New day, same old nonsense.
Free Agent Predictions
While free agency technically began last week, things aren't expected to really heat up quite yet. The GM Meetings starting tomorrow in Orlando which could kick off some trade discussions. Players must also make a decision on whether or not to accept the qualifying offer tomorrow, but I don't expect any of the nine players to accept.
A couple other dates coming up will shape teams offseason plans including next Monday (November 20) which is the deadline for teams to add players to the 40 man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. Then December 1 is the non-tender deadline, which is when teams have to make decisions on whether or not to offer contracts to their arbitration eligible and pre-arbitration players.
The Winter Meetings begin December 10 which is really the first insane portion of the offseason as rumors will be flying and both agents and front offices will be leaking information to the press while simultaneously denying interest in every available player. At that point, teams will have a better grasp as to their needs and the number of open spots on their roster, so it's really when the fun begins.
But until then, there's just so very many words written by the people who cover baseball about where free agents could go...even if it's mostly just guessing. As expected, the Cubs are tied almost entirely to pitchers of all varieties and I would expect that to be the case for most of the winter.
Probably the name you'll hear the most this offseason is free agent SP Alex Cobb of the Rays. There's much to like about Cobb, and some things that give pause, but he's on the right side of 30 and had a strong finish in 2017 following a return from Tommy John Surgery. Cobb of course has a long standing relationship with new Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey who he credits with helping his comeback.
“I can’t say enough good things about him,” Cobb said about Hickey. “He’s become – not only a pitching coach – but a real close friend of mine. Obviously, if we move down the line and we’re able to have some discussions with them, I’d be very honored to be able to talk with them and hopefully come to a deal.”
Cobb also pitched for Joe Maddon early in his career and praised the Cubs skipper for helping him develop off the field as well. “I don’t hide the fact that I’ve got the most respect for Joe Maddon and what he did for me coming up as a player," said Cobb. "Not so much as a pitcher on the mound, but as a professional athlete and a professional baseball player, and how to deal with the mental side of the game. And how to deal with the stresses that come with a big-league lifestyle.”
MLB.com's Richard Justice predicted new homes for his Top 15 free agents and has the Cubs adding Yu Darvish to the rotation and re-signing Wade Davis. MLB radio's "experts" made predictions on some of the top free agents and roughly half of them have the Cubs re-signing Davis. Among the other players tied to the Cubs were Darvish, RP Greg Holland and OF Lorenzo Cain.
The New York Post added their predictions and had the Cubs coming away with Davis for four year and $64M (bit steep for my liking) and Cobb for three years and $38M (which I would like very much). I did not enjoy reading about Jake Arrieta signing with the Cardinals though.
Free Agent Prediction Contest
As has become our tradition to kill time during the winter, Cubs Den will again be doing our free agent prediction contest where we all take our best uneducated guesses as to who the Cubs will sign. I'm sure there will be rules of some kind and stuff, but start thinking about who you think will be wearing blue pinstripes next season. We will be releasing more details this week, but I figured I'd give you the heads up.
Reliever Brandon Morrow could be a potential Cubs target this winter writes Patrick Mooney, but he could also provide a blueprint for what the Cubs should look for when adding to their bullpen. Morrow was a failed starter who thrived in the Dodgers bullpen this season, much like the success the Cubs had in past years with Trevor Cahill and Clayton Richards (to varying degrees). The Cubs front office has also stayed away from signing relievers to multi-year deals but they may need to change that strategy this winter given the needs in the Cubs pen and the shift toward building deeper bullpens.
Ian Happ was named to the 2017 Topps MLB All-Star Rookie team as the starter at second base...just go with it.
Happ was also named in the one of the earlier frontrunners for worst trade online suggestion by Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Sherman's three way deal has the Cubs sending Happ and Ben Zobrist to the Marlins and receiving Johnny Cueto from the Giants. Or maybe unloading Zobrist's deal is worth more than I realized?
Former Cubs hitting coach John Mallee wasn't out of work long as he joins Gabe Kapler's new coaching staff in Philadelphia.
Wade Davis will be an interesting case for a Cubs front office that doesn't like to spend heavily on relievers, but Davis' value to the team goes beyond his pitching stats. Davis also provided quiet leadership in the bullpen for other players including Brian Duensing and Carl Edwards Jr., who both sang Davis' praises.
