Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

old stove featureThe offseason is officially here – everything you need to know about offseason timing, by the way – so what better time for a Lukewarm Stove?

  • Buster Olney wonders if free agency will finally be a buyer’s market this year, given the huge amount of quality players available. It’s something we’ve discussed for more than a year (especially as players got better and better paid in free agency, and fewer players were willing to sign extensions as they approached free agency – see? the pendulum always swings back and forth). Olney takes it a step further, though, looking at each team in baseball, and how they could or could not be positioned to spend big on pricey free agents. In his view, there aren’t too many teams that project to add aggressively, which could compound the buyer’s market. Every year, though – and Olney acknowledges this – we seem to be surprised by certain teams that find ways to spend.
  • That said, it sure does seem like a good year to target the guys you want aggressively early, and, if you can’t get them on a deal with which you feel comfortable, step back and let the market sort itself out. It’s a risk to wait, but the conditions do seem to favor patience if you can’t strike early on attractive deals (“It’s a crowded market, and there are trades to be had, so you can sign this deal with us now here in November, or we’ll have to move on. Kthxbye.”)

  • The Peter Gammons interview on The Score that we discussed earlier with respect to his comments about the Cubs and Alex Gordon also included Gammons’ thoughts that the Cubs probably won’t go after a top arm in free agency, instead opting for a middle-of-the-rotation type and then possibly dangling Starlin Castro and/or Jorge Soler to see what they could get (although he didn’t say it, the presumption there is that Gammons was referencing the Cubs picking up impact pitching that way).
  • Jon Heyman joined Joel Sherman and Gammons before him in mentioning the Cubs and Gordon in the same sentence. I’ll reiterate: that doesn’t mean the Cubs are definitely all about Gordon, and it also doesn’t mean there isn’t an echo-chamber effect going on. But it does suggest that someone out there is indicating the Cubs’ interest in Gordon (which could be legit, could be a smokescreen, or could simply be someone in Gordon’s camp trying to show the Royals that an attractive, possibly-well-positioned bidder is out there salivating.)
  • Speaking of Gordon, Joel Sherman believes the to-be-32-year-old left fielder will get more than four years and $60 million in free agency, and possibly even five years. The same could be true for Ben Zobrist, who will turn 35 in May, but whose bat has been at least as strong as Gordon’s, and who is more defensively versatile (and who cannot be tied to draft pick compensation). I can see the appeal in either player for the Cubs, even if they might seem something of a luxury compared to the Cubs’ pitching needs. Remember: you can’t just assume the offense will remain strong without supplementation and protection against injury/ineffectiveness. If you can improve the team without sacrificing too much of the future, without wasting resources that could have better been applied elsewhere, and without blocking an obviously-ready young contributor, then you do it.

  • MLBTR’s offseason outlook for the Cubs.
  • Also, and not directly related, MLBTR took a look at Mike Leake’s free agency and I couldn’t help but think that, at five years and $80 million (no draft pick compensation, 28 years old), there’s at least a conversation to be had there. I could see that turning into a valuable deal.
  • T.R. Sullivan says the Rangers are planning to make Yovani Gallardo a qualifying offer, which he might want to consider accepting (one year, $15.8 million). Given his declining peripherals and velocity, it’s possible the qualifying offer could be the tipping point for teams that were looking for a reason to be scared off by the prospect of a pricey, multi-year deal. Gallardo came up in some trade rumors this year involving the Cubs, which proved silly in a variety of ways, particularly because the Rangers wound up making the playoffs. Gallardo is a guy in whom you might have some interest as a back-end guy on a short-term deal if he wound up having to sign late, but if he costs a first round draft pick? It just seems like there are too many other quality options out there.
  • Jon Heyman hears skepticism around the league that the Padres will make Ian Kennedy a qualifying offer, fearing that he might take it. If he does not get a qualifying offer, you can expect me to bang the drum loudly for the Cubs to pursue him, just as I did at the Trade Deadline despite his “down” first half (after the Deadline: 4.02 ERA in 65.0 innings … with a 3.33 FIP and 3.23 xFIP – don’t forget that Padres’ outfield defense this year). Kennedy will pitch next season at age 31, and there seems to be all kinds of flukiness in his 2015 season, primarily a skyrocketed home run rate. Obviously that’ll have to be explored for root causes (and if he reaches free agency, I’ll explore them), but I could really see him being a guy who gets 5th starter money on his next deal, but pitches like a number 3 for the next few years.

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