At ESPN, Jesse Rogers polled 20 MLB team executives and baseball insiders on all sorts of interesting questions, including which team is expected to make the biggest splash of the offseason (Mets, Angels, Giants, and White Sox), whether or not Trevor Bauer will actually take a one-year deal, where George Springer will ultimately end up, and more.
But, to me, the most striking collection of answers came in response to the following question: Who will get traded this offseason: Francisco Lindor, Kris Bryant, both, or neither?
Eleven replies marked Lindor and nine marked both. Putting that another way, all TWENTY insiders/executives believe *at least* Lindor is on the move this offseason, and nearly half also believe Kris Bryant is out the door. Note an earlier Rogers (informed) guess that Yu Darvish is more likely to be traded this offseason than Bryant – a rumbling that was immediately followed by Jon Heyman’s reporting that while Darvish is “out there” in trade talks, the Cubs are asking for “Babe Ruth” in return.
So what’s the takeaway? Is someone wrong and someone right? Nah. I think you just need to read the room and accept the obvious: The Cubs are legitimately, actually, seriously open to trading anyone on the roster – and while that’s generally been true of every Cubs team since the front office change in 2012, this year is more of a “no, really … we’ll work with you to get something done” vibe than ever before.
But even in that case, that doesn’t mean they’ll be able to pull off the right deal involving Bryant.
Oh, hey did you know the Cubs just signed the third baseman who was the runner-up to Kris Bryant in the 2015 NL Rookie of the Year battle?
Okay, so here are some things we know:
(1) The Nationals have every reason to push the chips all-the-way in for 2021 (we’ve discussed why before, suffice it to say: their aging/expensive/free-agent-bount rotation). (2) They could really use a quality bat at third base, in particular, after losing Anthony Rendon. (3) Their reported interest in J.T. Realmuto suggests that whatever budget mandates they may have from ownership are AT LEAST context-dependent. (4) Kris Bryant is a quality bat who plays third base, in whom the Nationals have had interest in the past. (5) A reasonable Cubs return for Kris Bryant COULD be a post-hype prospect who may not be the right option for a team looking to push all-in in 2021, but could have some long term value. Think Victor Robles or … Carter Kieboom.
So given points 1-5, this caught my attention for obvious reasons:
Hearing the Nationals are definitely open to trading Carter Kieboom. As previously reported, young pitchers Cade Cavalli & Jackson Rutledge (their last two top draft picks) are not.
— Britt Ghiroli (@Britt_Ghiroli) December 22, 2020
The Nationals have tried very hard to indicate that they are (1) not interested in trading for Bryant, (2) do not have that much money to spend, and (3) are willing to hand the third base keys to Kieboom next season, but almost everything else out there goes against those points.
So … I’m not saying you have to believe every rumor you hear, or disbelieve every rumor you don’t want to believe, but you do have to view all these things through a lens and ask yourself what an organization might want to put out there, versus what makes sense for them to actually do.
Now Moustakas is Available?!
There are a whole bunch of interesting bits in Jeff Passan’s latest at ESPN (and we’ll get into some other stuff below), but the most striking? The Reds are ALSO exploring the interest in Mike Moustakas this offseason. YEEESH.
To recap, they’ve lost Trevor Bauer to free agency (and will almost certainly not re-sign him), have traded their closer Raisel Iglesias to the Angels, have non-tendered their eighth inning guy, Archie Bradley, making him a free agent, and have placed Sonny Gray *and* Luis Castillo firmly on the trade block.
And that’s all before they’ve “gauged interest” in Mike Moustakas, who’s entering just the second year of a four-year deal, after finishing as a positive offensive contributor in 2020.
I know we, as Cubs fans, shouldn’t be making fun of any team for trading good players, non-tendering useful ones, and gauging interest on others, but … my God. The Reds geared all the way up for 2019-? and that’s apparently already over already. That is ROUGH.
Blue Jays Pushing Both NY Teams
The other big thing from Passan’s piece I want to lay out a bit is the interplay between the Blue Jays, Mets, and Yankees. While the first two teams are just generally expected to spend this offseason, the Yankees are really more focused on signing only DJ LeMahieu.
But here’s the thing, LeMahieu is drawing interest from both of the other teams. Meanwhile, while the Mets seem focused on George Springer, the Blue Jays are also right there on him too. Meanwhile (meanwhile), the Mets and Blue Jays are not limiting their infield search to free agency/LeMahieu. They’re also both at least open to a trade for Lindor, which adds yet another layer to the interplay between these three teams and those three players (Lindor, Springer, LeMahieu).
