Lukewarm Stove: Astros Get a Catcher, Four Superstars Still Very Available, Braves Pessimistic on Donaldson? More | Bleacher Nation

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Lukewarm Stove: Astros Get a Catcher, Four Superstars Still Very Available, Braves Pessimistic on Donaldson? More

Chicago Cubs

It may be the weekend, but with the holidays quickly approaching, there’s actually a lot to get into. Here’s the latest from the stove.

  • The Houston Astros reportedly entered the offseason with an eye on trading for Cubs catcher Willson Contreras, and for a while, they weren’t alone (other interested parties included the Rays, Angels, Rockies, and Padres). But since late November-ish, those rumors have significantly died down, and the Astros may have even officially moved on:

  • No one is mistaking Martin Maldonado as a replacement for Willson Contreras (especially at the plate), but he is the third catcher on the Astros watcher (Dustin Garneau, Garrett Stubbs) and is a fairly elite framer/defender. I could pretty easily see the continued need (and space) for someone like Willson Contreras on the Astros roster, but for now, they’ve at least reduced any urgency for such a deal. Also, the asking price on Contreras has been reported as hilariously high in the past, which I’m very happy to hear. Nothing about The 2020 plan requires moving the eminently affordable Contreras, in my opinion, so this is all good to hear.
  • Speaking of the early-offseason trade market … remember when it was a foregone conclusion that Mookie Betts and Francisco Lindor would join Kris Bryant on the trade market … but then the heat for both players completely died down? Well, it’s all back with a vengeance. Two high-ranking executives have predicted that “both Betts and Lindor will be traded this winter.”
  • It’ll take too much time to get into the entire narrative arc of each player’s market this winter, but the latest on Lindor had the Indians asking for best and final offers on Friday, so that they could make a decision (one way or the other) over this weekend. Meanwhile, both players have been pretty strongly connected to the Dodgers (and to a lesser extent, the Padres), who’ve been speculatively connected to Kris Bryant, as well. Needless to say, the actual availability of Lindor and Betts harms Kris Bryant’s market (Lindor, in particular, as a fellow superstar infielder with two-years of service time remaining). Given the contracts, expected performance, positions, etc., it’ll require the most to get Lindor, the second most to get Bryant, and the least to get Betts.
  • Three superstars not enough for you? Don’t forget about Nolan Arenado (who’s totally, actually available and definitely not out there as a leverage play for a few teams (Rangers, Braves, Dodgers) also pushing on Josh Donaldson). For what it’s worth, the Dallas-Morning News does a good job of explaining the Rangers interest in Arenado as well as the issues in actually completing a trade.
  • Jon Heyman, meanwhile, just likes stoking the flames:

  • I just don’t think this one is going to happen, folks.
  • David O’Brien (The Athletic) has been all over Braves rumors this offseason and reported late last night that Atlanta is unlikely to re-sign Josh Donaldson unless they go “beyond their comfort zone to include a guaranteed four year.” The pessimism in that post is palpable. Indeed, it feels like a last ditch effort to say, Hey, we’re really not going to four guaranteed years, but we know this is where you want to be. Take it or leave it. In fact, O’Brien even reinforces our belief that the Twins and Nationals (both willing to go four years) are leading the charge right now and that the Braves may have to turn to a trade for Kris Bryant, specifically, if they can’t get something done. Needless to say, you should be rooting for Twins to come out on top, because a bidding war between the Nationals and Braves (plus, perhaps the Dodgers/Rangers/Phillies) for Bryant could be very good for the Cubs.
  • The Tigers have signed free-agent second-baseman Jonathan Schoop and free agent first baseman C.J. Cron to identical one-year, $6.1M contracts (well, the particulars/escalators/etc. may be different, but the foundation of each deal is the same). The Cubs were never really in on either player – particularly Cron – so there’s not much lost here. With that said, the Cubs have indicated the need for an external middle infielder, but Scoop’s right-handed bat, 25% strikeout rate, and 4.3% walk rate in 2019 don’t quite fit on any number of levels. If the Cubs do add a second baseman from outside the organization, it’s likely to be one who bats from the left-side of the plate, makes contact well, and is generally cheaper than Schoop. Bonus points if he can backfill shortstop in a pinch.
  • And finally, Blue Jays still doing stuff:

  • The Brewers were in on Edwin Encarnacion for a hot minute, but have since signed Justin Smoak to be part of a first base platoon.

Author: Michael Cerami

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