Lukewarm Stove: Free Agency Slowing Again? Bauer Highest Paid Player? Benintendi Trade Talks? More

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Lukewarm Stove: Free Agency Slowing Again? Bauer Highest Paid Player? Benintendi Trade Talks? More

Chicago Cubs

Feels like we’ve seen this headline from Buster Olney every offseason for the better part of four years, eh?

But I’m reminded that the “dead” offseasons for baseball don’t perfectly line up with the dead offseasons for the Cubs. Because while things were generally awful for most free agents back in the winter before 2018, the Cubs actually signed Yu Darvish (6 years, $126M), Tyler Chatwood (3 years, $38M), Brandon Morrow (2 years, $21M), Steve Cishek (2 years, $13M), Drew Smyly (2 years, $10M), and Brian Duensing (2 years, $7M).

That’s a total of $215 million when the rest of the league was doing next to nothing.

Following that winter, however, neither the Cubs nor anybody else spent much of anything. But in 2020, the Cubs were silent once again (their second year in a row), while things opened back up across MLB (Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg, etc.). And this winter, everyone’s gone quite again.

So it’s really like …

Dead for MLB: 2018, 2019, 2021
Dead for Cubs: 2019, 2020, 2021

As for that article, in particular, I’d say it’s worth checking out despite its macabre familiarity. There’s actually an interesting angle on Trevor Bauer’s free agency and who’s really left to pay him what he hopes to get (Angels? Blue Jays?).

Trevor Bauer’s Unrealistic Ask

Speaking of which, rumors continue to circulate that Trevor Bauer is seeking a deal that secures him the highest average annual value in history (i.e. something greater than Gerrit Cole’s $36M per year). And although Mark Feinsand seems to believe it “might not be so outlandish” after all, I think that’s truly, seriously absurd *for Bauer, if its not on a one or two-year deal (and Feinsand is targeting 5 or 6 years, so …).

Yeah, he won the NL Cy Young award last year, but it was (1) a shortened season with (2) very serious questions about the way he improved his spin rate. The season before last? He had a 4.48 ERA (4.34 FIP) over 213.0 IP and he’s got a 3.90 ERA for his career.

He hit free agency at *exactly* the right time, no doubt about that, and he may well be on the upswing (again, no arguments here) – but are we seriously talking about the highest ever AAV for Trevor Bauer approaching age-30 in the middle of a pandemic? Come on.

If he gets >$36M it’ll either be with a TON of deferrals, such that it’s not actually as large of a deal as it looks, or it’ll be on an extremely short deal, like one-to-two years. Which, hey, get yours, whatever … but that’s not quite the same thing as getting what Cole got.

You can read all about the stats and math of such a deal here, but I am such a huge, gigantic pass on Bauer at $36 million for multiple years if I’m *any* team in MLB, even if there weren’t “biblical losses” throughout the industry.

Andrew Benintendi

Andrew Benintendi has quietly become one of those post-hype players that could make sense as a trade target this year (indeed, we discussed his name when news broke that the Red Sox and Cubs had discussed a Bryant trade over the summer).

And there is now at least one recent report out there that the Red Sox have been in “serious trade talks with multiple teams” on him this offseason.

Whether that includes the Cubs is impossible to say, but the Sox are apparently looking for “prospect(s)” in return with an emphasis on pitchers and outfielders, which could make things tricky for Chicago (not that they don’t have what it takes to get a deal done, but whether that sort of trade makes sense for them right now).

The Athletic followed up that report, by the way, adding that while no deal is imminent, the Red Sox have been more than willing to “explore every avenue” to figure something out.

Benintendi, 26, has youth and a career strikeout rate below 20% (that’s good!), but he’s also got just two years of remaining team control (eh …), is left-handed with plenty of issues against LHP, and has played mostly corner outfield throughout his career. The fit isn’t *perfect* unless you really think he’s going to revert back to the guy he was in 2018.

Braves Add Left Fielder

Once upon a time, the Atlanta Braves were the most obvious suitor for the Cubs and Kris Bryant in trade, but those rumors have long since been forgotten.

But maybe they’ll open back up?

Bryant is obviously a third baseman,but he’s more than capable of playing left field and has many times throughout his career. I still suspect Atlanta gets something done with free agent Marcell Ozuna for left field, but maybe if those talks break down, Bryant can be seen as a good one-year alternative for the outfield (they love those one-year deals anyway, right?).

And, hey, if Riley doesn’t work out at third, you can always move Bryant back into the infield, and have more flexibility to add someone else in the outfield. Just spitballing.

Reminder: Things have been heating up with respect to Bryant …

Author: Michael Cerami

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