It’s been a little while since we checked in …
- Jose Abreu, the 26-year-old Cuban defector with one of the biggest bats out there, is moving along in the process to becoming a free agent this offseason. He has established residency in Haiti, according to Jesse Sanchez, and has been unblocked by the U.S. Government (allowing him to negotiate with U.S. businesses (i.e., baseball teams)). All that remains is official free agency from MLB, which will come at some point in the next few weeks/months. He’ll do a showcase later this month, though most teams have already seen him many times before. When Abreu is officially on the market, his impact will be very interesting to follow. Although we’ve discussed the merits of the Cubs pursuing him (potentially incredible bat from a player in his prime; but he’s thought to be first base only, which is presently locked up on the Cubs by Anthony Rizzo), I still think the impact here to the Cubs will be of the trickle-down variety. Team X goes full bore on Abreu, and thus doesn’t pursue Player Y, which (possibly after further trickles), in turn, impacts the Cubs.
- An international player whom the Cubs actually could pursue, on the other hand, is Japanese righty Masahiro Tanaka. He’s 22-0 with a 1.23 ERA on the season (though his peripherals aren’t quite as impressive, they’re still quite good), which could spur his team to decide that this offseason is the perfect time to post him (Tanaka is still under contract, but his team can sell his rights to an MLB team through the posting process, which you might remember from the Yu Darvish bidding a couple years ago, or the Hyun-Jin Ryu bidding last year). If he’s posted, Bruce Levine says you can expect the Cubs to aggressively pursue him. In a recent chat, Levine said, “From all indications from my baseball contacts, Tanaka is the Cubs’ No. 1 offseason priority.” That’s a bold declaration of interest for a guy whom many other sources have suggested the 2014 Chicago Cubs cannot afford. I would have always expected the Cubs to be involved in Tanaka’s posting process, but I am uncertain as to their level of commitment when it comes to making the kind of investment necessary to land him. Tanaka is not thought to be the same caliber of talent as Yu Darvish, but you can still expect the total investment – between posting and contract – to be well over $50 million.
- One more international note: Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero, who was on the verge of a deal with the Dodgers worth about $32 million over five or six years, has switched agents to Scott Boras, and is now apparently re-opening his bidding, per Jesse Sanchez. Guerrero, expected to be a third baseman or second baseman with a good bat, is apparently looking for a better deal, and his free agency is back to being wide open. See? Deals fall through with other teams, too. That said, this could just be an effort to squeeze a few more dollars out of the Dodgers, who could otherwise look to plug infield holes with the likes of Robinson Cano.
- Bob Nightengale at USA Today is reporting that, at the Trade Deadline, the Rangers sought to deal Matt Garza, Joe Nathan, and David Murphy to the Braves for Justin Upton. Given the Rangers’ long-time interest in Upton and need for a bat, I can understand that exploration. Given the perversely lopsided nature of that proposed swap, I can also see why no deal was consummated. I’ve got to believe there were prospects involved, as well, if there were serious discussions (and there’s no need to dig too deeply on the identities, given that nothing happened). In any event, the report makes you wonder how much the Rangers wanted Garza in the first place – as opposed to just picking up something to help them win – and suggests they won’t be in the market to re-sign him after the season. Garza, given the weak market and the lack of being attached to draft pick compensation, figures to make out handsomely in free agency, even if his stint with the Rangers has been slightly disappointing.