No Bullets today, as all of the interesting bits are rumor/transaction-related. So, it’s a Lukewarm Stove on this fantasy football playoff Sunday …

  • That R.A. Dickey trade still isn’t done, but it could be a seven player trade with Dickey, Josh Thole, and a lesser prospect going to the Blue Jays for top catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud, top 100ish pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard, John Buck, and a lesser prospect. Everyone is screaming that it’s a rip off for the Blue Jays given just one year of control of Dickey, but I’d note that the year of control is dirt cheap ($5 million), and he’s open to signing a very reasonable extension in the two year, $26 million range. (For those who wonder about the value of a 38-year-old knuckleballer, I present the always brilliant Rany Jazayerli on just how good and valuable Dickey is.) D’Arnaud is coming off a very serious knee injury, too. Can’t discount that, or the fact that Alex Anthopoulos rarely gets ripped in a trade. That all said: the perception of a huge win for the Mets could help the Cubs in other sell-type trades, especially, for example, if they wind up deciding to shop Matt Garza in the Spring.
  • Also, if the deal goes down: the Blue Jays are going to be very, very good in 2013. Will the other AL East teams get desperate to respond?


  • Ken Rosenthal says the Phillies are “intensifying” their pursuit of free agent outfielder Cody Ross. That could impact the Cubs in a couple ways, first, in efforts to shop Alfonso Soriano, whom they’ve discussed with the Phillies, and in their own efforts to land a right-handed-hitting outfielder like Ross.
  • … but the Phillies have a bit of a salary crunch if they want to aggressively pursue Ross. According to Matt Gelb’s calculations, the Phillies have just about $7 million left under the luxury tax limit for 2013 ($178 million), and they have previously stated a preference for staying under that threshold. Will Ross sign on a deal with an average annual value less than $7 million (for purposes of the luxury tax, contracts are considered on an average annual value basis to avoid shenanigans in back/front-loaded to avoid the tax)? It’s conceivable, but it would leave the Phillies with very little mid-season flexibility.
  • On that – the Phillies’ presumed cash crunch, and the obvious connection (oh, hey, they can get Alfonso Soriano from the Cubs for just $5 million per! it’s perfect!), got me wondering about a procedural question: for the purposes of the luxury tax, how is a player’s salary treated when he’s traded together with cash? That is to say, when calculating the official “payroll,” does the player’s full salary count, even if he was traded together with a chunk of cash that made him a lot less expensive to the receiving team? Well, I dug out my lawyer pants (gray slacks) for a moment and reviewed the language of the CBA. And, what do you know, Article XXIII, Section (C)(2)(b)(iii) directly addresses this issue. I’ll spare you the language, but the gist is this: the cash a team sends along with a player counts against that team’s “payroll,” but only the amount actually paid to the player by the receiving team counts against their payroll. So, for example, if the Cubs sent Soriano (owed $18 million each of 2013 and 2014), together with $26 million to the Phillies, the Cubs would have to include $13 million each year in their own “payroll,” while the Phillies would have to include just $5 million each year in their “payroll.”


  • Speaking of the Phillies, and I mentioned this in passing yesterday, they’ve signed John Lannan to a very affordable $2.5 million deal for 2013, which includes $2.5 million in incentives. The Cubs obviously could have been involved at that price point – there’s some potential surplus value there – but it’s possible Lannan wanted only to go to a winner, or to a team that would guarantee him starts (ironically, the competitive Phillies may have been in a better spot to do that than the Cubs). The other possibility, which feels even more likely in light of the Anibal Sanchez pursuit, is the Cubs would prefer to pick up a quality rotation option at this point, rather than another “value” type. Of course, with Sanchez off the board, there aren’t too many quality options left (about which I wrote yesterday).
  • It’s of little value to know now, but apparently Tigers owner Mike Ilitch was the driving force behind the Tigers really stepping up their offer to Anibal Sanchez. That implies that the baseball operations guys didn’t think it was the right move. I guess you can’t fight an aging owner with a ton of money and desperation to win before his time is up.
  • Josh Hamilton’s deal with the Angels, in addition to being a really healthy five years and $125 million, contains a full no-trade clause. Mercy. There are reports that the Angels played hard ball, and told Hamilton he either accepted the offer right now or it was off the table, but that’s just fluffy narrative at this point – the offer, itself, was absurdly strong. That’s what convinced him, not an artificial time constraint.


  • Interest in Rick Porcello is extremely wide, with Danny Knobler listing the Angels, Rangers, Phillies, Pirates, Twins and Royals as potentially interested. You can include the Padres, and probably the Red Sox, too. If the Cubs want Porcello, there will be competition. What is Porcello’s trade value? I’ve never thought it was sky-high, given his escalating salary and mediocre performance so far (but, don’t get me wrong: he only 24 (next week), has interestingly-improving peripherals, and has upside), but it’s always interesting to see a local take. And Tony Paul of the Detroit News talks about possible Porcello trades, and it doesn’t sound like he sees the trade value as sky high, either. For example, in a proposed swap for Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan, who is a free agent after 2013, Paul says the Tigers would have to include more than just Porcello. Hanrahan is very good, but he’s coming off a down-ish year, and has just one year of control left.

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