Lukewarm Stove: Will Dodgers Finally Go Nuts? Cubs and Merrifield, Gregorius, Bumgarner, Hamels, More

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Lukewarm Stove: Will Dodgers Finally Go Nuts? Cubs and Merrifield, Gregorius, Bumgarner, Hamels, More

Chicago Cubs

Joel Sherman’s latest at The New York Post doesn’t exactly read as an explicit collection of the latest rumors or news – through there is plenty of discussion on available players and needy teams – but there is still so much value in it. I think you should check it out.

Aside from a few marginal rumor scraps (it’s context, more than anything else), Sherman discusses the relevance of being either (1) elite/young or (2) distinct, when it comes to free agency. Put simply: If you’re not elite (like Stephen Strasburg, Gerrit Cole, or Anthony Rendon) or distinct in your role/position (like Yasmani Grandal or Will Smith), there are no guarantees of landing a good contract, even if you’re otherwise a solid player. By contrast if you are elite or distinct, you’ll get scooped up and paid handsomely. That might seem intuitive, but it’s been taken to the extreme.

For example … without letting front offices/owners off the hook for actually colluding if that is found to have happened, Sherman points out that a collusion of thought has altered the market in tangible ways:

“…one AL executive used the righty-relief market as an example. This executive said he wanted to add a righty reliever. But from a pool of about 10 interesting guys — including Steve Cishek, Will Harris, Daniel Hudson, Joe Smith, Craig Stammen, etc. — that his team had ranked, there was not enough of a gap between members of the group and belief in their health to know which of them would be good for the next year to three. So why jump out and go to the top of the market rather than wait, because who financially falls to you might be better anyway?”

And that thinking is what led to to the early, big signings of Grandal and Smith – and probably, to a lesser extent, Travis d’Arnaud, who became distinct when Grandal was taken off the market.

So I guess the lesson here is … don’t get your hopes up for this offseason, despite the busier than usual early signings. The free agent market might appear to be humming along faster than the last two winters, but it could just be the particular players who’ve signed, while things could be coming to a halt any second now. Joy.

  • Of course, one of the other reasons these last two offseasons have been so atypical is because so many of the biggest market teams (Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, Cubs) have been quiet. But perhaps that’s coming to an end soon, with respect to at least one of them:

  • This makes you wonder if the Dodgers – who keep winning a ton of games in the regular season, before failing in October – will finally have an irrational offseason and go get the guy(s) they need. I’m not exactly rooting for that – for obvious reasons – but it could happen. I’ll remind you, by the way, that the Dodgers made a very unusual low-year, high-AAV offer to Bryce Harper last offseason that was ultimately rejected. I remind you of that, specifically, because Anthony Rendon was, at one point, said to be looking for something similar. Correct or not, Rendon will take home less than Harper this winter, so it stands to reason that the Dodgers could easily extend the sort of offer for which he’s looking.
  • Earlier this offseason, I made a case for Didi Gregorius as one lower-cost, high-reward option to bridge the gap to Nico Hoerner at second base, though I did so – admittedly – without an exact sense of what it would take to get him, whether he’d be still viewed as sure-fire shortstop, or where he might be heading. But now, we have a little more info on his role and market. With Joe Girardi hired as manager, the Philadelphia Phillies have emerged as a potential destination for Gregorius, 29, who’s expected to get a least a three-year deal according to one talent evaluator.

  • Obviously, the cost of those years is the sticking point (he’s young enough to make a three-year deal more than palatable), but it’s useful to have the expectations laid out. For what it’s worth, FanGraphs believes Gregorius will end up with between $15-16M in AAV. But while I think that could ultimately be a steal if Gregorius is fully healthy, I also don’t think it’s the wisest use of the Cubs limited resources this offseason, especially since he would not be providing the extra value associated with playing at shortstop. If that comes down or something changes on the Cubs’ side, we should reassess. For what it’s worth, the Post also connected Gregorius to the Reds.
  • I know you want Whit Merrifield leading off for the Cubs over the next three years, but if this is what it’s going to cost, I’m not interested:

  • Put it this way just for context: the financial difference between Merrifield ($15M) and, say, Gregorius ($45M) over the next three years is just $30M. Are you certain the Cubs can do more with Merrifield and $10M extra in AAV than they can with Didi Gregorius PLUS, say, Nico Hoerner, Brailyn Marquez, and Cole Roederer? And remember, it’s not just the potential for six+ years of actual production from a middle infielder, a big arm, and a a speedy upside outfielder … it’s also how else you might be able to use one or more of those prospects in a trade (not to mention Gregorius outside shot of being productive). You don’t want to be caught hoarding prospects, but that doesn’t mean you just fire them off, either – especially when your target is an aging, BABIP-fueled, leg-dependent, late-breakout star whose best years might already be behind him (no matter how good of a fit they would have been in the past).
  • Merrifield might be the great white whale, so don’t go chasing waterfalls and other mixed cultural references and metaphors.
  • According to the Milwaukee Journel Sentinel, the Brewers did, in fact, make what “they thought was a competitive offer” to Yasmani Grandal before he signed with the White Sox. The Sentinel, who points out the disappointing progress of catching prospect Jacob Nottingham, concludes that “The Brewers must trade for a No. 1 catcher or sign one of the remaining free agents.” So keep an eye on Robinson Chirinos (free agent), Jason Castro (free agent), or Omar Narvaez (trade candidate).
  • More evidence that the Padres plan to spend some ca$h this winter.
  • And finally, Jon Heyman does not think the Phillies will land Stephen Strasburg or Gerrit Cole, but he does see a fit for one of the left-handed free agent starters, specifically Madison Bumgarner or Cole Hamels:

  • Zach Wheeler is also mentioned as a possibility, but given Hamels’ history in Philly and his comments from earlier this offseason, I think that might make the most sense.

Author: Michael Cerami

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