With the holidays quickly approaching (and the reports that the Orioles will be mostly done discussing Manny Machado after today), there’s a reasonable chance that the stove will cool down a bit after tomorrow evening.
You can probably expect it to fire right back up quickly thereafter (well, it sorta has to, given that nearly all of the top free agents remain unsigned), but until the flame goes out, we’ll be on high alert. So, here’s the latest from the Lukewarm Stove …
- When the new CBA was agreed upon last winter, many agents lamented about the newly implemented penalties for surpassing the luxury tax cap – penalties that get more severe the greater and/or the longer you’re over the threshold. What used to be an extremely soft cap, costing teams *just money* for breaching, has expanded into international bonus space and draft-pick loss, and clearly, it’s having an affect on the market.
- And while you may be inclined to guess that the new limit is most affecting the priciest free agents, that’s not entirely true*. At ESPN, Buster Olney writes how the “free-agent middle-class” has been among the most affected, with teams unwilling to pay for medium-performance players what they would have in year’s past. In effect, this new CBA has completely altered MLB free agency – in a manner, I suspect, the players did not entirely expect.
- At FanRag, Jon Heyman makes “9 observations on a slow offseason,” which is a pretty interesting read. Among the more interesting bits is that, despite what they may say, the Marlins are not likely done dealing this winter (why not get all the crazy out at once, right?), and, yes, that probably includes moving Christian Yelich and, to a less likely extent, J.T. Realmuto. According to Heyman, the Phillies, D-Backs, Braves, and even Dodgers could all jump into the Yelich-sweepstakes, should he be put out there seriously, and he could make plenty of sense for all of those teams. Fortunately, I feel pretty confident that the Cardinals will not be involved, after acquiring Marcell Ozuna earlier this winter.
- Heyman also thinks that the Yankees’ Clint Frazier (plus) for Gerrit Cole trade will go through eventually, just as soon as the Pirates give up their dream of landing Gleyber Torres. If it doesn’t happen, however, the Yankees have reportedly considered Alex Cobb, but, according to Heyman, are not interested in paying Jake Arrieta or Yu Darvish (which feels right).
- And to that end, Heyman guesses that the trade market is actually what’s holding everything up now, because so many talented players are actually, realistically available: Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Cole, Patrick Corbin, Zack Greinke, Alex Colme, Andrew McCutchen, Josh Harrison, Jason Kipnis and others.
- On the free agent market, one of the top bats continues to draw interest, even though no trigger has yet been pulled:
The #Royals have focused more on Eric Hosmer than their other big free agents, Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas, sources say. They're looking like the #Padres main competition for Hosmer. But can they wait so long that Duda, LoMo and the other Plan B's drop off the board?
— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 21, 2017
- Given the Red Sox’s apparent preference for J.D. Martinez and the Royals seemingly straddling the line of a mini-rebuild, the Padres feel like the best bet to land Hosmer, but, again, with so many other options available in free agency and trade, it’s all quite hard to predict. At some point, someone will have to blink.
- On the other (pitching) end of the free agent market, Heyman writes that the Cubs “have a hand in” on each of Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Alex Cobb, and Lance Lynn, but haven’t quite gotten anywhere yet. Cobb remains the most logical fit, but the reported gap (be it years or dollars) seems to be a real issue. Relatedly, Heyman writes that Zach Britton actually made a lot of sense for the Cubs closer job, but now that he’s hurt it’s obviously off the table.
- Yesterday, the Rays traded star third baseman Evan Longoria (who was just included on “MLB’s Most Overrated Team,” and that led many to believe that long-time Cub target Chris Archer might be next …. Well, hold your horses:
Trade of Longoria indicates #Rays open to anything, but does NOT necessarily mean Archer is next, sources tell The Athletic. Rays, given strength of farm system, not looking at five-year rebuild. Might compete as soon as 2019; Archer under control and affordable through ‘21.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 21, 2017
- Basically, given how many more years of control Archer still has, the Rays are (at least communicating that they are) comfortable hanging onto him for now and seeing if they can’t compete after a deck-reshuffling in 2018. Rosenthal went on to explain that, on top of that, the money owed to Longoria over the next few years ($86M) plus the impending no-trade rights (10-5 rights would kick in for Longoria next year) made things slightly more urgent. Archer, on the hand, is far cheaper ($33.75M) and has no no-trade abilities.
- The Brewers deal for Jhoulys Chacin remains pretty solid (and inexpensive):
chacin breakdown: $1.5M signing bonus, $8M in 2018, $6M in 2019. #crew
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 21, 2017
- That’s a good deal for the Brewers, who’ll get a piece of their rotation for relative pennies.
- To the extent you saw a report out there on Twitter that the Cubs had already agreed to a deal with Yu Darvish, it was refuted by the Chicago media … and Darvish himself:
The report that the Cubs have signed Yu Darvish is false according to reliable people .
— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) December 21, 2017
Source close to negotiations tells me NO DEAL has been agreed to between Yu Darvish and the Cubs. Complete nonsense. Nothing has happened since the two sides met on Monday.
— David Kaplan (@thekapman) December 21, 2017
— ダルビッシュ有(Yu Darvish) (@faridyu) December 21, 2017
- *While it’s quite clear that the middle class is being disproportionately and more directly affected by the new CBA, the high-end free agent contracts figure to be depressed as well, but in an indirect manner. Teams like the Cubs aren’t unable or even necessarily unwilling to pay free agents like Yu Darvish what they might’ve otherwise gotten in a different season, but if the Yankees and Dodgers and Giants aren’t credibly bidding up the prices, why would they they pay as much?