What in the world? A Lukewarm Stove (which is our cheekily-named rumor feature at BN, if you’re unfamiliar) at the end of April? This can’t be!
In all honesty, I hadn’t intended on even thinking about Lukewarm Stove items until much later in the season, but three things popped up all at once that I thought were worth sharing and discussing, so this was the best way to do it. Don’t expect the rumor mill to actually kick up for a while, and, assuming the Cubs become buyers again this year, we don’t even really have any idea right now what the Cubs would be looking to buy. Sure, we could do some reasonable speculating, but so much can happen between now and August 1 (did you remember that the non-waiver trade deadline was moved to August 1 this year?) that much of it would be fruitless.
- Jon Morosi, formerly of Fox Sports, writes about MLB.com about Oakland A’s outfielder Josh Reddick, but boy does the name “Theo Epstein” come up a lot in the article. Although Morosi is writing generally about the 29-year-old free-agent-to-be, and how he could be shopped if the A’s aren’t in contention at midseason, he also mentions that the Cubs could eventually be in the market for a corner outfielder, points to Epstein’s and Reddick’s prior connection with the Red Sox, and says, “Epstein is a close friend of A’s executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane, and the two have completed numerous trades over the years. Perhaps Epstein, who kept his word about never trading Reddick, will trade for Reddick prior to this year’s Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline.”
- Although Reddick still hits quite well – 117 wRC+ in each of the last two seasons, and he’s at 126 already this year – he was also well-known for his elite defense in the outfield. But the metrics have been unkind to him the last few years, which makes you wonder if it’s just a fluke, or if the ability is trailing off. In any case, I’m not so sure it’s clear that the Cubs will be in the market for a rental corner outfielder at midseason, even granting the injury to Kyle Schwarber. With Jorge Soler, Javy Baez, Matt Szczur, and Albert Almora all plausibly in the mix to get second half outfield starts (and plausibly in the mix to be solid or better), that might not be a trading focus. Unless, of course, there are more injuries. Which we can’t know right now. As I said above.
- Speaking of possible midseason trades and the A’s, Buster Olney writes about Sonny Gray, who might be the best pitcher available in a weak trade market this year (or after the season). The free agent market this offseason will be thin, too, so it might be the best time for the A’s to get the biggest return for Gray.
- I know Gray is a popular topic of conversation around here, and I am also a big fan (some folks get too caught up in his slash line, but forget that he’s doing that while also going deep into games – he’s not just dominating lineups two times through the order and then being pulled). Gray won’t even be eligible for arbitration for the first time until next season, so the A’s don’t have to move him. And, if they do, the price tag is going to be so very steep. Still, as Olney notes, the Cubs have “followed Gray’s career with interest,” and he does set up quite well to help the team cover the possible loss of Jake Arrieta after the 2017 season. If and when Gray starts popping up in rumors this year, it’s going to be something we’ll want to follow.
- There’s no specific Cubs involvement here in the last one, but I still thought it was interesting: Jeff Passan reports that the Braves are trying to “buy” draft picks by taking on bad contracts. No takers yet, but with the team pretty much trying to lose as much as possible in the near-term, they also want to make sure they have as much bonus pool space available as possible in the coming draft. It’ll be interesting to see if they’re able to pull any deals off, and, if so, how they’ll be received. You’ll recall, the Braves essentially “bought” pitching prospect Touki Toussaint from the Diamondbacks by taking on Bronson Arroyo’s contract last summer.