Lukewarm Stove: Braves' Plan B, Will Kershaw Return? Could Padres Target Ian Happ? Bryant-Mariners, More

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Lukewarm Stove: Braves’ Plan B, Will Kershaw Return? Could Padres Target Ian Happ? Bryant-Mariners, More

Chicago Cubs

It’s difficult to get to any rumors, given the speed with which things are moving (at least, behind the scenes), but here’s some of the rumors that haven’t yet crossed any official transaction wires.

The Braves’ Plan B

I *still* think Freddie Freeman is ultimately going to re-sign with the Braves before all is said and done. But Atlanta is not going to be caught off guard. Or they’re just playing for additional leverage to get Freeman to sign already. Or they’re legitimately more interested in a trade with the A’s for Matt Olson. Honestly, who knows. Those are just reasonable dots to connect, and it’s even more likely that they’re all a little bit true, and Atlanta would be happy with either first baseman at varying levels of cost.

In any case, they’re talking to Oakland about Matt Olson:

By now, you should know that the A’s are widely expected to trade Olson before the regular season, and the Yankees, Dodgers, Braves, and, to a lesser extent, the Padres (and a few others) are involved in the process. But that process is, itself, tied to the decision of free agent Freddie Freeman, who can be had for just money. But if the Braves do wind up with Olson, you can expect Freeman to get paaaaaaid by either the Dodgers or Yankees, with Anthony Rizzo then remaining as the top available first baseman on the market.

So if you’re still holding out hope of a Rizzo reunion in Chicago, as was rumored during the lockout, then you’re probably hoping Olson ends up in Atlanta with Freeman going to New York (where Rizzo has been most often connected). But if Dave Roberts has his way, and Freeman ends up in Los Angeles, I’d bet strongly that Anthony Rizzo ends up in Yankee pinstripes:

Kershaw Back to the Dodgers?

We can probably file this one under duh, but it bears sharing, because he is a moderately attractive free agent target for a lot of teams out there: Clayton Kershaw is most likely heading back to L.A.

Not unlike Freeman with the Braves, Kershaw is just one of those guys that’s tough to see anywhere else. But after the Cubs traded Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Javy Báez at the 2021 MLB Trade Deadline, my faith in that one-team concept was a little shaken and I thought maybe he’d end up somewhere else (like Texas?). But the Rangers signed Martin Perez to fill out some innings and after Carlos Rodon made his home in San Francisco, a Kershaw return to L.A. just makes a lot of sense.

Update: Yep, it’s happening.

Could the Padres Target Ian Happ?

Until the regular season starts and Eric Hosmer (or Wil Myers) is standing on first base for San Diego, we’re going to hear trade rumors between the Padres and Cubs. In short, these rumors have revolved around the Cubs taking on the salary of either Myers or Hosmer for the benefit of also acquiring a top-shelf prospect from San Diego. Long story short, the Padres are still in “go-for-it” mode, with needs around the roster, but their payroll may be tapped out. So a big-market team like the Cubs could help them out, if San Diego makes it worth their while.

But a version of a deal I did not expect is one involving a useful someone off the Cubs big league roster, like, say, Ian Happ.

In an article ostensibly about adding a DH, Dennis Lin (The Athletic) drops a list of potential free agent and trade targets not named Nelson Cruz, and well, here’s what he said:

Other bat-first free agents include Castellanos, Kyle Schwarber, Michael Conforto and Jorge Soler. Bat-first trade candidates include Luke Voit, Jesse Winker, Austin Meadows, Josh Bell, Trey Mancini and Garrett Cooper. Outfield trade targets with decent or above-average defense could include Joey Gallo, Max Kepler and Ian Happ. Twenty-nine other teams know the Padres would like to upgrade at first base, though doing so and acquiring a good outfielder could be tricky.

It remains to be seen whether the Padres will make serious bids for Castellanos, Schwarber, Kris Bryant or Seiya Suzuki; those four are expected to command sizable contracts, and Suzuki might have to make his major-league debut after an abbreviated spring training experience.

Happ could play all across the outfield and theoretically could help their offense, but like I said, this is a very different version of the trades we had been discussing. I don’t quite expect this type to go anywhere, but it was a notable mention I thought you should see.

Kris Bryant’s Market

Kris Bryant’s market has been … virtually nonexistent this offseason, at least in terms of rumors. It began with squashed assumptions that the Giants would like to re-sign him and was followed up by some shallow guesses that he’d prefer to stay on the West Coast, maybe with the Mariners in pursuit.

But we’re finally getting a little more clarity on his potential suitors, with Bryce Harper trying to sell him on the Phillies, and now the Mariners chatter picking up:

Bryant to the Mariners checks an awful lot of boxes for everyone involved, and at this point, I’d call them the betting favorites.

Odds and Ends:

A lot has gone on today, so I’m just going to quickly re-share some of the rumors we’ve already written up, in case you missed them:

•   The Mets are targeting a couple of very familiar relievers:

•   Three teams are interested in … Albert Pujols? Okay.

•   Carlos Rodon found his new home:

•   Derek Jeter may have left the Marlins, because they wouldn’t let him sign Nick Castellanos:

Author: Michael Cerami

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