The Chicago Cubs are in Phoenix along with just about everyone else in baseball as the general manager meetings chug along. Have we learned a lot so far? Well, the rumors have been buzzing but aside from one major deal, nothing really has happened yet other than the Rays pushing a tampering investigation of the Cubs and Joe Maddon.
That major deal was Michael Cuddyer spurning the Colorado Rockies’ surprise qualifying offer in favor of a two-year pact with the New York Mets. There have been a bunch of amusing conspiracy theories surrounding that, but apparently Cuddyer would have taken the offer if the Mets hadn’t come calling. Also, some more amusement in terms of Cuddyer’s defense (or perhaps, lack thereof):
— Rice Cube (@CubicSnarkonia) November 11, 2014
As you may also know, the Braves are vacillating between compete and rebuild modes. The feeling is that even if they were able to successfully rehab their rotation pieces in Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy etc, the Braves would be hard-pressed to compete with the Washington Nationals for the NL East, so they may as well look to the future. One of the names being floated around is Evan Gattis, who has a pretty good bat and can occasionally sit/stand at various positions on the defensive side of the field (whether he can actually field is up for debate, but the consensus is that he’s not very good at it). That has some potential to change but the defensive side of the game is most likely a no-go for Gattis. The idea by Ken Rosenthal is to package Gattis with a bad contract like B.J. Upton‘s:
Sources: One strategy for #Braves is to package Gattis with B.J. Upton. Open on Gattis, others in various combos. Most of roster in play.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 11, 2014
This part doesn’t really make sense to me since B.J. Upton (whom I shall coin the “Bad Upton” from here on out) is a negative trade value, but maybe the Braves can hold a team hostage that way by saying “hey, if you guys want a DH, you’re gonna have to take Bad Upton too.” Unfortunately, Justin Upton (“Good Upton”) has the Cubs on his limited no-trade list so there goes that trade idea, but the thing with Gattis is that he is under club control through the 2018 season. So if the Cubs could swing a bad contract swap (hey, Edwin Jackson) while throwing in a solid-but-not-top prospect, maybe this could happen, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
In free agent land, the Cubs are said to be focused more on the rotation than the bullpen, which makes sense considering all the power right-handers Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have assembled to make the bullpen actually respectable. Jon Lester is the obvious target (no qualifying offer, still young, they know each other from way back, etc) but the prevailing rumor is that he may just go back to Boston. Whether the Cubs intend to blow their draft picks to sign Max Scherzer and/or James Shields is up in the air, and of course there are mid-tier options available (Brandon McCarthy) and reclamation projects as well (Justin Masterson, Brandon Morrow, Brett Anderson).
It may be too early to see whether the Cubs are serious about signing Russell Martin. If they do, I think it makes sense to keep Welington Castillo around as a more-than-capable backup catcher who will learn the position better under a defensively competent starter in Martin. Castillo is under club control for a while yet and will be cheap, so there’s no pressure to have to trade him. The price tag for Martin is rumored to be around five years and up to $80MM so that’s a bit rich for my blood, but I’m not the GM; Jed Hoyer is. If they do their due diligence and decide it’s worth it, I’m cool with the upgrade, even if the money and years give me pause. I’d also be good if they just use a Beef Castle/Rafael Lopez platoon.
Finally, check out these pictures of Wrigley Field from the air by Nick Ulivieri. I wonder if they should dig some holes to get some subterranean storage space under the new bleachers. I guess they have to dig anyway to set a new foundation. Nick Ulivieri has more pictures of Chicago from his helicopter tour on his Flickr, Chicago is cool.
— Wrigley Renovations (@WrigleyRenovate) November 11, 2014
Oh yeah, they’re playing baseball in Japan!