The postseason isn’t over, there’s no new CBA in sight, but that doesn’t mean the rumors aren’t flowing …
Is There a Future for KB in SF?
Before I read this tweet, I would have called the Giants the – far and away – favorites to sign Kris Bryant this winter, but now? I’m not so sure. Maybe just the mild favorites?
Does this sound like someone who’s planning to make Bryant a priority this winter? Or, to put it another way – does this sound like a plugged-in beat reporter who believes this is just front-office-speak:
The move at the deadline to get Kris Bryant was "about pushing the chips on this team." What about re-signing him? Zaidi said Bryant will have a lot of suitors and they'll have to see how the market plays out. Anyone else reading between the same lines here?
— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) October 18, 2021
Baggarly, you’ll note, didn’t have to add that final question. It would’ve been very easy to just pass Zaidi’s quote off as standard front office stuff. But, Baggarly instead decided to read some tea leaves. Interesting, no?
Here’s more to that quote from Sussan Slusser: “We recognize that he’s a superstar talent and it’s going to be a really competitive market for his services,” President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi said. “I’m sure we’ll have conversations there, but he’s going to have a long line of suitors, so we’ll just have to see how that develops.”
Obviously that doesn’t shut the door – and, indeed, if Bryant really likes San Francisco as much as he seemed to imply through his comments since the trade deadline, I’m sure they could make something work – but it’s not quite necessarily what you usually hear from an executive about his own player, when they actually hope to make something happen (especially before that player hits free agency).
I still think Bryant is going to get paid, if not for his general awesomeness and solid overall season, for his ability to start all over the field (he was always able to do this, but there’s no doubt it increased this season):
Kris Bryant has started at left field, center field, first base, and right field in the first four games of the NLDS.
He is the first player in MLB history to start at four different positions in the first four games of a postseason series.
— Jeremy Frank (@MLBRandomStats) October 14, 2021
I wonder if Bryant’s market will take time to develop. He’s going to want to play somewhere he’s happy – you can just tell that about him – but he’s also going to want to get a contract that helps move the ball forward for other players. You know that about him, too.
Carlos Correa’s Market and Price Tag
Ken Rosenthal gave the soon-to-be top available free agent, Carlos Correa, the full treatment at The Athletic, and it’s difficult not to come away impressed with the overall product.
Defensively, Correa led all shortstops in DRS this season. Offensively, he’s got a career 128 wRC+ and had that up to 134 wRC+ this season. His age? Only 27 years old. His health? After improving his conditioning and nutrition, he appeared in 58 out of 60 games last year and 148 out of 162 this season.
Leadership? He’s got it. Rosenthal shares more than one story of Correa helping out his team on both sides of the ball, pushing closers to pick up his infielders after errors and batters to swing at better pitches. And one thing Rosenthal didn’t mention? Correa seems to be a baseball progressive, applauding the way the Red Sox taunted him using his own “It’s my time” celebration last night: I “loved it” Correa said after the game, “that is the way baseball should trend.”
My point here is that there is an awful lot to like about Carlos Correa — and the Cubs certainly have a ton of freed up payroll space and the need for a shortstop. But I’m also here to tell you that I agree with Brett – it’s highly likely not happening. For one, the Cubs aren’t mentioned among the seven teams looking for a shortstop* (Tigers, Rangers, Mariners, Yankees, Phillies, Angels, Cardinals), and that doesn’t include the Astros, who have tried twice to extend Correa and could feel a little extra incentive if they end up winning the World Series.
*(If that’s about Correa, alone, it makes sense. But I think it’s a pretty significant oversight to say the Cubs aren’t looking for a shortstop. They need a shortstop and can afford to sign one in free agency. And while it won’t be Correa or Corey Seager or maybe even Trevor Story, I feel like Marcus Semien and Javy Báez shouldn’t be ENTIRELY out of reach, right? I’m just saying, the Cubs do need a shortstop, and you never know how a crowded market like this might develop.)
For another thing on Correa, Rosenthal expects his price tag to fall in that $250M-$300M range, with Francisco Lindor’s $341M extension (that doesn’t actually begin until next season, when he’ll be one year older) becoming a huge assist. That level of long, pricey deal is almost certainly not in the cards this winter for the Cubs.
Last December, I wrote about why the Cubs go after free agent shortstop Marcus Semien, but instead, he signed a one-year deal with the Blue Jays, where he slashed .265/.334/.538 (131 wRC+) with 45 home runs, 102 RBI, and 6.6 WAR. #HireMichael
And he also left behind a very good reputation:
Marcus Semien clearly left an impact on many #BlueJays people with his preparation & focus this year
Mark Shapiro called Semien "a role model for all of us in the way we approach our job." High praise.
