Lukewarm Stove: Tsutsugo Signs, Leclerc, Rendon's Many Big Offers, Seager Available, More

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Lukewarm Stove: Tsutsugo Signs, Leclerc, Rendon’s Many Big Offers, Seager Available, More

Chicago Cubs

Hey! We’re away from the Winter Meetings posts and back to the Lukewarm Stoves! … Which are basically the same thing. In fact, I’m not even sure why I said basically, they are the exact same thing, just not during the Winter Meetings. #Branding. #SEO #Smart #Hashtag #BabyYoda #TikTok

Here’s the latest …

  • A signing right off the bat:

  • If the power translates and the strikeouts don’t rocket up, Tsutsugo could be a really nice offensive piece for the cost-conscious Rays. The Rays were among the Shogo Akiyama suitors, so it’s possible this takes them out. Also, Tsutsugo was tentatively expected to get a little more than Akiyama (who is a free agent), so two years and $14.4 million sets your upper boundary there. Akiyama’s ask is reportedly in the 2/$10 million range.
  • If they’re dead-set on trading Kris Bryant this winter, the best outcome for the Cubs is probably drawing more interest from the Braves and Dodgers than they do from the other interested parties (Nationals, Rangers, Phillies? Twins?). Unfortunately, the Rangers may wind up the most motivated and the worst trade partner overall (generally speaking, they just don’t have the sort of upper-level (or upper-tier) prospects, let alone young pitching, the Cubs would be looking for in such a deal).
  • And maybe they’re aware of that? Because one of their better trade chips – closer Jose Leclerc – is suddenly being discussed:

  • If the Rangers were willing to include Leclerc in a Bryant deal, does that at all make them fundamentally more attractive as a possible trade partner? Up in that Braves/Dodgers tier? Eh. I don’t think so. Leclerc, 25, has excellent stuff, was extremely dominant in 2018 (1.56 ERA, 2.6 WAR), was decent this year (3.59 FIP, 1.3 WAR, but homer rate and walk rate spiked), and also comes with a really team-friendly contract, including club options for only $6M in 2023 and 2024. You’d want this guy for sure. But – and I can’t say this clearly enough – he has no business as the primary piece of any Kris Bryant trade. And since the Rangers’ top prospect is a 21-year-old 3B who didn’t really hit for any power in A-ball last year, I’m just … nah, no,  get a third team involved, or sign Josh Donaldson. Those are your options if you want Bryant, Rangers.
  • Now … that’s not to say the Cubs wouldn’t want Leclerc – they would (I certainly do!) – but not for Bryant. In any case, I highly doubt the Rangers would trade Leclerc right now anyway, unless they were getting a really nice big league return. Perhaps in another, non-KB deal? Sure. Let’s talk. But beyond that? Move on.
  • For what it’s worth, there’s also this, which interplays into everything above:

  • More on Donaldson here from Ken Rosenthal, who lays out the many involved teams, but guesses it’s likely to come down to the Braves and Nationals:

  • Let’s play the guessing game:

  • We know the Angels were one, but the Rangers (who topped out at 6 years), were not. So that leaves the Dodgers and Nationals (almost certainly) and … the Phillies? Maybe the Braves? We know the Braves are already worried about the cost of Josh Donaldson, so an offer like that for Rendon feels unlikely, but it’s tough to pin that last team down. The Twins are in play for Donaldson, but like the Braves, always felt unlikely to go the Rendon-route. One of those Mystery Teams?
  • I knew the third base market was hot and the Cubs were asking for a lot in exchange for Kris Bryant from the very moment when Nolan Arenado’s name got thrown about the rumor mill like he was some actual threat to get traded. But he’s not the only new third baseman to “join” the party: “With the demand for third basemen exceeding the supply,” Ken Rosenthal writes at The Athletic, “multiple teams are showing interest in [Kyle] Seager, according to major-league sources.”
  • The rub with Seager, in addition to his age and down performance, is the “poison pill” in his contract that converts a $15M club option to a $15M player option in 2022 if he’s traded. Rosenthal suggests Seager could be “motivated” to re-negotiate his contract to leave the rebuilding Mariners, which … I don’t know, man. Maybe the Mariners could just eat some extra salary to trade the guy.
  • But that’s all really beside the point. The real question here is who might be putting that rumor out there? There’s no reason Seager wouldn’t have been available months ago – the Mariners are rebuilding, he’s a 32-year-old on a contract they want to move, etc. So, again, I ask: Why is this getting pushed now? Leverage as an alternative to Donaldson? Maybe. But leverage as an alternative to Bryant makes more sense. Indeed, Rosenthal names the same five teams in on Donaldson/Bryant as the theoretical suitors for Seager, and I can’t help but assume that’s because those teams want the Cubs to know they have options. Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto hates not being involved in every trade, but I don’t think Seager is actually on the move as a realistic alternative to Bryant and Donaldson. If Seager is moved, it’s because he always could have been moved, and the team landing him was never going to get Bryant or Donaldson anyway.
  • Like it or not, all of this does continue to suggest that a Kris Bryant trade really is in the works.

  • The Brewers stretched to a $125M payroll in 2019 and “still lost money,” according to The Milwaukee Journel Sentinel, so they’re searching for value deals – at best – this winter – though, they made a good one in Josh Lindblom. I’d make fun of them, but they’re recent trade history (Christian Yelich, Luis Urias, Omar Narvaez) has them doing just well while acting nimbly. And they made the playoffs the last two years. So until it’s not, the joke’s on us.
  • Phillies get an old friend, and a great dude:

  • Szczur, 30, spent last year with the Diamondbacks’ AAA club, where he raked: .322/.390/.577 (129 wRC+). Very nice upper-level outfield depth to have in the organization, so good on the Phillies.

Brett Taylor contributed to this post.



Author: Michael Cerami

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