Lukewarm Stove: Cubs Priorities and Expected Payroll, SF as the Front-Runner for Bryant, Tough Decisions in Tampa, More

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Lukewarm Stove: Cubs Priorities and Expected Payroll, SF as the Front-Runner for Bryant, Tough Decisions in Tampa, More

Chicago Cubs

Brett and I have discussed our expectations for this offseason (with respect to the expiring CBA) quite a bit over the past few months, but Sahadev Sharma and Patrick Mooney of The Athletic added some key context (including some fair optimism) that you probably want to check out.

In short, they said the league expects some action early on, but implied that it’ll be very slow and limited to only those teams/players looking to take a gamble. Then, there will be transaction freeze when the CBA expires in early December, which will shut everything down indefinitely. HOWEVER, Sharma went on to drop a glimmer of hope: “There’s optimism they’ll get a deal done in early January though and that will lead to a bit of a frenzy of movement.”

Considering that many of the major transactions over the past four or five offseasons have drifted beyond the Winter Meetings and into January/February anyway, this could feel like business as usual (at least, lately) if things all go according to plan.

Which … don’t bet on it. 

More from Mooney/Sharma

But the Q&A was loaded with a ton of information, Cubs-specific and otherwise, so you should really check it out.

Among the most interesting bits, they mentioned that the Cubs focus of the offseason will be a “bat-missing” starting pitcher, which does make you question those early rumors of the Cubs theoretical interest in Marcus Stroman, who is not a strikeout artist. But beyond a pitcher like that, they’ll also look to add slugging to the lineup (go get Jorge Soler, in my opinion), a backup catcher, and a middle infielder.

There’s serious doubt the Cubs will target the top of that shortstop class, but, “Yes, the Cubs will sign a middle infielder who can play shortstop” this offseason. The Athletic duo is operating under the (justifiable) assumption that while Nico Hoerner can play shortstop, (1) the Cubs just can’t count on him to be healthy and productive next season, and (2) his best value may be moving around the infield (and outfield) anyway. I think that all adds up.

Possibly the juiciest bit of perspective is Sharma’s belief that the Cubs’ payroll (currently around $75M, if you include the entire 40-man roster, expected arb raises, and player insurance/benefits) could move up to the $150-$160M range before Opening Day. In fact, Sharma seems to believe even $180M isn’t out of the question, but that former figure is likely more accurate. And, hey, the Cubs can do a TON of damage, particularly in the short-term, by committing something like an additional $75M-$80M in average annual value for 2022-2023.

Other topics they touched on throughout the Q&A:

•   They’re doubtful Anthony Rizzo gets a five-year offer this offseason (matching what the Cubs reportedly tried to get done earlier this year).

•   The Cubs *should* try to be involved in prospect buying deals this offseason (e.g., if you take on Eric Hosmer’s contract, we will give you Robert Hassell).

•   Kyle Schwarber is probably set up for a nice multi-year deal not in Chicago.

•   Javy Báez is the most likely to return to Chicago (of the big three traded at the deadline), but neither Sharma nor Mooney consider it very likely.

•   And they also touched on (1) targeting players like Byron Buxton, (2) the unlikeliness of signing Nick Castellanos, (3) and the potential for trading Willson Contreras if they can’t get an extension done before next season. It really is worth your time.

Kris Bryant Back to the Giants?

This offseason Kris Bryant will be a free agent – detached from draft pick compensation thanks to the midseason trade – for the first time in his career. And from the sounds of it, he could be seeking something close to the deal Scott Boras was able to get Anthony Rendon a couple years ago (7-years, $245M). That sounds right as an ask given the market (and assuming no significant changes to the CBA), though I’m not so sure I think Bryant will necessarily “live up” to that contract. I guess that’s just how the top of the market works, though.

In any case, based on his recent comments, San Francisco sounds like the place he’d like to end up.

Bryant has always been a pretty amicable, bright-side only guy, but he’s just so effusive in his praise for everything from the city, to the stadium, to the fans, to the team, to the coaches, to the overall philosophy and everything else. I think it’s safe to say, at this point, the Giants are the favorites to land Kris Bryant this offseason. Just the way one has to look at it.

Marlins Look to Add Two Starting OFs and a Catcher

Thanks to their new TV contract with Bally Sports Florida and a stadium naming rights deal with loan Depot, the Miami Marlins expect to have at least $35M in additional annual revenue starting next season that they did not have before. That is probably the driving factor behind recent comments on increased spending from partial owner Derek Jeter and GM Kim Ng. But on whom do they intend to spend?

Well, an early rumor had them connected to Nick Castellanos, and that does track with the latest from the Miami Daily Herald: “My sense is that the Marlins will acquire two starting outfielders, which would allow them to use Bryan De La Cruz (who finished at .296) as a fourth outfielder. And catcher will be a high priority.”

Two starting outfielders and a catcher are on the Marlins list, and it doesn’t have to be accomplished in free agency. In a separate post, the Herald addressed some of the team’s potential trade targets:

Potential trade options include Pittsburgh’s Jacob Stallings (.246, 8, 53 in 112 games and excellent defense/calling games), the Angels’ Max Stassi (.241, 13, 35 in 87 games) and Arizona’s Carson Kelly (.240, 13, 46 in 98 games).

Remember, Sharma and Mooney mentioned that Willson Contreras could be a trade candidate if the Cubs are unable to extend him before next season, and there have been rumors connecting the Cubs and Marlins on Contreras in the past, but I don’t think we need to get too specific on that front just yet.

Tough Decisions in Tampa

•   The Rays have 19 players eligible for arbitration this offseason, which amounts to upwards of $43.6M in payroll commitments, or 65% of their 2021 Opening Day payroll. Long story short, even if it wasn’t already their M.O., the Rays are going to be open to moving on from some of their pricier arb-level players. And beyond that long list of players, is Kevin Kiermaier, set to make $12M in 2022 with a $13M option/$2.5M buyout in 2023, who could also become a trade target for center field-needy teams. I don’t necessarily see the defensive specialist as a great fit for the Cubs, who likely need more help on the offensive side of the ball, but maybe some sort of broader deal that requires the Cubs to take on his remaining salary – and getting a prospect or player for their troubles – could work? I’m trying to get creative.

Ken Rosenthal also discusses the decisions on Kiermaier, Tyler Glasnow, and the group of arb-level Rays players at The Athletic. Recall, Brett is big on the Cubs trying to land Glasnow this offseason.

Odds and Ends:

•   Switching gears, Carlos Rodon is a free agent this offseason. And although his NLDS Game 4 appearance wasn’t something to write home over, his velo was way back up:

•   That/this is something important to keep in mind, with respect to Rodon, the White Sox, and the qualifying offer decision this offseason.

•   Another angle: Let’s hope the Mets skip the QO on Noah Suyndergaard so that the Cubs can swoop in and gobble him up for at least 2022 (this is precisely the type of player they should be winning bids on – short term, high-AAV). More Qualifying Offer discussion here.

•   Well that settles it, he’s a Cub:

•   The Mets search:

•   This is what we’ve been expecting from the moment the White Sox decided not to make Craig Kimbrel the closer:

Author: Michael Cerami

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