York Yankees filled their primary rotation hole by trading for the Mariners’ James Paxton. The New York Mets traded for Robinson Cano to anchor their infield, and for Edwin Diaz to be their closer. The Philadelphia Phillies snagged Jean Segura to play shortstop or second base. The Chicago White Sox upgraded their bullpen by dealing for Alex Colome. The Washington Nationals filled their catching spot by trading for the Indians’ Yan Gomes.

Patrick Corbin killed it in free agency with his six-year deal. Nathan Eovaldi appears poised to get a big deal, and Manny Machado and Bryce Harper will do really, really well. But there are close to 200 free agents right now, a group increased in volume last week through the contract tender decisions by clubs, and inevitably, a bunch of players are going to get left behind, scrambling for dollars or even jobs, in the way that Mark Reynolds and Matt Holliday did last winter.

And unless there is a significant adjustment negotiated soon, this ensures that the same problem could exist or grow next winter, after so many players have to take one-year offers this year and go back into the market next fall. An ugly situation is getting worse.

But it’s still relatively early in the offseason, and contenders are working right now to improve their rosters for next year. The biggest holes yet to be filled by contenders:

1. Phillies: middle-of-the-order bat. Does that mean Harper? Does that mean Machado? Or both? The Phillies already have been aggressive this offseason, and there’s more to come.

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Nick Cafardo, longtime Boston Globe baseball writer, dies at 62

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Longtime Boston Globe baseball writer Nick Cafardo has died after collapsing at the team’s spring training ballpark.

The newspaper said Cafardo had an embolism Thursday and Red Sox medical staff was unable to revive him.

He was 62.

Cafardo joined the Globe in 1989 and covered the Red Sox before switching to the New England Patriots in time for the team’s first NFL championship in 2001. He returned to baseball and has covered the Red Sox and the major leagues for the past 15 years.

He was covering spring training on Thursday when he collapsed on a sidewalk outside the Red Sox clubhouse. The paper said it was his day off but “Cafardo’s love of baseball and commitment to his craft compelled him to report to JetBlue Park.”

“Nick was one of the best people to ever walk through our doors — generous with his time and insights, immensely knowledgeable, deeply devoted to the Globe,” Globe editor Brian McGrory said. “He had a view of the Red Sox and the game on a national scale that is virtually unrivaled.

“For those reasons, he was one of our most read writers, constantly attracting followers near and far, his weekly baseball notes column being destination reading for tens of thousands of people.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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Nolan Arenado of Colorado Rockies says state of free-agent market is ‘sad’

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The sluggish free-agent market the past two years has not scared Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, who could be among the prizes in the 2020 pool.

“I’m not afraid of it at all,” Arenado said. “It doesn’t have an effect on me. I think free agency is something you earn. You’ve been in the big leagues this long, you get there and you earn it. I don’t know how it is going to work out; I can’t speak on that. But you definitely earn it.”

Arenado would be among the biggest names in the position-player pool next winter if he and the Rockies do not reach an agreement during current negotiations on a long-term contract. Paul Goldschmidt, Josh Donaldson and Khris Davis also can become free agents next winter.

Arenado signed a $26 million, one-year contract to avoid arbitration over the winter, the largest one-year salary for an arbitration-eligible player in league history. No deadline has been set on the current talks.

“I think it always worries you, but at the same time I have bigger things to worry about,” Arenado said. “I’m trying to do my job at a high level and that’s it. Everything else can take care of itself.

“It’s definitely a little worry, in a way, when you think about it for a long period of time. But I try not to think about that. I’m in a great situation right now. Just play baseball now. If it comes to that in the offseason, I’ll deal with it then.”

Arenado called the current state of the free-agent market “sad.”

Manny Machado agreed this week to a pending $300 million, 10-year contract with the San Diego Padres. Bryce Harper has yet to sign with anyone and the overall market has been slow.

“There are some really good baseball players out there, and it is crazy to think some of these teams don’t need them. They need them. There is no question that they do,” Arenado said. “They are just deciding not to, I guess.

“It’s disappointing. I think it just shows that there are teams that are not trying to win. I just believe that the guys that are out there can really rebuild a team, get it jump-started, and help it win a championship.”

Arenado, meanwhile, seems at home in Colorado, which took him in the second round of the 2009 draft and has made the playoffs the past two seasons, a franchise first. Free agent Daniel Murphy was added and David Dahl is projected to take another step up after the losses of free agents Carlos Gonzalez, Gerardo Parra and Adam Ottavino.

Arenado has led the National League in homers three times, RBIs twice and doubles once while averaging 31 homers and 103 RBIs in his six seasons. He has won six Gold Gloves.

“We feel very comfortable with each other,” Arenado said. “We know what we are going to get out of each other. We’re very comfortable communicating with each other. It just feels right. It is a very comfortable setting.”

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Dodgers to honor Don Newcombe with uniform patch

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LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Dodgers will honor pitching great Don Newcombe by adding a commemorative No. 36 patch to their uniforms this season.

Newcombe died Tuesday at 92.

The team said Thursday that Newcombe will be saluted in pregame ceremonies on April 27, when he is inducted into the Legends of Dodger Baseball. He will also have a commemorative bobblehead.

Newcombe, along with Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella, helped pave the way for blacks to play in the major leagues. He won the Cy Young and National League Most Valuable Player awards in 1956 with the Dodgers. He was 27-7 with a 3.06 ERA that season.

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