Included in an excellent report from Patrick Mooney is that there “is mutual interest between the Cubs and Ben Zobrist.” Mooney explained at this point “it’s more about monitoring the situation” but one of Joe Maddon’s guys would be interested in signing with the Cubs.
The Cubs would “probably need to trade one of their young hitters” in order for Zobrist to “become an ideal fit again” according to the report.
The Cubs are one of many teams interested in signing Ben Zobrist, and that long list includes the Cardinals according to Buster Olney, who would be willing to sign Zobrist to a multi-year deal. The Nationals, Royals, Mets and Yankees have also been linked to Zobrist rather heavily this week.
Due to the amount of talent on the market this year, free agents have garnered most of the attention since the season ended.
Decision makers Jerry Crasnick spoke with during the GM Meetings think it will be an extremely busy winter on the trade front throughout the game. “The signs are pointing to a trade-first, spend-second mentality taking root among clubs.”
Dave Dombrowski, the Red Sox new President of Baseball Operations, repeated throughout the week it was “a far more active GM Meetings than usual” both in terms of trade and free agent talks.
Multiple reports have suggested the Cubs could try to make a deal with the Yankees for Brett Gardner. ESPN Chicago does not think Gardner is an option for the Cubs in center field because if the front office “wanted to spend big money on a longer term centerfielder” they would have kept Dexter Fowler.
Gardner is owed $38 million over the next three seasons. The extension he signed with the Yankees in February of 2014 calls for a $13 million salary in 2016, $12 million in 2017 and $11 million in 2018. There is a $2 million buyout on a $12.5 million club option for 2019 and he is due a $1 million assignment bonus if he’s traded.
In 151 games this past season, Gardner hit .259/.343/.399 with 26 doubles, three triples and 16 home runs for a .742 OPS. Gardner’s splits from this past season are concerning and have to send up a red flag to any team thinking of trading for him.
Gardner batted .236/.314/.336 with 15 doubles, a triple and four home runs for a .650 OPS outside of Yankee Stadium. For his career, Gardner is a .262/.340/.380 hitter on the road with a .720 OPS compared to .266/.351/.405 with a .756 OPS at home.
Rumors suggested Brian Cashman would trade one of his favorite players prior to sending catcher John Ryan Murphy to the Twins for Aaron Hicks. After the deal with Minnesota, the Gardner rumors increased.
The Mariners have reportedly talked to the Yankees about Gardner and those discussions included lefty James Paxton going to the Bronx for Gardner. The Yankees are believed to be looking for pitching in return for Gardner that could help the team in 2016.
Gardner is being talked about as a centerfielder this winter but has played mainly left field for the Yankees the last two seasons after Jacoby Ellsbury signed his megadeal.
As a leadoff hitter over his career, Brett Gardner has a .344 on-base percentage with a .761 OPS. Last year Gardner got on-base at a .360 clip hitting at the top of the lineup with a .824 OPS in 55 games.
It’s unclear at this point the level of interest the Cubs may have in Gardner, if any at all. Plus if the Yankees would like pitching in return for Gardner, it’s unlikely the two teams would matchup on a deal for him.
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have said one of the areas the front office would like to improve this winter is outfield defense. The Cubs have been linked heavily to Alex Gordon. Denard Span is believed to be viewed as a short-term solution for center field and leadoff. Jason Heyward has also been connected to the Cubs and Jackie Bradley Jr. was added to the list Thursday.
The Mariners are also interested in Jackie Bradley Jr. according to Jon Paul Morosi. Pete Abraham thinks Bradley Jr.’s defense is a difference maker in terms of his value. The problem with Bradley Jr. is that he has not hit enough in the majors.
The Angels and Cardinals are reportedly interested in Alex Gordon and Jason Heyward. The Angels upgraded their defense with the addition of Andrelton Simmons at short and are leaning toward Gordon or Heyward to add to their outfield.
Ken Rosenthal explained why Jason Heyward could get $200 million over 10 years this winter. Heyward is an excellent player and much better than his traditional numbers indicate, plus he will play a majority of next season at just 26 years old. The problem with Heyward is that if his legs go sooner rather than later his contract could turn out to be an albatross. Rosenthal reported he would not be surprised to see an opt-out in Heyward’s deal to give him a way to capitalize even more in three to four years. Any team giving him that kind of control must figure out a way to work out an option to protect themselves as well.
Teams not looking to give Heyward possibly a decade-long commitment could turn to Gordon on a shorter term and end up receiving similar production over the next three to four years.
Based on a report from James Wagner, the Nationals have closed the door on Denard Span returning. Mike Rizzo is happy with Michael Taylor in center field. The Royals, Mariners and Cubs have been linked to Span, who could be looking for more than a one-year contract after changing agents to Scott Boras in order to get the best contract he can this winter.
And More Rumors
• According to Jon Heyman, it is “extremely unlikely” the Indians trade either Carlos Carrasco or Danny Salazar.
• The Cubs are receiving calls on Javier Baez according to Jon Heyman.
• Zack Greinke, Mike Leake and Jeff Samardzija could be options for the Giants to fill the holes in their rotation according to Jon Heyman. In the outfield, Heyman thinks Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton are being considered by San Francisco.
• The Tigers also like Jeff Samardzija, according to Jon Heyman, as well as Ian Kennedy.
• Based on the countless reports just about every closer is available. Craig Kimbrel, Mark Melancon, Jake McGee, Brad Boxberger and Aroldis Chapman are rumored to be available in the right deal. Multiple reports Thursday indicated Chapman could be traded by the end of the weekend. The Red Sox appear to be the frontrunner to acquire the flame-throwing Chapman. Ken Rosenthal thinks the Astros would like to acquire Chapman or Kimbrel. It’s unknown if the Padres will move Kimbrel but A.J. Preller will probably trade him for a big return.
• The Tigers have shown interest in Joakim Soria, Darren O’Day, Ryan Madson, Shawn Kelley and Tommy Hunter according to Jerry Crasnick.
• Before Andrelton Simmons was traded to the Angels, Peter Gammons reported the Braves did not want to trade Simmons or Julio Teheran “but may have to do one.” Is Teheran still available? The Cubs have been connected to the Braves for Teheran.
• According to Mark Feinsand, the Yankees are planning to make a serious run at LHP Wei-Yin Chen. The Yankees really like the southpaw who is seeking “a deal of at least five years, though six isn’t out of the question given the need for pitching around the league.”
• GM Meetings set stage for a busy off-season to come according to a report from Jerry Crasnick.
• The Red Sox, Yankees, Cubs, Cardinals and Giants figure to be the busiest teams of the off-season according to FOX Sports.
• The Cardinals are “lukewarm” about re-signing RHP John Lackey according to Derrick Goold in a report from Jerry Crasnick.
• And the Cardinals are likely to spend on a free agent starting pitcher as never before according to a report from Jon Paul Morosi.
• Add the Rays to the list of teams talking to LHP Rich Hill. The Padres are also reportedly interested in the Cubs one-time top prospect.