The Rundown Lite: Drew Smyly Joins Braves, Mike Clevinger Gets Deal Despite TJS, Aramis Ramirez on HOF Ballot, Eric Jokisch Eyeing MLB Return

I made the mistake of starting to have a little faith in the Bears again, then watched as their patented offensive ineptitude somehow surprised me yet again. Gee, it’s almost like watching the Cubs. Yuck. It’s probably for the best that I don’t have to worry about either team doing much for the next two weeks, though I suppose it’s possible there could be personnel moves one way or the other for each.

Buster Olney recently reported for ESPN+ that the Cubs have been “signaling there will be significant turnover on the roster” this winter and that no one is untouchable. We’ve heard that before as Theo Epstein has said there’s no such thing as impossible, and we’ve also seen Olney exploiting some of that in order to mask speculation as reporting, but this has a strong hint of veracity.

Included in the piece is a quote from a rival executive that underscores what I’ve been talking about here for a while now, which is that the projected costs for some players may negate their trade value. Kris Bryant is one such player since his $18.6 million salary in 2020 puts him at least at that same level and maybe at or above $20 million next season.

“You have to look at it this way,” the exec said. “What would he get in salary [for 2021] on a one-year deal if he were a free agent right now?” one official said. “He probably wouldn’t get $18 million.”

While not a big difference under normal circumstances, the potential fluctuation of $2 million or more could make a big difference in what teams would be willing to offer in trade. Then you’ve got the possibility that a healthy Bryant could easily outplay the relative value of his salary, something the Cubs can more easily bank on because they’ve already got that bird in hand. All that said, a deal before his salary is set for his final year of arbitration is unlikely.

In fact, I’d say a trade prior to the deadline is unlikely as well. For as much talent as Bryant has, injuries to his shoulder, knee, and wrist/finger over the last three seasons have significantly hampered his production. Whether teams want to believe that he’s injury-prone or just don’t like the resultant numbers, they’re probably going to want to ensure his health and production before making any decent offers.

That’s better for the Cubs, who desperately need to be competitive lest their biblical losses in 2020 end up looking antediluvian as future revenues are hampered by fed-up fans opting not to line ownership’s pockets.

Smyly all smiles

Drew Smyly signed a two-year deal with the Cubs prior to the 2018 season even though they knew he’d likely miss the year recovering from Tommy John surgery. Indeed, he ran out of runway at the end of the season and was shut down to avoid overtaxing him. Then Smyly was traded to the Rangers in order to free up a little space to pick up Cole Hamels‘ $20 million option, a move that felt at least a little bit like a good-faith business deal between teams with something of a symbiotic relationship.

The lefty was terrible over 13 appearances (nine starts) for Texas, but started to put things together after being picked up by the Phillies. He really shoved for the Giants in limited action this season, striking out 42 in 26.1 innings (14.35 K/9) and posting a career-high 94 mph fastball velo. That led to a one-year, $11 million deal with the Braves.

Don’t you go thinking this means the market is going to be a lot better than projected, because it almost certainly doesn’t. This is an example of the Braves reaching for a guy they think can at least come close to repeating that performance, and it’s only for one year. Even so, it’s kinda wild.

Clevinger gets deal, then gets surgery

Mike Clevinger missed the Padres’ opening-round playoff series and then left his lone start against the Dodgers with elbow pain that San Diego confirmed Monday will result in TJS. But that didn’t stop the team from agreeing to a two-year, $11.5 million deal that will buy out the pitcher’s final two years of arbitration.

As we’re likely to see with so many other multi-year contracts this winter, Clevinger’s is backloaded and will pay him $2 million in 2020 before bumping to $6.5 million next season. There’s also a $3 million signing bonus split evenly between the two seasons. My initial thought was that this seems very odd given his pending surgery and the fact that the team still has control via arbitration.

Had they gone that route, however, the 29-year-old righty would have received around $5 million for 2020 and at least that much again the next. So while his $5.75 million AAV may be a little higher than he’d have gotten otherwise, the Padres will save about $1.5 million in actual payroll for the lost 2021 season. Expect to see a lot more deals like this as teams look to reduce their financial outlay for next year.

Sugar Land Cheaters Skeeters join Astros org

In a move that could be repeated elsewhere at various levels, the independent Sugar Land Skeeters have joined the Astros organization as their Triple-A affiliate. Though the details of their pact haven’t been made public, Mark Berman of Fox 26 in Houston reports that Astros owner Jim Crane has purchased an ownership stake in the Skeeters.

With the 2020 minor league season canceled and as many as 42 affiliates looking to secure or maintain professional development contracts, many other teams could look to sell as a means by which to stay afloat. MLB owners have long sought more control over MiLB, and what better way to achieve that than by destabilizing and devaluing the entire league?

Executives with the Round Rock Express, which is owned by Nolan Ryan and had been the Astros’ Triple-A affiliate for the past two seasons, found out about the move via Twitter. It didn’t take the Express long to land on their (its?) feet, however, as Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that a return to the Rangers organization is near.

Other news and notes

  • Former Cubs great Aramis Ramirez is on the Hall of Fame ballot for 2021 in his first year of eligibility. The third baseman always seemed to be criminally underrated and I have no doubt his voting totals will reflect that.
  • Other first-year-eligible players are Mark Buehrle, A.J. Burnett, Michael Cuddyer, Dan Haren, LaTroy Hawkins, Tim Hudson, Torii Hunter, Nick Swisher, Shane Victorino, and Barry Zito. If you’re keeping track at home, that’s three former Cubs.
  • The legendary Tommy Lasorda has been hospitalized in ICU and the Dodgers say the 93-year-old is “resting comfortably.” His family has requested privacy.
  • Robert Murray of Insider the Clubhouse reports that the Brewers “intend to listen” to offers on Josh Hader. The dominant lefty is projected to earn around $5 million in arbitration and still has three years of club control, so Milwaukee would be able to max his trade return while saving a little money in the process.
  • Murray also reports that former Cub Eric Jokisch is “considering a return to MLB.” A 2010 draft pick out of Northwestern, Jokisch came up through the system and pitched 14.1 innings in Chicago during the 2014 season. He then spent the next four seasons bouncing between a handful of organizations and just finished his second season in Korea with a KBO-leading 2.14 ERA. Still just 31 years old, Jokisch is reportedly “drawing a bunch of interest” from MLB teams.

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