Earlier this morning – in the first Lukewarm Stove of the day (yeah, we’re already into two-a-days) – I wrote that we’re “officially, fully in red-alert-offseason-transaction mode,” and boy was it the right time to say that.
Since that post published, Cole Hamels signed a one-year deal with the Braves, Zack Wheeler signed a $118M deal with the Phillies, the Angels traded for Dylan Bundy, and the rumor mill expectedly blew up with the fallout.
- The Atlanta Braves – having already committed nearly $100M to free agents this offseason – continue to be the primary driver of the market, and apparently, they’re not done yet. According to Bob Nightengale, they’re still “in the running” for Josh Donaldson, who manned third base for them last season, but is otherwise a free agent at the moment. We already knew the Braves were likely looking for an external addition for third base but this is further support in that pursuit even after the other spending. But for what it’s worth, I can’t see the Braves opening the check book for Anthony Rendon, who’s going to cost significantly more than Donaldson, which is why it’s interesting to see the Nationals in the Donaldson market, as well.
- Altogether, then, the Nationals, Braves, and Rangers are the teams who most frequently pop up in the market for a third baseman, with only two of them (Nationals, Rangers) really capable of signing Rendon. Point being, if Washington or Texas come away with Donaldson – not Rendon – you might see the pressure on Atlanta to turn to the trade market ratchet up a notch.
- Throwing a wrench in all of that, of course, is the Dodgers:
The Dodgers have been courting all 3 mega star free agents — Cole, Strasburg and Rendon — tho Rendon remains a bit of a curious fit since they already have a star at 3B (Turner) and good answers at 2B (Lux) and 1B (Muncy), too, adding to the intrigue.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 4, 2019
- The Dodgers’ interest in Rendon is nothing new, but as Heyman points out, it is a little curious. I can’t imagine them trading Lux or Muncy to add Rendon, but clearly they’re involved, and maybe it means they think they could move Turner for a nice return ($20M in 2020, finally year of contract – age 35, coming off a solid season). Remember: there was early talk of Rendon wanting a shorter-term, higher AAV deal and the Dodgers are the sort of team that can provide such an offer. If it means Turner hits the market, that’s an interesting wrinkle.
- Sticking with position players for now, the Diamondbacks have emerged as suitors for Nick Castellanos. I find that interesting not only because the Cubs are “still pursuing” Castellanos, but also because the Diamondbacks have been rumored as among the Cubs’ direct competition for both free agent Shogo Akiyama and trade candidate Starling Marte. The interplay between those three players and two teams is extensive – perhaps unsurprising given that the Diamondbacks front office is primarily comprised of former Cubs and former Red Sox execs.
- Free agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna hasn’t quite popped into the Cubs or Diamondbacks space just yet, though there is otherwise overlap with the Castellanos market:
The Marcell Ozuna and Nicholas Castellanos markets have a lot of overlap, not surprisingly. The #Rangers and #WhiteSox are among the teams with interest in both players, sources confirm. @MLBNetwork @MLB
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 4, 2019
- Ozuna is a year older than Castellanos, doesn’t project quite as well offensively going forward, and is attached to a qualifying offer. However, he has had one star-level season and also rates as a much better defensive outfielder. Pick your poison. We pick Castellanos …
- Even after their deal with Zack Wheeler, the Philadelphia Phillies are apparently not done adding to their rotation this offseason, and Jon Heyman says you can’t rule anyone out besides Gerrit Cole. I find that distinction interesting only in that he reported their interest in Stephen Strasburg as recently as this morning (before the Wheeler deal, though). That said, I imagine someone from the middle tier (Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel, Hyun-Jin Ryu) or lower as significantly more likely, if they add anyone else at all.
- Indeed, if the Phillies are going to jump on another top arm, they may have to act quickly, as the Madison Bumgarner market is beginning to come alive. In fact, two anonymous club officials (via USA Today) report that Bumgarner, now seen as the third best remaining free agent starter on the market, might get even MORE than Wheeler, which wasn’t expected at the beginning of the year. Working logically, then, the teams that lost out on Wheeler – the White Sox, Twins, Reds, and Astros – could be the teams to jump in. For what it’s worth, the Sox were said to have the highest offer on the table for Wheeler (roughly $125M), so maybe they’ll just dive right back in.
- And, hey: Bruce Levine seems to suggest the White Sox’s interest in Bumgarner – alongside Dallas Keuchel and Hyun-Jin Ryu – and Andy Martino just flat out states it: “Per sources, White Sox and Twins among heaviest suitors” for Bumgarner.
- Here’s this:
Yep, the #BlueJays are in on all starting pitchers.
Ross Atkins: “There’s not a free agent pitcher that we haven’t touched base with”
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) December 4, 2019
- Lots of free agent starting pitchers means lots of teams lost pitchers means lots of teams need pitchers. Just pointing it out.
- With Wheeler off the board, the New York Yankees are reportedly squaring their focus entirely on Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg. Cole continues to be the primary target, but the Yanks “consider Strasburg elite, too.” But here’s the problem: Cole (Angels) and Strasburg (Nationals) are projected to land elsewhere, which is why the Yankees haven’t given up on Bumgarner just yet – he’s their backup right now. So if you see him signing in New York sometime soon, you should probably prepare for one of Strasburg/Cole to sign somewhere else very soon thereafter.
- And that brings us to Gerrit Cole, who’s “known” suitors include the Yankees, Rangers, Phillies, Dodgers, and the presumptive favorites: The Angels. According to Jon Heyman, the Angels met with Cole today, the same day this juicy little nugget trickled out:
I don’t typically send stuff like this out there, but got the nod to do so with this one — got a text from reliable person saying that Cole will sign with the #Angels. “Moreno will do whatever it takes.”
— Ryan M. Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder) December 4, 2019
- Although that can be read as he’s totes gonna sign there, I think the implication is more about the Angels’ desires than Cole’s. Even still, if the Angels are throwing down the money and that’s where Cole wants to be anyway, it’s hard not to see it working out. Gonna be a nice year to be Joe Maddon.