stoveTons of bits to discuss in the first Lukewarm Stove in a little while …

  • If the Cubs hope to go big after Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka – the 24-year-old righty who could be posted this offseason, and who makes a lot of sense for the Cubs – they’re going to have serious competition. George King says the Yankees will be big players for Tanaka, and executives expect the posting fee on Tanaka to reach $60 million, with a contract to match. One talent evaluator told King that the other teams involved will include the Red Sox, Rangers, and Dodgers (duh). Although Yu Darvish is believed by most to be the superior talent to Tanaka, his posting fee was just $51.7 million. The economics of the game keep changing, though, and it’s not inconceivable to see the price on Tanaka surpass Darvish, even among teams that view the latter as better than the former.
  • USA Today mentions the Cubs as a possibility for Jacoby Ellsbury, but, as I’ve written before, I’m not sure I see him as the best use of the Cubs’ resources this offseason. To that point, Ken Rosenthal recently speculated that a team like the Mariners could go hard after Ellsbury to the tune of six or seven years and more than $20 million per year. I think spending solidly in the outfield over the next two or three years makes a lot of sense for the Cubs. Locking into a commitment of that length, though? For a “speed” guy in his 30s? I just don’t think I’m on board.

  • Another mention of a possibility for the Cubs, Nick Cafardo connects free agent pitcher Bronson Arroyo to the Cubs (along with a huge number of other teams). Arroyo, who doesn’t expect to receive a qualifying offer from the Reds, falls right into the Cubs’ wheelhouse of the last couple years. Although he’ll be 37 next year, Arroyo isn’t expected to receive a particularly long contract, and could present flip value should 2014 mirror the previous two seasons. Arroyo never misses a start, but he’s a clear back-end starter at this point in his career, averaging a sub-2.0 WAR the past five years with the Reds. His ERA always betters his FIP, and he’s heavily dependent on the defense behind him (which is to say he doesn’t get many strikeouts). Cheap, back-end, innings eater? On the right deal, why not?
  • The Tigers may shop stud Max Scherzer this offseason, per Danny Knobler, largely because they have the depth to absorb it and he’ll be just a year away from free agency (an experience agent Scott Boras is likely to want to see Scherzer reach). It would take a ton to land him, and it’s a strict one-year rental unless you can get him to ink a very expensive extension. Given the Cubs’ projected level of competitiveness in 2014 – “meh” – I can’t see them pursuing Scherzer.
  • Speaking of tradable pitchers, David Price – who is connected to the Cubs with questionable frequency – is preparing himself to be traded this Winter, per MLBTR. It’ll be a story to watch, if nothing else. I’d think the Cubs would kick some tires, given that Price is under control for two more years, and could be a pre-free-agency extension candidate to whichever team acquires him.

  • Looks like Patrick Mooney has also heard whispers of the Cubs looking to upgrade with a left-handed bat at catcher this offseason. We heard that a little earlier this month from Tim Dierkes, and it seems no less strange now (absent a trade). Brian McCann and Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be getting huge paydays this offseason, and I’d think the Cubs could allocate their limited resources a little better than “upgrading” from a top defensive catcher with a decent bat like Welington Castillo (getting a solid back-up catcher? Absolutely. Spending big on a new starter? Uh … ). But, hey, who knows? Perhaps the Cubs get Salty on a reasonable deal and work out a 50/50 platoon behind the plate with Castillo (the Cubs sure could use the depth). Or perhaps they work out that reasonable deal, and then make a trade involving Castillo. Hard to know what the plans are when the rumors don’t fit into a preconceived box. That said, the front office is crafty.
  • Andrew Marchand lists the Cubs 5th among possible non-Yankee destinations for Robinson Cano. You can dream on it all you want, but I just don’t see it. The money for a Cano isn’t going to be there right now, and, even if it were, I’m not sure his contract demands/length would make sense given the Cubs’ time line (and abundance of near-ready infield talent).
  • Jose Abreu – the slugging first baseman from Cuba – is now officially a free agent, and can sign with any team. Once again, the Cubs are not expected to be involved, but Abreu is a huge name on the market.
  • Speaking of first basemen on the market to whom there is no direct Cubs connection, Kendrys Morales expects to receive a qualifying offer from the Mariners, which he will then reject, according to Jon Heyman. A qualifying offer (worth almost $14 million) would really drag down the market for Morales, given that he’s a 1B/DH-only who hit just .277/.336/.449 this year (with similar numbers last year). To be clear, those aren’t bad numbers – it’s a 123 OPS+, believe it or not – but it’s hard to see him receiving a contract FAR beyond a one-year, $14 million deal when you factor in the loss of a draft pick/pool money. If he really does reject a qualifying offer, I could see his free agency lasting deep into the offseason, and culminating in one of those two or three-year, $10/$11 million AAV deals that you wonder if it’s all that much better than one-year, $14 million.

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