A couple years ago, a Lukewarm Stove on the day pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training would’ve been crazy and unusual. But after the 2018 and 2019 offseasons, it’s hardly out of place.
And when you consider how artificially late the Cubs started this winter, it’s not hard to imagine more moves on the way. Heck, Patrick Mooney and Jesse Rogers both implied that the Cubs were still weighing trade possibilities for Kris Bryant and have been generally active on the trade market as February continues.
- Outside of the trade market, we know that they’ve shown interest in free agent second basemen like Scooter Gennett and Jason Kipnis. But while the latter has been “in contact” with the Cubs as recently as last week, he is drawing interest elsewhere:
Source: A’s have been in contact with free agent second baseman Jason Kipnis. Would give Oakland a strong option from the left side with much better career numbers against RHP.
— Martín Gallegos (@MartinJGallegos) February 11, 2020
- The A’s might consider Kipnis for the same reasons as the Cubs (left-side of a platoon with quality contact and defense at second base), but they did already add a light-hitting, left-handed second base bat earlier this winter … Tony Kemp … from the Cubs!
- Since the beginning of the offseason, the Atlanta Braves seemed like the ideal trade partner for Kris Bryant. They had the clear need and the pieces to get something done. And for the longest time, we suspected any delay in deeper talks was related to some combination of the grievance and Josh Donaldson’s free agent decision. But the grievance has been resolved and Donaldson has long since signed with the Twins, but we’re not any closer to a deal. And while I still think he’s such an obvious fit for Atlanta (not just performatively and positionally, but also financially and strategically), it seems this may have always more one-sided than we thought: “Beyond due diligence,” wrote Mark Bowman of MLB.com, “there has never seemingly been much interest in [the Braves] acquiring Bryant.”
- Questionably, Bowman argues that the Braves don’t feel confident enough in their starting staff to make “noise in October.” But while I understand the fear of never having enough top-shelf pitching, Atlanta has one of the deepest rotations in baseball (Soroka, Foltynewicz, Max Fried, Cole Hamels, Kyle Wright/Sean Newcomb/Bryse Wilson, Felix Hernandez). So while I can understand the financial argument to some degree (their 2020 payroll is about $30M higher than last season), this “pitching concern” argument is not one I’m buying.
- Earlier this morning, Patrick Mooney once again brought up the idea of a “blockbuster Nolan Arenado trade” between the Cubs and Rockies, but concedes that such a deal remains a long shot given each team’s priorities and payroll situations. The Rockies, in particular, have a lot of hurdles to clear to ever turn such a deal into reality, but the fact that they’re still talking about it is pretty wild. Mooney puts it bluntly: “But it’s the middle of February and the Arenado-to-Wrigley idea hasn’t been completely dismissed yet.”
- According to The Athletic, the Phillies and Cubs did discuss a Bryant deal this offseason, but with the Cubs *starting* the asking price at Alec Bohm and Spencer Howard (along with other pieces), the Phillies backed off. With that said, the Phillies were apparently willing to go over the Luxury Tax threshold to add Bryant, something they weren’t otherwise planning to do this offseason, so they were clearly quite interested. Ultimately, they just don’t feel comfortable giving up their best/only top prospects – Bohm (3B) ranks 30th and Howard (RHP) ranks 34th according to MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospect Rankings. It seems there’s plenty of interest in Bryant out there, but just not at the levels that would make the Cubs (or us) comfortable to deal. Sigh.
- According to the San Diego Union Tribune, the Padres are so comfortable with their group of relievers, that “it seems a virtual certainty some relief arms will be used to try to acquire another outfielder (such as Cincinnati’s Nick Senzel) via trade before the season.” The Padres have been looking for an outfielder all offseason and the Reds did add two outfielders in free agency this winter (Shogo Akiyama and Nick Castellanos), so this isn’t totally unfounded. But the phrasing is so … certain from Kevin Acee, who’s well tapped into the Padres world, that it’s a little striking. Needless to say, we’ll have to keep an eye on the Padres before Opening Day.
- Note: The Padres have been connected to Bryant as an outfield trade target this winter – and they do have the farm system to get something done – but if they’re looking to acquire a young, cheap, long-controlled, first-year player like Senzel (while using their impressive cache of relievers), a trade for Bryant doesn’t make much sense. Then again, we *know* they were in on Mookie Betts as of a week ago, so … perhaps anything is possible.
- At MLB.com, Richard Justice reminds us of the most motivated 3B buyers of the winter, the Texas Rangers. Justice wonders if the Rangers might re-engage the Cubs on Bryant, dangling the 8th overall pick from the 2019 MLB draft, third baseman Josh Jung, as part of the package. But while Jung is an interesting piece, he’s far from the quality or type of return the Cubs should be looking for in a KB deal right now. And unfortunately, the Rangers don’t really have the sort of young pitching that could get a deal done. So unless they were willing to leverage a third team, I just can’t see anything happening. Getting out from under the thumb of the luxury tax is still a must, but not at this level.