The MLB general managers meetings convene this weekend, and an already hot stove will get even hotter as personnel planners meet on the shores of Boca Raton, Florida.
The yearly gathering is where GMs discuss the state of the game, rules, labor and other topics. But it’s also the early propellant for free-agent and trade talks as the offseason kicks into full swing.
Free agency began Saturday when players became eligible to sign with new clubs, and qualifying offers are out and must be decided on by Friday.
There is plenty of buzz on how the landscape will shuffle in the coming months. As one agent noted to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports: "This the deepest (free-agent) market in memory, especially in terms of pitching and power.”
With the GM meetings set to begin Tuesday, here’s a look at the latest buzz surrounding a few faces on the fresh market.
Cubs are favorites to land David Price
The Chicago Cubs boasted baseball’s third-best record and were four wins from their first World Series appearance since 1945 in a season their highly touted prospects finally reached the majors.
They’re young, talented and hungry—possibly with an appetite of $200 million.
ESPN Insider Buster Olney reported rival evaluators indicated “the Cubs to be heavy, heavy favorites” to sign David Price, arguably this offseason's most coveted free agent.
It’s no secret the Cubs are in the market for starting pitching this offseason, even with Jake Arrieta’s Cy Young-caliber year and last offseason’s signing of Jon Lester to a six-year, $155 million contract.
A lack of offense was the primary cause they were swept in the National League Championship Series by the New York Mets. But their rotation was also exposed as very top-heavy.
Price has said his premium is winning, but he’s also expected to command more than $200 million. There are only a handful of teams that can offer both—and one stands out as the most logical.
By signing with Chicago, Price would also reunite with manager Joe Maddon, whom he spent his first six-plus seasons of his career with as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Price also hinted his interest during the 2014 All-Star break, per Barry Bloom of MLB.com (via RaysBaseball.com), when the Cubs were in last place:
Winning is absolutely something you want to do. Being a part of something special is also something you want to do. You can take that to a first-place team, or you can take that to a last-place team like the Cubs. With the talent they have coming up, they could be a very special team in a few years as well. That would probably be the coolest city to win a championship in right now.
He even poked fun at the idea with Arrieta on Twitter earlier this summer:
The Cubs are already the favorites to win the 2016 World Series, per Odds Shark, but adding Price will further skyrocket their potential. And he probably knows that.
Prediction: Chicago Cubs
Heyward could haul nearly $200 million
Jason Heyward is considered the No. 2 position player on the market, per Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan, given his age, remarkable defense and flashes of power.
He’s expected to command nearly $200 million over a lengthy tenure, per CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, leaving few options for affordable suitors.
Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors gave an analysis on the left-handed outfielder, with a few speculated landing spots:
He doesn’t have the typical power output of a $200MM player, but his all-around game makes him a sabermetric darling with six wins above replacement this year. A very long term and an opt-out clause are on the table for Heyward because he broke into the Majors at age 20, and is now just 26.
The Cardinals will try to convince Heyward to stay, but teams like the Angels, Yankees, White Sox, and Astros could make a play.
Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago indicated the Cubs are also a player. Their 2015 center fielder, Dexter Fowler, is expected to reject the qualifying offer the Cubs made, according to Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune, and hit the free-agent market. Should Fowler leave, there’d be a big void Heyward could fill—particularly given hybrid Kyle Schwarber, who was brought up playing catcher, continues to play in left field due to team needs.
The Atlanta Braves traded Heyward away last offseason for Shelby Miller knowing the outfielder would have a price tag outside their reach. In the process, they picked up an above-par starter they’d have control over through 2018, per Spotrac. In the midst of a massive rebuild, a reunion seem highly unlikely.
The St. Louis Cardinals are probably in a similar boat, with the eighth-highest payroll ($102.9 million) for 2016, per Spotrac, a number that will only increase by spring training.
The New York Yankees or Los Angeles Angels make the most sense in terms of financial flexibility and specific needs. Brendan Kuty of NJ.com speculated New York might stand pat with its current offense, though as a team known to be aggressive—and one that lost its grip of the AL East in the final third of the season—the Yanks seem like they could break out big to win now.
A fair argument could be made Heyward hasn’t lived up to the hype since breaking into the league in 201—he’s a career .263 hitter and has belted more than 20 home runs in a season only once. But he entered the league with massive expectations as Baseball America's No. 1 prospect ahead of Stephen Strasburg, Giancarlo Stanton, Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner, among others.
His caveat is his age. Even if he’s signed to a seven- to nine-year deal, Heyward would still be in his mid-30s. There’s plenty of prime left for him to elevate into the player most believed he’d be.
Prediction: New York Yankees