Lukewarm Stove: Extend Rizzo Already, Houston's Problem, Tanaka to San Diego or Japan? Semien's Suitors, Trading Cain, More

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Lukewarm Stove: Extend Rizzo Already, Houston’s Problem, Tanaka to San Diego or Japan? Semien’s Suitors, Trading Cain, More

Chicago Cubs

You know what restores my faith in humanity? The pick-up counter at the Dunkin’ Donuts on Ashland. Every morning, I place an order in the app for pick up, I drive over, and there’s my coffee, sitting on an unmonitored counter, waiting patiently for me, alongside other yet-unclaimed coffees, donuts, and bagels. If the rest of the world had half as much order and civility, we’d probably be doing alright.

Oh, also, at some point, the Cubs better extend Anthony Rizzo. I’m resilient, and addicted, so I’m never going to stop being a Cubs fan. But we all have our limits, and I just cannot imagine watching baseball with Anthony Rizzo in another uniform. I know the math checks out for something in the $80-$100M range, which isn’t too far off from where I landed on a guess, myself. I know there were some reports about a possibly Javy Báez extension this spring with Rizzo to follow mid-year, but why don’t we just get both done before the start of the season, mmmmmkay? That would also help with that faith-in-humanity stuff.

Houston Wants Realmuto, But Can’t Have Him

I may be over-extending with this sub-heading, but Ken Rosenthal’s point is not hard to discern: “Free-agent catcher J.T. Realmuto is a fit for the Astros, at least from a baseball perspective. But the quality of the draft picks the team would sacrifice for signing Realmuto, or any other free agent attached to a qualifying offer, likely will be severe enough to limit the club’s interest, if not eliminate it entirely.”

The Astros are already without their first and second rounds picks in both the 2020 and 2021 MLB Draft and if they were to sign a free agent attached to a qualifying offer, like Realmuto, they’ll lose their third pick in 2021 (a fifth rounder) and their second pick in 2022, plus $1 million from their international bonus pool. Moreover, if someone else signs George Springer, the higher pick the Astros would receive in 2021 (a fourth rounder) would be lost instead of the fifth rounder. (Brett: I mean, you COULD make the counterargument that, right now, the “cost” to the Astros to sign a qualified free agent is less than usual, since the picks come much later than the top two rounds. I probably wouldn’t make that argument, since basically losing the whole top of your draft is pretty darn painful. But you could make that argument!)

So, suffice to say, the Astros are not going to sign someone attached to draft pick compensation this offseason. They’re just not.

Also, we just passed the one year anniversary of the Astros getting busted, which led to that punishment in the first place.

Question, though: if Realmuto is a fit for the Astros … is Willson Contreras? We know Contreras is available for a big offer, and a good comp for Realmuto (in terms of short-term, highly-competitive offensive and defensive value from the catcher position). So why don’t we hear about Houston? Well, Houston doesn’t actually have a ton of top-100 prospects at the moment, but even if they did have the sort of collection of young players/prospects the Cubs would covet in such a trade, they should be just as reluctant to give those up as they would be to sign Realmuto given the draft penalties they’re facing. Yes, they’ll want to be competitive in the AL West this year, but they probably cannot afford to push all in.


Padres Interested in Tanaka … If He Stays

Yesterday, Rosenthal wrote that the San Diego Padres are interested in signing Masahiro Tanaka, even after trading for Yu Darvish and Blake Snell, citing potential concern for righty Dinelson Lamet. For what it’s worth, rival executives are apparently surprised the Padres are even considering any additional expenses, which does make me wonder if they may have over-extended themselves and would consider blowing things up a bit if things don’t work out (they actually did this once before, and the Marlins did it about a decade ago).

But circling back to Tanaka, he might not stay in the big leagues at all:

Marcus Semien

Marcus Semien has been my buy-low target of the offseason (previously: Didi Gregorius and D.J. LeMahieu (and no, I won’t stop bringing that up)), but according to the latest, his suitors include the Phillies, Reds, Red Sox (for second base), and Athletics. Of course, there could be more teams involved at this point – and so goes the rumor – but it just doesn’t seem like there’s any connection at all to the Cubs, and that makes me sad. Even if it’s not a surprise.

Mets CF Options

Earlier today, Brett discussed the New York Mets potential interest in signing free agent outfielder and former never got enough chances to play everyday Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. But that’s not their only alternative to signing George Springer.

In fact, the full list of center field options seems to draw a tight circle around the Cubs. According to Joel Sherman, the Mets could …

(1) Sign Almora (former Cub)
(2) Trade for Jackie Bradley Jr. (Cubs target)
(3) Trade for Lorenzo Cain (Brewers)
(4) Trade for Harrison Bader (Cardinals)
(5) Trade for Adam Engel (White Sox)

That’s a former Cub, the Cubs two biggest rivals, and the team with which the Cubs share a city. Back off our turf, Mets. But also … yeah, trade for Lorenzo Cain, but give the Brewers nothing in return, please. Actually, let’s talk about that a little more, because that strikes me as both realistic and significant.

Here’s Sherman:

How desperate are the Brewers to remove the final two years at $35 million on his pact?

Cain, 36 in April, is due $17 million this year and $18 million in 2022. You know who else is owed $17 million in 2021? Jeurys Familia and Dellin Betances combined. To escape the $18 million in 2022 would Milwaukee take Familia and Betances? Just Familia ($11 million) or just Betances ($6 million) plus a middling prospect?

The Brewers do love their relievers! I still think the most likely outcome is Springer to New York, but I suppose I hadn’t considered Milwaukee’s interest in shedding Cain’s salary.

Kluber, Teheran, Walker

Yesterday, the Cubs were in attendance at Corey Kluber’s showcase, but so were 20 other teams. And if things are going to move as quickly as expected, I’d wager that’s bad news for the Cubs chances to land the former Cy Young winner (2x):

Clearly, things went well.

Meanwhile, Julio Teheran, another potential low-cost, upside-play for the Cubs has a showcase coming up in Miami and I hope the Cubs scouts venture over to that one, as well (though I have yet to hear any such plans):

And, hey, while we’re on this genre of pitchers, how about Taijuan Walker? Like Teheran, Walker, 28, is a former tip-top prospect who never quite reached his ceiling, though he did have a 2.70 ERA over 11 starts in 2020 (… with a 4.56 FIP that suggests things weren’t quite so peachy). Then again, his average exit velocity came down, his ground ball rate went up, his strand rate and BABIP weren’t insanely out of whack, and his velocity was pretty normal.

Now that I think about it, maybe the Cubs should sign him:

He was watching the Bears game after all … or was he watching the Saints?

Author: Michael Cerami

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