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) October 18, 2021
One thing that’s clear — and has been very clear for months — when talking to anyone around #BlueJays is the love for Marcus Semien.
He has every ingredient this team needs to make that next step and Shapiro gushed today.
Still doesn’t mean they can afford him, outbid others.
— Scott Mitchell (@ScottyMitchTSN) October 18, 2021
So can the Cubs find themselves in play for Semien this time? My guess would be … at best, a big fat maybe. On the one hand, Semien’s age (31) makes an extremely long-term deal fairly unlikely, which could help the Cubs chances. On the other hand, that might make him more attractive to (and more attracted to) teams that are in more of a win-now mode. Semien’s most valuable seasons are likely to be in the next couple of years.
Gregor Chisholm (The Star) believes the Blue Jays would like to re-sign him, but doesn’t expect them to match a deal that could surpass what DJ LeMahieu got from the Yankees last year, when he was a year older than Semien (6 years, $90M). And Dan Schulman told Buster Olney something similar, adding that even if the money is there, the Blue Jays “can’t become a West Coast team, and Marcus is a West Coast guy.”
But here’s where the Cubs *could* come in. If Semien is willing to shorten his timeline to, say, something like 3 or 4 years, I would bet the Cubs would be able to go higher on average annual value given how extreme their payroll flexibility is at the moment (however the new CBA rules shake out, the Cubs are still going to have a tiny relative payroll at the start of the offseason). Semien will receive and reject a qualifying offer, but if you’re getting him on your preferred three or four-year deal, it makes the loss of the second round pick and IFA money more palatable.
Another thing working in the Cubs favor: It sounds like Semien wants to stick at shortstop moving forward, and the Cubs have no upper-level shortstop prospects that are going to bounce him from the position any time soon.
But with all of that said, I still believe signing any big-time positional free agents must come *after* the Cubs make some serious additions/improvements to the rotation (or in direct tandem with), and perhaps only if a particular player’s market just doesn’t develop the way he expected. That probably shouldn’t be the case for Semien after his monster season, but you never know. I want to keep him on our radar, because he’s a very good player at a position of need. Don’t make it too complicated just yet.
Yankees’ Needs (SS and Catcher)
While we’re on the topic, here’s another factor at play in the Semien market: The Yankees need a shortstop badly, have the money to spend, and may have already (softly) eliminated Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, and Javy Báez from the top of their list. Joel Sherman writes “I believe if the Yankees were going to play big for a shortstop, it would be [Corey] Seager or [Marcus] Semien.”
It sounds like Sherman likes the fit of Seager more than Semien, but if the Yankees are involved, Semien’s market might not stall out the way it must to get the Cubs in the game.
Sherman also writes about how badly the Yankees need/want to improve at catcher, even tossing around trade concepts including sending Aaron Hicks to Philadelphia while taking on the four years/$95.5M remaining on J.T. Realmuto’s contract. Does that mean they’d also be interested in someone like Willson Contreras? Maybe, but we do believe the Cubs will first try to extend Contreras this winter, before entertaining any trade scenarios. And, of course, if they do trade him, they’d be in an *extreme* catcher emergency, so … I wouldn’t count on that one.
Options and Opt-Outs
Five days after the end of the World Series, decisions will have to be made for/by all players with opt-out clauses, player options, club options, and mutual options. And there’s a lot of them! Fortunately for us, Thomas Harrigan collected the highest profile cases, and tried to guess how they’ll play out.
At the top of the board of the opt-outs, he figures Nick Castellanos is the most likely to leave, which strikes me as correct. Even if there’s uncertainty surrounding the CBA and a lockout, Castellanos should have no problem beating the two years and $34M he’d leave on the table. J.D. Martinez comes in as a tough call, despite just one year remaining at $19.35M, though the arrival of the universal DH could make life easier on him. If I had to guess, I’m saying he stays. And Nolan Arenado is not leaving St. Louis.
If you’re interested in more, Harrigan gets into a TON of pending player options (including Brett Gardner, Kevin Pillar, Justin Wilson, Charlie Blackmon, Jackie Bradley Jr. Darren O’Day, and Jurickson Profar) and club options (including Tucker Barnhart, Kole Calhoun, Matt Carpenter, Johnny Cueto, Ian Desmond, Odubel Herrera, Yusei Kikuchi, Carlos Martinez, Andrew McCutchen, Kyle Seager, Josh Tomlin, Jake Diekman, Wilmer Flores, Yuli Gurriel, Pierce Johnson, Keone Kela, Merrill Kelly, Craig KImbrel, Wade Miley, Buster Posey, and Jose Ramirez).
Obviously, some of those guys are no-brainers to pick up, but others aren’t and there are still many more notable names on the bubble in his writeup. Point here being: This is already a pretty solid free agent class and it could get even better. The Cubs just better be prepared to pounce.