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Lukewarm Stove: Schwarber and Boston, Syndergaard Competition, Rockies Overlapping FA Interests, More

Chicago Cubs

Before we get into the rumors, I want to share this quote from Giants President of Baseball Operations (and former Dodgers GM) Farhan Zaidi, via The Athletic. I think he’s one of the brightest minds in MLB right now and this feels like a lesson the Cubs need to learn right now:

“I very specifically said, there’s no three-year plan, there’s no five-year plan … don’t even look at the standings until we get a little bit further down the road. We’re just going keep trying to get better and better and better and at some point you reach the tipping point where you look up and you’re at the top of the standings, and that situation can perpetuate itself by reputation, a lot of free agents want to play for you, and you can draft off of that success if you just kind of keep grinding and trying to make the team better. …

Yeah, this is kinda what was supposed to happen after the first rebuild, but notice the big difference? There *absolutely* was a time-sensitive plan for Theo Epstein’s Cubs. It was (1) rebuild for 3-4 years, (2) compete for 6-7 years, and … then (3) figure the rest out later. Well, the Cubs walked right up to the cliff this past July, and jumped off with no parachute, leaving us at the bottom, looking up, wondering how we got there in the first place.

Perhaps that’s why Brett and I are often attracted to the idea of pricey, but shorter-term deals in the first place … it leads us away from the idea of some perfect team led by a core of pre-arb players, complemented by high-priced free agents, and supplemented at the deadline with costly prospect trades. That plan can work – obviously! – but it can also leave you trapped in a box. It’s not the only way.

That Giants front office, by the way, is led by the executive tree branches left by Andrew Friedman (President Zaidi) and Theo Epstein (GM Scott Harris). You know, the two guys that pretty much defined the Rays, Dodgers, Red Sox, and Cubs over the last 20 years. Not a bad set-up.

Giants: FA Plans, Pitching, Bryant

Zaidi gets into a lot more at The Athletic, including his plans in free agency this winter, and how, now more than ever, free agents are looking at more than the bottom-line number before they sign a deal. According to Zaidi, today’s free agents want more information on how each organization is going to help them be better and that’s why the Giants, who’ve had so much recent success, particularly with starting pitchers, are in a good position. That reputation matters (and while you grumble about the Cubs not having that for starters, I do think they could already be building something similar on the relief side, so at least there’s that).

In any case, yes, the Giants are going to stay the course:

There’s not a huge reason for Zaidi to diverge much from the Giants’ recent model of signing short-term deals with starting pitchers who’ve recently hit a downturn but have the skills that the Giants’ staff can adjust and amplify.

“You look at the list of free agents and there are some names on that list who have had a lot of success in the past and maybe dealt with injuries this year or underperformed for whatever reason,” Zaidi said. “I think when you’ve got to fill out four spots in your rotation, you’re certainly going to look at that segment of the market.”

We know a team that needs to fill out four spots in their rotation, don’t we? Also in that article, more comments from Zaidi that seem to (attempt to) tamper down expectations of re-signing Kris Bryant. When asked, he’s appropriately complimentary of Bryant, but almost immediately goes into a monologue about how many options they have on the positional side.

And he’s not the only one. Robert Murray adds that while the Giants would love to re-sign Bryant, they’re not going to delay other moves while holding out hope they can reach a long-term agreement with him. And given the way we know Scott Boras loves to wait AS LONG as possible to sign his players away, that might lead to a split:

The Giants have not ruled out re-signing Bryant, but look for them to target a player with similar defensive versatility and production against left-handed pitching. The Dodgers’ Chris Taylor is one possibility, but the expectation is he will land a multi-year contract in excess of $14 million annually.

Maybe that reunion is not fait accompli.

“Schwar-baby Come Back!”

In our last Lukewarm Stove, an article out of The Athletic revealed just how highly the Red Sox thought of their mid-season acquisition, Kyle Schwarber, revealing a pretty transparent desire to re-sign him in free agency this winter (just as soon as he declines his half of the $11.5M mutual option). And it sure seems like the feeling is mutual.

“This is definitely a clubhouse that I could see myself wanting to stay in,” Schwarber said after the Red Sox were eliminated with a 5-0 loss to the Astros in Game 6 of the ALCS. “These guys are amazing. I said this, it’s two World Series teams going at it. This is a World Series clubhouse, and I would love to hopefully see if that opportunity comes back.”

Of course, that’s what you expect any impending free agent to say, not only to keep his options open if he does want to return to Boston this winter, but also to pump up the perceived heat on his market. He’s no dummy. Schwarber signed a one-year deal last offseason for a reason, and that was to re-enter the market this winter in a better overall position to land a big deal. He accomplished that. His next goal is to appear in as much demand, with as many options, as possible. Oh, you want to pry Kyle away from Boston? Well, it’s gonna cost ya, he really liked it there. 

