I feel like there has been quite a bit more activity ahead of the Winter Meetings this year than in prior years. Could be the early deadline for making qualifying offers.
- The Braves and Angels completed the starter-for-reliever swap they couldn’t pull off with the Cubs, though the sides were reversed: the Angels sent reliever Jordan Walden to the Braves for starter Tommy Hanson. Because of his steadily declining velocity and shoulder concerns, Hanson’s return price in trade is not nearly what it might have been two years ago, but I still think the Braves did pretty well to pick up a very nice, cheap late-inning reliever (though Walden, too, has some minor injury concerns). Even after moving Hanson and, presumably, non-tendering Jair Jurrjens later today, the Braves might still have a glut of pitching. Good for them.
- This isn’t much more than one reporter’s speculation, but Enrique Rojas says the Cubs – together with nearly half of baseball – should be interested in Josh Hamilton, because they have the money and they have the need. If Hamilton winds up signing a three-year deal, then sure, I will say that the Cubs “should have been interested,” but I really don’t see that happening. And I don’t see Hamilton for five years being a great fit in Chicago. (The link is in Spanish, by the way, which I do not speak – but Google Translate speaks it, albeit not conversationally.)
- After picking up Denard Span from the Twins yesterday (for top 100 pitching prospect Alex Meyer), the Nationals are in the catbird seat – they can now shop Michael Morse and re-sign Adam LaRoche, or let LaRoche walk and move Morse to first base. The primary impact here for the Cubs, I’d think, is that it takes the Nationals out of the market for a center fielder, which further strengthens the buyers market in that area. I am developing a strong suspicion that we’re going to see the Cubs slow-play the outfield market, and land one of the last signees in late January or February. Since they aren’t looking to “go for it” in 2013, getting the “right” outfielder is less important than get “the best deal” on an outfielder. Further, we don’t know what’s going to happen with Alfonso Soriano in left field … there’s a lot of flux here.
- Speaking of Soriano, Tampa Bay Rays blog – and good-podcast-name-stealer – DRaysBay takes a look at the Cubs’ left fielder as a trade target for the Rays. Soriano’s been connected to the Rays at times in the past (mostly in a, “seriously, do these teams realize what a good fit they are for each other?”), and DRaysBay gives him a thorough once-over from the other side’s perspective. Their conclusion? Soriano’s worth $7 million per year and Jeff Niemann. That dollar savings is nice, but I’m not sure about the return – Niemann, who turns 30 in February, had been a below-average starter for a couple years running when he broke his leg in 2012 and missed most of the year. He’s got two more years of arbitration, during which he might actually be overpaid (he made $2.75 million in 2012), and with the Scotts (Baker and Feldman) in the fold, I’m not sure he’s the best option for sixth starter. I’d rather the Cubs just picked up a high-ceiling, low-level prospect or two.
- Tim Dierkes held a chat about the NL Central today at MLBTR, and among his thoughts … (1) The Cubs may have trouble convincing another solid free agent starter to sign now that they have “five starters” already, so they might have to settle for an older, fringier starter or make a trade; (2) Chone Figgins would be a cheap/minor league option for the Cubs at third base – a no risk look in Spring Training (to which I say: the risk is that he convinces the Cubs to carry him out of Spring Training, at which point he Chones all over their Figgins); (3) the Cubs need to be good by 2014 – folks will accept one more year of clearing the books/stock-piling prospects, but that’s it (I agree); (4) Tim seems to expect that Ian Stewart will be non-tendered, AND will have to settle for a minor league deal; (5) even if the Cubs deal Darwin Barney, and even if he is, indeed, at his peak value, the return might not be terribly exciting because there’s no bat there; (6) the Cubs could look to trade Brett Jackson, but, setting that aside, will probably seek out a cheap stop-gap in center field like an Andres Torres or a Drew Stubbs in trade (which would be ironic, given his skill set); (7) David DeJesus is a nice trade piece, but the Cubs might not want to “decimate” the outfield; (8) Marmol still falls in the “trade him for mere salary relief” category, according to Tim; (9) Josh Vitters has “very little trade value,” and Tim doesn’t see a fit between the Cubs and the Indians in a Lonnie Chisenhall deal; and (10) the Cubs can still move Matt Garza at the deadline next year – even without the chance of draft pick compensation for the receiving team – if he has a good first half.