There was a time, not so long ago, when it sounded like the Cubs could be the bullies of the free agent shortstop market. Maybe not the party with the deepest (theoretical) pockets, but at least the most motivated buyers. Remember all those rumors? Sure, there’d be other teams involved, but the Dodgers (Gavin Lux) and Yankees (Anthony Volpe, Oswald Peraza) were maybe going internal next season, the Mets already have Francisco Lindor, and the Giants were largely unconnected.
But that’s all changing very quickly.
Not only have the Yankees, Dodgers, and Phillies been connected to the free agent shortstop class in recent weeks, a new rumor connecting the Mets to Trea Turner has emerged, and Mark Feinsand suggests the Giants could get involved in the broader shortstop market, as well.
Meanwhile, Jon Heyman reminds us that the Twins still want to keep Carlos Correa and the Red Sox would prefer not to let Xander Bogaerts go! It’s bedlam, I tell you! Bedlam!
I still believe the Cubs will be among the most motivated buyers – they’re included in pretty much every breakdown of potential interest and have been pretty explicitly connected to three of the four free agent shortstops (basically just not Dansby Swanson). But the pendulum has definitely swung back. Now we just need a report that the Rangers aren’t going to stop at Marcus Semien and Corey Seager.
On a related note, I’m starting to see increased chatter that Trea Turner, not Carlos Correa, is going to receive the biggest contract of the bunch this offseason — most recently from Mark Feinsand (MLB.com).
(Brett: I just wanted to slide in with a reminder on why one of these shortstops could be so impactful for the Cubs. For one, very big reason, they are among the best bats available this year in free agency. Cubs need at least two quality bat additions. For another, also very big reason, adding a stud shortstop allows the Cubs to use Nico Hoerner at second base more often, possibly giving them some of the best middle infield defense in all of baseball right when the shift gets limited. For a third reason, although the Cubs do have some interesting middle infield (and third base) prospects deep down in the system, there isn’t anyone knocking on the door soon. This is clearly a spot where the Cubs can make some serious hay over the next several seasons by adding an impact player for only money. I’m sure a lot of this stuff is true for other organizations, too, but dang, man. The Cubs need to be all over this, even if the market is crowded.)
Among the other MLB rumors …
Cardinals Alternatives to Willson Contreras
We can’t discuss frustrating turns in the market without mentioning the increasing connections between St. Louis and now-former Cubs catcher/current free agent Willson Contreras. I’m afraid, at this point, that interest appears to be both real and mutual. But he’s not their only option. Or, at least, that’s what the Cardinals may want his camp to believe.
At the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Derrick Goold discusses the Cardinals other potential catching targets this offseason, including a trade (Sean Murphy of the A’s, and the Toronto trio are specifically mentioned), for which “the Cardinals are well-positioned to make an offer for any catcher made available based on their farm system, according to scouts with other teams.” Indeed, big trades is kind of the Cardinals M.O., and they do have a lot of impact prospects percolating up.
But there’s also free agency, where Christian Vazquez is lining up as an ideal target:
Some of the traits the Cardinals prefer in their next catcher are the same ones Houston sought, and for the same reasons as an aspiring contender. It could lead them to the same option: Vazquez, a free agent in a few days who has significant ties to Molina.
The article is loaded with connections between Vazquez and Molina, including the fact that they share an agent and Vazquez’s father is a lifelong Cardinals fan. What’s even more frustrating is that I believe Vazquez might be a great target for the Cubs, too. So the Cardinals are really cramping our style at the moment. I hate it.
“It’s going to be cool,” Vazquez said. “I’ve been waiting for that opportunity to be a free agent, to find out.”
The staff at The Athletic rounded up their local bear writers for bold offseason predictions, and I think it’s worth your time. Sometimes I prefer these local-driven write-ups to the national coverage, because the extra layer of intimacy lends itself to more accurate predictions. To be even more clear, even if these are mere “predictions,” not rumors, we can learn a lot about what each team is thinking about as we head into the offseason.
Among the highlights …
- Sahadev Sharma predicts that the Cubs “will make a big trade for an established starting pitcher to lead their rotation,” which I can really get behind. That’s a huge need and they have the pieces to get something like that done. HOWEVER, Sharma is rightfully concerned that a few key prospect injuries may reduce the likelihood of this happening.
- For what it’s worth, Shane Bieber is often the pitcher mentioned when this sort of Cubs trade concept pops up, but Zack Meisel (the Guardians writer) predicts that Cleveland will trade FOR a starting pitcher, or possibly a catcher, this offseason, drawing from their own collection of near-MLB-ready prospects. So. Maybe we’ll have to look somewhere else? Or maybe the Guardians are thinking one (cheaper) in the door, one (more expensive) out the door?
- The Diamondbacks might be open to trading one of their young, left-handed hitting outfielders, including center fielder Alek Thomas, who was a top-40 prospect just one year ago. The Cubs could use left-handed hitters and a glove-positive center fielder. Plus, after a weak offensive debut, Thomas, 22, could be a great buy-lower/post-hype target for the Cubs. Relatedly, Dan Connolly thinks the Orioles could be a motivated trade partner this offseason, particularly from their surplus of big league outfielders. Cedric Mullins is a left-handed center fielder. Just sayin’.
- David O’Brien guesses the Braves sign Xander Bogaerts, letting Dansby Swanson walk.
- This is just me (Michael) speculating here, but if the Tigers are actually motivated to upgrade at third base and corner outfield (as Cody Stavenhagen writes), I wonder if the connection with former Cubs executive Scott Harris (now Tigers president) could make something happen. Maybe Ian Happ or Patrick Wisdom catches his eye.
- Sam Blum predicts that the Astros will NOT re-sign Justin Verlander. Which, sign me up.
- There’s so much more in there, I especially suggest reading the sections on the Dodgers (lowering payroll?), the Brewers (trading Corbin Burnes?), the Yankees (trying hard for Shohei Ohtani), the Nationals (might start spending big with anxious new ownership), and the Giants (no, really, they want Aaron Judge).
Odds and Ends
- Aaron Judge suitors according to MLB.com: Yankees, Giants, Dodgers, Mets. No surprises there, really. The same article suggests that the Texas Rangers might be big players for Jacob deGrom.
- Could the White Sox look to trade Liam Hendriks now that the Edwin Diaz reset the market? This is just speculation, but there’s at least some logic behind it:
- In case you missed the first trade of the offseason:
- Or the big trade-that-wasn’t: