Before the mid-afternoon update on the Cubs’ renewed interest in Jake Arrieta (four years and $110M?), we hit on a couple of interesting rumors in the Lukewarm Stove.
Namely, the Cardinals’ interest in Eric Hosmer – which would impact the Cubs quite directly, by way of a more competitive team in St. Louis/the NL Central – and the Red Sox interest in J.D. Martinez – which would impact the Cubs indirectly, by way of their related interest in closer Greg Holland.
And since we have an update on both of those, let’s start there, before getting into everything else …
First, Hosmer: Despite earlier reports (around the time of Winter Meetings) that the Padres were willing to go six years on the first baseman, Bob Nightengale is reporting that they’ve now extended a seven-year offer, which would make him the highest paid player in franchise history. If that’s true (I find it hard to believe, given the Padres’ recent struggles and presence behind the Dodgers and Rockies in the NL West), it would probably be a mistake.
Hosmer, 28, definitely has youth on his side, but he’s coming off a career year, in which he posted .351 BABIP (well above his career .310 mark), despite soft and hard hit rates trending in the wrong direction and one of the top five ground ball rates in baseball. HOWEVA, if this deal ups the Cardinals’ offer to uncomfortable levels – levels they exceed nonetheless – then I’d be very happy about it. [Brett: Until the Cardinals Voodoo Magic makes Hosmer a 40-homer guy … ]
On Martinez, Nightengale reports that the Red Sox have extended a five-year offer, which could, in turn, impact the relief market. Earlier, Jason Mastrodonato (Boston Herald) indicated that the Red Sox might be more inclined to pursue one of the top remaining relief targets (a market in which the Cubs could find themselves lingering) if they *miss* Martinez, so if a deal has actually been extended (and is ultimately accepted), it could make things slightly easier on the Cubs. To be clear, though, I’m not particularly interested in giving Greg Holland the type of deal he’ll probably command – he’s another “Go ahead, sign with the Cardinals if you must” guy – but someone like Addison Reed would look really nice at the back of the bullpen.
And just to go off on a medium-tangent: I think Addison Reed’s durability (6th most IP among all relievers from 2012-2017) could go a long way in mitigating *and* maximizing the usage of Brandon Morrow. On top of that, the ability to really lean on Reed (more multiple inning relief appearances) in the postseason is so attractive. There haven’t really been many Cubs rumors on that front lately, but count me in if/when they ever start. Much more on Reed here.
From CBS Chicago, Bruce Levine dropped a series of rumory-bits earlier today, and some of them are particularly juicy (Brett wrote separately about the Arrieta aspect here). But before we get into them, I feel like warning you upfront (and this goes for all of Nightengale’s stuff up above, too): the unusual nature of this year’s free agency might be turning the rumor mill on its head. If there’s one thing that’s clear, it’s that the Cubs, given their financial might, needs, and limited big-spender competition this season, are involved on many fronts. The murky part is determining which guys they’re actually serious about. So, I guess, be cautious in your excitement?
In any case, Levine writes that on top of their interest in free agents Alex Cobb, Yu Darvish, and Arrieta, the Cubs and Yankees have been interested – at some level – on Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole and Rays right-hander Chris Archer. The Yankee-Pirates rumors have been circulating for a while now, but have been hung up on asking price (Pirates want Gleyber Torres, Yankees want to send Clint Frazier). Given the shared division and trade package competition (Frazier is still a good centerpiece), I can’t see the Cubs and Pirates coming together on a deal for Cole. And given the shared exhaustion from discussing Archer-to-the-Cubs for three years (as in, we probably share it with each other and the involved parties), the teams clearly find that deal to be a tough one, too.
And here’s where things really get crazy: Levine also loosely connects the Cubs to Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich, who’s theoretically available, but would definitely being pursued by almost every team in baseball. The Marlins are clearly motivated to move Yelich and the $45M or so left on his contract, but he’d like command a big-time package, because that’s a REALLY team-friendly deal for a REALLY good, young outfielder.
And about that return … Levine speculates that Albert Almora – the young Cub who could immediately step into the Marlins outfield and make close to the league minimum for the next two years before three years of arbitration thereafter – could be the center piece. Sure, I suppose Almora makes some sense for the Marlins, but I’m sorry to say the Cubs would’ve done that yesterday if it were possible. Or, put differently, there’ll definitely be teams willing and able to beat a package centered around Almora. The *only* way this could *conceivably* work is if the Marlins were *very* convinced they need to *immediately* replace Yelich in the outfield … but also want to maximize their cost savings (Almora is both cheap and Major League ready). Even still, there are other outfielders out there like him that teams could package up. So, just, eh, it’s probably not happening quite that way.
There’s even MORE in the Levine piece here on the relief market and other Cubs pitching plans, so make sure you check it out.
This Yelich-Realmuto update may as well serve as the update for the entire market:
Although the Cubs may be waiting on Darvish-Arrieta-Cobb, and hoping to get the best deal out of one of them, the Twins – also very interested in signing a big starter this offseason – may be waiting specifically on Darvish:
The Twins, recall, are rumored to have made Darvish a priority, so it makes sense that they’d want to first know where they stand before moving on. And – just for discussion sake – if Darvish prefers the Cubs, but the Cubs are chilling back and holding to a lower offer, all three parties could be playing chicken.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.