The majority of the roster-change we can expect to see this offseason still lies ahead of us, but I couldn’t resist a peek at The Athletic’s top-10 free agent rankings for next offseason when I saw it earlier this morning. Mind you, I wasn’t so much heading into that article with the Cubs checkbook and a shopping list in hand (I’ve learned better by now), but I did want to see where Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Javy Báez all fell in the rankings.
Well. They didn’t.
Of the five position players listed, none of the Cubs big three free agents made the cut. At shortstop, Báez was behind Trevor Story, Corey Seager, and Francisco Lindor, at third base, Bryant was behind Nolan Arenado (who isn’t even definitely going to be a free agent), and at first base, Rizzo was behind Freddie Freeman. I want to be mad, but I’m not sure that I am.
With the exception of Arenado not necessarily opting out of his remaining five-years and $164M, those players are all likely to get better deals than the Cubs *if that offseason were to happen right now*. Of course, there’s still an entire season in between now and then and so it could very easily change (to say nothing of potential extensions).
As for the pitchers, there are eight (8!) Cy Young awards among the top three arms: Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, and Justin Verlander. In fact, I’d argue those three starters were just about the premier starters of the last decade+, all hitting free agency at once (albeit … older).
Go peruse and read … and dream and hope. That’s a monster class coming.
Cubs Outfield Trade Ideas
At the Chicago Sun-Times, Russell Dorsey runs through a few outfield trade targets for the Cubs, who obviously need the help. The first concept, a move for the Mets’ center fielder, Brandon Nimmo, is probably the most attractive.
Nimmo, 27, is young, under control for two more seasons, and plays center field. He also has a 15.1% walk rate, a 25.5% strikeout rate, and a career 133 wRC+. He is left-handed, which isn’t ideal, but he’s actually handled lefties just fine throughout his career: .243/.358/.399 (113 wRC+), especially considering the damage against righties (139 wRC+).
Of course, for the Cubs to pry away Nimmo – or Dominic Smith, the second option listed by Dorsey – the Cubs would have to part with a considerable chunk of talent*, and the Mets will have to be in a position to land George Springer, or so the theory goes. Fortunately, the Mets are said to be prioritizing Springer after landing the eminently more affordable (than J.T. Realmuto) free agent catcher James McCann.
Clint Frazier, the third and final option, is young, a righty, and a hitter (career 114 wRC+), but he strikes out a LOT, is actually pretty close to split neutral, and is a corner outfielder with not much of a glove. I’ll leave the rest up to Dorsey, but he isn’t an *ideal* match (but who is?).
*[Brett: As much as I’d want Nimmo for the Cubs, the rub is that since he’s a two-year guy, the Cubs would be acquiring him only if they were pushing for 2021-22. And if the Cubs were pushing for those years, then the question is what could they give up to the Mets that the Mets – also pushing right now – would want? Nimmo would cost a pretty penny, so to speak. I mean, maybe if you consider Nimmo superfluous to the Mets’ outfield post-Springer they’d be open to a deal for prospect types? But then the Cubs would be up against a lot of aggressive buyers.]
Hey! I’ve got a fourth option for you: Joey Gallo.
According to Ken Rosenthal, the Rangers could make Gallo, 27, available in trade this offseason, and that’s obviously important to a team seeking outfield help via trade like the Cubs. Not unlike the three options mentioned above, Gallo is young and under control for two more seasons. And while he does have some rough edges (hold that thought), the Cubs and Rangers have been frequent trade partners in the past.
Good Stuff: Gallo is a big-time power hitter, who’s already twice hit more than 40 homers in a single season. He also takes his walks (14.0% career rate) and has the third highest average exit velocity in the entire Statcast era (behind only Aaron Judge and Nelson Cruz). He’s also an extremely talented outfielder, who was a Gold Glove finalist in 2021, and can cover all three spots.
Bad Stuff: If Kyle Schwarber was the wrong kind of banana (offensively), what the heck is Joey Gallo? He’s another a left-handed slugger who walks a lot, strikes out a TON (37.6% career strikeout rate … yes you read that correctly), and hits for as much power as you could want. He hits lefties fine, sure, but his overall profile is everything from which the Cubs were supposed to be moving AWAY this offseason. The glove does separate him, but I don’t know, folks. Seems like the Cubs would’ve just kept Schwarber (or still could) if this is the route they wanted to go.
Now, there is an argument to be made about the Cubs being on the precipice of losing too much power (Schwarber is already gone, and Bryant/Rizzo/Baez are all on one-year deals), but Gallo might be frustrating in too acute a way for Cubs fans to stomach.
