There is exactly one week until Christmas, which tends to breed a break in the offseason, but free agency could pick up here in the short-term: “I expect there to be a good number of signings leading up to the holidays,” one prominent agent said Monday, via Robert Murray. “Then it won’t go black but it will go dark grey until after the New Year.”
And for what it’s worth, that’s not necessarily standing in contrast to this:
The movement in the free agent market is generally so sluggish that agents believe that for some players, it would be better to wait until the labor situation is settled and teams have more certainty (and perhaps confidence) about the sport's financial context in 2021.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 17, 2020
Given that we’re still waiting on a number of potential rule changes – specifically the universal DH (or something close to that) – I wouldn’t be surprised if a majority of the near-term signings are pitcher-based, before things then go cold for the holidays … and until there’s more certainty around the 2021 season thereafter.
Rays Sign Michael Wacha
Not long after re-signing catcher Mike Zunino, the Rays turned their attention to their starting rotation, which is already down Charlie Morton (option declined, signed with Braves) and could soon see the exit of Blake Snell via trade. At the time, Marc Topkin reported that they could pursue starters on both the trade and free agent market, even naming a potential reunion with Chris Archer, but for now, they’ve signed a familiar face in former Cardinals starter Michael Wacha.
Wacha signed for just one year and $3 million, which is actually a little light for him in this market, but that may have been partly by design:
Wacha said he could have gotten more money elsewhere but combination of #Rays reputation for working with pitchers and having a contending team made it an easy decision
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) December 18, 2020
Michael Wacha is 29. His stuff last year with the Mets was very good. He’s the sort of guy who goes to the Rays for a year, huffs their pixie dust and emerges a far better pitcher. The $3M salary looks light, but as one person put it, “Going (to TB) is an investment in himself.”
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 18, 2020
Do you see how important it is to have a well-known, functioning big league development apparatus (like the Cubs Pitch Labbing of relievers)? Players might literally accept less money to go to certain destinations in the short term, because they think it’ll help their career in the long term. And in the meantime that team gets the advantage of an undermarket deal for a player they believe they can turn into something better.
In any case, the Rays are not likely done yet. Blake Snell’s availability continues to be trumpeted in every single Topkin article (and he’s very closely tapped into that team), so stay tuned.
As a random aside, the Cubs have always owned Wacha, and I always loved that:
The #Cubs have absolutely OWNED Michael Wacha throughout his career: 6.50 ERA over 98.1 IP.
– 48 extra base hits (21 HRs)
– 46 walks
– .284/.362/.525 https://t.co/sAhjDwz2Vm
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) December 18, 2020
This isn’t *exactly* a rumor, but it does seem important and related to the broader pitching market.
Yesterday, we learned that Noah Syndergaard could be back from Tommy John surgery by mid-season, and it seems the same is true for Chris Sale and the Red Sox:
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) December 18, 2020
We already know the Mets are going to be extremely active this offseason, but I suppose the progress of Sale – and the internal expectations for the timing and quality of his return – could push the Red Sox to be more or less aggressive this winter, too. To that end, they’re probably relieved the market is moving as slowly as it has been so far.
More starting pitcher noise!
On Monday, Brett discussed the Cubs unique position to offer a “bounce-back job” to some perhaps surprisingly interesting names like Corey Kluber:
It’s been a while since the Cubs could offer a very clear path to a guy like that, and now, since they can, I’d like to hope they’d be very in on – for one example – a guy like Corey Kluber. The former ace, now 34, has been beset by injuries the last two years, and has managed just 36.2 innings total (just 1.0 in 2020). Most contenders aren’t going to be able to offer him a rotation job, and almost no competitive team is going to have an obviously open rotation job that he could see himself easily winning if he’s healthy. The Cubs? They are now in that spot. Why not take a swing?
Well, Kluber’s making progress and seems to have a showcase lined up:
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 18, 2020
Perhaps we can dive more deeply into what’s gone wrong (and right) for him over the last couple years if we learn that the Cubs will be present for that show.
Padres in on Sonny Gray
Even MORE pitching rumors.
According to Robert Murray, “rival executives believe that Cincinnati Reds pitcher Sonny Gray is a strong fit” for the San Diego Padres as a replacement for Mike Clevinger, and “league sources” reportedly believe they are interested in making something happen. And for what it’s worth, we know this is at least a reasonable possibility (Gray’s availability, that is).
Not only have the Reds already traded closer Raisel Iglesias to the Angels, we’ve also already had this post this year:
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) December 6, 2020
There are a couple roadblocks, however. Although Gray is on a pretty team-friendly deal over the next few years ($10M in 2021, $10M in 2022, $12M club option for 2023), even that might prove out of the COVID-crunched Padres budget. Meanwhile, Larry Rothschild (yes, the former Cubs pitching coach) is now the Padres pitching coach. He was also the Yankees pitching coach in New York, when Gray was there and struggling.
Either way, two things learned: (1) Gray is available. (2) The Padres want a starter, but not for a lot of money.
Blake Treinen and the Relief Market
Both Robert Murray and Jeff Passan see Blake Treinen as a potential relief target for the Seattle Mariners.
Another trade for the Rangers, who have been very busy: Right-handed reliever Rafael Montero is headed to the Seattle Mariners, sources tell ESPN.
Seattle is trying to rebuild a bullpen that was worst in the AL. They've hit free agent RP up, too. One possibility: Blake Treinen.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 15, 2020
But Murray adds that Treinen is not close to signing, because, as one agent put it, “everything starts with [reliever Liam] Hendriks.” In other words, Brad Hand, Alex Colome, and Treinen (among others) won’t sign until Hendriks does and he’s had his fair share of suitors (White Sox chief among them).
Angels Seeking Catcher
The Angels are very publicly seeking a catcher (and a starting pitcher) as we discussed yesterday, reportedly having already expressed interest in free agent catcher Kurt Suzuki (who was also mentioned as a Nationals target).
Suzuki, 37, is familiar with the new Angels GM, Perry Minasian, thanks to their overlapping time in Atlanta.