The Winter Meetings are so last week.
Which is to say it’s a new week, so here’s a new Lukewarm Stove.
- Here’s a totally surprising story for you, the Chicago Cubs are looking for starting pitchers – or so writes Sahadev Sharma at The Athletic. After having added Wade Davis, Koji Uehara, Brian Duensing and Caleb Smith, the heavy lifting in the bullpen is mostly done, but the Cubs aren’t done adding arms overall. You knew this, of course, but the particulars make for a good read.
- One item to remind folks about is that it sounds like the front office is looking at a number of the younger, cost-controlled and/or guys with options already in the Cubs organization (Rob Zastryzny, Jake Buchanan, Aaron Brooks and Seth Frankoff) to step up not necessarily into the rotation, but as quality depth starters at the upper levels of the Minors. According to Theo Epstein, any one of them would have to really break out to grab an opening day job in the rotation, but the 6-10 spots are there to be taken. Thus, the fifth spot, should it go to someone other than Mike Montgomery, is still open and the Cubs could still make move. According to Sharma, prospects like Ian Happ, Jeimer Candelario and Mark Zagunis might be made available if the right deal comes around.
- Although, I’d like to remind you that the Cubs traded their best prospect (Gleyber Torres) for half of a season of Aroldis Chapman and one of their best (realistic) Major League trade candidates (Jorge Soler) for one year of Wade Davis. In other words, their best, young trade chips got them – on the high end – one year of a closer. Both were arguably the best of the best, but the path to land that sure-thing cost-controlled starter remains so very unclear.
- Either way, the Cubs are going to keep trying to deal for a starter, and one of the most commonly rumored partners for such a move is the Tampa Bay Rays – Marc Topkin has more on their offseason here. To that end, while Topkin believes the Rays will still trade a starter before the season is over, it’s still very questionable whether that starter will be Chris Archer. Apparently, the Rays have been asking more for the five cost controlled seasons of Archer than the White Sox got for the three cost controlled seasons of Chris Sale. Sale is certainly a better overall pitcher than Archer (and has a better, more consistent track record), but two additional years of control do help to even the scale. Even still, Archer is coming off a down year, so at best, the Rays should hope for a package similar to what the Sox got for Sale.
- Similarly, Topkin is hearing that the Rays value starter Jake Odorizzi much higher than the rest of the league, to the point that a deal seems unlikely. That leaves Drew Smyly (27 – two years of control) and Alex Cobb (29 – one year of control) as the available, realistic starters from the Rays (plus Erasmo Ramirez, though he was moved (unsuccessfully) to the bullpen last year). While both present some upside, neither is a sure thing (to the extent that exists), so we’ll see if the Cubs do anything here.
- Ken Rosenthal covers nine stories to watch for the remainder of the offseason, including the potential landing spot of Kenley Jansen – which is seemingly down the Nationals, Marlins, and Dodgers. Whoever misses out on the sweepstakes, Rosenthal writes, might turn their attention to White Sox reliever David Robertson or free agent reliever Greg Holland.
- Rosenthal guesses that Robertson and Todd Frazier will be the next White Sox on the move, but that they might not get as much for Jose Abreu as they originally hoped, given the abundance of right-handed hitting first baseman available as free agents. Rosenthal also believes that Andrew McCutchen will not finish the 2017 season in a Pirates uniform, even if he starts the year out in one. The Dodgers are named as a potential trade partner.
- But McCutchen isn’t ready to give up on the Pirates yet. Although he hasn’t been approached by the Pirates for a potential extension on his current deal which runs through 2018 (with a team option), he suggests that he’d be open to such talks, because he prefers to stay a Pirate and eventually retire as a Pirate. I’m not sure the Pirates feel the same way, but if McCutchen comes out of the gate hot in 2017, maybe things change. [Brett: Or does that make him more tradable? I suppose that depends on how competitive the Pirates appear at that point.]
- The Dodgers feel that they are getting closer to re-signing perennially underrated third baseman Justin Turner to a four-year deal, but there may be some consequences:
If Turner re-signs, this will take the LAD payroll obligations into the range of $220m for 2017 and 2018.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 12, 2016
- As you should know by now, the newly inked Collective Bargaining Agreement 1) did not raise the payroll threshold by as much money as many expected and 2) made the penalties for exceeding that threshold multiple years in a row much more significant. There have been rumblings that both the Yankees and the Dodgers have expressed genuine interest in targeting a way back under the threshold, if at least for one season, to reset the clock. But with an Aroldis Chapman signing (Yankees) and potentially Kenley Jansen and Justin Turner (Dodgers), neither seem like a safe bet. The full weight of the luxury-tax-related penalties in the new CBA, by the way, don’t kick in until after the 2017 season.
- On the Cubs’ continued efforts to land a cost controlled starting pitcher, I’ll add that they are not the only team. The Houston Astros – with their young stable of Major League ready positional players – are poised to pounce on any available starter in trade and were apparently right there on Chris Sale, as well. So, even if the ask on someone like Chris Archer decreases enough to become tolerable, the Cubs will have their work cut out for them in competition. Brian McTaggert has heard that the Astros have shown interest in all of Jose Quintana, Jake Odorizzi, Chris Archer, Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura, but have so far been unwilling to move youngster Alex Bregman. We’ll continue to track this corner of the market closely.
- There is one free agent starting pitcher on the right side of 30 still available, Ivan Nova, but the Cubs haven’t been connected to him publicly. The Pirates, with whom Nova pitched well in the second half of 2016, have:
Neal Huntington told fans the Pirates "are still engaged" with Ivan Nova's camp and hope to find common ground. (I, too, am still engaged.)
— Stephen J. Nesbitt (@stephenjnesbitt) December 11, 2016
- Nova has been a 1.5-2.5 win starter with the Yankees and, just recently, the Pirates over the past six years, but never turned into much more than that. In fact, he’s never even thrown more than 170.1 innings, so I’m not sure how much he can be counted on going forward.
- While I’m not opposed to Mike Montgomery taking the fifth starting job right out of the gate, I do have several thoughts on that. First, and most importantly, I’m not entirely convinced he’ll have nearly as much success as a starter as he would (relatively speaking) as a reliever. Relatedly, as a sixth starter, who primarily pitches out of the bullpen, I don’t think you can do much better. If his 2017 season looks like it did in the second half of the 2016 season (so when he was on the Cubs), I think that’s the best you can get out of Montgomery. He doesn’t have to be permanently in the rotation to reach 100.0 innings or so.
- To that end, some will wonder if the Cubs should have picked up Jason Hammel’s $12 million option for the 2017. I understand that they were unwilling to trade him, had they picked up another, better option for the back of the rotation, but what if that doesn’t happen? Having both Hammel and Montgomery at the back of the rotation, with Montgomery picking up extra innings as a reliever, is much more enticing than the alternative, which is what we’re staring at now. Maybe, because of the relationships involved, that was never going to be possible. In any case, it still seems very attractive for the Cubs to add another starting pitcher. (Obligatory reminder here about this weekend’s Tyson Ross rumor.)
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.