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Lukewarm Stove: Shortstop Market, Correa’s Back Health, Plans in the NL West, Phillies-Cubs Overlapping Interests, More

Chicago Cubs

I’m going to open this post with a little section from Jeff Passan’s latest at ESPN about the last few days before the lockout. Well, one 24-hour period in particular, when a whole of stuff happened. It’s such an awesome read. Here’s the tease:

About three weeks after those meetings in Carlsbad, around 4 p.m. ET on Nov. 28, the lucrative, unpredictable day that would change the game began. Five players — including all three of Boras’ top clients — would sign deals that guaranteed them more than $100 million, and another would breach the nine-figure threshold in the middle of the next night. In just 24 hours, teams lavished nearly a billion dollars on seven players ….

This is the story of the wildest 24 hours in the history of baseball free agency.

Passan spoke with more than 20 industry sources to get a clear picture of that day unfolded, and aside from it being just an awesome peek behind the curtain, there are actually a few rumors in the margins. For example …

Giants Looking for a Middle Infielder?

In explaining the process that landed Marcus Semien in Texas, Passan revealed that the San Francisco Giants “loved” Semien and were involved in his market before he signed with the Rangers. I suppose that means we should keep an eye on them when it comes to the other free agent shortstops, Trevor Story and Carlos Correa (more on him further down), or second basemen or third basemen. Indeed, Passan implies that the Giants knew Semien was going to cost at least a six years and $150 million (George Springer’s deal), so if the Giants were still in at that point, you can bet they’re still willing to spend big on a position player now, shortstop or otherwise.

Passan also shares specifics on how the Kevin Gausman sweepstakes played out, why Max Scherzer got as much as he did from the Mets, and when the Mets officially backed off of Javier Báez. Among the stray rumors spread throughout:

•   Kris Bryant never came particularly close to signing before the lockout, but a match with the Mets when we’re back on isn’t actually out of the question.

•   The Mariners are probably seeking a big bat, though they had actually hoped to get one before the deadline. Instead, they had to pivot to Robbie Ray, because the market was going crazy.

•   The Blue Jays and Dodgers were both in on Corey Seager, though neither were willing to match the Rangers apparent overpay (which was evidently necessary given their recent lack of success).

Plans in the NL West

Alden Gonzalez (ESPN) takes a look at the NL West, anticipating their moves coming out of the lockout. Among the most interesting bits is the way the Dodgers plans can change depending on whether or not they are forced to pay Trevor Bauer. In either case, the Dodgers’ rotation will require improvement. Clayton Kershaw (not a Cubs target) and Carlos Rodon (a potentially really interesting Cubs target) are both mentioned as “perfect” targets, specifically because they’ll be seeking short-term, high-AAV deals … which, of course, is something we’ve wanted the Cubs to do for a while now (and they already have!).

To that end, I don’t see Kershaw leaving Los Angeles – plus, he’s not the sort of high-velo target the Cubs are seeking to diversify their rotation anyway – but Rodon could be someone of interest to Chicago. So this’ll be something to track closely out of the lockout.

Relatedly, the Giants could still be active on the starting pitching front, but it’s more likely to be in trade than more additions in free agency. Gonzalez also mentions that Kris Bryant could be the bat they’re looking for.

As for the Padres, there’s more talk about shedding a big contract – Eric Hosmer or Wil Myers – by attaching a top prospect to the deal (something the Cubs have actually already explored with San Diego). And Gonzalez just happens to mention how much depth the team has at catcher, before floating Luis Campusano’s name (No. 37 prospect according to MLB Pipeline).

But don’t get your hopes too high. Campusano is a big-league-ready, top-40 prospect playing a premium position on a team that needs as many pre-arb players as they can get right now. Of course, Hosmer (the guy the Cubs had considered the last time this idea popped up) is a 32-year-old first baseman who barely topped the 100 wRC+ mark this season, isn’t great defensively, and is owed $59M from 2022-2025, so …. let’s just say the prospect return would have to be CONSIDERABLE.

Hop over for more on the three teams above as well as the Rockies and Diamondbacks.

Phillies Targeting Outfielders

The Phillies are looking for help in left and center field, but the free agent market doesn’t have many options remaining for center outside of … Kris Bryant?

In center field, the only standout free-agent name left is Kris Bryant, if you believe he can or will play center during some of his next contract. Bryant, who turns 30 in January, has started 14 career games in center field, 13 last season. Just 1.7% of his career innings have come in center. A team would be signing him for his offense and positional versatility, not his value specifically in center field.

With that in mind as, Corey Seidman (NBC Sports Philly) suggests the Phillies’ best options for center will likely come via trade: “There are two very good, young, ascending centerfielders on bad teams in Pittsburgh’s Bryan Reynolds and Baltimore’s Cedric Mullins. Either would cost a haul of prospects, the kind of package the Phillies might not be able to put together ….” Kevin Kiermaier is also mentioned.

As for left field, Nick Castellanos, Kyle Schwarber, and Michael Conforto all come in for some attention. And frankly, I’d be happy to see any of those three in Chicago (at various levels of interest/roles) — specially if Kyle Schwarber’s asking price is as reasonable as reported.

But each also comes with non-insignificant warts, from defensive questions to salary demands to not having as much success in Chicago to the qualifying offer. Either way, the Cubs could use another legitimate bat/left-handed power/an outfielder or some combination of those three. So I wouldn’t call it out of the question. Not yet.

A similar story is up at The Chicago Sun Times, although, it’s less rumor-y and more speculative-y on the Conforto front. Still makes for good reading, and I really am all for the Michael Conforto experiment on a multi-year deal.

Carlos Correa’s Back Health?

For as much as I would like the Cubs to seriously pursue Carlos Correa, his injury history is not something we can ignore. The Cubs certainly can’t when there’s $325M+ on the line.

And that goes double if what Buster Olney is hearing is true – this is what he told ESPN radio in Houston last week: “At some point during the process, teams were being told they could only access that information [on the health/status of his lower back] if they made a significant offer. And I think there was a feeling among the teams, like, ‘Hey, is this a chicken and the egg [situation]?’ We’re not going to make a significant offer until we know exactly what’s going on with his lower back.”

That’s not a great sign if true. Are team(s) out there just trying to talk down his market, or is this a legit concern? Certainly something to watch going forward.

Odds and Ends

•   Yasiel Puig is going to the KBO:

•   Latest on the Mets managerial search:



Author: Michael Cerami

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