The time has come, the annual MLB Winter Meetings got underway in Las Vegas on Monday. Four days in which team executives and player agents can meet and start serious negotiations for sought after free-agents. This week is when the hot stove reaches full temperature, so let's check the rumor mill.
GM Jed Hoyer spoke to reporters Monday night and continued to downplay expectations for the Cubs.
Still nothing imminent with the Cubs, per Hoyer. Relief market so flooded it’s taking time to go through. Says they aren’t too worried about closing experience, just want the quality arms.
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) December 11, 2018
While publicly the Cubs continue to indicate they aren't planning any big moves some rumors still persist they are not out on big name players. Bruce Levine of 670 AM reported there are rumblings the Ricketts family is willing to spend on a high-priced talent. Levine previously reported the Cubs were still in on Bryce Harper, so it at least adds a hint of drama to the proceedings.
Rangers beat writer Evan Grant tweeted out that Texas is shopping infielder Jurickson Profar. Profar, once a top ten prospect in MLB, fought shoulder injuries in 2015 and 16. He posted a career-best .793 OPS in 2018 and played all four infield positions. Former Cubs Den writer Tom Loxas tweeted out the Northsiders have discussed Profar with the Rangers.
One source says Cubs/Rangers have talked Jurickson Profar.
— TomLoxas (@TomLoxas) December 10, 2018
Super reliable USA Today reporter Bob Nightengale reported the Cubs have told teams that Kyle Schwarber isn't available in trade discussions. I must say I find this report very dubious and not just because Nightengale is involved. A very recent firestorm just died down over Theo Epstein stating no one is untouchable on the roster. Schwarber has a lot of upside, but I find it hard to believe if a deal was right they would keep the big left fielder.
The Athletic's Sahadev Sharma wrote (subscription required) about the possibility of trading Ben Zobrist this off-season. The idea being, it would free up $12.5 in salary for 2019. There are a couple of problems with that, Zobrist has a full no-trade clause and the Cubs offense might have a hard time replacing his offensive production. On the other hand, the fact his contract is expiring and he had an excellent 2018 might make other teams more receptive to a deal. Still, I feel management wouldn't want to lose Ben's clubhouse leadership and versatility in the lineup.
Bryce Harper Sweepstakes
Scott Boras was holding court with reporters at the Winter Meetings and building the Harper suspense. He sat down with the aforementioned Nightengale for an interview and boy was he peak Boras in it. He compared Harper to LeBron James, which seems like a bit of a stretch since James is a top-five all-time NBA player. He compared his clients free-agency to a submarine race, since the real market for Harper is under the surface.
Harper and his wife Kayla are meeting interested teams in a hotel suite in Las Vegas. Boras is as modest as you would expect, telling teams Bryce is a combination of Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, and Mike Trout with the star power of Jay-Z and Beyonce. So yeah totally reasonable expectations there, it feels like the Harper move will come quickly after the meetings.
Rest of MLB
The other big name on the market, Manny Machado, has been tied to six teams including the Phillies, Yankees, and White Sox. The other three teams? Why mystery teams of course. Those pesky mystery teams always so close but never get a big free-agent, maybe this is the year.
The Dodgers are said to be shopping outfielder Yasiel Puig, who is owed $11 million dollars in 2019. Puig has shown flashes of brilliance, but has been very inconsistent over his time in LA. The Dodgers would likely need to attach a prospect or take a similar big contract to move him.
Good news for Cubs fans, as Billy Hamilton signed a one-year deal with the Kansas City Royals on Monday. The deal is for $5 million with incentives. I think Pirates starter Jameson Taillon speaks for all Cubs fans.
This is a big day for me! @BillyHamilton, congrats on the deal, and good luck in the AL.. Hope you love the AL and stay there (and away from facing me) for a long long time haha
— Jameson Taillon (@JTaillon19) December 10, 2018
Speaking of Pirates starting pitchers, the White Sox are continuing their active off-season by trading for Ivan Nova Tuesday. Nova has one more season on his deal at $9.2 million.
The Mets, Yankees, and Marlins are discussing a possible three-team trade that would involve catcher JT Realmuto. It's unclear if the negotiations also include Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard. Although that hasn't stopped speculation that he is a part.