Pop the champagne: it’s (possibly) the last post of 2013, and it’s a Lukewarm Stove. In a year that has seen the Cubs make more trades, signings, waiver claims, flyer grabs, amateur moves, and pool acquisitions than I can count (well, I mean, I could count them, but I won’t), it’s appropriate to end on the promise of MOAR MOVEZ.
- Roch Kubatko discusses the possibility of the Orioles trading for Jeff Samardzija, a pairing that has made sense for a long time (if the Cubs were going to move Samardzija), but hasn’t popped up much in rumors. The Orioles could very much use a quality starting pitcher, and they have very little to work with in the way of payroll flexibility. But, as Kubatko notes, the Orioles aren’t likely to consider moving young pitcher Kevin Gausman (who would be among the Cubs’ first targets). Then there’s Tommy John-recoveree Dylan Bundy, who was the clear top pitching prospect in baseball before his injury, as well as AA lefty Eduardo Rodriguez, who figures to be a top 50/75 type prospect when the lists come out. There’s also Mike Wright, who looks like a future starter in the bigs. This is all to say: the Orioles have the ammo to get a deal done, but the Cubs have shown no signs of softening what has been a very high asking price. A deal without Gausman or Bundy is conceivable, but the Cubs would have to be in love with Rodriguez (and the two or three pieces behind him) for it to make sense. A Bundy/Rodriguez package would make you explode with squeals, which probably means it’s far from realistic.
- Speaking of Samardzija, there’s a very interesting report out of Toronto suggesting that other teams are now wary of trade discussions with Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos because they are never sure whether he’s actually interested in a trade, or if he’s just gathering information to be used later (and maybe that’s why Anthopoulos was cut out of the loop when the Tigers traded Doug Fister to the Nationals). Presumably, given the Blue Jays’ need for a starter, whatever talks took place between the Cubs and Blue Jays were legitimate. Still, it’s interesting.
- Nothing ever happened on Korean righty Suk-Min Yoon, who was in the States recently meeting with teams about a possible contract, and the Cubs were heavily connected. He recently returned to Korea without a deal, and Arirang reports that the free agent might now engage Korean teams about staying there. Yoon dealt with shoulder issues in 2013, and I wonder if he was unable to find a guaranteed big league deal, as opposed to some kind of minor league split deal (minor league deal that pays more than the Major League minimum if and when he makes the big league roster).
- Things are still quiet on reliever Jesse Crain, who might be a stud in 2014 or might be a lost cause. The Cubs were connected to him recently, and there are presumably many teams involved. One of them could be the Red Sox, according to Peter Abraham.
- Ken Rosenthal reports on the Yankees’ financial situation. It sounds like, after two years of moves that were dictated by trying to get under $189 million in payroll in 2014 (to stay under the luxury tax cap and reset their escalating luxury tax rate), the Yankees may be ready to give it up and just spend crazily again (especially if it means getting Masahiro Tanaka). Whatever. Fine. It didn’t feel like baseball the last two years with the Yankees sitting on their hands. The spending this offseason felt right. More villainous.
- Wondering whether Japanese pitcher Kenta Maeda will be posted this offseason? (The Cubs have been connected to him, should he become available.) Doesn’t seem likely now that Masahiro Tanaka is going to absorb a lot of the available dollars (and Maeda is a year further away from true free agency than Tanaka). Ben Badler guesses we won’t see Maeda posted until next offseason. The trick for Maeda’s team is that, although Tanaka is on the market this year, the rest of the free agent pool in the States is relatively weak. Next year, the free agent pitching pool could be much, much deeper. (And I’m once again reminded why it could have made a lot of sense for the Cubs to deal Samardzija, if they were going to deal him, for an impact outfielder like Jason Heyward or Justin Upton. The pitching can be replaced in free agency next year by spending some money. The bats, maybe not.)
- On that last point, perhaps the Cubs’ revised plan is to punt on 2014 because (1) there wasn’t the kind of impact free agent talent they wanted this year (except possibly for Tanaka); (2) the core prospects are at least a year away; (3) quality pitching can be secured in free agency next year (when the Cubs should still have a protected first round pick, by the way); (4) in-house pitching can be traded for offense not provided by the prospects in the near-term (since that pitching can be replaced with just money); and (5) more money will be available next year. If you knew all of that was the plan for next offseason, wouldn’t you feel a whole lot better about punting on 2014? I sure would. And it makes a lot of sense, too. Hey, Cubs: do that stuff.