Lukewarm Stove: Squashing Harper Rumors, Realmuto Progress, Yankees and Machado, Kimbrel's Market, More

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Lukewarm Stove: Squashing Harper Rumors, Realmuto Progress, Yankees and Machado, Kimbrel’s Market, More

Chicago Cubs

Well, I said many moons ago that I thought this offseason was not going to be like the last one, but here we are, on the doorstep of February, waiting on two of the top free agents in the last decade to sign, while many other valuable free agents are still in limbo. Can pitchers and catcher’s report yet, please?

Rumors …

  • As Brett addressed earlier today, rumors had been flying everywhere – mostly based on a video game’s Twitter account and some gamblers out in Vegas – that Bryce Harper was going to be signed by the Phillies before the end of the day. HOWEVA, Jim Salisbury, who writes for NBC Sports Philly (and would likely have some knowledge of this situation), jumped on the radio to say “I’ve been hearing all the same hysteria all morning as you have. I’m not feeling anything coming down today.”
  • Obviously, that’s far from a straight-up denial, but combined with our existing suspicions over the veracity of the rumor (or the wisdom of believing a video game’s insight on social media), I’m going to guess it doesn’t break today. That is NOT to say the Phillies won’t ultimately be the landing spot – they’re my odds-on favorite – but I just don’t think it’s going down that way.
  • Yesterday, we learned that the Marlins had made some progress with the Reds on a deal for J.T. Realmuto, but apparently no deal is particularly close … and multiple teams are still involved:

  • I think the Marlins’ painfully slow pace is probably due to a series of circumstances. First, everyone and their grandma knew Realmuto was going to be traded this offseason, so even if he was fairly marketed as the best catcher in the NL, the Marlins’ leverage probably started off a bit low. Second – and related – after being consistently and wholly chided over their inability to secure solid returns for the 2017 NL MVP (Giancarlo Stanton), 2018 NL MVP (Christian Yelich), and Marcell Ozuna last offseason, the Marlins are overcorrecting and keeping the price for Realmuto unrealistically high. And finally, Realmuto’s offensive breakout is exactly one season long. He was an extremely valuable catcher before that, too, but he was clearly on another level last year. Matching value for two years of Realmuto probably isn’t as easy as it might seem.
  • But if the Reds do manage to pull this one off, we’ll all have to take them very seriously in 2019. A team with Joey Votto, Scooter Gennett, Eugenio Suarez, Yasiel Puig, and J.T. Realmuto (not to mention Alex Wood, Nick Senzel, Jose Peraza, and Raisel Iglesias) might legitimately have four or five All-Stars and a real shot at disrupting the NL Central – at least, for one year.

  • For what it’s worth, Heyman just recently added that the Reds are “pretty adamant about keeping Nick Senzel,” their top prospect, “however, Reds are well stocked with prospects (Trammell, India, etc.) so they remain in the Realmuto hunt.”
  • Manny Machado remains homeless for 2019, and the Padres have emerged as a legitimate, last-minute contender. HOWEVA, Jon Heyman reports that Mike Moustakas might be a more realistic target for him, especially as his former teammate from Kansas City, Eric Hosmer, has highly recommended him. But while Moose and Machado could both play third base, that’s about where the similarities end. Moustakas is five years older, can’t play shortstop, is nowhere near the hitter Machado is, and should cost about oh, say, $225M less (maybe a lot more).
  • Oh, come on:

  • The Yankees sure *seemed* like the favorite on Machado once upon a time, but that feels like ages ago. They now have so many infielders in house, I just can’t imagine they’ll be the final destination.
  • Look at this weird freaking structure, as the Dodgers continue to Dodger:

  • So not only did they trade two outfielders and a starting pitcher and then not sign Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, they’ve also fallen out (or, at least back) of the running on J.T. Realmuto and have a crazy contract structure for A.J. Pollock, which pays him just $1M in salary (plus a $12M signing bonus) in 2019. I honestly have no clue why they’re pretending the luxury tax threshold matters, because it doesn’t – and not just because they’re the Dodgers.
  • Freddy Galvis gets a $5M deal from the Blue Jays, which is a reminder of this angle:

  • One free agent we haven’t discussed at all this offseason is closer Craig Kimbrel – though it’s not for no reason. Kimbrel is an absolutely dominant closer and even if the 2018 season wasn’t his best, it was still something plenty of teams would project and covet for 2019. The problem early on, however, was that Kimbrel was reportedly looking for a deal in the $100M range over 5-6 seasons, which was laughable then and nearly nonsensical now. He’s not crazy for asking for that much, mind you, given what Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen got just a couple years ago (you try to top what came before), but things are different now, and if it didn’t happen in November/December, it’s certainly not happening now.
  • And that goes quadruple for the Cubs, who weren’t signing closers to massive deals even when they had some money to spend.
  • But where does that leave the All-Star closer now? Well, it’s hard to say. Dan Hayes seems to think a short-term, high AAV deal could be in Kimbrel’s future, and the Twins could be the team to offer it. Nothing about this market has made sense, so why not? And if you’re holding out hope for the Cubs, I wouldn’t. There are some attractive things about Chicago on a one-year deal – he’d be joining an immediate contender with a wide-open closers job in a big-market, where he can remain relevant as he builds up another run at free agency – but the Cubs just don’t seem open to spending that kind of money, even for a single year. There’s also no real guarantee that things would be any better for Kimbrel next year. He could probably squeeze out some more dollars overall by going year-to-year, as we’ve seen others do this winter – but if there’s a reasonable multi-year deal out there, he might just take it.
  • It’s crazy that right now, any team could add two instant MVP candidates (Harper/Machado), arguably the game’s best closer (Kimbrel), and one of the top starters in baseball (Dallas Keuchel) for only money. Pitchers and catchers report in two weeks.

Author: Michael Cerami

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