I don’t know what I expected, but I certainly hoped for more from Ken Rosenthal’s first “What I’m Hearing on the MLB Hot Stove” post after the long holiday. It’s still Rosenthal, so it’s worth reading, but he’s a little light on insight — not his fault, I think the stove is just particularly cold at the moment.
That said, I did learn that the Dodgers have not signed a free agent represented by Scott Boras to a multi-year deal since December of 2012 (Hyun-Jun Ryu). They’ve drafted and employed some Boras players over the years, yes, but they haven’t signed one of the major guys out of free agency in a *decade.* That’s wild. And certainly tracks with the Dodgers’ more recent M.O. of pursuing extremely high-priced, extremely short-term deals — an approach Jed Hoyer seems intent on mimicking.
It’s all brought up, by the way, because Carlos Correa, Carlos Rodon, and Brandon Nimmo are all (1) Boras clients, and (2) potential Dodgers targets this offseason.
If only the Cubs needed a bat/shortstop, a front-end starter, and a left-handed hitting center fielder …wait.
Update on Jose Abreu
One of the most substantial updates from Rosenthal revolves around the market for Jose Abreu, a reportedly prioritized target of the Cubs this offseason:
José Abreu remains a target of the Astros, Padres and other clubs, but one executive with a pulse on the market senses that the free-agent first baseman is intrigued by the possibility of playing for one of the two Florida teams.
Abreu also might prefer to join a team that is perceived to be a stronger World Series contender.
The Cubs (1) are not the Astros or Padres, they (2) do not play their home or Spring Training games in Florida, and they (3) are not perceived to be a likely World Series contender in 2023. So … you know. Not great!
The Cubs do have the advantage of playing in the same city as the only MLB team for which Abreu has ever played. But the best we can hope for in this update is that they’re included among Rosenthal’s nameless “other clubs” with interest. Not a very positive update if you’re hoping the Cubs are going to land Abreu.
Dodgers Meeting with Verlander
There’s not much to interpret here, necessarily, but this is fairly big news. The Los Angeles Dodgers are reportedly meeting with free agent starter – and reigning AL Cy Young Award winner – Justin Verlander:
As a stud, veteran pitcher looking for a chance at another ring while seeking a short-term, high-AAV deal, Verlander may not find a better fit than Los Angeles. Yes, the Yankees and Mets (and maybe also the Rangers) can give him what he wants too, and the Astros have the familiarity advantage, but this feels like Dodgers all the way. Just my gut. I bet it happens sooner than later, too.
Padres Are Competition
The Athletic discusses an earlier New York Post report that indicated the San Diego Padres could be a surprise team on Xander Bogaerts. The 30-year-old shortstop doesn’t seem like a bad option if he’s really going to max out around the $200 million level. I tend to think he’s a little too overlooked because of Carlos Correa and Trea Turner being free agents right now, too. Though the general consensus is that San Diego won’t sign a free agent attached to draft pick compensation this winter – like Bogaerts – after going over the luxury tax threshold last season (thus pushing the attendant penalties up a rung).
But even if the Padres aren’t pushing the Cubs in the free agent shortstop market, they could be at first base and in the rotation, where two of their top targets overlap perfectly with Chicago:
The Padres do like Bogaerts, and given Preller’s aggressiveness and owner Peter Seidler’s willingness to spend money, almost nothing should be ruled out. For now, though, the team appears to have a stronger interest in first baseman José Abreu and right-hander Kodai Senga, neither of whom would cost draft or international resources.
Odds and Ends
- The Padres have had expressed “preliminary interest in extending” Yu Darvish. Good for him.
- The Cubs are listed among the most obvious free agent fits for Cody Bellinger.
- The Blue Jays traded Teoscar Hernandez ostensibly because their outfield/offense was too right-handed, but it was also very specifically about paving the way for the addition of a free agent outfielder: “There are opportunities to add to our team there via trade or free agency,” GM Ross Atkins. “We’re in a better position to do so now from a resource and from a playing time and recruitment standpoint.” In other words, they couldn’t credibly sell a free agent on owning a position in Toronto with a good player already occupying the spot. Not surprising, just interesting to hear it so candidly from a GM. That also makes me feel like they’re REALLY likely to add one of Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, or Andrew Benintendi. They also really liked Ian Happ at the trade deadline, for what it’s worth. There are a few other names listed here, as well (Cody Bellinger, Joey Gallo, Jurickson Profar, etc.)
- The Tigers may need to add to their offense this offseason, but they might focus on improving their starting pitching from outside of the organization. The Athletic has a useful list of second and third tier free agent starting pitchers, a group from which I expect the Cubs to land at least one name.
- The Twins may be competition for the Cubs in the free agent catching market, specifically for Christian Vázquez and Omar Narváez, the two most attractive free agent catchers after Willson Contreras.
- I don’t think Jim Bowden has any particular insight on anything he says below, but it’s Monday, this is the end of the post, and everyone can use a little hopium, right? Just don’t take it too seriously:
The Cubs are hoping to make a splash this offseason by signing a couple of significant free agents who can be part of the core of their next contending team. They likely will land one of the available “second tier” starting pitchers (below Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodón) and are committed to finding an impact left-handed bat. They’ll look to improve in all areas, but especially up the middle, and should be considered a real threat to sign one of the elite free-agent shortstops (Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, Dansby Swanson). This is an important offseason for a team that needs to take a step or two forward this winter.
- The White Sox are signing Mike Clevinger to a deal that might be up to $12 million guaranteed.