With things getting rather toasty in the lead-up to Thanksgiving, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal dropped a plethora of bits this morning for you to dig into.
One small thing that jumped out at me immediately was an indication that free agent shortstop Corey Seager very much wants to sign before the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires next week, and the Los Angeles Dodgers very much want to re-sign him. It’s not the first report of Seager being among the players that want to sign early, but the indication is even more specific than that. And since we’re paying attention to Seager’s free agency a little more closely thanks to a few Cubs-related mentions, I thought this worth breaking down.
It’s important to note the context of the mention, by the way, which is all about the market for first baseman Freddie Freeman, and, more specifically, how Seager might take the Dodgers out of it:
The Dodgers, as presently constituted, would play Max Muncy at first and Trea Turner at second. But if somehow they failed to re-sign shortstop Corey Seager, a player they seem to very much want back, they could replace his left-handed bat with Freeman’s, then play Muncy at second and Turner at short. An intriguing fallback, for sure ….
The odds of any of these clubs getting serious with Freeman remain long. The Yankees need to find at least a stopgap at short and address their pitching. The Dodgers are probably the favorites to sign Seager, who is said to be the itchiest of the big names to get a deal done before the expected start of the lockout on Dec. 2.
To be sure, Rosenthal is reporting what he’s reporting, and it’s fair game for us to focus on the Seager slice. But I think it’s still useful for you to know, and to keep in mind, that what Rosenthal is mostly doing here is laying out how and why the Dodgers are a tough fit for Freeman. The fit is tough because the Dodgers may want to re-up with Seager, who may want to sign very soon.
Even with that context in mind, it’s the strongest talk we’ve seen of the Dodgers being the favorite to re-sign Seager, and Seager, specifically, being the “itchiest” of the big names to want to get a deal done over the next week.
Both things would, in my view, cut sharply against the Cubs getting seriously involved, even if they do probably have some level of interest in Seager.
For one thing, there’s the simple and obvious note: the Dodgers are the favorite. So, I mean, that’s not the Cubs. Obvious point stated obviously. For another thing, our general sense has been that the Cubs are not inclined to make their biggest moves before the new CBA is settled, because they are among the teams that want to know what the landscape looks like going forward. They might then be able to better maximize their deployment of short-term dollars. That, in turn, reveals a third thing: the Cubs almost certainly prefer to stay shorter-term, and if Seager signs soon, it won’t be on the shorter end of any continuum (six years, for example, is still shorter than eight years).
Combine the two notes together and you get yet another consideration that cuts against the Cubs: if a major, major free agent is signing this quickly, comfort probably plays a big part in those discussions. The time for new teams to court and sell and really push the soft factors is limited to almost nothing. So even if you were ready and willing to bid at the top of the market – together with the Dodgers – your ability to work on those factors that might be tiebreakers is severely reduced if the guy is insistent on signing before December.
Let’s be quite clear: the Chicago Cubs actually landing Corey Seager this offseason was always a very low-likelihood possibility. So it’s not like this Rosenthal report chaps me or anything. It’s just that it makes me think that very low-likelihood possibility is even lower.