For the first time in a long time, I’m feeling pretty optimistic about potential movement on the free agent market – at least, with respect to Cubs target Yu Darvish (who could very well be holding up a lot of other things).
Why the sudden sense of encouragement? Well, because a lot has happened in the last few days – do you remember it all?
On Sunday we learned that the Brewers made an offer to Darvish. On Monday we discovered that at least one team was willing to offer a five-year deal, we watched as the Cubs signed one of Darvish’s favorite catchers, and we eventually gleaned that the Cubs were indeed in active talks with Darvish. On Tuesday, we learned that the Twins were out if the price reached $150M and held our breath as “momentum was building” for the Cubs and the other final teams. And already, today, Jon Morosi claimed that this week will probably be the week Darvish signs.
That’s a whole lot of signals, my friends. Something’s brewing, and we’re officially on high-alert. Until then …
- Of course, this wasn’t the only big news of the week, because on Monday reports revealed that the Brewers made an offer for Marlins star outfielder Christian Yelich. And then earlier today at The Athletic, Ken Rosenthal explored the market for Yelich, trying to discern why teams haven’t yet put together an appropriate package for his services. Given the five years of team-friendly control over Yelich, Rosenthal theorizes, teams should be more than willing to give up their top prospects (who could only offer, at most, one addition year of control). However, as of now, they do not appear willing to do so.
- In any case, the Brewers’ interest seems to be real, but the Marlins want a big piece:
— Joe Frisaro (@JoeFrisaro) January 23, 2018
- Interestingly, Rosenthal indicates that despite Brinson not quite falling into that highest tier of prospects (league-wide), the Brewers might not be willing to part with him for Yelich. It sounds like some informed speculation, to be sure, but given that they apparently wouldn’t part with Brinson for Sonny Gray or Jose Quintana (wut?) last summer, it sounds about right. The Brewers calculus could change if they could pair a trade for Yelich with a free agent signing, but we’ll have to wait and see (and hope the Brewers don’t get a Miami-fire-sale bargain). If you ask me, the Brewers should absolutely trade Brinson for Yelich. In fact, it scares me that the Marlins might be OK with that as the center piece for a return. Remember, even if the Brewers give up Brinson and some other top prospects, 1) they have a TON of top 100 types right now, and 2) Yelich is under control for an unusually long time. This wouldn’t be a short-term risk/play for the Brewers, even though they would draw immediate benefits.
- Elsewhere, even after trading for Andrew McCutchen and signing Austin Jackson, the Giants may not be done adding in the outfield. “Did we get him [Jackson] to be our everyday center fielder? Probably not,” Giants VP of Baseball Ops Brian Sabean told NBC. But – in case you started thinking about Lorenzo Cain – it doesn’t sound like the Giants would use free agency to plug that remaining hole in center. Instead, it sounds like they’re looking for minimum-service type players to acquire via trade. It’s not quite clear if that would mean someone like Yelich, because despite a relatively team-friendly contract, he is still making some serious scratch (he’s owed at least $44.5M over the next four years). Instead, I’d guess the Giants are looking for players *like* Ian Happ and/or Albert Almora (who isn’t?), though I wouldn’t expect either to be headed to San Francisco this winter.
- Speaking of Cain, he still has no home for the upcoming season and Travis Sawchik (FanGraphs) sees that as an opportunity someone needs to jump on: “There is a case to be made that Cain is the best remaining positional free agent available and that he’s quickly becoming the best bargain.” Yep. According to Sawchik, Cain might be a better overall position player than Eric Hosmer and J.D. Martinez, and yet both are likely to cost *MUCH* more than Cain (hence the value). As we know, the Cubs were briefly connected to Cain earlier in the offseason, but those rumors have died down quite a bit. For now, I’d say it seems like a long shot, but this front office is always creative and flexible. If there’s value to be had, they’ll have it.
- Earlier today, Jon Heyman jumped on 670 The Score to talk about the overarching pursuit of Darvish, and suggested that the Cubs are probably “a favorite” if not “the favorite” at this point in the game. Basically, they’re at least as desirable a location as Milwaukee or Minnesota and should be able to win a bidding war against either. Similarly, Heyman called the Yankees a long shot, mentioned that he’d be shocked if Darvish returned to the Dodgers, and reminded us that the Rangers may have taken themselves out of the running due to some caps on how much they’d be willing to offer.
- Bruce Levine also, also jumped on 670 The Score to talk about the Cubs’ pursuit of a pitcher, and says that while the Darvish talk is still out there, it’s an even playing field between him, Jake Arrieta, and Alex Cobb for the Cubs. In fact, Levine seems to think that Cobb is still a high-probability outcome, even as he concedes that the Cubs have had talks with Arrieta and Darvish. Separately, Levine discusses February 1 – the day the Cubs’ gear leaves Wrigley Field and heads for Mesa – as a soft deadline for the Cubs to get something done (he does mention this more than once, so I don’t think it’s being pulled entirely out of thin air).
- And finally, although you may have already pushed the possibility out of your mind, it sounds like the Rays’ Chris Archer – remember him?!?! – is probably staying put for 2018. “I’ve talked to (GM) Erik (Neander) a lot and he’s made me feel pretty good about being with the Rays in 2018,” Archer said Wednesday via Tampa Bay Times. Perhaps if some of the free agent starters signed earlier, a market for Archer could’ve developed, but given the way things played out, this doesn’t surprise me in the least. Much more at The Tampa Bay Times. Perhaps Archer will be a hot name in July. (Again.) And then in December. (Again.)