Lukewarm Stove: Gray Shopped? Kershaw Opting Out? Machado and Harper, Teams Spending, More

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Lukewarm Stove: Gray Shopped? Kershaw Opting Out? Machado and Harper, Teams Spending, More

Chicago Cubs Rumors, MLB News and Rumors

You know that feeling of hearing a word for the first time before seeing it pop up EVERYWHERE for the next week or so? Well it turns out, it works with lessons, too. And the current lesson I’m destined to learn over-and-over is how quickly the script of a player’s career can flip in either direction.

In the Bullets this morning, Brett brought up former Cub Marwin Gonzalez, who was left unprotected and taken in the Rule 5 draft several years ago, but is now playing a key role on one of baseball’s best teams. But it can go in the other direction, too, like maybe with Chris Archer: now 30 and with a new team, Archer has never been able to take that often-anticipated step forward into the top of the rotation after a huge 2015 season. And after his 4.31 ERA, 2.4 WAR 2018 season, I’m not sure he ever will.

  • Right there with Archer in that kind of negative scrip-flipping is Sonny Gray. Over the past 3-4 years, you couldn’t throw a stone without hitting a Chris Archer or Sonny Gray trade rumor. Every team was connected to one of these arms and every team coveted them. Archer, as we’ve discussed, was finally traded to the Pirates, but Gray got the call first, going from the A’s to the Yankees in 2017. Unfortunately, his performance in New York has been even worse than Archer’s in Pittsburgh: 4.51 ERA, 4.40 FIP in 34 starts (195.2 IP). And if you look at just his 2018 season, Gray’s ERA is approaching 5.00. So naturally, he’ll head to the chopping block this offseason:

  • “It’s probably best to try this somewhere else.” Ouch. Gray has one more season of control (via arbitration), when he’ll make around $9M (MLBTR’s projection). Given his struggles, his expiring contract, and the relatively full rotation picture on the North Side for 2019, I wouldn’t expect the Cubs to become involved, even if they had legitimate interest in the past. The San Francisco Chronicle, for what it’s worth, openly wonders if the Yankees might spin him back off to the A’s.
(Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
  • Jon Heyman dumps notes on nearly every team – all of which is worth checking out – but one note stood out to me, in particular: “Phillies people suggest they don’t think signing both Manny Machado and Bryce Harper is likely, but no one should rule it out.” Uhm, yeah, I find that VERY hard to believe. The Phillies will absolutely be one of the most aggressive teams in free agency – they’ve long had the money, but not the talent to make it worth their while – but signing *both* Harper and Machado isn’t just unfeasible, it’s unlikely. It’s not easy to court one superstar, but getting both? That’s a tall order. Heyman went on: “They are expected to be the most aggressive team in bidding this winter. And while they have a strong connection to Machado, don’t be surprised if it’s Harper instead. Harper is a chance to stick it to the rival Nats, and his big finish made folks notice … ” Look out for the Phillies (and the Yankees (and the Dodgers)). 
  • But maybe not the Braves?

  • David O’ Brien, who writes for The Athletic, seems to be confident in his belief that the Braves might spend a little this offseason (about $30M more after raises and whatnot), but not a lot. This is the second time we’ve heard this rumor, so unless there’s a misinformation campaign (never to be ruled out entirely), there may be something here. Given how good they were this year and how good/aggressive the Phillies (and even Nationals) figure to be next season, I think not breaking the bank to supplement this young core would be a misstep, but, hey, it’s their competitive window. Of course, O’Brien was also on the radio explaining how Freddie Freeman has become friends with Harper and is campaigning for his signing, so who knows?
  • While we’re on the subject of spending in the NL East, Chelsea Janes shares her thoughts on the Nationals’ flexibility, and it’s very interesting. By her estimation, the Nationals will have payroll space, but have absolutely no intentions of exceeding the luxury tax threshold or even “coming close.” Indeed, Janes explains further: “If they sign one player for $30 million or more annually — such as, say, Bryce Harper — they might not have nearly as much breathing room as it seemed they would have entering this offseason.”
  • Harper seems to be among everybody’s top targets this winter, including, apparently, the Giants, but you could argue their path may have just gotten trickier. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the injury to Yankees infielder Didi Gregorious will increase the Yankees interest in Manny Machado, which could lure the shortstop away from the Dodgers, who will then increase their pursuit of Harper, which will make him more expensive for the Giants, who want him desperately. I understand the logic train here, but things aren’t usually that simple, especially when you factor in the return of Corey Seager for the Dodgers. The Dodgers – among several other major market teams – were probably always going to be in on Harper, and it was always going to be a challenge for the Giants to be the team that lands him.
  • Speaking of the Yankees and Machado, Mark W. Sanchez writes that the “Yankees surely noticed Manny Machado’s ‘pathetic’ hustle,” after Machado didn’t fully sprint out a fourth-inning grounder over the weekend. Meh. It wasn’t that egregious, in my opinion. “It’s possible Machado does not want to risk injury ahead of an enormous payday that surely will come,” writes Sanchez, “100 percent effort or not. But the Yankees and his other suitors surely took note of his high-profile jog.” If the Cubs’ front office ever said they didn’t sign someone as good as Manny Machado because he didn’t go full out on a grounder to short with two outs in the fourth inning of any game – postseason or not – I would revolt. That’s a very lame excuse and not something any worthy front office would actually entertain.
  • At the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo reports that the Yankees will be ready to spend this winter and will probably want to add one or two starters, including Nathan Eovaldi and/or Patrick Corbin. He also gets into the Machado rumor business, and, particularly after the Gregorius surgery, I think it’s fair to say Machado to the Yankees is the current favorite.
  • One of the big unknowns about this offseason is (1) if Clayton Kershaw is going to opt out of his contract with the Dodgers (seems likely to me) and (2) if he’ll actually consider signing anywhere else if he does. Kershaw did just have another bad postseason start – it’s a fair criticism at this point – but I don’t think any team in baseball would think twice about trying to sign him. My guess? He opts out, but stays in Los Angeles.
  • And finally, the Cardinals might not be adding too much starting pitching this winter, because they have a lot of returning options. However, if they do look to add to the rotation, look for it to be at the top. To that end, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch suggests Dallas Keuchel as a potential option, and I generally follow the logic. The Cardinals were moderately active last winter, but with a window potentially closing after next year without more action, you have to guess they’d be busy again this winter.

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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @Michael_Cerami.