No dilly-dallying today. Let’s jump right into some rumors from around the league.
- As you may recall, current free-agent slugger Jose Bautista reportedly asked for a five year/$150 million contract extension when the Blue Jays asked about it last Spring. Although he was already 35 years old at the time, he was coming off another highly productive season at the plate (.250/.377/.536), was an All-Star for the sixth consecutive season, and even received down the ballot MVP votes for the second straight year. But then 2016 happened. Last season, Bautista was still a productive hitter, but to a far lesser extent (.234/.366/.452). He also missed time with a toe injury and cracked just 22 home runs, after averaging nearly forty over the six seasons prior. Bautista’s market has been very slow to develop.
- But okay, so maybe he won’t get anything close to the ridiculous $150 million he reportedly asked for, but he’s still Jose Bautista, right? Isn’t he a shoe-in for a big, multi-year deal? Well, not so fast. One NL executive suggested that, as a “player on the decline,” Bautista might not be able to get anything more than a one-year contract with a reasonable base and some incentives.
- Of course, it isn’t entirely Bautista’s fault. Yes he had a slightly less productive season last year, and yes he’s already 36 years old, but he’s proven himself pretty consistently over the past few seasons, and it’s not as though mid-30s players don’t get multi-year deals and perform well sometimes. Instead, the large number of available free-agent sluggers this offseason may have done him in (together with draft pick compensation being attached). There isn’t an express Cubs connection here (so long as he doesn’t wind up with one of their direct competitors in 2017), but I found this all pretty fascinating.
- The Phillies, by the way, may be one of the teams Bautista winds up with, at least according to Ken Rosenthal. And while the Nationals and Mets don’t look ready to concede the NL East just yet, this is your reminder that the Phillies (not unlike the Brewers) are a team on the rise. Keep an eye out for them. You never know who’s going to turn into the 2015 Chicago Cubs and deliver early. The Phillies, as Rosenthal points out, are in a very nice position to take advantage of the glut of sluggers on the market, who might wind up somewhere cheaply.
- Masahiro Tanaka can opt-out of his seven-year, $155 million deal with the Yankees next offseason, which would be a huge boost to the 2018 free-agent starting pitcher market – a market the Cubs will likely familiarize themselves with deeply. But even with a mediocre (assuming he’s healthy) season, Tanaka (who will be 29 at the time), should be able to beat the three years and $67 million remaining on his deal. And if he has another healthy and productive season like 2016 (he finished seventh in Cy Young voting), well then he may set himself up for another HUGE payday. In this respect, he’s not unlike Jake Arrieta – he’ll get paid either way, but an ace-like season might elevate his next contract to new heights. Tanaka, you’ll recall, had a bone spur removed before the 2016 season, and also rehabbed a partially torn UCL back in 2014.
- The Royals recently acquired Peter O’Brien from the Diamondbacks to be one of their DHs for 2017, but before that deal went down they checked in on another NL DH-type:
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) January 3, 2017
- With Matt Carpenter all set to take over first base on a regular basis, left-handed slugger Matt Adams is without a regular home. Adams is still young, but is limited positionally and doesn’t quite get on base enough to be an everyday player. He’ll probably wind up staying put, but he is quite clearly available.
- Rajai Davis – who thankfully did not become the latest and saddest chapter in the new Cubs’ fan book, “WHY GOD, WHY?” – has agreed to a one-year, $6 million deal with the Oakland Athletics. Brett had some fun with that:
Star date 2017 World Series: Cubs lead by a couple runs in the 8th inning of Game Seven of the World Series against the A's … https://t.co/kKSzqsbvAd
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) January 4, 2017
- Earlier this offseason, 27-year-old righty Rubby De La Rosa was non-tendered by the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Brett started licking his chops for a piece of his unrealized potential at the Major League level. Unfortunately, he just agreed to a Minor League deal with the Diamondbacks, which tends to happen from time to time with non-tenders. So, then, this is your reminder that non-tendered Padres righty Tyson Ross might even return to San Diego (albeit not on a minor league deal).
- Although it is January and there are as many nine top 25 free agents still available (plus a whole lot more after that), this isn’t entirely new ground. At MLB Trade Rumors, Jeff Todd and Charlie Wilmoth take a look at the free-agent landscape of January over the past six offseasons to see who was available and who signed in the first month of the year. Among the more notable signings, you’ll find Chris Davis (2016), Justin Upton (2016), Yoenis Cespedes (2016), James Shields (2015), Masahiro Tanaka (2014, but obviously some different circumstances), Edwin Jackson (2013, though it was agreed to before the flip of the calendar), Prince Fielder (2012), and Adrian Beltre* (2011).
- Also at MLB Trade Rumors, Jeff Todd discusses the apparent availability of White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier. The White Sox are very clearly in sell/rebuild mode, so a useful player like Frazier with just one year left on his contract (salary to be determined via arbitration) is an ideal candidate. And, as Todd points out, there are a number of reasons to expect a solid bounce back season in 2017, after a fall-off due to some unexpected drops in BABIP and defense. There are still a number of third baseman and sluggers available in free agency, however, so I’m guessing the Sox look to start the year out with Frazier in tow, before moving him at the deadline (this could also allow him to build up a bit more value). The plausibly interested teams include: Athletics, Braves, Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants, Orioles, Rangers, Red Sox, Rockies, and Yankees.
- Although the Dodgers are likely the team to beat in the NL West, the Giants are not (and never) far behind them. And the latest from Jon Morosi has them looking to improve in a creative way for 2017:
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) January 3, 2017
- According to MLB Trade Rumors, Jae-gyun Hwang is a 29-year old true free agent, meaning that no posting arrangement/fee would be required.
- Apparently, Hwang held a showcase in the fall, where he auditioned for teams as a third baseman. That means that free agents Luis Valbuena and Trevor Plouffe, as well as trade candidate Todd Frazier are his main competition this offseason. Hwang was actually made available to MLB teams last offseason, but didn’t get any takers. Of course, he went on to halve his strikeouts and boost his power (27 homers) while slashing .335/.394/.570 in the KBO. It’s a hitter friendly league and he wouldn’t represent much more than a lotto ticket, but at just 29 years old with good defense at third base, he could be a good one for the Giants.
- *Adrian Beltre signed a five-year (plus an option in 2016) $80 million deal with the Rangers at the age of 32 back before the 2011 season. Since then, he’s gone on to produce 33.7 WAR on that deal. He trails only Mike Trout (47.7), Miguel Cabrera (34.8), and Andrew McCutchen (34.0) over that stretch. And, he might just happen to reach a couple of extremely notable milestones in 2017:
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) January 4, 2017