This week’s rumor mill got off to a hot start yesterday, with an uncomfortably specific Giancarlo Stanton/Cardinals rumor, some debating over trading one of the Cubs’ young position players, and even a new set of free agent predictions.
And yet here we are, bright and early, with a full Lukewarm Stove to warm us back up. God, I love the offseason.
- At the Tampa Bay Times, Marc Topkin writes that the Rays are aiming to improve their team for 2017, but have been directed to get leaner (in terms of $) in the process. And while that may sound like the goal of every team, I think it’s obviously a bit different (and more serious) for the Rays … and obviously very interesting for a team like the Cubs. Consider that the Cubs are flush with pre-arb position players, while three of the Rays’ more expensive 2018 players include Chris Archer ($6.4M), Jake Odorizzi ($6.5M), and Alex Colome ($5.5M). All three players have been connected to the Cubs in the past (since like forever or whatever), and each could theoretically be on the move this winter.
- For what it’s worth, Topkin guesses that Odorizzi and Colome are far more likely to be on the move than Archer, but all three appear to be available, and you can bet the Cubs would call on each, just to see. This saga may never end.
- Pre-emptive reminder: The Cardinals will play most of 2018 without closer Trevor Rosenthal (Tommy John surgery, and just released) and have lost fill-in closer Seung-Hwan Oh to free agency. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that they’re reportedly targeting back-end relief help this offseason. More specifically, Derrick Goold writes that the Cardinals could look to add a closer (mentioning Greg Holland) while also adding someone from the second tier like Juan Nicasio, Anthony Swarzak, Bryan Shaw or others. Clearly, the Cardinals are not happy with how 2016-2017 played out and they’re going to be aggressive for next season. Since the Cubs will also be looking to fill out their bullpen aggressively, there could be some head-to-head battles there.
- Moving on …
In free agent propaganda season, we research:Arrieta is 3 mo. older than Darvish, but, including Japan, Darvish has thrown 549 more innings
— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) November 5, 2017
- Yes, sure, but that’s partly because Darvish was established and healthy sooner than Arrieta, and Arrieta has also thrown many more Minor League innings than Darvish – and although those aren’t the same as big league innings in intensity, they still should count somehow. Basically, even though there may be something here, I’m not so sure this is an apples-to-apples comparison, especially given that Darvish really only missed time with Tommy John surgery and came back promptly without issue.
- Speaking of Darvish, who has been projected to the Cubs at one point already this offseason, here’s a reminder that he may have been tipping his pitches during the World Series, and he definitely did at least once during the regular season (when he allowed 10 runs against the Marlins). On the one hand, that’s terrifying, because if a guy can get blown up that quickly and easily … yikes. But on the other hand, if it’s an easy enough fix, he might just be the guy he’s always been … which is really good.
- Interestingly, although the Rangers (Darvish’ long-time MLB team) are technically interested in re-signing their former ace, they are clearly not prioritizing a reunion. Given that they have more information on Darvish than any team out there, but plenty of reasons and money to target someone like him, that’s notable.
- At CubsInsider, Brendan Miller takes a look at the lower end of free agent starters this winter, noting that Jhoulys Chacin might actually be a big steal. And if there’s one thing we know about this Cubs front office it’s that they love targeting low-risk pitchers with potentially big upside.
- At Baseball America, Kyle Glaser points out the logjam of outfield talent in the Cardinals system both at the Major League level (Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty, Dexter Fowler, Tommy Pham, Jose Martinez) and in the minors (6 of their top 14 prospects are outfielder at or above Double-A). What that means is that they’re likely going to unload some of that outfield talent this winter and that could affect the Cubs in more ways than one. First, and more obviously, dealing from a position of strength could help the Cardinals improve the big league club immediately and challenge the Cubs in the Central. But second, making available their collection of young, outfield bats could flood the trade market a bit (especially if the Marlins also make guys like Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and Christian Yelich available), and hamper the value of guys like Albert Almora and/or Kyle Schwarber – should the Cubs make them available.
- Even after the Cubs traded Jorge Soler to the Royals for Wade Davis last winter, they were briefly connected to Rockies closer Greg Holland. Holland, meanwhile, had another fairly good (though not vintage-Holland) season in 2017, wherein he collected 41 saves (t-1st in NL), but kept just a 3.61 ERA and 3.72 FIP. Holland recently declined a $15M player option, because he’s likely to get more than that in free agency, but given his 11.1 BB% in 2017 and 13.5% mark in 2016, I’d caution the Cubs not to overpay for lofty save totals.
- Speaking of free agent relievers for the Cubs, Steve Adams (MLB Trade Rumors) writes that Japanese reliever Kazuhisa Makita could also be posted to MLB clubs this winter and, given his age (32), he’d be the unrestricted type of free agent.
- As for his background: Makita was the Pacific League Rookie of the Year (as a starter) back in 2011 and owns a career 2.83 ERA in 921.1 IP. Two seasons ago (2016), Makita moved into the bullpen and since then, his ERA has shrunk even lower (1.91 ERA in 150 IP). Makita is a submarining righty who records very few strikeouts/walks, and gets by, primarily, on weak contact. Perhaps the Cubs will become interested, but it’s hard to peg his market down right now.
- And finally, outfielder Jarrod Dyson is a free agent this winter and could fill the roll that Jon Jay did on the Cubs in 2017 (complementary outfielder). Though it’s fair to wonder if they Cubs might not be better bringing back Jay (who admittedly loves Chicago), than giving Dyson the multi-year deal for which he’ reportedly looking. It’s worth pointing out that, while Dyson is the superior defender, he’s probably a bit of a weaker bat. With Albert Almora and Jason Heyward on the roster already, I’m not sure the Cubs need another glove-first outfielder.