No two offseasons are exactly alike, but most years, the Friday and Saturday leading into the Winter Meetings tend to be low on action, and relatively neutral (which is to say “high” for this time of the year) on rumors. Sunday, however, tends to churn out some “close to done” stuff, and then all hell breaks loose Monday to Thursday.
In other words, we’re approaching the meat of the offseason, friends. I suspect MANY of our questions will be answered by this time next week. Not all. But many. Here’s the latest from the rumor mill …
- Yasiel Puig is a polarizing player both on and off the field, but there’s simply no denying his raw talent. Heck, that talent has been plenty realized throughout his career: .279/.353/.478, 129 wRC+, while playing good (sometimes spectacular) right field defense. And yet, one year from free agency the Dodgers are considering trading the 28-year-old and recognize they won’t get a lot back in trade … and it’s got me wondering if the Cubs should come calling. Puig is under control for just one more season at roughly $11M in arbitration, so the risk in taking him on isn’t really all that high (both financially and in terms of dealing with a guy who sometimes creates ripples of trouble). If he doesn’t work out (either on or off the field), he’s gone at the end of the year. If he kills it, the Cubs added a great player for cheap – you can’t say it’s not enticing.
- It’s important to note that Puig struggled mightily against left-handed pitching last year (70 wRC+), but absolutely DEMOLISHED righties: 150 wRC+. Overall he was about 23% better than the league average hitter and that’s someone the Cubs could use in their lineup. If the Dodgers are really not expecting that large of a return and he’s expected to be relatively cheap … I mean, yeah, I would love the Cubs to go after him – especially because it might be one of the highest upside moves they can make within their financial limitations. Puig plays excellent defense in the outfield, and perhaps he could man right while Jason Heyward and Albert Almora handle center? Thinking out loud.
- Also … so much fun:
- This is Nationals GM Mike Rizzo keeping the door wide open for Bryce Harper:
Rizzo on how the Corbin signing relates to a potential pursuit of Bryce Harper: "I think they're independent of each other. I really do."
— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) December 7, 2018
- And this is Nationals Owner Mark Lerner telling fans their previous offer – before they spent an addition $160M on Patrick Corbin – was “the best they could do”:
Mark Lerner all but says good-bye to Bryce Harper today in candid interview: Nationals' offer to Bryce Harper 'best we can do' | 106.7 The Fan https://t.co/4nnFoExzqK
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 7, 2018
- And I’m not extrapolating. When Lerner was asked if Harper and Boras came back to the table *today* ready to accept that offer, he said “it very well may be” off the table based on what they’ve done recently and still plan to do.
- So I guess the question for Cubs fans is would you rather have your GM (Rizzo) basically lie to you and love i,t or be told the truth and hate it (Epstein)? That’s mostly a joke.
- At FanCred Sports, Jon Heyman gets some quotes from the most trade-happy GM in baseball, Mariners’ Jerry Dipoto. This is a long piece with plenty of little rumors sprinkled throughout, but the headline is this: the Mariners remain open for business and you can get anyone you want, including Mitch Haniger. To that end, though, Dipoto says he’d avoid attaching Haniger to a more expensive player like he did with Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano, but he said similar things about Diaz and Jean Segura and both are gone, so … take it as you will.
- Heyman also drops a ton of interesting notes. Among them: the Astros were the Paul Goldschmidt runners up, the D-Backs will have to pay at least $10M of Grienke’s $35M annual salary to get a prospect back, the Braves aren’t as “in” on JT Realmuto as rumors have made it sound, the White Sox are reportedly “going big” this winter and Marwin Gonzalez could be one of their targets (in addition to their interest in Bryce Harper and Manny Machado).
- The Angels, Dodgers, Astros, Yankees, and Mets are also expected to show some interest in Marwin Gonzalez, a uniquely versatile player. If this many teams are fighting over him, he may be priced out of the Cubs reach. Of course, he’s also a Scott Boras client being discussed in a Jon Heyman piece, so the claims of widespread interest always have to be taken with a grain of salt.
- The Reds reportedly have interest in Corey Kluber, as well as …
Reds are among teams pursuing AJ Pollock and Dallas Keuchel
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 6, 2018
- I got into this on Twitter already and I don’t want to spill much more ink over it, so I’ll just say this: I think investing the $150M (per MLBTR) it would take to get AJ Pollock and Dallas Keuchel to Cincinnati would be an incredible waste of money. The Cardinals, Cubs and Brewers all figure to be better than the Reds (even with Keuchel and Pollock) as presently constructed, and they’re all likely to improve. Meanwhile, Scooter Gennett is one-year from free agency and Joey Votto is about to enter the second-half of his 30s. I just don’t see this offseason as the right one to strike – especially with how exciting next year’s class is.
- Speaking of the Reds, their former center fielder and speedster Billy Hamilton has popped up on the Royals radar. If Hamilton can land a starting gig somewhere, you can probably forget him as a bench option for the Cubs … Brett. [Brett: Siiiigh … ]
- Circling around to Bryce Harper: Jon Heyman hears that the slugger is lukewarm on Philadelphia, the city, which is good news for the Cubs. Bad news for the Cubs? The Cardinals and Dodgers both appear to be in the race.
- Speaking of the Cardinals, don’t expect them to sit on their hands the rest of the winter now that they’ve acquired Paul Goldschmidt:
Cardinals GM John Mozeliak: "We’re going to be active at the winter meetings but feel confident about our club right now."
— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) December 7, 2018
- In fact, Brett recently wrote about how they might be wise to be even more aggressive now!
- Michael Brantley is an intriguing outfield target for the Cubs, but if he’s seriously looking for three years at $20M annually, I think he might not be in the cards this offseason.
- Ronald Torreyes, a Cub for a hot second, wound up taking a split deal with the Twins (i.e., it appears that he got a spot on the 40-man roster, but if/when he’s in the minors, he’s gonna get paid a lot less), so you wonder what the Cubs were even offering him:
The one-year deal for Ronald Torreyes is a split contract. If he makes the major-league team, he earns an $800K base. He still has a year of minor-league options left. #MNTwins
— Dan Hayes (@DanHayesMLB) December 6, 2018
- And finally, despite the Mets many moves and general aggressiveness this offseason, their GM said they’d have to be “really creative” to make room for someone like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado – frankly, that’s apparently the story for most teams outside of Philadelphia right now.
- A little bit more on Japanese pitcher and free agent Yusei Kikuchi, who was recently posted and has between now and January 3rd to pick his new team. The Phillies, Rangers, and Yankees are all thought to have interest, but the West Coast teams from both leagues are expected to have the upper hand. Kikuchi is considered by some scouts to be a “3,” with “2” upside, following the rotational grading of a starter. I doubt the Cubs will be involved, but an NL Central team like the Brewers could make some sense if Kikuchi doesn’t cost too much.