The calendar flip looms, and so many quality free agents remain unsigned. January is usually a time for one or two big free agent signings, a handful of trades and trade rumors, and a bunch of arbitration/extension discussions. This year? It looks like it’s still going to be about the free agent market, which could extend some of those trade talks.
- Oof for Mets fans who were hoping that the team would still try to bring back Yoenis Cespedes – the calendar’s about to flip, after all – as Jon Heyman writes that, not only have the Mets turned the page after signing Alejandro De Aza, but also that the Mets originally suggested a “two to three year deal” in conversations with Cespedes. Yikes. They could have at least offered 10 years, with an opt-out after two years, and structured like this: 2016 – $20 million, 2017 – $20 million, 2018-2025 – $1 annually. We offered 10 years! He might opt out!
- Heyman says the Mets instead are now looking for a right-handed-hitting complementary outfielder like Steve Pierce or former Cub Chris Denorfia.
- On the latter, by the way, I wonder if there’s any inclination at all by the Cubs to bring him back. Presently, the only other 40-man Cub capable of playing center field besides the starter, Jason Heyward, is Matt Szczur. And it’s not at all clear that Szczur is going to make the 25-man roster to start the year. That could leave the Cubs relying on Javy Baez as the back-up center fielder, and no one really yet knows how he’d fare out there. Or maybe Ben Zobrist, but (1) he’s seen almost no time in center field in his big league career, and (2) he’s locked in as the starter second baseman. It seems like the Cubs should still be in the market for a reserve outfielder, capable of playing center field, and batting from the right-handed side. Denorfia could fit that bill in an economically-feasible way. You also wonder if Austin Jackson might wind up having to settle for a one-year deal as a fourth outfielder (having him back in that role with the Cubs would be a dream).
- All of that is against the backdrop of continued rumors about the Cubs possible moving Jorge Soler for pitching, allowing Heyward to play right field, and then separately looking for a starter in center. I don’t think that series of moves is at all likely at this point, but I don’t think we can quite rule it out.
- Mark Saxon interview Dodgers president Stan Kasten about the team’s odd offseason, and it makes for a very interesting read. Some believe there’s a disconnect between ownership (which had sanctioned previously unthinkable levels of spending, and now may be tapping the brakes a bit) and the front office, which Kasten denies. Whether there’s been an explicit directive from ownership to lower payroll or not, I think you have to take note of the fact that the Dodgers did make a huge offer to keep Zack Greinke, did try to acquire Aroldis Chapman, and did try to sign Hisashi Iwakuma. It’s not as if the team is suddenly refusing to spend (they’ve already got a payroll that’ll be way over $200 million again next year), and I think folks are sleeping on the big expenditure: more than $88 million in international prospects, with probably more spending on the way.
- Speaking of the Dodgers, Buster Olney looks at the remaining holes on the top contenders, and the Dodgers’ is pretty obviously in the rotation. Otherwise, it makes sense that most of the other holes out there on contenders are in the outfield, where the free agent market hasn’t moved since Jason Heyward signed with the Cubs.
- And speaking of big market, huge payroll teams that haven’t done much, Joel Sherman writes about the Yankees, who’ve essentially done nothing this offseason besides trading Adam Warren to the Cubs for Starlin Castro. That’s not an insignificant move, but it further depleted an unsettled rotation (Warren could have been quality depth there) which features injury risks and upside plays throughout. I would have expected the Yankees to add a solid, mid-rotation arm this offseason, given the robust class. Perhaps they’ll be the team that waits things out and snaps up a bargain late in the offseason. Or maybe they’ll finally be able to pull off a Brett-Gardner-or-Andrew-Miller-for-starting-pitching trade. The money isn’t there for a big free agent signing right now. Not what you’d expect from the Yankees of old, eh? (UPDATE: Well, they’ve made a move, even if it wasn’t expected, picking up Aroldis Chapman.)
- Among other things, Nick Cafardo writes about various free agent outfielders, noting that the White Sox and Giants could make sense for guys like Cespedes, Alex Gordon, and Justin Upton. Those three guys, in particular, could do a great deal to change the 2016/17 outlook for a handful of teams, depending on where they sign (you could arguably include Dexter Fowler in there, too). If the Giants, for example, get one of those guys, how good are they looking for the next couple years? That was a competitive team in 2015, and adding Cespedes/Johnny Cueto/Jeff Samardzija would be an enormous improvement.
- Grant Brisbee notes that, whatever the Giants do in the outfield, if they sign a free agent this offseason, it should probably be a center fielder, because things look ugly there next year.
- Cafardo also says the Dodgers are viewed as the favorites for Kenta Maeda, who period for signing with a team ends January 8. Bill Plunkett notes via a Japanese media source that Maeda visited Dodger Stadium last week. It wouldn’t be surprising if, right now, Maeda is the Dodgers’ top pitching target.