In addition to the Red Sox, Robert Murray lists the Orioles, Blue Jays, and … Milwaukee Brewers (puke) as players for Schwarber this offseason. Apparently, the Brewers “liked’ Schwarber last winter and are in “desperate need of offensive fire power.” I doubt he ends up in Milwaukee, though. Just my gut. Or at least what my gut wants to believe.

Syndergaard and Other NYY Targets

For however focused the Cubs are/should be on improving their pitching staff this winter, the Yankees have eyes on the positional side. At least, that’s how Joel Sherman frames their offseason plans at the NY Post.

HOWEVA, they are the Yankees, and they are going to be involved in the pitching market to an extent (both starting and relief). Fortunately, it seems, some of the Yankees potential targets don’t overlap with the Cubs, including Justin Verlander, who’ll be 39, expensive to sign, coming off a year missed to Tommy John surgery, and potentially attached to a qualifying offer. He’ll also likely be seeking a team that’s ready to win the World Series, like, next year, which is just not happening for the Cubs unless *everything* goes right in the offseason *and* they get very lucky during the year.

Sherman also sees the Yankees going after free agent closer Raisel Iglesias (not going to be a Cubs target) and Oakland starter Sean Manaea in trade (I hadn’t really considered him for the Cubs, but I guess I should start thinking about more arb-level starters on teams that don’t like to pay arb-level prices).

The one player on which there is significant possible overlap, however, is Noah Syndergaard, who’s also coming off TJS and could be attached to a qualifying offer, which muddies the water for a team like Chicago.

Interestingly, Sherman thinks the Yankees should be involved only if Syndergaard wants a one-year deal. I disagree with that, at least for the Cubs. If you’re going to give up a high second-round pick, bonus pool space, and IFA cap space, a 2-3 year deal for Syndergaard sure seems like a better option than a one-and-done. It might cost you more up front, but you also set yourself up for a much bigger reward if he does get it back this season (suddenly, you have a top starter under control for two more years, presumably at a lower AAV than he’d get on the open market). You also give yourself 2 or 3 additional chances to trade Syndergaard if things don’t work out right away (either for him or your team).

… but I’m not sure Syndergaard would actually accept a 2-3 year deal this winter, unless it comes at a considerable cost.

I’m sure there’s a sweet spot there on a multi-year deal that could make sense for all sides, but I’m guessing Syndergaard will just go for the best one-year offer, in terms of AAV and the clearest path to starting as many games as possible no matter what. Fortunately, that’s where the Cubs, with exactly one starter penciled in next year, can really shine! (Please don’t make him a qualifying offer, Mets … )

Rockies: Story, Power OF Bats, Gray

Patrick Saunders has a very useful writeup on the Rockies plans this offseason, based on what he’s gathered from various agents and reporters throughout the league, as well as Rockies GM Bill Schmidt. Among the highlights …

•   The Rockies will extend the qualifying offer to Trevor Story, which he will decline before hitting free agency, where the Rockies are unlikely to re-sign him. So who’s involved? Well, Buster Olney has the Rangers, Yankees, Tigers, and Mariners as possible landing spots (he does have the Cubs and Phillies as wild cards on the shortstop market, but not Story, in particular), but Saunders adds the Cardinals and Phillies to the pile, as well. And we know Jon Morosi had the Cubs and Angels on his list for Story, too, so all told that’s … a lot of teams. It’s early and there are a lot of shortstops available. We’ll just stay in info gathering mode for now, before we start actually setting our sights.

•  Power bats. Saunders has the Rockies looking for power bats, particularly in the outfield, with Nick Castellanos, Chris Taylor, and Michael Conforto as the primary targets. I don’t know how much the Cubs can really come into play for any of these three players, but I certainly have my eye on Castellanos and Conforto, in particular (in terms of want, not any sort of behind-the-scenes knowledge). Saunders concedes that they could all get paid handsomely this winter, but reminds us that the big shortstop free agent class could eat up a lot of positional dollars, leaving this trio in a more attainable class by default (wouldn’t that be nice for the Cubs, who also need power, particularly in the outfield).

And while we’re on the Rockies, don’t miss this:

Odds and Ends:

•   Max Scherzer may be the most likely outgoing free agent to return to the Dodgers this winter, though Robert Murray adds that it’s “unimaginable” that Clayton Kershaw pitches outside of Los Angeles. Elsewhere, Chris Taylor is likely to move on. And Corey Seager is interested in returning, but with Trea Turner available to play short, the Dodgers may not want to re-sign him at the same level as the market. Reminder: Turner is a free agent next winter.



Author: Michael Cerami

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