Among the Cubs many options this winter, their plans for the back of the bullpen are among the most difficult to peg down. On the one hand, they already have two or three capable closers on the roster in Brandon Morrow, Pedro Strop, and Steve Cishek. But on the other hand, Cishek worked a ton last year and the other two guys experienced significant injuries. Morrow, in particular, is going to a risky bet for a full year’s worth of innings.
With that said, there are a number of high-quality relief arms available in free agency, but given the Cubs’ apparent desire to limit their spending, I’m not sure how active they’ll be on that front – at least, with respect to a sure-fire, shut-down closer. Then again, Morrow wasn’t an established closer when the Cubs signed him last year to be theirs.
Of course, they could also go the trade route …
- To that end, they have made some high-profile trades for closers in the recent past (Aroldis Chapman, Wade Davis) and that could be the path forward this winter. On ESPN 1000 today, David Kaplan and Jesse Rogers mentioned Mariners closer Edwin Diaz (in a purely dot-connecting, dream-world kind of way) and, sure, if the Cubs parted with enough, he could be pried away, I’m sure (any Mariner can be had right now). But another name mentioned in the past is Reds closer Raisel Iglesias.
- Perhaps not anymore?
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) November 21, 2018
- According to Jon Heyman, Iglesias is getting an average of roughly $8M per year over the next three years, though this deal does not actually buy out any of the closer’s free agent years. Instead, it just added some cost certainty for a player who could’ve otherwise opted for arbitration (he had a unique contract) and a team who would like to know exactly where their budget will be. Typically, when a player signs an extension, a turnaround trade is highly unlikely, but because this doesn’t actually keep him in Cincinnati any longer than he was already under control *and* because it offers pretty reasonably priced terms, he’s still a candidate to be moved. Even for a very good closer, $8M per year is a lot for a small-market club trying to round out a roster. (It should be noted that the 28-year-old righty’s ERA dipped last year to 2.38, but his strikeout rate also dipped about 2.5 percentage points and his home run rate exploded from 0.59 per 9 in 2017 to a whopping 1.50 per 9 in 2018. That’ll happen when your fly ball rate goes up, AND your hard contact rate increases by 10 percentage points.)
- Then again, the Reds may actually try next year, so he’ll probably just keep racking up saves for a last-ish place team.
- Sticking with the Reds, Heyman writes that they and the A’s have interest in Matt Harvey. I would say signing Harvey, hoping for a rebound, and selling him at the deadline would be a great idea for the Reds, but they did that last year … and then just didn’t trade him. I genuinely have no idea whether the Reds actually have a big picture plan.
- Jon Morosi writes that the Rays, Astros, and White Sox have all shown interest in free agent DH/OH Nelson Cruz, who has the most home runs since 2010 (tied with Giancarlo Stanton). Obviously, the Cubs (or any NL team) wouldn’t have interest in a pure DH like him, but he was pretty fantastic offensively last season (135 wRC+) and has been for a good long while. I bet he can still swing it next year.
- Noah Syndergaard continues to generate interest on the trade market, with as many as six teams believed to be “real players,” according to Jon Heyman. Heyman points to the Winter Meets as a time/place something could go down. And I gotta say, if Harper, Machado, Realmuto, and Syndergaard all haven’t picked/been given a new team by then, these Winter Meetings are going to be NUTS.
- Everyone will wonder whether the Cubs could be in on Syndergaard, but it’s hard to see them extending to get another starting pitcher unless they got REALLY creative and also unless the Mets were infatuated with guys like Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ, and Addison Russell. I don’t see it happening. (And, as Brett said recently, it definitely isn’t going to happen with Kris Bryant.)
- I actually hate this, because I think Michael Brantley might be pretty good next season:
#STLCards maintaining interest in free agent Michael Brantley, source confirms, even as they’re open to a more expensive outfielder (read: Bryce Harper), per comments by Bill DeWitt III to @dgoold. @MLB @MLBNetwork
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 21, 2018
- It’s not like I want the Cardinals to miss out on Brantley and sign Harper in his place, but I don’t think they’re going to give Harper the deal he’d require, so Brantley feels much more likely. Brantley slashed .309/.364/.468 last season (124 wRC+) and was worth 3.5 WAR. The Cardinals could more easily add a corner infielder than an outfielder, but I’m sure they could make Brantley fit if they loved his bat.
- The Phillies are considering moving Carlos Santana (which we knew, due to their desire to shift Rhys Hoskins back to first (especially if they pick up Bryce Harper)), but also Tommy Hunter and Pat Neshek. Hunter, the briefly-a-former-Cub, posted a 3.80 ERA (3.63 FIP) over 64.0 innings last season with an excellent groundball rate, a tiny walk rate, and almost no hard contact. He’s under control for just one more season at $9M and could be an interesting target for the Cubs in the right deal. Nehsek, meanwhile, will make $7M in 2019 and comes with a $7M club option for 2020, but is already 38-years old. That said, he did have a 1.59 ERA in 2017 and a 2.59 ERA in 2018, so … who knows! The Cubs need quality relief arms and they don’t all have to come via free agency.
- The Mariners want to sell and the Padres want to buy so bad:
As of last night, per sources, #Mariners had contacted Leake but not Segura about possible deal to #Padres. Both hold no-trade clauses. Possible, as reported, deal simply not close. Possible SEA working on separate Leake trade to SD. Leake also mulling other potential options.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 21, 2018
- As we’ve discussed, Cubs are the sort of team that could have interest in Segura, but even at his current salary ($14.85 million for each of the next four years, plus a team option at $17 million thereafter ($1M buyout), he wouldn’t necessarily be a giveaway. Last season was his worst offensively since 2015, but he was still 11% better than average and finished with 3.8 WAR thanks to his quality defense up the middle. Segura never strikes out, but rarely walks, he hits for a lot of average, but not much power. In terms of a middle-infielder, though, he’s quite good and still only 28.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.