I don’t know if the little progress that has been made on a new CBA spurred reporters to ask some questions, but the rumor mill has picked up a little steam lately. So at least there’s that? Here’s the latest from around the league …
Yankees Alternatives to Correa, Freeman
Despite their relative silence before the lockout, the Yankees might not be as active on the free agent market when the offseason reopens as we had come to expect. According to SNY, the Yankees’ post-lockout plans for free agency will be more opportunistic than anything else. And that relates to the Cubs – at least tangentially – with respect to two players in particular, Carlos Correa and Anthony Rizzo (by way of Freddie Freeman).
A team that is already paying out mega contracts to Giancarlo Stanton and Gerrit Cole – and hoping to extend Aaron Judge – wasn’t ever going to offer Seager the 10-year, $325 million deal he received from the Texas Rangers. Ditto for Semien’s seven-year, $175 million score.
The same can be said for Correa, and whatever he ultimately receives. As we’ve said before, the only way the Yanks end up with Correa is probably if his market craters and he takes a short-term deal. This seems like a longshot.
The Yankees were exploring the markets for those shortstops before the lockout, but Martino shoots down any remaining hopes/expectations multiple times throughout the rest of the article.
If you remember back, the Yankees were among the six teams that had reportedly shown interest in Correa, along with the Red Sox, Dodgers, Braves, Astros, and Cubs, so theoretically, this is good news for anybody still holding onto that hope.
And the same goes for Freddie Freeman, via Martino:
At first base, the Yanks did have interest in Freddie Freeman before the lockout, and probably will again. But given what we’re saying about payroll, Anthony Rizzo on a two-year deal seems more likely.
First and foremost, this is great news for the Braves, who’ve been wanting to keep him in Atlanta on their terms against outside interest from the Yankees and Dodgers. Rizzo was always a fallback option for the Yankees if they backed off Freeman (which, to be sure, is not exactly what Martino is saying), but now it’s starting to sound like they could prioritize re-signing Rizzo right out of the gate. Remember, there’s going to be a mad dash – on both sides of free agency – once the lockout ends. Teams and players will have to have their plans mostly set and look to act quickly to avoid being left without a seat.
My best guess remains as always: Rizzo to the Yankees, Freeman back to Atlanta.
As a side note, I do feel bad for Rizzo, who may have ultimately left a lot of money on the table by declining the Cubs extension efforts last year, which did feel light at the time. Maybe there’s some room to reimagine a reunion, but we haven’t heard anything of the sort just yet.
Angels Targets: Jansen, Rodon
According to Sam Blum, the Angels have promised a starting rotation job to reliever/outfielder Michael Lorenzen, which means they could have two two-way players in their rotation this year, to go along with free agent signee Noah Syndergaard. But for however fun-for-storylines an Ohtani-Syndergaard-Lorenzen-Someone-Someone rotation looks on paper, it leaves a lot of questions when you get past Ohtani.
And to that end, Blum believes that any remaining financial investment of significance should go to another starter, with Carlos Rodon as “a great example of a pitcher they might want to pursue.” Which, hey, if they get Rodon, that’s just another extreme-upside, extreme-risk pitcher to add to a rotation full of them. Again, that’s plenty of fun, but comes with so much downside.
The Cubs were – at one point – discussed frequently on Rodon, but after the additions of Marcus Stroman and Wade Miley, I don’t think a big investment in the rotation is coming.
Cubs Note: As of today, the Cubs starting rotation begins with Stroman, Kyle Hendricks, and Miley, and then closes with some combination of Adbert Alzolay, Alec Mills, Keegan Thompson, Justin Steele, Cory Abbott, and Caleb Killian. They could still use some high-velocity upside, so maybe a flyer on some other available free agent is coming. But the market is THIN.
In terms of the Angels bullpen, Blum seems to hope for (more than report on) an interest in free agent reliever Kenley Jansen, who had yet another dominant season in 2021 (2.22 ERA, 2.83 FIP over 69.0 IP). Jansen’s velocity spiked back up last season, but he projects to be a good, not elite, reliever in 2022. He’s on the older side, but I bet he still has some great innings left in him. He may look for a place where he can be the closer, though, and the Angels already have Raisel Iglesias.
