Lukewarm Stove: Cubs Looking for Relievers, Boras on Correa, a Braves Pre-Emptive Strike? More

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Lukewarm Stove: Cubs Looking for Relievers, Boras on Correa, a Braves Pre-Emptive Strike? More

Chicago Cubs

In case you missed the news, the MLB and the Players Union met yesterday, and … gasp! Progress was technically made. The players reportedly made a significant concession on free agency (and another necessary one on revenue sharing), and that was evidently enough to get another meeting scheduled for today. Huge news. Probably. I think. Relatively speaking. Maybe.

Let’s talk about some rumors to distract us …

Cubs Looking for Relievers

When the offseason began, we had hoped to see the Cubs prioritize upgrades to their starting rotation. And on that front … so far, so good (Marcus Stroman, Wade Miley).

Since then, we’ve been focusing on the positional side, specifically the infield, where the right big bat and high quality glove at short could make a difference in 2022 and beyond.

But what about the bullpen? The Cubs have been so good at churning out relievers over the past few years that it’s probably been a little too easy to forget that they traded their top three arms at the deadline (Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Chafin, and Ryan Tepera).

There are plenty of interesting, young options for the bullpen in the organization already, including, most notably, Codi Heuer, Manny Rodriguez, Rowan Wick, and Brad Wieck (plus whoever doesn’t make the rotation of Alec Mills, Justin Steele, Adbert Alzolay, and Keegan Thompson), and I could very easily list about 5-7 other names. But that’s also a lot of inexperience.

And for a team that should be trying to compete in the first half of the season, that’s not quite going to cut it.

Here’s Jed Hoyer on the topic via Russell Dorsey of The Chicago Sun Times:

“I don’t think you can have a bullpen that is entirely young guys,” president Jed Hoyer said. “For that reason, I think you need some guys that can help them through it as mentors down there. There’s an art to building the bullpen as far as how you get ready, your mentality going into the game, how you approach it. . . . You don’t have all veterans, but I think having some veterans to help young guys is really important.”

But here’s the part that Hoyer is (probably purposefully) side-stepping: Yes, veteran relievers can help mentor young arms, perhaps even rising all tides in the process. But when they’re individually successful, even on a bad team, they also tend to be most highly sought-after and easily-traded pieces at the deadline. In other words, you can flip them.

The Cubs should be in the business of flipping short-term pieces once again *IF* things don’t work out by midseason, and good relievers are the most direct path, especially when they can be had on short-term deals for only money (of which you have plenty).

To that end, Dorsey identifies free agents Andrew Chafin, Brad Hand, and Archie Bradley, all of whom the Cubs have either had, or had interest in, in the past. Dorsey also believes the Cubs still need to add two left-handed relievers this offseason, and the wording feels like just a bit more than a stab in the dark: “The Cubs, who have just one left-handed reliever on their 40-man roster, need to add another southpaw. It’s also feasible for them to look to add two left-handed arms in the bullpen to fill that void.”

We’ll dig in on those arms as the Offseason Pt. 2 opens back up.

Scott Boras on Carlos Correa

Earlier this month, Carlos Correa hired Scott Boras as his new representative, and soap-boxing has officially begun.

•   First, here’s Boras’ explanation for the change in representation, which effectively amounts to We better, that’s why:

•   Next, here’s Boras explaining why Correa deserves, essentially, a market-setting contract for a player of his position/caliber (though I don’t think Boras actually expects Correa to beat Francisco Lindor, even if Corey Seager is squarely in his sights):

•   And here’s Boras artfully explaining why Correa’s market should include everyone from the New York Yankees to the park district t-ball team in a township near you:

I don’t think any of this necessarily tells us too much more about what happens next, but it’s certainly interesting and useful background information, all of which could become more relevant in just a few weeks. And while it may take something especially creative, I still think the Cubs are in this race. I really do. The Obsessive Watch continues.

The Braves Pre-emptive Strike? Or Freeman’s?

If they can’t come to terms with first baseman Freddie Freeman after the lockout, the Atlanta Braves will have other options available to them (say, signing free agent first baseman Anthony Rizzo or trading for the A’s Matt Olson). But the same goes for Freeman, who’s already drawn interest from the Yankees, Dodgers, and Blue Jays, a few clubs with the need and pockets to get something done. But if one of those sides acts too quickly, the impact to the other could be enormous.

And that’s setting up a fascinating dynamic for immediately after the lockout ends, according Ken Rosenthal:

The immediate post-lockout world will be frenzied, leaving little time for deliberations, forcing teams to accelerate decisions. Freeman’s free agency is but one example of how the dynamic might shift. The Braves would lose leverage in trade discussions if Freeman signed with another club. Freeman would lose one of his principal suitors if the Braves traded for his replacement. And under the compressed calendar heading into spring training, markets will open and close in a blink.

So what are these sides to do? Rosenthal is tentatively expecting a “pre-emptive strike.”

According to Rosenthal’s sources, the Braves have *already* discussed a trade for first baseman Matt Olson, and could look to get something done quickly after the lockout to avoid landing themselves in a position of weakness: “The [trade talks with the A’s] cannot be dismissed as mere due diligence. Once the free-agent market opened, the Braves faced the possible loss of Freeman, 32, at any moment.”

Meanwhile, Freeman might be more open to the interest from the rest of the market, especially the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Dodgers, all of whom would be more interested if they “actually believed Freeman would leave the Braves,” which, at this point? Yeah, it’s possible.

This is going to be a really fascinating dynamic. I can’t believe the Braves might actually screw this up. Just give him his money.

Cardinals No Shortstop Threat?

The Cardinals remain committed to Paul DeJong at shortstop and “were not active in discussions with any player in this marquee class of free agent shortstops” before the lockout. There were definitely some rumors and speculation that the Cardinals *could* come calling on one of those top free agent shortstops before the lockout, so this is actually a fairly significant update.

I don’t think you can suddenly count the Cardinals out, but I do feel a little better about them potentially NOT going after Trevor Story or Carlos Correa now.

Author: Michael Cerami

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