Although the Cubs, themselves, are well-positioned to contend in both their division and league next season, it’s not fun to see them outside the broader conversation.
Perhaps it’s my own unrealistic expectations begot by so many huge transactions over the past few years, but it sure feels like nobody is talking about the Cubs right now. And why would they be? Chicago petered out at the end of the 2018 season and have signaled an intention not to spend aggressively this offseason (and, of course, that was *after* the front office said they wouldn’t settle for talent over production). They can do a lot to change the narrative, but it might take some extreme creativity.
Here’s some rumors – Happy Wednesday!
- At Cubs.com, Jordan Bastian mentions that the bullpen (Andrew Miller, Cody Allen) and middle infield (Daniel Murphy, DJ LeMahieu, Jed Lowrie) will be the Cubs’ focus this winter, which, yeah that sounds about right if you were breaking it down positionally (bullpen and impact bat would perhaps be even better). We’ve discussed most of these names already – and we’ll hit on LeMahieu later today – so for now the bigger takeaway is the continued belief that, based on Bastian’s suggestions, the Cubs will hang out in the second tier of free agency, at best, this offseason.
- Bastian also discusses Michael Brantley as a potential target in response to a question about him, but concedes that while his bat would fit well in the lineup (124 wRC+, .364 OBP, 9.5% strikeout rate last season), his glove is best suited for left field, where Kyle Schwarber is already stationed most of the time. But with Joe Maddon still on board as skipper, I just wouldn’t worry about exact positioning of any individual. If the front office brought Brantley in and his bat still played, Maddon would find a place for him.
- For what it’s worth, Brantley strikes me as a great addition for the Cubs, in the same way Andrew McCutchen would. These guys shouldn’t break the bank, could squeeze into the outfield, are veteran leaders, and add another 15-20% above-average bat to the Cubs lineup. If the Cubs are truly out on Harper/Machado and with Josh Donaldson already off the board, the Cubs should *really* consider someone like Brantley (all of this, of course, relies upon the assumption that the Cubs are willing to spend some money this winter, but I’m just not sure they are anymore). The Cubs don’t necessarily need an “outfielder,” but they must consider offense where they can find it.
- One big caveat with Brantley: although the 31-year-old was healthy in 2018, he played just 101 games between 2016 and 2017 because of multiple shoulder surgeries.
- These are not the only outfield free agents, of course, but given the early rumors, I think they might be more worth the money:
Free agent center fielder A.J. Pollock is attracting plenty of interest, but he’s looking for close to Lorenzo Cain’s 5-year, $80 million deal with #Brewers in early talks with suitors.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) November 28, 2018
- Pollock is younger, a better defender, and had an elite(ish) season back in 2015, but I’m guessing Brantley and McCutchen outplay him at the plate next year *and* cost a lot less – then again, I doubt Pollock winds up with 5 years or $80M, so who knows. Pollock probably comes with more upside, but also – given his injury history – more downside relative to the cost.
- According to GM Alex Anthopoulos, the Braves are still looking to add a “front of the rotation starting pitcher, a late inning reliever (but probably not someone expensive like Craig Kimbrel), and one more outfielder,” this winter. Wow. It wasn’t clear if any or all of those would come from free agency, but the Braves are clearly ready to take hold of the NL East and run with their core as soon as possible.
- And yet, they aren’t really the team everyone is talking about in the East. At the New York Post, Joel Sherman details how everyone will be watching the Phillies this offseason: “I can never remember a winter in which one team is the linchpin more than Philly is now,” a veteran GM said. “Maybe the Yankees in some free-spending period, but maybe not even them.” We discussed this in the stove yesterday with respect to the Cubs, but it remains true now. The Phillies, if they really are what they claim to be, are in driver’s seat and everyone else will be forced to wait to see what they do. It wouldn’t be this way if the Dodgers and Cubs weren’t under seeming self-imposed timeouts – but here we are.
- At The Athletic, Ken Rosenthal writes that the Phillies might not decide between a massive deal for Bryce Harper/Manny Machado and a bunch of other moves. They might do both. Specifically, he believes they might want to sign a top reliever, trade for a starting pitcher, trade Carlos Santana and Cesar Hernandez, sign an infielder like Mike Moustakas, plus a defensive-minded shortstop, and revamp their outfield … all IN ADDITION to Harper or Machado. My word.
- But still, it’s not like they don’t need to make so many moves, because even without the Braves’ rise, they clearly have needs:
As I wrote last week, they were the first team since the 2004 (108-loss) Diamondbacks with no 2-win position players! https://t.co/My8JtDvhZ3
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) November 28, 2018
- And to close this loop for now: here’s even more indication that the Phillies are serious about Patrick Corbin, who was spotted at the ballpark yesterday. I won’t be surprised to see them end up with one of Harper/Machado, Patrick Corbin, and one of the big-name relievers – at a minimum – this winter. For what it’s worth, though, they’ll likely have to battle the Yankees for Corbin, and the Yankees rarely lose fights when it comes to big-money free agents, even if the Phillies are talking a big game.
- The Mets, Yankees, Braves, Phillies, and Red Sox have all expressed strong interest in Mariners closer Edwin Diaz and the Mariners are willing to move him, but they’re trying to attach him to Robinson Cano so as to get out of that expensive contract ($120M over the next five years). I still think they’d be silly to parlay Diaz’s value into mere money savings, but that’s just me. I am positive we have not heard the last of the Mariners this winter, as Jean Segura, Dee Gordon, Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano, and several others all constitute attractive, available talent (depending on contracts and returns).
- Rosenthal has more on the Diaz/Cano talks:
#Mets would not want to add Canó and part with one or more prospects unless #Mariners included big $ as well as a piece such as Diaz. Question for NYM, even if they could offload a contract such as Bruce’s, would be whether they could put resources to better use in other ways. https://t.co/MHvy3wZNr1
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 28, 2018
- For once, the Mets are right. If you attach Cano to Diaz, the return is going to be FAR lighter, unless the Mariners kick in some serious cash, at which point, why are they doing it in the first place? Again, I’m perfectly willing to believe both guys get traded this winter, but separate deals seem more likely than a monster, complicated, money-driven deal.
- Eyes are still on the Padres and Mets on a potential Noah Syndergaard deal:
padres have made Tatis jr., Gore and likely Arias off limits but they still have the makings of a potential trade for Noah Syndergaard. SD has young pitchers Paddack, Allen, Quantrill, Nix and Lucchesi, catchers Hedges and Mejia and a young OF or 2. might be best match.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 28, 2018
- Given the Padres’ extreme prospect glut and desires to contend soon, you can presume they will make some kinds of trades this offseason, Syndergaard or not.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.