Get Ready for the Mariners
The biggest takeaway from the Mariners mailbag at The Athletic is how ready and able they are to spend big once the lockout ends. Here’s the money quote from Corey Brock:
Oh, they have room to grow the payroll — even after adding Robbie Ray. A lot of room, in fact. If they wanted to sign Carlos Correa (and he wanted to come to Seattle) they could. Now, that would likely limit them in terms of other pieces to add to some extent, but they can add here.
So who’s on tap for Seattle? Well, Kris Bryant has long been rumored as a target and comes in for multiple mentions throughout this post, Seiya Suzuki gets name-checked over and over, and Trevor Story gets a nod. Those three guys have pretty significantly different defensive backgrounds, so I think the through-line here is adding impact offense. When the lockout ends, expect the Mariners front office to buy a bat – especially if they have Correa money available to them.
But that’s not all they’re looking to do according to Brock. We all know Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto loves a trade as much as any GM out there, and Brock believes that could be the answer to their rotation needs: “I still think they could trade some of their young pitching to get a starting pitcher for the rotation this season.”
In other words, the Mariners are looking to win now, even at the expense of trading one of the game’s top commodities: good, young, cost-controlled starting pitchers.
For what it’s worth, the Mariners have five top-100 prospects according to MLB Pipeline, two of whom are pitchers. Also six of their top-ten (and 15 of their top-30) prospects are pitchers, too.
Cardinals Going After a Reliever, Trade for a Starter?
Katie Woo and Jim Bowden did a Cardinals Q&A style post at The Athletic, which returned a lot of useful information on the Cubs’ biggest rival.
Most notably, Woo says that, “It’s expected the Cardinals will make at least one more move, likely for relief pitching, once baseball returns.” And Bowden echoes those sentiments, saying “I think the Cardinals should focus on landing a couple of proven veteran relievers such as former Cardinal Joe Kelly and Collin McHugh.”
Woo pumped the breaks a bit on Bowden’s suggestion of Kelly, implying that he’s likely out of the Cardinals price range. Though she did say that Brad Boxberger and/or former-Cub Ryan Tepera could be in the plans.
On a tangent, Bowden mentioned free agents Kyle Schwarber, Jorge Soler, and Nelson Cruz as potential big-bat additions for the Cardinals in the event of a universal DH, but Woo said that the Cardinals would avoid this type of deal because … it would “block some of the prospects in the pipeline.”
On the one hand, overvaluing one’s own prospects is the most Cardinals thing ever, but on the other hand, they tend to churn out useful young players seemingly every season, so who am I to talk? Moreover, the addition of an entirely new everyday position does offer a lot of flexibility and I could understand why a team might not want to jump right in and take it all away with a DH-only type like some of the names suggested.
Other Padres Money Movers: Profar and Kim
Anytime the Padres are mentioned alongside free agency this offseason, the rumor includes their need to first ship money out in a cost-saving trade. The typically mentioned names are Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers (and the Cubs have been a part of those rumors more often than not).
But Dennis Lin believes Jurrickson Profar and Ha-Seong Kim could also be included in that category, which gets my attention given the Cubs’ prior interest in both. Although make no mistake, both Profar (85 wRC+) and Kim (70 wRC+) had horrendous years at the plate (Profar’s defense also rated out horribly).
Kim, 26, is still very young, can play all over, and projects to have a better offensive season in 2022, though. So if the Padres were looking to save some cash, I think the Cubs could find a worse gamble for next season, especially if they were getting something in addition to the player/contract. The problem is that Kim is not that expensive ($23M total guaranteed over the next three years) and still has that upside. Would the Padres really send him and a prospect out just to move that salary? How win-now are the Padres looking to get?
Odds and Ends
• Dan Hayes run downs three theoretical trade offers to get starting pitchers to the Twins, featuring Tyler Mahle (Reds), Frankie Montas (As), and Chris Paddack (Padres).
• Sam Blum teased some additional information later this week, but apparently there is no Shohei Ohtani extension in the works for this offseason: “It’s not impossible, but it doesn’t seem to be trending in that direction.” Ohtani has two more years of team control before free agency.
• And finally, although there’s nothing too specific, Fabian Ardaya’s latest at The Athletic offers a good overview of the Los Angels Dodgers and what they’re hoping to accomplish in the near term (including a discussion on a potential extension for Trea Turner).