I really didn’t think the Lukewarm Stove would still be lit by the second week of February, but, here we are.
- With Matt Garza’s contract for 2012 settled at $9.5 million, the Chicago Cubs are theoretically able to resume discussions with teams about dealing their best pitcher. And, no surprise, the Cubs are expected to continue those discussions over the next month, and up until the mid-season trade deadline, if Garza remains.
- Jon Morosi cites one exec who thinks the Cubs are more likely to move Garza at the deadline than in Spring Training. That doesn’t mean the Cubs won’t be willing to deal Garza in Spring Training, it simply means that an acceptable trade might not come around until the deadline. Waiting until the deadline has the obvious upside of increasing both the number of possible trade partners (a team loses a top starter to injury, or a surprise team is in a race), but it also has obvious risks (Garza could get injured, Garza’s effectiveness could drop precipitously, a number of other starters could be put on the market, etc.). On the balance, I see the risks of intentionally holding onto Garza until the deadline outweighing the possible benefit. Thus, if the Cubs get a good offer for Garza in the next few weeks, I think they’ll take it. If they don’t – and they might not – then they’ll take their chances in getting to the deadline.
- Bruce Levine, on the radio this weekend, once again offered his belief that the Cubs will either extend Matt Garza, or trade him, by the trade deadline this year. He doesn’t see the Cubs being willing to go into the 2012 offseason with Garza under control for only one more year.
- Levine mentioned a few teams with whom the Cubs have discussed Garza this Winter, including the Rangers, Red Sox, and Diamondbacks. We’d heard previously about the Rangers and Red Sox, but not the Diamondbacks. I would assume that those talks diminished or ceased after the D-backs acquired Trevor Cahill from the A’s in early December.
- As I frequently remind you: players from the 2011 draft are just now starting to be able to be included in trades as players to be named later (essentially, they cannot be dealt as PTBNLs six months after they sign, and most signed in mid-August), so the pools from which teams interested in Garza could draw talent are about to get deeper. That’s also been an issue hanging at the periphery in trade talks.
- Oh, also: Levine reported that he expects Bud Selig to make a Theo Epstein compensation decision either this or next week. Given that Spring Training report dates for the Cubs and Red Sox are coming in a couple weeks, I’d say that prediction sounds about right. The compensation fight has also impacted Garza trade talks at the margins.
- Levine also talked about Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who is likely to be cleared to come to the States and then sign with a team in the next seven to ten days (which would allow him to come to Spring Training and at least *try* and make a team to start the year). Although the Miami media talks about Cespedes as though he’s certain to sign with the Marlins, Levine thinks the Cubs and White Sox are going to put up a serious fight. The final price tag could reach six years, and $50 to $60 million (I’m still betting on the high side).
- Speaking of the high price tag on Cespedes, the San Francisco Giants will apparently not be bidding, and GM Brian Sabean had an interesting explanation why: “The price tag is probably beyond what his talent is.” Oh my. That could suggest that bidding has already reached a nutty level. Now, keep in mind, the Giants have two huge bills coming due in the next two years named Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, so their flexibility might not be the same as other teams in the bidding. And, let’s be honest – the price tag/talent threshold calculus is going to be different for every team, based on its available cash and on its scouting of the player in question. A high price tag to one team might look like a bargain to another.
- The Nationals re-signed Rick Ankiel, who could platoon with Mike Cameron in center field. The Cubs were theoretically shopping Marlon Byrd to the Nats, who’ve been looking for a center fielder for some time, and it’s not clear whether the Ankiel signing will end their interest in picking anyone else up. Ankiel isn’t a particularly effective offensive player anymore, so he could easily fill a reserve role, or toil in the minors.
- Since rumors are still swirling – calendar be damned – I might as well remind you: follow Bleacher Nation on Twitter and “like” Bleacher Nation on Facebook if you want the latest info incrementally faster than checking the site regularly (which, um, you should do that, too).