(1) World Series, (2) GM Meetings, (3) Winter Meetings … silence … confusion … frustration … rinse, repeat.
New column: The Strangest But Truest free-agent winter ever.
*148 players jobless on Feb. 2?
*NL Central's 3-month nap
*One-year contract epidemic
*Closers, LH relievers who can't get a job
*Zero 3B have signed!
"There has never been more uncertainty."https://t.co/5zzIAoCTKw
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) February 2, 2021
Listen, I get that the current offseason may feel particularly strange, and perhaps it is the weirdest of them all, but this just isn’t really landing for me (at no fault of Jayson Stark, who’s right to point it out). Each of the last four offseasons – from 2018 through today – has been weird. In fact, I’m not even sure people really remember what it used to be like at the Winter Meetings.
So you can and should read all about 140+ remaining free agents, the NL Central finally awaking from its slumber, the frustration of certain free agents, and the perspective of clubs and agents on each point … but I’ll also understand if you’re sick of this story. Strange is the new normal and with the CBA negotiations set to derail the markets again next winter, it’ll just be more of the same.
Can’t wait for November and December of 2022!
Anyone Remember Marcell Ozuna?
For a moment today, I thought the market was about to get a major shakeup, when Jon Heyman reported that the Rays were a “surprise entry in [the] Marcell Ozuna derby.” After all, if Ozuna was really off to a surprise AL team, that could leave several NL squads fighting over the last few impact bats on the market, like free agent third baseman Justin Turner, or even a trade target like left fielder/third baseman Kris Bryant. (We aren’t rooting for a trade, but we definitely are rooting for clear and final resolution.)
But Rays beat writer Marc Topkin is all over that team, and he pretty quickly threw some cold water on that report:
Yes, #Rays have interest in Ozuna. They explore all opportunities. But it would take major shift in Ozuna’s contract goals for anything to develop. Realistically? Something like a 1-year deal at a lower price. #Rays could offer him DH at-bats, so if he gets no good NL offers … https://t.co/L1A2oSYWfa
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) February 3, 2021
To be sure, the lack of a universal DH in 2021 will probably temper NL interest in Ozuna, but I still don’t think he’s entirely off the radar of a few select NL teams looking for an impact corner outfield bat. Ozuna bet on himself last year, absolutely raked, and now he’s kinda back in the same spot he was last year, waiting on a big deal to come. He’ll sign eventually, and it will impact the market.
And of course, Turner remains a free agent, and probably the biggest (only?) remaining hurdle to clear before the Bryant saga is settled one way or another … at least, until the trade deadline. Sorry. Sorry.
On a related note: The Brewers were previously revealed as a mystery team in on Turner, but can probably now be taken off the list after signing free agent second baseman Kolten Wong. That should help solidify things for his camp and could help us inch towards some resolutions here.
Rich Hill Down to Three
For like a minute, the Cubs were considered potential players for their former starter, and MLB’s current resident grandpa, Rich Hill. Another reunion candidate! But I suspect their remaining rotational bullet will be fired in the direction of Jake Arrieta, Jeff Samardzija, or Mike Foltynewicz*.
In the meantime, the market for Hill has reportedly been filtered down to these three teams: Rays, Brewers, Mets. And let me just say … I really hope he doesn’t end up in Milwaukee.
I know Hill, soon to be 41, is quite old, and I know he basically throws only two pitches. But for whatever reason, he just always seems to dominate the Cubs. In fact, looking it up now, he’s held the Cubs to a .187/.228/.203 (.226 wOBA) slash line in the regular season and I remember being frustrated by each of his playoff starts with the Dodgers/against the Cubs over the last few years, as well. And, heck, the guy had a 3.03 ERA (3.99 FIP) last season and a 2.45 ERA the year before. He’ll slow down at some point, but I just cannot stand watching the Cubs flail against that freakin’ curveball anymore.
The Red Sox were said to have interest at one point, but it sounds like it’s down to Tampa Bay, New York, and Milwaukee. Just leave us alone, Hill.
* Speaking of Foltynewicz, the Twins are reportedly less likely to sign him after watching his recent showcase. So you can take that for whatever it’s worth:
As of last night sounds like Mike Foltynewicz is more unlikely than likely for #MNTwins. But there are still lots of starters and relievers available. Some buzz on a reliever offer being out. As for Cruz, credit to the Twins for upping $$-wise what they initially offered.
