If Tuesday was Trade Day around MLB, yesterday was Signing Day. Among the deals we’ve already discussed – Robinson Cano to the Mariners, Carlos Beltran to the Yankees, Hiroki Kuroda back to the Yankees, and Curtis Granderson to the Mets – there were also several more deals, which don’t have as much of an impact on/connection to the Cubs, but which definitely merit a mention:
- Nate McLouth was briefly mentioned as a possible outfield addition for the Cubs, but he’s headed to the Nationals on a two-year, $10.75 million deal with a club option for 2016. On the Nationals, McLouth will be a very good version of what he’s supposed to be at this point: a fourth outfielder. On the Cubs, he would have started, and I’m a bit leery of his .236/.323/.368 over the last four years. He also hasn’t played center field regularly in three years, which is just about the only place his expected production would play as a starter. On the balance, I’d rather the Cubs just gave their young options a shot. (Which is not to say I wouldn’t have always preferred a solid, regular bat were added in left field. Or maybe even a shot at someone like Corey Hart or Michael Morse.)
- The Astros signed former Cub Scott Feldman to a three-year, $30 million deal. It’s a fairly reasonable deal for Feldman, who was a decent middle-of-the-rotation starter last year. What makes the deal interesting is that, because it’s not necessarily just a sign-and-flip deal, and because the Astros just added Dexter Fowler, it appears that the Astros are actually trying to add some wins in 2014. Their painful TV situation might have something to do with it, as well as a nudge from MLB to try to win a few more games this year. With a payroll that was in the $30 million range last year, it was time to do something. Ripping it down to the studs is complete.
- Mike Napoli is returning to the Red Sox for two years and $16 million. The Red Sox needed the bat back having already lost Jacoby Ellsbury and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, so it’s not surprising that they made it happen. The Rangers were believed to be in on Napoli, and the Mariners probably were, too. Each is still in the market for a big bat, which doesn’t really impact the Cubs, save for the tiny chance that either views Nate Schierholtz as a “big bat.”
- The Yankees didn’t just sign huge contracts this week – they also added infielder Kelly Johnson on a one-year, $3 million deal (prior to, but probably with reasonable knowledge of, the Cano signing). Johnson provides the Yankees cover if Alex Rodriguez is suspended, and/or if they can’t find a solid replacement for Cano at second. Not that Johnson makes the difference, but it’s becoming pretty clear that, if Rodriguez’s suspension is upheld, the Yankees can go all out on Masahiro Tanaka. Otherwise, they probably can’t.
With all of the signings yesterday, and earlier in the week, I’m reminded – well, I guess I have to remind myself – of something I wrote at the outset of the offseason back in October:
You know what might be the savviest long-term move for the Cubs this offseason? Grab a couple mid/lower-tier free agents early in the offseason (the guys the Cubs really want as complementary pieces), jumping them with an aggressive, short-term offer (think $1.5 million for Dioner Navarro last year or $6 million for Scott Feldman). From there, you wait. Do nothing. Sit out the market (which is relatively thin anyway), and let the enormous chips fall where they may. Come late January, the big spenders will be spent out, and the few remaining upper tier free agents – there are always at least a couple – will be left with fewer and fewer options (especially guys who are tied to draft pick compensation). Then, perhaps, the Cubs can pounce and find actual value in a market that will have very little of it for the foreseeable future.
The time line is obviously much more accelerated (at this pace, even the last signers will be all wrapped up by early January), but that all still pretty much holds true. The Cubs got a couple complementary pieces early (George Kottaras, Wesley Wright), but they now await an opportunity to snag some value later in the offseason. They also will have the opportunity to use unspent dollars on Masahiro Tanaka, if he’s posted. With a roster that would have required unreasonable sums in free agent to bring to a competitive level (and a division that looks to be a beast in 2014), wisely guarding the chips still seems like the right move. And just because little has been spent so far doesn’t mean that a savvy more or two isn’t coming later in the winter.