Post-New Year Predictions for the Rest of the MLB Offseason
Yoenis Cespedes, Chris Davis, Alex Gordon and Justin Upton have historically bad luck.
As Joel Sherman of the New York Post sees it, the market for free-agent game-changers has never developed at a slower pace.
"Never has there been this many talented free agents unsigned this late into the offseason."
While those unfortunate and unemployed stars wait to find out where they'll be playing in 2016, let's play a game of offseason musical chairs and predict where everyone will end up when the music stops.
Free-agent hitters dominate the conversation, but there's also room on the list for a prediction about one trade target who smashed 40 home runs during the season that was.
St. Louis Cardinals Acquire Carlos Gonzalez
The St. Louis Cardinals don't have to go out and get Carlos Gonzalez.
With Matt Holliday, Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty and Tommy Pham already on the roster, the Cards have options in the outfield. But with the Chicago Cubs in the midst of a monster offseason and the sneaky-good Pittsburgh Pirates always lurking, this is no time for general manager John Mozeliak and Co. to play it safe at Busch Stadium.
And CarGo would fit like a glove in St. Louis.
Last season, the Cards were noticeably lacking in the thump department. As a team, the Redbirds ranked No. 25 in home runs, going yard just 137 times. The Venezuelan tallied 40 long balls on his own.
"The Cardinals didn't want to talk Marco Gonzales. By signing right-hander Mike Leake, however, the Cardinals may be confident they have enough pitching depth to rekindle talks with the Rockies."
Even if St. Louis stands firm on holding onto Marco Gonzales, the club's top pick in 2013, there are plenty of other arms the National League Central heavyweights could send to Coors Field. Per MLB.com, six of the Cards' top 10 farmhands are pitchers.
Gonzalez to St. Louis makes too much sense not to happen. The Cardinals have the promising young arms the Rockies badly need, and the veteran outfielder has the pop St. Louis is missing. Additionally, Gonzalez has a contract (owed around $38 million over the next two seasons) that wouldn't blow up the budget for the Cardinals.
Scott Boras Gets Burned
Scott Boras is a gambler.
Even when it appears the super agent is about to bust, Boras has a remarkable knack for winning big.
Think back to last offseason when Boras secured a $210 million payout for Max Scherzer on Jan. 21. It appears as though Boras is following the same strategy with the Chris Davis negotiations. The agent didn't bite when the Baltimore Orioles offered Crush Davis a seven-year, $154 million deal in mid-December.
Since then, there hasn't been a single reported offer from anyone for the reigning home run king. And there's no guarantee there will be.
While Scherzer was a rare asset (after Jon Lester joined the Chicago Cubs, he was the only ace), there are plenty of alternatives to Davis. Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton headline the free-agent class of power bats, as the righties hit 35 and 26 home runs, respectively in 2015.
Pedro Alvarez, who totaled 27 bombs, would also work as a replacement for Davis. According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the O's checked in on the 28-year-old during the winter meetings. Alavrez is no Davis, but he'd cost a fraction of the price, and the savings could then be used to shore up the pitching staff.
So, just what becomes of Davis in this forecast?
He opts for the famous "pillow contract," allowing him the ability to re-enter the market next winter. The Toronto Blue Jays, whom Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tabbed as a possible landing spot at the beginning of December, snag Davis on a one-year, $23 million deal ($1 million more than the annual average value of Baltimore's offer).
In the process, the Jays, who are in full win-now mode, make the scariest lineup in baseball even scarier.
San Francisco Giants Make a Low-Key Move That Pays Big Dividends
Don't question the methods of Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans.
The executive vice president of baseball operations and the GM are the architects behind three World Series-winning rosters. With yet another even year looming, the NL West squad's most glaring weakness is the outfield. Just ask Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
"Forgive me if I do not believe they are living with Gregor Blanco in left, Angel Pagan in center and no significant depth behind them."
Adding Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Gordon or Justin Upton would immediately transform the team's suspect outfield corps. But one of the Sabean/Evans regime's hallmarks is the uncanny ability to pluck unlikely contributors off the free-agent and trade fronts.
Back in 2014, Travis Ishikawa, whose NL Championship Series walk-off homer helped send the club to the World Series, was the unlikeliest hero of all. Gerardo Parra, who admittedly has a much higher profile than Ishikawa but who isn't exactly a star, could be the next guy to follow in that mold.
According to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, the Giants are among the teams interested in the 28-year-old outfielder. San Francisco should sign the versatile outfielder to a two-year, $20 million deal to start in either left or center while providing cover at all three spots.
Kansas City Royals Say Goodbye to Alex Gordon but End Up Just Fine
It would be a great story if Alex Gordon, who has spent all nine of his big league seasons with the Kansas City Royals, signed a multiyear deal with the club and ended up at Kauffman Stadium for life.
But great stories aren't how teams defend World Series titles. Clubs do that by making savvy moves and always planning ahead.
Alex Gordon turns 32 in February and only played 104 regular-season games in 2015 due to injuries. Gordon is approaching the down slope of his career.
Guys like Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar and Eric Hosmer are all on the rise. As Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star pointed out, declining to dish out millions to Gordon will give the Royals a better chance of locking up some of those "core players."
As Mellinger wrote, it could be a while before the Royals settle on a left fielder for 2016.
"They believe that supply and demand is on their side, and will reward patience, if not with Gordon than with others."
Justin Upton is a prime candidate to end up on the wrong side of the supply-and-demand game. The outfielder is rebounding from a down season (posted his worst slugging percentage and OPS since 2012) and is attached to draft-pick compensation.
At 28, Upton is young enough to settle for a one-year, $18 million deal from the Royals and turn in a powerful campaign to help land a lucrative contract next winter.
Yoenis Cespedes Signs with the Washington Nationals
This would be the ultimate gut punch for the New York Mets.
It would also be a shrewd business move for the Washington Nationals, whose window of contention could be slamming shut in the not-too-distant future.
Way back in September, Yoenis Cespedes told ESPN Deportes' Marly Rivera that he was aiming for a six-year contract. So far, that elusive megadeal has yet to materialize.
According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, at least one suitor has no interest in offering the Cuban such a lengthy contract.
"The Chicago White Sox want to sign free-agent OF Alex Gordon or Yoenis Cespedes, but only if they're willing to take 3-year deal or less."
After cracking 35 homers and carrying the Mets into October last season, Cespedes shouldn't be settling for a three-year pact just yet. But let's get back to the Nats because that three-year period is important.
Looking out onto the horizon, Washington only controls Stephen Strasburg through the end of 2016 and Bryce Harper through the conclusion of 2018. If the Nationals are going to go for it, now is the time.
What GM Mike Rizzo needs to do is ink Cespedes—with one major caveat. The Nationals should give the outfielder a six-year, $135 million deal with an opt-out clause after the first three seasons, and the deal should be heavily front-loaded to entice him to do just that. Here's a look at how the contract should be structured:
- 2016: $25 million
- 2017: $25 million
- 2018: $25 million
- 2019: $20 million
- 2020: $20 million
- 2021: $20 million
Such an agreement would offer Cespedes the long-term security he seeks, while providing him with the potential to cash in one more time after the 2018 season when he'll be 33.
If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter, @KarlBuscheck.
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