Lukewarm Stove: Chapman at $100 Million, Arrieta, Sale, Otani, Hellickson, Much More

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Lukewarm Stove: Chapman at $100 Million, Arrieta, Sale, Otani, Hellickson, Much More

Chicago Cubs

old stove feature

It’s a Lukewarm Stove! It’s a Lukewarm Stove!

I think I’m getting to the point where I’m more excited about writing these than you guys are about reading them. But who doesn’t love a good MLB rumor mill session?

After all, baseball rumors are hope, they’re the future. They do a good job of bringing our true projections and desires to the surface, by way of excitement or disappointment after any new bit of information. “Sources say,” has quickly become the one phrase we scroll tirelessly through out Twitter feeds to find.

Rumors get you thinking about next season, scratching out new lineups, aligning the rotation, and preparing new ways to get mad at Joe Maddon for how he uses his bullpen (and then love him again for how he rotates his position players). Rumors are the best, and, outside of July, we’re entering into the best 2.5 months of rumors all year long.

  • At the Chicago Tribune (though you have to swim past all of the election tweet stuff), Paul Sullivan discusses Jake Arrieta’s future with the Chicago Cubs and the prospect of an extension. Theo Epstein is expecting to talk to Arrieta’s agent Scott Boras at some point over the winter, where the topic of an extension will likely be brought up. But to be certain, the waters have probably gotten even muddier than they were before Spring Training 2016. Had Arrieta completed another perfectly dominant season in 2016 (like 2014 and 2015), the Cubs might have been more willing to give him the money he’s probably seeking. But because he had a bit of an up and down year and is just one year away from free agency, I’m guessing Arrieta will want to reestablish himself as a true top of the rotation pitcher in order to seek out a contract in excess of $175 million or more (just an example).
  • For the Cubs, then, the most likely scenario is that he plays out his 2017 contract in Chicago and signs elsewhere after the season. Sullivan did ask Epstein if he’d consider dealing Arrieta, but Epstein said it hasn’t crossed his mind (duh), because the Cubs 1) are still very much planning on competing in 2017 and 2) Arrieta has inarguably become a huge part of their rotation. I suppose if the Cubs somehow manage to be below .500 by the All-Star break, Arrieta would be a great trade chip, but if that happens with this roster … yeesh.
  • Although the current free agent class doesn’t have a lot to boast about, there are a trio of legit closers available for only money, and that’s not extremely common. You’re familiar with the names: Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Mark Melancon. Although the Cubs would likely be interested in one of the three, Chapman (and probably Jansen) has reportedly been seeking a deal in the $100 million range, which, wow. I won’t say that they’re not worth that kind of money (although they probably aren’t), but I will say that it seems we are on the precipice of another fundamental shift in reliever valuation. The 2016 postseason – featuring guys like Chapman, Jansen, and Andrew Miller – probably had a lot to do with that. Perhaps, the competition between those three, and the effect they’ll have on the trade market, will work to lower the their relative cost. If you recall last offseason, a few cost controlled starters throughout the league were unexpectedly made available, when their teams saw how other teams were valuing similar players in free agency.
  • That said, even if the Cubs do hope to work on their bullpen over the offseason (they will), their course of action may not be free agency or trade. Instead, they may look into their own system to see if they can develop the next Jansen or Miller of their own. At CSN, GM Jed Hoyer notes that the Cubs will explore every avenue, as they always do, but admits that closers come from all over and tend to be guys with “bumps along the road,” who established themselves later. That’s certainly true of Jansen (a former catcher), Miller and Chapman (converted starters), and even Hector Rondon (converted started, whom the Cubs selected in the Rule 5 draft). Indeed, consider the former-starter, turned dominant reliever in the Cubs organization already: Carl Edwards Jr. In his rookie season, Edwards turned in a 37.7% strikeout rate and a 2.87 FIP (2.40 xFIP). He’s likely be to a  significant late-game option for Maddon for the next several years.
  • Back to the trio of closers. Aroldis Chapman, despite (in my opinion) being a less attractive option than Kenley Jansen, has been the belle of the ball so far this offseason, seemingly becoming the top target of the Yankees (which we already knew) and now the Dodgers. The Dodgers, you’ll recall, had a trade for Chapman in place just before the news of his domestic violence incident broke last offseason, but Andy McCullough is hearing that the Dodgers are expecting to make a “dedicated pursuit,” of Chapman this winter. Ah … to be wanted by the Yankees and the Dodgers. Chapman might get $1 billion.
  • I won’t claim to know enough about the White Sox to say duh, but DUH: GM Rick Hahn Hints that Rebuild Could be on Horizon for White Sox. After the Sox’s fourth straight losing season (seven of their last ten), Hahn is admitting that they may need to let off the gas, and readjust for the future (CSN): “I think we’re veering away from the standpoint of looking for stopgaps. A lot of what we did in the last few years had been trying to enhance the short-term potential of the club to put ourselves in a position to win immediately. I feel the approach at this point is focusing on longer-term benefits.”
  • Listen, I don’t want to be a soapboxing Cubs fan, but I’ll just say I’m glad the Cubs front office is who they are, and ownership is who they are, and were all capable of taking a sober look at the organization as soon as possible. The White Sox, had they done the same three years ago, would be in a better position for 2017. As it is, they are not.
  • But to that end, they might be in a great position to reload A TON in one offseason. With an almost completely barren free agent starters market (we’ll get to that in a second), the Sox have not one, but two wonderfully valuable trade chips in Chris Sale and Jose Quintana. Sale, 27, has averaged 5.2 fWAR over the past five seasons, while Quintana, also 27, continues to be one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball (he averaged 4.6 fWAR over the past four seasons). Sale is under cheap control until 2019 and Quintana is under cheap control until 2020 (in addition, the last two years for both contracts are team options, enhancing the value of their contracts even further). In a market devoid of options, these two pitchers will cost an arm and a leg (and then the rest of your body, too).
  • For what it’s worth, right-handed closer Dave Robertson might also be made available. In a market where Chapman might receive $100 million, the $25 million and two years left on Robertson’s deal might be considered reasonable.
  • The Reds, however, are not ready to deal Joey Votto, because reasons.
  • Earlier today, I tweeted this:

