Impact MLB Offseason Deals That Will Still Go Down Before the New Year
Now that Jason Heyward has inked an eight-year, $184 million deal with the Chicago Cubs, the market has been set and the offseason game of outfield musical chairs can begin.
No team wants to be left without a seat—or rather, an outfielder—so the biggest names should start flying off the board in short order.
From predicting a new home for La Potencia to sending Gordon to one of the Kansas City Royals' division rivals, here are four deals that will go down before New Year's.
In addition to the free-agent forecasts, there's also room on the list for a trade involving a vet who smashed 40 home runs in 2015
The Baltimore Orioles Sign Justin Upton
The Deal: Five years, $100 million
The Baltimore Orioles appear to be losing patience with Chris Davis.
Last week, the American League East club offered the masher a seven-year, $150 million deal (including deferred money), but that pile of cash is no longer there for the taking, as Roch Kubatko of MASN reported.
"There's no offer on the table right now," executive vice president Dan Duquette told Kubatko over the weekend. "I'm not exactly sure what [Davis and agent Scott Boras'] timeframe is. From the club perspective, we'd like to have our roster in place if we can by Christmas."
If the O's are going to hit that deadline, the club is going to have to start zeroing in on alternate options. Per Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the brass "met" with Justin Upton's agent at the winter meetings and told Boras "they soon might pivot" away from Crush Davis.
Signing Upton would allow the Orioles to replace some of the thump that Davis could be taking with him if he does end up departing.
It's difficult to compare Upton to Heyward as the former is a bat-first guy and much of the latter's value is tied to his glove. Still, considering that Upton is rebounding off a subpar campaign (.790 OPS), it won't be easy for the slugger to beat Heyward's $23 million per season.
By signing a five-year deal for $20 million per, Upton would have the chance to try and cash in again after the 2020 season when he'll be 33.
The Detroit Tigers Sign Alex Gordon
The Deal: Four years, $84 million
For a four-time Gold Glover, Gordon sure hasn't been getting many bites this offseason.
Even after losing out on Heyward, the St. Louis Cardinals haven't placed Gordon on their offseason wish list.
"The Cardinals’ high-dollar bids for high-profile players had some officials within the game expecting them to pivot immediately to the next-best free agent. That hasn’t been the case. The Cardinals, for example, don’t see free-agent Alex Gordon as an alternative for ," Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote.
The left fielder's long-time employer, the Kansas City Royals, also don't appear to be serious players in the bidding—at least not yet.
"Gordon wanted to enter free-agency, and there is no tangible reason to believe his price will drop into the Royals’ comfort zone," Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star explained. "But the Royals do want to wait to find out. They believe that supply and demand is on their side."
The Detroit Tigers are one club that could foil that plan. As Anthony French of the Detroit Free Press argued, Tigers owner Mike Ilitch is just the guy to make a big splash—even after his general manager Al Avila nixed the idea of signing a big-money outfielder.
"It might sound silly, but I don't care about spending money. I'm supposed to be a good boy and not go over [the luxury-tax limit]. But if I think there are certain players that could help us a lot, I'll go over it."
With his brilliant glove work and steady bat (.809 OPS in 2015), Gordon is that kind of player. Based on his lack of suitors right now, the Tigers should aim to land Gordon (who turns 32 in February) for four years at $21 million per.
The St. Louis Cardinals Acquire Carlos Gonzalez
The Deal: St. Louis Cardinals acquire RF Carlos Gonzalez from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for RHP Jack Flaherty and RHP Luke Weaver
Imagine Gonzalez roaming right field at Busch Stadium on opening day 2016.
According to Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, there's a chance of such a scenario playing out. As Goold reported, the Cards have talked to the Colorado Rockies about the idea of acquiring CarGo.
The 30-year-old right fielder, who connected on 40 jacks last season, would be a great get for a home-run hungry Cardinals team that ranked No. 25 in long balls in 2015.
So, what might the Rockies want in return?
Pitching, pitching and more pitching—according to Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post.
Sifting through the St. Louis farm, there are more than a couple of arms that should be of interest to the Rockies. Right-handed starters Flaherty (No. 2 overall prospect, per MLB.com) and Weaver (No. 8 overall prospect), who were both first-round picks in 2014, both fit that description. Flaherty had a 2.84 ERA in Low-A in 2015 and Weaver clocked in with a 1.62 ERA in High-A.
There's no question about it—such a swap would put a major dent in the Cardinals' minor league setup. But if Gonzalez were to depart as a free agent at the end of the 2017 season, St. Louis would be all but certain to recoup a compensation pick.
Plus, Gonzalez's $37 million price tag over the next two seasons is a more-than-reasonable figure considering the current market for free-agent outfielders.
The Los Angeles Angels Sign Yoenis Cespedes
The Deal: Six years, $144 million (with an opt-out clause after the second season)
Left field was a black hole for the Los Angeles Angels in 2015.
The players who patrolled that spot checked in with a .592 OPS, which was the worst mark in the bigs. But for the Halos, it wasn't just left that was the problem. In the second half, nearly the entire lineup was a mess. Following the All-Star break, the Angels scored the second-fewest runs in the AL.
Importing Cespedes is one way for the brain trust in Los Angeles to jump-start that sleepy attack. According to Jim Bowden of ESPN and SiriusXM, the Angels make the list of teams that look like a logical landing spot for the Cuban.
"[The San Francisco] Giants deal with [Johnny] Cueto takes them out of [Justin] Upton & Cespedes who now must concentrate on doing deals with [the] Angels, [St. Louis] Cardinals, [Baltimore] Orioles and [Chicago] White Sox," Bowden tweeted.
The Angels should explore the idea of giving Cespedes a Cueto-like deal, which gives the player the opportunity to opt out after the first two seasons.
Los Angeles should offer the outfielder a six-year, $144 million contract (effectively $24 million per season), which would slightly beat the $23 million annual average value of Heyward's new deal. Here's how the agreement should be structured:
- 2016: $28 million
- 2017: $28 million
- 2018: $22 million
- 2019: $22 million
- 2020: $22 million
- 2021: $22 million
By front-loading the deal, the Angels would be giving Cespedes the incentive to opt out after the 2017 season. Considering that he'll be 32 at that time, the right-handed hitter would be young enough to go shopping for yet another mutliyear megadeal.
If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.