Here I am just typing away on a late Friday morning, when BAM: word breaks that the Cubs might, indeed, be in on the Bryce Harper sweepstakes. Obviously, that’s just one small report in the face of a wave of “the Cubs aren’t spending” stories, so you have to take it with a grain of salt, but still … it’s exciting.
I get why everyone is tentative about the Harper rumor, and that's good, you should be skeptical. But also, like, just enjoy it, man. It's credible enough to discuss and obsess over and that's literally the beauty of the offseason. Just have fun.
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) November 16, 2018
It’s fun to get excited over this stuff in the winter – this is what the offseason was made for – so just enjoy it. Guard your heart, I suppose, but enjoy the ride, too.
- But really … guard your heart, because Harper’s *most likely* landing spot, the Philadelphia Phillies, have an owner out there saying drool-worthy things: “We’re going into this expecting to spend money,” Phillies owner John Middleton told USA TODAY Sports. “And maybe even be a little bit stupid about it.” He later added that they prefer not to be completely stupid, but his message was loud and clear. The Phillies have a team ready to turn a corner, a massive war chest, and almost no payroll to speak of going forward. They can afford to spend a lot this winter, and it’s the right time to do it. There’s a chance then, obviously, that the Cubs could be serious about Harper and still wind up millions short of his final deal. Prepare yourself for that.
- And remember, the Cubs aren’t the only big market team reportedly “out” on Harper, who could actually not be out at all. The Dodgers reportedly don’t want to go past the lowest level of the luxury tax threshold and the Yankees are reportedly far hotter on Manny Machado, than Harper. Or are they? After Hal Steinbrenner’s concerns regarding Machado’s “hustle” came out, perhaps the tides are turning. John Tomase rhetorically asks: Bryce Harper’s going to end up with the Yankees, isn’t he? in a piece that reminds us all that the Yankees are never out on anyone.
- At MLB.com, Jon Morosi writes that the NL and AL East teams are driving the free agent starting pitcher market. Indeed, according to Morosi, the Yankees, Nationals, Phillies, Red Sox, Braves, and Mets have all signaled serious interest in the free agent starting pitching market, and even with plenty of options that could drive up prices quickly. Or, it could force one of those teams to dip into the trade market, instead, where Philadelphia, in Morosi’s opinion, might have the advantage thanks to a strong farm system. Outside of the NL and AL East, the Astros, Padres, White Sox, Reds, and Twins are also pursuing starting pitching. So I must say: it’s good that the Cubs have seven legitimate big league starting options already in house. Competing aggressively in that particular market this offseason doesn’t sound fun, and it’s a reminder of why the Cubs picked up their option on Cole Hamels.
- Supporting that rumor from Cincinnati: Reds President of Baseball Operations Dick Williams recently said: “I think we need to add two pitchers …. They could both be starters, they don’t have to be. There’s a good chance we’ll target two starters and I think we have to be prepared to pursue both avenues.” Be advised that the Reds very much want to compete in 2019.
- Similarly, in San Diego: at The Athletic, Ken Rosenthal reports that the Padres, who first targeted Noah Syndergaard at the trade deadline, are still interested in the Mets right-hander. And with the top-rated farm system in baseball, they’d easily have the pieces to get something done. Complicating matters, potentially, is the Mets new GM, Brodie Van Wagenen, who appears more interested in spending and competing ASAP than any sort of rebuild or re-tool. Then again, it is still the Mets, so …
- And from Washington D.C.: GM Mike Rizzo is reportedly on the look out for some starting pitching this winter, so anything can happen. I’m very interested to see how the Nationals play this offseason. Obviously, if they’re able to re-sign Bryce Harper, everything changes, but without him in the fold and with the sudden rise of the Braves and Phillies, they’re going to have to be aggressive elsewhere on the roster if they want to extend this window and take advantage of having young studs like Juan Soto and Victor Robles.
- A little more from Morosi: the Brewers are interested in Anibal Sanchez (oooh …. exciting). And the Astros are remaining in contact with the Marlins regarding a possible trade for catcher J.T. Realmuto. The asking price should be sky high, but I think Realmuto will finally get moved this winter. Earlier rumors suggested the Winter Meetings will be the time and place it goes down, and that tracks with prior big trades that were long anticipated.
- At MLB.com, Jim Duquette picks five players whose free agent journey, he believes, will linger on longer than most this winter: Dallas Keuchel, Yasmani Grandal, Josh Donaldson, Mike Moustakas, and Adam Jones. Duquette also addresses each players’ most likely landing spots, though the Cubs are not mentioned. I suppose Donaldson might be the only guy they’d be realistically interested in, but the Indians, Yankees, Astros, and Braves are Duquette’s picks. I’d add the Cardinals and possibly Brewers (if they’re feeling froggy) to that Donaldson list.
- Jim Salisbury reports that second baseman Cesar Hernandez is available in trade this winter, but the Phillies won’t just give him away. By contrast, Salisbury has heard that third baseman Maikel Franco is pretty much a lock to be traded and sources suggest the Padres will be the first at the table. Which opens up a string of thinking … if the Phillies wind up dealing Franco to the Padres, I have to wonder if they might also want to pick up other pieces around the same area of service time in positions where they could immediately plug in a starter … like at shortstop … like, say, Addison Russell. The Cubs and Padres have failed to come to terms on a deal for a shortstop twice before (Starlin Castro, Javy Baez), but maybe third time’s the charm. As for the Phillies, who knows, maybe they’re trying to make room for Manny Machado in the event they don’t get Harper. Seems like Franco has been on the block for years at this point, though.
- And finally, the Rangers added free-agent catcher Jeff Mathis on a two-year deal. Given his skillset and age/experience, he arguably would have been a really great pairing for Willson Contreras. Alas …
Jeff Mathis led all catchers with 17 Defensive Runs Saved.
He had the highest pitch-blocking success rate and was among the leaders in pitch-framing
He won Fielding Bible Award despite catching only a little more than 500 inningshttps://t.co/F2Rlg6iQ4o
— Sports Info Solutions (@SportsInfo_SIS) November 16, 2018