A few days ago, we learned that the Nationals had reportedly discussed a trade for Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez, so this isn’t exactly a surprise, but it’s just further confirmation that (1) The Reds are legitimately full-on selling, and (2) Suarez is on the table as potential competition for Nolan Arenado and Kris Bryant:
Eugenio Suarez is another star Reds player out there and being talked about in potential trades. Two negatives there: 1) it’d be selling low off an off year, and 2) even more accomplished 3B Arenado and Bryant are available as well (though they have much higher salaries)
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 21, 2020
All three third basemen are 29 years old (or will be very soon), but come with very different contracts and remaining team control: Arenado (6 years, $199M), Bryant (1 year, ~$20M), Suarez (4 years, $45.5M guaranteed with a $15M club option for 2025).
Suarez may not have the star power the other guys have, but he’s quietly been an excellent player for the past four seasons: 125 wRC+, 13.4 WAR, and 124 HRs. And he’s obviously on a very solid deal for a clearly selling team. Though like the other two, he’s coming off a down 2020 season.
Reds Moves *After* Trading Castillo?
Jon Morosi jumped on MLB Network to reestablish the Reds intentions to trade Luis Castillo (and/or Sonny Gray), with yet another special mention of the Padres and Giants – I think Morosi has clearly heard something specific from those two teams given how often he’s been hammering their involvement.
But it’s what happens after that/those theoretical trades that caught my attention:
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) December 21, 2020
According to Morosi, the Reds might use money saved on the pitching side to go out and invest multiple years on a shortstop (they just lost Freddy Galvis to free agency).
I’m not sure why you’d invest anything significant in a shortstop after losing your closer (Raisel Iglesias), your reigning Cy Young award winner (Trevor Bauer), and at least one of your next two best starters (Gray/Castillo), but the Reds have been marching to the beat of their own drum for a while now.
Bauer Landing Spots: Reds(?), Padres, Others
Oh, maybe they won’t lose Bauer? According to “The Athletic MLB Staff,” the Reds are among one of the potential landing spots for Bauer, alongside the Dodgers, Mets, Angels, Blue Jays, Red Sox, and Padres. To be certain, the Reds inclusion here seems more out of obligation than anything else. And if I had to rank the likelihood of those teams, I’d probably go Angels, Mets, Padres, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Red Sox …… Reds – just based off my gut and read of the market.
Snell *and* Kiermaier Trade
Blake Snell, 28, is under cheap team control for three more seasons ($11.1M, $13.1M, and $16.6M), but the Rays have built their organization on developing, playing, extending, and eventually cashing in on exactly these sort of top players, and so he’s available via trade, as we know.
With all of that in mind, David Schoenfield took a deep dive on his trade value, including his past few seasons, some other notable trade comps, and the current financial landscape. But the fun part came after all that useful stuff (emphasis mine):
Anyway, one thing I think the Rays might try to do is package center fielder Kevin Kiermaier with Snell. Kiermaier is actually set to be Tampa Bay’s highest-paid player in 2021 at $11.66 million, with another $12.16 on the books for 2022. This wouldn’t be a straight salary dump, as Kiermaier still has value as an elite, Gold Glove-caliber center fielder (he didn’t win in 2020 but did win in 2019), but you’re basically asking another team to take on his salary.
Kiermaier has hit just .222/.286/.383 over the past three seasons. Still, thanks to his defense, he’s a league-average player and can help a team as the strong side of a platoon in center and late-inning defensive replacement.
The Cubs need a right-handed, high-quality defensive center fielder *and* a member of the rotation exactly like Snell (age, contract, expected performance), but this is almost certainly not happening for them. For one, I don’t think the Cubs are keen on taking on any salary (sigh), for another, the return would still have to be really significant, and for a third, there are likely to be plenty of teams out there itching to get their hands on Snell.
Indeed, Schoenfield lists five teams who need Snell and a center fielder, but the Cubs aren’t one of them (Padres, Phillies, Astros, Mets, Angels).
Twins Trade 2B, Move SS Over, Get a SS?
Ken Rosenthal envisions an offseason in which the Twins (1) trade 23-year-old second baseman Luis Arraez (career 122 wRC+ in 124 games) in order to (2) move shortstop Jorge Polanco to second base, and (3) sign or trade for a shortstop … like Francisco Lindor or Trevor Story.
That’s a hot rumor!
But Rosenthal doesn’t stop there. Or rather, this concept of trading Arraez, moving Polanco over, and adding a shortstop doesn’t depend on the relatively unlikely scenario of pulling off a trade for Lindor or Story. Instead of either guy, the Twins could go out and hand a “two-year deal for Marcus Semien” or Didi Gregorius, both of whom, Rosenthal concedes to my extreme pleasure, could be looking to leapfrog next year’s crowded free agent shortstop class with a two-year deal.
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) December 18, 2020
Odds and Ends:
• J.T. Realmuto is reportedly seeking roughly $120M on his next deal (Ken Rosenthal).
• The Orioles are apparently unlikely to sign Ha-Seong Kim this offseason, surprising exactly nobody. Modestly good news for the Cubs, I guess? If they even consider a run at Kim at all? The Blue Jays must be seen as the frontrunner for now.