Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

old stove featureThere was another trade today, and, although it wasn’t quite as significant as last week’s Mariners-Rays deal, it was interesting. The Yankees sent young catcher John Ryan Murphy to the Twins for outfielder Aaron Hicks. The move would seem to give the Yankees the flexibility to shop outfielder Brett Gardner, who would seem to be a very interesting potential target for the Cubs, and a handful of other teams that are looking for a center fielder/leadoff type. Indeed, speculation immediately swirled about Gardner, 32, who is owed $37.5 million over the next three years. Although he does a nice job getting on base at a .340+ clip, there are some considerations with Gardner: he dealt with a wrist injury in 2015, which always makes you a little nervous; his defensive ratings in the outfield, both in center and left, have trailed off mightily in the last two years, leaving him possibly no better than average out there.

That is all to say, before you get too excited about the name, even if he’s available, Gardner isn’t quite the guy he was a few years ago. Further, the Yankees don’t have to trade anyone right now, as they could use a rotation among their primary outfielders.

Among the other rumor bits of note …

  • Jon Heyman says the Dodgers are making Zack Greinke their top priority this offseason, with David Price the fallback option. Given their financial reserves and the relationship there, it’s hard to imagine the Dodgers not getting Greinke if they truly want him back. (It’ll just cost them a lot more than the three years and $71 million that were remaining on Greinke’s contract when he opted out.) There’s a bunch else in Heyman’s article worth checking out, including a reminder that the Giants will be in on many of the top starting pitchers, too. I’d add that the Giants could have a ton of money to spend this offseason.

  • In the same piece, among other notes, Heyman says the Indians are indeed talking to teams about pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. As has come up before, the team mentioned is the Diamondbacks, who have a need for cost-controlled starting pitching and have an abundance of interesting (especially outfield) young positional talent they could dangle. If the Cubs do wind up aggressively targeting an Indians starter, the D-Backs could prove worthy competition.
  • Then again … the Reds and Diamondbacks are reportedly discussing a swap of Brandon Phillips and Aaron Hill, according to Ken Rosenthal, which would make all the sense in the world for the Diamondbacks of the last few years.
  • Rosenthal wonders if the Cubs could look for a younger, cost-controlled option in center field – Jackie Bradley, Jr., Leonys Martin – if those players are viewed as redundant and are traded this offseason. Certainly, their gloves would be welcome in center if the Cubs wind up sticking with Kyle Schwarber in left and Jorge Soler in right, but the free agent options still seem more attractive, overall.

  • And, speaking of those Reds, Rosenthal and Robert Murray hear that they’re finally ready to really sell off and rebuild (I’d add that they way they did it – selling only the rentals at the deadline, and then the controlled pieces in the offseason – was probably pretty smart, so as not to flood the market). Although Joey Votto seems highly unlikely to be moved for a variety of reasons, and Todd Frazier would probably be very expensive (even after his second half swoon), the other short-term, pricey pieces are all on the block.
  • Another outfield option for the Cubs? I don’t think so, but let’s mention it:

  • I am speaking of Maybin, specifically, who had a resurgent 2015 season with the Braves, though it’s all relative: .267/.327/.370, 94 wRC+, below average defense in center (by the metrics, but, for his career, he’s been quite good out there, and we know that one-year defensive statistics are especially fuzzy). He’s set to make $8 million in 2016, with a $9 million team option for 2017 ($1 million buyout). The short-term aspect is nice, but I’m not sure Maybin is the right guy for the Cubs, unless he comes as part of a deal for pitching (and “taking” Maybin is something of a sweetener for the Braves).
  • I’ll have more on Ben Zobrist, specifically, soon, but this is worth pointing out – Jesse Rogers believes the Cubs are among six or seven “realistic” destinations for the super utility man.

  • In a separate piece, Jon Heyman writes about the closer trade market, which surprisingly includes Pirates closer Mark Melancon, who was among the best relievers in baseball last year. It makes sense, given the Pirates’ budgetary limitations and Melancon’s expected cost in 2016 (MLBTR projects $10 million) before hitting free agency after next season. A significant number of other closers – Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel are among the most notable names – are available, too. Darren O’Day could be a future closer, and at least six teams are reportedly interested in the 33-year-old righty, including the Cubs.
  • Speaking of O’Day, things could go quickly:

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