Although the vast majority of the winter’s free agent and trade candidates remain available as of today, I’m getting antsy. And I’m almost dreading the Winter Meetings, because they’re likely to reveal the Cubs’ true intentions this offseason … and I don’t know if I’m prepared for that.
Then again, I don’t love getting the occasional scrap, like the Cubs are “expected to check in” on Bryce Harper, which does just enough to keep our hopes alive, while not actually giving us anything concrete or even positive to hold onto, either. I thought last winter was supposed to be the painful one.
Nope. It’s this one.
- I keep seeing rumors of the Reds interest in trading for or signing a top shelf starter, so it can’t be ignored:
#Reds are open to an intrastate blockbuster trade with #Indians for Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer, sources say, although there hasn’t been recent progress on a deal. Reds want a top pitcher and aren’t a favorite for No. 1 free agent Patrick Corbin. @MLBNetwork @MLB
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 4, 2018
- Aside from the fact that the Reds should’ve torn everything down more aggressively years ago, Joey Votto isn’t getting any younger, and the NL Central figures to be tough again next season. Signing a big free agent starter or trading for someone like Kluber or Bauer right now is probably not going to be the difference between stinking and competing.
- Speaking of the free agent starter market:
Yankees, Phillies and Nationals are still in on Corbin, but rivals speculate that Phils are in strong position
— Andy Martino (@martinonyc) December 4, 2018
- Given Corbin’s position at the top of the market, and his visits with interested teams, it sure seems like a deal could be announced any second now. And given that the Yankees, Phillies, and Nationals are all in on at least one of Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, you hope he gets a really big deal, really soon, from any one of them. For what it’s worth, Bob Nightengale reports that Corbin will get a six-year deal worth at least $125M (i.e. the Yu Darvish deal is the starting point) and could decide as soon as this week.
- The latest on the Yankees, by the way, is that they remain unlikely to land Bryce Harper this winter, so let’s hope the Phillies or Nationals get Corbin, making it slightly more likely that Harper’s market could be smaller than expected. Then again, the latest on the Harper front is that his market is huge, and does include the Dodgers.
- The Brewers are among the teams in on Sonny Gray:
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 4, 2018
- Which tracks with their previous reported interest in trading for Madison Bumgarner and Noah Syndergaard. They’re going to add a starter this winter (probably inexpensive). To that end, Nightengale also reports that the Mets expect Syndergaard to stay with the team this winter. From the sound of it, they’ve been offered prospects in return, but want major league ready players instead, which makes sense given their go-for-it trade for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz.
- After missing out on Edwin Diaz, the Phillies are reportedly targeting Zach Britton and Andrew Miller, who are not of the same quality (let alone age) as Diaz, but should cost a lot less than the free agent alternative, Craig Kimbrel. I wasn’t particularly keen on Miller or Britton when we dove into their profiles as potential Cubs targets earlier this offseason, but they may be their best, realistic options on the free agent market (there are a lot of guys out there, but few with the upside of formerly dominant relievers like Miller or Britton). The Phillies interest in either could be a problem.
- Ken Rosenthal doesn’t believe the Mariners will trade Mitch Haniger this winter, including as a part of a larger deal to offload some of Kyle Seager’s contract (something we hoped the Cubs could be a part of). But to be fair, Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto said he wouldn’t want to trade Jean Segura this offseason either and he’s getting fitted for a Phillies uniform as we speak, so ….
- This came out after I wrote the last bullet:
Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen on the Cano trade: "We did not make this move to be our last move."
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) December 4, 2018
- I’ll take … “Things that make you say ‘DUH!'” for $500, Alex.
- If you’re keeping score at home, the Mariners have traded away Robinson Cano (2.9 WAR in 2018), Edwin Diaz (3.5 WAR), Jean Segura (3.8 WAR), Juan Nicaso (0.8 WAR), Alex Colome (1.0 WAR), Mike Zunino (1.5 WAR), and Guillermo Heredia (0.1 WAR). That’s 13.6 WAR off their 2018 team!
- 2017 All-Star Jonathan Schoop is the youngest of the free agent second basemen available this winter – others include Brian Dozier, Ian Kinsler, DJ LeMahieu, Jed Lowrie, Daniel Murphy, Neil Walker – and is reportedly looking for a one-year cushion deal before reentering the market next winter. The Cubs could use some help at second base (if Javy Baez becomes the starting shortstop) and presumably on the cheap, so maybe Schoop, who’s just 27, but coming off a really bad season, could be the answer. Like LeMahieu, Dozier, Lowrie, etc., Schoop won’t be any Cubs fan’s first choice, but this may be our reality. It’s not like he wasn’t really good very recently (122 wRC+, 3.8 WAR in 2017), and he also has some experience playing shortstop in a pinch.
- When it was first reported that the Phillies traded for shortstop Jean Segura *and* moved Carlos Santana in the same deal, I thought I had their offseason nailed: they’d next move Rhys Hoskins from the outfield to the now vacant first base, play Segura at short, and push for Bryce Harper in right, abandoning Manny Machado in the process. But David Schoenfield says we shouldn’t count out a pursuit of Machado, who never completely ruled out a return to third base. Your rooting interests want the Phillies in on Machado, because that would almost guarantee an exit from the Harper market, making him potentially easier to land. (Unless your preference is for the Cubs to land Machado, but any connective rumors on that front have been entirely absent.)
- Speaking of the Cubs 2019 outfield, free agent A.J. Pollock finished the 2018 season with a 110 wRC+, but was slashing .293/.349/.620 (152 wRC+) before a thumb injury cost him seven weeks mid-way through May. And although his production dipped upon returning in July, he still posted a 44.0% hard-hit rate rate from then until the end of the season with an excellent 38.3% fly ball rate. You do that for long, and the slugging *will* come back. Pollock is not a sure-fire bet, but he’d be a reasonably exciting, probably fairly costly option this winter (since he’s one of the few bats available who can definitely play center field). I would really only expect the Cubs to hang back on his market and look for a deal, but he could be someone to watch. For what it’s worth, our DRC+ dive yesterday was slightly higher on Pollock last season than wRC+.
- In that same ESPN piece, DJ LeMahieu and Marwin Gonzalez also come in for praise of their hard contact rates, and Andrew McCutchen gets love for his excellent plate discipline.
- ESPN runs through the free agent and trade-bait starting pitchers, pointing out their risks and red flags. And I must say, although there are a ton of high-profile names available (Dallas Keuchel, Patrick Corbin, Zack Greinke, Noah Syndergaard, Corey Kluber, Madison Bumgarner, etc.), I’m glad the Cubs don’t have to wade into these risky waters this offseason. They did enough of that wading last year ….
Randy Levine: "There's no doubt that if Cashman and baseball people went to Hal and said 'we need this one piece we feel really great about,' Hal will give it great consideration even if it goes over the threshold."
— Lindsey Adler (@lindseyadler) December 4, 2018
- [Brett: The Yankees should NOT be using the first tier of the luxury tax as some kind of hard line that they would only cross in extraordinary circumstances. I’m not sure I buy it, in any case.]
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.