In case you missed it, the Chicago Cubs have finally been connected to a legitimate free agent in what feels like a *very* long time. And while Jackie Bradley Jr. won’t likely knock your socks off, he is a former top prospect who has had at least one really great season (5.3 WAR in 2016), comes with prior connections to Theo Epstein/the front office, and finished strong in 2020 (119 wRC+). He’s also only 30-years-old and plays center field! Not bad! A real big league player free agent connection to the Cubs at a position of need. Woot!
More on Jackie Bradley Jr.
Brett got into most of what you need to know earlier today, but there are some additional things I’d like to discuss – starting with the competition.
The Red Sox employ a new front office (led by Chaim Bloom), already have a new center fielder (Alex Verdugo from the Mookie Betts trade), and just signed free agent right fielder Hunter Renfroe, so I’d say they are not a very strong bet to re-sign him.
And, sure, the Blue Jays were mentioned alongside the Cubs in terms of interest, but they’re connected to almost every single free agent this offseason. In other words, there’s a LOT of smoke there (and not necessarily the kind that always leads to fire).
So in terms of the present, that really brings things down to the Phillies, and they actually could be an interesting suitor. They’ve already got Andrew McCutchen in left field and Bryce Harper in right, but Roman Quinn is hardly a sure-fire center fielder with the stick, so they could use the help (and new President Dave Dombrowski is as aggressive as executives get). But here’s where things get interesting.
Jackie Bradley Jr. Splits:
v. LHP: 84 wRC+
v. RHP: 97 wRC+
Roman Quinn Splits:
v. LHP: 102 wRC+
v. RHP: 68 wRC+
Where Bradley Jr. falls short (v. LHP), Quinn has a relative strength – and vice versa. So together, they could probably create a pretty useful platoon in center field … if that’s what JBJ wants. The Cubs, by contrast, have a wide open center field job for Bradley Jr. to take, which would work in their favor as a draw, but have to seriously consider whether ANOTHER left-handed hitting outfielder is really the right fit.
As we’ve discussed, the Cubs were horrendous against LHP last season and figure to get worse if Kris Bryant really leaves. So Jackie Bradley Jr. may be a legit free agent target at the right position (which is exciting), but that hardly means he’s the right fit for this team.
Very short second-rumor, but I’d just like you to know that the Yankees prioritizing DJ LeMahieu has to be one of the most effective communication campaigns in recent offseason history. Like, okay, already, we get it.
“He is our number one priority to bring back this winter.” -Yankees manager Aaron Boone on the Yankees resigning DJ LeMahieu https://t.co/hajXCdtJCn
— Marly Rivera (@MarlyRiveraESPN) December 15, 2020
And if he’s such a priority, maybe try harder to close that $25M gap.
For what it’s worth, I’m not just complaining to complain here. The LeMahieu free agency is likely holding up a lot. The Yankees are waiting to see if they get him before they make ANY other moves (including if they’re going to move Gleyber Torres to second and seek out a shortstop, instead (which is undoubtedly holding up the shortstop market)), but there are certainly other teams waiting in the periphery, as well. Meanwhile, with Francisco Lindor firmly planted on the trade block, I have to imagine a deal will happen only after LeMahieu finds his home. So considering the Cubs have effectively no shot at signing their former second baseman – despite a huge need for exactly his kind of bat at exactly his position – I say this: Just please sign SOMEWHERE already, DJ. Let’s break up this logjam.
The Cubs need starters and Jake Odorizzi is a free agent starter whom they had shown interest in many moons ago, but given his legitimate competition, I don’t think they’ll end up as one of his suitors:
Negotiations for Starter Jake Odorizzi are heating up with several teams still in the mix incl Tor, LAA, Min, SDP, Bos, and NYM – and a sleeper Tampa. With that level interest, look for him to get a multi year deal. @MLBNetworkRadio
— Jim Duquette (@Jim_Duquette) December 15, 2020
The Blue Jays and Mets get their token mention, but it’s the Angels who’ve really got my eye among the teams listed above. They’re hurting for some starters, and even if they intend to add one upper-tier arm (Trevor Bauer/Blake Snell), a guy like Odorizzi could fit.
Could the Padres really try to extend Fernando Tatis Jr. *this offseason* despite the financial implications of the pandemic? Well, apparently!
“I think it’s more going to be a conversation about what we see his value is contract-wise and what he wants to do directionally and seeing if we can line up on a dollar amount,” Preller said. “But he’s a priority. I think his situation is a priority. I think we’re in a position to try to line up on a deal. We’ll see what happens here over the course of the rest of the offseason. We’ll see if we can do that.”
That’s a quote from Padres GM A.J. Preller who, just last month, mentioned that there was interest in an extension on both sides. And while that part doesn’t surprise me – who wouldn’t want Tatis? And why wouldn’t Tatis want to stick with the upswinging Padres? – the timing does. Tatis is likely to command pretty significant dollars if he’s really going to sign an extension this early in his career (four more years of team control, but he’s entering just his age-22 season), so you have to wonder if the Padres will dig deep enough to make it happen.
If they don’t, he’ll have one of those rare shots at super-early free agency which has been a real money maker for recent free agents (Jason Heyward, Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Mookie Betts, and soon to be Francisco Lindor). This will be interesting to follow. I’ll be surprised if they get something done this offseason (pandemic and proximity to a new CBA), but the Padres are making it a priority, so … why not?
Odds and Ends:
• Just because you’re non-tendered doesn’t mean it’s the end of the line:
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) December 15, 2020
• More Mets action:
The #Mets also have signed veteran right-handed pitcher Jerad Eickhoff to a minor-league deal that will pay him $1.25 million if he makes their big-league team with $750,000 in incentives.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 15, 2020
• And some generalized Mets speculation:
Steve Cohen has not publicly set the #Mets 2021 payroll limits. But for luxury tax purposes, they project to roughly $150M with May/McCann (and without suspended Cano). So $60M-ish still under 1st luxury tax threshold. Plenty of room if, for example, that is the ceiling.
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) December 15, 2020
• Here are the Super 2 players, who’ll get one extra year of arbitration on their six-year journey to free agency:
Among the players who qualified for arbitration by reaching Super Two status, per source: Yankees’ Clint Frazier, Gleyber Torres and Luke Voit; Braves’ Max Fried and Mike Soroka; Dodgers’ Walker Buehler; Mets’ Dom Smith; Nationals’ Juan Soto; Brewers’ Brandon Woodruff.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 15, 2020
• After officially signing David Dahl, the Texas Rangers have traded reliever Rafael Montero to the Mariners, because Jerry DiPoto was getting anxious:
Rangers trade closer Rafael Montero to Seattle Mariners, report says https://t.co/G5qflnfkNW
— SportsDay Rangers (@dmn_rangers) December 15, 2020