A bunch of ESPN insiders got together for a collective”what lies ahead” style post, covering everything from the looming labor battle the next great rivalry in MLB. You’ll want to check it out.
One of the most specific rumor-y bits was the possible landing spots for Francisco Lindor, who’s still widely expected to be traded this offseason. Among the possible destinations? The Yankees, Mets, Blue Jays, Giants, Dodgers, and even Phillies. Most of those names are ones we’ve heard before, but there are still so many issues throughout. For example, the Mets have shown surprising restraint this offseason, particularly on the trade front, the Yankees are still focused on DJ LeMahieu, who’d make Lindor a LOT less likely with Gleyber Torres hanging around, and the Dodgers are not expected to pull off another version of the Mookie Betts trade two years in a row.
Meanwhile, I know the Giants are hoping to get back into contention, but now seems like a rough time with the roaring Padres and Dodgers. Which brings us to the Phillies and Blue Jays, who admittedly both make some sense. All winter long, the Blue Jays have been connected to Lindor (all big name players, really) and the Phillies just lost their shortstop (Didi Gregorius) and star catcher (J.T. Realmuto) to free agency, plus they added a new team president known for aggressive acquisition trades (Dave Dombrowski). Just following a string of logic here, but both of those teams could make some sense.
And, hey, maybe that’s the next big transaction holding up the rest of the market?
Since that flurry of pre-New Years moves (Snell, Darvish, Kim, etc.), the only move of note in all of baseball … Marlins sign Ross Detwiler to a one-year, $850K deal.
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) January 4, 2021
DJ LeMahieu Update
As for LeMahieu, my bet is that he does eventually return to the Yankees, who’ve pretty clearly made him their priority this offseason, and where he had such tremendous success. Last time we checked, we learned that the two sides are one year apart on contract length (Yankees offering four years, LeMahieu seeking five), with something greater than $25 million separating the proposals:
Gap between Yankees and LeMahieu larger than $25M, sources tell The Athletic. LeMahieu is Yankees’ No. 1 priority and the two sides continue to talk, but the free-agent infielder also plans to start engaging with other teams. On it: @BrendanKutyNJ
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 14, 2020
Although, you have to wonder if a decision on the total length of the contract will help close the overall financial gap, considering how much LeMahieu is likely to earn on an annual basis.
The newest update, however, comes via David Vassegh (an L.A. radio guy) on MLB Network, who believes the Dodgers “are definitely in talks with LeMahieu.” I can certainly see the space on the infield with Justin Turner in free agency, but I have to believe the Dodgers are behind at least the Yankees and Blue Jays for this one (the Mets and Astros have both been mentioned at times, as well).
Also, if the Dodgers sign LeMahieu to play second base, do they move top prospect, Gavin Lux? In terms of moving positions or moving … in trade?
Tomoyuki Sugano News
There was a flurry of updates on the big-time free agent Japanese starting pitcher over the past few days, likely because his deadline to sign comes this Thursday. The biggest piece of news is that despite that deadline, Sugano is actually expected to make his decision by *tomorrow.*
And that decision seems to be narrowing to the Giants, Blue Jays, and some dark horses (but not the Mets, whose interest has waned according to Joel Sherman). HOWEVA, it is not a lock that Sugano will even pick a team in MLB – at least, not this winter. He reportedly has a four-year offer with three (!) opt-outs to return to the Yomiuri Giants:
RHP Tomoyuki Sugano has many good MLB options, including the #SFGiants, Jays and others. But while the Mets have been in touch, it appears their main focus is elsewhere. Sugano (101-50, 2.34 ERA) also has 4-yr offer w/opt-outs every year to return to Yomiuri. Decision soon.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 4, 2021
Nishikawa Staying in Japan
Haruki Nisikawa, 28, seemed to make some sense as an affordable, young, talented utility man for the Chicago Cubs this offseason, but his posting deadline came and went without a team making an offer worth taking. And part of the writeup in the Japan Times just struck me with a tough realization (for IFAs):
Nishikawa, the team’s captain and leadoff hitter, had to contend with an as-yet slow offseason player market in the majors. Free-agent outfielders such as George Springer of the Houston Astros and Marcell Ozuna of the Atlanta Braves have yet to find deals.
Even if Nishikawa is not in the same tier as those guys, there are interrelationships when it comes to budgeting and roster construction, so it’s not hard to see there being an impact.
How frustrating must it be to recognize that had your posting window actually come LATER in the offseason, there could have more easily been takable offers on the table. For now, certain professionals coming from Asian leagues have just one month to get a deal done, but big league teams have budgets, and timelines, and horizons that don’t always line up with those windows (ESPECIALLY so this year). So while one month from December 1st may have made sense in the past, it might have been even better to start on January 1st this year (or whenever).
Yeah, the best players will get their deals, but it’s not difficult at all to imagine borderline types like Nishikawa finding something more worth taking in February.
This might be something MLB needs to reconsider if offseasons are going to continue stretching on way late into the winter (of course, they’ll also have to coordinate with the preseason schedules of U.S. based and international leagues, which could make things a mess (also, maybe this is just a one-off vestige of the pandemic)).
Everyone Wants a Hendriks
MLB Network made a funny:
A lot of teams are interested in Liam Hendriks.
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) January 4, 2021
A true funny, though, because Hendriks, the top free agent reliever, is indeed being targeted by most clear-cut contenders, including the Chicago White Sox (he’s been their top target for a while now):
The White Sox are reportedly still interested in top free-agent closer Liam Hendriks. But so, too, are the Dodgers, the Blue Jays and more. https://t.co/Y5wcrOcSiA
— White Sox Talk (@NBCSWhiteSox) January 4, 2021
From that write-up: (1) Hendriks has visited the Blue Jays Spring Training facility, (2) the Blue Jays have also been the most aggressive team on free agent outfielder George Springer, and (3) the White Sox are also still in talks with otherwise exiting free agent closer Alex Colome. And, yes, grabbing both is on the table.