Lukewarm Stove: Gray, Archer, Sale, McCutchen, Fowler, Colon, More

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Lukewarm Stove: Gray, Archer, Sale, McCutchen, Fowler, Colon, More

Chicago Cubs

old stove feature

While the Lukewarm Stove continues to smolder (it never stops!), Brett recently brought up a good point to me. [Brett: Rare and notable.]

He wonders if there might not actually be a ton of movement (both in trades and free agency), before the CBA is finalized, hopefully in three weeks. There’s simply so much uncertainty (the future for qualified free agents attached to draft pick compensation is chief among them), and the trickle down impacts of a number of expected changes might be dramatic.

In addition, teams may not be interested in committing big money in free agency, before truly understanding whatever the new revenue landscape of baseball might look like. Uncertainty is the name of the game right now, and it might make actual things move a bit slower than usual.

But the rumor mill … baby, that’ll keep on churning.

  • And it’s starting to get interesting, too. According to Ken Rosenthal at Fox Sports, the Oakland Athletics might be interested/willing to listen on right-hander starter Sonny Gray, catcher Steven Vogt, and left-handed reliever Sean Doolittle. Vogt is a stretch, but it’s not hard to see the Cubs having interest in Gray and/or Doolittle. Of course, Gray, 27, is coming off his worst season ever, including two trips to the disabled list, and Billy Beane is not a fan of selling low. Although his availability is probably unquestionable, I wouldn’t expect a discount. In reality, then, the A’s might be best suited by letting Gray play out the first half of the 2017 season, hoping to restore some of his value and being packaged and shipped off at the trade deadline. Gray is under contract for three more years, through salary arbitration. Doolittle, 30, saw his performance fall off last year from elite levels as he dealt with an injury, though he’s under cheap team control through 2020.
  • Also in that piece, Rosenthal touches on everyone’s other favorite, cost-controlled, top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher who had a down season in 2016, Chris Archer. Although Archer appears to be available, he has basically the same story as Gray – i.e. a rough season in 2016, left him with at his lowest value (though he rebounded strongly in the second half). I just can’t see the Rays pulling the trigger on anything for less than a huge return when they can simply wait and try to recoup that value by the deadline. The Rays have a few other theoretically available pitchers as well (Jake Odorizzi, Drew Smyly), and the Cubs have shown interest in all three in the past. Notably, that interest was matched by the Texas Rangers, but Rosenthal intimates that they’ve backed off in their pursuit of any of them, which could actually be great news for a team like the Cubs.
  • And that’s not the only source calling for some Rays starting pitcher trades this offseason. According to Joel Sherman, Rays officials left the GM Meetings last week under the “strong belief” that they would trade one of Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Drew Smyly, and (apparently less likely) Alex Cobb (who is returning from Tommy John surgery and is a free agent after 2017). The Cubs, like I said, have expressed interest in each of those pitchers in the past (Drew Smyly to a lesser extent, and Alex Cobb to a greater extent), but haven’t quite been able to pull anything off. You’ll recall, the Cubs were reportedly in on lefty Matt Moore before he was dealt to the Giants at the deadline when the Cubs refused to part with Javy Baez. Perhaps, with a clean slate, the two sides will reconvene and finally be able to find a match.
  • Jerry Crasnick agrees that both Gray and Archer will be the belles of the 2017 offseason ball, given the starting pitching void in free agency this season, but adds that the lack of options has actually opened up a few other windows – ones that aren’t typically open. For example, Crasnick believes that each of Justin Verlander, Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, and Zack Greinke could all be made available, considering the lack of alternative options. Obviously, a few of those names are more interesting than others, but if you’re willing to pay the price, it seems that top of the rotation pitchers under team control could be available.
  • I know we’ve all shared dreams of either Sale or Quintana heading to the Cubs, but I’ll remind you that many people believe neither will realistically be made available to the Cubs, in particular. I think it’s silly, considering how few times these two teams actually play each other, but that seems to be the conventional wisdom. If I were a White Sox fan though, and the Sox front office declined a Cubs package for either guy (even though it was the strongest offer), I’d be pissed.
  • Just like Archer and Gray for the Rays and A’s, Andrew McCutchen presents a uniquely difficult case for the Pittsburgh Pirates. GM Neal Huntington puts it very plainly, per ESPN: “When a player gets toward the end of his contract or even two years away from an expiring contact, we have to be open to listen. We’ve lost a lot of really good players to free agency, and as a small market, that makes it very hard to survive.” McCutchen, of course, is signed for $14 million in 2017, but carries another $14.5 million club option for 2018. Despite his (extremely) rough start to the season in 2016, he still seems like a great value. Of course, finding a common ground on value might be almost impossible. After averaging 5.7 WAR through his first seven seasons, McCutchen was worth just 0.7 WAR in 2016. His offense took a nose dive, and his usually okay (but never great) defense in center field was the worst of his career (by the defensive metrics). I’m just not sure the Pirates will be easily able to find a match, given the uncertainty (MVP to near replacement level in three seasons rarely happens to a guy who only just turned 30, I’d bet).
  • I will add that McCutchen hit .284/.381/.471 in his final 244 plate appearances of the season (from August on). Even still, there’s just about no scenario I can envision in which this has any direct impact on (as in, could he be traded to) the Cubs. Instead, the interest here is more about potential fallout in the NL Central.
  • Mike Puma caught a couple of stray bits from the GM meetings:

  • The Mets are clearly looking for some help in the outfield, and retaining Yoenis Cespedes continues to be their primary target. But, given his presence at the top of the market, Cespedes might find it difficult to ignore a number of other suitors. Dexter Fowler, then, may be be forced wait until Cespedes gets down the road with a team or two, but should still find himself with a nice, long-term commitment for the money he was looking for last season.
  • If you missed it earlier, the Cubs are reportedly interested in Greg Holland. And the Blue Jays have nabbed Cuban prospect Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

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