Player movement was dammed up in the early part of the offseason as teams mostly focused on positioning themselves for the large number of high profile stars on the free agent and trade market, but over the past week some of the sluice gates have been opened. And of course, to the surprise of no one familiar with the trade history of GM Jerry Dipoto, the Mariners have been at the center of the action.
They had already made a flurry of trades early on, the most significant sending starter James Paxton to the Yankees and catcher Mike Zunino to Tampa, but then came two big trades finalized in as many days. First one with the Mets centered around their elite closer Edwin Diaz attached to the final five years on Robinson Cano's potentially onerous contract. It is a move that should pay immediate dividends for the Mets, providing them the ability to shorten a game while also installing a much-needed big bat in the middle of their lineup. The Mariners then aided New York's division rivals in Philadelphia by sending two-time All-Star shortstop Jean Segura east, along with a pair of relievers with good peripherals but hard luck results last year.
Seattle still holds a potentially big trade chip in corner outfielder Mitch Haniger. Early reports stated Dipoto was not interested in moving the young star, but I always felt like that was a bit of necessary posturing in order to prevent teams attempting to extract him as part of a deal to get Cano off their books. Now that the Cano deal is out of the way, the team can field serious calls to gauge what a full return for their best asset would look like. It doesn't guarantee a deal will be made any time soon, but if a team was willing to pay a painful price I have no doubt Dipoto would be unable to resist.
As with every front line player available, the Cubs would certainly explore such a possibility, but I would call a deal for Haniger unlikely given the lack of high end prospects in the Cubs system. Any trade for him would likely require a top 10-ish prospect in all of baseball to act as the centerpiece.
Speaking of the Cubs exploring possibilities, they are expected to be a suitor for Bryce Harper, although no publications I have seen label the team among the front runners.
Ken Rosenthal discussed the interest the Cubs had in recent Atlanta signee Brian McCann. Given the relatively modest one year, two million dollar deal the veteran catcher signed I believe that McCann was simply interested in returning to his previous home, especially since the club is in the midst of a renaissance. It is very likely he left money on the table, be it from the Cubs or other potential suitors.
The most intriguing aspect of Rosenthal's musings is that the Cubs interest did not stem as much from the "veteran catcher" aspect as it did from the "fiery leader" type of personality McCann possesses. In Rosenthal's words McCann is:
"extremely likable, but edgy and demanding enough to draw the best out of his teammates. The Cubs need that kind of fire, perhaps even more than they did when Ross joined the team before the 2015 season."
He goes on to say that the Cubs are likely to pursue other players of this ilk, not limited to the catching position. He brings up Adam Jones as a possibility, but also dismisses it given the Cubs would be unlikely to guarantee the type of playing time Jones is seeking. I actually doubt being able to offer a full-time starter job is an issue, but would rather argue Jones's diminishing skills no longer warrant such gig, especially on a contending club. Jones posted the worst defensive metrics of his career in 2018 and his lowest HR total since his first full season in the bigs.
Rosenthal does not offer additional alternatives, but I'm sure others can chime in with ideas among the available players in the comments section. Andrew McCutchen and Michael Brantley are both well-respected leaders, but I wouldn't label either as "edgy and demanding."
In non-player related rumors it appears the Cubs Bench Coach Brandon Hyde is a candidate for the Orioles Managerial opening and is expected to receive an interview.
Two current bench coaches - #Nationals’ Chip Hale, #Cubs’ Brandon Hyde - among those who will interview for #Orioles’ managing job, sources tell The Athletic. Team will talk to at least six in person. Ex-manager such as Hale thought to be preference, but new GM Elias open-minded.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 2, 2018
Hyde has been with Chicago since 2013 after spending time as the Bench Coach with Marlins, as well as a Manager in their Minor League system. He has drawn interest from teams with Managerial openings in each of the past two years.
We should continue to see some trade action leading up to the Winter Meetings which kick off later this week. It is at that point that many high-profile free agent agreements have been struck in years past, and I would expect at least one major signing announced before it ends. Also look for blockbuster trades, which could include stars like Paul Goldschimdt, Corey Kluber, Noah Syndergaard.