Lukewarm Stove: Who Else Has Contreras on the Radar? The Other Turner Could Be Available, Mets Won’t Give Up Picks, White Sox Spending Plans (+ Abreu), More

Me, personally? Yeah, I love baseball being played. Big fan. Think it’s swell. But also … let’s wrap up this World Series and get to the offseason already.

There are MLB rumors to discuss, trades to surprise us, and free agent sweepstakes in which the Cubs can finish second with “a strong offer they thought could get it done.”

Willson Contreras: Cardinals, Rays … Red Sox?

With Yadier Molina’s retirement, a commitment to increasing payroll, and rumors already coming out of both Chicago and St. Louis … it sure feels like we’re heading toward a lot of Contreras-Cardinals talk this offseason, and maybe even an actual marriage. It makes me sick.

So I’m happy to see any article discuss his other potential options, like the latest from Patrick Mooney and Sahadev Sharma at The Athletic. Outside of an unlikely – but not impossible – return to the Cubs, that is.

After shooting down some speculative landing spots/formerly interested parties (Yankees, Marlins, Angels, Guardians), the duo brings up the Tampa Bay Rays (bolded emphasis mine):

The Tampa Bay Rays showed mild interest in Contreras at the trade deadline, but the timing wasn’t right …. The Rays, however, are always hunting for value and exploring creative ideas to upgrade their roster …. It would be a surprise to see Contreras in a Rays uniform next season — Tampa Bay historically struggles to attract free agents — but this could be an interesting situation to monitor. 

There are other teams mentioned throughout the article (we’ll get to that in a second), but the Rays are featured semi-prominently in this write-up. And knowing those two writers, the language has my attention. That comment about it being a situation to monitor wasn’t out of nowhere, I can almost promise you that.

So who else?

Possibly: In addition to the Rays, the Cardinals again come up as a likely suitor, as “there is perhaps no team in baseball in more dire need of a starting catcher than the Cardinals….” And the Twins are mentioned as a real possibility as well, given their need behind the plate and financial flexibility. That’s a new one to me, but it makes a lot of sense.

Probably Not: The Mets are discussed, but mostly shot down. The Padres are considered “long shots,” and the Red Sox are mentioned, with an interesting caveat. In short, Contreras actually fits what Boston is looking for this offseason (they have a vacancy at catcher after trading Christian Vazquez and also want to add to their lineup), but because the draft pick compensation may be too much to overcome, Contreras may not be a fit. Although all teams will have to give up a pick to sign Contreras, it’s more painful for the Red Sox who were over the luxury tax last season: “they’d lose their second- and fifth-round picks as well as $1 million in international pool.”

Giving up a 2nd, a 5th, the associated bonus pool space, *and* $1M from their international pool *and* an $80M+ contract for a 30+ year old catcher who’s not seen as a plus behind the plate in terms of handling a pitching staff does not seem like a move Chaim Bloom (formerly of the Rays) will be keen on.

So, again … Cardinals? Is that really where this is headed?

Side-note: Jon Heyman reported that James McCann is a trade candidate this offseason in the same breath he reminded us that the Cardinals could use a veteran catcher. So maybe there’s hope yet.

In his free agent predictions, Jon Heyman lists the White Sox, Tigers, Twins, Angels, Cardinals, Red Sox, Rays, and Mets as potential suitors for Contreras this offseason. The Cubs were not listed. And he projects his contract at four-years, $88M, which I think is *exactly* what Contreras is shooting for. I don’t actually think he gets it with the qualifying offer attached, but I’d be happy if he does (if it’s not St. Louis, the South Side, or the Mets, that is …). Acceptable teams: Tigers, Twins, Angels, Red Sox, Rays. Please and thanks.

Justin Turner Could Become a Free Agent

This is as thin as rumors get, but it does serve as a reminder that Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner, 37, could become a free agent this offseason, coming off another productive season at the plate: .278/.350/.438 (123 wRC+).

He’ll only become a free agent, however, if the Dodgers buy out his $16M club option for $2 million. For what it’s worth, Turner will not be eligible to receive a qualifying offer if the Dodgers do make him a free agent. Taking a look under the hood of his statistics, it seems like Turner was mostly the same guy at the plate this season, with the exception that he did swing (and swing and miss) a little bit more frequently than he has in the past. But generally speaking, he was productive and had a particularly strong second-half: .319/.386/.503 (152 wRC+).

