Today, the Chicago Cubs are playing the Colorado Rockies in a Cactus League game at Salt River Fields, and Nolan Arenado started in his regular spot at third base.
And that brings up an interesting thread.
- Arenado, 26, has already accrued four years and 155 days of service time, which means the Rockies have just two more seasons of control before he’s a free agent in 2020. Given that he’s won five straight Gold Gloves, three straight Silver Slugger awards, is still fairly young, and is easily among the top 35 third basemen in the NL, the Rockies are likely going to want to extend him sometime soon, right? Well, from the sounds of it, they may have missed their chance this offseason:
#Rockies' Nolan Arenado, whose contract is under club control through next season, says of the prospect of an extension: "I don't think anything is going to happen until after the season. We have a good team and our focus is on winning — as it should be."
— Thomas Harding (@harding_at_mlb) March 4, 2018
- So they’ll have to wait until next year, the year before he’s a free agent, to get him under a long-term contract – and that’s notoriously hard to do. When a player is just one season from free agency, where all 30 teams can bid on him and drive up the price, it’s noticeably more difficult to ink an extension. It’s not unheard of, of course, Stephen Strasburg just did it with the Nationals last year (and he’s a Scott Boras client), and Clayton Kershaw inked his last big extension during Spring Training before he was going to be a free agent several years ago, but it is harder. That’ll be a fun story to follow.
- As for the current group of free agents, Tom Haudricourt is hearing that things might have to happen soon (very soon):
Free agent pitchers Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb still looking for homes but baseball people tell me they'll need to sign before end of this week to be ready for opening of season, no matter what they're doing on their own. Opening day three weeks from Thursday.
— Tom (@Haudricourt) March 4, 2018
- Obviously, these pitchers have been working out on their own, but without working with their soon-to-be catchers and coaches, they’re all likely to more than just a week or two in camp to get properly ready for the season. As we discussed earlier today, teams have different ways of doing things and that can seriously impact performance if the transition isn’t given enough runway.
- I’ll point out, for those who are unaware, that Haudricourt is a Milwaukee-based reporter, and the Brewers are still looking at signing a free agent starter. Basically, I’d brace yourself for the possibility that the Brewers might improve a bit by the end of the week.
- Of course, they’re not the only team eying a steal for one of those starters. At The Washington Post, Jorge Castillo wonders if the Nationals are still waiting for Arrieta’s contract demands to fall before swooping in and picking him up. In fact, according to Castillo, Arrieta stands at the top of the Nationals wish-list at the moment. With that said, the Nats and Arrieta’s camp have not been in contact recently and, apparently, as many as three other teams have checked in (recently).
- Here’s the rub with the Nationals signing Arrieta: because they’re projected to exceed the luxury tax threshold for the second straight season, they’ll not only have to pay a higher tax rate on every dollar over the tax, they’ll also have to give up their second and fifth highest picks in the upcoming draft as well as $1 million in international bonus money … on top of whatever they pay to get Arrieta. That’s … a lot. In fact, that might be too much to overcome, unless Arrieta signs an CRAZY team-friendly deal.
- At Baseball America, Ben Badler runs down the top 2018 international pitching prospects, and it’s definitely something you’ll want to check out, given the Cubs’ ever-ravenous quest for pitching, and their typically high activity in the IFA market (especially since they’ll be out of the penalty box):
15 and 16 years old, throwing 97 mph. Can sign on July 2.
— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) March 2, 2018
- In a later post, Badler mentioned that the Cubs (and Phillies) are among the teams most aggressively pursuing international pitching prospects. Specifically, the Cubs are mentioned as the favorites to sign Richard Gallardo, a 6’1″ 187 lbs righty who boasts the “best combination of fastball, offspeed stuff, and control,” at the MLB international showcase: “Gallardo (6-foot-1, 187 pounds) sat at 89-93 mph, advanced velocity for a 16-year-old with the projection to throw harder. He threw frequent strikes and elevated up and above the zone successfully to generate swing-and-miss. Gallardo also mixed in a 70-75 mph curveball that flashed above-average with good rotation.” Color me intrigued.
- Away from the Cubs, and back to the Major League free agents … more ice:
Hearing there is very little, if anything, to #whitesox interest in Moustakas, CarGo
— Daryl Van Schouwen (@CST_soxvan) March 4, 2018
- Nick Cafardo (Boston Globe) believes that the Orioles might be a good fit for Gonzalez, but suggests that he might have to take a one-year deal at this point in the winter – given the market and how bad he was in 2017 though, I’m not that surprised. Also in there is Neil Walker, who seemingly still can’t get a decent big league offer – just minor league offers. Nuts.
- Also in that post, Cafardo counts the Brewers, Twins, and Yankees as legitimate landing spots for Alex Cobb. Similarly, Cafardo cites one AL GM as evidence that the Rays’ asking price for Chris Archer remains ridiculously high: “Our farm system wouldn’t function properly if we met the price Tampa Bay is asking.” Given the fire sale they’ve already endured and the consistent reports of high asking prices, I’m expecting Archer to stay put until at least the deadline.