Lukewarm Stove: Happ as a Trade Chip, Mariners Push for Ohtani, Relief Competition, Stanton's Opt-Out, More

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Lukewarm Stove: Happ as a Trade Chip, Mariners Push for Ohtani, Relief Competition, Stanton’s Opt-Out, More

Chicago Cubs

Given how many big-time free agent signings and seriously significant trades we’re still very much expecting this offseason, the next few weeks (i.e. post-Thanksgiving and before New Years Eve) figures to be CRAZY.

As best as I can tell – and this is not uncommon in the offseason – a few of the biggest pieces are holding back the rest of the market. So once Giancarlo Stanton gets traded, and/or one of Yu Darvish/Jake Arrieta signs, and/or Shohei Ohtani’s plans become more clear, the rest of the dominoes will start falling.

I can’t wait to see where they land.

  • At The Athletic, Sahadev Sharma has been taking a closer look at the young position players who could realistically be moved for pitching over the offseason, and he’s come to Ian Happ. And while reading through his write-up, which includes notes from Theo Epstein and other scouts, it’s hard not to start dreaming big. I mean, at his most fundamental level, Happ is a 23-year-old switch-hitter with speed, power, and on-base skills, who’s capable of playing second base and center field. That’s, just, yes, please, give me more. Sure, he strikes out a lot, but he also feels like the type of player who could cut down on the holes in his swing (he certainly has power to spare, so why not?).
(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
  • But that’s sort of the problem, isn’t it? Every single young Cub who could fetch something of value in trade has sky-high potential. Consider Albert Almora. He’s probably the lightest-hitting guy of the bunch, but let’s just say he’s a league-average or slightly better bat for the next 5 years (a realistic outcome). With that glove, he could become a 4-5 WAR player like that *snap*. I don’t have much of a point here other than (1) I don’t envy the front office right now and (2) it’s possible that whatever trade they do make is going to sting quite a bit (even if the return is great). So, I guess … brace yourself?
  • (Or maybe they don’t make a trade at all, sign one solid free agent like Alex Cobb, and then roll several internal and external dice to fill the fifth starter spot. In which case, also brace yourself?)
  • Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto says the team is “bringing the guns” out to land Shohei Ohtani (via an podcast appearance): “We have spent most of the past year preparing for this moment. Whether it’s written presentations, something aesthetic for him to touch and feel … we’ve put together a film on the merits of Seattle and the Mariners. [The history of the Japanese player in Seattle] is a positive in our favor, especially since all those players have been willing to assist us in the recruiting process, among others. We’re not joking around. We’re bringing the big guns. We’re bringing the ‘A’ game. When we sit down, we’ll be sitting down with very notable faces and that is a part of what we want to sell. We want to sell the Seattle experience and what it means to the Japanese-Americans, our culture and how this organization has trended so positively when we have the star Japanese player. And make no mistake, this is a star Japanese player. He’s gifted. He’s going to make some team a lot better.”
  • Wow. Yeah, they’re making a push. Dipoto went on to say that the team is even willing to move Nelson Cruz to the outfield a few days a week so that Ohtani can DH. Given the West Coast geography and the former Ichiro-connection (one of Ohtani’s all-time favorite players according to Jon Morosi), you can see how the Mariners might have more than a fighting chance. The Mariners, by the way, are one of just six teams that can offer Otani a signing bonus greater than $1 million. I struggle to find the angle for the Cubs against other, seemingly better-suited AL teams, but we’ll see.
  • Speaking of that bonus pool money, the Rockies just added another $500K to their pool by sending Koner Wade to the Orioles. That trade took them from the team with the lowest remaining pool ($10K left) to a team just outside the top ten ($510K). The move might’ve been made with the Braves recently freed prospects in mind.
  • The Mets are reportedly looking to add not one, but two relief arms to the back of their bullpen next season (which makes sense if they’re planning to pull starters earlier in games) and two of the four rumored names – Mike Minor and Addison Reed – have been connected to the Cubs. In fact, I’d be willing to go as far as saying that Minor and Reed are my two preferred targets for the Cubs this winter. The Mets are also looking at Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith. So, I guess, your rooting interests are for the Mets to land either of the latter two guys, so maybe they take themselves out of the running for the former. [Brett: Agreed on Minor and Reed, though it should be noted that old friend Joe Smith was very good in 2017 – 3.33 ERA, 2.10 FIP, 33.2% K rate, 4.7%(!) BB rate. I wouldn’t mind the Cubs giving him a look again at all.]
  • The huge contract and associated no-trade clause are by far the biggest roadblocks to a Giancarlo Stanton trade, but at FanGraphs, Craig Edwards points out another: the opt-out. Overall, Stanton has ten years and at least $295 million remaining on his contract, but in just three years time he’ll have a decision to make: opt-out and look for a bigger, better contract or choose the seven year/$218M left on his deal. At first blush, you might think there’s no way he could do better at age 31, but in reality (given his projections, age, and the increasing cost/win) it’s quite possible. Edwards runs down the various probabilities and it’s a good read. You may be surprised.
  • The one way I somewhat diverge from Edwards, though, is that I’m pretty sure most teams consider Stanton’s deal to be at least market-neutral (and almost certainly over market). In other words, unless the Marlins eat a ton of cash, I’m not sure the prospect cost will be too significant anyway, regardless of the opt-out. And in that case, while the trading team may miss out on the latter half of Stanton’s deal if he’s doing so well he’s comfortable opting out, they won’t be too upset because it probably wouldn’t have taken too much to get him in the first place.
  • Remember when Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer (then with the Red Sox) spent Thanksgiving at Curt Schilling’s house in an effort to get him to waive his no-trade clause? That deal may have been negotiated over turkey, but it was ultimately agreed upon on Black Friday (today). Chad Thornburg ( recalls that story and several other big-time Black-Friday deals for MLB clubs in a fun, time-appropriate post.

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Author: Michael Cerami

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