It looks like that December 1 CBA deadline is going to spur a lot of activity after all, with even those players at the top of the market looking to ink deals in the next two days. That’s certainly good for fan service and the news cycle, but I’ve got a sneaking suspicion the owners will try to leverage that against the players — look how willing we’ve been to spend! — in upcoming negotiations.
While the frenetic pace of free agency continues, the Cubs haven’t done more than check in on players who seemingly fit their needs. Steven Matz went to the Cardinals, presumably because St. Louis was willing to stretch to a fourth year, for $44 million. Jon Gray joined the Rangers for $56 million over four years, which is an incredibly reasonable deal for a mid-rotation starter with high upside.
Kevin Gausman was never a realistic target due to the deal he was projected to command, but he came in a little lower than expected with $110 million over five years from the Blue Jays. Then there’s Michael Lorenzen, who got the exact kind of prove-it deal I felt would have been a perfect option for the Cubs. The former Reds reliever will join Anaheim’s rotation and could see some time in the outfield for one year at just $7 million.
You can’t spend intelligently if you don’t spend at all, so here’s to hoping the Cubs will get nimble here soon before all the pitchers on their wish list have vanished. Hey, maybe they’re just waiting for Cubs Convention to unveil their big addition. Yeah, that’s it.
As for the rest of the league, there have been some pretty loud rumblings from the top of the market and I’d like to run through a few of them here.
Max Scherzer seemed like a lock to remain on the West Coast, but the Mets got pissed off enough about being spurned by other pitchers that they may not let another get away. Steve Cohen took Matz’s agent to task publicly and there was a report that Gausman turned down a bigger offer from New York, perhaps spurring the wealthiest owner in the league to bust out the checkbook.
Several reports had the AAV at $40 million or more and Doug Rush of USA Today put the total offer at three years, $126 million. The expectation is that a decision will come Monday.
UPDATE: Steve Cohen and Billy Eppler have submitted their offer to Max Scherzer and his agent, Scott Boras, which is likely a 3-year, $126 million deal ($42M). The Mets are awaiting to hear back from Scherzer’s camp.
— Doug Rush (@TheDougRush) November 29, 2021
Update: Scherzer and the Mets have agreed to a three-year, $130 million deal that sets a new record for AAV at $43.3 million. The contract includes a full no-trade clause and an opt-out for Scherzer after the second year. It’s hard to imagine he’ll be able to earn more money elsewhere heading into his age-39 season, but it’s entirely possible he’ll want to get the hell away from the Mets.
Elsewhere in major deals, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeted Sunday night that it’s believed Corey Seager “will sign by tomorrow.” Things could have gotten confusing had Sherman pressed send four minutes later. This tracks with reports following the GM Meetings that Seager and Marcus Semien wanted to sign prior to December, but what’s really interesting is that both Scott Boras clients could end up in Arlington.
Teams left GM Meetings earlier this month believing Scott Boras would sign his 3 big FAs b4 potential lockout. Semien has done so with #Rangers. Scherzer getting close. Belief also is that Seager will sign by tomorrow. And the #Rangers might pair him with Semien. It’s in play.
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) November 29, 2021
The Rangers have also been courting Trevor Story, who is projected to earn only about half of what Seager will, so this could come down to a little haggling. Story is from nearby Irving, TX and might even be willing to take a hometown discount, though the Rangers don’t appear to be interested in getting a Cyber Monday deal here.
Nick Castellanos does not appear to be blasting out hourly emails to every team advertising a bargain on his services. Per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, the Marlins weren’t able to work anything out with the former Cub because he is seeking a deal of seven or eight years. If that ask is accurate, he’s going to have a hard time finding a taker anywhere unless the AAV gets really low.
Nick Castellanos remains a great fit for Miami, but a source said he’s seeking a seven- or eight-year deal, likely taking him out of the Marlins’ price range.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) November 29, 2021
Castellanos is a great presence and he’s been a very consistent offensive producer, but he turns 30 in March and is more or less a DH. He’s also been playing in very hitter-friendly confines and could see those career-high 34 homers turn back into doubles in a different park and/or division. The average projections put him at 4-5 years for around $100 million and I could see him getting on the high side of that, though not much more.
Even if he falls below projections, the qualifying offer penalties attached to his signing rule the Cubs out from the jump. That and the fact that they have signed exactly one position player to a multi-year contract since Jason Heyward and have not guaranteed as much as $10 million to any position players in that span.
Big Stick Nick’s most recent former team may continue to slash talent and payroll as the run on pitchers continues, with Jon Morosi reporting that they’re open for business. Tyler Mahle and Sonny Gray are both available and Luis Castillo, who it was previously reported was not being traded, “has a very high price tag.”
Sources: Multiple #MLB teams have had recent trade discussions with #Reds about their starting pitchers. Tyler Mahle and Sonny Gray are available. Luis Castillo is, too, but has a very high price tag. @MLBNetwork
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 29, 2021
The Reds have no intention of competing next season and could even challenge the Pirates for division cellar honors even if they fell way behind the Cubs for the seller award. Having 38 games against uncompetitive teams should be a reason to get more aggressive, but the Cubs don’t appear to agree.
And before you go excusing them by saying they have too many holes to become a World Series contender in ’22, just remember that it’s not about completely reversing course overnight. It’s about addressing major needs and solidifying a roster in order to really go for it at some point in the near future. If the plan is truly to build from within, the Cubs will need to do a much better job of surrounding that new core with complementary players.
That’s why it makes a lot of sense to add a pitcher who shores up the staff now and isn’t a hindrance as young starters presumably emerge. Someone like, I don’t know, Jon Gray. Alas, it appears his deal didn’t fit the Cubs’ definition of “intelligent.” I’m personally very interested to find out exactly what that definition ends up being when all is said and done, but I’ll settle for getting a hint before Wednesday.