Lukewarm Stove: Pitching Free Agents, David Price Trade, Bonifacio, More

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Lukewarm Stove: Pitching Free Agents, David Price Trade, Bonifacio, More

Chicago Cubs

lukewarm stoveWe’re almost a week into February and there are still so many free agents out there. CBA changes + Tanaka + ideological shifts within the game = seriously protracted free agency. I wonder if the influx of TV dollars and the explosion of contracts for top free agents is actually playing a role, too, by artificially driving up the demands of middle tier free agents to levels teams simply aren’t going to meet.

  • The prices on free agent pitchers tied to draft pick compensation keeps cratering, with Buster Olney reporting that Ervin Santana may now be down to asking for a three-year deal. I don’t see the Cubs in on Santana (or Ubaldo Jimenez) at this point, but following their story is still pretty important, as it could impact the near-term market for Jeff Samardzija. Moreover, the further their prices fall, the less attractive Samardzija looks, given the hefty acquisition cost.
  • Relatedly, Bob Nightengale reports that Bronson Arroyo is down to three finalists for his services (probably on a two-year deal): the Diamondbacks, the Dodgers, and the Orioles. The bookends are reasonable trade possibilities in a Samardzija deal, and the Diamondbacks are viewed by Nightengale as the leader.
  • So, the Braves dropped $135 million on first baseman Freddie Freeman yesterday, locking up the 24-year-old’s next eight years (they already had him under control for three), and sending most of the ‘net to its calculators to determine whether the Braves just made a big mistake. While the Cubs got seven years of Anthony Rizzo (a probably lesser overall player, but in the ballpark) for just $41 million, the Braves are paying three times that amount for one more (post-30) year of Freeman. It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, of course, because Freeman was already entering his first year of arbitration (whereas Rizzo still had a couple years to go before he reached arbitration). Still, that’s a huge difference, and I imagine every young pre-arb star was very happy to see that deal come down.
  • Apropos of a number of discussions around here about the quality pitching in the free agent class next year, here’s FanGraphs on just that. All of Max Scherzer, James Shields, Jon Lester, Homer Bailey and Justin Masterson figure to be pricey if they reach free agency, but two or three of them might be picked off by extensions in the next month or so. Given the Cubs’ need for impact pitching, and the desirability of, like, trying to be decent in 2015, you’re obviously rooting for the majority of these guys to hit free agency.
  • Jim Bowden writes about, among other things, the market for David Price next offseason when he believe Price will actually be traded. I still think Price is probably moved before next offseason (maybe the Jeremy Hellickson injury changes that?), but, should he remain a Ray for one more year, Bowden says the Cubs are one of the early (mega-early) favorites to land Price, along with the Braves, Nationals, Diamondbacks, and Dodgers. I won’t pass judgment on the inclusion of the other four teams, but the Cubs are certainly interesting. On the one hand, are the Cubs really going to give up a huge prospect haul for one year of Price, when he’s likely to have a salary very close to market rate (it will be his fourth arbitration year)? On the other hand, I could see a scenario where the Cubs’ top offensive prospects have broken through, and the team projects to be minimally competitive in 2015. If the depth in the system has also taken a step forward (such that there are suddenly even more big time prospects, and more redundancies), I suppose I could see the Cubs going for Price to improve the overall quality of that 2015 roster – the first year the Cubs might be able to compete/re-capture the attention of casual fans. I still don’t think this is likely, and it’s also just way too early to seriously discuss.
  • You may or may not recall that, around this time last year, the Cubs were rumored to be the front-runners to get David Price after the 2013 season, too. And, over the course of that season, trading for Price went from “makes total sense” to “makes no sense.” We’ll see how we feel after 2014.
  • Everyone is waiting to see what will happen with recently-DFA’d infielder Emilio Bonifacio, and, as Mike Petriello writes, just about every team’s blogosphere is all, “hey, maybe we should grab Bonifacio!” The 28-year-old is set to make $3.5 million this year (if a team takes on his contract), and is two full years removed from being a particularly useful player. He’s a decent utility guy who runs the bases well, but if you’re wondering whether the Cubs should swap him out at second base for Darwin Barney, it feels a little like robbing Peter to pay Paul.
  • Jonah Keri wrote a fantastic piece for Grantland that starts as a history lesson on the TV rights situation in Baltimore and DC, and morphs into a discussion of the Orioles’ lack of spending to help sustain their current wave of success. While it looks right now like the Orioles have inexplicably done nothing this offseason, several of their most prominent needs – pitching and a power bat – could be filled late in free agency, maybe even with some bargains because of the wait.

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.