Lukewarm Stove: Rockies Want a Catcher But Reluctant to Trade Gray, Profar Available, Mystery Mariners Signing, More

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Lukewarm Stove: Rockies Want a Catcher But Reluctant to Trade Gray, Profar Available, Mystery Mariners Signing, More

Chicago Cubs

You know what’s not said enough? The current CBA’s competitive balance/luxury tax rules have been a disaster. No, the actual effects of going over tier 1, 2, or 3 aren’t too harsh – even as a repeat offender. Instead, they’re a disaster in that they’ve given so many organizations the only thing they’ve ever needed to really pull back hard: a believable excuse to keep payroll right where they want it.

Unfortunately, the excuse is often made for them by otherwise earnest pundits who are justified in innocuously pointing out the distance between a team’s current payroll and the threshold of the tax. It does matter to some marginal extent. The penalties are simply not that prohibitive, though – the existence of a competitive balance tax is hardly new – but the results have been closer to a salary cap than anything we’ve ever seen in baseball.

You know the narrative has become an overwhelming win for owners, when teams like the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, and Cubs can cite the tax as the reason not to raise payroll and not their own internal revenues or budgets. *End rant*

  • Joel Sherman makes the case that the Yankees “need” Gerrit Cole, given the potential impending exits of James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and J.A. Happ. With that said, one executive apparently told Sherman this: “I don’t believe Hal Steinbrenner any longer authorizes seven years or more at the dollars it is going to take for any pitcher,” before adding, himself, that “the signing of Cole would take the Yankees near or over the third luxury-tax level of $248 million, which Steinbrenner surely wants to avoid.” See: Intro.
  • How about those rich Dodgers, surely they’re going to …

  • … remain disciplined? See intro again.
  • Sticking with Cole, Andy Martino, who covers both New York baseball teams, confirms the Yankees interest in Cole, but braces fans for the “bonkers” Angels’ spending plans:

  • Moving to another top free agent, 13 out of 15 executives polled by ESPN seem to believe that Anthony Rendon is headed back to the Nationals (the Rangers and Cardinals each got a vote). And frankly, I tend to agree – although I think the Dodgers are a not-so-dark horse in this race. And in terms of a potential contract, the responses ranged from six years and $200M to eight years and $280M. I think Rendon will max out at 7 years – in the extreme – especially given the rumors that he may ultimately prefer a shorter-term deal anyway, and I don’t think he goes over $250M. I’m not saying he’s not worth it, but I am saying he doesn’t get it.
  • To that end, I completely disagree with the 9 executives who think Gerrit Cole will be “close but under” a $300M deal. I agree he’ll be under, but I think he gets significantly less than that. The hype has probably gotten a little out of control – remember, $217 million is the current record for a free agent starter.
  • Rockies beat writer Thomas Harding is throwing some more cold water on those Jon Gray trade rumors we’ve been so hyped up about this winter: “according to multiple sources, teams left the talks believing the Rockies have no intention of dealing Gray.” If true, that’s a bummer, as the Cubs have been connected to Gray since the start of the offseason and I see him as a great fit for this team. Mere posturing from the Rockies? Or a sincere sense from teams that the Rockies’ trade demands were far too high (especially in a market with loads of free agent starters)?
  • Curiously in the same article, Harding, a Rockies guy, brings up Willson Contreras as a possible trade target for the Rockies, but says this:

“The Cubs are expected to be active, but early indications are they have more interest in moving center fielder Albert Almora Jr., left fielder Kyle Schwarber and switch-hitting utility man Ian Happ than Contreras — a right-handed hitter who led MLB catchers (min. 100 games) with an .888 OPS and parked 44 extra-base hits.

The reluctance to move Gray means the Rockies would likely have to deal prospects/young Major Leaguers.”

  • There’s actually a lot to unpack there, but the part that leaps off the page is the suggestion – again, by a Rockies guy – that the Cubs would rather trade Almora, Schwarber, and Happ before they would deal Contreras. What a bizarre comment. The Cubs might love to move Almora for some value, but that ain’t happening. And to group him with Schwarber and Happ? And to suggest the Cubs would *prefer* to move them and not Contreras?
  • You have to wonder if there’s some context behind the scenes that Harding is hearing from the Denver side – like, perhaps, Contreras’ name was brought up in conversations about Gray, but the Cubs wanted more in return than just Gray, so now there is some public messaging going on about how the Cubs aren’t really going to trade Contreras and the Rockies aren’t really going to trade Gray? Ultimately, not sure what you can take away from this other than noting that perhaps there have been talks, but also perhaps there’s not a fit.
  • After all, immediately after Contreras, Harding brings up Omar Narvaez, who’s recently become something of a cheaper trade alternative to Contreras. I don’t think we’re assuming too much here to think there is something going on behind the scenes, even if it doesn’t result in a trade involving any of these players.
(Photo by Getty Images)
  • In the meantime, the catching market continues to shrink …

  • Tick tock goes the opportunity to land preferred catching options (I say that to other teams and also to the Cubs).
  • The Oakland A’s are reportedly considering making Jurickson Profar available in trade this winter, and Ken Rosenthal believes he wouldn’t cost much to acquire. Given his youth, defensive strength/versatility, financial cost, and remaining upside, I’d love the Cubs to see what it would take. He’s coming off a down year at the plate (his .216 BABIP killed him), but he walks, he doesn’t strike out, and he plays solid defense all over. Also: only 50 hitters in baseball were more unlucky than Profar by his expected statistics. Could be a very nice bounce-back guy if you take on his projected $5.8 million in arbitration salary.
  • Rosenthal notes that the Padres, who’s GM AJ Preller originally signed Profar when he was in Texas, could be involved.
  • Earlier today, Brett did a round-up of some minor transactions, and among them was former Cub Kendall Graveman’s deal with the Mariners. But apparently, the Mariners aren’t stopping there:

  • Well that’s interesting, especially as Divish went onto state that the signing is a “starter.” I guess we’re just a half-day away from finding out!
  • Bruce Levine reports the White Sox interest in free agent starter Zack Wheeler, but notes that the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Reds, and Padres are all also expected to be involved.
  • The Twins are also interested:

  • Some of those teams, no doubt, will look to Wheeler as a Plan C to Cole or Strasburg, but a crafty team might try to jump on him before missing out. Wheeler could hold some sneaky value this winter and if the Cubs were in a better financial position (look, I’m doing the intro thing myself), I’d hope they’d kick the tires. A reminder for qualified free agents: because the Cubs were over the luxury tax, signing a qualified free agent would come with the steepest penalty: a second round pick, a fifth round pick, and $1 million in IFA money. Not a reason to skip out on a great fit on a great deal, but definitely part of the calculus.
  • And finally, Craig Mish may have some confidence in the Marlins’ intentions to spend this offseason, but nothing Derek Jeter says inspires the same confidence for me:

  • When asked what he’d do if there was a free agent they really liked, Jeter confidently repeats “We’d go get him” like four times … before dialing it back: “I should say, make an attempt to get him.” And later on, he threw out some similarly reserved comments: “It has to fit with our long-term plan.” “We have our plan. We’re going to stick to our plan, preach patience ….” Basically, I’m saying, when it comes to the Marlins and Jeter-led spending, I’ll believe it when I see it.


Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami is the butler to a wealthy werewolf off the coast of Wales and a writer at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter at @Michael_Cerami