It’s amazing how dense and active the Lukewarm Stove is this late into the offseason, but you won’t catch me complaining. And actually, I think that the few, but still significant, remaining free agents are responsible for the heat (which extends, of course, beyond free agency alone).
Consider the reason the stove usually cools down by late January: Teams have gobbled up free agents, spent their money and set their budgets for the upcoming year. At that point, making a trade that involves any change in cash, becomes more challenging. Teams move on, rosters get set and boom! It’s Spring Training. But when there are still significant free agents to be had (and others are just signing within the past week), budgets might not be locked in, which makes teams free to explore trades, which slows down free agency, and so on …
- Yesterday, it seemed all but a done-deal that Yoenis Cespedes would be heading to the Washington Nationals. Truthfully, that remains a distinct possibility. Having made Cespedes a five-year offer (the longest known offer), the Nationals should be considered favorites to land the big outfielder. They should be the favorites, but they might not be. According to Ken Rosenthal, Cespedes prefers to play with the Mets, who have reportedly extended just a three-year deal. I do not believe he would take a three-year deal with the Mets over a five-year deal with the Nationals (when both figure to be competitive, anyway) but his preference is probably sincere. If he can use the division rival Nationals to up the offer on the team he’s ultimately going to choose, why wouldn’t he?
- Still, will the Mets move their line? They’ve been notoriously short on free agency for a while now, but Buster Olney believes they might try to get creative with a one year opt-out. The thing is, despite the deep outfield market this offseason and very shallow market next offseason, Cespedes’ value might never be higher. He is coming off the best season of his career by far, and is still just 30 years old. If he can’t get the years or dollars out of New York, he should head to the Nationals. And we may find out sooner rather than later.
- The Rays-Cubs rumors of the 2016 offseason have reached the heights of the 2015 Mets-Cubs rumors. The Rays have superfluous young pitching, the Cubs have superfluous young hitting, are they ever going to get something done? Well, maybe at some point in the future*, but the likelihood declined a tiny bit yesterday, after the Rays picked up right-handed hitter Steve Pearce. Pearce isn’t a masher, by any means, but the acquisition lessens the urgency to add a bat ahead of the season. After 1-2 more weeks, I think we can put these rumors to bed until June/July.
- The 2016 National League playoff race took a(n extremely) marginal turn in the’ Cubs favor now that the Mets have signed Antonio Bastardo out from under the Pirates. Bastardo finished with a 2.98 ERA in 57.1 innings for the Pirates last season, but now he will setup Jeurys Familia in New York. The Pirates’ offer of two years and $8 million, it seems, came in under the Mets final offer of two years and $12 million. Both the Pirates and the Cardinals have had suspiciously quiet offseasons.
- Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy has experienced a strangely aggressive decline in his framing metrics over the past few years. Given the increased awareness and value placed on framing over that same stretch, trading Lucroy for an enormous haul might be more difficult than the Brewers expected. Still, Lucroy himself can tell the Brewers are at the beginning of a rebuild, so they might take what they can get for him at the upcoming deadline. But don’t get me wrong, Lucroy has been good at framing in the past, is an offensively talented player (catcher or not) and was worth over 6 WAR as recently as 2014. Lucroy has a 2017 club option worth $5.25 ($0.25M buyout).
- According to Ken Rosenthal, the Rockies are going to reopen conversations with free agent Yovani Gallardo. The Rockies hold up, apparently, is their desire not to forfeit their second round pick (their first round is protected) and the associated slot/bonus pool. Since 2009, Yovani Gallardo has experienced a nosediving strike out rate which bottomed out at 15.3% last season (seventh worst among qualifiers).
- In case you missed it, Brett took a look at what it might take for the Cubs to bring back Austin Jackson – an admittedly perfect fit.
- *Brett: And just earlier today, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer reiterated that there is a fit and some talks, and something could happen “down the road”:
— MLB Network Radio (@MLBNetworkRadio) January 22, 2016