Okay, the Holiday All-Star break is over, so let’s get back into the swing of things, as MLB and the MLBPA try to solve their CBA impasse.
How about a Lukewarm Stove!
- After the Diamondbacks acquired 24-year-old right hander Taijuan Walker from the Mariners, Brett speculated on what that might mean for the rest of Arizona’s rotation. Specifically, he wondered if the Diamondbacks might soon be open to trading Shelby Miller, as painful as it might be after what they paid to get him last year. Well, it seems his instincts may have been correct (or at least shared by other executives around the league), because Ken Rosenthal is hearing that the D-backs expect increased trade interest in their younger starting pitchers (Archie Bradley, Patrick Corbin, Shelby Miller, and Robbie Ray), now that Walker is on board.
- It’s also entirely possible that the D-backs look to flip Walker, as well, although that does feel decidedly less likely. And, because I know it’s what you want to know, yes, the Cubs would probably be interested in any of those pitchers (to varying degrees, of course), should they be made truly available. We’ll reserve a deeper dive if rumors continue to grow.
- Given Chris Sale’s exciting availability this offseason, there’s been an outpouring of #content regarding the big-time, left-handed starter. Recently, for one example, Jeff Sullivan uncovered the fact that Sale had a larger negative change in pitch-framing support than any other pitcher in baseball (-17.0 runs(!)) from 2015-2016. In other words, pitch framing spotted Sale 10.7 runs (in his favor) in 2015, but cost him 6.3 runs in 2016. So even though he had another good (but not his best) season in 2016, there’s plenty of reason for optimism in another huge 2017.
- But I’ll take this time to remind you that Chris Sale is almost certainly not taking the Red Line up to the north side of Chicago this winter. If he’s going to be traded, it won’t be to the Cubs, for reasons that are probably not entirely baseball-related. And if he is going to be traded to anyone, it’s going to cost a pretty penny. Sale is a young, healthy, proven ace on a team-friendly deal. He will cost a fortune, and then some, to acquire. Rosenthal did his best to identify the “can’t touch” players that could be the key to unlocking a Sale sale (teehee). Among the names listed are the Red Sox’s Andrew Benintendi, the Rangers’ Rougned Odor, the Dodgers’ Julio Urias, the Nationals’ Trea Turner, the Astros’ Alex Bregman, and the Braves’ Dansby Swanson.
- So, even if the Cubs were theoretically in the running, you’d have to assume the conversation starts with Kyle Schwarber (and goes on in a big way from there). I’m not sure there are too many Cubs fans interested in seeing what exactly it would take. But following Sale rumors remains important, among other reasons, because the downstream impacts could wind up affecting the Cubs.
- In Nick Cafardo’s latest, he mentions that the Houston Astros might soon be targeting free agent starter Rich Hill and/or trade targets Justin Verlander, Chris Sale, or Sonny Gray. I offer that without any direct Cubs relation, other than the Cubs will plausibly be in on the very same names.
- The Tigers, by the way, have suggested that they will reduce payroll over the offseason, and have a number of relatively costly starting pitchers they may want to move (Verlander, Jordan Zimmerman, Anibal Sanchez). I have absolutely no idea if the Cubs would be interested in taking an admittedly costly gamble on any of them, but Detroit could leverage the weak starting market into some quick and effective payroll cuts.
- At ESPN, Jim Bowden gets the speculation ball rolling with some aggressive trade suggestions, including a Red/White Sox blockbuster, involving Yoan Moncada, Blake Swihart, Chris Sale and Jose Abreu (among others) – which feels more like a video game proposal than a real one, but it’s fun to read nonetheless. Bowden also has Andrew McCutchen going to the Dodgers and Lorenzo Cain going to the Cardinals …
- … Of course there’s also the Cubs/Rays blockbluster he proposes. The proposal – just Bowden’s, not an actual trade being discussed – is that the Cubs send prospect Ian Happ, outfielders Jorge Soler and Albert Almora Jr., and reliever Carl Edwards Jr. to the Rays in exchange for starter Chris Archer, center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, and closer Alex Colome.
- I think I can speak for all of us when I ask, “Where do we sign?,” because that deal feels especially light on the Cubs’ end. Don’t get me wrong: I still think Happ becomes an everyday player in the Major Leagues, I believe in Jorge Soler’s future, and I think that both Almora and Edwards are nice complementary pieces already (perhaps even an eventual starting center fielder and closer). But there is so much if on the Cubs’ side and so much certainty on the Rays’ side. Chris Archer is a 28-year-old ace under control until 2021, Kevin Kiermaier (26) has been worth an average of 4.4 WAR over the past three seasons, and Alex Colome (27) just broke out with a big 1.91 ERA, 37-save season as a reliever.
- Frankly, getting a young, ace-level, cost controlled starter to replace Jason Hammel, a two-time Gold Glove winning center fielder to replace Dexter Fowler, and a young, breakout closer to replace Aroldis Chapman in one deal without giving up Kyle Schwarber, Javy Baez, or Eloy Jimenez is just too good to be true. Sorry.
- We’ll be waiting on his stateside arrival for a little while yet, but let the drooling over Shohei Otani continue, as he was just named the best pitcher AND the best DH in the NPB.
- There’s been a bit of confusion over the following news, so we’ll try our best to clear some things up: After spending more than one billion dollars (I can only say that in a Dr. Evil voice) on player payroll over the past four seasons, the Los Angeles Dodgers will reportedly cut payroll over the winter. BUT, let’s be clear on something not all reports have been clear about, MLB is not forcing the Dodgers to cut payroll, specifically. Instead, this MLB mandate you might’ve heard about is simply forcing the Dodgers to comply with MLB’s debt service rule. That could happen by reducing the team’s debt OR reducing expenses such as payroll (or both). So, while the news here, yes, is that the Dodgers look like they’re cutting payroll, MLB has *not* told them that they have to do that, specifically. All that said, it will be interesting to see how this impacts the Dodgers’ offseason plans going forward.