Although we’re not going to discuss the Yu Darvish/Victor Caratini trade explicitly in this post (i.e. the return, the merit, the new direction of the franchise etc.), there are some necessarily related and tangential bits to dissect, so we will stay in the periphery. Brett got into a lot this morning. But there’s much more as it relates to the rumor mill.
Yu Darvish Fallout, Still
For example, before the deal went down Jesse Rogers (who was pretty spot on, eh?) was on ESPN 1000 discussing the Cubs offseason and had some OTHER Cubs rumors to share/guess at in the shadow of trading Yu Darvish:
Jesse Rogers believes the return (for Darvish + Caratini) will include five (5) players: "It's going to be quantity over quality, I think."
Also guesses that Bryant and Kimbrel are traded (offseason or at the deadline).
Also guesses extending Baez in Spring, Rizzo midseason
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) December 28, 2020
Had the Cubs secured a return of players closer to big league readiness, you wouldn’t have necessarily needed to expedite the process of trading other players on the team. But now? With Darvish *and* Caratini gone and those four extremely young prospects in return, you should probably find ways to trade Kris Bryant and/or Craig Kimbrel – that is, assuming there’s no surprise spending in store for the Cubs this winter (a safe assumption). And to that end, Rogers sees the Cubs definitely moving Kris Bryant (whose contract they’ve so far been unwilling to pay down to secure a better return) and Craig Kimbrel (who’s owed $16M in 2021 with a $16M option ($1M buyout) in 2022) before the July deadline, at least.
Of course, if the Cubs are really as set on saving money as everything clearly indicates, even waiting until the deadline can cost them far more than they’re willing to dish. So I would bet at least one of them is moved this winter and the other possibly at the deadline.
And in exchange for the horror, Rogers believes Cubs fans may be in store for a short-term extension for Anthony Rizzo (albeit one not completed until after the season is underway for some reason) and a longer-term extension for Javy Baez sometime this spring. If you remember your history, you’ll recall that the Cubs had been working on a Baez extension early this year, before talks stalled late in the spring (and then shutdown entirely with the pandemic (and possibly got even more complicated due to Baez’s poor 2020 season)). Meanwhile, Rizzo had asked the Cubs for an extension, and they told him not right now.
Given the popularity of those two players, in particularly, I think the Cubs will ultimately get something done with at least one of them (my guess is actually Rizzo for sure, Baez probably), but I also wouldn’t hold your breath.
One other related bit of Darvish fallout, my speculation:
Now that Snell and Darvish are off to San Diego, the Angels will have to pony up for Trevor Bauer (or maybe talk to the Reds about Sonny Gray or Luis Castillo).
Besides the Padres, Bauer might’ve actually been the biggest winner after the two San Diego trades.
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) December 29, 2020
The Angels had been involved in the Snell rumors (and probably were included in Darvish talks), but now their options for a top-end starter have been reduced by two. Bauer is still out there in free agency, but has plenty of interest elsewhere, including the Mets. So the Angels may have to stick with a trade and both Reds starters are available and good. Let’s hope Cincinnati doesn’t make the Cubs look even worse with a better trade for a probably worse pitcher.
What About the Rest of the Rotation?
The Cubs did add Zach Davies in the Darvish deal, so it was a net 0 move, in terms of rotation arms. So, that means the Cubs rotation now has Kyle Hendricks and … Zach Davies written in ink. That’s it. They also have Alec Mills and Adbert Alzolay likely locked into place, but neither guy is a sure-thing for 32 starts. So at the very least, the Cubs probably need another sure-fire starter and unsurprisingly Cubs fans are hoping for a reunion with free agent Jon Lester.
Unfortunately, that feel-good story isn’t quite there yet either:
Jon Lester made it clear to Tom Ricketts, Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein at the beginning of the offseason that he wants to return to Chicago to win his 200th game for the Cubs. So far, there has been little indication of progress toward a reunion.
— Robert Murray (@ByRobertMurray) December 29, 2020
Lester, himself, has acknowledged that his market might not move quickly, but the Cubs are staying in contact. At this stage of his career, Lester probably doesn’t make the difference between a competitive Cubs team and a stinker, but the Cubs will have so many inning to fill. Moreover, Lester probably provides the Cubs – and their young pitchers – a lot more than just any random cheap depth signing would.
Of course, even if the Cubs did re-sign Lester, that would give them four extremely soft-tossing starting pitchers relative to the rest of the league (which is something they’ve tried to get away from in recent years, but I digress):
If #Cubs do end up w/ Zach Davies, they'd have 3 of the bottom-10 pitchers in fastball velocity for 2020. And if they re-sign Jon Lester, it'd be four of the top-10.
Hendricks: 87.4 MPH (3rd lowest)
Davies: 88.6 MPH (5th)
Lester: 89.2 MPH (6th)
Mills: 90.0 MPH (9th)
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) December 28, 2020
Nats Still Looking for a Bat
Earlier this month, the Nationals traded for Josh Bell to add a little pop to their lineup (he hit 37 homers with a 135 wRC+ in 2019), but even after that, they’re still open to adding another middle of the order bat … perhaps someone who’s a bit more of a sure-thing?
Even after the addition of Josh Bell, the Nats seek another middle of the order bat
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 29, 2020
And circling back to our expectations for Kris Bryant: Yes. He still makes sense. Bryant has one year of team control remaining, plays a position of need for the Nationals, is among the most sure-fire middle of the order bats actually available this offseason, and the Cubs have now made it clear that they’re willing to take extremely young, extremely far away, extremely risky prospects in exchange for as much salary relief as possible.
read in sarcastic voice: on the bright side, teams will be lighting up the Cubs phone lines tonight offering recent IFA signings and second rounders for Kris Bryant and his salary
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) December 29, 2020
We had previously envisioned a post-hype prospect in exchange for Bryant, but with the Cubs unwilling to pay down Bryant’s salary significantly, I’m not sure that’s the sort of offer they’ll find.
Kiermaier Still Available
I don’t really want to get into the superior package the Rays got for Blake Snell, whose salary is lower than Darvish, but comes with the same three years of control and without a young, switch-hitting catcher/1B/DH option, but they do still have some moves left in them, according to Marc Topkin. Specifically, trading Kevin Kiermaier is still on the table. And in a lot of ways, he actually makes a lot of sense for the Cubs as
a lefty, excellent center field glove that could break up the lefties in the outfield and move Happ out to left field. D’oh. Kiermaier is a lefty. I am dope.
Of course, Kiermaier is set to make $11.5 million in 2021 and $12 million in 2022 with a $13 million option for 2023 ($2.5 million buyout), so, even if the Cubs are repurposes some of their now “saved” funds, I suspect he’s probably too pricey.
No Phillies Offer for Realmuto (Yet)
After the Mets signed James McCann, the Phillies chances of re-signing J.T. Realmuto seemed to skyrocket. Not only were the Mets one of the biggest competitors for a star catcher, they also had the ability to drive the price up and out of the Phillies range if they wanted to. In any case, yes, the Phillies are an obvious landing spot, but there’s been some interesting twists and turns over the last 24 hours that we missed for obvious reasons.
First, Jon Heyman said that they have an offer out there for him …
JT Realmuto remains a/the priority for the Phillies with the new regime. They have an offer out to him but like with the other big free agents it might be a waiting game.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 28, 2020
… But that report was directly refuted by NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark:
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) December 29, 2020
He does still say there is interest there, but I guess no actual offer is on the table. I still think that’s where Realmuto ends up, but a player of his caliber *should* have options (the Angels are looking for a catcher too, but so far the rumors have been on lesser cost guys, as their attention remains on the top of the rotation).