Nick Castellanos and Michael Conforto are among the free agents that have already rejected their qualifying offer this offseason, but there are a couple more to report. No surprises here, but Corey Seager will reportedly decline his $18.4 million qualifying offer from the Dodgers for 2022 and ditto Marcus Semien from the Blue Jays. Both players will now hit the market attached to compensation, requiring their new team to give up a draft pick, the associated bonus pool, and some IFA money.
Seager’s market hasn’t really been explored yet, which makes him a pretty big wild card given how much he should earn, but we do now have some clarity on Semien:
Sources: Marcus Semien is one of the many free agents under consideration by the #Mariners early in the offseason. Semien, 31, is believed to prefer West Coast clubs and has experience in the AL West; the Mariners already have shown sincere interest. @MLBNetwork @710ESPNSeattle
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 8, 2021
Josh Hader Could Finally Be Traded
The industry has been guessing at a Josh Hader trade for a couple seasons now, but every winter, the Brewers keep him, and every summer, he continues to dominate. The difference this year? The cost is higher than ever and the control is winding down. Here’s Ken Rosenthal’s framing at The Athletic:
Will the low-revenue Brewers be comfortable paying Hader a projected $10 million in arbitration if he is going to remain a one-inning reliever, albeit one who might be worth twice that salary? Or, with Hader at the height of his powers and under club control for only two more seasons, is now the time for Milwaukee to trade him?
…. Hader’s current trade value likely is far higher than it will be a year from now, when his salary will be even higher and he will be only one season away from free agency.
Part of the calculus here is that the Brewers have an astounding 13 players eligible for arbitration this offseason with a 2022 payroll already estimated for a club-record $123 million. And that’s without adding a single player this winter *and* losing Avisaíl Garcia, who declined his $12M mutual option, to free agency. With Devin Williams hanging around and not much competition on the trade market (Craig Kimbrel is out there, but he’ll be more expensive and less attractive), the Brewers might have finally met the wall. Josh Hader might finally be on the move.
Well, That’s an Interesting Sign
We already wrote up Andrew Heaney’s deal with the Dodgers, so we don’t have to get back into that or why the Cubs may need to be equally aggressive early on if they want to land their top-targets in this tier of free agency. But I did find this line particularly interesting in that same article from Rosenthal (emphasis mine):
“The Dodgers, who reached agreement Monday with Heaney on a one-year, $8.5 million deal, pending a physical, were one of more than 10 teams to make him an offer, according to a source with knowledge of his negotiations.”
More than TEN teams made Andrew Heaney an offer? Wow. You have to wonder if the Cubs were involved and if this changes any of our expectations for how slow this winter will be. Perhaps we will see some more movement before the CBA expires and a lockout ensues. That would certainly be better than a whole lot of silence before a multi-month lockout.
Marlins Selling Starters
The A’s, Rays, and Reds (as evidenced by the Wade Miley move, the Tucker Barnhart trade, and the availability of Luis Castillo) are three teams that are likely to cut some payroll this offseason, primarily by moving their costlier arbitration-level players. But perhaps we can add the Marlins to the mix, as well.
According to Jon Morosi, they may be willing to move one of the following three starting 3+ year arbitration-level pitchers, in order to “clear a rotation spot” for the next young starter in 2022: Sandy Alcántara, Pablo López, Elieser Hernández.
Alcantara, 26, would undoubtedly be the top target of the three. The right-hander is coming off a 33-start season (205.2 IP, 4th in MLB) during which he earned a 3.19 ERA and 3.49 FIP. The former Cardinals prospect also struck out batters at a 24.0% clip with a walk rate at just 6.0%. He also comes with three more years of team control via arbitration and two minor league options. So, to recap … he’s young, good, healthy, and under control for three relatively cheap years. Getting him would require a HAUL. I’m not really sure the Marlins should move him, or if anyone would be willing to give up what it takes.
If the Cubs were 1-2 years further along in – whatever we’re calling this path – then I’d say he’d be worth the price. But I can’t see them emptying the cupboard they’re only just starting to restock. (Brett: and even if the Marlins REALLY wanted Willson Contreras, reducing the prospect cost, you’re doing a little robbing Peter to pay Paul at that point.)
Maybe one of the other two, who are also young and come with three years of team control via arbitration, could make more sense. But with so many arms available in free agency, I’m not sure the Cubs would or should be too aggressive here.
Note: Kevin Gausman, Marcus Stroman, Carlos Rodon, Jon Gray, Steven Matz, Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Cobb are among the free agent starting pitchers who are (1) not attached to qualifying offers and (2) could be in the realm of possibilities for the Cubs. In fact, Gausman and Stroman have already been connected to the Cubs this offseason, while Rodon, Gray, Matz, and Cobb have been Cubs targets in the past.
A’s Players Available
Like I said, the A’s are always one of those teams looking to rid themselves of their more expensive arb-level players and first baseman Matt Olson is no exception. In fact, he’s not alone. According to Andy Martino (SNY), “Multiple league executives in touch with the A’s say that another reset is coming from the franchise, and Olson is one of several players who will likely be on the move.”
With Frank Schwindel around and Anthony Rizzo available in free agency (likely for less than the Cubs were offering last spring), I don’t know that the Cubs would go after a first baseman like Olson in trade, even if he’s 27, under team control for two more years, and coming off a 5.0 WAR, 146 wRC+ season. It just doesn’t feel like the best use of resources when the Cubs have so many needs.
… but the Yankees surely will. And if they do, that could take Anthony Rizzo’s most likely landing spot off the table, perhaps increasing the chances for a reunion with the Cubs? While I think Javy Báez might be the most likely to return and Kris Bryant is not likely to return at all, Rizzo has always been this loose possibility. We know he likes Chicago and Chicago likes him. And if he’s suddenly willing to accept something even lower than what they were offering a year ago, and the DH is coming, I don’t see why a deal doesn’t make sense.
But setting that aside, in addition to the starting pitchers, the A’s do have a position player the Cubs should be more willing to acquire, and that’s 28-year-old third baseman Matt Chapman. Chapman is coming off a down year offensively, but is still a high quality glove at third base with plenty of upside. The rub is that his power-strikeout-glove profile isn’t actually too far off from, say, Patrick Wisdom, but I think Chapman is a safer bet for 2022 and beyond, and pretty clearly has more overall upside.
In any case, keep an eye on the A’s, my friends, they could hold the keys to some big deals this offseason … so long as a salary floor doesn’t cause a problem.
Odds and Ends:
• I’m not sure why Rosenthal was so vague, but he did mention that “at least six teams,” including the Dodgers, Yankees, and Astros were going to be involved for those top five shortstops: Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Trevor Story, Javy Báez, and Marcus Semien. He also mentioned the Phillies, but seemingly not as one of those six teams. They were moreso in the Cubs category of will be involved, if one of their markets craters.
• A top-shelf reliever might find his way over to the big leagues this winter from Japan:
Suarez had a great 2021 as Hanshin's closer, posting 25.3 K%, 3.5 BB%, as well as a 1.66 FIP in 62.1 IP. Also averaged 157 kmph (~97.6 mph) with his 4-seam and 155.1 kmph (~96.4 mph) with his 2-seam. His change has emerged as a useful out pitch in 2021. Definite ML appeal here.
— Sung Min Kim (@sung_minkim) November 9, 2021