Although free agency unofficially began after the World Series ended and officially opened up on Friday evening, today does sorta feel like the start of the offseason. Unfortunately, even if there have been rumors of a potentially hot start, I doubt much gets done until after the GM Meetings in California, which begin tomorrow and go through Thursday. You can check out a full blueprint of the offseason right here.
Of course, those GM Meetings are not to be confused with the *extremely* busy Winter Meetings, which go down in December. Usually, there’ll be a handful of significant moves before the Winter Meetings anyway, but there’s a chance Bryce Harper and Manny Machado could gum up the lines a bit. I suppose we’ll see.
Here’s the latest from around the rumor mill …
- The overwhelming chatter in the Cubs world lately is the possibility that they’ll have little to no financial flexibility this winter without additional payroll cutting – like, not just not Bryce Harper money; almost no money to spend at all without further trades. And that’s certainly struck us as a bit odd. After examining the Cubs payroll closely, we can confirm that the team is already up against the second highest luxury tax threshold, which means that spending even “a quality relief arm” amount of money in free agency (plus the money they earmark for in-season pickups and bonuses) would put them against the upper-most tier of the luxury tax system. That is true.
- We’re not arguing that they’re not already spending a lot of money, they are … we’re just saying that given (1) the team needs, (2) the uniquely valuable competitive window, (3) the fact that the only actual considerations are financial, as the additional draft pick penalties at the top tier aren’t really all that bad, (4) the money coming off the books next season, and (4) the fact that the Cubs TV deal (and attendant revenue boost) is just a year away … they should be in a position to be aggressive. The Ricketts Family has never been cheap with this club – and it’d be hard to say they were even if they don’t spend this winter – but now is not the time to lay off the gas.
- Which brings me to a local report that kinda runs contrary to that narrative. Kinda. While examining some potential targets this winter, the Chicago Tribune’s Mark Gonzalez writes that the Cubs “could earmark most of their free-agent money toward a big-ticket hitter” while trying to address other needs, like the bullpen, through the trade market. It’s not much, but it’s not nothing. Really. That’s how far this “Cubs won’t spend” rumor has gotten, but, well, you know …
- When considering the Cubs’ biggest competitors for Bryce Harper this winter, the Nationals, Dodgers, and Phillies probably come up more than most (and for good reason), but we might need to keep a closer eye on the Giants this offseason. Or at least, so go the rumors. Like the Phillies, they have money to spend, a reason to spend it, and an attractive organization. Even if the Cubs are not restricted financially this winter, landing Harper isn’t going to be easy. For what it’s worth, Buster Olney also writes that Harper to the Giants could make some sense, at least from the Giants perspective. They’ll need to get a new front office in place first.
- Ken Rosenthal drops a ton of notes at The Athletic and it’s basically a list every non-Cubs team that just can’t wait to drop dollars this winter, which is a bit frustrating. HOWEVA, it’s not entirely without hope. Rosenthal does say that while the Cubs appear unlikely to spend big, “Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are going to do something interesting, maybe multiple things,” which, okay, I’m listening. Unfortunately, that’s where he stops. I’ll add that, regardless of their financial plans, I’d expect at least one fairly notable, big-league trade for the Cubs this winter, given Theo Epstein’s end-of-season comments, and the constitution of the roster. Rosenthal shares A TON – be sure to read this one.
- Joel Sherman thinks the Yankees will spend big this winter, but not on Harper or Manny Machado. Instead, he thinks the Phillies are the one team that could legitimately land both (they won’t), though Machado is more likely. He also believes the Cardinals will be active this winter, including pursuits of Harper and Machado, while Josh Donaldson, Zach Britton, and Craig Kimbrel could all be targets, too. But you don’t have to take Sherman’s word for it. Cardinals President John Mozeliak seems to want it known that the Cardinals are in on elite players this winter and do not intend to continue finishing as runners up (Jason Heyward, David Price, Giancarlo Stanton). More on that here in Brett’s earlier discussion about the Cardinals and Bryce Harper.
- Sherman makes the case for the Mets targeting and signing Manny Machado this winter, and, yeah, sure, some of his arguments carry weight, but I’ll believe it when I see it. The saying goes “People teach you how they’ll treat you” and the Mets owners have taught us plenty about their financial intentions over the past decade. In a separate Mets post, Sherman discusses potential targets and options, including a cost-effective reunion with Daniel Murphy. Now THAT sounds like the Mets.
- Chris Haft (MLB.com) writes that the Giants might have to trade Jeff Samardzija or Johnny Cueto to make long-term room for Madison Bumgarner. But he also writes that the team might not hire their new GM until closer to Thanksgiving, which would not provide a ton of time to get ready for the offseason. The Giants are going to be a real wild card team this winter, and the path they chose will impact a lot.
- At the NY Post, Ken Davidoff tries to predict the contract and landing spot of MLB’s top 30 free agents, and there are some surprises. For example, he’s guessing Harper to the Cardinals for 10 years and $330M (my take? right deal, wrong team) and Manny Machado to the Phillies for six years and $225M (my take? right team, wrong deal). Davidoff also has the Cardinals landing Mike Moustakas, and does not mention the Cubs once.
- Evan Grant discusses the Texas Rangers plans this offseason, including needed decisions on trading Nomar Mazara or Jurickson Profar. I bring this up because, if you haven’t been paying attention, the Cubs and Rangers tend to do A LOT of deals together, and both Mazara and Profar are young, former top . prospects. Profar, in particular, could be a fit given his ability to play second base and shortstop, but so much of this depends on what the Cubs have planned for Addison Russell, so it’s just something to keep in the back of your mind at the moment. Plus, the Rangers are looking for pitching prospects or controllable starters, so there might not be much of a fit, unless they’re interested in Tyler Chatwood at a reduced rate.
- And finally, remember: don’t sleep on the Reds forever. Eventually they’ll, you know, try:
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 5, 2018