Lukewarm Stove: Rays Aiming High, Yankees “Settling” for Rizzo, Astros-Correa, Marlins Needs, More

One baseball executive predicted today would “another wild one,” and I believe him. Ready or not, the season is starting in a few weeks. These big positional free agents have to sign eventually, some trades still have to shake loose, and we only just started to finally get a taste yesterday.

Rays Aiming High

We already knew the Rays were seeking a right-handed hitter, ideally one that can play first base (though that may no longer be a prerequisite). But the quality of the players they’re reportedly targeting has just improved dramatically. Or at least, that’s what they want everyone to think.

According to Marc Topkin, the Rays are showing interest in some “top shelf” options, including A’s third baseman Matt Chapman and free agent outfielder Seiya Suzuki, “among others.” That’s a divergence from basically an entire offseason of rumors that they’re looking to cut salary, if anything, but you can never really count them out of savvy deals. That’s their bread and butter.

In case you missed our late-night Lukewarm Stove last night, Suzuki has been chased aggressively by the Padres, especially after they missed out on Nelson Cruz, but his market seems to extend to every corner of MLB, including the Cubs. I’ve still got my fingers crossed on that one.

As for the A’s Matt Chapman, he has long been included in rumors as an available trade chip, but unlike Matt Olson, there haven’t been too many specific rumors tying him to certain teams. It’s like the loudest non-specific rumor out there. So I guess it’s nice to have at least one theoretically interested actually-named party?

Yankees Settling for Rizzo?

With every new Tweet, the Yankees chances of landing Freddie Freeman seem to diminish. To me, that means the Dodgers and Braves have likely separated themselves from the pack. And it seems the Yankees’ efforts to pry Matt Olson away have been thwarted by an attempt to have Anthony Volpe included, which isn’t going to happen (especially since the Yankees just doubled down on Volpe as their shortstop of the future by trading for Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa, pushing shortstop Gleyber Torres to second base).

And it seems the Yankees know that, as Anthony Rizzo has become “the most realistic” first base option.

The question is whether Rizzo wants to accept an offer before Olson and Freeman are off the board. He might be smart to wait until he’s the best remaining free agent first baseman. The Cubs, of course, have been connected to Rizzo, but I don’t expect them outbid the Yankees, if that’s their preference.

With that said, the Yankees do have a full infield, now, with Donaldson (3B), Kiner-Falefa (SS), Torres (2B), and DJ LeMahieu at first. But maybe they prefer to have Torres and LeMahieu available to play all over? Maybe Rizzo could spend some time at DH? But then there’s Giancarlo Stanton. And Luke Voit. I’m not quite sure, but the rumors haven’t exactly died down after their trade with the Twins yesterday.

Now the Twins Want Trevor Story?

Speaking of the Twins, they’ve been a tough team to peg this offseason. First, they traded their 2021 first round pick for Reds starter Sonny Gray. Then, they traded slugging catcher Mitch Garver to the Rangers for shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa. THEN, they turned around and traded Kiner-Falefa and Josh Donaldson to the Yankees for … a less good slugging catcher, Gary Sanchez, and a maybe-less-good third baseman in Gio Urshela?

Sure, the plan could be about saving money, but that doesn’t really help explain the move for Gray, or the latest from Dan Hayes The Athletic: “One source said the Twins have been in contact with free-agent shortstop Trevor Story.”

Well all right then.

So was the plan all along to get to Sanchez+Urshela+Story, and having decided that was better than Garver+Donaldson+whatever little they could spend? I guess maybe? It’s all quite confusing, but one Twins official said they have “lots of irons” in the fire, so maybe they’re about to go hog wild?

Latest on Astros-Correa

I’m sorry to say it, but it’s really starting to seem like the Astros are going to get Carlos Correa back and not on one of those massive 10-year, $300M+ deals.

If that’s the case, I know I’ll be a little salty, because that was supposed to be the range/structure in which the Cubs could max out.

Of course, if his deal comes with an opt-out after one year, they might just get another crack at him next offseason.

Brett: And it is of course always the case that Correa simply wanted to return to Houston on the right deal all along, and the dance has primarily been about making sure the Astros do it. That’s an aspect of free agency we probably don’t talk about enough. Yes, guys always want to get the best contract they can get, and there’s absolutely flexibility on the team to a 99% extent. But a lot of the time, the negotiating efforts with multiple teams are specifically designed to make sure The Preferred Team gets to Level X. Then it’s gravy.

Just a Couple Marlins Notes

The Marlins are reportedly seeking an outfielder, though there are obvious concerns about their willingness to spend after Derek Jeter left, evidently for that very reason. But while prior rumors were connecting them to a corner outfielder, like Nick Castellanos, the most recent report has them targeting someone for center.

On a related note, Sixto Sanchez is reportedly “shut down,” for now, even after a clean MRI. If that doesn’t change soon, it’s another reason I really don’t expect them to spend big.

Miscellaneous Brett Note As I’m Editing

I was about to publish when I saw this:

All I can say on that one is if Brad Hand gets $6M, then Andrew Chafin better be out there getting a LOT more. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I want him back with the Cubs on a reasonable deal, but COME ON. He’s the far better option for 2022.

written by

Michael Cerami began covering the Chicago Cubs for Bleacher Nation as a part-time contributor in 2015. One year later, he joined Bleacher Nation full-time, covering the Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball. Today, Michael runs Bleacher Nation, contributing as a writer (Cubs, MLB) and an editor for all sections of the site, including the Chicago Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks, as well as MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL. In 2019, Michael was the co-host of NBC Sports Chicago's Cubs Post-Game Show Outside the Ivy. You can find him on Twitter/X @Michael_Cerami

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