Lukewarm Stove: La Stella and the Cubs, Kluber and the Yankees, Castillo and Torres, Springer, More

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Lukewarm Stove: La Stella and the Cubs, Kluber and the Yankees, Castillo and Torres, Springer, More

Chicago Cubs

Still holding onto that banana? Drop it, my friends!

Kluber, Tanaka, and the Yankees

When Corey Kluber signed with the Yankees for $10-$11 million on Friday night, we were all fairly surprised. I had already expected his apparently stellar showcase to price him out of the Cubs range this offseason, but $11 million was still roughly double what many were expecting him to get.

And yet, SNY reports that “the Yanks actually did not submit the highest offer for Kluber. There were multiple teams willing to pay more than $10 million.”

Just how good was that showcase!? 

So what else for the Yankees? Well, Ken Rosenthal believes they still want to add starting pitching (set the Luis Castillo stuff aside for a second), but with just $10 million worth of breathing room under the luxury tax threshold, that’ll have to come on the cheap. At least, unless they manage to trade Adam Ottavino and the $9 million he’s set to earn in 2021 like Buster Olney reports. Though that’ll surely be tough.

And even if they do manage to move on from a large part of Ottavino’s salary, I don’t think re-signing Masahiro Tanaka is in the cards. SNY has Tanaka’s asking price for a one-year deal somewhere between $15-$20 million. The Padres were kicking the tires on Tanaka earlier this year, but he’s also a threat to head back to Japan. Either way, the Yankees apparently aren’t about to spend another $10 million without clearing some cash first.

Luis Castillo Trade Rumors

The Reds and Yankees ultimately did not get together on a Luis Castillo trade last night as some spurious reports indicated, however the discussions were very real and reportedly very significant, with Gleyber Torres’ name popping up as a potential return:

(Castillo is cheap and the return from the Yankees might’ve shed enough cash to make this deal possible while remaining under the luxury tax threshold … of course, the Yankees might also be willing to go over for someone as good as Castillo, despite their protestations, and, of course, the luxury tax might be going away (or up) as soon as next offseason anyway). 

Otherwise, I am, uh … very happy that the Reds did not just land Torres from the Yankees. That would have been an extreme bummer for the Cubs, even in terms of just having to see him so regularly. In any case, the Reds are now apparently likely to hold onto Castillo, with Rosenthal reporting that if they do trade a pitcher this winter, “it’s still more likely to be righty Sonny Gray.” Though even that seems to be fading as a possibility.

The entire NL Central is treading water. It’s very stupid.

George Springer

According to SNY, free agent outfielder George Springer is seeking a multi-year deal worth upwards of $175 million(!), which feels like an unrealistic ask in this environment even if it wouldn’t have been in past years. With that said, he will still get paid this offseason, with multiple nine-figure offers already on the table from the Mets and Blue Jays (the Blue Jays must be feeling desperate at this point).

For what it’s worth, the Mets are also telling people they’re very intent on remaining under the luxury tax threshold this offseason, and that could make things tricky with Springer if they don’t otherwise trade away any cash in another deal. As of now, they have about $27 million worth of CBT space remaining, but would also like to keep $5-$10 million for in-season additions and bonuses. So you can see how things get tight very quickly with a reported “nine figure” offer available. Rosenthal wonders if they might stretch the length of the deal, the way the Yankees did with LeMahieu, to make the luxury tax numbers work.

I will add, however, that Springer reportedly wants to play close to his home state of Connecticut (per, which is obviously closer to New York than Toronto, albeit not by a lot. If I had to guess, I’d wager that the Blue Jays are offering more overall, but Springer wants to play for the Mets.

Stay tuned:

Blue Jays Struggling, Bauer a Possibility?

The poor Blue Jays. No one wants to play there.

They may soon be forced into the trade market to land a star player, because those guys won’t usually have a say in where they end up. Free agent Trevor Bauer is still a distinct possibility for them, however, according to the latest from : “The Blue Jays are viewed within the industry as a strong contender to sign Bauer….” But we’ll see.

