This is my fourth year covering MLB’s offseason professionally – and probably my 7th or 8th season following it closely – so I’ve picked up a few things along the way.
For example: most offseasons with busy trade markets tend to be lighter on the free agent side of the ledger and vice versa. Intuitive, I know, and not exactly a secret. I think top execs and scouts are better at sniffing out the best players than they are the best deals. But this offseason feels different than most.
Despite a robust free agent market – filled with start power on the infield (Manny Machado), outfield (Bryce Harper), rotation (Dallas Keuchel), and bullpen (Craig Kimbrel) – the trade market figures to be busy once again. There may not be a team like the 2018 Marlins, willing to ship three All-Stars from their outfield, but I get the sense that some big deals could happen this winter.
- Heck, a notable one happened last night, when the Mariners sent catcher Mike Zunino and outfielder Guillermo Heredia to Tampa Bay for outfielder Mallex Smith. Those might not seem like huge names, but Zunino has been worth 5.2 WAR over the past two seasons and Mallex Smith broke out with a 3.4 WAR season in 2018 (117 wRC+ and 40 stolen bases). That’s not a blockbuster, but that’s a legit, big-boy trade. I think we’ll see more of them.
- Speaking of done deals, the Pirates have reportedly re-signed infielder Jung-Ho Kang to a one-year deal. Kang missed nearly two full years after 3 DUIs prevented him from entering the U.S., but he could still feature prominently into the Pirates’ 2019 plans if the baseball ability hasn’t eroded.
- The Chicago Cubs, according to GM Jed Hoyer, will consider creating additional bullpen depth a priority of the offseason. Specifically, the team is looking for contributions from the left side, given that the primary back-end contributors as of now – Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr., Brandon Morrow, and Steve Cishek – are all right-handed, and that group should probably expect a reunion with another righty, Jesse Chavez. Bruce Levine points to Andrew Miller and/or Zach Britton as potential answers – and the Cubs have certainly had very public interest in both in the near past – but both guys have also been derailed by injuries and have seen their formerly ELITE status in MLB take a dive. I still think landing either guy – each for their own reasons – would make sense for this team, though, and I hope the Cubs can get something done.
- Of course, even with the injuries and uncertainty, the Cubs wouldn’t be the only team in on these guys. According to Jon Morosi, the Mets have interest in Miller, too, and a close relationship between the reliever and the Mets Manager, Mickey Callaway (who was Cleveland’s pitching coach) could play a role. It feels like Epstein has pined after Miller for several years, but perhaps that marriage was never meant to be. Of course, the Mets don’t have eyes for just one man:
The Mets are interested in Andrew Miller, per @jonmorosi, which shouldn't surprise anyone. The top of the relief market includes Miller, Craig Kimbrel, Zach Britton, Adam Ottavino and others, and you can bet the Mets will speak to the representatives for all of them.
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) November 7, 2018
- And it’s also worth noting that the St. Louis Cardinals have reported interest in Miller, as well. In fact, the more I look into this, the more I’m convinced Miller will be relatively highly sought-after this winter. MLB Trade Rumors is projecting a three-year, $27M deal for Miller, which sounds high for a bounce-back candidate, but also about right based on our expectations for the market. If he wanted to keep that AAV, but lose a year (or drop down in AAV over three years), I’d want the Cubs involved, but that current projection seems a bit high given his 2018 season, the injury risks, and the fact that he turns 34 in May. The Cubs are already banking on a guy in that same mold in the form of Brandon Morrow. And if the Cubs really do have payroll limitations from here (or are operating with them, in any case), then adding $9+ million in AAV for Miller would be quite a risk. Definite upside. But definite risk.
- The Arizona Diamondbacks are reportedly listening to offers for all players on their roster, including, it seems, Paul Goldschmidt. Jon Heyman heard from an unnamed rival who guessed that the chances of a Goldy deal were remote, but just one year from free agency with the Dodgers, Rockies, and potentially Giants looking at big winters and competitive 2019 seasons … maybe they decide to get while the gettin’s good. Furthering that rumor:
Paul Goldschmidt is drawing significant interest (understandably) but not from Yankees. Maybe they really will give Luke Voit a shot.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 8, 2018
- Goldschmidt has been an All-Star in six straight seasons, has won three Gold Glove awards and three Silver Sluggers, and has been worth more than 5.0 WAR in five of his past six seasons. The fact that he’s drawing significant interest is no surprise. First base (and probably catcher) is the only position on the Cubs where there’s really no room for an addition, no matter how you would try to coordinate things. That’s Anthony Rizzo’s spot PERIOD, and even if I’m being a little unreasonable, that’s how I like it. If only Goldschmidt could play another position …
- Circling back to the Yankees for a moment, Buster Olney has heard from a “well-placed source” that Bryce Harper will not be heading to New York this winter: “It’s not happening. He’s not going to be a Yankee.” People are wrong all the time and you should never count out the Yankees, but given the rest of their roster and the rumors elsewhere, I could see it.
- And since this wouldn’t be a Lukewarm Stove if there weren’t some Bryce Harper updates, how about this (humorous bit) from Jon Heyman: “Is $500M Bryce Harper’s Target for a Deal?” Although Heyman provides reasoning for that number – barely topping the total years record set by Giancarlo Stanton (13) and the AAV record set by Zack Greinke ($34M) leaves Harper at about $490M – Heyman seems to have close contact with Scott Boras, Harper’s agent, from time to time, so when he reports on Boras’ clients, you have to give everything a bit of a side-eye. In this case, well, let’s just say if you were Harper/his agent, wouldn’t you be thrilled if rumors of a $500M deal weren’t floated out there? Ultimately, I bet Harper does not exceed the $400M mark, and I doubt MLB is about to see a 14-year deal (even if it does, there are likely to be so many opt-outs, options, unique clauses, etc.).
- The Mets and Astros are looking at free agent catcher Yasmani Grandal:
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 7, 2018
- Grandal has been a very valuable catcher for a long time now behind the plate, and has been an above average hitter throughout his career. I’m interested to see what sort of deal he lands. Even at age 30, and even coming off an atrocious postseason, I bet he’ll get a tidy sum (MLB Trade Rumors is projecting four years, $64M).
- And finally, there’s a report out there that suggests the Dodgers won’t exceed the luxury tax threshold in ANY of the next four seasons. Nuts.