The offseason is actually here!
- You’re going to hear a lot about Starlin Castro this offseason. That was likely to be true regardless of whether Javier Baez exploded up the ranks last year, or whether Castro crapped the offensive bed. But with those two things happening in tandem, Castro mentions project to go off the charts. According to Matt Cerone (who was a forerunner in proving that your site can have “Blog” in the title and still be considered a quality enterprise), the Cubs are making Castro available this offseason, and they’re looking for at least one top pitching prospect in the deal. And the reason putting such a deal together is going to be nearly impossible? Cerone concludes that, presently, Castro is not worth Zack Wheeler (“not even close”). And I can’t blame him, given Castro’s disastrous 2013 season. But from a Cubs evaluator’s perspective, one who knows the tinkering that went on with Castro this year, I’d say that Wheeler, alone, isn’t enough for Castro. Not even close. Castro turns 24 next year, and is under control through 2020 at a relative bargain price. Maybe he never bounces back, and that “bargain” becomes a noose. But if he returns to 2010-12 form (not even taking a step forward)? Getting a single Zack Wheeler for Castro could prove a horrible move.
- That is all to say: unless the Cubs are so down on Castro that they’re willing to take a “buying low” price on him, or unless there’s at least one team out there willing to pay for his potential, making a trade will not be possible. But, hey, never rule out the possibility that the Cubs just want to dump him, or that there are teams out there who can see past 2013.
- The Angels are desperate for pitching, but lavish spending over the past few years has them right up against the $189 million luxury tax cap (under which they’d like to stay). That means trades, and they are reportedly willing to shop guys like Mark Trumbo, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar, or Peter Bourjos. I know it’s easy to start wondering whether Trumbo could passably handle left field or whether Bourjos could finally hit well enough to justify starting his superior outfield defense, but you’ve first got to wonder whether the Cubs have the right kind of pitching to deal with the Angels. The Cubs aren’t moving Jeff Samardzija in that kind of deal, and I can’t seem them dealing Travis Wood at all. Edwin Jackson probably isn’t moveable right now, and I think the Cubs probably still want to see what they have in Jake Arrieta. That could leave someone like Carlos Villanueva, who is priced right, but who is best utilized as a swing man. I don’t really see a great fit here.
- You can expect the Dodgers to be in on Japanese righty Masahiro Tanaka, because obviously. That’s actually not just whimsical blogspeak – part of the reason the Dodgers are rumored to be in on Tanaka is because them being in on a high-priced player is self-fulfillingly obvious at this point.
- (Interesting aside on Tanaka: unlike with other big name free agents (Ellsbury, Cano, Choo), where reported Cubs interested is tending to come from non-Chicago sources, the national guys and other non-Chicago guys are not listing the Cubs as among the teams interested in Tanaka. That, despite the fact that a number of Chicago-based sources have said the Cubs will be pursuing him. I don’t yet have a working theory on that disconnect, but I need not develop one to know that this front office will want to at least make a bid on Tanaka, pending any impending posting system changes.)
- A report out of Boston has the Cubs listed as one of a handful of teams possibly interested in catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia should the Red Sox not make him a qualifying offer (and thus untethering him from free agent compensation). The Red Sox indeed might not make him that offer, which would make his price tag rise considerably on the free agent market. That’s the double-edged sword about qualifying offers that no one seems to articulate: the Cubs and other teams would be on him if he’s not tied to compensation? Sure, because they don’t lose a pick and pool money. But then he becomes much more expensive … so maybe it would have been a better deal if he were tied to compensation. That’s how markets work: eventually, they gravitate to the appropriate price as assets are better valued. In theory, the difference in Salty’s price tag if he is or isn’t tied to compensation is … you guessed it, the value of the lost pick and pool money. (In which case, if the Cubs did want Salty (or other comp-tied free agents), they better hope he does get a qualifying offer, because the value of the pick they’d lose (a second rounder) is much lower than the pick that would be lost by most other bidders.)
- It sounds like Jacoby Ellsbury has quietly dealt with a relatively serious hand issue for the better of the second half of 2013, or maybe that’s what Scott Boras wants bidders to think. For now, Ellsbury will remain on the radar around these parts, as the Cubs are continuously tied to him in national rumors, even if I strongly doubt they will make a serious play for him.
- While the Cubs might be the favorite to land Korean righty Suk-Min Yoon, it sounds like the Twins have been keeping close tabs on him for a while and are very serious about pursuing him. That article is a worthwhile read for additional information on Yoon’s repertoire and health. The 27-year-old dealt with a number of shoulder issues last year, which cost him dozens of innings, and may have drained a couple MPH off his already-not-super-fast fastball.