Lukewarm Stove: Playing the Syndergaard Lotto, Short-Term Plays, Blue Jays, Schoop, More

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Lukewarm Stove: Playing the Syndergaard Lotto, Short-Term Plays, Blue Jays, Schoop, More

Chicago Cubs

Although the upcoming non-tender market is expected to be uniquely robust, it still doesn’t feel quite real, right? Like, the skeptic (optimist?) in me still wants to believe that Kris Bryant is easily and obviously worth $18 million over one year, despite external rumors to the contrary. And the same goes for Kyle Schwarber (at his rate) and other similar players across the league. In other words, I’ll believe it when I see it.

Noah Syndergaard Staying Put

For what it’s worth, one of the most exciting potential/rumored non-tenders, Noah Syndergaard, is now largely expected to stick with the Mets for his final season of team control via arbitration (estimated ~$10M).

Before Steve Cohen(‘s wallet) took over the Mets, Syndergaard’s inability to contribute until at least mid-way through the 2021 season (Tommy John surgery) made him a pretty notable non-tender candidate in this financial market for the Wilpon-led Mets. But now, according to Buster Olney, Cohen and the Mets may want to pay for the lottery ticket, just in case he can be a huge addition in the second half of the year. My opinion? Smart move, if you’ve got the money.

In the meantime, Syndergaard is already one of the most intriguing free agents on next year’s market. He’ll be just 29, he’ll be only a half-season back from Tommy John surgery, and he’ll be a guy a few years removed from his early-career peak. But he’s a dang beast with extreme stuff. We’ll see if the Mets pony up to keep him long-term, or if he explores the market.

Mets, the Trade Market, and Francisco Lindor

But while the Mets are not hiding their willingness to spend MONEY this winter, it’s starting to sound like they want to pump the brakes on the trade acquisition side (where they’ve been included in just about every single rumor, precisely because of their apparent financial flexibility).

Joel Sherman began the process of slowing things down, with the help of Mets President Sandy Alderson:

“There are only two currencies in baseball — one is players, the other is money. If you are not spending money, you have to spend players. … We have to be careful how we use players in transactions.”


“We’ve got no depth at Double-A and Triple-A, so we are doing all we can to sign six-year minor-league free agents to fill out depth with our top two minor-league teams and provide up-and-down depth for the season,” Alderson said.

Sherman explains that because former GM Brodie Van Wagenen traded away a lot of their top prospect talent, the Mets don’t actually have a ton of high quality depth or prospects on the way. I think we, as Cubs fans, understand those issues therein better than most.

So while “There might be trade possibilities in which teams desperate to move money would take little in return,” the Mets are signaling their reluctance to move what little player currency they have left.

What does that mean for someone like Francisco Lindor? Well, it’s tough to say, but I do just want you to see that Sherman believes a trade for Lindor would likely begin with “a package fronted by at least one from the [Andres] Gimenez, Jeff McNeil, and Brandon Nimmo.”

While you should be familiar with McNeil and Nimmo, Gimenez, 22, is a left-handed hitting shortstop and recent top-100 prospect, who just debuted in 2020 with a solid .263/.333/.398 (105 wRC+).

Astros Want Michael Brantley Back

With Marcus Stroman (6th, Mets) and Kevin Gausman (9th, Giants) having accepted qualifying offers, outfielder Michael Brantley is now the 11th best free agent available this offseason, according to MLB Trade Rumors, and the 7th best position player.

MLBTR projected a two-year, $28M deal with the Braves, who’ve knocked these sort of short-term deals out of the park lately, but according to Olney, the Astros have “serious interest in retaining” their borderline star outfielder.

Brantley, 33, may not be a spring chicken, but he is a four-time All-Star, one-time Silver Slugger, and one time MVP finalist, who just posted a 134 wRC+ in 2020 (after posting a 133 wRC+ in 2019). The Cubs are listed among the potential suitors at MLBTR, but (1) that’s all speculation, (2) if that many teams are involved, you can forget it, and (3) it’s not happening. Maybe I should’ve led with #3.

