Lukewarm Stove: Schwarber, Sale, Chapman, Montero, Rays Arms, Gonzalez, More

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Lukewarm Stove: Schwarber, Sale, Chapman, Montero, Rays Arms, Gonzalez, More

Chicago Cubs

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Although the threat of a lockout is at least somewhat palpable, we’re not quite there yet (there’s eight more days before the current agreement even expires, to be exact).

Transactions might be light during that upcoming stretch, but the rumors, well, they aren’t going anywhere.

In fact, we have a ton of them for you today, so let’s dive right on in. And the first one, well, it’s a doozy.

  • At, Mike Petriello entertains the theoretical possibility of the Cubs trading Kyle Schwarber this offseason, given that 1) his perceived value may be higher than ever, 2) the Cubs have a glaring need in the rotation, particularly after 2017, 3) the Cubs also have a large stockpile of young, cost-controlled, positional talent/offense, and 4) his defensive future may be more in question now than ever. Whether or not you think the Cubs should trade Schwarber (I personally do not), those points are accurate.
  • So, taking it a step further, Petriello tries to shoot from the hip and speculate on some potential matches around the league (with the big caveat that he’s not suggesting one-for-ones, but rather the bases for larger trades). If he’s already lost you, might I suggest waiting for the names: Chris Sale, Chris Archer, and Carlos Carrasco. Sale is obviously the biggest prize there, but even with a down-year (Archer) and a partially-injured year (Carrasco), those are three pitchers you’d probably be happy to acquire for Schwarber, if you had to trade Schwarber. Of course, the Cubs don’t have to trade him, but acquiring impact, cost controlled arms during a barren free agent year like this might be downright impossible if you don’t include someone of his caliber. Read Petriello’s piece for more. [Brett: Just to hammer it home, because I don’t want Michael to draw the same ire that Petriello has received: he’s not advocating this. Just discussing. If the Cubs wouldn’t deal an injured Schwarber for Andrew Miller at the trade deadline, it’s hard to see them doing it now for another pitcher after what he just pulled off.]
  • Although we’ve long speculated that a Yankees-Aroldis Chapman reunion seems likely in the future, that was primarily fueled by the Yankees’ perceived interest in Chapman, and general comments from Chapman about enjoying his time in New York. Now, it seems that both sides would like to see something get done. After telling Ray Negron (NY Sports Day) about how much he loved being a Yankee, Chapman came out and said flatly, “I would love to be a Yankee again.” The only reason he isn’t one already, at least according to Chapman, is because “this is business and the Yankees know that.” Reading the rest of Chapman’s comments … I think you have to expect him to return to New York, with any other team being a surprise. But, that’s probably good news for the Cubs. The Yankees will very likely grab one of the three big closers, with Chapman atop their list. The Cubs could also plausibly go after one of three big closers (Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon being the other two), with Chapman, perhaps, at the bottom (all things considered). So, if a team other than the Yankees grabbed Chapman, the Cubs would have a big competitor in New York for the other two. If the Yankees grab Chapman, however, the Cubs might have less competition for one of the other arms.
  • And, for what’s it worth, I’m officially going on the record that the Cubs 1) should target a big reliever in free agency and 2) they will. Come @ me. BUT IF THEY DON’T, there are other options available in free agency. Mike Petriello profiles three big three alternatives, including Juan Nicasio, Koji Uehara, and Daniel Hudson. Dive in and see what you come up with.
  • If the Cubs miss out on all of them, though, remember that trades are still a possibility – even for dominant relievers. Buster Olney, for example, speculates that the Orioles might be inclined to listen to offers for Zach Britton (the AL reliever who was considered for the 2016 Cy Young Award). While I’m fine risking extra dollars on a reliever, I’m not as interested in trading players for one. Speculate and pine at your own risk.
  • [Brett: Adding to all of this, although I’m not as confident as Michael that the Cubs will go big after a reliever, it is worth pointing out a Joel Sherman report that the Cubs were among the teams going after lefty Brett Cecil – probably the top reliever on the market below the big three – who ultimately signed a four-year, $30.5 million deal (plus no-trade clause) with the Cardinals. Perhaps Cecil was the Cubs’ biggest free agent relief target, or perhaps he was their preferred option to spending even bigger; and perhaps that will be under consideration again now that Cecil is off the market.]
  • Here’s a slightly new one: The Rays apparently made a bid on free agent left-handed (hitting) catcher Jason Castro, before he signed with the Twins for 3 years/$24.5 million). So, Marc Topkin openly wonders if (now that they’ve missed out) they might entertain a trade for a discounted veteran such as Miguel Montero. Later in the article, Topkin reaffirms that the Rays are still very likely to deal one of Chris Archer, Drew Smyly, or Jake Odorizzi … so, I’ll understand if you want to connect the dots. BUT, I will add that no, there will be no deal for Chris Archer (or any of their starters) centered around Miguel Montero. Although the Rays may have a need and an interest in his particular skill-set, he is a one-remaining-contract-year catcher in his 30s, who’s experienced quite a bit of stray injuries over the past few years. That said, Montero might make some sense as part of a package for one of those arms, if the Cubs were even considering moving him, and if they were eating some of the $14 million he’s owed next year.
  • Of course, then the Cubs would really be leaning extraordinarily hard on Willson Contreras next year – which might not be a sound strategy (all things considered). Plus, the Cubs would then need to sign (or trade for) at least one other primary back-up catcher, and also some depth to stash at Triple-A (which they need already, following David Ross’s retirement). In addition, I’d expect the Cubs to take on a large percentage of Montero’s $14 million salary, if they decided to go this route. Point being: trading Montero isn’t as simple, or eve necessarily as desirable, as it sounds.
  • Jon Morosi is hearing that the Mariners inquired on Pirates’ center fielder Andrew McCutchen earlier this offseason, but talks never advanced. Ken Rosenthal also reported that the Nationals had engaged in trade discussions with the Pirates (obviously, regarding McCutchen) before the 2016 trade deadline, as well. Until these rumors get more legs, I’m going to avoid getting into the weeds, but this obviously has big implications on the Cubs both in 2017 and the future. All things considered (even assuming McCutchen’s expected bounce back in 2017), I think you’d prefer the Pirates held onto McCutchen for now.
  • In Jon Heyman’s latest, the Blue Jays have reportedly offered free-agent slugger Edwin Encarnacion $80 million over four years. Although that’s perhaps interesting in it’s own right, we can actually connect this, in a way, to the Cubs. The Jays have been one of few teams publicly linked to Dexter Fowler in various rumors since the start of the offseason. So, it’s fair to wonder if he’d still be a target if they are able to re-sign Encarnacion (after having already dropping $33 million on Kendrys Morales) – not because of positional conflict, but because of cost. I’m inclined to say no, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the Cubs would become Fowler’s front runners. It would likely eliminate one possible landing spot however, and that’s good news a Fowler/Cubs reunion if you’re rooting that way.
  • Similarly, Mark Saxon of ESPN suggests that the Cardinals may check in on Marlins center fielder Marcell Ozuna, who could be available in exchange for starting pitching (which the Cardinals may have in excess). The Cardinals (so far) have been the other, oft-discussed potential landing spot for Dexter Fowler, since he’s entered free agency, so a pick-up of Ozuna, could eliminate another big landing spot for Fowler. Then again, Ozuna is a pretty good, cost controlled player. I’m not sure you want to see him in St. Louis, either.
  • At the New York Post, Mike Puma writes about Yoenis Cespedes’ free agent journey and where he’s likely to wind up. Although the Mets (the presumed favorite), have committed to an offer close to 4 years/$100-110 million, Cespedes may have drawn enough interest to grab a five-year deal – something that would likely knock the Mets out of the conversation (after all, they have Bobby Bonilla to account for!). With big market teams like the Dodgers, Giants, and Nationals likely included in the conversation, it’s not crazy to expect a five-year/$120+ million deal for Cespedes. If the Mets do miss out on Cespedes though, they might turn their attention to Dexter Fowler. Are you starting to see how interconnected this all can be, and why one move tends to have a cascading effect?
  • The Washington Nationals may make some big moves this winter, according to multiple rival executives, per the New York Post. How big? Well, big like signing Yoenis Cespedes (in who’ve they’ve been interested in the past), and making a big trade for someone like Chris Sale. That said, if the Nationals added someone like Sale (and his affordable, but not free contract) and spent big on Cespedes, they might look to move some other contracts in trade. Notably, according to the same executives, the Nationals are aggressively trying to move lefty starter Gio Gonzalez – who is owed $24 million (total) from 2017-2018. The Cubs are certainly looking for starting pitchers, and Gonzalez, even after his worst season since 2009, still strikes me as an attractive target (especially at just $12 million/year). I’d love to take a dive on Gonzalez, but we’ll await some future rumors.
  • And finally:

  • I don’t speak Spanish, but if internet enough, I think I’d find that the Colorado Rockies are interested in an extension for outfielder Carlos Gonzalez (who’s entering his final year before free agency), but there are many things to address/negotiate before that can happen. Gonzalez, 31, is scheduled to make $20 million in 2017 after a fairly disappointing season in 2016 (1.9 WAR). His defense remained well below average, while his offense (.298/.350/.505) while impressive, remains largely supported by the Coors Field effect (home: .407 wOBA v. away: .315 wOBA). It’s fair to wonder whether those long-lasting trade rumors on Gonzalez would come to fruition if no extension is reached.

Author: Michael Cerami

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