While I remain fairly convicted that the Chicago Cubs won’t make another big addition this offseason, I do still think they’re going to look to move Welington Castillo (something we discussed recently), as well as a depth arm.
Those agenda items are, of course, affected greatly by the rest of the market, so there’s still a lot to track in advance of Spring Training. Also, the reality is, when we reach this stage of the offseason, you have to stretch your mind a little if you want to get excited about the rumor/transactional side of the game, because (1) big moves on any team are unlikely, and (2) the sexiest stuff is mostly in the past.
But, like most of you, I’m a rumor junky, so I still like to discuss what’s out there to discuss …
- And that does still include one of the best pitchers available this offseason, James Shields. Given how hot his market seemed to be back at the very start of the offseason, I really didn’t think he’d be unsigned with just a few days left before February. Sure, it was generally expected that he probably wouldn’t ink a deal until after, at least, Jon Lester signed. But that was more than a month and a half ago. And, heck, Max Scherzer signed a week ago. Moreover, it’s become as difficult to predict his final signing price as it is to predict when it will happen. What once looked like a pretty certain five-year, $100 millionish deal is no longer certain. To the frustration of Shields and many teams whose budgets are already full, the righty might now have to settle for a four-year deal worth far less. That’s just speculation on my part, and I’ve been surprised before. But it seems like we’re headed for an eventual deal that leaves a lot of observers thinking, “Damn, that’s a pretty good deal for Team X.”
- Hence, the Royals’ current read on the Shields situation is probably a lot like most other teams:
From the due diligence department: Dayton Moore says KC is still monitoring James Shields’ free agency, but “I’m not sure there’s a fit.”
— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughStar) January 26, 2015
- If the price falls far enough that the Royals could realistically get involved, so, too, could several other teams. If you want my opinion, I don’t think the Cubs would get involved unless the price was so low that they’d be insane not to stretch and make it happen … but I can’t see the price getting that low (we’re talking three-year deal territory). Jon Heyman offers 9 guesses on where Shields could wind up, and the Cardinals show up first.
- The Reds have extended catcher Devin Mesoraco after his breakout year, guaranteeing him $28 million over the next four years (three arb years and one free agent year), with escalators that could take it up to $30 million, but no options (Tim Dierkes). Mesoraco, 26, was kind of awful until his enormous 2014 season, which featured good defense, not atrocious framing, and a gaudy .273/.359/.534 line (147 wRC+). Most projections see considerable regression ahead (mostly tied to that .261 ISO, which was basically double(!) his career ISO before last year), but this is still probably a good idea for the Reds. They get cost certainty plus a cheap free agent year, and Mesoraco gets his first big score. He was due to make about $3 million this year, so if his arb years were going to go something like $3M/$5M/$9M, the free agent year costs the Reds just $11 to $13 million.
- Yoan Moncada status: still not unblocked by OFAC. You may resume whatever it is you were doing.
- Looking ahead: Nick Cafardo says that, while David Price is going to say the right things about being open to an extension in Detroit, he’s very likely to hit free agency after this season. Tentatively, it sure looks likely that the majority of the big names will be reaching free agency after this season, unlike last year. We knew eventually the pendulum of signing extensions would shift, and with the deals Max Scherzer and Jon Lester just got, we could be in the middle of a big shift. It’s plausible that all of Price, Zimmermann, Samardzija, Cueto, Greinke (opt-out), Porcello, Latos, and Fister all reach free agency. (Plus you might have Kenta Maeda and Chihiro Kaneko from Japan, you might have a rebound from Justin Masterson, etc.)
- (Oh, and just to put it on your radar: the outfield class looks potentially great, too, with guys like Alex Gordon, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Denard Span, the Cubs’ own Dexter Fowler, and Yoenis Cespedes, among others.)
- Those trade talks between the Brewers and Phillies on closer Jonathan Papelbon seem not to be doing too well anymore, per Ken Rosenthal, who notes that the $13 million vesting option for 2016 is the real problem (i.e., the Phillies don’t want to include cash for it, because if they keep him, maybe it won’t vest anyway). The Brewers may just try and re-up with Francisco Rodriguez (Buster Olney).
- Remember big-time Cuban second baseman Jose Fernandez, who was coming to the States this offseason and would likely score big from a team with an infield/top-of-the-order need? Well, he disappeared for a while, and now Kiley McDaniel suggests that not only is he still in Cuba, but is also being guarded by police there. If it’s tied to his attempt to defect, clearly that did not go well. Improved U.S.-Cuban relations cannot come quickly enough, it seems.
- Tommy John recoveree (twice over) Brandon Beachy has reportedly decided on his next team, though the contract details are being worked out. We’ve had no hints that the Cubs were looking for a reclamation project like Beachy, but, hey, you never know.