Even on a granular level, I really felt like this week – the week after teams exchanged arbitration figures and/or came to agreements with their players – was going to be the week the free agent dam came crumbling down.
I was, of course, wrong. It didn’t happen. Again.
And from the sounds of it, that may never happen:
I asked an MLB executive what he expects on the free agent and trade markets from here. "My latest guess is a consistent trickle for the next few weeks, and then a mad rush the week before spring training,'' he said. That pretty much summarizes the offseason. #consistenttrickle
— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) January 19, 2018
Maybe that week of reckoning, where one big-time free agent after another breaks the line and signs a deal, will never come. If Crasnick’s source is to be believed, we might have a one-way ticket to Trickle Town the rest of the way.
Here are some rumors.
- In case you missed it, one of those trickles was a trade trickle, as the Cardinals traded Randal Grichuk earlier today, and got back a solid, if inconsistent big-league reliever and a pitching prospect. You have to wonder if, paired with Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt comments that he wasn’t expecting any more big moves, the Cardinals are out on big name guys like Jake Arrieta, Eric Hosmer, or Greg Holland – who might have to eventually settle for a very short-term deal. Having added in the bullpen with the Grichuk trade, though, I can’t help but wonder if the Cardinals will be out on Holland (saving money), and even more in on other free agent pieces. We shall see.
- At FanRag, Jon Heyman writes that Bryce Harper to the Cubs next season is far from a sure thing. And one source added, “That isn’t going to happen.” GASP! According to Heyman, the presence of Jason Heyward in right field (nah) and the desire to sign their home-grown stars to extensions (eh) will prevent the Cubs from being better potential suitors than, in order, the Nationals, Dodgers, Phillies, or Yankees (who have Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge). I’m not quite buying the rationale here, but it was always the case that Harper to the Cubs was far from a lock. That’s pretty much how it is with tip-top free agents. They’re in the race. I still have no question about that.
- Speaking of upcoming huge free agents, hey, remember Manny Machado trade rumors? Heyman writes that the Diamondbacks continue to show interest in Manny Machado. Unfortunately, but expectedly, the right return hasn’t been found (D-Backs are apparently dangling Brand Drury, but we know the Orioles are looking for starters).
- For what it’s worth, Orioles Manager Buck Showalter says he expects Manny Machado to be in the lineup on Opening Day, but did mention that the team still needs a starting pitcher, a left-handed hitter, a left-handed reliever, a utility player, and a veteran catcher: “I know some of the things that people have floated out there and I sure wouldn’t do it. And I’m a little biased. I’d like to have Manny.” Yeah, well, no surprise there. I’m guessing at this point Manny’s staying put.
- The Cubs, you’ll recall (and possibly groan), were heavily attached to Machado earlier in the offseason, but adding him and his $16 million salary at this point would require quite a bit of maneuvering if the Cubs were also still intent on adding a top-tier starting pitcher. As I said, Machado probably isn’t going anywhere anyway, so this is all just academic.
- The Cubs are still looking for a top starter, and, according to Heyman, Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish (i.e. not Alex Cobb (who’s still looking for $15M in AAV over 4-5 years) appear to be their top two choices. Heyman also indicates their continued interest in Greg Holland, but notes that the likelihood of that is very unclear (I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it relates to whichever starter they get or that their interest was squashed after adding Brian Duensing to an already-fairly-loaded pen).
- The Brewers are keeping the door open for an opportunistic play on a starting pitcher like Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn, but are still eyeing something bigger, like a move for Jake Arrieta. Adding to their rotation would make plenty of sense, given the perceived upswing and general team needs, but we’ll see if they actually pull that trigger on a substantial contract.
- Speaking of teams that may or may not pull the trigger on a substantial contract:
There are folks with other teams who believe that the Twins have a real shot to sign Yu Darvish. They've got a ton of payroll flexibility, they have a rotation need, and they're well-positioned to compete in a weakened AL Central in the next few years.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 19, 2018
- Michael Silverman has an update to the previously reported five-year/$100M Red Sox offer to J.D. Martinez, which was denied by his agent Scott Boras – who sounds like he was telling the truth:
Source: Red Sox offer to JD Martinez believed to be roughly $125 million over five years.
That's what OF Josh Hamilton got from the Angels five years ago.
— Michael Silverman (@MikeSilvermanBB) January 19, 2018
- The Marlins have reportedly told Christian Yelich that they’ll listen to trade offers for him (as he requested), but are giving him no assurances. According to Heyman, the Phillies, Rangers, Angels, Jays, Dodgers, Red Sox, White Sox, Diamondbacks, and Padres are among the most interested parties (but I’d assume many more have come calling). In case you’re wondering, the Marlins are looking for impact prospects in Double-A or higher, which is not something the Cubs could accommodate (though rumors of an attempted three-team trade (not sure with whom other than the Marlins) were reported)).
- At Sports Illustrated, Jay Jaffe takes his hack at the slow and flawed free agent market, before giving us reasons to be scared by each of the remaining top 20 free agents – which could be an even bigger part of the market slowdown than has been widely discussed before.
- The Yankees, Marlins, and Rangers are reportedly among the favorites to land 21-year-old Cuban center fielder Julio Pablo Martinez, who, according to Ben Badler (Baseball America) would be comparable to a first-round talent in the draft. If Martinez is not declared a free agent by June 15th, we can see the Cubs getting involved. If not (which seems more likely at this point) they’ll be limited to just a $300,000 bonus like they were for Shohei Ohtani, and, thus, will not stand a chance.
- Former Pirates infielder Jung-Ho Kang has apparently moved to the Dominican Republic in an attempt to get an American work visa (so he can play in the States) from the U.S. Embassy (apparently, you can be denied one by the Korean U.S. Embassy but apply for one elsewhere?). Given that he was recently cut from his Winter Ball team and previously denied a visa … I’m just not too optimistic, and I’m not sure the Pirates are either.
- Lost in the shuffle of the slow free agent market is the tragedy of Ichiro’s MLB career potentially being over. After holding out hope for an MLB offer, Ichiro might finish his career in Japan. Ichiro, 44, said he wants to play until he’s 50 and might already have an offer from a team in Japan.
- He might say he wants to play until he’s *only* 50, but we know what he really means:
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) March 29, 2017