Lukewarm Stove: Kim’s Options, Reds Shortstop Vacancy, Yankees, LeMahieu, Tanaka, Red Sox Cuts, More

Over the past decade or so, MLB has made an effort to tweak the rules for young players looking to make the jump stateside from professional Asian leagues like the KBO, NPB, and CPBL. Unfortunately, for a long time before the recent changes, large portions of the money teams were willing to commit to one of these players would actually go to his former team in Asia, leaving the player with just one negotiating partner (whichever MLB franchise won the posting process) and very little leverage overall – After all, the team did just spend $50 million for the rights to negotiate with you. 

Now, by contrast, all 30 teams are able to negotiate with one of these posted players and his former team simply gets a percentage of his total deal, depending on how much he earns. It’s a much better process that gives more power and money to the player who’s actually earned it and I’m glad we’ve made this change. But it’s not perfect …

Ha-Seong Kim Could Wait Another Year

For example, while we’re all eagerly awaiting Ha-Seong Kim’s posting on November 10th – particularly because he’s such an obvious fit in the near and long-term for the Cubs, who’ve already been connected to the 25-year-old shortstop – that doesn’t mean he’s definitely coming over this winter. There are other options.

Kim is finally eligible to be posted this offseason, but he’s not a true free agent until after 2021. If he were to stay in the KBO for one more year, he’d be a true free agent and could negotiate with all 30 teams (like he can now), but without awarding his current team any cut of his final contract.

The risks are obvious: Injury and/or underperformance, plus he’s a year older. But he also only just turned 25 a couple of days ago. If he can post yet another ~140 wRC+ season (which would be his third in a row), I’m sure he’d actually pad the numbers of his final deal, even setting aside the commission he’d save not paying the posting fees. And, hey, the finances next offseason will probably look better for every team in baseball than they do right now.

But my guess? He’ll be in an MLB uniform in 2021. And hopefully one that looks like something I’ve got hanging in my closet.

(Brett: He’d also probably note that the 2021 shortstop class currently projects to include Francisco Lindor, Corey Seager, Javy Báez, Trevor Story, Carlos Correa, and maybe also Marcus Semien if he winds up taking a one-year bounce-back deal.)

Reds Shortstop Vacancy

The Reds shortstop position was one of the worst in baseball last season *and* they’re losing their starter, Freddy Galvis, to free agency. They’re also losing some other key pieces around the roster, so I doubt they’ll go all in on shoring this up this vacancy, but they will likely do something to improve externally.

Various shortstop options are listed and considered at The Athletic, including traditional free agents like Didi Gregorius, Marcus Semien, Andrelton Simmons, and Jose Iglesias, but the Reds are also mentioned as potential suitors for our friend from the KBO, Ha-Seong Kim.

The Cubs and Reds did battle for Japanese outfielder Shogo Akiyama last winter, and it’s possible it could happen again. Different outcome this time?

(Brett: By the way, with all appropriate 2020 caveats, Akiyama hit just .245/.357/.297 (85 wRC+) in his first MLB season this year. He’ll play next year at age 33, and if the power doesn’t jump forward in a major way, that OBP is gonna shrink rapidly as he gets challenged more frequently from pitchers armed with better scouting reports.)

Yankees: Money, LeMahieu, Didi, Tanaka, More

According to Joel Sherman (New York Post), the Yankees may well endeavor to get beneath the $210M luxury tax threshold the 2021 season after exceeding it by $50 million in 2020. And while that should be easy enough given the money they have coming off the books, they may be left with under $30 million to spend this offseason and a lot of holes.

Naturally, that’ll affect their chances with free-agent second baseman DJ LeMahieu, whom they very much hope to re-sign. Here’s how Sherman thinks it’ll go: First, the Yankees will offer LeMahieu the $18.9M qualifying offer, which he’ll likely reject. Then they’ll offer him something less than that on an annual basis for about 3 years ($16M per year for 3 years of $48M total). They’ll know that’s certainly below his value, but also that 1) he wants to play in New York, 2) other teams may not be so anxious to spend even that much this winter, and 3) if they move on to sign other people before he accepts, that offer could come off the table.

That’s just a guess from Sherman, but it comes off as slightly more than that, particularly when he pairs it with another guess:

“For example, could the Yanks bring in free agents Didi Gregorius to play short and Tommy La Stella to move around? They are not LeMahieu, but they make up a lot of his value as two desperately needed lefty hitters at probably less than $16 million in 2021.”

The Yankees have been vocal about wanting to get left-handed, and it’s not like La Stella and Gregorius don’t both have very real value at the plate and flexibility in the field. Heck, I’m hoping the Cubs target all three of these guys this winter, but I don’t expect any bidding wars.

Meanwhile, there is all sorts of speculation over what kind of contract (and from whom) outgoing Yankees free agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka might be able to get this winter. Will he get a qualifying offer? Would he accept it? Will he beat his previous $23M AAV after posting a 3.56 ERA over 10 starts this season? Or will he max out on a 2-3 year deal worth that much over the court of the entire contract? Clearly, nobody has any freakin’ clue how free agency is going to work this offseason. So buckle up.

Free Agent Second Basemen

While we’re on the topic, I might as well share MLB Trade Rumors’ free agent preview for the position. Broken up into several sections (Top of the class, potential regulars, part-time/utility players, etc.) with what little rumors we do have so far, MLBTR does a good job reminding us that if the Cubs are willing to spend, there actually are some legitimately solid second baseman out there, particularly in their price range.

I’m tentatively expecting Nico Hoerner to get some more time in the Minors … if there even are minors next season … so a low-cost bridge could once again be the answer.

Massive Red Sox Cuts Coming

While we do expect every team to make some relative surprising cuts before tender decisions are due at the beginning of December, the Red Sox have some serious moves to make before that. According to Chris Cotillo, they have seven players in the 60-man player pool and another six prospects who need protecting from the Rule-5 draft, which puts them at 53 total players in play for their 40-man roster.

In other words, even if they didn’t want to add a single player from outside of the organization this winter, the Red Sox might have to cut or trade 13 players from their 40-man roster. That could make things VERY interesting.

Former Cub Zack Godley is among the “as good as gone” group, according to Cotillo, but he’s hardly the only name you’ll recognize. Give their roster a once-over. It’ll be something we follow this offseason (for the Red Sox and many other teams, no doubt).

Starling Marte is Likely Sticking in Miami, Which is a Data Point

The Marlins will likely add someone to lead their baseball operations department, but that someone won’t have a decision to make on Starling Marte. He seems destined to stick in Miami, where the Marlins will exercise his $12.5M team option after slashing .281/.340/.430 (109 wRC+) last season.

The notable data point there is that, with a $1 million buyout, the Marlins are indicating Marte is worth $11.5 million in this market. In a normal world, that would be obvious for a guy who continues to be a very valuable player entering his age 33 season:

(via FanGraphs)

This is at least one data point that the bottom is going to OBSCENELY fall out this offseason. Maybe?

Brett Taylor contributed to this post.

written by

Michael Cerami began covering the Chicago Cubs for Bleacher Nation as a part-time contributor in 2015. One year later, he joined Bleacher Nation full-time, covering the Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball. Today, Michael runs Bleacher Nation, contributing as a writer (Cubs, MLB) and an editor for all sections of the site, including the Chicago Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks, as well as MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL. In 2019, Michael was the co-host of NBC Sports Chicago's Cubs Post-Game Show Outside the Ivy. You can find him on Twitter/X @Michael_Cerami

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