The Rundown: Framing a Contreras Trade, GM Meetings Start Monday, Sunday Baseball Notes

With the GM Meetings beginning tomorrow in Scottsdale, AZ, trade talk has really intensified and some potential scenarios are coming into focus. A number of teams with historically high payrolls such as the Cubs and Red Sox will be looking to upgrade their rosters while trying to find ways to trim some of the excess off of their bottom lines.

The Cubs have a player who would be a fit for just about any team in baseball, and that’s starting catcher Willson Contreras. According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, a number of baseball’s front office personnel believe Theo Epstein will make his all-star backstop available this winter. Contreras could probably bring a return that would fill several needs in the right deal.

Contreras, 27, is projected to be awarded $4.5 million in arbitration this winter and he carries three seasons of team control. That’s pretty significant for a player who’d be an instant upgrade for any team except the Phillies, who acquired J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins last year. But which teams would have the most interest in Contreras and how would we frame a trade based on who those teams might make available?

The Reds, Braves, Nationals, and Rangers come to mind immediately. The Astros have a very deep farm system, need a catcher, and were serious bidders for Realmuto last year at this time. The Rays and Rockies would love Contreras, too.

But two teams check all the boxes on any potential deal for the Cubs fiery backstop: the White Sox and Padres. Both teams need a starting catcher, have excellent farm systems, and could be ready to challenge for a division title as soon as next summer.

How might a trade with either team look? Based on what the Cubs are seeking to do this winter, I could see Epstein asking White Sox GM Rick Hahn for a package that includes pitcher Michael Kopech and second baseman Nick Madrigal. Looking at the Padres, the Cubs would probably show a lot of interest in pitcher Mackenzie Gore, though he’s probably not available. But pitchers Adrian Morejon and Luis Patino might be, and so could catcher Francisco Mejia. If the Astros are truly interested, they could really drive the price up on Contreras.

And then there’s the wild card option. I’m sure Joe Maddon would love for the Angels to be involved in trade talks for Contreras. A trade for infielder David Fletcher and minor league outfielder Jo Adell might be appealing to Epstein.

Don’t forget, however, that Epstein has recently praised his catcher and might be reluctant to trade him to anybody. Of course, it’s also possible he was simply starting the buzz that currently surrounds Contreras by by beating that drum just loud enough for everybody to hear.

Cubs News & Notes

This Week’s Baseball Trivia

Updates On Nine

  1. Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts has been oft-mentioned as a trade candidate this offseason. Whether the team will actually be able to trade him is a different story entirely, as Betts will likely earn more than $27 million in his final year of team control before heading into free agency.
  2. Former Pirates outfielder Dave Parker was a seven-time All-Star, an NL MVP and a two-time World Series champion. He finished his career with 2,712 hits, 339 home runs, 1,493 RBI, and a .290 batting average, yet he was never elected to the Hall of Fame. In fact, he never received more than 24.5% of the vote, far short of the 75% needed for election into the Hall. That he’s on the outside looking in is as much a black eye for the game as his inclusion in a 1985 cocaine scandal and subsequent drug trial.The right fielder was a named “regular user” and was suspended the following season. Parker is on the Modern Baseball Era ballot for election this year.
  3. Cleveland reliever Dan Otero could be an option for the Cubs bullpen next season. The 34-year-old free agent pitched to a 5.17 FIP for the Indians last year and he’s very hittable, though he does generate a lot of groundballs. If Otero is going to be the team’s token free agent signing this year, I’d rather have Brad Brach back.
  4. I posted a link to an article by Mark Gonzales in Friday’s Rundown in which the reporter stated that the Cubs will make Whit Merrifield a priority over the next few months. I ignored the Merifield blurb however, because that statement, which is likely the reporter’s opinion, seemed ridiculous. Certainly nobody in the organization would feed him that bit of information, and though I think the team would like a player who checks the same boxes as the Royals’ utilityman, I find it difficult to fathom that Epstein would telegraph his intentions and then meet Kansas City’s asking price.
  5. Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna was also mentioned as a possible target for the Cubs this winter, with the forfeiture of a draft pick anchored to a potential signing, no less. Please, and for the love of everything baseball, no.
  6. Yes, losing the World Series to the Nationals in a very winnable Game 7 had to be a bitter pill for the Astros ownership group to swallow. It looks like Hall of Fame pitcher and current team executive advisor Nolan Ryan is now part of the collateral damage of that loss, and possibly the controversy surrounding recently fired Assistant GM Brandon Taubman.
  7. Considering what Bryce Harper was paid last winter by the Phillies, is it too early to wonder what kind of contract Juan Soto will get when he hits the open market in 2025? Unless he signs an extension, the 21-year-old phenom will reach free agency having just completed his age-27 season.
  8. How do you feel about David Ross selecting Andy Green to be his bench coach this season? Green comes with controversy attached to his tenure managing the Padres for four seasons.
  9. Shifts were up again this season according to The Bill James Handbook, as teams repositioned their infielders based on the opposing batter a whopping 46,758 times. Freddie Freeman faced the most shifts  with 459 plate appearances against a stacked infield. He hit .227 on grounders and short liners with a shift deployed, and an unbelievable .667 without. Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo was the second-most shifted-on batter, with a .219/.333 shift/no-shift split.

Apropos of Nothing

Thanksgiving is coming in a few weeks, but not everybody loves turkey, including me. Every year I fill my plate up with all of the trimmings and I skip the bird. I’m having prime rib this year, just as soon as one of you invites me.

On Deck

Perhaps it’s just me, but Manny Machado certainly looks a little portly in the new uniforms the Padres unveiled this weekend. I suppose it could be an illusion caused by the brown pinstripes.

Extra Innings

One of the more tired debates on social media the past few years concerns bat flips. How often have you heard they’re disrespectful to the game and the pitcher? Crazy talk, I know. It just sounds so curmudgeonly. My favorite bat flip of all time was by Joey Bats, and the celebratory hammer throw by White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson earlier this year was a wonderful spectacle in its own right.

Castellanos took things to a new level this season with a slight twist on breaking the unwritten rule of not showing up the pitcher. I’ll take Nicky Two Bags over everybody else.

They Said It

  • “Sometimes there are deals made where it’s more important what you’re getting back than what you’re giving up. Especially if you’re dealing from a position where you have some quantity. The focus will be on what we’re bringing in and what a player’s value is to us. Not only for next year but over the long haul when assessed on the trade market.” – Theo Epstein

Sunday Walk Up Song

Float On by Jennie Arnau. One of my favorite indie songs of all-time.

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