Bauer seems intent on landing that ultra high-AAV deal, regardless of the years, so the Dodgers have to be a part of the conversation. They’ve been all over that sort of offer in recent offseasons, and could be again: “[the Dodgers] are likely to show the greatest interest in short-term proposals at high average annual values [for Bauer].”

Tommy La Stella and the Cubs

Nestled in the latest from Patrick Mooney and Sahadev Sharma was this throwaway line about the interest the Cubs SHOULD HAVE had in D.J. LeMahieu and the waning interest they do have in Tommy La Stella (emphasis mine):

At the moment, the Cubs have an estimated 2021 payroll in the range of $150 million, according to RosterResource, in terms of luxury tax accounting. The Cubs should’ve at least been in contact with LeMahieu before the AL batting champ’s staredown with the Yankees finally came to an end, but Chicago doesn’t even appear to be in the market for Tommy La Stella, another ex-Cub/contact-oriented hitter who could help diversify the offense.

Setting aside the LeMahieu bit (yes, they should’ve been involved, did anyone really think they would be?), this is particularly frustrating, right? Whether the Cubs are trying to win in 2021 or reset the roster completely, Nico Hoerner’s best overall value to the team will come only after he’s adjusted his offensive approach in the minor leagues. He is simply not ready offensively and so the Cubs need to have a short-term bridge built to his (hopefully) long-term stewardship of second base. That’s me believing in him. Not the opposite.

And all of which is why La Stella, not unlike Marcus Semien, is the sort of cheap(er than LeMahieu), but talented, near-term/upside play that could help the Cubs compete in 2021 *while also* potentially turning into a valuable mid-season trade chip or a piece for 2022. So to hear that they are not even involved with his free agent journey is deeply disappointing – especially considering all the prior connections.

Hopefully, this changes soon, because La Stella is exactly the sort of free agent the Cubs should be targeting right now. At the very least. There had been rumors of interest earlier in the offseason. I guess we’ll see what happens with his market and free agency overall, but if the Cubs aren’t even having conversations now, then it seems unlikely they’ll get aggressive later on. (Insert hopeful comment about a relatively deep second base pool this offseason … )

Ozuna’s Delay and the Braves

Marcell Ozuna, 30, slashed .338/.431/.636 (179 wRC+) for the Braves last season, which was the third best offensive performance in the league, behind only Juan Soto and Freddie Freeman. And yet, he remains unsigned. Part of the issue, no doubt, is the lack of clarity on the universal designated hitter, and it seems like he may be seeking something substantial – like J.D. Martinez’s five-year, $110M deal with the Red Sox – but still … does no one believe in Ozuna enough to get close?

I know that 2020 was a bit of an outlier for him, but he’s always had that sort of offensive upside, right? I think so. And so I think the delay really comes down to his inability to play left field for a full season. Because if he could, it’d be a no-brainer. He must be a considered almost exclusively a DH at this point, and if that’s the case, the lack of clarity on the rule as well as the presence of Nelson Cruz might be gumming things up.

Worse, his most likely landing spot (according to the early rumors) is suddenly not an option according to Buster Olney: “Given the Braves’ payroll structure, they appear highly unlikely to re-sign Ozuna, leaving a gaping need for a right-handed hitter in the middle of their lineup to bat behind Freddie Freeman.”

Feel free to read into the Braves need for a right-handed bat and the Cubs pervasive trade rumors involving right-handed hitters (most recently and notably Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras, with Bryant being the obvious fit here), but I am sick of the Cubs-Braves rumors. They never go anywhere, and Bryant’s $19.5M salary is no small chunk of change if 2021 budgeting is an issue.

Nelson Cruz

For what it’s worth, most assume Nelson Cruz will eventually re-sign with the Twins, with Olney calling it as inevitable as LeMahieu re-signing with the Yankees. Olney also believes the Twins patience has been calculated and that a “flurry” of moves could come all at once.

However … like clock work, the push back begins:

Odds and Ends:

•   A minor trade goes down:

•   The Cardinals *have* made offers to Adam Wainwright and Yadi Molina, but they say they’re just in waiting mode on hearing back:

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Author: Michael Cerami

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