The rumor mill churns a bit more slowly after the Winter Meetings, but it still churns. On with the latest news and rumors from around the league…
- Today is the deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players. A presumed target of the Chicago Cubs who could theoretically fall into this category is Los Angeles Angels first baseman Kendrys Morales. Morales, because of a bad leg break that robbed him of last season and a half, was already a non-tender candidate last week, when the Angels picked up a certain, notable first baseman on the free agent market. The move gave the Angels three first baseman on the roster – Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo, and Morales. Given the logjam (which includes an extra outfielder who would presumably have DH’d), it was a relatively safe assumption that Morales had just gone from “possible” non-tender to “definite” non-tender. Not so, says GM Jerry DiPoto. Well, his exact words on Saturday were that the Angels “absolutely expect” to tender Morales a contract today, which is technically different from “we absolutely will tender Morales a contract.” My guess? The Angels have been getting a few hits on Morales over the past few days (including from the Cubs, who I have been told are very interested), but no team is willing to step up and make a substantial trade offer, believing there is a fair chance Morales will not get a contract. So, DiPoto stepped up and called their bluff. Make me an offer, he’s telling the interested teams. Will one step up today? Will the Angels make good on their threat to tender a contract?
- Despite the year and a half absence from baseball, and the questionable health, you can understand why teams are interested in taking a chance on the former Cuban defector, Morales. He is a good defender, a switch hitter, and put up OPS around .900 in the 200 or so games before his injury. He’s still just 28, and is under team control for three years. Even if the Angels are willing to dump him and his expected $3 million-ish salary, other teams – like the Cubs – would be thrilled to take it on. As things stand, the Angels say they’ll move Trumbo to 3B, have Pujols play 1B, and leave the DH spot for Morales. We’ll see.
- Speaking of excellent Cuban players, there is still no word on Yoenis Cespedes’ free agency (he set up residency in the Dominican Republic, and free agency was expected to be granted within a couple weeks – that timeline has long passed). That is not to say there’s any reason for concern, but it’s dragging on. The Cubs are expected to be among Cespedes’ many, many suitors.
- There’s a rumor floating around that the Rangers are hoping to sign Prince Fielder so they can flip Mitch Moreland to the Rays for pitcher Wade Davis. If the Rangers do pick up Fielder – and they are expected to bid – I’d take a wild guess that they’ll first intensify their discussions with the Cubs about Matt Garza.
- Speaking of Garza to the Rangers, the smart money says the Rangers probably aren’t going to accede to whatever high demands the Cubs may or may not have, if the two teams are discussing a trade at all (they are), until after the winner of the Yu Darvish post is revealed. Bidding ends Wednesday at 5pm ET, but Darvish’s team in Japan will have four business days to decide whether to accept the bid (they will, but they might wait), so we might not know who won the post until the middle of next week. Relatedly: the Cubs are expected to bid.
- A side note on the Darvish blind bidding process – when Daisuke Matsuzaka was posted in 2006, the Red Sox won with a $51 million posting bid. Second place? Just $39 million by the Mets. The blind bidding process can really make you spend a ton more than you ultimately had to.
- Another young starting pitcher might be on the market, as the Angels may be making Ervin Santana available after picking up CJ Wilson. Santana’s value is debatable. He’s 29 (today – happy birthday, chum!), and is owed $11.2 million in 2012 with a $13 million team option in 2013 ($1 million buyout). He’s got a career 101 ERA+ (102 and 112 the last two years), so it’s not as if he’s a stud. Could the Angels really demand a huge return for a expensive, slightly-above average pitcher, who might be a free agent after the year? Probably not. The question for the Cubs: would they consider trying to pick up someone like Santana on the relative cheap, or instead, do they view Santana’s presence on the market as one more obstacle in their efforts to get top dollar for Matt Garza?
- The Tigers are talking to the Padres about Chase Headley, but there is currently “no momentum.”
- If the Dodgers non-tender James Loney today, is anyone interested in him as a fall-back first base option for the Cubs? He was just arrested on suspicion of DUI, but, setting that aside, he’s 27 and has a career 108 OPS+ (110 in 2011). He’s average defensively, and provides almost no pop. Still, he’s a decent-ish hitter, and would come cheap (again, this is if he’s non-tendered). I say eh. Maybe a back-up-back-up plan.