Trading

Owner Involvement, Judge to the Mets? Trading Trout or Ohtani, the 2B Market, Free Agent Catchers, More

When it comes to the owners of our favorite baseball teams, I think a lot of us want to have our cake and eat it too — at least, in one specific way.

On the one hand, we often (and rightfully) chide any owner that inserts himself into actual baseball operations when they should be leaving that to the “baseball people” they’ve hired in the first place. Steve Cohen of the Mets and Mark Lerner of the Nationals, for two examples.

On the other hand, I often hope/want/expect my favorite team’s owner to step up and throw some extra cash on the table to get something done, when it *needs* to get done, even if it’s outside of their usual scope of involvement or beyond the initial baseball budget.

Tom Ricketts, owner of the Cubs, has often rested on the former as an excuse not to do the latter. He’s not alone — and that’s still better than sticking his nose into baseball operations for every decision — but at some point, we’re going to need him to prioritize winning, even if it requires resources that go above and beyond what’s ostensibly available.

Rickets/Cubs

Why do I bring that up? Because of these comments from the man, himself, shared via The Cubs Talk Podcast:

As Gordon Wittenmyer points out, Ricketts seems to be a little too comfortable, a little too pleased, with the progress of this rebuild and the direction of the franchise. For example, Ricketts is “super optimistic” about the team next season, adding that “the fact is, you can’t buy a championship team.”

Which, come on. That’s an oversimplification of a much broader point: Sure, maybe you can’t “buy a championship team,” but you can certainly reduce the risk of another legitimately BAD team with significant annual investments in high quality big leaguer players (to say nothing of investment in the rest of the organization).

To be fair, I do think the Cubs/Ricketts have done a good job building out better overall infrastructure on the development side of the organization, but the money needs to show up on the big league side immediately.

But I just get an icky feeling, when Ricketts continues to throw the ball in Jed’s court, saying he has a budget and can use it however he sees fit. It’s the cake dilemma. Theoretically, that’s the correct answer. But in practice, it feels like dodging the question and avoiding the problem.

In any case, give that video a watch, because Kaplan and Wittenmyer get into a good conversation about what the Cubs are expected to do this offseason, including their involvement in the deep end of free agency when it comes to (1) a middle infielder and (2) a front-line starting pitcher.

“I think they’ll be in on these guys,” Wittenmyer said, “I anticipate they’ll be aggressive.”

I hope so!

Aaron Judge to the Mets?

The Mets are still hanging onto the NL East by a thread (1.0 game lead over the Braves), but they’re a lock for the postseason no matter what at this point. HOWEVER, if they lose the division or simply don’t make it deep into October, I can only imagine the drive to spend Steve Cohen is going to feel this winter. And that drive, it seems, could extend to a batter leaving the other side of New York.

Obviously, we’re way far off from any sort of resolution on this front, but besides the Yankees, the market for Aaron Judge has not really been explored at all this offseason. They did try to extend him in the spring, but he’s having one of the best offensive seasons … ever right now, and his price tag has surely gone up.

For what it’s worth, David Kaplan has also heard that the Mets could come sniffing around Judge’s camp when the offseason hits, so I guess that could be a fun story to follow. The good news – such that it were – is that the Cubs are almost definitely NOT going to be involved in the Judge sweepstakes, so the New York teams can bid themselves up without too much impact on our (hopeful) plans for the winter.

Unpopular Trades Concepts?

There’s an article at The Athletic contemplating potentially unpopular trades that could go down this winter, starting with Shohei Ohtani, who was dangled a bit this deadline and expected to be traded this winter ahead of an Angels team sale. The Cubs are not mentioned among the “contending teams with well-stocked farm systems” that could be interested: Dodgers, Mariners, Blue Jays, Giants, Cardinals, Yankees, and Orioles, but I wouldn’t worry about that right now.

Not only is it both (1) an oversight and (2) too early to make such a declaration, there’s also this nonsense attached, with which I simply and fully disagree:

If he’s traded, the return is expected to exceed what the Nationals received for Soto, even though Soto was under team control for two-plus years at the time of the deal versus what would be one year with Ohtani. That’s because Ohtani is two players in one. So, I’d argue one year of Ohtani is equal to two years (roughly) of Soto.