If the Dodgers do let him go for whatever reason, I think he’ll find a pretty solid 2-year deal from a contender. The Cubs do have an opening at third base and a need for some additional offense, but I just don’t see Turner as a realistic target, at least not compared to the Cubs focusing on the shortstop market (which may bleed into third base playing time) and adding a first baseman.

Maybe he will return to the Mets. Maybe the Dodgers just keep him. It’s a little tough to say so early on, but he will be an interesting case to follow.

Mets Not Willing to Give Up Draft Picks?

According to the New York Post, the Mets are “believed less likely to sign free agents” attached to draft pick compensation this winter (they are also over the luxury tax, so it’s the stiffer penalty).

Here are some of the top free agents in that category:

  • Position Players: Xander Bogaerts, Willson Contreras, Aaron Judge, Dansby Swanson, Trea Turner, Anthony Rizzo, Brandon Nimmo (Mets)
  • Pitchers: Nathan Eovaldi, Carlos Rodon, Clayton Kershaw, Tyler Anderson, Mike Clevinger, Zach Eflin, Sean Manea, Martin Perez, Jameson Taillon, Taijuan Walker (Mets, Jacob deGrom (Mets), Chris Bassitt (Mets) and Edwin Diaz (Mets)
  • There are more players in both groups – and these are just guesses at players who will likely receive and decline the qualifying offer – but I thought that should give you a sense of what we’re talking about with respect to the Mets.

    The Mets are expected to extend a qualifying offer to deGrom, Diaz, Nimmo, Bassitt, and “possibly” Walker. They also want to re-sign some of those players. But if they fail to re-sign any of them, and actually receive draft pick compensation when they sign elsewhere, I can pretty easily envision them signing a qualified free agent of their own, regardless of draft pick compensation, because it’ll reduce the cost a bit.

    All of which is to say, I don’t buy – AT ALL – that the Mets are straight up definitely not going to sign free agents attached to to a qualifying offer. This whole “build from within” M.O., as outlined by Heyman, is a smokescreen. Or at least it should be. Didn’t they learn their lesson at the trade deadline?

    For what it’s worth, Mets outfielder Mark Canha told Mike Puma of the New York Post that Jacob deGrom said he wants to come back to the Mets next year/likes playing in New York. Canha further elaborated that deGrom, Scherzer, and Bassitt (another Mets free agent) all have a special bond, while implying that Edwin Diaz and Brandon Nimmo are less certain to return. I’m not sure how much stock to put in that, but a whole lot of deGrom’s current and former teammates sure seem to think he’s staying with the Mets.

    White Sox Spending and Jose Abreu

    The Cubs have been somewhat surprisingly (though understandably) connected to free agent first baseman Jose Abreu this offseason, but in Jon Heyman’s estimation, he’s headed back to the South Side. In fact, he thinks they’ll re-sign Abreu and add at least one other big piece.

    In short, Heyman thinks the AL Central is still the White Sox division and he believes they’ll want to prove themselves right with respect to their new manager by setting him up for success right away. All of which seems right. “I do think they will spend” this offseason, Heyman said.

    Heyman also said that there are some other teams that could use a first baseman. He did not mention the Cubs, but he did mention the Rangers (though they’re focusing on pitching), Giants, and Yankees (though that depends on what happens with Anthony Rizzo). Heyman also said that he thinks the Rangers and Mets are going to sign “multiple starting pitchers” each, though it’s fair to remember that the Mets are technically already losing a bunch of starting pitchers, so it’s not that difficult to project.

    Odds and Ends:

  • At SNY, Danny Abriano considers re-signing Edwin Diaz the Mets’ top priority this offseason, but has … Trea Turner (?!) right behind him at No. 2. That’s news to me, and continues a troubling trend of big market clubs (Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, now Mets) getting involved in the free agent shortstop sweepstakes. That won’t help the Cubs.
  • To that end, the Staff at The Athletic put together the biggest need for each team heading into the offseason. For the Cubs, it’s pop in the lineup (no arguments there). For the Braves, Twins, and Phillies shortstop is mentioned.
  • 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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