Winter Meetings Monday Morning: Latest on Cole, Bryant's Market, LAD Outfielders, Keuchel and the Cubs? Much More

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Winter Meetings Monday Morning: Latest on Cole, Bryant’s Market, LAD Outfielders, Keuchel and the Cubs? Much More

Chicago Cubs

It’s the first morning of the Winter Meetings and rumors are flying everywhere. And sometimes, keeping the best and newest ones together, while sorting through the implications for the Cubs, feels a lot like holding loose sand. You guys would get a kick out of the flurry of messages Brett and I have been rapid-fire texting to each other all morning (and phone calls!). And it’s just day 1!

In case you missed some of the one-off rumor posts this morning …

  1. The Cubs have reportedly touched base with free agent pitcher Josh Lindblom
  2. The Cubs still like free agent outfielder Nicholas Castellanos (but)
  3. Ben Zobrist is still undecided about playing in 2020
  4. The Kris Bryant-Braves rumors get new life every day (and there’s more below!)

In addition, there are rumors going around that the luxury tax could be significantly raised (or eliminated) as soon as the next CBA in 2021, which, if true, *should* dramatically change the Cubs tune as soon as this offseason. It won’t. But it should. New stuff …

  • Jon Heyman’s latest that’s breaking my heart: “[Didi] Gregorius seems likely to get $14-$15M a year on a multi-year,” deal, which seems (to me) too expensive for the sort of low-cost, high-reward flyer I was hoping the Cubs could take on him this offseason. It’s not that Gregorius won’t be worth that much – indeed, I think he will … that’s kind of the point – but I just can’t see the Cubs going to that level for him, given the many other needs and several imperfect options at second base already on the roster. If it makes you feel better, though, Heyman believes that price tag may have kicked the Reds out of the race. The Phillies remain in.
  • Also according to Heyman: the Minnesota Twins are in on Hyun-Jin Ryu this offseason, as are the Blue Jays and Los Angeles Dodgers. Of course, the Dodgers have their sights set much higher to start
  • At The New York Post, Joel Sherman discusses how we might finally be in store for the Yankees/Dodgers free-agent bidding war Scott Boras we’ve all always wanted to see. The Dodgers and Yankees are both ready to break the bank on Gerrit Cole and the pricing could get silly because of that … but also because of interest from other big market teams like Angels, Giants, Phillies, Rangers. I mean … besides the Cubs and Red Sox, those are literally baseball’s biggest spenders. Separately, this is the first time I’ve read that the Angels would be willing to turn to Stephen Strasburg (or, to a lesser extent, Ryu or Dallas Keuchel) if they miss out on Cole, but you have to imagine Cole is still their No. 1 target.
  • But about that price tag …

  • Cole is aiming (and likely) to obliterate the previous free agent starter records in AAV and total dollars, and a $245M deal would accomplish that. But it’s also not the end of the pricing road.
  • At The Athletic, Jayson Stark thinks the bidding can easily reach 8 years/$250 million and could actually get up $280M when all is said and done. That would not only surpass every relevant free agent pitching record, it would rank as the fifth largest deal (free agent or otherwise) in the history of baseball (Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Giancarlo Stanton, and Manny Machado). Stark also seems to think the Angels are more in than the Dodgers, but those three seem to be the clear front-runners at this point.
  • Despite their significant interest in Cole, the Dodgers would also be happy to leave the offseason with Anthony Rendon, but they have competition there in the Nationals, Rangers, Phillies, and Braves. All five teams are said to have some sort of fallback interest in free agent third baseman Josh Donaldson, so … there’s your Kris Bryant market. But note: the Dodgers and Braves are pretty clearly the best trade partners for the Cubs, so if you’re rooting for a trade, you’re rooting for Rendon and Donaldson to wind up in D.C., Arlington, and/or Philly.
  • Brett hit on the specific Braves-Bryant trade prediction earlier this morning, and here are two more related bits:

  • If the Phillies get desperate for some 3B production but don’t want to go long-term, there’s not more impact you can possibly ask for than Kris Bryant with two years remaining on his deal. Still not quite as compelling a trade partner as the Braves or Dodgers, though.
  • Speaking of the Dodgers, they’ve got several interesting position players sitting on the trade block:

  • Pederson, 27, is enticingly young and relatively cheap ($8.5M projected for 2020) and has earned a 126 wRC+ or better in three of his last four seasons, with a strikeout rate under 22% since the start of 2017 (he was also once upon a time, a prospect trade target of this front office). But he’s also a free agent at the end of the season and hasn’t really play center field consistently for a couple years. Hernandez, 28, is also young and cheap ($5.5M projected) and covers multiple positions, but isn’t much on offense and is also a free agent at the end of the year. Pollock, 32, never quite returned to form after his injuries a few years ago. They’re all interestingly players – particularly Pederson – but it’s tough to really envision a Cubs fit, absent a lot of other moves that make it coordinate a little more.
  • The Yankees, Dodgers, and Angels have each met with Strasburg this offseason, for what it’s worth, but the Nationals remain the favorite for now.
  • If you’re curious, Strasburg is expected to get a deal for around $28-$30M a year for at least six years, which feels appropriate given Cole’s range. I can’t shake the feeling that a team would be better off with Strasburg and an extra $100M to spend than just Cole, but good luck telling them that. (UPDATE LULZ: Nah, Strasburg got a crapload more than that.)
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
  • In any case, thanks to the teams and dollars at play, the Padres, who came into the offseason talking a big game, are likely WAY out on both. Instead, they’re more likely to turn to the trade market for a starter.
  • Bruce Levine was on 670 The Score earlier this morning and seemed to suggest that Tom Ricketts does not want the Cubs to go over the luxury tax threshold ($208M) in 2020, but exactly what he was saying was tough to discern. In other words, this seemed less of a direct report and more of informed speculation, but take from that what you will. As we already know, the Cubs are basically right at the luxury tax threshold right now, and there are rumors that they have to move salary before they can sign anyone, so …
  • Levine also brought up Dallas Keuchel as a possible free agent target for the Cubs, this offseason, but that, too, seemed like an educated guess. Don’t get me wrong, it certainly felt like more than just random connections, but it’s just the first I’ve heard of it, so I’m taking it lightly. The softer-throwing Keuchel doesn’t exactly fit the mold of pitchers the Cubs have been targeting lately, but if his market craters once again and the Cubs could find him on a cheaper/shorter deal in a market full of pitchers of his caliber, that could be an interesting route to go later in the offseason. And, of course, if things go south early on in 2020, the Cubs could bet on him re-discovering his upside … in time to be traded at the deadline. Just sayin’.

Stay tuned. Today/this week is going to be nuts.

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.