Lukewarm Stove: Competition for Cole? Strasburg Extension? Bradley Jr., Lindor, Much More

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Lukewarm Stove: Competition for Cole? Strasburg Extension? Bradley Jr., Lindor, Much More

Chicago Cubs

By now, you know the context: This is shaping up to be a transformative offseason for the Cubs … if they make it one. There are plenty of big-time free agents available and plenty of marketable trade chips on the roster. We’re basically just playing the waiting (and hoping) game. So, here’s to a very speedy World Series and a robust offseason plan.

  • Before looking ahead to next offseason, let’s just remember that there were two pretty big whiffs from last offseason on guys many of us were pushing as free agent targets: Michael Brantley (133 wRC+, 4.2 WAR) and D.J. LeMahieu (136 wRC+, 5.4 WAR). Sahadev Sharma helps us relive the pain of what could’ve been at The Athletic. Let’s not mess up again, mmmmkay?
  • At Yahoo Sports, Mike Mazzeo gets into the latest Gerrit Cole rumors, pushing the Yankees as a likely landing spot … if they’re willing to open the checkbook. Specifically, Mazzeo wonders if it’ll cost eight years and $240M (certainly sounds about right, given David Price’s seven-year, $217 million record guarantee) – plus an opt-out after three years and $120M. Woof. The Yankees might have all the money in the world, but those are some steep terms for a pitcher, even if it’s deserved. The reminder here? Cole’s gonna get PAAAAAAAAID. With CC Sabathia retiring and Masahiro Tanaka heading into his final year under contract, the Yankees should be an obvious destination.
  • Buster Olney also suggests a focus on the rotation for the Yankees this offseason, specifically mentioning Cole as an “obvious target.” Olney points out that the Yankees actually tried to draft Cole out of high school (failing to land him) and were outbid by the Astros when he was traded. Point being: he’s clearly on their radar. Olney suggests free agent alternatives, Madison Bumgarner and Zack Wheeler, if they can’t get something done with Cole. The Cubs will probably look to add to their rotation externally as well, and I’m not sure they’d look forward to a bidding war against a motivated Yankees club.
  • In that same post, Olney points out that the Yankees need a shortstop and left-handed hitting this offseason, which rings loudly for a Cubs team looking to make a big trade this offseason. I still don’t think the Cubs can afford to trade Javier Baez, but they do have plenty of left-handed hitting, so maybe they can come together on something this winter. That would be interesting to follow.
  • I can’t get away from the Yankees. While Mark Feinsand also calls Cole an “obvious answer” for New York, he wonders if Stephen Strasburg, who has an opt-out, might be a better fit. For the price (and maybe for the Cubs?), I tend to agree, but Feinsand adds another layer: “The feeling within the industry is that Strasburg and his agent, Scott Boras – who also represents Cole – will leverage the opt-out into another year or two on the back end of his current deal, keeping him in Washington.” That would stink for the Cubs, not only because I think Strasburg could be a great target for them, but also because fewer options is always more challenging. Again, I’d rather not see the Cubs get into a bidding war with the Yankees, and if they spend on Cole, they’ll be far less likely to (they just wouldn’t) spend on Strasburg.
  • The Nationals still have a ton of money wrapped up in their rotation, but if they win the World Series this year, extending Stephen Strasburg (to whom some of that money is already earmarked) could become a lot easier. Heck, the trip to the World Series may have already done enough.
  • Mookie Betts is going to be the more highly-coveted Boston outfielder if the Red Sox look to make a trade this winter, but Jackie Bradley Jr. could just as easily be the one on the move. And at MLB Trade Rumors, Connor Byrne lists the Cubs (along with the Braves, Diamondbacks, Giants, Mets, Phillies, Rangers, Reds, and White Sox) as potentially interested parties. After all, the Cubs desperately need a center fielder (moving Heyward back to right field), and Bradley Jr. was Theo Epstein’s last draft pick in Boston (2011, first round).
  • After a slow-start to his big league career, Bradley Jr. exploded with a couple of great offensive performances in 2015 (123 wRC+) and 2016 (118 wRC+), but hasn’t put it together since – he’s been about 10% worse than the league average hitter in each of the last three seasons. Generally above-average center field defense keeps him productive (and he’s only 29), but he’s not exactly a sure-thing offensive (and he’s striking out a lot lately). If the Red Sox are looking for nothing substantial in return, I could see the Cubs willing to take on the final year of his team control (estimated to cost around $11M in arbitration). But again: the bat is just not a sure-thing.
  • The Reds admit that they don’t have the market size to compete with the big dogs in free agency, but are also signaling their intentions to try: “Given our market size, we want to try to avoid deals that are too big to digest, but we understand now to compete for talent on the free agent (market), which is part of the strategy this year,” Reds president of Baseball Operations Dick Williams said. As Brett mentioned earlier this morning, given the trajectory of the Cubs, Brewers, and Cardinals, the Reds eyeing 2020 as their big go-for-it year isn’t out of the question. Watch them. They’re antsy and ready to go.
  • Of course, the Cardinals should have money to spend and a reason to spend it after locking up Paul Goldschmidt last winter. David Schoenfield wonders if they might make a play for Anthony Rendon or Josh Donaldson for third base, but free agents Marcell Ozuna and Nicholas Castellanos come in for mentions as well.
  • That’s hardly all: Schoenfield also suggests that Gerrit Cole will be out of their price range (good), while suggesting free agent starters like Madison Bumgarner, Hyun-Jun Ryu, and Zack Wheeler could be on their board. Bumgarner is such an obvious Cardinal it’s painful.
  • And finally, when Joel Sherman brings up Francisco Lindor’s theoretical availability this offseason, it’s with the Yankees in mind, but my god … get that guy in Chicago if at all possible. Of course it’s difficult to imagine a guy like Lindor being on the move, but as Sherman points out: “… the Indians are a smart, proactive organization. They have conceded they cannot afford Lindor long term (think: $300 million plus). He is a free agent after the 2021 season, and his tab for the next two years will be $43 million-ish or more, an amount that does not work for Cleveland.”
  • The acquisition cost for someone like Lindor would be astronomical and the Cubs don’t exactly have the best farm system in the world, BUT … he’s so good you’d consider trading almost anyone and the Cubs do have one thing working for them: some cost-controlled young players (Willson Contreras, Victor Caratini, Ian Happ, Kyle Schwarber, Javy Baez). You’re not going to feel good about any Lindor trade, but if the Indians are looking to extend the window with some cheap, young talent, the Cubs could maybe squeeze their way in (… it’s never going to happen, is it?).

Author: Michael Cerami

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