Lukewarm Stove: Scherzer and Gausman, Angels Targeting Castillo, Mariners on KB, Buxton, Ray, More

Every offseason, I try to go on the record for at least one guy I really think is being overlooked by the market (i.e. so the Cubs should get involved). Three years ago to the day, I picked DJ LeMahieu. Two years ago, I thought Didi Gregorius was the guy. And last year, I said Marcus Semien was worth the gamble. LeMahieu’s first year after my article? 5.4 WAR in 2019. Gregorius’ first year? 1.4 WAR in 2020 (3.8 WAR pace). Semien in 2021? 6.6 WAR. Hire me, Cubs. 

This year, my pick is Michael Conforto. I think the market is WAY too low on him and I think the Cubs should roll the dice. He is attached to draft pick compensation, so that does make things tricky for the Cubs, but if you give him enough years, it hurts less (he’s only 28!). There. Shot called. Now onto some rumors.

Scherzer and Gausman Connection

Max Scherzer becomes the latest pitcher in line to sign his free agent contract before the lockout on December 1st. And according to Jon Heyman, the Dodgers, Giants, Angels, and Mets are involved. Rumor has it that Scherzer is trying to absolutely obliterate the average annual value record for a free agent, with pretty much every expectation that he gets at least $40 million/year (perhaps over only 2-3 years, but still).

And that’s where things start to get a little tricky and interconnected. If a team is truly in on any single pitcher seeking a $40M+ AAV, that guy simply *must* be their priority. You couldn’t possibly entertain signing a different upper-tier starter if you have $40M+ dangling in the wind. So I think we’re going to see some connected decisions this week, specifically as it relates to Kevin Gausman (also expected to sign very soon) and perhaps the Mets, in particular.

Gausman is the Mets primary backup (and the latest rumor had them really pushing him to sign), but Ken Rosenthal also has them in on Jon Gray and Carlos Rodon, as well. Basically, the Mets are in on all the top free agent starters that are not (1) attached to draft pick compensation or (2) Marcus Stroman. For what it’s worth, Rosenthal says they could always dip into the trade market, but outside of everyone on the A’s, there aren’t actually a lot of options.

Circling back to Gausman, the expectation is that he will sign before the impending December 1st lockout. Rosenthal concedes that a lot of teams are involved in his market, but calls out the Mets, Blue Jays, and Mariners in particular.

But naturally, just as I finished typing all that, Jon Morosi laid this one on us (‘Tis the season):

The Giants have been good to (and good for) Gausman over the last two years, they’re coming off a strong season, and even though they have a lot of roster to rebuild, have a ton of money to spend. I would not be surprised at all to see a reunion there.

As for the Blue Jays/Gausman, they’re also reportedly interested in Robbie Ray.

Angels Looking for Pitching

Also in on Robbie Ray? The Los Angeles “Always Looking for Starters” Angels.

The Angels have already added Noah Syndergaard (at a pretty extreme cost), as well as Aaron Loup (at a more-than-expected cost), but they’re not done yet. They reportedly have interest in Ray, who is attached to draft pick compensation, though that’s less of an issue for them now that they’ve already signed one qualified free agent, and Jon Gray, whom they reportedly pursued at the deadline.

Jon Gray could be a target for the Cubs, so there’s definitely some overlap there, but we don’t really expect them to go after a qualified free agent like Ray.

Of course, the trade market exists, and there, Luis Castillo awaits for some lucky team. I’m a big fan of Castillo, and it sounds pretty likely that the Reds are ready to move on.

It would not stink if the Reds got appreciably worse in 2022. The Cubs have a ton of moves to make, but the NL Central is still winnable.

Mariners Looking at Familiar Bats

Also from that Ken Rosenthal article is some interesting targets for the Mariners. After adding Adam Frazier, the Mariners are reportedly looking at, you guessed it, Kevin Gausman, as well as Chris Taylor, for whom there haven’t been a ton of rumors yet. I suspect he’ll be in high demand, but maybe he’s just shown a willingness to wait out the CBA. In any case, I found it interesting that Taylor is reportedly seeking a four or five year deal, which feels a bit long. Just something to note.

The real fun, however, comes next, when Rosenthal casually mentions Kyle Schwarber and/or Kris Bryant. This isn’t the first time Bryant has been connected to the Mariners, but now it’s happened twice in the same day, from two different, solid reporters:

With a low likelihood of Bryant going to the Mets, the lukewarm interest from the Giants, the lack of room on the Padres and Angels, the low payroll of the A’s, and Bryant’s overarching interest in the West Coast, I’d say the Mariners are now your front runner for KB. Maybe the Dodgers pivot to Bryant if they miss out on some positional free agents? I don’t know. In any case, his willingness to wait out the CBA is the least surprising thing ever. He and Scott Boras are not risk-averse when it comes to trying hard to maximize his next contract (which, hey, good for him … I hope it works out).

Odds and Ends:

•   The Phillies need an outfielder, and they were in on Starling Marte. But they thought his $78 million deal was too expensive. They could eventually pivot to Byron Buxton (who’s path is going to be fun to follow this winter), but Twins still trying to extend him. They’ve failed before and he’s pretty clearly going to be available (again) if they can’t get something done soon. UPDATE: Extension it is.

•   The Cubs are one of just four teams said to be in on Michael Lorenzon, who’s already a two-way player, but wants to be even more of a two-way player (a la Shohei Ohtani).

written by

Michael Cerami began covering the Chicago Cubs for Bleacher Nation as a part-time contributor in 2015. One year later, he joined Bleacher Nation full-time, covering the Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball. Today, Michael runs Bleacher Nation, contributing as a writer (Cubs, MLB) and an editor for all sections of the site, including the Chicago Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks, as well as MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL. In 2019, Michael was the co-host of NBC Sports Chicago's Cubs Post-Game Show Outside the Ivy. You can find him on Twitter/X @Michael_Cerami

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