I know, I know. Keeping up with the latest Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras rumors has your head spinning. The Phillies, Nationals, Mets, Dodgers, Marlins, Angels, Red Sox, and Blue Jays have each been connected to one or the other (or both simultaneously) in recent days and weeks, and that’s not even everything.
I hate to throw some more homework into the mix, but David Schoenfield (ESPN) writes about the Cubs trading Contreras and/or Bryant, and who should trade for them. It’s interesting. Among the highlights, you’ll learn that “many predict” Contreras will be the next to go, not Bryant, who’s “all but untradeable because of his bad 2020 and projected $19 million salary.”
The first part? I buy that it’s possible. But that second part? Come on. Bryant isn’t UNtradeable. That’s too far. But it does serve to remind us that the Cubs *absolutely* must be willing to throw in some cash (or accept some cash in the trade) to move Bryant for the *right* return. If not, the Cubs will be better off holding him until the deadline to see what’s what in July (like if the market has changed or … if they’re once again in first place).
In any case, the possible destinations for Contreras include the aforementioned Angels, Phillies, Blue Jays, and Nationals, plus the Astros and Yankees. As for Bryant, Schoenfield includes the Mets, Dodgers, Nationals, Blue Jays, Braves, and Red Sox.
What’s Next? Springer Impact, More
Now that teams seem to be heating the free agent stove back up, and the arbitration number exchange deadline is this Friday, people are rightfully wondering what’s next for the market? All of the top four free agents (Trevor Bauer, J.T. Realmuto, DJ LeMahieu, and George Springer) remain unsigned, but Jeff Passan believes it’ll be Springer to sign first/next and possibly for a “bonanza” deal at that.
And if he does sign first, you’ll want to quickly check the destination, because it could have a huge impact on LeMahieu and the Yankees (which would immediately change the rest of the market):
The danger for the Yankees comes if, as some expect, Springer signs first — and it’s not with Toronto. For all the intrigue of, say, LeMahieu playing third base for the Atlanta Braves, the Blue Jays have made the most sense fit-wise outside of the Bronx. And if they missed on Lindor and missed on Hendriks and missed on Springer, overpaying for LeMahieu — while antithetical to how president Mark Shapiro and GM Ross Atkins run the organization — is not out of the realm of possibility.
In other words, if the Blue Jays do not sign Springer, then over-paying to get LeMahieu out of New York could come next. And if that happens, New York will be left with a basket of money in their hands and no obvious second baseman (or shortstop, if they move Gleyber Torres over, as many hope).
Tatis Extension Numbers
Also in that Passan piece? The revelation that Fernando Tatis Jr. and the Padres may not be nearly as close to an extension as many had previously reported and/or expected. Padres GM A.J. Preller did visit Tatis in the D.R., and Tatis is open to a deal, but they have NOT made an offer yet.
Moreover, Passan writes that Tatis’ recent explosion of popularity has led to plenty of external endorsement money that might otherwise slow down any need to press forward on an extension. And since he’d hit the market as a 25-year-old free agent if he did go that long, there is at least some belief that Tatis could hope to hit the big one. A healthy $400 million is a number thrown around in that article, but we’re a long way off from that for now. Let’s just see if Tatis can repeat what he’s done so far. If he can, $400 million is NO DOUBT a realistic target.
Corey Kluber has a workout scheduled for tomorrow in Florida, during which 20 teams will be in attendance. I wasn’t able to confirm the Cubs presence, but I sure do hope they’ll be there. Given the holes in their rotation and the chance that Kluber could be a rare, but ideal, upside play for the Cubs in the short and medium-term, I sure would love for them to kick the tires.
This is exactly the sort of deal the Cubs used to target back in 2012, 2013, and 2014, when they were looking both for diamonds in the rough or potential future trade chips. Either way, I hope the Cubs are involved.
For what it’s worth, Kluber is sitting just 89 MPH as of now, but he’s got a LONG way to go to ramp up. Much more on his journey and expectations right here.
LeMahieu-StL Chatter? Eh … Not So Fast
There was some chatter about the Cardinals potentially calling LeMahieu’s camp about a potential free agent deal, but that’s not really the full story, as told by Derrick Goold (who is as tapped into that team as anyone I know).
According to Goold, the Cardinals originally called LeMahieu back in November, but did so “in part to get a sense of what the marketplace was going to look like by researching the asking price on players …” so that they could “also have a general sense for Kolten Wong, Tommey LaStella, etc.”
So that explains the “prior interest” in LeMahieu, but what about something more recent? Well, it’s more of the same, according to Goold:
The market has waited for them, in a way. And it makes sense for them to circle back and see where things stand with the leading player at a position of interest for them. At worst, they get info that helps them frame offers for others. At best, they find they have more to offer than originally believed. At last check, they don’t expect to win an auction, and they have continued to position themselves as a team that will reduce payroll.
Yeah, they’re not interested in signing LeMahieu. They just wanted a price check on the top of the second base market, so they know what to offer lesser second baseman like Wong and La Stella (which, hey, both are good players).
As a brief aside, Goold also points out that the Cardinals are not “active” on any pitchers, with the exception of Adam Wainwright, who is behind Yadi Molina in re-signing priority.
Earlier today, the Marlins and Cubs were connected on a Willson Contreras rumor by Craig Mish (very tapped into the Marlins), who has since revealed that Contreras has “liked” that tweet (which probably doesn’t mean anything, unless it totally means everything, right?).
But just before that, Mish reported that the Marlins had discussed a deal with the Red Sox for outfielder Andrew Benintendi, a plausible Cubs target, though those talks reportedly didn’t get far.
That is not to say, however, that Benintendi won’t still soon be on the move:
One industry source believes an Andrew Benintendi deal could happen soon, but it won't be with MIA: "That's not happening.'' Others who've checked in: TEX, HOU and OAK. Other source calls PIT a potential fit, mindful of Cherington connection.
— Sean McAdam (@Sean_McAdam) January 12, 2021
The Cubs are not mentioned there, which doesn’t really surprise me considering that the Red Sox were apparently looking for prospects in return. But we should note that the Rangers, Astros, A’s, and Pirates (where former Red Sox GM Ben Cherington now resides as GM) are all all included as suitors for the bounce-back outfield candidate.
Meanwhile, I suppose you can also point out that the Marlins are also looking for an outfielder, which, well, so are the Cubs, but also, Bryant does play left and right field. Just sayin’.