As we inch ever closer to the 2017 Winter Meetings, Lukewarm Stoves continue to pile up as rumors continue to pour out.
Almost everyday, in fact, we start building up the next Lukewarm Stove as soon as the previous one publishes (in addition to dedicated pieces on the Cubs bullpen and Shohei Otani, for example), because that’s how often these rumors and insights are flowing.
Fortunately, rumors are the best.
- Jon Heyman has the latest on the Chris Sale Derby, including the fact that five teams have apparently separated themselves as leaders among the rest. Those teams would be the Nationals, Astros, Red Sox, Rangers, and Braves. The Braves are such a wild card, so whatever (they just traded for Jaime Garcia last night), but the other four teams make a ton of sense in terms of both need and timing, and have the pieces to pull off a trade. That said, Heyman has heard from executives that the asking price on Sale is so high that they’re not even sure a trade will ultimately get completed. But, yeah it will. There’s no reason the Sox wouldn’t ask for the moon for an ace like Sale, who also happens to be under cheap team control in an abnormally weak starters market. My guess? Their price will eventually come down to whatever the best package offered is (maybe before the end of December).
- Speaking of those packages, Heyman rattles off some ideas for each team, and it’s pretty interesting. The Nationals, for one example, certainly have the pieces to get a deal done (Heyman lists Trea Turner, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Pedro Severino, and Victor Robles), but the problem is that the Nationals are not interested in moving Turner, and are supposedly using the other pieces to (try to) acquire Andrew McCutchen from the Pirates. Getting both without including Turner would be very difficult. (Those talks with the Pirates continue, by the way.)
- The Astros are in a similar boat. Rival executives have suggested that 1) a deal won’t get done without the inclusion of Alex Bregman and 2) the Astros have no interest whatsoever in trading Alex Bregman. Okay, then. The Braves would probably need to include Dansby Swanson in any Sale deal, which would hurt … but hurt a bit less considering the fact that they basically stole him last offseason. If you can get Sale for Swanson (plus more, of course) I think you pull that trigger. [Brett: Except adding Sale right now to a Swanson-less Braves team seems as foolhardy as the Diamondbacks making the deal last year that sent Swanson to the Braves in a package for Shelby Miller in the first place. MAKE MORE SENSE, BRAVES.]
- The Red Sox have a ton of potentially attractive trade targets like Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, and Yoan Moncada. The problem is, in my opinion, those players are all so good, you might not want to give them up when you consider where the Red Sox are already. With Rick Porcello (2016 Cy Young) and David Price (2012 Cy Young) leading the Red Sox rotation, maybe they’ll consider going a cheaper (in terms of acquisition cost) route while keeping their young core in tact (although, the Red Sox have been especially aggressive over the past few years). And finally, the Rangers’ Joey Gallo and Jurickson Profar are thought to be the pieces most likely to be dangled in front of the White Sox.
- The Cardinals, Giants and Blue Jays are considered among the teams most interested in Dexter Fowler, so here’s to a Canadian summer. If any of those teams are serious, however, they’re going to have to pay a pretty price:
Word circulating is that Fowler camp thinks they can get 18M per on multiyear. Stl, SF, Tor among teams believed interested
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 2, 2016
- While I was expecting/predicting something closer to the $16-17 million range over 4-5 years, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Fowler reach $18 million in AAV. Given this reality (plus the addition of Jon Jay), there’s all the more reason to think the Cubs-Fowler party is over. Now, let’s just be happy to see him get paid (preferably by a team in the American League).
- One stray, but increasingly persistent rumor I continue to see (and be interested in) is the possibility of the Tigers trading Justin Verlander (discussed briefly here previously) – who finished second in the 2016 AL Cy Young voting. If the Cubs aren’t able to get their young, cost-controlled starting pitcher, maybe they can make a deal for an older, controlled (but expensive) starting pitcher. Why? Well, the cost in prospects/young Major League ready players will be significantly less, 2017 appears to be the final year of a smaller window inside the Cubs’ broader window of contention, there will be needs in the rotation after 2017 if Jake Arrieta and John Lackey walk, and finally, if the Cubs are no longer earmarking money for a 2018 Shohei Otani run, maybe they have some extra financial flexibility anyway. Just thinking out loud. Remember, creativity is the name of the game.
- The Nationals are reportedly cooling on Aroldis Chapman due to the expected price tag (that’ll happen when the Dodgers and Yankees are your two biggest suitors), but are still very much in on Mark Melancon. To answer your question, I haven’t gotten any sense that the Cubs will be in on Melancon this offseason, despite the fact that he’ll likely cost about half of what Chapman and Kenley Jansen will.
- In addition to Sale, the White Sox have a number of other interesting, and potentially available, pieces this winter:
Some execs think #Whitesox are a sleeper to make big news at winter meetings. Can auction Sale, Robertson, Frazier, Melky under one roof
— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 2, 2016
- Sale and David Robertson would obviously be of interest to the Cubs, but – despite my best efforts to will the opposite – it just doesn’t seem like the Cubs and Sox will ever get together on a big deal. Still, the presence of another reliever on the market is only a good thing for the Cubs (if they’re looking to trade for one). More options typically means a more affordable price.
- Jon Heyman is hearing that the Miami Marlins are still looking for starters (specifically, Doug Fister and old friend Jason Hammel) and relievers, even after signing Edison Volquez to a two-year/$22 million deal.
- At ESPN, Jayson Stark has an excellent Winter Meeting’s shopping guide, which you should definitely check out. Among the most interesting notes, Stark has heard that the Tigers are still quite interested in moving Verlander, as we know, but aren’t interested in eating much salary. How does that affect the Cubs? Well, Stark suggests that the $28 million/season for the next three seasons effectively eliminates the Red Sox and Dodgers from the conversation, given their presence above the luxury tax threshold. And because of his financial cost, the required return is not thought to be ridiculous. In all likelihood, the Cubs will not trade for Verlander, but I do think this is all quite interesting.
- Although Chris Archer is likely available this offseason, other clubs are convinced that the Rays are more likely to move Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly, and/or Jake Odorizzi. On the surface, that makes a good deal of sense. Archer is coming off something of a down year, but has five more years of team control. The Rays could easily let him build back up his value to a peak before trading him at the deadline or any of the next few offseasons. Of course, it’s not as though his value is particularly low right now, either. Still, each of Cobb, Smyly, and Odorizzi are free agents before Archer, so the Rays might prioritize their trades first. The Cubs, for what it’s worth, have been connected to all four pitchers over the past two years (plus Alex Colome).
- Relatedly, the Rays have been searching for a catcher this offseason, having just missed out on Jason Castro. Miguel Montero could theoretically be available, but remember he is aging (33.5 years old), has dealt with recent injury issues, is scheduled to make $14 million in 2017, and might actually be too important to the Cubs (who are looking to transition a still-raw/green Willson Contreras into the everyday guy behind the plate).
- There is so much more in Stark’s piece.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.