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Lukewarm Stove: Will FA Pitchers Sign Soon? Deep Market for Báez, Tough Beat for Bryant, Marlins, Schwarber, More

Chicago Cubs

I didn’t want to jinx the atypically steady and abundant flow of rumors here in the early offseason, but we may be past the point of acknowledging it — especially after Jeff Passan’s surprising report from the GM Meetings this morning that Corey Seager and Marcus Semien might try to sign BEFORE the CBA expires on December 1st, and that is in addition to early reports of the Mets trying to get Javy Báez to sign on the dotted line this month.

The possibility remains that it’s all a play for leverage from the players and their agents, but it doesn’t have to be a bluff. After all, according to Passan, it’s not just Semien, Seager, or even only clients of Scott Boras: “The starting pitching market, sources said, is expected to have multiple big-name pitchers get pre-lockout deals.”

Given that the Cubs two biggest needs are shortstop and starting pitching, that has my full attention. Maybe we’ll be treated to a November of old, when free agents actually considered signing a new deal and therefore forced teams to make a real offer. That would be nice.

Correa, Seager, and Báez

With the GM Meetings in the rearview, Mark Feinsand shared some key takeaways, particularly with respect to three big free agent shortstops, Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, and Javy Báez.

Feinsand suggests that Báez was a hot name at the meetings, primarily, but not exclusively, with the New York Mets, with sources claiming his market is far deeper than many expected:

“He might not get as much money as Correa and Seager, but there are plenty of teams that would love to add him to their lineup,” an AL executive said. “He’s been on the big stage, he won a World Series, he can play either second base or shortstop and, yeah, he strikes out a lot, but there’s no questioning his talent.”

It’s tough to discern Báez’s market for the time being, but you can certainly include the Mets (and possibly the Cubs at some level), while the Mariners have been mentioned, as well.

On Correa, Feinsand reports that the Tigers have been the most aggressive in their pursuit thus far, and it does feel about time for them to land a big fish again. There’s also this, which offers a little more background on Detroit, specifically.

 

But as the market’s top choice, Correa will presumably have his pick of teams. However, the implication from Feinsand is that the Dodgers, Mets, White Sox, and Angels are among the big market teams not expected to seriously consider Correa this winter.

And as for Seager, his biggest suitor appears to be the Yankees at this point, though they’re not likely out on the other free agent shortstops. Reminder, the Cubs have been connected to Báez, Trevor Story, and Corey Seager already this offseason, and Carlos Correa has said an awful lot of nice things about Wrigley Field and the Cubs. I’m really starting to think one of these guys ends up in Chicago.

A’s and Reds

We’re only a few weeks into the offseason and one narrative is already approaching the fatigue stage: The Oakland A’s and the Cincinnati Reds are in “full-on sell mode” this winter, with everyone any anyone available for the taking. The Cubs really need to leverage their finances to pry away talent from these teams at a relative trade-currency discount.

“It feels like those two teams could unload everybody this winter,” one NL executive said. “If you don’t want to spend on free agency and have the prospects to move, there are a lot of good players up for grabs.”

Theoretically, the Cubs should be willing (interested, even) to eat as much money as the league will allow. And both teams have a lot of players that could be of interest to Chicago, particularly on the starting pitching side. Here’s a taste of the lot:

Oakland: Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Frankie Montas, Sean Manaea, Chris Bassitt

Cincinnati Joey Votto, Mike Moustakas, Eugenio Suárez, Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle, Sonny Gray

Kris Bryant’s Market Evolution

Right after the season, we noticed that the comments out of San Francisco regarding Kris Bryant and a potential reunion with the Giants this winter were … unexpectedly lukewarm.

After the trade, Bryant seemed happy with his new team/city, and given their needs, the Giants certainly seemed like the most likely landing place for Bryant in 2022 and beyond. But everything their front office has said since seems to indicate a tepid interest, at best.

Yesterday, we discussed the Giants uniquely difficult position for a team that just won 107 games, and perhaps that makes a big expense on Bryant more difficult to swallo, but now local reports out of San Francisco are doing a little more than just tapping the breaks.

Here’s Greg Zumach transcribing SF reporter Andrew Baggarly from yesterday afternoon.

I don’t doubt the market will bear fruit for Bryant eventually, but maybe we/he/Boras overestimated how much teams are willing to spend. Certainly he won’t dip as low as Kiley McDaniel projected, thought, right (5 years, $90M … $18M AAV)? For what it’s worth, Jim Bowden had Bryant at six years, $150 million ($25M AAV). Ben Clemens has Bryant at eight years, $200M ($25M AAV). And the average crowd sourced deal at FanGraphs had Bryant between 5-6 years and $24.1M average annual value.

That’s a very wide range. But assuming McDaniel is too low and Clemens is too high. I think something in the 5-6 year range and $22M-$24M per year might get it done. I’m surprised by that, but I don’t want to ignore the signs. A reunion with the Cubs still feels so unlikely, but at the low end of that estimate? That feels like a steal.

Marlins Want a Big Bat Outfielder

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of the Marlins interest in signing a big bat outfielder this offseason, but specific names are starting to trickle out, and they’re both player with which you’re familiar.

First, Jon Heyman reports that the Marlins met with Scott Boras regarding Nick Castellanos, who happens to be a Miami area native. He concedes what you’re already thinking – good fit, but hard to see them affording him – adding that it’s more likely they use that money to add more than one bat. And, hey, perhaps one of those bats is Avisail Garcia:

Rather than sussing out specific rumors, our broader takeaway here – at this point in the offseason – is to figure out which teams are prioritizing which positions/players. And for now, it’s safe to say the Marlins are in on outfield bats.

But They Also Want a Catcher

The Marlins are also looking for a catcher and, as we’ve been told already, are seemingly quite willing to trade one of their young, big league starting pitchers. With Willson Contreras theoretically on the trade if the Cubs can’t extend him, your head might be turned, but I don’t quite think that makes sense for either side for a number of reasons.

Contreras is an older catcher with one year of team control remaining. If a team does offer enough to get him from the Cubs, they’re likely going to be a sure-fire 2022 World Series contender. And on the flip side, I just have such a hard time seeing the Cubs trading Contreras with absolutely no obvious avenues behind the plate in 2022 (and not a ton of options in free agency or trade).

If you want one of the Marlins starters, it’ll have to be for someone else on the Cubs. And probably some prospects, too. Don’t hold your breath.

Phillies Needs

At MLB.com, Todd Zolecki relays the needs of the Phillies, which are many and specific.

•   For one, Phillies president Dave Dombrowski is seeking a bona fide closer. Raisel Iglesias is available as a free agent, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes a priority out of Craig Kimbrel, who is very much available, as we’ve discussed.

•   For another, he’s also looking for a legitimate leadoff hitter (welcome to the party, pal) and another middle of the order bat. Again. Who isn’t? Specifically, those players would fill in left and center field for Andrew McCutchen and Odúbel Herrera.

•   And finally, despite the presence of Didi Gregorius for one more season, the Phillies are considered in the market for one of the top free agent shortstops. Interestingly, however, everyone was named besides Javy Báez (Correa, Seager, Story, Semien). With that said, with so many holes to fill elsewhere, it doesn’t sound like shortstop will be priority.

Odds and Ends:

•   Kyle Schwarber is going to be a very hot commodity isn’t he?

•   Some stray rumors.



Author: Michael Cerami

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