Lukewarm Stove: No Bids for Harper (Yet), Kluber/Bauer Salary Dumps, STL Likely Aggressive, MIL Likely Not, More

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Lukewarm Stove: No Bids for Harper (Yet), Kluber/Bauer Salary Dumps, STL Likely Aggressive, MIL Likely Not, More

Chicago Cubs

I (very foolishly) made a bet with my wife this past week and so (long story short) I spent the last four hours cleaning the entire house by myself. I smell like bleach, Lysol, and vacuum dust. I’m not very happy.

But today is Winter Meetings Eve (more on that later), which means even if today tends not to be the busiest day of the event, things are going to get very fun, very soon. Here’s the latest from the stove …

  • Obviously, the storyline everyone’s most excited to follow this week is the pursuit of tip top free agents like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, and to that end on the latter, this USA Today article is loaded with interesting details surrounding the courtship of Harper and how the very secretive process is going down. Among the more important bits is the revelation that no team (presumably excluding the Nationals) has yet made a formal bid. And moreover, Harper’s agent Scott Boras expects, at the end of the day, there’ll truly be just 2 or 3 teams actually involved based on Harper’s contractual demands and personal preferences.
  • And then there’s this enigmatic quote from Boras, himself, that’ll get Cubs fans’ minds racing more than anything else: “This is a submarine race, not a regatta. You do not want other teams knowing you’re interested in a generation player. No one wants to be known as a loser in this.” It’s impossible to know if it’s true that there are teams working overtime to make sure the seriousness of their interest doesn’t leak, or if it’s just Boras being Boras, but man … it’s hard not to keep clutching to the scraps. And hoping. So much hoping.
  • We’ve discussed this a lot, but it doesn’t make it any less true – one of Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer will be traded this winter:

  • The somewhat news-bit, however, is their intention to attach a pricier player (like Jason Kipnis or Edwin Encarnacion) to one of the players, to offload some salary. Although the Cubs could accommodate Kipnis by position, the other stuff – the main piece and the money – aren’t a fit. The Cubs still just have no obvious way to add to the rotation unless they line up a trade elsewhere, so I can’t see them getting involved here, but the Brewers, Cardinals, and Reds are all looking for starting pitching help, so it could wind up being a factor in the NL Central next season one way or another.
  • For what it’s worth, listed the Cubs as a potential suitor for Kluber as one of their “bold predictions,” but you can just about call that too bold for me. The Cubs don’t need a starter right now, and although any team would gladly accommodate Kluber, trading an outfielder and offensive piece like Kyle Schwarber, as the author suggests, is about the last way they’d go about it (right now) if they did. Also, we just learned that the Cubs are probably not all that interested in trading Schwarber, specifically, this offseason anyway.
  • After acquiring Paul Goldschmidt the Cardinals appear to be changing their tune a bit regarding the importance of the short-term at the expense of the long. Indeed, it sounds like they’ll really go all-in on 2019, as we long suspected, and that includes pursuits of potential Cubs’ target Zach Britton and also Japanese left-hander Yusei Kikuchi (among others).
  • HOWEVER, Goold buries a bit of hugely newsy news that the Cardinals will apparently be “spectators” on Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, now that Goldschmidt is in the fold. The Cardinals were never the favorites for either guy, but they were certainly among the 6-8 most likely landing spots (even after Goldschmidt arrived). If they’re actually going to sit out (or are they just being submarines?), the market for both guys is basically limited to the Yankees, Phillies, Dodgers, White Sox, and … Cubs? I guess?
  • Here’s the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel telling you what we discussed several weeks ago (and got crapped on by Brewers fans for): the Brewers don’t have much financial wiggle-room this winter. “At present, there isn’t as much flexibility in the budget after the Brewers bumped their payroll from $60 million to about $90 million last winter. Taking into account salaries already committed for 2019, totaling just over $70 million, and looming arbitration settlements with seven players, the payroll already is headed beyond $100 million.” They might be able to make impactful, but cost-neutral trades, of course, but they’ve also suggested content with the returning playoff roster.
  • Tom Haudricourt does mention that the Brewers will be shopping in the second base market – the Cubs could be as well – mentioning familiar names like Brian Dozier, DJ LeMahieu, Jed Lowrie, and Daniel Murphy.
  • The Pirates will be similarly reserved this winter, targeting lower tier free agents, specifically shortstops and left-handed relievers (again, that might well be where the Cubs go to play, as well).
  • One of the more popular bits of speculation (i.e. not an exact rumor, but more dot-connecting) has been wanting to see the Cubs trade for Rangers utility man Jurrickson Profar. The Cubs have the need, Profar has the talent, and the Rangers trade with the Cubs more than anybody else. And now, finally, Profar’s name comes up in a credible rumor. Apparently, in general, the Rangers are searching for starting pitching help this winter, which the Cubs could theoretically provide, but for Profar, specifically, they are looking for multiple, young prospects. That could be trickier, but these two sides have made it work countless times before. Maybe one more trade is in the works.
  • The Braves, looking for outfielders, were apparently told “no” on Mitch Haniger (Mariners) and David Peralta (Diamondbacks), which is tough to read. Was the Braves’ package just not enough? Eh, not likely, as they have the prospect fire power envied by most. Meanwhile, Michael Brantley is reportedly looking for a deal in the 3 year/$60M range, but it won’t be from the Braves, and the same can be said for A.J. Pollock, who’s likely to land a four or five-year deal. Nick Markakis and/or Andrew McCutchen, however, appear to be Braves’ targets. And every name mentioned in this bullet is theoretically someone the Cubs would/should be considering. You have to find offense (and veteran leadership) wherever you can, and you never know when you might find a surprising deal and roster fit.
  • The Mets will almost certainly be out on Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, but they do want to add a catcher (J.T Realmuto is probably at the top of their list, but they might have to turn to Yasmani Grandal, Martin Maldonado, or Wilson Ramos), a reliever (Andrew Miller and David Robertson are mentioned), and a right-handed outfield bat that can play center (A.J. Pollock is the thinking). The Cubs probably won’t have too many overlapping interests, then, but Miller has been a target in the past and could be again going forward.

Author: Michael Cerami

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