Earlier today, Brett got us talking about that wide-open vacancy at second base and how the Cubs don’t seem to have their guy for 2020, despite plenty of options on the roster already.
Presuming, as we do, that Nico Hoerner needs more time in Triple-A before locking down any full-time duties, I’d like to use that conversation to remind you that there are two players available in free agency this offseason – Scooter Gennett and Didi Gregorius – that should come (1) affordably priced, (2) relatively young, and (3) with enough upside to dream on, as we wait for Hoerner to be ready.
- … And I have an update for you right now: the Yankees decided not to extend a qualifying offer ($17.8M) to Gregorius, which provides a little more assurance that getting him to Chicago won’t break the bank (or cost a pick when you sign him). Of course, the lack of a QO doesn’t mean his time in New York is over. MLB Trade Rumors wonders whether the Yankees could simply be trying to land Gregorius on a multi-year deal worth more in total dollars, but with a more favorable average annual value (AAV) for luxury tax purposes. For example, the three-year/$42M contract they projected comes with an $14M AAV, which is $3M+ better than the qualifying offer for the tax.
- Of course, a contract at that price and for that length would probably push Gregorius out of the range of what the Cubs are looking to do at second base. Marketing himself as a shortstop, Gregorius could argue he’s the only legit upside starting option on the market.
- So if that route isn’t plausible, a more certainly impactful second base candidate could be out there on the trade market this winter: Jeff McNeil. The Mets’ 27-year-old, left-handed second baseman/super-utilityman slashed .318/.384/.581 (143 wRC+) last season with just a 13.2% strikeout rate. To say he’d cover more than one of the Cubs holes would be an understatement. But would the Mets really give him up? I’m not so sure. They have an overload of infielders, but I suspect primarily they would want impact pitching in return. Word has it the Rays tried to get him last offseason, but couldn’t get it done. And an even better 2019 campaign won’t make the Mets search for young arms any cheaper (or, rather, any more affordable for the Cubs).
- One concern with McNeil? He broke his wrist on a hit by pitch late in the year, and had to have surgery to fix it in October. Hitters’ wrists, man, they can be awfully scary.
- The Mets also have a need in center field, by the way, but that’s another spot where the Cubs likely can’t help. Joel Sherman has thoughts on what the center-field-defense-needy Mets should do in 2020, and unfortunately trading for Albert Almora Jr. did not make the list. Trading for Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Starling Marte, Enrique Hernandez, and Kevin Kiermaier did make the cut, however, and there’s at least some potential overlap with the Cubs interests this offseason. Well, maybe “interests” is the wrong word. More like dreams.
- Blue Jays President/CEO Mark Shapiro had some weird things to say about his team’s potential pursuit of Gerrit Cole: “Dollars are not going to be our challenge, which hasn’t always been the case,” Shapiro said. “It’s going to be where we fit with Gerrit’s alignment of interests.” It’s not often – at all – you’ll hear an executive talking so specifically and bluntly about a player not currently on his roster (and how dollars won’t be an issue). In fact, it’s rare. Maybe he’s just trying to indicate that he wants to be a part of this discussion? I really don’t know.
- Free agent Cole Hamels wants to play for a winner next season – and for the rest of his career – even if it means signing one-year deals. But before you go penciling him into Chicago’s 2020 rotation for cheap, note that it sure sounds like Philly is what he’s got in mind: “I know Philly is finally trying to make that push,” Hamels told MLB.com this week. “They’re building their roster. If I fit on their roster and their plans, I’d love the opportunity to come back.”
- At ESPN, Buster Olney discusses the four windows for the Indians to trade Francisco Lindor, and how the availability of Betts this offseason might play into that calculus. Ultimately, Olney believes (1) Lindor *will* be moved, (2) this winter makes the most sense, and (3) the acquisition price might not be as high as we think. But things get really interesting when Olney suggests from where the Indians might receive “ardent interest” … “the Yankees, the Phillies, the Dodgers, the Cubs ….” To be sure, he seemed to be speaking more about the size of those markets (and, thus, ability to pay for Lindor over the next two seasons and possibly extend him immediately thereafter), but still … I like the Cubs being included in that group. Bring me Lindor, Theo. I’m ready.
- And if I can’t have him, bring me Mookie Betts, who should cost much less (in terms of prospects) to acquire, because he has just one year of relatively expensive team control (~$27.5M) remaining. And it sure sounds like the Red Sox are going to move him, now that J.D. Martinez has not opted-out of his deal.
- But the other, perhaps even stronger reason to believe the Red Sox could move Betts’ this year is the hiring of new Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom, who comes over from the Rays. The Boston Globe explains how Bloom’s history/perspective/strengths could spell the end of Betts’ time in Boston.
- (Yes, yes, we know that financially, adding $27.5 million to the payroll for 2020 doesn’t sound like something the Cubs are aiming to do. But how could you not want Mookie?)
- The Giants may believe a fresh start is more likely than reunion with free agent Madison Bumgarner, who’ll probably have no shortage of suitors this offseason. Although Bumgarner, 30, has already accumulated 31.3 WAR this decade (14th in MLB), he’s not quite the pitcher he used to be and won’t get a massive deal (MLBTR projects 4 years/$72M). HOWEVER, he did bounce back with 3.2 WAR and a 3.90 ERA over 207.2 IP this season and some people like his … eh hem … rough personality. So … I guess be on the lookout for that. I would CERTAINLY not put it past the Cardinals to go after him, though the Brewers could make some sense, as well.
- And finally, Richard Justice has one under-the-radar free agent at each position in baseball. Among the more interesting names – from the Cubs perspective – are Wilmer Flores, Jose Iglesias, and Corey Dickerson. But also … meh.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.