The 2018 and 2019 MLB offseasons became infamous for the pervasive slow pace of spending that left free agents wading into the months of February and March (and even the regular season) unsigned. It was a big deal. I’m pretty sure you remember.
But you do also remember that the offseason madness wasn’t entirely universal?
Perhaps few other teams were active, but the Cubs actually made quite a bit of noise during that 2018 offseason, including the second-biggest free agent deal of the winter and several other significant free agent signings: Yu Darvish ($126M), Tyler Chatwood ($38M), Brandon Morrow ($21M), Steve Cishek ($13M), Drew Smyly ($10M), Brian Duensing ($7M). Maybe they should’ve tried developing a pitcher or two, instead of signing six for $215M. So while the rest of baseball was justifiably lamenting their offseason misery, Cubs fans actually, kinda-sorta had nothing to complain about.
But they’re paying for that now, eh?
While pretty much everyone agrees that last offseason was as brutal as 2018, the pendulum has swung back hard this winter … for everyone but the Cubs, who are just one of two teams to not yet sign a guaranteed big league deal (Rockies). Obviously they also didn’t spend much last year, either.
So while we sit and wallow, awaiting the conclusion of Kris Bryant’s frustratingly important grievance, the rest of the league is singing songs to the return of free agency. Good for them. Here’s the stupid latest from the stupid lukewarm stupid stove.
- I guess I’ll start by reminding you that those preliminary discussions between the Rockies and Cardinals (re: Nolan Arenado) over the weekend have reportedly progressed to the “exchanging names” check point. And, hey, it makes plenty of sense. The Cardinals have had interest in Arenado since before he signed his extension (per Derrick Goold), they need another big bat to capitalize on the presence and pricey extension for Paul Goldschmidt, and pursuing/landing Arenado will either drive up the price on the Cubs or actually deliver him to St. Louis – either of which would really suck.
- Thankfully, Jeff Passan arrives to throw some cold water on the Cardinals:
Quick Nolan Arenado update in yes-and-no form, per sources:
– Yes, the Rockies and Cardinals are talking.
– No, the talks haven't gone anywhere.
– No, the exchange of names has not been productive.
– Yes, it's still considered a long shot that Arenado is dealt in the short-term.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 14, 2020
- The Rangers are still in on Nick Castellanos, as recently as today, for what it’s worth:
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) January 14, 2020
- Perhaps there’s still some version of this offseason where he ends up in Chicago, but Castellanos will not wait forever – if he was ever waiting – on the Cubs. On a related note, the Twins have basically become Josh Donaldson or bust this offseason, meaning that they do not see Nick Castellanos as an alternative for first base, allowing them to keep Miguel Sano at third. If Castellanos is going to sign somewhere this offseason, it’s going to be as an outfielder or a DH, which is not what the Twins are looking for.
- By the way, if the Rangers are still in on Castellanos, you could guess they’re still in on Marcell Ozuna. And since the Cardinals have considered re-signing Ozuna as a sort of alternative to trading for Arenado, you can see how much overlap there is here with the Cubs.
- Ideal/slightly unrealistic outcome: Rangers sign Castellanos, Cardinals pivot to Ozuna, Cubs get Arenado.
- Terrible outcome: Rangers sign Ozuna, Cardinals trade for Arenado, Cubs transition Wrigley Field into permanent concert venue but Lou Bega is the only act, Castellanos signs somewhere else.
- Circling back to not spending this offseason: If the Cubs do find a way to trade Kris Bryant and/or get under the luxury tax in some meaningful way (they freakin’ better at this point) we’ll want to start looking ahead at some of the next free agent classes, for which those penalties will have been reset (they freakin’ better spend at that point). Obviously, some other players will emerge, some will fall off, and others will sign extensions/get options picked up, but David Adler (MLB.com) takes a look at the next four years of free agency, and it’s – at least – a fun exercise when little else is exciting. So get out your imaginary checkbook and start dreaming.
- From Brett: I can’t speak to the veracity of this rumor just yet, but I share mostly to note that the Diamondbacks front office includes a whole lot of former Cubs front office members, so it’s plausible that talks between the teams would happen, given the relationships. Wouldn’t necessarily mean anything:
Have heard some rumblings of Dbacks at least exploring a Kris Bryant trade. Could then move Escobar to 2B. Bryant makes 18.6 and is under control for this year and next. Just turned 28 he may be better option than Bradley Jr (1 year control) or Marte, who is 31.
— John Gambadoro (@Gambo987) January 14, 2020
- If this did become a thing, it’s important to point out that the Diamondbacks definitely do not have the type of big-league ready young pitching that would probably be the Cubs’ preferred type of target. Their top prospects are all position players, and are all very young. At the big league level, you’d have a lot of interest in Zac Gallen, obviously, but his peripherals the last couple years leave you wondering whether the results breakout is sustainable.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.