Lukewarm Stove: Cubs Letting the Market Come to Them? Bellinger on the Block? Other Big Spenders? More

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Lukewarm Stove: Cubs Letting the Market Come to Them? Bellinger on the Block? Other Big Spenders? More

Chicago Cubs

In case you missed the rumor late last night, the Mets are still trying to lock down Javy Báez very early in the offseason. Their plan was first rumored in mid-October and was underscored yesterday at the GM Meetings, when Mets leadership met with Báez’s camp.

Given where Báez is in the pecking order of the elite shortstop free agent class (somewhere behind Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, and Marcus Semien, at least (I’m not quite sure where I’d put Trevor Story)), I don’t think it’d be an error for him to take the Mets seriously right now — at least, if they’re as aggressive as they’d have to be this early if they actually wanted to get something done.

Sure, it’d be a little risky, but with so much free agent shortstop competition this winter, Báez might actually get his best offer from the team that has a reason to do something exciting right now, especially when none of the other top shortstops are anywhere close to signing. If he waits too long, and all the bigger budget teams pick one of the other four really good shortstops, I could envision his market cratering. He’s just one of those players, where if you don’t quite get his value, you might not offer something anywhere close to how he values himself.

Here are some rumors from around the league as the GM Meetings carry on …

Cubs Letting the Market Come to Them

Sahadev Sharma has a new writeup at The Athletic loaded with comments from Jed Hoyer, whose word of the day calendar obviously landed on “nimble” – aka the Cubs’ plans for the offseason. The short version is that Hoyer seems especially interested in letting the market (both trade and free agent) come to him this winter. And that could help explain why we’ve seen rumors ranging from signing Trevor Story, Corey Seager, and Kevin Gausman to trading Willson Contreras if they have to and spending only intelligently (which feels like code for not a lot right now). 

The focus, however, remains pitching: “Obviously on offense, we’ll add in different areas to supplement things. I still think, as I think about what our priorities are, adding Miley or not, we have to continue to add arms.”

But it’s more specific than that. When I say Hoyer wants to let the market come to him, that seems to imply an opportunistic approach when it comes to teams looking to shed payroll. The Wade Miley claim is a perfect example, but Sharma mentions the A’s (Sean Manea, Frankie Montas, Matt Chapman, and Matt Olson) specifically, as well as the Padres (more on that right here), Marlins (and their stable of pitchers), and Dodgers.

The Dodgers? Bellinger? The Cubs!?

Yes, the Dodgers, and for someone you might not expect: “After a rather disastrous season for Cody Bellinger, are the Dodgers looking to get out from the outfielder’s expected large arbitration number and if so, what would it take to pry him away from Los Angeles?”

Yes, Bellinger had an almost unimaginably awful season in 2022 (48 wRC+. -0.8 WAR). And yes, he dealt with multiple injuries that should give you pause. But talk about buying low on a 26-year-old, very-recently elite and versatile player:

2017: 138 wRC+, 39 HRs, 4.0 WAR
2018: 120 wRC+, 25 HRs, 3.6 WAR
2019: 161 wRC+, 47 HRs, 7.7 WAR

If the Dodgers are looking to move some salary(?), I’d be VERY interested in the Cubs taking the gamble. Bellinger, 26, comes with two more years of team control, with a 2022 salary projected at $16.1 million. That’s a very good use of money for a team with so much space, and I really hope this was more than a passing line by Sharma. Indeed, this reminds a lot of my desired pursuit of Byron Buxton and I would just love for the Cubs to take a chance on one of these potential superstars. The risks are very real and the cost to acquire either wouldn’t be painless, but if you’re going to roll the dice, it might as well be on young guys with MVP-level upside.

In any case, I can’t think of a better offseason in recent memory for the Cubs to be so flexible in terms of finances, roster vacancies, and their ability to take big swings.

White Sox on Semien

Although the Cubs need a shortstop and have been connected to a few of the younger guys already, one player with whom they’re not likely to be involved is Marcus Semien. At his age and after a monster season in 2021 (131 wRC+, 6.6 WAR), he’s going to score big this winter and likely from a team that’s a little closer to contending for the World Series in 2022.

Perhaps a team like the White Sox, who are meeting with his camp at the GM Meetings this week could make some sense:

With Tim Anderson still rocking at shortstop and Nick Madrigal now on the north side, the White Sox would be targeting Semien as a second baseman, the position he played all year for the Blue Jays for which he won the AL Gold Glove. And honestly, it’s a pretty good fit. This will be one to follow.

