Lukewarm Stove: The "Cuban Ohtani" Is Coming, Realmuto's Return, Braves Next Move, Reliever Moves, More | Bleacher Nation

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Lukewarm Stove: The “Cuban Ohtani” Is Coming, Realmuto’s Return, Braves Next Move, Reliever Moves, More

Chicago Cubs

Most hardcore baseball fans — say … the type that reads a Cubs blog at 4:00 in the afternoon on Christmas Eve-Eve — are aware of just how good and unique Shohei Ohtani has been when he’s been on the field over the past three years. But I get the sense that some more casual fans believe he never quite lived up to the hype – even if that’s mostly because of the unforeseen injures.

In case that’s you, let me remind you that Ohtani’s bat (126 wRC+ in just under 1,000 PAs) has actually probably been a bit BETTER than expected, especially if you give him some slack for (1) often playing injured and (2) posting his worst numbers in the weird 2020 season. And when he’s been on the mound, he’s been borderline electric. I know you have to stay healthy to actually realize any of those absurd benefits a two-player can offer (and that being a two-way player, itself, can actually make it tougher to stay healthy in the first place), but he really is extraordinary. I don’t know when or if we’ll ever get a full season where he makes 30+ starts and sees 400-500 PAs, but if he did stay healthy enough to do it, I have ZERO doubt it would be historic.

By the way, Ohtani, 26, has just three more years of team control before he hits free agency, which does get me thinking about him and the Cubs. Obviously a lot has changed since 2018 — including (1) how affordable he was when he first hit the market (those pesky IFA rules), (2) the potential of a universal DH, and (3) the Cubs own competitive and financial station within the league — but maybe they’ll find interest in one another yet again? After all, the Cubs were one of just six finalists and the only NL team on Ohtani’s list, remember?

Two-Way Cuban Star Hits the Market

Oh, hey, look at that: A different two-way international player is officially on the market in just a few weeks.  

This is worth noting, of course, but you should definitely exercise caution when thinking about Colas as QUITE as good as Ohtani, in terms of being a two-way guy:

We discussed Colas, 22, at the beginning of the month, when his imminent availability became apparent. Not much has changed on that front, unfortunately, including the fact that the Cubs have already committed a great deal of their 2020-21 IFA pool to shortstop Cristian Hernandez. Which means if they want to sign Colas, they may well have to acquire more bonus pool space to get a deal done.

Obviously, that’s not entirely bad news, since most teams will be in the same boat, having already committed their funds for the period that opens on January 15. The Cubs could very well request bonus pool space in a trade this offseason. In fact, if foregoing a better prospect return allows the Cubs to get enough pool space to sign Colas *and* Hernandez, then the net gain might actually be better than a player-for-prospect trade straight up.

Then again, Colas’ camp is well aware of the fact that his and the pandemic’s timing may have mucked up his market, and may push back his free agency to NEXT period to get a better deal:

If Colas is any bit as good as marketed, he may be better off waiting until everyone can commit full bonus pool space to signing him – especially considering how young he is. Obviously, you risk injury or under-performance (wherever he would find games to play internationally in the interim), but I think in either case, he’d still get a big deal.

Even if the Cubs could conceivably trade for additional pool space, I’d say your rooting interest is that he decides to wait a full year to hit the market if you specifically want the Cubs in on him.

J.T. Realmuto and the Phillies

J.T. Realmuto is the best catcher in baseball and may be the best free agent of the offseason, but he’s been largely out of the rumors so far. That’s partly due to the Mets decision to pursue James McCann instead of Realmuto, but still … it’s striking.

Speaking of which, the Mets decision to after McCann took a massive spender and suitor out of the Realmuto derby. McCann’s healthy deal will help Realmuto earn more elsewhere, but I can’t imagine he was happy to see the Mets out of the running (so-to-speak) so soon. With that in mind, Mark Feinsand (MLB.c0m) notes that there are still “several teams” interested in Realmuto, but a return to the Phillies might be more likely than ever.

For what it’s worth, we know the Angels, Phillies, and possibly Nationals are all also looking at catchers, and that the Rays were, before they re-signed Mike Zunino, while the Yankees do want to move on from Gary Sanchez, but are not likely to spend what it takes to get Realmuto, with DJ LeMahieu the priority.

All of that remains relevant to the broader, on-going Willson Contreras trade discussion. Although, the rumors seem to be hitting harder on Yu Darvish lately:

Braves Next Move?

Also in that Feinsand roundup, some useful notes on the suddenly quiet Atlanta Braves. Atlanta made some notable moves earlier this offseason, including deals for Charlie Morton ($15M), Drew Smyly ($11M), Josh Tomlin ($1M), and Abraham Almonte ($990K). But what’s next? They’re likely the front-runner in the NL East (depending on how crazy the Mets go this offseason (more on that in a second)), but are they done adding, or what?

Well, Feinsand believes the Braves have one more big move up their sleeve and an idea of what it’ll be:

As for Melancon, it’s unlikely that he’ll be back with the Braves. Having already spent $26 million to sign Drew Smyly and Charlie Morton, Atlanta probably has one more big move left. That’s going to be either a hitter to replace Ozuna, or possibly Ozuna himself.

Marcell Ozuna was the latest one-year deal to go perfectly right for the Braves and they could certainly use him back in 2021. The question, however, is if he’s priced himself out of their range and/or if they prefer to keep finding one-year deals off which to profit. Hey, it seems to be working well enough so far, right?

If Ozuna goes elsewhere, then, the Braves have to be considered in the market for a big bat, and probably one in the outfield. Maybe a trade for Kris Bryant (as a left fielder, or at third if the Braves give up on Austin Riley) could work – they were heavily rumored on him last winter – or maybe they’ll pursue Kyle Schwarber in free agency? If anyone could use a one-year deal to establish his value, it’d be Schwarber. And while the Braves clearly didn’t want him enough to trade *anything* of consequence before he was non-tendered, that could’ve been strategic (planning to get him later or waiting to see what happens with the DH or waiting to see what happens with Ozuna).

That’s all just speculative, but there are only so many big bats available and I could see Schwarber benefiting from one of those one-year deals they love to give out.

Odds and Ends:

•   Back to the Mets for a second: I know the prevailing wisdom is that they’re going to spend and spend big this offseason, even after adding McCann. And while that’s certainly more likely than not in my opinion (specifically with respect to George Springer and Trevor Bauer), there is this undercurrent I keep reading that has them holding back a bit this offseason to go hog wild next winter in what figures to be a really transformative class for win-now teams: Francisco Lindor, Corey Seager, Freddie Freeman, Trevor Story, Kris Bryant, Javy Báez, Anthony Rizzo, maybe Nolan Arenado, Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, Noah Syndergaard, Lance Lynn, etc. Wouldn’t be crazy, right?

•   The Dodgers have signed Tommy John rehabbing reliever Tommy Kahnle on backloaded $4.75M deal:

•   And the Red Sox were reportedly finalists …

•   … But they instead signed Matt Andriese:

•   His deal could reach up to $7.35M if his option is exercised and all escalators/incentives are reached.

•   And finally, the Mets have an assistant GM:

Author: Michael Cerami

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