I think Ohtani is legitimately giving Aaron Judge a run for his money in the 2022 AL MVP race, but I do not think even he, at age 29 with one year of team control, is worth more than a 23-year-old Juan Soto under control for 2.5 seasons. That’s just not correct.

Also discussed as possible trade candidates: Corbin Burners of the Brewers (yes, please), Wander Franco from the Rays (oh?), Ketel Marte of the D-Backs, and Pablo Lopez of the Marlins.

Rosenthal Notes: Trading with the Rays, Ahmed’s Availability, Rangers and Pirates Plans, More

Ken Rosenthal got into a TON of interesting baseball chatter in his latest at The Athletic, from his guesses at the various MLB awards, to the future of four-man rotations, and more. But it’s the stray rumory bits that we’ll discuss briefly here.

  • With a weak crop of free agent second basemen, teams expected to explore upgrades, like the Mariners and Orioles, may be forced into the arms of Tampa Bay: “The Rays, deep in young middle infielders, could emerge as an intriguing trade partner.” But teams shouldn’t start licking their lips just yet, because Brandon Lowe and (former Cubs prospect) Isaac Paredes are likely staying put. There are other options, however, and the Rays are literally always willing to get creative.
  • The Cubs are probably not going to be impacted here. Aside from the presence of Nick Madrigal, the expected pursuit of a top shortstop should move Nico Hoerner to second base anyway.
  • To that end, “(Amed) Rosario (of the Guardians) also could be a trade candidate, a short-term fallback for teams that fail to land one of the top shortstops in free agency.”
  • The Texas Rangers will necessarily have to go big this offseason if they hope to take advantage of their surprisingly aggressive path from last winter. And according to Ken Rosenthal, that means signing as many as THREE starting pitchers, and that’s assuming they re-sign left-hander Martin Perez. The point here is less about who or when, but simply that the Rangers could become significant competition for the Cubs in the free agent starter market this winter.
  • The Pirates are going to be (or … should be?) seeking external help at catcher and first base this winter.

Free Agent Catchers

Hey, speaking of external catchers, Anthony Franco previewed the upcoming free agent catching class, separating the players into “Top of the class,” a tier occupied by only Willson Contreras, regulars, a larger group with plenty of familiar names like Christian Vazquez, Omar Narvaez, Austin Hedges, Gary Sanchez, Tucker Barnhart, Mike Zunino, and Roberto Perez, plus a “Backups/depth” group.

I still think the most likely path forward for the Cubs is (1) extending the qualifying offer to Willson Contreras, (2) expecting him to reject it, and (3) entering into 2023 with Yan Gomes and P.J. Higgins as the expected tandem behind the plate.

However, we can’t rule out Contreras completely. But even if we do, given Gomes’ age and Higgins’ versatility, we also can’t rule out the pursuit of another catcher to throw into the mix. Possibly even from the “regulars” group.

Angels Plans (re Ohtani, Trout)

At CBS Sports, R.J. Anderson discusses three key questions facing the Angels as they head into another offseason following disappointment.

The first and most important question, of course, is whether or not Arte Moreno will find a buyer for the organization. But I want to focus on question No. 2 about the future of Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani:

The Angels had conversations with other teams concerning Ohtani ahead of the trade deadline, but rival front offices were skeptical that Moreno would sign off on a deal. One source speculated that Moreno could view Ohtani and general manager Perry Minasian as a package deal: if Ohtani leaves, either through free agency or in a trade this winter or next deadline, then Minasian is out, too. There’s no reason to believe that’s the case, but it speaks to the conception others have of Moreno. 

Nothing too surprising there, and frankly, I think the only thing holding back an Ohtani trade at this point is owner hubris. It’s the right thing to do for the organization. The bigger (tougher?) question, however, is what to do about Trout. A lot of the same arguments can be made about trading him, but I just don’t see that happening. Neither does Anderson: “Even if the Angels do think about moving Trout, it’s hard to see a deal coming to fruition. It’s nearly impossible to get fair value on a player of his caliber, and that’s without introducing his contract (he’s owed more than $296 million through the 2030 season) into the equation.”

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