Last night, a pretty substantial development to the (still-Cubs-relevant) Josh Donaldson saga came down the pipeline, with Ken Rosenthal reporting that the Nationals and Twins were the only two teams willing to go to four years on a deal, which is generally thought to be the length required to get something done. The Dodgers, Rangers, and Braves are all believed to still be in on Donaldson, but are each unwilling to tack on the fourth year.
Well, with a deal expected to drop at any moment now (I was always ear-marking today as the day it would happen), there’s some more to update. Let’s start there.
- Hello, Mr. Heyman:
Twins like Nats are said to have been very aggressive in bid to land star 3B Josh Donaldson. Big question is whether incumbent Braves will match 4 years. Belief is their intention was to stop at 3, but things can change in free agency. Dodgers, Rangers seen unlikely to go 4.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 20, 2019
- On the surface, this doesn’t seem like much of an update, but a little read between the lines reveals something more. What I extract from this note is Donaldson’s continued, clear preference to return to the Atlanta Braves for 2020 and beyond. That’s where he was last year, that’s presumably his first choice, and we already know it’s going to be his “last call.” But with the Braves stuck at three years, compared to the Twins *and* Nationals’ four, Donaldson has a bit of a dilemma on his hands. Since the Cubs should want both the Braves and Nationals in on the bidding for Kris Bryant – and given The 2020 Plan, it sure seems like Bryant will be on the move – I am heavily rooting for the Twins.
- In fact, here’s the order of preference for Donaldson suitors from where I want to see him sign most to least: Rangers, Twins, Phillies, Nationals and Dodgers, Braves. I paired the Nationals and Dodgers as one, by the way, because they both come with a bit of an asterisk. The Dodgers are still hot on the trail of Francisco Lindor (more on that in a second) and it isn’t clear if the Nationals would be willing to move Victor Robles. Meanwhile, the Braves still strike me as the team most willing and able to give up the sort of big-league ready pitching *and* upper-level positional and pitching prospects to get a deal done.
- Now how about those crazy Lindor updates? In Rosenthal’s update last night, he also dropped a bombshell with respect to Lindor, which he repeated on MLB Network today:
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) December 20, 2019
- Although Rosenthal reports that Lindor will not definitely be traded this offseason, he is reporting that the Indians are – for some reason – asking teams for their “best and final offers” today, so they can make a decision over the weekend. Previous intentions notwithstanding, that sure sounds like a team willing to trade Lindor, doesn’t it?
- But as Rosenthal points out, I just don’t get it. Why force this decision now, when you have the entire month of January to try to pry other, better offers out of the woodwork? Well, one tinfoil hat theory is that this decision is being pressed by other, soon-to-be decided outcomes like, say, Kris Bryant’s grievance or Josh Donaldson’s free agent decision. Given the overlapping teams (namely, the Dodgers, who’ve been seriously connected to all three players), it really isn’t improbable. For what it’s worth, Rosenthal mentions the Reds and Padres, in addition to the Dodgers, and added that while the Mets did check in on the table, the found the price of poker too high to sit down.
- Even if you’re fully on board with The 2020 Plan, as Brett laid it out earlier today, I think you’re going to find Sahadev Sharma’s latest at The Athletic more than a little depressing thanks to quotes like these:
- “Before [Alex] Claudio signed with the Brewers for $1.75 million, the Cubs had made it clear they were interested. But they needed to clear money first, so he signed with Milwaukee.”
- “But the Cubs apparently can’t afford [Cesar] Hernández. Nor could they scrounge up the money to sign Eric Sogard, who also signed with Milwaukee for $4.5 million.”
- Thanks. I hate it. But it’s a good read if you want to get a sense of things, and also be kinda angry.
- Sharma makes an EXTREMELY good point, though. Not spending lavishly may well make sense in the long-run, BUT not spending at all until you move money could allow even the better extremely cheap options to pass you by. In other words, you want to be thrifty? Okay, fine. But don’t let the timing of saving money elsewhere prevent you from signing the $1M guys you really like. Sure, they might all be a bit of a crapshoot anyway, but there’s clearly preferences. There MUST be. And not signing guys you want to $1.75M deals *and* allowing them to sign in Milwaukee, because you’re waiting to save money elsewhere is unacceptable.
- And at at this scale, I don’t even buy any strategic leverage-based arguments, wherein the Cubs would be somehow forced into worse decisions elsewhere because of another signing like Claudio. Not when it’s $1.75M. It just can’t be that way. [Brett: Note … I’m not all that crazy about Claudio in a three-batter-minimum world anyway, for what it’s worth.]
- On more of a rumor-y level, Sharma discusses the Cubs interest in adding a left-handed-hitting infielder to complement Nico Hoerner’s skills or even allow him to start in the Minors, which is literally exactly why I was pushing so hard for Didi Gregorius, who also signed a one-year deal. But that’s not going to happen, if everything else Sharma reports is true (which I suspect it is). Scooter Gennett is another option, but it sure sounds like the Cubs are thinking even cheaper than that – Brett talked about Joe Panik here.
- The Cubs also need to address some holes on the pitching staff at some point, particularly in the bullpen, but there has basically been exactly no news on that front all year. To be sure, there are literally always guys available for the bullpen, but not unlike the other cheap options, they are coming off the board:
Right-hander Tyler Clippard and the Minnesota Twins are in agreement on a one-year, $2.75 million contract, a source familiar with the deal tells ESPN.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 20, 2019
Along with re-signing Sergio Romo, the Twins have added another veteran right-handed reliever, signing 35-year-old Tyler Clippard to a one-year deal.
Clippard had a 2.90 ERA and 64/15 K/BB ratio in 62 innings for Cleveland last season. ERA under 4.00 in 10 of the past 11 years.
— Aaron Gleeman (@AaronGleeman) December 20, 2019
- Go Twins. Go Twins. It’s ya birthday. Sign Josh Donaldson.
- Clippard had a 2.90 ERA (3.89 FIP) last season over 62.0 innings. His walk rate was a solid 6.2%, his strikeout rate an equally solid 26.6%. He hardly allowed any hard contact, and induced a ton of weak contact. He’s a fly ball pitcher, which obviously has its limitations in this era, however the other peripherals are quite strong. I would have LOVED a one-year, $2.75M contract for the Cubs. Alas.