Lukewarm Stove: Trades Actually Holding Up Free Agency? Cardinals All Up in Cubs Business, Verlander's Asking Price, Q's Value, More

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Lukewarm Stove: Trades Actually Holding Up Free Agency? Cardinals All Up in Cubs Business, Verlander’s Asking Price, Q’s Value, More

Chicago Cubs

Early this morning, a friend of mine texted me from Japan with a great story: “I’m at a small bar in Tokyo right now (it’s nighttime in Japan, he’s not a degenerate), and we’re talking to the owner. He doesn’t know much English, but when I mentioned that we’re from Chicago, a few words came across clearly: The Cubs and Seiya Suzuki.”

Seems like a good reminder that signing high-profile players out of Japan (like Kodai Senga) could generate a good return on investment in other ways. Just sayin’, Jed.

Trades Holding Up Free Agency?

Although it’s generally expected to pick up next week at the Winter Meetings, the free agent market has been pretty light on actual transactions so far this winter. Aaron Judge and Jacob deGrom are partially to blame, as other players wait for them to set the market, but that’s not the only explanation.

Get a load of this little bit of intel, via The Athletic:

One club executive, however, cites a contributing factor to the delay — teams trying to trade players with inflated contracts to create more payroll flexibility for their free-agent pursuits.

Among the players who fit the profile and are available, according to the executive: The Yankees’ Josh Donaldson and Aaron Hicks; Mets’ James McCann; Braves’ Marcell Ozuna; Mariners’ Marco Gonzales and Jesse Winker; Diamondbacks’ Madison Bumgarner; and Reds’ Mike Moustakas.

Well, that’s a bit of a twist! I don’t see any immediate opportunities for the Cubs among that group, but it’s interesting to see who’s available (for all the obvious reasons) and from which teams, because they may be gearing up for some spending.

I Really Hate the Cardinals

According to Jon Heyman, the two most likely catchers for the Cardinals are Willson Contreras (no thanks!) and Christian Vázquez (hands off!). Well, to be more specific, he said that the Contreras’ most likely landing spots are the Astros and the Cardinals and the Vázquez is the Cardinals “Plan B” to Contreras. Either way, I hate it.

Obviously, I don’t want to see our longtime friend and World Series Champion, Contreras, in St. Louis, but seeing as there’s basically no chance at reunion in Chicago, he has to go somewhere. And if the Cubs land Vázquez, as we hope they will, they may indirectly push Contreras right into the Cardinals’ laps. I guess we just hope that the Astros and Cubs both outbid the Cardinals? (You just know, if that happens, they’ll end up with some totally lopsided trade for Sean Murphy).

Oh, and look at that. After I wrote that parenthetical, I found this little section at The St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

The Cardinals have had discussions with at least Toronto and Oakland about their catchers, including A’s Gold Glove winner Sean Murphy. The Blue Jays, who have three catchers including Danny Jansen, are shopping for a left-handed hitting young outfielder.

One way or another, the Cardinals are going to end up with a top-shelf catcher this offseason to replace Yadi Molina. We can’t quite say the same thing about the Cubs, who are almost certainly not planning to trade for Murphy, haven’t really been connected to the Blue Jays trio in a while, and aren’t in on Contreras. They really should prioritize landing Vázquez. Sooner rather than later.

Verlander’s Asking Price

Jon Heyman also reports that Justin Verlander is seeking three years and $130 million this offseason, which is exactly the Max Scherzer contract. I don’t blame Verlander for seeking that much, he is coming off an insane Cy Young winning season, but he is significantly older than Scherzer was when he signed his deal (Scherzer was heading into his age-37 season and Verlander is heading into his age-40 season). I have no doubt Verlander is going to get a huge amount of money, possibly even for three years, but I just don’t know if I quite see him getting that exact deal.

With that in mind, I’m not surprised to hear that Verlander and the Astros are “far apart” and that Houston generally feels pessimistic about their ability to get something done:

“Quietly, they prefer not to sign him for three years. Verlander was great in-season but they carried him in the postseason,” one person familiar with the Astros’ thinking said. “No one [in Houston] wants to go three [years],” another source adds. 

Verlander has previously indicated a desire to pitch until he’s 45. If the Astros won’t give him three years, don’t be surprised to see the Dodgers step up their pursuit. The Yankees and Mets are theoretical options, as well — Jacob deGrom notwithstanding.

Cardinals and Jose Quintana

Have I mentioned how much I hate the Cardinals?

After being traded to St. Louis mid-season by the Pirates, former Cub Jose Quintana went on an absolutely dominant run with a 2.01 ERA over 12 starts. He’s now a free agent, coming off an excellent 32-start season (2.93 ERA, 2.99 FIP; 4.0 WAR), detached from draft pick compensation. And it sounds like the Cardinals are hot on his tail.

They really want to re-sign him,” a source familiar with the team’s plans said via The Athletic. Heyman adds that “few have seen their value rise like Jose Quintana,” underscoring that the Cardinals want to re-sign him, but have competition.

Good for him, I guess?

Odds and Ends:

  • Brett hit on all of the many free agent shortstop rumors earlier today:

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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