There was a time, not too long ago, when agents and teams would use the Cubs as the big, bad boogyman to scare opposing GMs into finalizing deals in free agency or upping their offers in trade. And although we often laughed at the Cubs’ obviously fabricated involvement in almost every transaction, we sometimes learned that it wound up being true more often than you’d expect.
The Blue Jays and Padres almost became the boogymen of the 2020-2021 offseason, but our first guess, the Mets, was probably the right one. Earlier this offseason, they signed James McCann to a surprisingly large deal. Then, earlier today, they pulled off a massive trade with the Indians for Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco. And they’re not done yet. The latest has them potentially pursuing a deal with the Cubs for Kris Bryant and, boogymen or not, they might still have something big up their sleeves beyond THAT.
Mets Could Still Add an Outfielder:
All indications are that the Mets are not done adding yet this offseason. And finding someone for the outfield, specifically, could be their next goal. According to President Sandy Alderson, the Mets are not necessarily out of the center field market, with George Springer’s name routinely popping up as a possibility:
— Alex Seixeiro (@alexfan590) January 7, 2021
The Athletic echoed this sentiment, identifying Springer as a continued target of New York.
Springer’s Ask, Mets Limit, Jays Offer
According to SNY, George Springer is seeking a deal worth roughly $175 million, though it’s not entirely clear over what period of time (my guess would be six or seven years). Meanwhile, the Mets “had been willing to offer a five-year deal for somewhat less than $150 million,” which would put him just round that $30 million AAV.
But did you notice the phrasing there? “Had been willing.” Andy Martino, the reporter on this story, comes out very strong that the Mets absolutely will not exceed the luxury tax threshold this season, going as far as to say, “We’re not sure where the notion came from that money is no object for Steve Cohen’s Mets.” Which is a laugh, because it’s not hard to figure where the notion came from. In any case, Martino believes the odds of the Mets signing Springer actually dropped dramatically today.
As of this afternoon, the Mets payroll sits around $190 million, which puts New York around $20 million under the luxury tax threshold they apparently do not wish to surpass. Meanwhile, they’d like to reserve $5-10 million for mid-season additions and accrued bonuses. So unless the Mets are willing to start “shedding payroll in a different trade, or backloading his contract,” which, I’ll remind the readers at home has exactly zero effect on the AAV for luxury tax calculations, Springer will have to look elsewhere.
This is all a little surprising and we’ll have to see if this is just a play for leverage or whatever as the days go on. On first blush, frankly, it’s a little hard to buy.
Meanwhile, where else could Springer look? Well, according to Martino, the Blue Jays made an offer in the $115 million range, which is obviously a lot less than the Mets were offering.
Mets Out on Other Starters?
And before we continue on with the Mets, let’s not too quickly gloss over the fact that the Mets, having acquired Carlos Carrasco and expecting Noah Syndergaard back midseason, are now possibly out on top free agent starter Trevor Bauer this offseason, who’s reportedly seeking to beat Gerrit Cole’s $36 million in AAV (which, to me is truly, seriously insane).
According to Martino, for many of the reasons listed in the section above, that rules the Mets out for Bauer, as well as Jake Odorizzi, the next best starter on the free agent market.
Mets Will Try to Extend Lindor
Around these parts, we often reiterate the point that you can acquire top, young talent only when top, young talent is available – and NOT when it lines up with your own internal, competitive timeline. So while I’m not saying I *ever* expected the Cubs to land Lindor today,* they probably won’t again have the chance.
Multiple reports have indicated that the Mets intend to approach Lindor about a potential extension as soon as the next couple of weeks, and given their deep pockets, the big market, and an exciting, immediate outlook for competitiveness, I suspect they’ll be able to get a deal done, Mookie Betts-style.
It’s going to be a big one – Lindor is still just 27-years-old and easily one of the most marketable players in the game (to say nothing of one of the most talented) – but they’ll get it done. And he’ll be their franchise player for the next 7-8 years or whatever.
*With Javy Báez already available for shortstop and a roster that doesn’t seem likely to compete league-wide when all is said and done, the Cubs were almost certainly (perhaps even justifiably) not ever going to be willing to pay more than the Mets did for this sort of deal. With that said, the return was pretty darn light, and not one that would’ve meaningfully derailed the Cubs plans to keep one eye on the future (and remember, that deal INCLUDED Carlos Carrasco going to New York). It was Mookie Betts last year and it’s likely to be Francisco Lindor this year. All I’m saying is we should *expect* the Cubs to routinely be in on these sort of young, marketable, immense talents … especially on the positional side, where they haven’t signed someone to a multi-year deal in YEARS. The least they could do is extend Báez, eh?
Absolutely BLEW MY MIND:
"Cubs … have not signed a free agent position player to a multi-year deal in over two years … that guy? … Daniel Descalso on a whopping two-year, $5 million deal. Before that? It was … Jason Heyward OVER FIVE YEARS AGO."https://t.co/d8uvCJOxh1
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) December 23, 2020
Sugano Is Returning to Japan
Well, the Blue Jays reportedly made a strong(ish) offer, but Tomoyuki Sugano’s posting timeline expired earlier today, and the ace will reportedly return to Japan for at least one more season:
Japanese star Tomoyuki Sugano did not come to an agreement on a contract with a major league team before his posting window expired and will return to Nippon Professional Baseball for 2021, sources tell ESPN. He will be eligible to come to MLB as a free agent before 2022 season.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 7, 2021
His team, the Yomiuri Giants, made him a four-year offer with opt-outs after every single season, so we could see him come back as a free agent – without a posting fee – as soon as next year.
As for the impact, well, the Cubs are going to be looking for at least one legitimate starting pitcher this offseason, and while they were certainly not shopping in this range of the market, this does push every good pitcher up one peg to a new team. The Cubs are probably going to get just the 25th best pitcher on the market, now, instead of the 24th. Darn.
Astros Land Stanek
Ryne Stanek was a popular relief arm on the rumor mill thanks to his uniquely successful run as an opener for the Rays. Teams were looking past his struggles with the Marlins, which included time missed for COVID-19, wild control problems, and a fastball velocity drop. He was non-tendered by the Marlins, but actually appears to have fared better in free agency than he would have in arbitration:
Stanek deal with the #Astros is for 1-yr, $1.1M
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) January 7, 2021
Good bet for the Astros, who continue to have success adding spin and velocity for their pitchers. Stanek is just 29.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.