For what it’s worth, Ken Rosenthal reports that although Semien is open to staying at second base, he “wants to be paid like a shortstop, according to one team with interest.”

Additional Rosenthal Notes

On the Shortstops: (1) Among the other teams reportedly interested in a free agent shortstop, you’ll find the Yankees, Dodgers, Mariners, and Tigers, all of which we’ve heard before. (2) Trevor Story, who grew up in Texas, is a “strong consideration” for the Rangers this offseason.

With that in mind, the Rangers are also reportedly taking a look at Corey Seager:

On some starting pitchers(1) The Angels are looking for starting pitchers (gasp!), but (2) the overlap with the Cubs may not be too bad: “Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander are the most obvious free agents who fit….” (3) With that said, the Angels are also reportedly looking at Robbie Ray, Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergaard, and Alex Wood, all of whom could conceivably – maybe – be Cubs targets, except for Ray. Though I suspect, personally, they’ll stick to guys detached from a qualifying offer, like Stroman, Kevin Gausman, Carlos Rodon, Jon Gray, Steven Matz, Anthony Desclafani, etc.

On the trade candidates(1) Willson Contreras is still being listed as a trade candidate, assuming the Cubs can’t find a way to extend him(2) Josh Hader, Craig Kimbrel, Didi Gregorius, Cody Bellinger, Byron Buxton, Kevin Kiermaier, Luis Castillo, and Sonny Gray are just SOME of the available names mentioned by Rosenthal, who adds that (3) the Padres, Mariners, and Guardians (specifically, with Jose Ramirez) could throw their players into the ring, as well.

There is SO MUCH more good stuff in that article. Go check it out for yourself. I did not include all the rumors.

Giants Needs/Convo

Speaking of Anthony Desclafani, the Giants met with his reps yesterday at the GM Meetings:

They also met with the reps of Brandon Belt, and are in the market for a right-handed outfield bat, including potential Cubs target Seiya Suzuki:

Let’s talk about the Giants for a second. I think I was probably a little too quick to assume they’d just go hog wild in free agency this offseason, namely with Kris Bryant. But it’s easy to forget that they actually lost a TON of talent from their 107-win team at the end of the year.

On the position side, their outgoing free agents include Kris Bryant (1.0 WAR over two months), Brandon Belt (3.3 WAR), and Donovan Solano (1.1 WAR). Plus, Buster Posey retired (4.9 WAR), and Brandon Crawford (5.5 WAR) is about to turn 35. On the pitching side, they’re losing Kevin Gausman (4.8 WAR), Anthony DeSclafani (3.0 WAR), Alex Wood (2.5 WAR), and Johnny Cueto (1.5 WAR), among some other less impactful arms.

So just with those players, alone, the Giants are losing an astounding 27.6 WAR. Obviously, there could always be more signings, mid-season trades, and surprises, but I think it’s safe to say the 107-Win Giants team of 2021 was more of a flash in the pan that will need to be reignited than a sign of what’s definitely to come in 2022 without any improvements. And if that’s the case, adding just one big guy at the highest end of free agency may not be the best use of resources.

To however my own however, the Giants have about as much financial flexibility as the Cubs this offseason and won’t be sitting on their hands. Ken Rosenthal has starting pitching and center field as their priorities.

Odds and Ends:

•   In addition to the Giants, Patrick Mooney believes the Mariners could be a fit for Kris Bryant this offseason.

•   Scott Boras/Patrick Mooney seem to imply that both Carlos Rodon and Yusei Kikuchi could be on the Cubs radar this offseason, as we largely expect. However, it sounds like a Nick Castellanos reunion isn’t very likely: “That was the time to sign Castellanos — when the Cubs still had a window with their World Series core, Castellanos’ free agency wasn’t tied to draft-pick compensation and the Cubs didn’t have so many other holes on their roster.”

•   Would the Pirates really trade their star, 26-year-old center fielder entering just his first year of arbitration? If they can’t keep him for the FIRST year he’ll be a tiny bit pricy, who exactly are they going to keep? And how will they ever be good?

•   In any case, he’s not the only outfielder trade candidate being targeted by the Yankees:

•   The Tigers are showing interest in Jon Gray this offseason. And based on the rumors we’ve already seen, their big name manager, and arriving cache of young players, they seem to be waking back up from their slumber. They could be surprisingly active this offseason.

•   The Cardinals will be shopping for starting pitchers this offseason (get in line).

•   Is our next massive extension for a young star on the way?

•   What’s a half a billion between friends?

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Author: Michael Cerami

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