A long one today…sorry.
The end of the 2018 MLB season marks the beginning of an active offseason for most front offices. Already, savvy executives and their staffs are assessing their rosters, exploring potential trades, and re-educating themselves on other teams’ players and prospects. And though the annual GM Meetings were originally meant to provide closure to the previous season through awards distribution, media hype and general fanaticism have helped to turn them more into the unofficial opening of the upcoming season.
— NY Daily News Sports (@NYDNSports) November 5, 2018
Certainly there will be discussions regarding state-of-the-game issues, posturing for the next CBA negotiation, and potential rules changes. There is even talk of extending the trade deadline and eliminating the confusing and unnecessary waiver trade process.
Front office executives will also gather intel to see which players might be available in trade, and, as agents descend on the meetings, start to get an idea of the types of contracts free agents will be looking to sign. Precedent exists that a major trade and a signing or two will be reported before the week is over.
No matter what, intrigue will be the theme of the week and no one will command more attention and innuendo than Bryce Harper. The right fielder’s long-term future will not likely be determined this week. But as rumors fly and potential suitors, including the Cubs, come and go, we may see enough of a trend to find out who is truly in and who is truly out. Though most free agents sign life-altering contracts, Harper is expected to sign the most lucrative contract in the history of the game.
One team to watch is the Nationals. Their level of aggressiveness this winter will determine if they can re-sign Harper. They enter having exceeded the luxury tax ceiling for last season, and they’ve already traded for Kyle Barraclough and have signed the first free agent of the winter, reliever Trevor Rosenthal.
Washington will be looking to add more pitching and any attempt to sign one of the big guns — such as Dallas Keuchel, Patrick Corbin, or Nathan Eovaldi — could be a sign they are moving ahead without Harper. However, a trade for someone like Sonny Gray, Cory Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, or Madison Bumgarner could signal that the team will do everything in their power to retain their face of the franchise player. Intrigue indeed.
Free Agent Profile: Manny Machado
Only this offseason would the free agency of a 26-year-old shortstop be an afterthought, but Manny Machado’s negotiations may be just as compelling as Harper’s. Machado compares favorably to Harper in WAR over the past three years. In fact, he is arguably one of the 10 best position players in all of baseball heading into 2019, a case which probably cannot be made for Harper.
The four-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner enters free agency having completed a season in which he finished with career highs in home runs, on-base percentage, and OPS+. It was the fourth consecutive year that he belted 30 or more home runs. On talent alone, he should conceivably command more money than his free-agent counterpart.
But there are other issues at play. First is his stated preference not to play third base, and the narrative that he isn’t very good defensively as a major league shortstop. Add that to his admitted lack of hustle, his penchant for dirty plays, and the perception of a me-first attitude, and some of that shine on his offensive skills dulls considerably.
At one point, the Cubs seemed very much interested in Machado, even before last season started. And though the team doesn’t know how the issues with Addison Russell will play out from a roster standpoint, it would seem as though the free agent shortstop is not currently in the sight lines of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. Instead, the Phillies seem intent on outspending anybody for Machado. But I wouldn’t discount the Yankees, and I think Brian Cashman will eventually win the bidding. Don’t overlook the White Sox, either.
- White Sox
- Yesterday: Bryce Harper
- Tomorrow: Patrick Corbin
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs will not engage with Joe Maddon on extension talks this season. Though Epstein downplayed the decision considerably, I think it speaks volumes about Maddon’s future with the team. The Cubs retained Brandon Hyde earlier in the week, and I have a feeling he is being groomed as a potential successor. It will be interesting to see how this plays out as the season unfolds. A slow start could cost Maddon his job, especially if there is any perceived lack of urgency.
- The Cubs haven’t officially stated that they will or will not pursue Harper or Machado, and though it appears they intend to be more lax in free agency this year than last, the front office could target a big-ticket hitter and address their bullpen through potential trades.
- The Cubs have inventory to deal as they seek to augment their offense and bullpen. Their outfield is a crowded one, with Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora Jr., Jason Heyward, and Ian Happ, and it wouldn’t be surprising of one or more of those players is moved this winter. It seems the team may feel the best way to augment the existing roster is through trade rather than free agency.
- No matter what the Cubs do this winter, the team’s lack of intensity, drive, and killer instinct—that appeared to be missing the last two seasons—will be back. The Cubs will have an edge. They will have swagger and they will win.
The White Sox appear to be interested in both Machado and Harper.
Astros starter Lance McCullers may need elbow surgery. That outlook may be the driver of the team’s offseason plans as they also have two starters, Keuchel and Charlie Morton entering free agency this year. Gerrit Cole will be a free agent after the 2019 season unless Houston extends him.
Andrew Miller could draw a lot of attention this winter now that his arm has been declared healthy.
https://t.co/eV99k7sj3G Notes on Andrew Miller’s health #Yankees #Mets, Dave Roberts’ contract status, Kikuchi deepens LH starter market, #Angels pitching search, possible returns from Japan and Korea.
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) November 6, 2018
- Get out and vote today – your vote does count, and 16 states offer same-day voter registration, including Illinois.
- Donate a coat. It’s getting cold out.
- Food drives are in full swing. No one should go hungry this winter so consider a monetary or canned goods donation.
Harper is really excited about his future and should be. He recently took his wife Kayla to see the Backstreet Boys in Las Vegas. No word if the Bryants also attended, but Kayla was pulled up on stage and was serenaded by the band.
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My 9 year old self lost her mind last night. ?Bryce has been surprising me with little gifts all week and one of them happened to be a black dress that he said I needed for Sat night. He let me know at dinner that he was taking me to see the Backstreet Boys… little did I know, the biggest surprise of them all was meeting them & then having them pull me onstage to be serenaded ??♀️?? #humblehusbandbrag
New Music Tuesday
- Full House Live by the J. Geils Band – Man, does this band cook in a live setting. Though underrated and only about 30 minutes in length, this is arguably one of the five best live albums of all time. “Whammer Jammer” is ageless.
- So Far by Crosby Stills & Nash – I was in high school when my best friend friend Tommy introduced me to classic rock before classic rock was a thing. In 1982 we had AM radio, FM radio, magic oldies radio, and the great music Tommy listened to.
- Volume One by the Traveling Wilburys – I can’t explain it any better than this great short documentary about how this super group formed in 1988.
They Said It
- “We’re not running away from Joe in the least but given that we all have things that we’re working on to get more out of this team and to be one game better than we were last year, this is the appropriate move.” – Theo Epstein
Tuesday Walk Up Song
Handle With Care by the Traveling Wilburys. Advice to those pursuing Machado.