Lukewarm Stove: Humorous NL Central Spending, Power Outfielder Available, Gregorius, Mancini, More

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Lukewarm Stove: Humorous NL Central Spending, Power Outfielder Available, Gregorius, Mancini, More

Chicago Cubs

The infield market has been booming lately, with J.T. Realmuto (Phillies), Andrelton Simmons (Twins), Freddy Galvis (Orioles), Tommy La Stella (Giants), Marcus Semien (Blue Jays), and Cesar Hernandez (Indians) all finding 2021 homes, while the market for free agents Kolten Wong and Didi Gregorius have begun to seriously heat up.

But while the Cubs (Wong), Cardinals (Wong), Brewers (Semien), and Reds (Gregorius) have each been included among the rumors for some of these infielders, it seems none of those NL Central clubs have gotten particularly close. And the dearth of NL Central spending has never been more apparent:

At least the Cubs account for $2.25 million of that $3.7 million!

Perhaps this would be true for other teams, as well, but given how much talent/money has actually LEFT the NL Central this offseason – by means other than traditional free agency – I’d say the division is in a clear and significant negative financial balance at the moment:

Cubs: Jon Lester, Yu Darvish, Victor Caratini, Kyle Schwarber, Jose Quintana, Tyler Chatwood
Pirates: Chris Archer, Trevor Williams, Josh Bell, Joe Musgrove, Jameson Taillon
Cardinals: Kolten Wong
Reds: Raisel Iglesias, Curt Casali, Archie Bradley
Brewers: Ryan Braun, Jedd Gyroko, Ben Gamel, Eric Sogard, Corey Knebel

Look at all those declined options, non-tendered contracts, sell-side trades free agents not retained … and that’s just off the top of my head! And considering that guys like Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Kyle Hendricks, Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo, anyone on the Pirates, and others are all still pretty clearly available and being discussed on the trade market, this might get even more extreme.

If only this division had a big market team to take advantage of the chaos. 

Didi’s Move:

I can admit, however, that I did not expect Tommy La Stella to get three years or Marcus Semien to get $18M for 2021, given the financial question marks on the market, but that’s hardly a reason to let the Cubs off the hook. Teams are clearly capable of spending now that there’s a little more certainty around arb deals, the vaccine rollout, the length and rules of the 2021 season, etc. The Cubs (and the NL Central) are the weird ones, not everyone else.

With that in mind, I’m not really surprised to see the Phillies pop back up as a possible suitor for Didi Gregorius, but I just don’t know if I really see the Reds going to this price to bring him back “home.”

The Phillies, by contrast, just spent $115M to bring back Realmuto, but have a 0.8 ZiPS projected Scott Kingery penciled in for second base. Didi Gregorius ZiPS projections, by contrast, have him at 2.3 WAR, which is a pretty significant lift given what’s expected to be a very tight NL East.

The Phillies have, at times, been involved in the trade market for a certain Cubs infielder, but I tend to think this is a more preferred route, all things considered (of course, you can never count out Dave Dombrowski from making a surprisingly splashy deal).

Relief Market

Many of the top relief arms have already found homes this offseason (Liam Hendriks, Kirby Yates, Brad Hand, Archie Bradley, Blake Treinen, etc.), but there are still teams out there looking to improve. Today the Yankees signed Darren O’Day to a one-year, $2.5M deal (with a mutual option for 2022) after he posted a 1.10 ERA (2.76 FIP) over 16.1 IP in 2020.

Is he a sure bet to repeat those numbers over a longer stretch in 2021? Eh. Maybe not. But he has succeeded without premium velocity for a very long time and did just find for himself last season. But that’s not my point here. Instead, I want to point out who did not land O’Day, and what that could mean for the Cubs:

The Braves and Phillies were runners-up for O’Day and are apparently “in on a lot of relievers,” which reminds me: Where the heck have all the Craig Kimbrel rumors been? The Cubs are clearly looking to cut salary and Kimbrel (1) earns real money, and (2) was actually pretty excellent after a slow start in 2020. There has to be some market for him, right? Sure, his $16M salary in 2021 isn’t cheap, but there’s value there relative to the high end of the relief market (especially if Cubs eat some salary), and, hey, he comes with a club option for 2022, too. It’s not a bad package, all things considered.

Who knows, maybe the Phillies and/or Braves will want to loop Kimbrel into a bigger deal with the Cubs for Bryant or Contreras. I’m not rooting for that, but it seems notable that they’re seeking back-end relief help when they’ve already been connected to the Cubs in some other rumors this (and last) offseason.

Trey Mancini, the Braves, More

Trey Mancini, 28, has generally been a pretty solidly above-average hitter throughout his big league career, with a 116 wRC+ over 1,900+ plate appearances and a 134 wRC+ in 2019, his last appearance on the field. He was absent from the game in 2020, however, because he required surgery to remove a malignant tumor from his colon (stage 3 colon cancer). Thankfully, Mancini beat the disease and is now cancer-free.

He’s under control for two more seasons, but the Orioles were reportedly open to moving him a couple years ago and the Braves are wondering if that’s still an option:

Setting Mancini, specifically, aside, this is yet another sign that the Braves are interested in a corner infield/outfield right-handed bat to provide some pop to their lineup that will play without Marcell Ozuna (for now).

Also, if Mancini is available, that’d be a fun (and probably entirely unrealistic) Cubs target. 

Odds and Ends:

•   Chris Shaw, 27, is a left-handed outfielder who’s always hit for big power in the upper-minors, but hasn’t yet made it work at the big league level (though he hasn’t actually had many chances). Brett does make a good point about the Cubs’ need to add outfielders, but a lefty, power-hitting, corner outfield type just seems to fit so much worse than a righty, contact-oriented potential center field type. Then again, beggars shouldn’t be choosers, I guess, when you’re talking about a free add:

•   The Cardinals do have an offer out there for Yadier Molina, but so far, it hasn’t gotten him to bite. According to Derrick Goold, however, sources believe the Cardinals could soon adjust their offer to spur some action and meet Molina somewhere in the middle (I presume). Considering that he remains their priority and would look so strange in any other uniform, I still expect this to get done eventually.

•   The Mets are still the favorite to land Trevor Bauer, though his offer is reportedly not expected to top Gerrit Cole’s in AAV. Or it is. Or it will in name, but not actually. Also, it’ll be really short. Oh, whatever, just sign him already.

•   Another catcher signed. I sure hope the Cubs have a good plan if they do intend to trade Willson Contreras. Because Austin Romine is a fine backup … he is not a starter.

•   Just an update:

•   I just want to re-share this because I find it fascinatingly absurd:

Author: Michael Cerami

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