Well, the first morning of the Winter Meetings is in the books, and while there haven’t been any new deals to discuss, the rumors and intrigue keep on flowing.
Here’s the latest …
- According to Jerry Crasnick, the Milwaukee Brewers are listening on outfielder Domingo Santana in efforts to land a starting pitcher via trade, but are having trouble finding a match. Obviously, this impacts the Cubs in a couple of ways. First, if the Brewers are able to land that elusive “impact starter,” they may be that much more of a threat against the Cubs in 2018. Second, Santana-for-starting-pitching represents an immediate and direct competition for the Cubs’ efforts to do the same. Not only would both teams be looking for cost-controlled starters, but Santana is a 25-year-old outfielder with tons of power (.227 ISO, 30HRs) and some strikeout/defensive issues. To an extent, the Cubs might be dangling the same basic player in the form of Kyle Schwarber or Ian Happ.
- In other news, the Yankees are reportedly interested in Pirates’ starter Gerrit Cole, but Jon Heyman is reporting that they’re not really ready to trade him yet. From what I remember, the general Pirates’ plan goes something like If someone is going to be moved, it’ll be Andrew McCutchen, and if/when that happens, Cole could be next. But until then, I’m guessing the pitcher stays put. After all, they could always move him at this deadline, next offseason, or the deadline after that (Cole is a free agent after 2019).
- As the Cubs continue to search for more back-end relief help to supplement Brandon Morrow and company, Dennis Lin gives us a new name to consider:
He's not Ohtani, but Yoshihisa Hirano is a name to monitor. The Japanese reliever had a 2.67 ERA last season in NPB. The Padres could be among the interested clubs.
— Dennis Lin (@sdutdennislin) December 11, 2017
- To be sure, Hirano is already 33-years old and despite recent back-to-back quality seasons as a reliever (2.67 ERA and 1.92 ERA), he was pretty mediocre in the two seasons before that (4.06 ERA, 3.43 ERA), and he’s not much in the way of a strikeout artist. This is a broad generalization (and we can always dig in further later), but if you’re not dominating in Japan, and you’re already 33 years old, the jump to MLB doesn’t always work.
- But speaking of dominating as a reliever in Japan …
#Rangers sign free-agent RHP Chris Martin to two-year, $4M contract, sources tell The Athletic. Martin, 31, had 1.12 ERA in 88 relief innings last two years in Japan. Deal includes $550K in incentives each year based on games finished. Can become free agent at end of contract.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 11, 2017
- The Rangers have reportedly signed 31-year-old right-handed reliever (and lead singer of Coldplay) Chris Martin out of Japan. Martin had back-to-back dominant seasons with the Nippon-Ham Fighters, and has spun that into a two-year $4M deal (plus some incentives). Without knowing much about him, I’d say this looks like a pretty good deal for both sides (Martin guarantees some cash and gets a chance to play in MLB again, and the Rangers get a very low risk upside play).
- Switching gears, Jon Heyman has heard that the Diamondbacks are still trying to keep free agent J.D. Martinez, but that they don’t expect to win if it becomes a bidding war. Martinez, 30, is coming off a stellar 166 wRC+ season (which ranks behind only Mike Trout and Aaron Judge last season), but is something of a liability in the field. An AL team might be smart to give him the extra money and just hope he transitions well into a DH duty a few years down the line.
- The Dodgers may be quieter than usual this offseason:
General sense from a few agents, rival execs: The Dodgers are active, as always, but the concerns about the luxury tax make maneuvering more difficult than usual. Obviously played a major role in the Stanton talks.
— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) December 11, 2017
- If the Dodgers lay low this year, keep in mind the potential spending spree they can go on with that HUGE free agent class pending next winter. (Though, if they want to keep Clayton Kershaw should he opt out after 2018, they’ll have to save some cash for that.)
