At Cubs.com, Jordan Bastian answered some mailbag questions, and the first Q/A really caught my attention. Basically, a reader asked if there was any validity to the report that Theo Epstein asked Scott Boras to circle back around to the Cubs before letting Bryce Harper sign elsewhere. Bastian can’t confirm those rumors, but does seem to believe them, even as he warns not to get our hopes up.
I’ve long believed those reports, too (perhaps more so now), but it does raise more questions than answers, in light of today’s report from Ken Rosenthal, right?
- In other words, it’s becoming increasingly difficult (and frustrating) to square needing to move money to add a mid-tier reliever, when Harper is even a remote possibility. In other words: If you’re even considering spending $300+ million on Harper (special exception for him or not), spending $4 million a year on a reliever shouldn’t even be a question. But somehow … it is? [Brett: Not only is that tough to square, there’s also the idea that if the Cubs need to move a dollar out to bring a dollar in, are they really going to suggest to Boras and Harper that there’s a chance they can move out $35 or whatever million in salary for THIS year? Get outta here.] I don’t know if we’re missing something, being misled, or being willfully blind in our desire to be hopeful.
- Also from that Rosenthal report: the Braves are still looking for an outfielder, presumably someone young and cheap, though I struggle to see how the Cubs could get involved. They might have some theoretical fits (Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ, Albert Almora, Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist), but with both teams trying to compete in 2019, finding the right return might be more difficult than normal. You can think about a Heyward swap where the Cubs eat money and take on a contract, but that feels like little more than a dream.
- The Indians are another team looking for an affordable outfielder (particularly someone capable of playing center), but their focus seems to linger on the long-awaited trade of Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer – and I don’t quite see the Cubs making a move for either guy right now (i.e. without changing something else significant in the rotation). Meanwhile, the Dodgers have reportedly had serious talks regarding Kluber, but the Padres, Brewers, and Phillies all grab a mention.
- The Brewers, however, have had some new (old) rumors pop up recently:
On @MLBNetwork, @jonmorosi says he believes #Brewers are most likely destination for LHP Madison Bumgarner. Not sure what they'd be willing to trade for one year of Bumgarner, who has $12 million salary.
— Tom (@Haudricourt) January 7, 2019
- Morosi writes that the teams have had substantive trade talks about Bumgarner. If you remember way back to November, the Brewers were an early-rumored landing spot for Bumgarner, before the Giants appeared to pull back the reins a bit. In any case, Milwaukee is apparently the most likely destination now, and he certainly makes sense for them. Even still, if they don’t get Bumgarner (or Kluber (or Bauer)), they figure to land a starting pitcher one way or the other, most likely via trade.
- Relatedly, Sonny Gray continues to draw interest on the trade market, but is no longer a lock to be moved. The Brewers are among the eight or so teams who’ve been the most involved, but the Yankees have pulled back with CC Sabathia’s immediate future unclear. As GM Brian Cashman put it: “Our intention is to move Sonny Gray and relocate him, when we get the proper return, in our estimation. It’ll happen this winter, it’ll happen in the spring or it’ll happen sometime during the season.”
- Like the Bauer/Kluber rumors, the Padres are also involved on that front; however, Jon Morosi hears that the Reds are NOT in on Gray, despite reports to the contrary. Instead, their interest reportedly lies in adding a free agent like Dallas Keuchel, which, okay. Morosi warns that a marriage is far from likely, but suggests that it’s not out of the question, as the Reds are looking for someone with multiple years of control.
- Bob Nightengale is downplaying the Yankees’ interest in Manny Machado, suggesting that they’re either playing coy, gauging the trade market for Miguel Andujar, or simply have no intention of offering Machado $200M+ (yeah, that’s a TWO). Meanwhile, Nightengale suggests that the Phillies and White Sox are the most aggressive teams in on the shortstop/third baseman. If you’re holding out hope for Harper, you’re rooting strongly for the Phillies to land Machado. That might bring Harper’s realistic market down to only the Dodgers and Nationals (with the White Sox and Cubs somewhere outside that ring).
- I think I just disagree with this:
Folks have complained Marlins ask is too high for Realmuto. But 2 uninvolved execs point out he’s game’s best catcher; say they’d even give up Bellinger for him. Get why LA prefers to keep Bellinger and why prospects make sense for Miami but Bellinger not a crazy request.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 6, 2019
- I wouldn’t trade five years of a 23-year-old Cody Bellinger (who’s already produced 7.6 WAR and 64 homers in 2 years), for two year of Realmuto – especially with just one really impressive offensive season under his belt. Consider that even after a dreadful 2018, Willson Contreras (113 wRC+) has a better career offensive track record than Realmuto (108 wRC+). Obviously, Realmuto has better pitch framing numbers and projects to be the better catcher overall, but still. I just don’t think trading someone like Bellinger makes a ton of sense, all things considered.
- The structure of free agent contracts is always evolving and the newest trend might have already arrived via Scott Boras. In deals like the one Yusei Kikuchi (a Boras client) just signed with the Mariners: He gets three-years and $43 million to start, then the Mariners can institute a four-year, $66M option on top of that. But if they don’t, Kikuchi can trigger a $13M option for the fourth year or elect free agency. Other Boras clients Jake Arrieta and Zach Britton have received similarly-styled contracts. At the NY Post, Joel Sherman discusses how this might be the format for Harper and/or Machado. This way, they might just get something worth up to $400M, but with plenty of twists and turns along the way. If either player were open to it, you might see the Cubs chances tick up just a bit. Then again, that would necessarily mean some very high salaries early on, and it’s just still not clear what’s holding the Cubs back – shorter-term AAV issues or longer-term, large contract issues. Or both. Or neither.
- That’s a really interesting article, by the way, be sure to give it a read.
- The Mets landed corner infielder/outfielder J.D. Davis in a five-player swap with the Astros. There’s no Cubs connection here, it’s just an interesting trade.
- The Rockies have apparently turned their attention to free agent second baseman Brian Dozier, as some other available options (DJ LeMahieu and Jed Lowrie, for example) are looking for longer deals than the Rockies are willing to offer. The Cubs interest in adding a second baseman, however, is about as unclear as ever. Suspended through April under the domestic violence policy, Addison Russell’s future with the club remains undecided, and the Cubs did add Daniel Descalso. Maybe the outside shot at Harper is holding things up on that front, but something’s gotta give. Either the Cubs add a starting second baseman and move Javy Baez permanently to shortstop (while moving on from Russell), or they decide they’re truly going to let Russell work his way back onto the team as a starting shortstop, while moving Baez back to second base.
- And finally, although there’s no new rumors, you’ll likely enjoy the latest from Dylan Hernandez at the L.A. Times who asks “A big signing was expected after the Dodgers traded Yasiel Puig, so what are the waiting for?” I will admit, I thought Harper was going to be a Dodger as soon as that trade went down, but now … I’m not so sure. They might have been making room for Corey Kluber. They might have been making room for J.T. Realmuto. And they might genuinely not be interested in going more than seven or so years for Harper. We’ll see.