Bruce Levine did the chatting thing yesterday, and offered quite a few relevant/interesting offseason thoughts. His thoughts, and my comments …
- The Marlins actually reached out to the Cubs on a possible Josh Johnson trade. Recall, Bruce had previously suggested that the Marlins probably would do so, and we discussed the implications at length. Bruce hasn’t yet heard what the Cubs’ response to the Marlins was, or where things stand now. Still seems like other teams are going to want Johnson more than the Cubs.
- The Cubs have had conversations already with the Angels, though Bruce can’t confirm that those talks have had anything to do with Ervin Santana and Dan Haren. With Santana off to the Royals now, that piece doesn’t much matter anymore.
- Relatedly, Bruce notes that the Angels have some level of interest in Carlos Marmol. Given the short window of time with which the sides have to work on a deal involving Haren (option decision due Friday night), it’s hard to imagine a big deal involving multiple parts coming together this week … but, then again, all sides had the playoffs off, so who knows how much had already been discussed by the time the Giants won the World Series and ushered in the offseason.
- Marco Scutaro doesn’t fit in the Cubs’ plans, but Placido Polanco might, if he comes cheaply enough. Bruce sees Polanco as potential trade bait if he’s healthy and productive in the first half – he also brings the nice side benefits of being a good leader, good defender, and a versatile player.
- Darwin Barney’s trade value will probably never be higher, coming off a Gold Glove season, and while he’s still in his pre-arbitration years. The Cubs might consider dangling him for prospects, though his “intangible” qualities could be difficult to replace (even if his bat is very easily replaced). Bruce mentions the Tigers, specifically, and you can bet the Cubs have spoken to them many times in the last year about Barney. I imagine Barney’s value in trade varies wildly from team to team. Offensively-focused large market teams probably wouldn’t even part with a top 30 prospect for him. Pitching and defense-focused smaller market teams might be willing to swap even a young, about-to-enter-arbitration starting pitcher for him. Truly, it’s probably that wide of a range. It also depends, I’m sure, on how you think his bat will come along next year.
- Bruce hopes the Cubs deal Bryan LaHair to a team where he’ll have more opportunities to play. I agree, but I supposed I’d phrase more like, “I hope the Cubs are able to find a landing spot for LaHair where he’ll have more opportunities to play.” And then I’d add a parenthetical that said, (Because that also means the Cubs would have gotten a little value for him, given that Team X sees him as a guy worth giving more opportunities to).
- Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton would be wastes of money to the Cubs in the first 2/3 years of their deals, says Bruce. They aren’t a fit. (Not for nothing, because I don’t support the approach, but if the Cubs added *both* Greinke and Hamilton, and went all out on other acquisitions, they wouldn’t be “wasting” money, because that could be a competitive team. It would also not put them in a position to be repeatedly competitive down the road (I mean long-term), though, which is antithetical to what we know Epstein and Co. want to do.)
- Bruce guesses the Cubs’ Opening Day payroll will be in the $90 million to $100 million range. I bet he’s right on that one. No, it isn’t an adequate level for a team with the revenue base of the Cubs (which is only going to get bigger) in a market like Chicago, but the level will grow as the young core of the team is developed and shows a readiness to contribute to a competitive team. That’s when the big money free agents are added (and also when those young players start to get a little more expensive). There’s no point in spending $120/$130 million just for the hell of it. That all said, don’t lose sight of the fact that the Cubs – even when considering arbitration raises – have only about $60 million on the books for 2013. They can spend a lot of money this offseason if they want.