With the CBA negotiations continuing on in the background and the deadline looming ever nearer, I don’t think many of us expected much transactional news around the league at this time.
Rumors, sure – there are always going to be juicy rumors in November and December – but actual, significant moves seemed far less likely.
- And then bam! Yoenis Cespedes re-signed with the Mets for four years and $110 million (plus a full no-trade clause). According to ESPN, his deal carries the top average annual value ever for an outfielder, and ties the top AAV ever for a free-agent position player. It’s also the second-highest AAV for any position player besides Miguel Cabrera. But, Cespedes was almost certainly going to return to the Mets, anyway, so what’s the downstream impact of making it official? Well, among other things, the outfield market lost an option and teams will continue looking. Dexter Fowler becomes arguably the best option still available in free agency.
- The Houston Astros, according to Buster Olney on Twitter, were apparently serious bidders for Cespedes, which makes a good deal of sense considering where their team is at right now, but they missed out. It seems plausible, then, that they might now turn their attention to someone like Dexter Fowler, whose on base skills might look mighty nice ahead of a very strong middle of the lineup. Although the Astros already have George Springer and have already added Josh Reddick, Fowler (as Cespedes would have) would represent a big upgrade over Jake Marisnick and/or Nori Aoki.
- Of course, some rival executives (according to Ken Rosenthal on Twitter) believe that the Astros may be trying to load up on offense so that they can trade one of their young hitters (potentially George Springer or Alex Bregman) for an elite starter. To which I have two things to say. First, that’s a fine move. The Astros are still very good and sometimes chopping a year or two off the plausible back end of your competitive window is worth doubling down in the present. Second, when you’re drafting your Cubs trade for Chris Archer/Sonny Gray etc. offers in the comment section (but not Chris Sale), remember that the packages must be headlined (at least) by guys like Springer and/or Bregman. Very good, cost-controlled starting pitchers are costly.
- At Fox Sports, among other things, Ken Rosenthal is wondering if the Pirates might be able to find a trade partner on Josh Harrison. The rub, as of now, is that Pittsburgh originally planned to resign Sean Rodriguez (who’s already agreed to a two-year, $11.5 million deal with the Braves), before trading Harrison and freeing up a spot. Now, however, a suitable replacement might be difficult to find. Harrison, 29, is guaranteed $18.5 million over the next two seasons (plus a $10.5 million club option in 2019). After a breakout, 5-WAR season in 2014, Harrison has been below average (overall) ever since.
- Rosenthal’s piece also gets into the possibility that the Diamondbacks cut bait on Zack Greinke and his massive contract, but it might not happen immediately. Long-term, though, other teams are apparently expecting that Arizona cannot afford to carry the contract.
- The Cubs may be saving cash right now for a pursuit of Shohei Otani next year. Yes please.
- At ESPN Chicago, Jesse Rogers discusses many Cubs bullpen notes including (and featuring) the likelihood that Hector Rondon returns to his role as team closer. According to Rogers, the Cubs may stay clear of the big name free agent closers (Kenley Jansen, Mark Melancon, and Aroldis Chapman), electing instead to develop high-leverage relievers from within, while supplementing lesser roles through free agency and trade.
- Shrug. In all likelihood, the Cubs will not sign Jansen or Melancon (I really doubt they’ll bring back Chapman) but that’s just a numbers game (only one team can have each of them). I think the Cubs might at least stay close to Jansen until the very end, given the obvious fit. Not many teams can use a back-end reliever as much as the Cubs can right now, given their expected competitiveness, exiting relievers, and injuries to their top two remaining arms, so I say still keep your eyes and ears open.
- Speaking of the bullpen and free agency, did you miss yesterday’s rumor connecting the Chicago Cubs to starter-turned-reliever Daniel Hudson? Although some of the surface numbers aren’t too tasty, the peripherals are quite a bit stronger. As a mid-range reliever on a reasonable deal, I’d love me some Daniel Hudson – especially because that wouldn’t necessarily block any other additional moves from happening.
- Grabbing a former starter like Hudson, by the way, might make some extra sense, given the potential exits of both Trevor Cahill and Travis Wood (two former starters used as multi-inning relievers from 2015-2016) and the possibility that Mike Montgomery steps into the rotation. And if you’re thinking, well wait a minute, I wouldn’t mind if the Cubs brought Trevor Cahill back, I’d hold your horses:
#Cubs free agent Trevor Cahill is marketing himself as a starter on market, and has received offers from 3 teams in early going.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) November 30, 2016
- Cahill is apparently getting offers to start, which he would most likely prefer to relieving, and that might price him out of the Cubs’ range. Although, to be fair, he reportedly received an offer to start for the Pirates last offseason, before he signed on with the Cubs as a reliever. That may have had more to do with winning with the Cubs, than anything else, though. If he gets a chance to start in a decent situation, my guess is that he takes it.
- Jon Morosi hears that the St. Louis Cardinals might have interest in free-agent third baseman, Justin Turner. But, before a match would be realistic, they’d likely have to trade Jhonny Peralta.
- Although Turner is almost 33 years old, he was quietly (or maybe not so quietly anymore) awesome for the Dodgers over the past three seasons (12.9 WAR). Indeed, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs suggested he might be one of the best bargains of the current free agent class. I think you’re rooting interest should generally be that he does not go to the Cardinals, even if it won’t be the end 0f the world if he did. He’d like be cheap, effective, and give them a trade piece in Peralta. No thanks.
- The Cincinnati Reds are listening to offers on all of their players (though maybe not Joey Votto) including, and perhaps especially, Billy Hamilton. Before you dismiss Hamilton outright as a player who would interest teams, you should know that he actually began to turn a corner offensively last season, just before a season-ending injury on September 4. In the second half of the season, he carried a 10.7% walk rate all the way to a .369 on base percentage. With his speed, getting on base that often helps to make up for the lack of power (58 stolen bases). I doubt the Cubs would be especially interested (given his profile and their current outfield glut), but he could be an interesting shake-up in the outfield market. Hamilton is just 26 years old.
- Buster Olney has a rundown of various/stray rumors, including the idea that the Dodgers are likely going to allow Jansen to sign elsewhere, instead of paying top dollar to retain him. They (the Dodgers) have been connected to Chapman and Melancon in the past, but if they’re truly out on Jansen, and the Yankees get Chapman (as rumors have suggested), the Cubs may have a shot at Jansen. The Giants could be among the biggest competition for the former Dodgers closer, but perhaps the Giants will prefer the more affordable Melancon.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.