The path of least resistance is LeMahieu to the Yankees, Springer to the Mets, and Lindor to the Blue Jays, and frankly, that’s how I see it playing out. HOWEVER, if one of those teams throws a wrench into that outcome, there could be significant downstream impact for other teams and one of those players, because the Yankees are really in on just one of them (LeMahieu).
For whatever it’s worth, Passan believes LeMahieu, Springer, Realmuto, and Trevor Bauer (the big four free agents this winter) will all sign AFTER the New Year no matter what at this point.
So to recap for you, according to Passan:
Lindor: Mets, Blue Jays
Springer: Mets, Blue Jays
LeMahieu: Mets, Blue Jays, Yankees
Bauer: Mets (I’m adding Angels)
Oh, and while we’re here, Passan has the Nationals (we knew) and Twins (that’s new) in on Realmuto. Head spinning yet?
Yadi Molina Delay
The Cardinals have a bit of double franchise icon dilemma on their hands at the moment, with Yadi Molina wanting to be more appreciated in free agency and Adam Wainwright out there talking to other teams.
And to that end, I can understand the fan sentiment here:
“Q: I don’t understand the wait on Yadier Molina. Why wait until the market plays out, to save a couple of million dollars? And then you have an angry Molina who feels disrespected. Is the budget that tight?” — chatter@stltoday #stlcards #cardinals #MLB https://t.co/hKjfwgkia8
— Derrick S. Goold (@dgoold) December 22, 2020
What’s a little more unexpected, however, is Goold’s perspective that it seems to be Molina, not the Cardinals, who is being unreasonable in their demands. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it – and Goold is not the Cardinals – but the phrasing of his reply reads to me as the Cardinals thinking Molina is asking too much:
A: Why would Molina jump at an offer now when he can see what J.T. Realmuto gets and also have one fewer team on the board looking for a catcher? This isn’t a one-way street when it comes to negotiations. It’s two sides setting the pace. And don’t assume that it’s a “couple of million dollars.” It’s about a second guaranteed year, too. That’s significant.
He’s not wrong about any of that. Just my read.
Another SP Coming?
If I were Kohei Arihara, I’d be staring at this pitching hungry market and desperate to jump in, even with the COVID-crunched budgets. Especially at his age and with those comps:
The posting deadline for Kohei Arihara is this Saturday, and according to sources, a number of teams are interested in the 28-year-old RHP. The Rangers are among those believed to be in the mix. Arihara comps to Kenta Maeda and Kyle Hendricks and figures to be a mid-rotation SP.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) December 22, 2020
Comps which are probably too aggressive, by the way.
Oh, Mets … is there anyone you’re NOT connected to this offseason?
According to Joel Sherman, while Springer remains “the centerpiece to the Mets renovation plans this offseason,” the team is also looking into Japanese ace Tomoyuki Sugano, with one executive claiming they’re as in as any other team out there. Remember, while the Mets are expecting Noah Syndergaard back around midseason, he, Steven Matz, and Marcus Stroman are all entering their walk years.
Teams have until January 7th to land a deal with Sugano.
Odds and Ends
• The White Sox are expected to sign themselves “a Cespedes.” No, that’s not me making a comparison for the sake of quickly identifying their newest IFA signing. They’re literally signing Yoenis Cespedes’ kid brother, Yoelki (also spelled Yoelqui). Cespedes, 23, is considered the top IFA prospect by MLB Pipeline and is getting roughly $2 million from the White Sox. That’s neat. This Cespedes seems to be more about getting on base than hitting for power, but it sure sounds like the Sox got themselves a good one:
Cespedes isn’t that tall, but he has a strong, athletic build (5-foot-9, 205-pounds) and a quick bat. He played in the 2017 World Baseball Classic and hit .319/.355/.389 with two walks and 18 strikeouts in 77 plate appearances as a 21-year-old during his final season in Cuba’s Serie Nacional in the 2018-19 season. The year before he batted .273/.353/.400 in 289 plate appearances with 17 strikeouts and 42 walks.
• Oh, yeah … The Dodgers still need a third baseman.
• Jeff Passan has a really weird trade idea with Nolan Arenado, that would include …