There’s still a whole lot of baseball ahead of us, but there are just two teams still standing, which means the offseason is getting excitingly close. And given that the Cubs are obviously going to sign Bryce Harper on Day 1 of the 2018-2019 offseason, that means that Harper is getting excitingly close.
I’m usually all for a long, dramatic World Series … but this year, I’m kinda hoping for a four-game sweep so we can get right into the action. Come on, November. We’re waiting.
- One unexpected lesson I’ve learned during my short time writing about baseball is you never really know who’s going to be available in free agency in any given offseason – and I mean that a couple ways. The most obvious, of course, is looking ahead to a particular free agent class and pining after one guy, before he gets gobbled up by a last-minute extension or contract quirk. Stephen Strasburg (extended) and Masahiro Tanaka (did not opt-out) come to mind in that regard from last offseason.
- But the more interesting way is about addition, not subtraction. Because of the explosion of the international market, legitimate impact players (and prospects) become unexpectedly available every offseason. You can’t always know how impactful they’ll be, let alone who is coming and when, but you can almost always count on someone making things more interesting – The Mesa brothers, Shohei Ohtani, the Gurriel Brothers, Eric Thames, Miles Mikolas, Masahiro Tanaka, etc. This season, we may have a head start.
- According to the Japan Times, Yusei Kikuchi, the 27-year-old left-handed ace of the Seibu Lions (of the NPB), might ask to be posted this offseason, a potential request that’s already been pre-approved by his team (more on that in a second). Mind you, his posting is not guaranteed, but it sure sounds likely and he’s approaching a now-or-never type moment in his career. Speaking of which, Kikuchi’s career has been quite good: 2.81 ERA and 925 strikeouts in 1,035.1 innings pitched. There’s no indication that he’s anywhere close to as good of a pitcher as Ohtani or Tanaka (in fact, you have to be careful not to compare them solely based on their country of origin), but it’s worth pointing out for LEAGUE context that Ohtani had a career 2.52 ERA with 624 strikeouts in 543.0 IP, and Tanaka had a career 2.30 ERA with 1238 strikeouts in 1315.0 IP.
- Now, about that posting. You might recall the complications last season when MLB, the players union, and the NPB struggled to find an agreement that worked for Ohtani’s unique posting. What they did at the time, then, was extend the current agreement for last season, before coming up with new terms effective this winter. You can read the full rules here at MLB Trade Rumors, but in short, Japanese teams will now get a percentage of the total contract signed by a player in the big leagues, which is, loosely: 20% of the first $25M, 17.5% of the next $25M, and 15% of everything after that. Moreover, the player can negotiate with any team if he’s posted. Given Kikuchi’s age and service time, he will not be subject to any IFA restrictions.
- So do I think the Cubs would go after him? Well … yes and no. For as many concerns as there were over the rotation this season, they really tightened up down the stretch. And, sure, Jon Lester might not achieve the same results and Cole Hamels might not even come back, but the Cubs still have a foundation of Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, and Yu Darvish, plus Mike Montgomery and Drew Smyly. When you throw Lester into the mix – even at the back end – and consider bringing Hamels back, the rotation is pretty darn full from a roster/financial perspective. And that’s assuming ZERO contributions from Tyler Chatwood, which may not be fair.
- But you can NEVER have too much pitching, and there are options out there in free agency, like Kikuchi or even someone like Nathan Eovaldi. Eovaldi has had two Tommy John surgeries in his career, but he’s still just 28 years old and can really dial it up. The Cubs have been vaguely attached to him via rumors in the past, for what little that’s worth in a free agency context. In any case, Eovaldi tossed 111.0 IP this season with a 3.81 ERA and 3.60 FIP in the AL East. If he has some interest in joining the Cubs, he may well be an attractive free agent target, but he’s probably not going to be all that cheap – think Alex Cobb’s four-year, $57 million deal for what he might argue is the floor. (If a team with a “full” rotation like the Cubs were looking at him, then pretty much any contender in baseball should be looking. The price tag thus rises.)
- In addition to Eovaldi, Nick Cafardo runs down the major free agent starting pitchers available this winter: Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, Gio Gonzalez, Matt Harvey, etc. (For the record, Cafardo thinks the Cubs will pick up Hamels’ option).
- Although it’s extremely likely that, when Clayton Kershaw opts out this winter, he’ll quickly re-sign with the Dodgers, oddsmakers see the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers as legitimate threats to make a run at the ace, who hails from Texas. If he did become *actually* available, not just “available on paper,” I suppose the Cubs would have to make a phone call, but based on prior chatter, I really just don’t see how he ends up anywhere besides L.A. or Texas.
- [Brett: Summing all of that up, I don’t see the Cubs shopping in the deep end of the free agent pitching market. If there’s a unique deal to be had for a guy like Kikuchi, sure – you always shoot for value when there’s a unique opportunity – but I tend to think a big rotation “addition” is going to be Hamels or nothing. And from there, it would be all about depth and/or creative trades. In my view, the big spending will be on the positional side.]
- Brewers, oh, Brewers … what will your offseason look like. One decision they’ll have to make is on infielder Jonathan Schoop:
It's not an option. It's the final year of arbitration. We shall see. Unlikely they'd non-tender him after what they gave up to get him. https://t.co/Z8bANd5UvU
— Tom (@Haudricourt) October 20, 2018
- Just so we’re clear: Jonathan Schoop slashed a woeful .202/.246/.331 (50 wRC+) in 134 PAs for the Brewers after a midseason trade, and is expected to make $10.1M via arbitration. If Milwaukee decides to hand out $10M solely based on the sunk cost fallacy, I will be very happy – especially because of how much more important $10M is to them than most teams. Put another way: their decision should be based solely on what they think he can be next year.
- This quote from Jennifer Langosch at Cardinals dot com has fueled my soul for the whole week: “Over the last three years, the Cardinals have signed five free-agent relievers to Major League contracts. Two (Jonathan Broxton and Greg Holland) were released before finishing out their deals. Two more (Cecil and Luke Gregerson) are in jeopardy of being pushed out prematurely, too. Only Seunghwan Oh made considerable contributions. Together, the Cardinals committed $68.25 million to these five arms for a cumulative return thus far of 0.3 WAR.” Needless to say, the Cardinals are making left-handed relief help a priority.
- Victor Victor Mesa is officially a Miami Marlin Marlin, and, for this era of IFA, he got a HUGE bonus:
(6.25) Million dollar smiles. According to @JesseSanchezMLB, the #Marlins have signed Victor Victor Mesa for $5.25 million, Victor Mesa Jr. for $1 million. Here's the @Marlins' updated Top 30 Prospects list: https://t.co/F5T74tPVHi pic.twitter.com/J6venPSe1D
— MLB MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) October 22, 2018
- Mesa is instantly the Marlins’ top prospect. And while he’s plenty deserving of the billing, I will remind you that the Marlins traded the 2017 NL MVP, Giancarlo Stanton, the (presumptive) 2018 NL MVP, Christian Yelich, and a 2017 NL MVP top-15 vote-getter, Marcell Ozuna … and still Mesa is their top prospect. I offer that not as an impressive feat for Mesa, though it is, but rather as a dis to the Marlins … because they’re stupid and Derek Jeter is ruining everything (nope, won’t let this go):
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) October 16, 2018
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.