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Lukewarm Stove: NYY Shortstop Search Impacts Rizzo, Blue Jays Want more SPs, QO Deadline, Buxton, Stroman,

Chicago Cubs

Earlier today, Noah Syndergaard became the latest pitcher to jump at a new contract before the next CBA expires on December 2nd, joining Eduardo Rodriguez, Andrew Heaney, Jose Berríos, and Jhoulys Chacin here in the early offseason. Of course, it’s not quite a done deal, just yet. More so than you might suspect.

Syndergaard still has to pass his physical, which, in his case, is more than a formality. In fact, the timing of his market was shrewdly centered entirely around that fact. According to Joel Sherman, Syndergaard’s representatives told all interested teams to get their best and final offers in by yesterday, so that Syndergaard could get his physical done today and still have time to accept the Mets qualifying offer by tomorrow’s deadline if he fails the Angels physical. Brilliant! So, yes, there’s a chance that Syndergaard could fail his physical and then stick the Mets with a one-year, $18.4 deal (which they might not hate, but still …).

In any case, let that serve as a reminder that tomorrow is the deadline for qualifying offer decisions on the 14 free agents who received one. Speaking of which … of the 14 players who received a qualifying offer, two already have deals in place (Syndergaard, Rodriguez), six have already declined (Chris Taylor, Trevor Story, Marcus Semien, Corey Seager, Nick Castellanos, Michael Conforto), three more are widely expected to decline the offer (Freddie Freeman, Carlos Correa, Robbie Ray). That leaves Justin Verlander, Brandon Belt, and Raisel Iglesias as the only true decisions remaining. Tick tock.

Blue Jays Not Done

Even after extending Berríos this morning, the Blue Jays are looking to add starting pitching this offseason. And according to Jon Morosi, their targets include free agents Robbie Ray, Steven Matz, and Kevin Gausman, as well as the slate of Marlins starters reportedly available in trade.

As for any potential overlap with the Cubs, I’d say a pursuit of Ray is very unlikely, but Matz could make some sense and the Cubs have already been connected to Gausman. Separately, as we’ve discussed, I don’t quite see the Marlins starters making much sense for the Cubs, mostly because the acquisition cost is likely going to be prohibitively expensive for a team still in the build-up phase of farm system development. Long story short: The Blue Jays are medium competition for the Cubs in the starting pitcher market(s).

Rizzo and the Yankees

Feel free to peruse SNY’s list of top-10 free agent targets for the Yankees at your leisure, but we’re going to focus in on one narrative thread for now, the Yankees pursuit of a shortstop and its connection to Anthony Rizzo.

Here’s the section du jour, bolded emphasis mine:

Much could depend on what else the Yankees do with their money, and getting an expensive shortstop might make it less likely they’ll re-sign Rizzo, since first base then would become the obvious option for DJ LeMahieu. However, Rizzo’s left-handed bat and outstanding defense might make the case for bringing him back, moving LeMahieu to third and perhaps trading Gio Urshela. It could depend how much value the Yankees believe Rizzo has left as he turns 33 next year, considering his numbers have declined the last two seasons.

Aside from the Rangers and Tigers, the Yankees have become one of the teams mentioned most in connection to the big five FA shortstops we discussed this morning – Seager, in particular. In fact, Seager headlines this list as “the perfect fit in the Bronx….”

So combined with (1) their apparent effort to keep Gleyber Torres at second base and (2) GM Brian Cashman’s not-so-conspicuous comments on a flexible payroll going forward, it’s pretty fair to assume the Yankees going to try hard for one of these guys. And if they succeed, that could squeeze Rizzo right out of New York (a new SS pushes Torres to second and LeMahieu to first).

And then I don’t really know what happens, to be honest. The Cubs theoretically have a need, but I doubt their offer from last spring is still on the table. The Red Sox were interested at the deadline, but seem to really love Kyle Schwarber and also still have 26-year-old Bobby Dalbec (a former fourth-round pick, and organizational top-3 prospect with a career 115 wRC+ in his first two big league seasons). I’m not saying Rizzo will have no market, but I am saying it could be much more limited than you might think and that *could* make a reunion in Chicago a lot more likely (so would the universal DH, which would allow the Cubs to manage Rizzo’s workload and also still utilize Frank Schwindel). Just some food for thought.

Byron Buxton

I don’t really have a ton to add to this story that we haven’t already discussed (twice, actually), but Dan Hayes and Ken Rosenthal wrote another article underscoring the availability of Byron Buxton, and it feels worth taking in – at least for the context.

Chairman Jim Pohlad, according to major-league sources, is reluctant to move Buxton, knowing such a decision potentially would upset a fan base tired of seeing the team part with homegrown stars. But the Twins have failed to reach an agreement on a contract extension with Buxton, their dynamic, yet oft-injured center fielder who is eligible for free agency after the 2022 season. And the chances of the team returning to contention in Buxton’s final year under club control appear slim without a single veteran starting pitcher returning to the club’s rotation.

I guess the bottom line here is that he’s very much available. And whether it’s in a trade this season as a big-time gamble or as a free agent next winter (perhaps also as a big gamble), I hope the Cubs don’t write him off. The injuries are a real concern, but the upside is about as high as it gets.

Odds and Ends:

•   After adding Syndergaard this morning, the Angels are reportedly interested in other “big arms on short term” deals. And that puts Justin Verlander square in their sights. He’s a big arm, he’s probably a short-term play for any team in this market, and while he’ll be attached to a qualifying offer (and, thus, draft pick compensation) the relative cost to the Angels is lower now that they’ve already added Syndergaard under the same circumstances. Stacking those players in one offseason is often a sound strategy, because each additional free agent costs less than the one prior and perhaps much less than they would to another team who hasn’t signed any yet.

•   And doesn’t that all just square with this kinda wild thinking:

•   If you made it this far, stick around for the Marcus Stroman hilarity (and self-propagated rumors). It’s worth it. Okay, first thing’s first, Stroman is out there marketing himself on Twitter. And he has a very good point.

•   In a world where the universal DH is tied to the starting pitcher (the DH goes away when the starter comes out), a pitcher like Stroman could have a LOT of extra value. Don’t think just start-to-start, but think also about how making as many starts as possible prevents bullpen games or swing-man starts, both of which will result in fewer opportunities for the DH. I’m sure that was a big part of what pushed the Berríos deal across the finish line with a massive $130M guarantee.

•   But as for the funny/rumory part, suffice it to say, Stroman is not heading to the Yankees. And when Taijuan Walker chimes in, Stroman explains why:



Author: Michael Cerami

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