The Cubs will make their case to Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani, but they will need to refine their pitch now that the team's championship drought is down to one year. Ohtani is leaving hundred of millions of dollars on the table by coming over this winter, so even though the Cubs are capped at $300K, they will need to appeal to his desire to win and other possible marketing revenues. Does anyone know what the Japanese word is for "Bryzzo"?
With Hickey now on the Cubs staff, Rays pitcher Chris Archer will likely be named as a possible trade target, especially with the Cubs willing to trade from the major league roster (though it would probably take Addison Russell + to get him). Hickey is of course a fan of the former Cubs prospect, saying "“It was a pleasure, a real treat to work with Chris...You talk about electric stuff, this guy’s got fastball, he’s a slider that gets up to 90 miles per hour that really looks like a curveball. He takes the ball every fifth day. That’s another thing that’s really, really impressive about Chris.”
Giancarlo Stanton Gets His Own Section
The Marlins right fielder is the biggest trade chip on the market this winter and will likely hold up the market for outfielders and power hitters until his situation is resolved. The Giants, Cardinals and Phillies have all been attached to Stanton already this offseason, but in the past few days Boston has moved to forefront, which is interesting because it would require a deal between Derek Jeter and the Red Sox.
Marlins beat writer Clark Spencer reported yesterday that talks between the two teams "may be heating up" as Boston looks to replace the power they lost when David Ortiz retired last winter. The Red Sox have the financial flexibility to take on a deal like Stanton's and enough quality prospects to put together a competitive offer. Boston has expressed willingness to add payroll this winter even if it means exceeding the luxury tax threshold.
The Cardinals appear to be in a prime spot to acquire Stanton since they can offer Miami young outfielders and pitching in return. They have reportedly made some of their top pitching prospects available in trade talks and meet Stanton's reported desire to play for a contender since St. Louis will be in contention for a wild card spot over the next few seasons. However, Stanton has a full No Trade Clause and is said to prefer a team on one of the coasts.
The Giants are also interested and are a better geographic fit for Stanton, though their farm system lacks the types of prospects Miami would be seeking, so San Francisco would have to base their offer around absorbing much of the $295M remaining on Stanton's deal. Plus there is the question of where Stanton would play with Jason Heyward soon to be patrolling right field (a boy can dream). Stanton would be an ideal fit for the Giants to provide the power the team is sorely lacking, but taking on Stanton's deal would limit the team's ability to fill holes elsewhere in the lineup. The Giants would have interest in Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. if he hits the market, who could be available if Stanton goes to Boston as the Sawx may need to move an outfielder.
The Phillies have also had talks with the Marlins regarding Stanton, but could be a tough sell given his stated criteria of playing on a coast for a winning team. However, the Phillies are poised to improve quickly and have more financial wiggle room than any team in the majors with only $6.35M in guaranteed contracts for next season. Which means the Phillies can take on more of Stanton's contract than any other suitor and still spend to put talent around him.
Bob Nightengale Tweets that Stanton's preference would be to play for the Dodgers or Angels near his home in California, but neither team has shown any willingness to take on his contract. Bob also Tweeted that it would be a "stunning upset" if Stanton is traded anywhere other than the Giants or Cardinals which is reason for optimism in Boston and Philadelphia.
J.D. Martinez is arguably the biggest bat on the free agent market and wants to be paid like it. Teams who have inquired on Martinez have been told by his agent Scott Boras that they are looking for a $200M contract this winter.
Jay Bruce is another free agent outfielder, albeit with a smaller price tag. Bruce is looking for a five year deal in the $80-90M range according to reports. Heyman lists the Giants, Cardinals, Mariners and Blue Jays as possible landing spots.
The Twins are interested in a reunion with former closer Brandon Kintzler who the team traded to Washington this summer. However, the Nationals are also interested in keeping Kintzler around after being impressed during his short stint in D.C.
Minnesota could be active all over the pitching market writes Heyman, as the team is considering a run at the top free agent starters including Arrieta, Darvish, Cobb and Lance Lynn.
The Royals are looking to retain a couple of their own free agents in Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, but don't appear to be likely to keep Lorenzo Cain.
And Now This...
Former World Series MVP Josh Beckett was arrested last night after going on stage and tackling the singer at a country bar in Texas. Beckett told police he tripped while attempting to stage dive and his attorney called the incident "horseplay" in a statement. The singer suffered neck, arm and shoulder injuries in the incident, including a dislocated shoulder and a torn rotator cuff.
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