The thing about the pre-calendar-flipping part of the offseason is that there are always checkpoints to which you can point to say, “Ah, yes, things are slow, but that’s because teams and players are waiting for X Event, which is just around the corner.” The GM Meetings, the rostering deadline, Thanksgiving, the tender deadline, the Winter Meetings, Christmas, New Year’s. If we’re truly now in an era of much, much slower transaction activity (i.e., last year was not an anomaly driven by that particular class and luxury tax resets), then it becomes silly to even point to these checkpoints anymore as hold-ups.
… but if we’re not in such an era, I’ll note that the tender deadline comes on Friday, and it’s not impossible that some teams/free agents are waiting to see how things shake out this week. Consider the Cubs, for example: knowing whether they’ve tendered or traded Addison Russell this week would go enormous lengths toward dictating the rest of their offseason.
Further consider the Brewers, who have to decide whether to tender second baseman Jonathan Schoop, who was more or less terrible in 2018 and could cost upwards of $10 million next year. If he’s non-tendered, not only does that shift things for the Brewers in so many ways, it also adds a really intriguing bounce-back free agent to the infield market.
Elsewhere from the rumor mill …
- Because they’re one of the few known hard sellers so far this offseason, because they have some attractive pieces, and because their GM Jerry Dipoto always makes a ton of trades, the Mariners have gotten a disproportionate amount of the rumor mill attention this early offseason. They’ve already moved James Paxton and Mike Zunino, and rumors on guys like Jean Segura, Dee Gordon, and Mike Leake have made the rounds. But one of the biggest names on the club, and one of the biggest contracts they’d no doubt love to move ($120 million over the next five years, $24M AAV) is that of 36-year-old second baseman Robinson Cano. Ken Rosenthal reports that the Mariners are actively trying to move Cano, in spite of that contract and his no-trade rights.
- If you squint and get reeeeeeeally creative, you could fathom a fit with the Cubs, whereby Cano adds a win-now bat to the Cubs’ lineup while manning second base, and the Cubs send out equally unpalatable contract(s) in the process. Does a swap of – for example – Jason Heyward ($106 million over the next five years, $23M AAV) and Tyler Chatwood ($25.5 million over the next two years, $12.67M AAV) for Cano make some sense? On the financial side of things, if you could work out Heyward’s partial no-trade clause and Cano’s full no-trade rights, sure, the math more or less lines up.
- The question is how much the deal actually would improve the Cubs overall without being paired with some kind of other move in the outfield, since it wouldn’t even involve any actual meaningful dumping of salary beyond the short-term AAV savings (which don’t matter unless you spend). Heyward maybe not offer you more than a league average bat at this point, but he he’s still excellent defensively, on the bases, and in the clubhouse. That is NOT a zero-value player, and the Cubs shouldn’t just dump him as though he is. Cano is a much better bet to be the better bat in 2019, but he’s also seven years older than Heyward, and would be tasked with manning a very important defensive position. Last year, Cano hit a whopping .303/.374/.471 (136 wRC+), but he was also suspended 80 games for PEDs.
- Also: would the Mariners even want to make this deal? It doesn’t really save them any money. Then again, it makes them a lot younger, and to me, if you have to roll the dice on Cano or on Heyward/Chatwood as a rebuilding team that is just looking to reclaim asset value down the road, I’d definitely rather take a chance on the latter duo.
- For those who continue to pine for closer Edwin Diaz, however, know that the Mariners are indicating that it would take an “overwhelming” offer to move the pre-arbitration stud, and Buster Olney thinks they might be better off waiting to move him until midseason. I think he’s onto something there – even if you believe the Mariners should burn it all down (there’s no sense in using up a good young player’s value on a losing team, racking up wins you don’t need and getting older in the process), it just feels like top players with multiple years of control get more at the deadline than they do in the offseason. Sure, your market might be broader in the offseason, but the urgency of the buyers – when the contenders have sorted themselves out and exposed their needs – is dramatically increased. Moreover, the risk of injury/underperformance is somewhat tempered by the fact that you do have multiple years of control left, just in case.
- Expect to see Japanese lefty Yusei Kikuchi officially hit the market in early December.
- I’d love to make fun of the Mets for trading a pitcher so they can sign another one in free agency, but if you’re wanting to be competitive and address certain offensive deficiencies, then, yes, this approach could work if you can pull it off:
mets have checked in on big free agent pitchers, including ja haap, which may show how serious they are about the Syndergaard talks. doesn't mean they will trade Noah of course, as they need mlb ready impact back at multiple spots. c, cf and 2b would be the areas of interest
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 26, 2018
- For me, though, I look at the East – a good and young Braves team, a solid Nationals team (even without Bryce Harper), and a corner-turning Phillies team with tons of money to spend – and I think it might be a good time for a couple rebuilding years for the Mets, especially with a new front office in place. But then, the Mets under the Wilpons don’t really do anything you would expect them to do, so whateves.
- Imagine actually not being able to pursue a second-tier bat because you’re too distracted by a manager search in late November:
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 26, 2018
- That’s just such a weird rumor all over. I tend to think the new Orioles front office can manage both of those things at once, but then again … get a manager in place, my dudes.