The Gary Sanchez Lesson

There’s an extended story about Gary Sanchez, his fall from grace offensively, and the Yankees intentions with him this offseason, all of which you should check out. But I want to zero-in one specific quote, because I think it can tell us a lot about this offseason (emphasis mine):

Other teams say that the Yankees seem intent to at least try to move ahead with Sanchez, to fix him, and that to date, they haven’t indicated they’re ready to move on. “I know this – if the Yankees dumped him, I’d take him,” one evaluator said. “When he’s right, there are almost no catchers who hit like him. I’d take a shot at him and try to figure out what’s happening with his swing and his mind.”

I think it’s probably becoming a little too easy to forget that guys like Sanchez (or, say … Báez or Bryant or even Schwarber) are still desirable players. The money is going to be an issue, always, but these guys are HARDLY radioactive. If they’re available, someone will come calling. Just like this evaluator with Sanchez.

Like Brett said with the Drew Smyly deal, sometimes teams are willing to take a shot on short-term upside, which is what you’d see in Sanchez (or the three Cubs mentioned).

Jonathan Schoop

I don’t know how Jonathan Schoop is still under 30 years old (it feels like I’ve been mispronouncing his name for at least a decade – I’ll get it right soon), but he is, and he’s available:

Schoop did have one of his best offensive seasons in 2020, when he slashed .274/.324/.475 (114 wRC+) with the Tigers. However, his hard hit rate and launch angle both came down significantly, just as he posted the third highest BABIP of his career. It’s possible he’s simply found a new, more effective approach that’s hidden by some of these surface level numbers, but I’d approach cautiously if I were the Cubs.

The Cubs do need a second baseman, and Schoop doesn’t strike out a ton (doesn’t take many walks, either – he’s just kind of an “in play” guy), but we’ll put a pin in this for now.

Marcell Ozuna

Marcell Ozuna is one of the top available free agents this offseason, but it’s not quite clear where he’ll end up – the universal DH is undoubtedly playing a big role.

And is clearly split on his future.

They do cite the White Sox prior interest, but with Jose Abreu and Andrew Vaughn (their No. 1 prospect) expected to play big roles in 2021, the Sox need a right fielder more than they need a DH. And with Ozuna’s defensive limitations, that could be an issue. For what it’s worth, the Braves, Red Sox, Cardinals, Rangers, Astros, Twins, Rangers, and Padres are all listed in addition to the White Sox.

Big-Time Blue Jays?

According to their own general manager, Ross Atkins, the Blue Jays want to “add another really good player … or two … or three.” He concedes that it’s tough, but the posture and confidence is pretty evident.

Listen for yourself:

And this certainly tracks with the narrative that they may be one of the rare teams that actually spends big this offseason (relative to everyone else, at least). Atkins specifically mentions an “elite” starting pitcher or offensive player, but says their focus begins with run prevention, which includes improving their defense.

Seeing as the Cubs are “signaling there will be significant turnover on the roster” this offseason, I’d say it’s important to note what the Blue Jays want – we don’t have to go further on that particular point for now. But the story doesn’t stop there.

Atkins also explains that the Blue Jays may already be “close on another deal,” and that the early-offseason could be the time of greatest impact:

“What we’re focusing on is the impact being larger earlier in the market at this point. If we were to move earlier, that the impact would be significant and that doesn’t take us out of significant impact later.

For what it’s worth, the Blue Jays are looking for an established closer (and, hey, the Cubs have one of those they could be willing to trade), but they’re largely happy with their talent behind the plate (good … I don’t want Willson Contreras to go anywhere, personally).

New-Look Rays?

In general, the big market teams are said to have hurt more than the small market teams because of the pandemic, because of the gate-related revenue, but that’s not an entirely fair picture. The small market Rays, for example, won’t get their $45 million revenue sharing, which, with a payroll around $70 million, is obviously quite significant.

That likely means some extreme frugality is in store, including potentially trading Blake Snell or Kevin Kiermaier.

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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami