Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone!
With January 1st just hours away, I can’t help but feel like we’re on the edge of a breaking dam – starting tomorrow (er, well, the day after tomorrow), there’s nothing holding players, agents, or teams back from getting those deals done. And I’m excited to see how this month plays out with respect to the volume and frequency of transactions. For example, if January is busy and the two big dogs, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, sign their mega-deals, this offseason would distinguish itself from the ice-out last winter. It may still represent a new slow norm for January business, but I can deal with that. As long as February is kept for the Pitchers and Catchers Reporting and the start of Spring Training, everything else is fair game.
- Looks like the Blue Jays got another buy-low, depth guy:
Sounds like the Blue Jays are covering half of Clayton Richard's $3M salary next season. The Padres acquired 25yo Minor League outfielder Connor Panas in the trade.
— AJ Cassavell (@AJCassavell) December 30, 2018
- Richard has kept his career alive since leaving the Cubs after 2015, most successfully as a full 32-game starter for the Padres in 2017. Last season, he managed to make another 27 starts in San Diego, but his results (5.33 ERA) and peripherals (4.68 FIP) were just not up to par. But for only $1.5M and a 25-year-old minor leaguer, the Blue Jays get another buy-low, depth arm, making any hope for a bad-contract swap including Tyler Chatwood as unlikely as ever.
- To make room for Richard, the Blue Jays have DFA’d 31-year-old right-handed reliever Oliver Drake, who played for a record FIVE teams in 2018. At first blush, Drake’s 2018 poor results (5.29 ERA) and many travels might turn you off, but a peek behind the curtain shows a guy with a 3.24 FIP over 47.2 innings, which would have ranked among the top-50 in baseball last season if he had recorded just four more outs (to qualify). There’s a reason five teams let him pitch last season, and the Cubs obviously work hard to plumb this range of the waiver wire.
- At the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that Bryce Harper’s market might be down to the Dodgers, Phillies, and Nationals with “an outside shot of the Cardinals and Giants,” and frankly that’s a little surprising to me. I think the Cubs are still not likely to land Harper at the moment, but I’d put them ahead of the Giants, Nationals, and Cardinals right now without blinking (each for different, but legitimate reasons). And the White Sox, however unlikely he is to choose them, are clearly in the running. Strange grouping of the market, especially in light of the Cubs’ request that Harper not finalize a deal without checking back in with them first.
- But it doesn’t end there, Cafardo also claims the Giants could be in on Manny Machado and still thinks the Phillies might try to get Harper *and* Machado, which is, again, all a little surprising. Perhaps he’s got some new/different sources of information, but I haven’t seen many similar sentiments out there lately.
- Jed Lowrie, a theoretical, but increasingly unlikely Cubs target, is thought to be a fit for the Brewers, Dodgers, Nationals, and, Athletics. The addition of Daniel Descalso makes someone like Lowrie less necessary for the Cubs, but I could still see that as a possibility, especially if Addison Russell gets traded and the Cubs want some more help up the middle.
- The L.A. Times has a brief update on the Dodgers’ pursuits of Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, and Corey Kluber, but it’s the note on out-going catcher Yasmani Grandal that strikes me most. Apparently, Grandal rejected a four-year $60M offer from the New York Mets, which, wow. I’m not saying Grandal can’t get more and doesn’t deserve it, but that’s a bold rejection for a 30-year old catcher in a market that is obsessed with deals under four years. Perhaps Grandal’s lofty price tag is why the Dodgers are turning to Realmuto.
- And remember: if you’re rooting for the Cubs to get Harper, Realmuto to the Dodgers is probably a move you want to see.
- Speaking of Harper, Cardinals beat writer Jenifer Langosch writes that St. Louis is currently on the outside looking in when comes to Harper, but adds that they “could sneak into the bidding” late if they want to give themselves “another right-field option.” Because, you know, a $300M player is just another option. The Cardinals will also look for more bullpen help and see if they can trade Jose Martinez, in the wake of the Paul Goldschmidt deal.
- Nationals beat writer, Jamal Collier, sings a similar tune about Harper, suggesting that the Nats are probably on the outside right now, but could also re-join the table. With the reports from Collier, Langsoch, and Cafardo, I’m beginning to think there may have been some information-with-a-purpose spread out there ahead of the new year. Maybe Harper’s not getting the love he and Boras expected … or maybe things are moving closer to a finale and this is everyone’s last chance.
- Relatedly, the Nationals are also looking for second base help, but, again, the Cubs intentions are pretty unclear right now with Addison Russell still hanging around and Descalso in the fold.
- Mark Bowman has more on the Braves’ remaining needs here, some of which (adding a free agent outfielder and reliever) could overlap with the Cubs, though to be sure, many of the names mentioned don’t relay much overlap.
- Then again, if things trickle into the trade territory the ripple effects could be more difficult to predict:
As year winds down, #Braves still have needs including corner OF and pitching (rotation & pen). Given apparent limited funds, I still think trade(s) makes most sense. Dbacks seem like strong potential partner with 2 yrs of affordable control of Peralta and, if available, LH Ray.
— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) December 30, 2018
- I can’t wait to see how good the Braves are next year and if they’ll be the ones to emerge on top of the competitive NL East. Maybe a trade for Jason Heyward would help.
- Speaking of Robbie Ray, the Astros and Phillies have both shown interest there as well, but the D-Backs, are apparently not all that interested in moving him this winter. Of course, after moving Goldschmidt you’ve got to believe almost anyone is available for the right price (I know, I’m really out there on a limb).
- The Padres remain interested in a starting pitcher splash this winter and Sonny Gray still seems like a possibility, though they’ve also shown interest in other trades (Corey Kluber, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Mike Leake) and even free agent starters Dallas Keuchel and Yusei Kikuchi). That’s too many names to get into, but note that the Brewers have been connected to many of the same, so the Padres’ moves here could wind up indirectly affecting the Cubs.
- And finally, speaking of Kikuchi, he doesn’t have much longer to pick his new team – players from the NPB have just a month from when they’re officially posted to pick a new team, and he was posted on December 3rd. You can read all about his move to the States here. A west coast team remains the most likely, but the Astros and any pitching-needy team could jump into the mix for a 27-year-old lefty whose range of possible outcomes in MLB is pretty wide.