Lukewarm Stove: The Trouble With Opt-Outs, Cuban Stars, Chapman, Porcello, More

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Lukewarm Stove: The Trouble With Opt-Outs, Cuban Stars, Chapman, Porcello, More

Chicago Cubs

old stove featureIf it remains quiet on the Welington Castillo and Travis Wood/Edwin Jackson fronts on into Spring Training, that could make for an unusually rumor-heavy March. Sure, you usually see some minor dealing as rosters are sorted out, but guys like Castillo and Wood skew a little bit better than typical March movers.

Obviously it remains possible – if really difficult – that the Cubs could be unsatisfied with their options, and carry the players on into the season (though that would force some very difficult decisions with other starters, relievers, and position players). That’s why this is going to remain a story for the foreseeable future, until something shakes loose. That “something,” mind you, could be an injury or surprise ineffectiveness once the Cubs actually get to Spring Training, either on another team or on the Cubs.

  • Yesterday, we learned that the Chicago Cubs were the runner-up on James Shields, who, by his own words, narrowly selected the Padres’ four-year, $75 million offer over the Cubs’ (reported) three years and $60 million. Today, Ken Rosenthal reports another wrinkle to the story:

  • Opt-outs are the subject of a great deal of debate on the interwebz, with some folks arguing that they’re a secret benefit to the team (because, if the player opts out, the team is off the hook for expensive years in which the player is older, and likely to decline), while others – yours truly included – argue that opt-outs lock in the downside for the team while giving up some of the upside. Consider Shields’ contract: he’ll be paid $10 million in 2015, $21 million in each of 2016, 2017, and 2018, and then a $2 million buyout of a $16 million team option for 2019. If Shields opts out, then the Padres got him for just two years and $31 million. Great, right? Except that there’s almost no chance that a 35-year-old Shields is going to walk away from two years and $44 million. If for some crazy reason he’s in a position to want to do that, then it means he was lights out in the next two years and looks to be worth a heck of a lot more in 2017 and 2018 than he was scheduled to be paid (i.e., the Padres lose that upside). If, on the other hand, Shields gets hurt or stinks in the next two years, he doesn’t opt out, and the Padres remain on the hook for the full downside.
  • Anyone think the Dodgers are going to be really happy to see Zack Greinke opt out of his deal after this season? And if he doesn’t opt out, anyone expect him not to get a lucrative extension from the Dodgers to forgo that opt out? Doesn’t that tell you everything you need to know about whether opt outs are generally a benefit to the player, rather than the team?
  • In any case, the Cubs’ front office has hinted at a reluctance to include opt-outs in their deals (that issue was a significant hang-up in the Masahiro Tanaka negotiations, for example). I doubt it was a sticking point in any Shields negotiations, but it’s interesting to see that he got it from San Diego. In all likelihood, because of the heavy backloading of the deal and Shields’ age, the opt-out never comes up again.
  • It’s yet to be seen where Yoan Moncada winds up, but the next big Cuban prospect could be 18-year-old righty Yadier Alvarez, who’s getting a ton of heat:

  • The timeline could be a problem for the Cubs, though, because, now that Cuban nationals can be cleared to sign as soon as they establish residency elsewhere, Alvarez could be a free agent within a month or two. From there, Kiley McDaniel doesn’t think Alvarez would be willing to wait until July 2 to sign with the Cubs.
  • (Sure do hope the Cubs’ 2015-16 crop of IFAs is an absolute blowout …. )
  • Cuban infielder Hector Olivera hasn’t gotten a ton of attention around here this offseason, primarily because there just didn’t seem to be anywhere to accommodate him on the Cubs, but Ben Badler is really talking up the talent now that Olivera has shown he’s healthy and still has a good stroke. Olivera, 29, is gonna get a big payday from someone, because, on pure talent, Badler says he thinks Olivera is actually better than recent defectors Rusney Castillo and Yasmany Tomas. Here’s hoping Olivera stays out of the NL Central, and out of the NL entirely, if that’s all right with him.
  • Looking way ahead to the possibility of Rick Porcello’s free agency, a FanGraphs piece on how he could wind up getting over $100 million, even if he doesn’t blow it out in 2015.
  • The Reds have avoided arbitration with Aroldis Chapman, agreeing to a one-year, $8.05 million deal for 2015 (well above the midpoint of the offers). As an extremely valuable player two years away from free agency, you’ve got to figure that if the Reds start selling off mid-season, Chapman’s will be a very popular name.

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.