Lukewarm Stove: Cardinals Sign Wainwright, Machado Solid at Shortstop, Yankees Can Spend Huge, More

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Lukewarm Stove: Cardinals Sign Wainwright, Machado Solid at Shortstop, Yankees Can Spend Huge, More

Chicago Cubs

Am I salty that it’s perfectly reasonable to do a Lukewarm Stove this early in October, because the Cubs are already out of the postseason and it behooves us to get a head start on the hugely important upcoming offseason loaded with multiple top-shelf free agents? YOU BETCHA.

Nonetheless …

  • Today, the St. Louis Cardinals announced that they have agreed to terms on a one-year deal with pitcher Adam Wainwright. Ooooooooookay. Wainwright, 37, has made just one full season’s worth of starts (2016) since 2014, and in that year he had a 4.62 ERA. He’s dealt with a ton of injuries, has lost most of his effectiveness even when he’s healthy, and will be 38 years old at the end of next season. But the Cardinals LOVE their own, so he’ll be back for at least one more year. Maybe he can pitch successfully out of the bullpen or something.
  • The deal, by the way, ensures that Wainwright will spend his 15th season as a Cardinal, which is tied for the third most as a pitcher all-time for their organization. I guess that’s nice. Hopefully, he stinks again next year, but is SUPER healthy. That’s best case scenario for the Cubs, methinks. (Financial terms have not yet been disclosed).
  • When discussing the Cubs offseason plans, two names always come up: Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. I’m sure we’ll discuss the balance between the two quite a bit more before either signs a deal, but there’s one very specific point I want to bring up: defense.
  • The Cubs have Javy Baez ready to go for 2019, but they may not have (or want) Addison Russell. And while Baez is more than capable at shortstop, the idea of bringing in another shortstop, like, say, Machado, is obviously compelling. After all, who plays there if Baez gets hurt, or simply needs a day off? But there has been this narrative all year that Machado all that great defensively at short. He’s well, well-above average at third, but it was his request, not his prowess, that landed him back at the most difficult infield spot before the 2018 season started. And it didn’t go well, again, according to the public discourse. But maybe that discourse is evolving. Although advanced defensive metrics are extremely fickle in small samples (take a peek at Harper’s advanced defensive metrics from this year for another shocking dose of terrible numbers), Machado has graded out MUCH better at short in Los Angeles than he ever did in Baltimore. Ken Rosenthal discusses whether that might be due to 1) more/better analytics in L.A. to help with his positioning as well as 2) better pitchers, who are hitting their spots more often/executing on a strategy more successfully, and, thus, setting their defense up for more success. It’s also possible that Machado just needed a little time to re-adjust to shortstop. Maybe he’s not bad there at all. And that’s a bit of a game changer, right?
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
  • If we believe the Cubs are at least as good with their defensive analytics as the Dodgers and we believe the Dodgers have made a positive impact on Machado’s defense, then suddenly Machado’s stock rises quite a bit. Perhaps the Cubs would be more comfortable sliding him in at short and moving Javy Baez back to second. An infield of Kris Bryant, Machado, Baez, and Anthony Rizzo, after all, might be the best in baseball (maybe only Houston could rival that?). That would leave a lot more flexibility in the outfield, and provide additional, multi-positional cover in the infield. I’m not sure I’m entirely here yet, but this is a pretty important revelation. And if it’s true, I think it changes quite a bit vis a vis the ongoing Harper or Machado debate.
  • As much as we like to discuss the HUGE impending free agent class, we have to remember how robust the trade market could be, too. And to that, end … whoa:

  • If Paul Goldschmidt becomes available, watch out. He’s gonna cause a whirlwind of activity throughout the league. He may be 31, but he’s posted four straight 5.0 WAR seasons and has had five such years out of his last six. He’s a legit, perennial MVP candidate and his availability can change A LOT. The Cubs would not be involved, obviously, but when a guy like Goldschmidt is shopped, the market-related impact can be significant.
  • Moreover, Goldschmidt has just one year left on his deal (likely why the D-Backs are willing to move him at all) worth just $14.5M. That means most mid-market teams out there could fit him in, even without Arizona eating any money.
  • Speaking of mid-market teams … the Yankees are NOT one. Good save, Michael. And according to Craig Edwards the Yankees might have a TON (even by their standards) of payroll room this offseason: “From 2014 to -17, the Yankees spend an average of $256 million per year in payroll and penalties combined, per Cot’s Contracts. This season, they are likely to end up around $195 million.” Obviously, the Yankees’ payroll was down last year precisely because they wanted to reset their luxury tax penalties, so a spike heading into next year would not at all be a surprise, especially with a young, competitive team. We never really think of money as an issue for the Yankees, but there is still a bottom line. The thing is, this year, they not only cut payroll by $60M, they also drew more fans *and* paid less in revenue-sharing. According to Edwards, they might have ended up with about $100M more to spend in 2018 than previous seasons. My word.
  • The New Yankees might be all about young players and analytics, but the old Yankees are still there and they’re about to drop MILLIONS this winter. Be prepared. Ditto the Dodgers for almost all of the above.
  • By contrast, this … seems like a bad idea:

  • The Braves are hot off a somewhat unexpectedly awesome season, have a core of young, blossoming stars, just went to the postseason, and … don’t want to spend a lot in the middle of a huge free agent whirlpool? Bradbury, an author and apparent baseball economist, went on to clarify that he doesn’t have any inside info on this (as opposed to just knowing how Braves ownership operates), so take it with a grain of salt, but he seems to be a moderately learned man on matters such as these. I’m willing to consider the possibility. And while I don’t want to see the Cubs competing directly with the Braves on any free agents, it would be nice to see a young and talented team take advantage of a window when it is presented.

Author: Michael Cerami

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