Lukewarm Stove: Fear the Phillies? Harper One-Year Deal? Targeting Gonzalez? Mets, Rangers, Cardinals, More

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Lukewarm Stove: Fear the Phillies? Harper One-Year Deal? Targeting Gonzalez? Mets, Rangers, Cardinals, More

Chicago Cubs

In case you haven’t been paying attention over at Bleacher Nation Bears – our Bears sister site – the NFL is halfway through their 2018 season, and the Bears are still in first place.

This afternoon was the NFL’s trade deadline, and although it’s not nearly as busy or exciting as its MLB counterpart, there was a surprisingly high number of moves today, including several from the Bears own division (the Packers sent the third-highest-rated safety, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, and RB Ty Montgomery packing, and the Lions shipped away their top receiver, Golden Tate). None of these moves seem to make the Packers or Lions better this season, so, you know … go Bears. And go check out BN Bears to catch up on the relative madness.

Now, here’s some rumors from the BASEBALL world.

  • Not only do the Philadelphia Phillies appear to be on the upswing, and not only do we know that they – armed with one of those massive TV deals and a sufficiently large market – have as much financial might as almost any team in baseball, but also, you should know that they’ve been targeting this offseason for a good, long while. And while many teams have kept an eye on this winter, few have cleared the books and future commitments as much as the Phillies have. Consider this, via The Athletic: In 2021, the Phillies have just $14M committed to their payroll (excluding arbitration eligible players and future contract options). In 2022, that drops down to $6M, and in 2023, it’s still just $8M. This team was already one of the “big spenders,” but they’ve been just about as dormant as possible in the very recent past, setting themselves up to break the freakin’ bank this offseason.
  • I am very scared of them, and you should be, too, as we all pine over guys like Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado. Read about their potential offseason maneuvering at The Athletic … if you dare. *insert Halloween sound*
  • Sticking with them for a second, Todd Zolecki ( writes that although Harper is the Phillies’ 1A target, perhaps not unlike the Cubs, Machado is still within their field of view and nothing that happened this postseason is going to change that. “But the Phillies are smart enough to know that Machado is one of the best players in baseball. They cannot dismiss him just because of his ‘Johnny Hustle’ comments and behavior toward the Brewers and their fans in the National League Championship Series.” Zolecki adds that the Phillies might not be in on too many of the second-tier free agents, because they “essentially already have those players,” which, what? And that they’ll listen to offers for first baseman Carlos Santana, but don’t expect them to pursue free agent upgrades to the rotation.
  • My translation: Expect the Phillies to be heavily involved all over the place this winter, as they look to use their financial power to turn the corner from halfway competitive, to full-blown NL East favorites.
(Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
  • And perhaps they’re not the only NL East team that’ll go hog-wild this winter? New Mets GM (and former player-agent) Brodie Van Wagenen says “We will win now,” in a statement that sounds like he forgot which team hired him. With that said, couldn’t you see – at least, superficially – how a former agent might be more willing to jump head-first into free agency than a more traditional GM? Of course, he’ll need ownership to take off the handcuffs for that to happen.
  • Will Leitch makes a case for Bryce Harper to take a one-year deal this winter, and I’m not really sure what to make of it. To be fair, I understand why that sounds like a good idea (Harper is streaky, is sharing this offseason with Machado and a number of other huge free agents gobbling up money, and might have fewer suitors than expected at his price range) … but, no. It just doesn’t make any sense. If Harper was REALLY set on doing something that, he could simply insist on an opt-out after year 1. It might limit the overall dollars he’ll lock in, but I bet by a lot less than you’d expect, and he wouldn’t even be the first person to do it (example, Scott Kazmir got a deal like that from the Dodgers a few years ago). Basically, Harper is good enough and desirable enough that can have his cake and eat it, too. So I don’t know why he wouldn’t.
  • Mark Feinsand runs down each team’s most pressing need and for the Cubs it’s … starting pitching. A team that has Jon Lester, Jose Quintana, Kyle Hendricks, Yu Darvish, Tyler Chatwood, Drew Smyly, and an option to retain Cole Hamels as starting pitching as its biggest need? Eh. Perhaps they won’t have the best starting staff in baseball, but adding in a significant way to the starting rotation right now in free agency is just not realistic (and honestly, not even necessary – I really like that group). Another depth starter? Absolutely. A big-money signing? No way.
  • Beyond landing one of Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado, a serious pursuit of Marwin Gonzalez – to replace Daniel Murphy and/or Addison Russell on the infield – has emerged on my Cubs’ offseason wish list. Gonzalez’s offense has been inconsistent over the years, but he had a huge season in 2017 (140 wRC+), is still just 29, and was above-average at the plate last year (104 wRC+). He can also cover every position on the diamond besides catcher and pitcher – or, at least, he basically did last year – and that has unique value to a team like the Cubs, who’ve been on the forefront of positional versatility for half a decade. With that said, Mike Petriello believes that sort of versatility might make Gonzalez a sneakily popular free agent this winter. I’m all for a pursuit of Gonzalez, but only at a reasonable level. There are many ways to move things around. Remember how the Cubs targeted Ben Zobrist a few years ago?
  • In a similar post, Petriello also makes an argument in favor of reliever Adam Ottavino (i.e. that he might be more popular among pursuing teams than we’re otherwise expecting).
  • Why opt-outs are so valuable for the player … you can also *not* use them to your advantage:

  • Now, Andrus keeps his financial security *and* has another shot at re-establishing value ahead of next winter.
  • The Cardinals’ contract with a 38-year-old Adam Wainwright figured to be complicated and bonus-laden … and it is:

  • Basically, he’ll get a $2M base no matter what, but it’ll jump to $2.5M if he makes 5 starts, $3.5M if he makes 10 starts, $4.5M if he makes 15 starts, $6M if he makes 20 starts, $8M if he makes 25 starts, and $10M if he makes 30 starts. And although we’re usually safe to say that a team would be happy to pay him his $10M if he were healthy all year, I can easily envision a scenario where he is healthy, but ineffective and the Cardinals are forced to make some tough, unpopular decision with their former ace and team leader.
  • No decisions have officially yet been made on the Cubs’ four players with options: Cole Hamels ($20M club option, $6M buyout paid by Rangers), Jose Quintana ($10.5M club option, will be picked up), Pedro Strop ($6.25M club option, will be picked up), and Brandon Kintzler ($10M club option, will be declined, and then a $5M player option, which will probably be picked up), but you can check in on some other option decisions that have been made right here.
  • Relatedly:

  • And finally, this just feels like important information to know:

Author: Michael Cerami

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