— Darren Wolfson (@DWolfsonKSTP) February 3, 2021
The implication there is that Foltynewicz looked good enough to land himself a big league deal at a decent rate. If true, notable for the Cubs, too.
Relief Market Full, But Moving
The Cubs signed themselves a fairly well-established reliever last night in Andrew Chafin, but the market is still loaded with plenty of options. I don’t actually believe the Cubs will be adding anything more relief arms of significance (indeed, the Chafin deal, itself, was surprising), but it is worth noting.
With all of that said, the market has begun to churn. Joakim Soria signed a one-year, $3.5 million (plus $500K in incentives) contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and reportedly turned down more money elsewhere (Mariners? Twins? Rangers? Angels?) to return.
Meanwhile, former White Sox closer Alex Colome has finally come off the board, signing a one-year, $6.25 million deal with the Twins (who are making moves in the wake of Nelson Cruz).
And finally, David Robertson will soon host a showcase to prove that his return from Tommy John surgery is complete.
David Robertson will throw for teams at a showcase next Thursday at the University of Alabama. Should be a big turnout to see the former closer throw as he returns from Tommy John surgery.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) February 3, 2021
Michael Conforto Extension?
Andy Martino (SNY) used the George Springer deal (six years, $150 million) and the three-year age gap to help Michael Conforto’s agent Scott Boras illustrate what the Mets outfielder could be looking at in terms of an extension for the free-agent-to-be:
In other words, he would argue that if Springer is making $22 million at age 31, Conforto should get significantly more at 28 — an agent might claim that the prime years are worth as much as $10-15 million annually (agents are paid to exaggerate, at least at first).
If you take the $10-15 million for Conforto’s premium years literally, an opening concept from Boras’ side could look like this: $33 million annually for the next three years, then $25 million for four years after that.
That adds up to seven years, $199 million, an average annual value of $28.4 million (it’s not known if Conforto will want a six or seven year deal and one more shot at free agency, or an eight-to-10 year contract that will secure him until his late 30s — if I had to bet, I’d bet on the latter, but we’ll split the difference today at seven years).
Michael Conforto is really good, but is he seven-years and $199 million good? It’s tough to say. He balled out offensively in 2017 (147 wRC+) and 2020 (157 wRC+), and surely that level of production would earn him the sort of deal Boras is projecting. But those were both short seasons for him (109 games, 50 games). His two most recent full seasons (2018 and 2019) had him at or near all-star levels offensively (119 wRC+, 126 wRC+), but he’s a corner outfielder (who can play center field poorly if you need it), and I’m just not sure if that gets me to $200M over seven seasons.
But that’s the gamble, right? So much is on the line – for both sides – in 2021 and they’ll each have to decide how far they’re willing to stretch to avoid betting it all on this season.
I have to say … I wouldn’t hate Conforto reaching free agency next winter, when the Cubs might (oh please dear god) be in a better position to take a swing on a 28-year-old outfielder. That whole market, man, it could be loaded.
Phillies Bench, Gonzalez Market
The Phillies are not quite finished making moves, with Marwin Gonzalez, potential Cubs fit Brad Miller, and Shin-Soo Choo all theoretical options for the bench, per Jon Heyman. However, they’re not alone in their potential pursuit of Gonzalez, who’s name has also popped up for the Mets:
Phillies see Marwin Gonzalez as a good fit. mets reportedly inquired as well @JSalisburyNBCS mentioned MG w/philly
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 3, 2021
Odds and Ends
• Speaking of NL East: Gerardo Parra returns to the Nationals on a small deal:
• King Felix is still grinding:
Sources: Felix Hernandez is signing with Baltimore. Minor league deal.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 4, 2021
• And Chase Anderson has signed with the Phillies on a one-year, $4M deal.
#Phillies have a one-year, $4 million agreement with RHP Chase Anderson. 33-year-old averaged 149 innings per season, 3.93 ERA from 2015-19 for Dbacks, Brewers; 7.22 ERA, but 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings last year for Toronto. @ByRobertMurray first with agreement.
— Scott Lauber (@ScottLauber) February 3, 2021