- And to that end, I want to bring up one non-Winter meetings point while I have you here. While I very much suspect the Cubs will be going after Bryce Harper next winter, we really have to remember recent history. It wasn’t too long ago, when everyone in baseball was guessing that David Price would end up in Chicago before the Cubs did a 180 and targeted Jason Heyward instead (which was especially crazy because they were full up with positional guys and needed pitching). That offseason also featured a pretty loaded group of free agents. So all I’m saying is don’t forget the first rule of this front office: they’re unpredictable and creative above all else.
- The Marlins are – somewhat understandably – getting some flak for the “light” return for the 2017 NL MVP, and Derek Jeter has some thoughts on that:
“So little in return? You mean, in terms, of quantity?” Derek Jeter said when asked about receiving Starlin Castro and two Single-A players for Giancarlo Stanton. “We have people in place whose job is to know about talent and I think they would… https://t.co/kZu1vSpHhF
— Andrew Marchand (@AndrewMarchand) December 11, 2017
- And you know what, I actually get where he’s coming from. If you accept the fact that the Marlins pretty much *had* to trade Stanton (escalating contract, rebuild underway, career year at the plate, huge pile of organizational debt), how much better could they realistically have done? Stanton was owed $295 million and limited his trade market to four teams … three of which didn’t want him. And the Marlins were *still* able to turn that into Starlin Castro, two prospects and over $200M in savings. It’s a crummy return, yeah, but an appropriate one given the circumstances.
- With that said, that’s not how the Marlins are framing this:
Big gap between how yankees and marlins view prospects going to miami jorge guzman and jose devers. Yanks seem them ss mid-tier prospects, marlins baseball prez mike hill: guzman could be an ace and devers has similar skill set to cousin rafael.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 11, 2017
- I’d guess that most teams see the prospects in the deal the way the Yankees do. So, you know, yeah, you didn’t score, Mr. Hill, but when does a team ever score on a salary dump (let alone one of this magnitude)?
- And, again, this is coming from someone (me) who already dislikes the Marlins ownership and style:
The backstory of the Giancarlo Stanton trade is bonkers. Miami threatened that if he didn’t accept a trade to St. Louis or San Francisco, he would be a Marlin for life. He called their bluff. And because of it, he’s a New York Yankee.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 11, 2017
- Yeah, why don’t you try to bend Stanton’s arm some more. See how that works out for you. (For his part, Stanton tossed some accurate criticism at the Marlins on the way out the door.)
- And speaking of the Marlins trying to make a market for Stanton where there wasn’t one:
Mike Hill said initially went to 4 clubs Stanton expressed would waive no trade for: #Yankees #Dodgers #Cubs #Astros. No traction. So engaged others/worked out deals with #SFGiants #Stlcards. Stanton refused, so re-engaged with others and that is when #Yankees deal was forged
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) December 11, 2017
- [Brett: I wonder what that phone call to Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer looked like. My guess is they held out for the Miami dinger sculpture and got shut down. Cost-controlled insane, motorized, decorative outfield art is the white whale of this market.]
- I’ll believe this when I see it (and I won’t see it, if it’s possible he’ll make more money):
Agent Joel Wolfe on Giancarlo Stanton’s opt-out clause following the 2020 season: “He has no desire to opt out.” Sounds like the plan is for him to be a Yankee through 2027.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 11, 2017
- Jorge Castillo (Washington Post) suggests that the Nationals may be interested in signing recently non-tendered Cubs reliever Hector Rondon. Apparently, they checked in on him earlier this month and there’s obviously the Dave Martinez familiarity.
- A possible swap of huge names with disappointing recent stretches:
Matt Harvey for Jurickson Profar has been discussed. Nothing firm.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 11, 2017
- And finally, Zach Buchanan (Reds beat reporter) writes that the Padres have “real interest” in free agent shortstop Zack Cozart, but could turn to the trade market if that doesn’t really materialize. Obviously, the Cubs have a couple of theoretically available shortstops for cheap, but I just don’t see anyone on the Padres worth trading either player for.