Ahh … the first Lukewarm Stove of the year. It’s a thing of beauty, isn’t it?
If you’re relatively new to BN, you should know that we like to do these rumor roundup posts – called Lukewarm Stoves – every now and then in the weeks/months leading up to the trade deadline and again in the offseason.
And while Theo Epstein is probably right to suggest that it’s still a little early for concrete rumors, others (like Joel Sherman) have heard that some early movement is possible this year. So let’s check out some rumory bits from around the league, and see what’s happening.
- First up, let’s look at a couple of FanRagSports articles from Jon Heyman, as both are lush with rumors and stray team notes. In the first, which can be seen here, Heyman hears from a Pirates insider that Pittsburgh is not quite ready to move Gerrit Cole in trade just yet. Although the Pirates are in last place and could take home a king’s ransom in a deadline deal for their right-handed ace, Cole still has two and half more seasons under team control, and thus, plenty of time left to be traded. The Pirates are usually open to anything, though, so don’t blink yet.
- Through nine starts this season, Zack Greinke has made a huge comeback for the Arizona Diamondbacks (3.09 ERA, 6.00 K/BB) and is theoretically available in trade. However, there are a couple of things in the way. First, there’s his huge contract. Second, there’s the fact that the D-Backs are playing surprisingly well this season (24-18, T-2nd in the NL West), and may not necessarily be interested in giving up on Greinke in just his second year. Heyman has heard otherwise, for what it’s worth, but given how tumultuous last season was for the D-Backs, I can’t imagine they’d trade a productive Greinke in the middle of a competitive season. Maybe by the end of the year? Sure, but not now. If they do happen to fall behind in the standings, however, and want to move Greinke’s contact out, Heyman writes that the D-Backs will have to eat a healthy amount of his remaining, heavily-deferred, and very-expensive deal.
- While it seems funny – and perhaps even unfair – to talk about first place and/or competitive teams trading their best players, the truth is that it’s still very early and many of these teams will fade. I have no clue if the Brewers will become one of those teams, but if they do and they decide to trade Ryan Braun, he might not approve a trade to any team but the Dodgers (using 10-5 rights).
- The last-place Miami Marlins (14-26) could be another team looking to move some players sooner rather than later. And Heyman is hearing that teams have been looking at Edinson Volquez, A.J. Ramos and Kyle Barraclough as the potential top trade targets. None has had too much success this season (either in results or peripherals) though, so query whether even a team like the Cubs, who are in need of some pitching depth, would come calling.
- After this season, Johnny Cueto has four years and $83 million left on his deal with the Giants. That deal, however, comes with an opt-out after this season. According to Heyman, Cueto is a strong candidate to exercise that opt-out and look for a deal in the 5-year/$125 million range this winter. Cueto hasn’t quite been himself early on this year, but he’s been very solid in four out of the past five seasons (one was injury-shortened) and is just 31 years old. The Giants (17-25) are in fourth place of the NL West.
- At just a game below .500, the Tampa Bay Rays are not in trade-mode just yet, but could be soon. If and when that time comes, Alex Cobb, a free-agent after the season, figures to be an ideal trade candidate. Cobb, still just 29, has finally worked his way back from injury and is pitching fairly well in the AL East (3.67 ERA, 0.7 WAR). If you’ve been following the Cubs closely over the past two years, you’ll know that the Cubs have been connected to Cobb (and several other Rays starters) a lot. Perhaps this summer will finally set the stage for the Rays/Cubs trade many have been predicting. Expect to hear plenty of Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi trade rumors, too.
- Or perhaps the Cubs will aim for a top rental like the Rangers’ Yu Darvish? Brett actually discussed the possibility earlier this season, and not much has changed since then. The one difference, however, is that many are viewing the Rangers’ recent trip to visit Shohei Otani as a sign that there really isn’t going to be an extension between Darvish and the Rangers. The Cubs were heavily interested in Darvish when he was first available and have made a number of trades with the Rangers over the years. Darvish is also a rental and the Rangers are 7.5 games back (albeit in second place). The pieces are all there.
- You may have heard a lot about the exciting 2018-2019 free agent class (it really will be ridiculous), but don’t sleep on the upcoming class. At MLB Trade Rumors, Tim Dierkes put together Free Agent Power Rankings for the upcoming offseason, and it’s pretty drool worthy itself. At the top are a couple of starters we’ve just talked about (Yu Darvish and Johnny Cueto), followed by Jake Arrieta, Jonathan Lucroy, and J.D. Martinez in the top five. Of course, other pitchers, including Masahiro Tanaka (#8) and Michael Pineda (#9) could be of interest to a team like the Cubs, as could their current closer, Wade Davis, who comes in at number 10.
- But speaking of that crowded 2018-2019 free agent class, Bryce Harper is sure to be the belle of the ball … but a dance with him is going to be costly. Jon Heyman has heard from one rival GM that Harper’s value on a long-term deal is … are you ready for this … closer to $500 million than $400 million. The difficult part in pegging any Harper deal right now, though, is going to be when, where, and how many opt-outs exist. Those can completely change the look of any contract, and are almost CERTAINLY going to be present in Harper’s next deal. For what it’s worth, the Yankees, Dodgers, and Phillies have been seen as favorites, although the Nationals are reportedly not out of the running yet. There’s still so much that can change between now and the 2018-2019 offseason, though, so we’ll have to be patient. But boy is that going to be fun to follow.