Even in light of free agents Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, and Stephen Strasburg, this offseason was supposed to be defined by three superstar trades (Kris Bryant, Francisco Lindor, and Mookie Betts). But it became clear – around the Winter Meetings – that those deals weren’t going to lead the market, if they were going to happen at all.
Of course, things picked back up near the end of December. Nolan Arenado’s name got thrown into the ring, Bryant’s grievance resolution was purportedly just around the corner, and the Dodgers were hot on both Lindor and Betts. Suddenly, January was going to be this huge trade month!
And yet here we are … more than three weeks later, with nothing to show for it.
Nolan Arenado Favorites? Rangers and Cardinals
And how about the extreme pendulum swing that’s gone on around Arenado, particularly in the last 48 hours. From the start of the season until Monday, his story went from (1) there’s no way he’s being traded to (2) a deal is inevitable. And then from Monday night until … later Monday night, it went from (3) “We’re totally holding onto him to start the season” to (4) potentially requesting a trade out of Colorado.
I’m still hopeful the Cubs could find some way to turn this drama into a winnable trade for themselves, but I’m also nervous the same is true for a team like the Cardinals. As a matter of fact, Jon Morosi reports that the Cardinals and Rangers are the “two strongest suitors for Arenado,” particularly after one of their primary free agent alternatives, Marcell Ozuna, was scooped up by the Braves just yesterday (that one really carried a lot of potential Cubs-implications, eh?).
What’ll It Take to Get Arenado? No Cubs?
But you know what’s especially strange? The Cubs weren’t mentioned at all, despite being previously connected to Arenado – from multiple sources, including Morosi, and including yesterday by Jeff Passan. At a minimum, based on all that smoke, you’d expect Morosi (who launched these rumors in the first place) would at least mention the Cubs, even if it were in a “they’re no longer involved” way, right?
I’d think so and that’s BEFORE reading this next part:
Sources say the Rockies have told other teams that any Arenado trade must improve their 2020 Major League roster …. The Rockies are interested in acquiring a potential No. 1 catcher for the long term, and an Arenado deal could help them achieve that objective.
The Rockies need a long-term catcher and have already been connected to Willson Contreras (three years of control), who’s been a potential Cubs trade candidate already this offseason. The Cubs also have Victor Caratini, who’s likely ready for a larger role and whose offense would probably look even better in Colorado than it could at the more offensively unpredictable Wrigley Field (where it’s been mostly good!).
Indeed, Morosi goes out of his way to mention the Cardinals (Andrew Knizer) and Rangers (Sam Huff) catching prospects (query whether they’re those players “improve their 2020 Major League roster”) but not the Cubs (Miguel Amaya), who’ve arguably got a better one. I just find it all strange.
In any case, the Arenado stuff isn’t going away.
Ozuna/Arenado Fallout for Castellanos:
Before Marcell Ozuna’s surprise signing with the Braves yesterday, we had him pegged for Texas or St. Louis, with the other team targeting Nick Castellanos in the fallout. But with Ozuna in Atlanta, does that leave behind a bidding war for Castellanos that could squeeze the Cubs out of the game? Eh. Not so fast.
For one, if it’s true that those two teams (Rangers, Cardinals) are the two favorites for Nolan Arenado, and with all due respect to Castellanos, they’re going to want to see what they can do on that front first. So maybe they ask Arenado to wait a little longer?
For another thing, the Cardinals are kinda signaling some self-imposed financial restraint (in free agency or trade):
Mo on Mo: “We understood it would be difficult to retain (Ozuna) with our current payroll structure. We tried a few creative ideas over the past month but we were unable to complete. This now clears a path for our young outfielders to play every day” https://t.co/fu9AM1tGb0
— Ben Frederickson (@Ben_Fred) January 22, 2020
#STLCards owner Bill DeWitt Jr. said the team isn’t actively seeking impact trades and that any deal requiring major additions to a projected $170m payroll would require money going the other way.
— Mark Saxon (@markasaxon) January 20, 2020
That is not to say they couldn’t make Castellanos or Arenado work – this could always be about leverage – but their actions this winter, not unlike the Cubs, have followed their words.
Do the Red Sox Actually Plan To Trade Mookie Betts?
Although those conversations sure feel dead (at least comparatively), Buster Olney claims that the Red Sox are merely being “patient” in talks with other teams about Betts. But while that seems reasonable, now that the Red Sox are run by the more methodical Chaim Bloom, the follow-up doesn’t quite compute: “Boston has indicated to other teams … that any team that lands Betts will also have to take David Price (or Nathan Eovaldi presumably), with either most or all of the money owed to Price, $96 million …. The Red Sox are also asking for two high-end prospects to front the deal.” Hm.
Let’s just get this straight: Mookie Betts, whose value in trade on a one-year, $27M deal is already perhaps lower than most are willing to admit, is not only going to net two “high-end prospects” in a deal this winter … but he’s also going to do it while attached to $90-some-odd million more dollars in the form of David Price? That’s … bananas. To me, that just means the Red Sox are not really all that serious about trading Betts – which is fine! – not that they’re being “patient.”
To be fair, Olney seems to imply that the “patience” comes in the form of waiting until the Trade Deadline to trade him … but then adds that rival executives believe his trade value won’t drop between now and then. Obviously, there can be a sense of urgency at the deadline that leads to bigger deals, but losing out on half of his remaining control combined with the risk factors (injury, underperformance), could change the calculus.
What if the Braves Sign *ANOTHER* Starter?
When the Atlanta Braves signed starter Felix Hernandez Monday afternoon, it made me wonder if they were bracing to lose a starter elsewhere (possibly in a trade). After all, they are nine legitimate arms deep in their rotation (plus a full bullpen) with Hernandez in the fold. But given Hernandez’s expected production (very little), we ultimately came just short of counting on that.
But what if they signed another arm? According to Mark Bowman (MLB.com), “There is still a chance the Braves will attempt to add another veteran starter before the season begins.” And if they do, depending on whom it is, we’ll have to re-test this theory. I just can’t imagine they want so many clear starters battling for so few spots. Yes, you always need pitching, but resources are finite.
Maybe this is all for naught anyway. With Ozuna in the fold, maybe the Braves really are out on Bryant.