I had a nice, long intro here, but there’s too much substance to get to, so it got the ax.
Here’s the latest from the piping-ish-hot-ish stove:
- Ken Rosenthal dropped a ton of rumory notes at The Athletic this morning, and, as usual, it’s basically a must-read. And although he got into some specifics, it was his introductory discussion about the 2019 and 2020 free agent classes that really got me thinking. If you remember back to the start of the winter, when the Cubs spending rumors first kicked into gear, there was some speculation that their reluctance to break the bank had less to do with current financials than an eye on next winter. I don’t really buy that – or, rather, I don’t agree it’s the right strategy even if it’s true – but if the Cubs don’t wind up with Bryce Harper or Manny Machado this winter, it is at least conceivable that they could end up with someone like Nolan Arenado or Anthony Rendon next winter, or Mike Trout or Mookie Betts after 2020.
- Of course, every single one of those players – plus Paul Goldschmidt, a free agent after 2019 – are prime candidates for extensions, so you just can’t bank on it. And even if they reach free agency, there will be tons of big-money competition. That’s why you can’t just write off large swaths of an entire class when they’re available and when you’re contending. You never know who’ll be left in the unspecified “future.”
- Related: The Yankees will host Manny Machado for a visit on Wednesday and the White Sox are meeting with him today (though they apparently prefer Harper). The Phillies are also scheduled to meet with Machado. Bryce Harper, for what it’s worth, is not expected to make any team visits. Rosenthal also wondered if A.J. Pollock, who could play center, might be a better free-agent fit for the Dodgers than Harper. I’m not sure I’d agree with that, but I sure hope the Dodgers do!
- One more thing from Rosenthal: The Cubs are, in fact, interested in Troy Tulowitzki, but only in a utility role. And apparently, for that position, he’s behind Daniel Descalso in priority. Relatedly, Nick Cafardo hears from an AL executive, there are still questions about whether Troy Tulowitzki can truly resume his career after a season lost to twin heel surgeries. Tulowitzki is rumored to be a buy-low, see-what-happens guy for the Cubs, but he shouldn’t be regarded as anything more than that.
- At one point or another, the Nationals and Mets seemed like the most likely landing spots for Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, but after adding Kurt Suzuki and Wilson Ramos, respectively, neither team figures to be in the race. Meanwhile, the Braves have apparently faded in their pursuit, and I think it’s fair to assume their interest was at least somewhat tied to driving up the price on the Nats and Mets. According to MLB.com, the Dodgers remain in a stalemate for Realmuto, given the presence of free agents Yasmani Grandal and Martin Maldonado, but the Brewers, who met with Ramos during the Winter Meetings, could jump into the sweepstakes. The Angels and Padres are thought to have interest, too, and those would be better landing spots for the Cubs than Milwaukee, L.A, or Atlanta.
- The Brewers are looking for second baseman – not unlike the Cubs – and have shown interest in potential Cubs target Jed Lowrie. However, they are also looking at Daniel Murphy, in whom I doubt the Cubs will have free agent interest.
- Speaking of the second base market, the Padres have signed Ian Kinsler to a two-year, $8M deal. Kinsler wasn’t *quite* a Cubs target, but every middle infielder off the board is one less available to the Cubs and their rivals looking for similar upgrades/depth/coverage.
- The Astros are considering free agent outfielder (and potential Bryce Harper alternative) Michael Brantley. In coordination with such a move, Ken Rosenthal has heard they’d consider trading right fielder Josh Reddick. The Cubs have shown interest in Reddick in previous years and he’s still only 31, but his bat fell below league average last season (99 wRC+) after a really solid offensive year in 2017 (128 wRC+). If the Cubs were expecting a bounce-back, he could be a nice buy-low candidate, but I’m not sure you can count on him improving the offense at all. Moreover, outside of a sure-fire offensive upgrade, I don’t see the Cubs adding a significant piece in the outfield.
- Maybe the Indians won’t be trading a starter, after all:
After trading Edwin, Yonder and Gomes, word is Indians won’t be as “motivated” by financial concerns now. Translation: Kluber and Bauer more likely to stay.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 15, 2018
- There were half a dozen teams interested in trading for one of these two pitchers – including the Dodgers, Reds, and Brewers – so I wouldn’t mind if they stayed put. This could be good news for the Diamondbacks, though, as they are open to moving Zack Greinke.
- Madison Bumgarner remains a potential trade candidate, but questions over his effectiveness with a drop in velocity could scare some teams away. The Brewers were also mentioned as potential suitors for Bumgarner, and, velocity drop or not, I’d prefer not to face him a bunch next season. Sonny Gray is still available, and I think he’d be a more likely one-year option for the Brewers, though the Padres, Mariners, Braves, and Reds are among apparently the interested parties.
- The Dodgers are still open to trading Yasiel Puig, and I am still open to the Cubs trading for him if things don’t work out with Bryce Harper. Puig is young, an offensive upgrade, is exciting to watch, and is under control for just one more season (so the Cubs could cut bait if things went awry). I know he’s polarizing, though, and we’ve discussed this before, so we’ll leave it there for now.
- If the Yankees miss out on Manny Machado – they’re still my 1A guess – they might shift to free agent Freddy Galvis as a fill-in until Didi Gregorius returns. But they won’t be alone. Apparently, the Pirates are also showing a “big interest” in Galvis, who’d be a replacement for Jordy Mercer. It’s tough to read the Pirates, but it feels like they’re a bit shy of the other teams in the NL Central, and competing would require big moves, big steps forward by a bunch of young players, or both.
- The Rangers are open to a wide … range … of moves this winter, including, potentially, trading Mike Minor to the Phillies for controllable pitching. Minor, 30, was a moderately good starter last season (2.2 WAR) after being a dominant reliever in 2017 (2.2 WAR). I had really hoped the Cubs could get him at the time as an impact reliever, but he clearly wanted to start, so it wasn’t to be. If he was willing to shift back to the pen he’d be an ideal candidate for the Cubs, because he could gobble up a ton of innings (like Mike Montgomery) and shore up the pen. I doubt that happens, though, given his sizable remaining contract, and the thorniness of trying to acquire a starter and turn him back into a reliever.
- The Nationals have re-upped with first baseman Matt Adams for one year and $3M. At first blush there’s not much of an obvious Cubs-connection, but the Washington Post seems to believe the signing was done as a bit of a hedge against the power lost from Bryce Harper. I think their current outfield and signing of Patrick Corbin do way more to brush off any hopes for Harper, but this is another piece of the puzzle, sure.