We’re getting to the point in the offseason where the most significant remaining milestone by which free agents (particularly pitchers) will want to sign is, well, Pitchers and Catchers Reporting Day – unless they really create their own Spring Training.
But, I’ll remind you that last week, Bruce Levine mentioned that the Cubs may view packing day (February 1) – the day teams send all of their gear from their home stadiums to their Spring Training facilities – as an earlier potential soft deadline. Whether that’s directed inward (as in, they’ll up their offer to one of the free agent starters) or outward (as in, you better decide by this date) is unclear – as is why that particular date would really matter all that much – but I’d at least keep Thursday in mind as you sift through rumors this week.
Speaking of which, rumor time …
- The Brewers are not slowing down:
#Brewers have agreement with reliever Matt Albers as @Ken_Rosenthal reported first. Per source it's a two-year, $5 million deal. Deal includes up to $1 million in performance bonuses per year based on games.
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) January 29, 2018
- Albers may play the 2018 season as a 36-year-old, but he was very good for the Nationals last season (1.60 ERA, 3.40 FIP, 0.8 WAR). Whether he can keep that up, though, is a fair question. Albers’ ZiPS projections aren’t out yet, but Steamer is pretty down on him, at least in terms of his ability to stay on the field. Still, this is a relatively low commitment for Milwaukee, with a heavy focus on 2018. If Albers is anywhere near the guy he was last year, that’ll be a big boost to the bullpen.
- Speaking of the Brewers pitching staff, there was a bit of a notable update at their fan convention:
Word on the convention floor is that Brewers pitching coach Derek Johnson told fans the team expects Jimmy Nelson back around June.
— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) January 28, 2018
- Jimmy Nelson (shoulder) is the Brewers’ best start when healthy, but he had surgery last September and will not be ready by Opening Day. However, if he’s ready before the All-Star break, per the tweet above, that could be a big one for the Brewers. With that said, it’s a bit difficult to discern whether a quick recovery might push the Brewers to add a significant starter via free agency/trade (push the chips all in approach) or if that’ll allow them to be more patient and conservative (Nelson acts as the pitching “addition,” and the Brewers reassess after this season/at the deadline). This all assumes that Nelson is expected to return at the same level of excellence as when he went down, by the way, which is more fairly framed as an open question.
- Keeping with the Brewers, Ken Rosenthal sheds some light on the Brewers’ decision to add a 32-year-old free agent outfielder, Lorenzo Cain, to such a significant deal (five years/$80M) given their small-market, risk-average nature. And according to sources familiar with the club’s thinking, the Brewers believe Cain’s well-rounded (offense, defense, base-running, etc.), high-level performance over the past few seasons make him an ideal candidate to keep providing value well into his 30s. In fact, thanks to certain signs (like an improving walk rate) they think he might even improve! I … tend to disagree. But that doesn’t mean I think it was necessarily the wrong move. In all likelihood, Cain makes the Brewers a lot better in 2018, slightly better in 2019 and then starts to become a drag for the final three years of his contract. There’s still a chance they can win before that. Miss 100% of the shots you don’t take and whatnot.
- Speaking of that loaded outfield, you can more or less expect Cain and Christian Yelich to swipe a vast majority of the starts, with all of Keon Broxton, Brett Phillips, Domingo Santana, and Ryan Braun (unless he’s in the infield?) sharing the rest. HOWEVER, you should probably still expect a trade, and, according to Ken Rosenthal, it might be Phillips, not Santana, who acts as the center piece for a deal.
- From that same piece at The Athletic, Rosenthal discusses the trouble the Nationals and Marlins are having in completing a trade for catcher J.T. Realmuto. Apparently, the Nats won’t move top prospect Victor Robles, but *might* consider moving Michael Taylor … who the Marlins might not want anyway. Taylor had a bit of a breakout season last year (3.1 WAR, 105 wRC+), but I’d trade him for J.T. Realmuto in a heartbeat if I were the Nationals (especially with Adam Eaton coming back). I know the argument is that you might want Taylor to cover for Bryce Harper when he walks in free agency, but 2018 feels like a great year for the Nationals to really go for it. Realmuto would be HUGE for that team.
- On Twitter, Darren Wolfson is hearing that the Twins are technically still in the hunt for Darvish:
— Darren Wolfson (@DWolfsonKSTP) January 29, 2018
- As Brett explored earlier, it sure sounds like they’d have to outbid the Cubs by a significant margin for Darvish to choose Minnesota over Chicago. Indeed, I’m convinced that Brett’s take (that the offers for Darvish are close with the Cubs perhaps tied or just behind the Twins and Darvish is waiting for the Cubs to step it up so it’s an even easier choice) is spot on. Especially because, in that case, it’s easy to see how a stalemate could form. But as a later report frustratingly indicated, Darvish may, in fact, be waiting on THE DODGERS to make a decision. Or is it the Rangers? Sigh.
- At Cubs.com, Carrie Muskat has more on Darvish vis a vis his relationship with new Cubs catcher Chris Gimenez … and it’s pretty darn funny. Among the many comments, “He [Darvish] was joking with me the other day about it,” Gimenez said. “I said, ‘I’ll call Theo right now. What do you want me to tell him?’ [Darvish] said, ‘More years and more money.’ I started laughing and said, ‘All right, Bryce Harper.'” In reality, Gimenez re-intimated that he does not have anything to do with Darvish’s final decision and that while he hopes he signs with the Cubs, “He’s mysterious. I don’t know what he’s going to do.”
- Haha. Ha. Ha. Ha. *starts crying* Please end already.
- Jon Heyman writes that teams are doing their best to avoid six and seven-year deals this winter. Relatedly, J.D. Martinez is reportedly looking for a six-year deal, and Arrieta/Darvish are said by teams to be seeking six or even seven years. I’m prepared to be wrong about this, but I *really* doubt either pitcher gets seven years and think that, at best, just one of them ends up with six. More likely, both wind up with perfectly lucrative (~$25M in AAV) five-year deals, but from whom? Who freakin’ knows man.
- And finally, an old friend has found a new home (getting reunited with pitching coach Chris Bosio):
We have agreed to terms with LHP Travis Wood on a Minor League contract for the 2018 season. Wood has also received an invitation to Major League Spring Training. pic.twitter.com/W9NyC0iq3k
— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) January 29, 2018
Tigers announce minor-league deal with non-roster invite for lefty Travis Wood. He was both a starter and a reliever last year in KC and SD, but word from Tigers is that he'll compete as a starter in Spring Training.
— Jason Beck (@beckjason) January 29, 2018
- While it would have been nice to have a shirtless Travis Wood back in the fold on a minor league deal, if that was the route he had to go, it was best for him to choose a team on which he’d have a much better shot winning a big league job.