Lukewarm Stove: Are Some FA Deals Basically Done? Contreras Staying Put? Correa Chatter, the Other Freeman Suitor, More

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Lukewarm Stove: Are Some FA Deals Basically Done? Contreras Staying Put? Correa Chatter, the Other Freeman Suitor, More

Chicago Cubs

The recent comments from super agent Scott Boras were teeming with implications on the state of free agency immediately after the lockout: “And for those [free agents] that didn’t sign [before the lockout began], we’ve already had a big part of the process that has evolved. So we’re very up to speed as to what teams were interested and where they were, and when this process begins we’ll be able to jump back in and use all that information and data to really kind of be further along in each negotiation.”

Yes, we’re already expecting a very condensed Offseason Part Two – purely out of necessity – but it’s crazy to think about just how close to done some deals already may be (and thus how quickly they might be completed out of the break). If you follow NBA Free Agency, you might know what to expect, but we haven’t seen anything like that in MLB before. And there are still a TON of big name players out there.

One of those players, of course, is Carlos Correa, who did reportedly receive some serious interest from the Cubs before the break (a seven-year deal may have even been floated). Notably, that was before Correa switched to Scott Boras for representation. And if Correa was actually happy and closing in on a deal with the Cubs, he wouldn’t have switched representation at the zero hour. So I wouldn’t get excited for that particular marriage – at least, not right out of the gate – for that reason, among others.

Correa Commentary

Speaking of Carlos Correa. There isn’t necessarily any news in this Astros blog post on Correa, but it is a good read on the state of his rumors and market. And getting that story from the an Astros fan perspective is particularly useful.

As it stands, Dan Martin seems to believe that the Cubs are in the best position to actually land Correa – relative to the Yankees, Dodgers, Astros, and Tigers – but as we know, they seem reluctant to hand out a ten-plus-year deal. At the same time, the sentiment is that Correa may have overplayed his hand a bit before the lockout, seeking a deal that would match Francisco Lindor’s monster extension with the Mets (10 years, $341M). There were always reasons why Lindor’s deal was out of whack with the market and that only looks more true one year in.

With all that said, I’m pretty comfortable throwing caution to the wind when it comes to the Cubs signing Correa, but a deal at that level is above my comfort zone. Is there some way for the Cubs to meet Correa’s camp in the middle on years/dollars? Maybe. Indeed, those rumors of a seven-year offer did sound fairly legitimate at the time. But pivoting to Boras certainly makes it seem like Correa wasn’t liking what he was hearing before the lockout, and wants to max out on a lengthy contract from whoever is willing to hand it out. And I just don’t see the Cubs doing anything that’s not almost entirely on their terms.

A Different Freddie Freeman Suitor

For the most part, the expectations for free agent first baseman Freddie Freeman go something like this: Braves … tiny gap … Yankees … much larger gap, Dodgers and Blue Jays. And that really hasn’t changed much during the lockout.

But one team I did not have on my radar was the Texas Rangers, who reportedly had “at least some interest” in him earlier in the offseason. I find it hard to believe they’d sign a THIRD big money infield free agent after adding Corey Seager (10/$325M) and Marcus Semien (7/$175M) already this offseason. But then … I didn’t think they’d add even one of the top free agent shortstops, let alone two, in the first place. By most accounts, it’ll take something like six years and at least $140 million to get Freeman out of Atlanta, though he’s reportedly seeking even more than that.

With that said, In that same story at CBS Sports is the expectation that Freeman will seriously consider all of his options after the break, with the fate of Anthony Rizzo and Matt Chapman tied to his decision.

Nothing Brewing with Contreras

Before the lockout began, we learned that the Cubs had not begun any efforts to extend Willson Contreras. In a vacuum, that wasn’t entirely surprising given that most extension efforts occur in the spring, but obviously this offseason is very different, and waiting too long on this particular deal could really sting the Cubs if it doesn’t work out.

Indeed, that was all tied to the report that the Cubs would “almost certainly shop” Contreras if they weren’t able to come together on a deal before the end of the spring. And that sort of hits the question: Has there been any groundwork on that front?

According to Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic, no:

Can he get an extension done or trade him before that point? It seems rather difficult for that to be possible.

These things can happen quickly and a lot of ground can be covered in a matter of days, but usually that’s when the base negotiations — whether they be extension or trade — have been laid. That doesn’t really seem to be the case with Contreras, though what sort of machinations are occurring behind the scenes during the lockout — which to be clear, aren’t allowed — is impossible to truly know.

Maybe the Cubs and a potential trade partner or two were willing to bend the rules over the lockout and get some general framework down on a potential deal, but there’s no way to know that and it didn’t happen before the break. If all that is true, I find both an extension and a trade very difficult to imagine in the increasingly short time between the lockout ending and the regular season beginning.

That’s bad news for the Cubs, because it could rule out an extension entirely, and then mid-season trades for starting catchers are difficult to find max value, and who knows if the new CBA will even provide them a compensation pick if he walks at the end of the year (then again, if the latter is true, you might see the Cubs be a more willing mid-season trading partner for Contreras, who could probably fit some additional teams if the DH is also an option for him or the existing catcher he’d be replacing).

Odds and Ends

•   If the Cubs fail to land Correa, and don’t pivot to Trevor Story, perhaps they could turn to the trade market for a solution at shortstop. A recent story connected them to Padres infielder Ha-Seong Kim and Rays shortstop Taylor Walls, but the Rangers have a squeezed out, good glove infielder to deal of their own: Isiah Kiner-Falefa.

•   Kiner-Falefa, 26, has always been solidly below average with the bat, but his defense won him a Gold Glove at third base in 2020 and he had 10 DRS at shortstop in 2021. Brett had pegged him as a potential target of the Cubs a few months back and it’s worth keeping an eye on him out of the lockout:

⇒ Isiah Kiner-Falefa, 26 – the Rangers were right to move him to shortstop last year, because he rated as a stud defensively; two more years of arbitration left, and could conceivably be a trade piece given the Corey Seager and Marcus Semien signings; bat won’t give you much, but he could be a high-contact, slightly-below-league-average guy.

•   At The Athletic, Sharma and Patrick Mooney warn Cubs fans to expect a “similar[ly large] volume of activity in the post-lockout rush to spring training” as we saw from the Cubs last year after the Cubs payroll was bumped up (and he pointed to 11 names). Their needs, according to Sharma and Mooney, are many, but include a particular desire for an everyday shortstop (Jonathan Villar, Jose Iglesias, and Andrelton Simmons are all mentioned, as they have been before). Also mentioned: A starting-caliber outfielder, more rotational depth, and a more established closer.

Author: Michael Cerami

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