Is a Mike Leake deal going to get done soon? (UPDATE: Yes, it is.) At this point, I’m kinda begging for something to happen before the holiday so that I don’t look like a total idiot for repeatedly reminding folks that, most years, things do happen just before the holiday. I guess this offseason has been an odd one in other regards, so maybe this will be an oddity, too.
Meanwhile, some bits from the rumor mill …
- Speaking of the Cardinals and Leake, here’s a report out of St. Louis that suggests that he and Scott Kazmir could be the guys they’re now targeting. Also, Ken Rosenthal says the Cardinals are “close” on Leake. UPDATE: It’s happening.
- And speaking of the slow market, Ken Rosenthal writes about some of the reasons why we may be seeing the free agent market taking shape much later than usual this year. Outside of the tip-top pitchers and the Cubs’ moves, free agency has basically been stagnant, and here we are barely a week away from 2016. It’s not usually like this, and the bountiful free agent class, coupled with a robust trade market, is making things tricky in free agency. It’s probably going to be a great year to be one of those teams that can afford to sit back and pluck a desperate free agent looking for a one-year deal in February. I’m not sure the Cubs will have the spot or the money to do that, but you never know when it comes to opportunistic short commitments.
- Jose Fernandez – no, not that Jose Fernandez – will work out for teams in the Dominican Republic on February 3, according to Jesse Sanchez. The Cuban second baseman was finally able to successfully defect after more than a year of trying, and, now 27, he’ll try to make a run at the big leagues. Fernandez has an elite contact bat, a good sense of the zone, and the potential to be a top-of-the-order hitter in the States. His story is going to be very interesting to follow, because some team will probably fail to do what they want to do this offseason, and then will look to getting Fernandez in house in the early part of next season with the hopes that he can be an immediate impact guy in the second half. Although Fernandez seems like the type of player the Cubs would go after, I don’t really see the fit, as most think he’s pretty clearly a second baseman (and probably more than a bench player). So I don’t expect the Cubs to be directly involved at this time – of course, even if they aren’t, this is still going to be a big story to follow. Fernandez is not subject to international bonus pools, and has not yet officially been declared a free agent.
- Terry Pluto writes that, after signing Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis, the Indians are not currently considering any major moves. Although I can understand their reluctance to part with an arm, given that it’s the arms that will carry them to competitiveness in 2016, it seems like the Indians are missing a big opportunity to slide up in a winnable AL Central. It’s easy to forget, given the Royals’ success, the Tigers’ name, the upstart Twins, and the White Sox’s maneuverings, but the Indians were actually an above-average team last year (81-80), and finished just 4.5 games back of the second Wild Card. If they’re to be without Michael Brantley for any stretch of time to start the year, they’ll need all the bats they can get.
- The Mets are still looking for a center fielder to pair with Juan Lagares, and Jerry Crasnick reports that Denard Span is their preference if they can get him on the right deal. It’s been a very quiet offseason for the Mets, who lost out on Ben Zobrist to the Cubs, saw Daniel Murphy decline his qualifying offer, and had Michael Cuddyer unexpectedly retire (opening up an additional $12.5 million in payroll space for 2016, at least in theory).
- Speaking of teams that’ve had a quiet offseason: Another minor deal for the Pirates, who’ve picked up pitcher Kyle Lobstein from the Tigers for cash. The 26-year-old lefty can eat some innings and gets a ton of groundballs, but that’s about the ceiling.
- The trend of teams signing career minor leaguers to big league deals continues, with the Padres giving Buddy Baumann more than $500,000 on a Major League contract (Jon Heyman). I remember reading last year that the Padres and Yankees, in particular, had started a new wave of paying much more than expected for minor league signings, and it looks like the next wave after that is signing minor league players to big league contracts. That way, the player gets more money, and, because he’ll have options left, the team can still use him as a minor league back-and-forth type player, assuming they can afford the 40-man roster spot. And, even if not, he’s on a big league contract that pays him $500K, how likely is he to be claimed on waivers if he’s outrighted? Probably not very, in which case, all you’re out is the money. This – together with paying more for minor league signings – is probably going to continue, and I suspect it (Andury Acevedo) and the paying-more-for-minor-leaguers thing is something the Cubs have already been employing this offseason.