Although I’m not at all conflicted about wanting Bryce Harper (or Manny Machado) on this team, I suppose I’m trying to come to terms with the possibility that adding either might simply be out of the Cubs price range this winter – at least, in their minds.
So armed with that harsh (potential) reality, I began browsing around the various top free agent lists and must admit: there are other players out there who could fit the Cubs and improve the offense. No, nobody is going to be Harper or Machado (and that might be the case for several years), but guys like Andrew McCutchen and, say, Josh Donaldson could be had for a fraction of the long-term cost, and, frankly, when added together, could do a lot for this offense (and would probably be enough to force a trade, which could help elsewhere, too).
Of course, the reality is, that even signing these two guys, alone, would probably push the Cubs past the highest luxury tax threshold (LTT), but there would be less long-term risk. And maybe *that’s* where the Cubs’ heads are at right now (i.e. maybe it’s not they don’t have the money or are scared of the LTT, it’s that they don’t want to saddle another monster deal on the roster right now (I’d disagree with that fear, particularly for Harper, but at least I’d understand)).
Ah, well, I suppose we’ll see.
- At NY Daily News, Wallace Matthews runs down a number of Mets and Yankees rumors, including the latter’s apparent reluctance to go after Harper at the moment. But he also added a new wrinkle: Might the Yankees be willing to trade Giancarlo Stanton to make room on their roster and payroll for Harper? Stanton, you’ll recall, has a full no-trade clause and already nixed deals to the Cardinals and Giants last offseason, but the Cubs were reportedly one of the places he was willing to accept a deal, so my mind is suddenly running wild, irrational or not.
- At the same time, Stanton is due $270M over the next nine seasons (about $30 million will be eaten by the Marlins), so at that point, if the Yankees weren’t willing to eat some money (or take on a big Cubs contract in return), it would be worth the Cubs just keeping their players and signing Machado (who’s rumored to cost about that much), but who knows? Maybe there’s something there. I haven’t seen anything explicitly connecting these dots, but we *do* know that Stanton was previously open to Chicago and that the Yankees might be open to moving him, so, whatever. It’s very early in the offseason. Keep all remote possibilities on the table.
- Stanton is days away from turning 29 and slashed .266/.343/.509 (38 HRs) last season. And for what it’s worth, Ken Rosenthal shared the exact same idea, so clearly this is out there: “The Yankees never can be ruled out on any potential acquisition, but barring a dramatic change — say, a trade of Giancarlo Stanton — Bryce Harper would appear to be a difficult fit.”
- From an unlikely to be traded Yankee to a very likely to be traded Yankee:
Cashman said he has “ a lot of teams” interested in Sonny Gray.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) November 5, 2018
- Gray, 28, was one of the hottest trade targets two years ago, but fell off everyone’s radar after a poor showing in 2018 (4.90 ERA, 1.7 WAR). We wouldn’t be surprised to see him wind up with someone like, say, the Reds, who need pitching, can afford to take on the risk and, whaddaya know, now have a pitching coach, Derek Johnson, who was with Gray during his time at Vanderbilt.
- Circling back to Rosenthal, he notes that the White Sox could finally be in line for a huge free agent splash – namely, Machado – and that’s something that’s seemed like the right move for them since last winter, when Machado was on the trade block. Anybody up for Machado to the Sox and Harper to the Cubs?
- Also at The Athletic, Sahadev Sharma writes that it wouldn’t be fair to say that the addition of Cole Hamels is stopping the Cubs from going after Harper or Machado. Sharma suggests that the failures of Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood are what forced the Cubs hang onto Hamels, and that may well be true, but you could still argue that the Cubs didn’t absolutely have to retain Hamels at $20 million. If you could have Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, Yu Darvish, and Mike Montgomery as your front five, plus Bryce Harper, wouldn’t you choose that over adding Hamels and no Harper? (Not that it’s always that simple, of course.) Sharma explains that even without Hamels, the Cubs would only barely be able to add Harper – and that’s without any other additions – given their payroll for luxury tax purposes. Maybe so, but there was always the possibility of trades to move some salary. I like Hamels, but his presence – to me – sure seems to make a considerable difference to the Cubs’ payroll planning this offseason.
- (Moreover: If the Cubs knew that the addition of Darvish or Chatwood would prevent them from going after Harper, then they shouldn’t have gone after either guy. This isn’t me being a Monday morning quarterback, either. Even if Darvish didn’t get hurt, I would rather have Harper and piece together the rotation for cheap than the alternative – which is now our reality). [Brett: But to be fair, even if the Cubs had done as you suggest and made moves so they could plan to go HARD after Harper, there is no guarantee they’d get him. Far from it. So, bird in hand over Harper in the bush? I can see that perspective, too.]
- With all of that said, Sharma writes that the Cubs could go shopping in that second tier – specifically mentioning McCutchen and Donaldson – or on the trade market. It’d require some magic, but Sharma could see Epstein targeting a smaller market club looking to get rid of an impact-bat, whose about to be a free agent like the A’s Khris Davis or the Rockies Nolan Arenado (though both of those clubs are playoff contenders, so). Sharma gets really creative and suggests targeting J.T. Realmuto while pushing Willson Contreras to the outfield, another exciting premise, but this is all very speculative, and Sharma concedes as much. It’s a very interesting read. And he makes a good point: there are creative ways to improve.
- At MLB.com, Jon Morosi discusses which teams will seriously pursue *both* Harper and Machado, as well which teams are in on either one. And at NBC Sports Chicago, Cam Ellis picks up the conversation by noting that the White Sox could have interest in either guy. [Brett: The city sure would be fun if the Cubs couldn’t afford those guys and the White Sox landed one, right? And he and Eloy Jimenez mashed for a decade together?]
- That excellent Japanese southpaw, Yusei Kikuchi has officially been posted. I still don’t see the Cubs having any interest, but his presence could shake up the market, in general, quite a bit (you don’t always have surprise, 27-year-old left-handed free agent starters). Kikuchi, for what it’s worth, is projected to land a 4-year deal between $40-$60M according to FanGraphs. He’s expected to be a legit, middle-of-the-rotation big league starter.
- More belief that the Cubs won’t have the money/desire to pursue top free agents like Harper/Machado, but could be active on the trade market.
- Jon Heyman says the Diamondbacks will consider offers for Paul Goldschmidt and Zack Greinke this offseason, and if they’re going to sell off a bit, maybe the Cubs would take a swing at outfielder David Peralta, who bounced back with a big season in 2018 (.293/.352/.516, 130 wRC+) after a couple average years. He’s projected to make $7.7 million in 2019, his second of three arbitration years.
- You can expect the Yankees to dominate the talk on the pitching markets this winter:
Yankees have interest in Kluber, Carrasco and Paxton in addition to free agent targets Corbin, Happ and CC. NYY meeting with at least Indians today.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 6, 2018
- And finally: OH BABY, YOU … YOU GOT WHAT I NEED:
Bartolo Colon, a youngish 45, intends to come back and pitch for a 22nd season #BigSexy
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 5, 2018
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.