Things are starting to pick up around here lately, eh?
Last night, the Cubs signed veteran backup catcher Chris Gimenez to a Minor League deal, which led some to speculate that his relationship with Yu Darvish may have played a role in the signing (though we’re officially happy about the deal with or without him).
But in case you were unswayed by speculation, given that the duo had just 12 regular season pairings, know that their relationship extends well beyond the box scores:
If you're gonna lean solely on numbers, get 'em right.
They were paired 12 times in MLB w/ 3.29 ERA. Gimenez also caught all his bullpens in extended spring of 2016 as Darvish worked back from Tommy John. Darvish has told friends Gimenez is his all-time favorite catcher. https://t.co/JUaocNElOR
— Mike Berardino (@MikeBerardino) January 23, 2018
Naturally, just a few hours later, reports broke that the Cubs were in “active talks” with Yu Darvish, and while nothing came out overnight, I’d say you should be on high alert for more action throughout the week.
But for good measure, should you find yourself feeling overly excited, Gordon Wittenmyer writes that “this isn’t anything close to a Jon Lester-David Ross connection.” It’s not that the two aren’t *clearly* connected in the baseball world, it’s just that Gimenez is, himself, a highly regarded backup, which is something the Cubs needed anyway. (Though Wittenmyer says the Cubs did consider the Darvish connection when engaging with Gimenez …. )
On top of that, Darvish isn’t the only notable free agent to which Gimenez is connected. Gimenez also caught for a 2012 and 2013 Rays teams led by Joe Maddon and new Cubs Pitching Coach Jim Hickey, where he also happened to catch free agent starter Alex Cobb. So, in reality, this is more of a fit on many levels than solely an approach to landing Darvish.
More of the latest from the tepid(?) stove …
- At The Athletic, Patrick Mooney writes about the Cubs’ next move as a matter of when and not if: “Even in accounting for benefits, adding the cost of roster churn and setting aside money for the trade deadline, sources with an understanding of the team’s financial picture say the Cubs can spend roughly $30 to $35 million more this offseason and still stay comfortably beneath this year’s $197 million luxury-tax threshold.” That’s certainly good to hear (doing rough math, we’d pegged that number about $10 million lower), so we’ll see what the Cubs have in store. Mooney also brings up a very good point: without significant prospect power (the Cubs landed exactly zero top 100 prospects on BA’s rankings), the Cubs won’t be in a great place to add something significant midseason, so adding that player now using just money makes more sense (even if it means gobbling up more of that luxury tax cushion than you would in a normal offseason).
- [Brett: The flip side of that, though, is that if the Cubs *do* need to make an urgent in-season addition, if they don’t have prospect power, they’d more likely have to use money to make it happen … but if they’ve used up almost all of their cushion, they could be in a bind. Delicate balance, that luxury tax cap, eh?]
- To the extent that you’re still worried about the Brewers chances at landing Yu Darvish after throwing an offer in the ring over the weekend, you can probably step off the ledge, or at least scoot back a little. According to Tom Haudricourt (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel), the Brewers offer, at best, would probably be in the four-year, $80M range, though Darvish will almost certainly wind up with much more than that. So unless Darvish secretly loves Milwaukee, I doubt that’ll happen (further thought: I’m not even sure that would be enough to get Darvish back in Texas, where he reportedly prefers to pitch in 2018 and beyond, so ….).
- At GammonsDaily, Peter Gammons drifts in and out of some stray rumors, including the likelihood that J.D. Martinez winds up getting paid by the Red Sox and Eric Hosmer ends up in either Kansas City or San Diego (where chairman Ron Fowler may be getting heavily involved in the negotiating process with Scott Boras … good luck). But after that, he reconfirms what we just say above: “The Brewers are indeed a sleeper wild card contender, but while they keep being attached to speculation about free agents like Jake Arrieta and Lance Lynn, unless owner Mark Attanasio jumps in—and he did once to sign Kyle Lohse—they are not planning on a big ticket pitching item.”
- At MLB.com, Mark Feinsand writes that Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn will probably sign after Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta find their homes this offseason (which is pretty typical in a normal offseason – the big fish set the bar high, and then others find their deals with that market valuation in mind), but for how much? According to Feinsand, reports show that Cobb and Lynn are both seeking deals “worth $15-$20M annually over four, five, or even six years,” but I’ll take the lower end (or under) on the length of that deal. One unnamed executive pointed to Matt Garza’s recent four-year $50M deal from four years ago as something he’d give to Lynn and Cobb, though, from the sounds of it, that might not be enough to get something done at this point.
- For me, though … four years and $50 million for Alex Cobb feels like a steal. He was reasonably projected to get much more than that coming into the offseason, and while the perception of the market has changed quite dramatically since then, four years and a $12.5 million AAV still feels like a win. But here’s the other thing … if you can get Darvish on a (relative) steal also, you do it, right? You might jump to say, “Yes!” and I hear you, but keep in mind that Darvish’s “steal” will likely still cost probably twice as much as Cobb’s deal. Just speaking hypothetically: if the Cubs could squeeze in Cobb and Greg Holland (or Lorenzo Cain, or a trade or whatever) versus just Darvish, do you feel the same way? I’m not entirely sure where I land, though I’m leaning towards Darvish – especially because the Cubs are likely heading over the luxury tax threshold next offseason anyway.
- And on that, here’s a stray thought:
If Yu Darvish, 31 years old, winds up with a 5-year deal worth something in the range of $100m-$125m, that would be a heck of a contract in the current market. A 6-year offer might represent a possible tipping point for an interested team.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 23, 2018
- [Brett: Speaking of next offseason … Buster Olney writes about the quest for efficiency among the game’s top front offices, and because three of the biggest teams – the Cubs, Yankees, and Dodgers – are run by guys who are all about finding that efficient edge (without owners butting in), that can also slow down the market. One source tells Olney that could lead to the Dodgers and Yankees (curiously, the Cubs aren’t mentioned in this part, even though the article is about the three front offices) to avoid going over $300 million for Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. Do you buy it? I’d be pretty shocked if neither team is seriously in on either player.]
- Michael: If the Yankees and Dodgers are realistically out on *both* because their offers are below $300M, the Cubs chances to land either probably ticked up a notch. But remember, next offseason should be the awakening of many teams. In fact, I could see each of the White Sox, Phillies, Cardinals, Tigers, Twins, Angels, Mariners, and Braves all being especially active, on top of your more regular spenders, since the Yankees and Dodgers are sitting out this year specifically so they can spend next year.
- If you’re interested in the Giants 2018 plans after adding Evan Longoria, Andrew McCutchen, and Austin Jackson, John Shea (San Francisco Chronicle) has more for you here. It sounds like Jackson was signed to be the starting center fielder – and potentially leadoff man – so the Giants can keep McCutchen in right field and Hunter Pence in left. It also allows them to return center field prospect Steven Duggar to Triple-A, so he can ease into the Majors without haste. Shea writes that the Giants are still looking for some pitching depth – both in the rotation and bullpen – but their proximity ot the luxury tax threshold might limit their options. I wouldn’t expect them to be major players on anyone notable, unless they move some money around. So, again, that probably means Lorenzo Cain just lost an obvious landing spot.