There are some potential moves still out there before the season starts ….
- A Spring Training injury might throw the current free agent and trade market for a loop (yes, there is still such a market even though it’s almost mid-March): the Braves’ Kris Medlen, expected to be among their top starters, left his most recent outing with a right forearm strain. Obviously that could nothing more than a few week rehab injury, or it could be a Tommy John precursor (Medlen has already had the surgery once). The Braves will apparently evaluate him further today and could know more soon. You hate to see anyone go down like that (Medlen threw a ball, and immediately ran off the field shaking his arm), but the injury must be followed closely because there are a wide range of implications, which could potentially touch on the Cubs and Jeff Samardzija. Without Medlen, the Braves’ rotation looks might scary at the back-end, with guys like Freddy Garcia, Alex Wood and David Hale having to step up.
- If the Braves do decide to turn to the trade market, Buster Olney looks at some possibilities. Jeff Samardzija offers perhaps a perfect fit for the Braves, given the inexpensive control and, well, skillz. We know that the Braves did have interested in Samardzija during the offseason (i.e., before Medlen’s injury, even), but they reportedly balked at the Cubs’ asking price of Jason Heyward or Justin Upton. (I still find those demands to be highly interesting, given that each guy is under control for the same two years as Samardzija, and isn’t enough of a difference-maker for the Cubs in 2014. It suggests that the Cubs were heavily eyeing 2015 when they made those requests.)
- Ken Rosenthal writes about the latest on free agent Ervin Santana (including the possible relationship between where he goes and the Medlen injury), which features Santana potentially deciding between one-year deals with the Orioles and Blue Jays, or maybe even a three-year deal with the Orioles or Twins. The Blue Jays remain the most obvious destination for Santana (though the Orioles and Mariners could use him, too), but he’d probably have to take a one-year, $14 million deal to go there.
- Rosenthal also mentions, by the way, that the Braves could re-open talks with the Cubs about Samardzija. If one of those outfielders isn’t to be had (or isn’t what the Cubs are looking for anymore), then you can figure top 100 pitching prospect Lucas Sims is what the Cubs are going to demand as the headliner. Catching prospect Christian Bethancourt (also a top 100 type) would also be attractive, but the Braves are expected to lean on him very soon. Sims has serious upside, but it’s worth pointing out that he’s just 19 and has only one full year of professional ball (at Low-A).
- UPDATE: And just like that, the Braves have picked up an emergency depth option in Zach Stewart from the White Sox (for cash, according to Paul Sullivan). Does this mean anything? Well, it could be a sign that they expect to lose Medlen for some period of time, but obviously Stewart doesn’t replace him.
- The Cardinals’ signing of Cuban Aledmys Diaz is being met mostly with shrugged shoulders around baseball, though Jim Callis says he would have ranked Diaz as the Cardinals’ fourth or fifth best prospect if he’d been eligible. The deal is worth just $8 million total, according to Derrick Goold, far less than folks were projecting. Then again, those projections were likely inflated by the recent deals for Alexander Guerrero and Erisbel Arruebarruena, as well as Diaz’s lofty demands – it’s hard to project Cuban signing values in advance, because there is no stateside track record as a benchmark. All in all, probably a fine deal for the Cardinals, but not a game-changer.
- Ben Lindbergh looks at that Diaz signing, as well as something we haven’t yet discussed here: this weekend’s extension for Matt Carpenter. The Cardinals locked up their now-third-baseman for six years and $52 million, plus an $18.5 million option at the end. That appears to be market rate for a guy of Carpenter’s service time and value (the deal buys the Cardinals two free agent years). The weird thing about Carpenter, though, is his age: he’s already 28, so this deal will take him through age 33. It covers not only prime years, but probably some downside, too. For me, I’m not sure I wouldn’t have preferred to just go year-to-year with Carpenter if I were the Cardinals. That still gets you his age 28, 29, 30, and 31 seasons – why pay free agent prices today for ages 32 and 33 for a guy with such a limited track record in the big leagues as an elite player? He was fan-freaking-voodoo-tastic in 2013, and was very good in limited duty in 2012. Is that enough to want to make sure you’ve got him well into his 30s? I’m just not sure. Lindbergh, by the way, gives the deal a “ok fine.” That’s probably right.
- One of the big-time free agents for next offseason doesn’t figure to sign an extension! Hooray! Oh … it’s third baseman Chase Headley. Hamburgers.