At ESPN+, Buster Olney begins his discussion about free agency with a frustrating, but familiar tune: “The numbers in the contract offers this winter are going to be shocking for a lot of free agents, reflecting how far team payrolls will be scaled back for 2021.”
But that sticker “shock” is about more than a lack of zeros in each offer.
Given the financial environment *and* the near-uniform methods of evaluating free agents, the contract variation we normally see may be all but nonexistent. Obviously, that sucks for those players, but it also makes a team’s ability to recruit free agents so much more important.
Recruiting Free Agents
Now, recruiting has been a strength for the Cubs in the past, but that’s been about Theo Epstein as much as it’s been about the uniquely progressive way the Cubs treat players and their families. So to that end, I hope he sticks around this winter, because his skill set may be even more important than ever.
For what it’s worth, aside from Tommy La Stella – who’s got a history with this front office – no one Buster Olney lists among those at the greatest risk for homogenized offers this offseason are expected Cubs targets.
The Cubs and Kevin Gausman
Mark Feinsand matched each team with their perfect free agent, pairing the Cubs with one of the most intriguing starting pitching free agents, Kevin Gausman. Gausman has been handed a qualifying offer this offseason (which he may still accept). Of course, if he does reject it, and the Cubs go on to sign him, they’d be subject to draft pick compensation. Just a reminder, and all the more reason it very likely isn’t going to happen. Plus, also, you know, the big money spending thing, which I just don’t see happening right now for a starting pitcher.
Francisco Lindor’s Suitors
I know this is crazy, but word on the street is the Cleveland Indians may be looking to deal Francisco Lindor this offseason:
I expect Francisco Lindor to be dealt this offseason, as @BNightengale has reported, but I was told today a trade is unlikely to happen quickly. The #Indians would love for the #Mets to be heavily involved, but it will take time for new front office to set priorities. @MLBNetwork
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 8, 2020
If I had a nickel …
In any case, yes, Lindor is going to be moved this offseason (and we already knew that), but there is some new information today, starting with the fact that a deal is not likely to get done soon. On top of that, Ken Rosenthal swooped in to list the potential suitors: “The teams that figure to be interested in Lindor are teams seemingly in a position to afford him — the Mets, Giants and Blue Jays, maybe the Yankees.”
But the Indians have some issues outside of Lindor’s contract: (1) there’s no guarantee of a full season in 2021, (2) they’re under even more financial pressure to move him than other teams have been in similar positions, and, of course, (3) there are a TON of really good, really marketable shortstops available in free agency between this and next offseason (especially next).
2021: Didi Gregorius, Marcus Semien, Ha-Seong Kim, and Andrelton Simmons
2022: Javy Báez, Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, and Trevor Story
More Spenders Than Expected?
• At The Athletic, Ken Rosenthal tries to identify the potential spenders this offseason, starting with the obvious one (the Mets), before adding that the Blue Jays may be more insulated than most clubs from the financial effects of the pandemic (thanks to their ownership group in Canada) and thus could be ready to spend. They’re not exactly direct rumors, but let’s just say Rosenthal probably didn’t connect them to George Springer, DJ LeMahieu, and even a trade for Lindor for no reason.
• But he hardly stopped there. Rosenthal also suggests that the White Sox, Tigers, and Red Sox could all be ready to arm their new managers with some shiny new toys. And the Yankees, Giants, and Twins are all expected to spend more, as well (at least, according to rival execs). Rosenthal even throws the Rays in there, before reminding us that the Dodgers are still the Dodgers – plus, they just won the World Series and have a lot of flexibility coming this and next offseason.
• Meanwhile, the Boston Globe adds the Angels as a team who’s likely willing to spend this offseason, which brings our total up to 11 from some pretty legitimate sources. Maybe it won’t be so bad?
• Speaking of confirming spenders, Giants GM Farhan Zaidi sure seems to see his big market Giants as a potential buyer this offseason. And not unlike the Blue Jays quick move for Robbie Ray (more on that in a second), their decision to extend the qualifying offer to Kevin Gausman is a sign that the pocketbook is plenty full.
Let’s Talk About the Blue Jays
• To tie two points from this post together, the Blue Jays quick deal for Robbie Ray (one year, $8M) is seen as early evidence of their willingness to spend, and his quick-trigger acceptance is believed to be proof that familiarity and comfort may be huge factors for many free agents this offseason.
• There’s also a belief that the Blue Jays have just begun their entrance into the free agent pitching market. And they’re even mentioned as a potential suitor for Francisco Lindor, with a willingness to move top young player Bo Bichette over to second base to accommodate him.
• And speaking of moving Blue Jays infielders around, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is aiming to move back to third base this season, and has apparently lost 32 pounds in a clear effort to take off in 2021. I think he’s going to do exactly that, and I bet the Blue Jays do, too (hence the expected aggression). Might make them less likely to add a major piece at third base …
Key NPB/KBO Posting Dates
Head’s up on the NPB posting calendar, which matters to the Cubs potential pursuit of Japanese utility man Haruki Nishikawa:
RHP Tomoyuki Sugano is the big name this winter, but remember that his team, the Yomiuri Giants, already qualified for the Japan Series. Game 7 of that series is scheduled for Nov. 29, so he could be pitching until the end of the month. @MLB @MLBNetwork @WBSC
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 9, 2020
From what I can tell, this is different than the KBO posting dates, which, by contrast, extend from November 10 – December 14th. Those dates, if still in place, matter for the Cubs’ *fingers crossed* pursuit of 25-year-old shortstop Ha-Seong Kim, and open things up tomorrow.
Jackie Bradley Jr.
The Boston Globe took a look at the top free agents at every position to identify any fits for the Red Sox. I think you’ll find the section on low-cost, short-term rotation options to share some overlap with the Cubs.
Probably more interesting was the fact that the Red Sox have reached out to free agent outfielder Jackie Bradley about a return in 2021. The Astros are also mentioned as a team who’ve shown interest in the 30-year-old – in fact, he may even be at the top of their free agent wish list.