The big names and some lesser names have been trickling off the board as we head toward February, but there’s still plenty that needs to be sorted out before spring training commences (whenever that might be). Out of a charitable sense of mission, we’re here to round up all the rumors fit to print regarding free-agent signings and potential trades. So let’s do just that for Friday.
The Cardinals have long been linked to star third baseman Nolan Arenado, who’s become disaffected in Colorado. Now Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that there’s once again momentum toward a trade that would land Arenado in St. Louis. Rosenthal writes:
“Arenado, 29, likely would waive his no-trade clause to join the Cardinals, and perhaps agree to push back his right to opt out after the 2021 season. The Rockies, to escape his $199 million guarantee over the next six seasons, almost certainly would absorb at least one high-priced veteran from the Cardinals while also receiving prospects in the deal.”
As Rosenthal writes, Arenado’s no-trade provision and opt-out would be significant impediments to any trade, but he’s apparently willing to make some concessions in order to make a deal with St. Louis more likely. Needless to say, Arenado’s reported willingness on this front is a significant development.
Arenado’s coming off a subpar season at the plate in 2020, but as Rosenthal notes that probably has much to do with a shoulder injury he suffered early in the season. As well, it was an abbreviated 60-game regular season played in the midst of a global pandemic. Given Arenado’s strong track record at the plate — he owned a 131 OPS+ from 2017-2019 — his 2020 struggles are easily dismissed. As well, Arenado remains perhaps the best defensive third baseman in all of baseball and indeed one of the best gloves at any position.
Laying aside that opt-out, he’s signed through 2026, and given the uncertain market for free agents both now and next offseason (labor strife during the 2021-22 offseason is a distinct possibility) letting that $199 commitment play out is bound to have some appeal for Arenado.
From the Cardinals’ standpoint, it’s a good time to be targeting high-priced contracts. So few other teams are, and that means the Rockies probably wouldn’t be able to extract as strong of a return package as they might under other conditions. The Cardinals have done nothing thus far this offseason, but suffice it to say a deal for Arenado would flip that particular script in a huge way.
Conveniently, there’s some infield uncertainty in St. Louis right now. After bizarrely passing on Kolten Wong’s club option for 2021, Tommy Edman appears poised to be the Cardinals’ primary second baseman. That, in turn, would press decline-phase Matt Carpenter into regular duty at third base. While Carpenter has had quite a good career, he’s probably not a regular — with the bat or the glove — at this stage. An Arenado addition wipes away those concerns.
Cubs, Arrieta reunion possible
After losing Jon Lester and Jose Quintana to free agency and trading away ace Yu Darvish, the Cubs are in need of rotation help. Coincidentally, bygone Chicago ace Jake Arrieta is a free agent, and ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reports that a return to the North Side is possible:
Arrieta, who won the NL Cy Young award as a member of the Cubs in 2015, is coming off a disappointing three-season stint with the Phillies (4.36 ERA in 64 starts). As well, Arrieta soon will turn 35, and he’s dealt with velocity loss in recent years. If, however, the Cubs are looking for someone merely to eat innings at the back end, then a reunion could make some sense. If nothing else, inking Arrieta could slightly appeal to a Cubs fan basebase that’s frustrated by ownership’s almost total refusal to invest in what could be a contending roster.
Brewers‘ asking price steep for Hader
The Brewers have long been rumored to be open to trading lockdown lefty closer Josh Hader, who boasts some of the nastiest stuff and strongest results of any reliever in baseball. Across four seasons in Milwaukee, Hader boasts an ERA of 2.54 with a whopping 380 strikeouts in 223 2/3 innings. Although he’s not eligible for free agency until after the 2023 season, he’s now into his higher-cost arbitration years, which theoretically explains why Milwaukee is willing to move him. According to Robert Murray of FanSided, however, their ask in return is a big one. Murray writes:
“The asking price for Hader, according to sources familiar with the situation, is a combination of both major-league players and prospects.
‘We won’t be in on that,’ one American League executive said.
‘Don’t waste your time,’ another executive said.”
This of course could be posturing to signal to the Brewers that they’re asking too much, or it could reflect the reality that the Brewers will deal Hader only if presented with an overwhelming offer. Either way, the Brewers should not be looking to weaken their 2021 chances in what right now is a thoroughly underwhelming NL Central.
The Phillies have taken a flyer on 31-year-old lefty Matt Moore, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philly reports. Moore spent last season with Softbank of Japan’s Central League, and fared quite well. Prior to that, Moore spent parts of nine seasons in MLB with a 4.51 ERA and 2.18 K/BB ratio over that span. A former top-tier prospect, Moore in 2013 made the All-Star team and finished ninth in the AL Cy Young balloting as a member of the Rays. Since that peak, though, he struggled to live up to his early potential.