Lukewarm Stove: The Dodgers Are Waking Up, Verlander's Coastal Options, Orioles-Cubs Overlap, Trading for a D-Back, More

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Lukewarm Stove: The Dodgers Are Waking Up, Verlander’s Coastal Options, Orioles-Cubs Overlap, Trading for a D-Back, More

Chicago Cubs

I’m hopeful, but I don’t think we yet know if this offseason is going to be “normal” again.

And by normal, I mean the way it was from, say, 2000-2016. In case you forgot, the Winter Meetings used to be a hotbed of actual trade and free agent *activity* … not just a collection of rumors and Scott Boras puns. And before the Winter Meetings, we used to see a load of rumors and moves.

But for a number of reasons (an expiring CBA, the pandemic, the lockout, groupthink among executives, those old collusion rumors, etc.), it hasn’t been that way in FOREVER. And I really miss it! Especially the Winter Meetings. That week used to be as intense as the trade deadline, but with the potential for WAY more moves. It also spurred activity just before and after the event itself, which became a real pivot point in the MLB offseason.

Optimistically, the pace of rumors this offseason is maybe ahead of schedule, and was from the outset of the GM Meetings. But on the flip side, there’s usually a little more actual activity before Thanksgiving. Or, again, that’s how I remember it from 6+ years ago. We’ll see.

The Dodgers Are Ready to Spend

The Dodgers are up and looking to disrupt.

Over the weekend, a few rumors have popped up about the Dodgers’ willingness to spend big this offseason, first with Jon Heyman mentioning word going around that they will “make a run at Aaron Judge.” Which means Judge may potentially have the Mets, Yankees, Giants, and Dodgers vying for his services (which … CHA-CHING).

And then Jon Morosi calling the Dodgers the best fit for Justin Verlander, as well:

Via Morosi: Verlander, 39 and 9 months, wants to pitch until he’s 45 years old. As such, he may be seeking a 2-3 year deal this offseason. And that, in turn, lines up with the Dodgers’ M.O. of short-term, high-AAV deal structures. Ultimately, with their expiring contracts, need for starting pitching, and theoretical contractual fit, the Dodgers are a better match for Verlander than the Mets or Astros, in Morosi’s estimation.

For what it’s worth, that’s also why I see Judge as a poor fit for L.A. He’s going to take the biggest, longest deal offered, but the Dodgers usually stick with huge AAV, shorter-term deals. It’ll be a competitive offer, I’m sure, but I just don’t see him heading that way.

Other Justin Verlander Rumors

Switching back to Verlander … don’t sleep on the Mets. According to Ken Rosenthal, the Mets spoke with Verlander via Zoom last week, apparently (to me) out of fear of losing Jacob deGrom to free agency.

The Mets likely still prefer deGrom, who’s reportedly willing to pick the Mets if the offers are similar, but they are not going put all their eggs in that basket:

For the Mets, the casting of a wide net is due diligence and hardly a surprise. Carlos Rodón, another top free agent, likely is on their potential target list as well. The team’s rotation presently consists of Scherzer, Carlos Carrasco and the less established Tylor Megill, David Peterson and Elieser Hernandez, whom the team acquired in a trade from the Marlins on Friday.

Rosenthal adds that the Astros, Dodgers, and Yankees are also in on Verlander, who, like Judge, is gonna get PAAAAID.

Orioles Rumors

Roch Kubatko has a series of interesting rumors on his Baltimore Orioles that I think are worth sharing/discussing:

  • The Orioles are going to be active this offseason, and are already “talking to representatives for multiple free agent pitchers.” Apparently, these meetings include GM Mike Elias and manager Brandon Hyde (former Cubs bench coach), who’s made a good impression on his clubhouse.
  • The Orioles are not expected to be serious bidders for the most expensive pitchers on the market (I’m guessing that’s deGrom, Verlander, and Rodon), but they are expected to keep in contact with guys in that tier. Meanwhile, the “second” tier of starters is in their sights, which could have some significant overlap with the Cubs. I think Kodai Senga, Chris Bassitt, and Taijuan Walker fit into this tier, for example.
  • The Orioles are also looking for left-handed hitting corner outfielders, first baseman, and DHs, which has some overlap with the Cubs, if you’re thinking Cody Bellinger or Jose Abreu. Bellinger gets a specific mention.
  • The good news: Kubatko says he hasn’t heard anything at all about the Orioles targeting free agent shortstops to improve their lineup. That’s good because they were once thought to be a potential threat in that positional group this offseason, and they were briefly connected to Carlos Correa last winter.

Will Diamondbacks Trade a Lefty CF?

Aside from multiple starting pitchers, an anchor for the bullpen, a first baseman, and a third baseman, and a shortstop … the Cubs could really use a left-handed hitting center fielder. And that’s exactly what the Diamondbacks have (and are willing to move).

Ken Rosenthal said it: “Nimmo is the leading free agent in center field, but not the only option for rival clubs in need at that position. The Diamondbacks, whose roster includes four left-handed hitting center fielders, are open to a trade.”

But they’re not all available. According to Rosenthal, Corbin Carroll is “off limits,” and Daulton Varsho is the least likely to move of the remaining three players (he can also still play some catcher).

So … are we interested in Alek Thomas or Jake McCarthy? I say yes!

In fact, I already made a case for an Alek Thomas trade earlier this offseason, as I’m a sucker for players with his upside (Thomas, 22, was a top-40 prospect one year ago and only just made his big league debut this season. Who cares if it didn’t go well, the sample is TINY). And by “didn’t go well,” I mean only offensively, because his center field defense rates out just swell.

Plus, it’s not like he’s not a hitter. In his first taste of Triple-A action in 2021, Thomas slashed .369/.434/.658 (168 wRC+) with a 20.5% strikeout rate over 34 games. In 2022, he slashed .322/.397/.539 (133 wRC+) with a 13.7% strikeout rate over 27 games. I would be absolutely stoked if the Diamondbacks wanted to “sell low” on this 22-year-old prospect.

If they want to play it a little safer (but with far less upside), McCarthy, 25, did also debut last season and had some legitimate success: 116 wRC+, 2.3 WAR. He doesn’t hit for much power and his defense isn’t quite as highly praised, but he’s still a good player.

In any case, Rosenthal says Arizona is seeking “significant major league help,” specifically mentioning “pitchers or right-handed power hitters.” I could conceive of ways the Cubs could line up here.

Odds and Ends

  • Joel Sherman would be “shocked” if at least one of Gleyber Torres and Isiah Kiner-Falefa were not traded before next season. We’ve see Torres dangled in a number of rumors lately, dating back to the 2022 MLB Trade Deadline, so I’d say he’s a reasonable bet to get dealt.

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Author: Michael Cerami

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