We have seen an increase in the intensity of hot stove action that may or may not be tied to the pursuit of Shohei Ohtani, the Giancarlo Stanton rumors picked up yesterday, and we are starting to see other significant offseason movement.
The big news for Cubs fans is the Tyler Chatwood signing. When Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took over the team and were asked about free agency, they mentioned that in most cases they would rather pay for future performance than past accomplishments. This signing is a clear example. Chatwood is a 28-year-old starter whose career, to this point, has been middling at best. I know there are significant home/road splits and that can be referenced for most every Rockies starter. But overall, as I said, middling. He comes to Chicago as a perfect fifth (or sixth) starter.
But, this is as much an upside play as it is a bottom-of-the-rotation acquisition, which is why the Cubs have targeted the right-handed starter since free agency opened. A potentially much higher ceiling exists with Chatwood based on an arsenal that includes five pitches, an increase in velocity over the past season, and a curveball that is top five in spin rate. Brendan Miller breaks it down fantastically, so if you haven’t read his post from Thursday evening, make sure you do.
This would have been MLB’s lead story yesterday, but…
The Mariners have become uber-aggressive in their pursuit of Ohtani. I have a friend in the industry who indicated that Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto has a direct order from ownership to do whatever it takes to sign the Japanese superstar at any cost, and that his future employment may hang in the balance. Ouch. So when Dipoto says he is swinging for the fences, he’s not lying. Yesterday the Mariners acquired 2B/CF Dee Gordon plus $1 million in bonus pool cash from the Marlins. Thanks to a previous deal with the Twins, the Mariners have now moved to the top of the leaderboard in available funds, inching just past the Rangers.
The desperation is palatable and captures the zeitgeist of the approaching Winter Meetings.
I find it laughable that a guy who left hundreds of millions of dollars on the table by coming to the United States two years shy of his 25th birthday would squeeze beleaguered GMs for a few extra pennies, so maybe my friend is right. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and maybe the Mariners aren’t quite the co-favorite (along with San Diego) that the industry thinks they are.
Now let me circle back to the Cubs because, it “ain’t really about the money, Chuck.” As Evan mentioned yesterday in his Rumor Roundup, the Cubs’ chances may have improved enough that a Japanese reporter following Ohtani’s move to MLB has flown into Chicago. Does that represent ballast toward an imminent signing? Probably not, but it may mean the two-way superstar is at least coming to visit. Then again, maybe the “future face of baseball” really liked the Cubs’ pitch at the CAA offices and merely needs to ingest all that Chicago has to offer before signing.
Ohtani has some lofty personal goals, and I do believe a pairing with the Cubs makes many of those achievable, though I’d say he can move the timetable up on winning that third championship.
Cubs News & Notes
Turn the hype machine up to 11: according to a report from Craig Mish of Sirius XM Radio, Giancarlo Stanton would accept a trade to the Cubs if one presented itself. Four teams are allegedly on the slugger’s approval list: the Dodgers, Yankees, Cubs, and Astros. The exclusion of the Giants and Cardinals is deafening.
I don’t condone hypothetical lineups (looking at you, Buster Olney), but imagine Joe Maddon handing this one to a home plate umpire: 1. Ohtani SP 2. Bryant 3B 3. Rizzo 1B 4. Stanton RF 5. Contreras C 6. Schwarber LF 7. Russell SS 8. Baez 2B 9. Heyward CF. Yes, I have Shohei batting leadoff. No pressure, kid.
The Cubs will continue to pursue starting pitching and they likely still have Alex Cobb in their sights in addition to that other guy we keep talking about.
The Cubs’ interest in Chatwood was apparently mutual. The newest member of the rotation indicated that Chicago was the first choice of both he and his wife. When asked about the Cubs’ chances of signing Ohtani, he responded by saying “I don’t know why anybody wouldn’t want to play in Chicago.” If that works, he is well worth the $38 million for his recruiting abilities alone.
Sensing that Stanton might be against entertaining an opportunity to play in the Gateway City, the Cardinals could be turning their focus toward the Rays and Evan Longoria.
Orioles SS Manny Machado is drawing interest from a number of teams, including the Yankees and Phillies.
Despite rumors, the White Sox may not trade Jose Abreu this offseason.
The Tigers signed free-agent SP Mike Fiers to a one-year deal.
Here’s the full breakdown of yesterday’s Marlins-Mariners trade.
Though the Hot Stove has started out historically slow, next week’s Winter Meetings may offer an unprecedented level of drama.
Apparently Chatwood’s new contract is an indicator that free agent pitching acquisitions may be too costly for the Red Sox this winter.
The Twins just missed on signing free agent SS Kevin Maitan and that may have been a consideration when deciding to trade IFA pool money to the Mariners and Angels.
Orioles SP Kevin Gausman is changing his uniform number from 39 to 34 in tribute to the late Roy Halladay.
Former Cardinals SP Anthony Reyes is helping fight California’s raging wildfires.
Friday Walk Up Song
Just Got Paid by Johnny Kemp