You usually don’t see a ton of activity before Thanksgiving, but you usually see a little more than we’ve seen so far. You can bet that the thin free agent class has a little something to do with it, but mostly I’m thinking it’s the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which expires in two weeks, on December 1. Teams and free agents must be a little wary about making a significant move without knowing for sure how dramatically the landscape is about to change.
That is not to say we won’t see any movement between now and the finalization of the CBA – which could come at any time – and we are, in fact, seeing minor moves here and there already. But I would just not expect a huge rush of movement before the CBA is done (unless, of course, teams catch word of impending changes that somehow dictate quick movement … which is always possible … so … I guess the lesson here is … EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED! OR DON’T! WHATEVER! EAT AT ARBY’S!).
Meanwhile, there is still much to discuss …
- Those Chris Sale rumors aren’t going to go away any time soon. Today, Ken Rosenthal writes about the Nationals’ interest in the White Sox ace, and about how they have the pieces to make a move, even without including Trea Turner. The Nationals are also interested in the possibly-available Rays starters (in whom the Cubs presumably have interest, too), so there are some layers of intrigue here. An exec tells Rosenthal, however, that the White Sox won’t move Sale unless they “totally win the deal,” which is going to be a stretch, in my mind, given Sale’s step back in peripherals last year, run-in(s) with management, and very public and bizarre jersey-cutting incident.
- Meanwhile, the Braves – yes, the Braves – are in hard on guys like Chris Archer and Sonny Gray, according to Rosenthal (as well as Chris Sale, as we discussed yesterday), and Buster Olney reports they are “aggressively” swapping offers for possible pitcher trades. Obviously those names, and this area in generally, are of note to the Cubs, who, on paper, could be going hard after those types, too. To my mind, the Braves would be a year too early to make a significant move like that, and risk depleting their farm system in the way the Padres did a couple years ago (notably helping stock that very Braves system). That said, they’re moving into a new ballpark this season, and there could be non-baseball factors pushing them to act now. And, as we often point out, you have to get the guys you want when they’re available, even if the timing is not perfect.
- One other thing from Rosenthal’s piece (there’s even more, so go read it): speculation that the Angels could make Tyler Skaggs and/or Matt Shoemaker available if they can get an everyday second baseman in return. Both are controllable for several years, but each comes with injury and track record concerns. The everyday second baseman the Cubs could send to the Angels is probably not a guy you’re going to want to see them sending for Skaggs or Shoemaker, so this line of thinking might not go too far anyway.
- There has been stray chatter about the Cardinals and free agent Dexter Fowler, though nothing quite approximating a “they are definitely pursuing him” rumor. At least not yet. Benjamin Hochman writes about the fit, though, and writes even more about how landing Fowler would spice up the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry. It would be an interesting storyline, sure, and I do hope Fowler gets well-compensated by whatever team signs him. If it isn’t going to be the Cubs, however, I’d prefer it wasn’t the Cardinals.
- Buster Olney notes the glut of hulking, no-defense sluggers available on this market, and how many might be disappointed when free agent contracts are handed out. I’m intrigued when reviewing and considering the list, not only because it’s easy to see how the Cubs are not in a position to really avail themselves of a bargain in that market (short of a couple attendant roster moves, it’s hard to envision them bringing in a dicey corner outfield defense guy, or a first-base-only guy, even if he’s got a big bat and comes in on a steal of a deal). It’s also interesting because if you are among the folks who believes that Jorge Soler should be the key inclusion in a Cubs deal for a young starting pitcher, you should probably ask yourself whether a trade parter is going to give up a significant return for Soler (who has all the potential in the world at the plate, but is not established, does not play high-quality defense, and is already going to make $3.667 million next year before he can opt into arbitration). The Cubs might be best served giving Soler a real chance to establish himself as a regular in the outfield, at least as part of a rotation that sees Jason Heyward making starts in center field (i.e., what the plan was for the outfield before Dexter Fowler surprisingly re-signed).
- The Astros signed 33-year-old righty Charlie Morton today to a surprisingly healthy contract, given how surprisingly unhealthy he’s been in his career (including just four starts last year):
Source: Morton deal with #Astros is two years, $14M.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 16, 2016
Morton deal with #Astros also includes incentives of $625K each at 15, 20, 25 and 30 starts each year.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 16, 2016
- Even pitching depth is going to be expensive in this market. I’m not going to say that the Cubs miscalculated by letting Jason Hammel walk – because it genuinely does seem like that was a do-the-right-thing decision – but I will say that, in addition to Mike Montgomery, the Cubs absolutely must bring in a quality depth arm or two (unless they make the long-awaited trade for a controlled younger starter; in which case perhaps they can get buy on one or two decent reclamation/minor-league-deal depth types).
- Speaking of Hammel, the Yankees have reportedly already reached out. Perhaps they’ll sign him, plus Aroldis Chapman, surprisingly call up Gleyber Torres, use Adam Warren and Starlin Castro heavily, and there can just be former Cubs all over that roster.
- Those Dodgers and Tigers sure are talking about some things. Shortly after Jon Morosi noted conversations about outfielder J.D. Martinez earlier this week, now he’s got this:
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 16, 2016
- The Dodgers look to be bracing for a world without Justin Turner, Josh Reddick, Chase Utley, and Howie Kendrick (traded already), and looking to bring in additional bats. I’m surprised they haven’t come up much in the Yoenis Cespedes rumor mill given their resources and the apparent desire.