  • If you’re unfamiliar with Shohei Otani, familiarize yourself now. In short, Otani is one of the very best pitchers AND hitters in the Japanese Pacific League. In a truly unique combination of talents, Otani, 22, has developed into a dominant starter and one of the best overall hitters in Japan. Unfortunately, he is not expected to hit the U.S. until next season at the earliest, but from there, many are suggesting he might receive upwards of $300 million.
  • Obviously, when the numbers get that high, only a handful of teams are realistically going to be involved. At the NY Post, Joel Sherman names the Yankees (who have the contacts of Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia coming off the books), the Cubs (who pursued Masahiro Tanaka and have Jake Arrieta and John Lackey coming off the books), the Dodgers (where the books don’t matter), and the Angels (who will finally shed themselves of the Josh Hamilton deal). The most exciting part about Otani, though, is that people genuinely don’t know if he would come over to pitch, hit, or both. DH-ing in the American League can be an option, or hitting in the National League as a pitcher might be interesting too. He will be definitely be one of the most exciting players in a long time.
  • The Braves have signed 42-year-old knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to a one-year (and one option year) deal. Dickey broke out in his mid-30s with the Mets, and was ultimately traded to the Blue Jays for a massive haul (which included Noah Syndergaard), and was never the same.
  • Although there aren’t a ton (or maybe any) sure-fire, young starters available in free agency, one guy, Jeremy Hellickson does stand out. In 2016, Hellickson had the best season of his career (3.2 fWAR), but doesn’t have much of a track record of success prior to that (save for some dubious “good results” years when he was much younger). In fact, many have even suggested that accepting the $17.2 million qualifying offer from the Phillies might be his best bet (although rumors suggest he’ll be rejecting it). That said, at just 29 years old, Hellickson might one of the only guys who can reasonably command and produce over a slightly longer deal. He isn’t much of a strikeout pitcher, but he keeps the walks under control, and he posted his highest soft-hit rate and lowest hard-hit rate in 2016, so maybe there’s something there to like. My guess is that we’ll hear a bit more about Hellickson in the near future. We’ll save a deeper analysis for then.
  • And finally, this could be fun:

  • Miguel Cabrera trade rumors? Yes, please.

Brett Taylor contributed to this post.

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami