Updating the Hottest Questions of the 2015-16 MLB Offseason, Week 10
Another week. Another round of questions about Yoenis Cespedes, Chris Davis and Justin Upton—baseball's unfortunate free-agent trio.
As Week 10 of the 2015-16 MLB offseason draws to a close, the future remains murky for those prime-time mashers who are still hanging out in a winter purgatory. The good news for one of those guys (and the bad news for another) is that there's a new five-year offer to report.
There's also room in the conversation for talk about yet another impact outfielder, whose name just keeps popping up in the trade rumor mill. Plus, with arbitration hearing looming on the horizon, some All-Stars, Cy Youngs and even an MVP are set to cash in.
Who Will Be the Biggest Arbitration Winner of All?
156 players recently filed for salary arbitration, and the class is flooded with prominent names.
From the likes of American League MVP Josh Donaldson to Cy Young winners Dallas Keuchel and Jake Arrieta, some big-time players could be headed to arbitration hearings in the middle of February if they can't come to terms with their respective employers.
Based on MLBTradeRumors.com's arbitration projections, no big leaguer is slated to rake in more that Aroldis Chapman. It's been a nightmare offseason for the Cuban, who MLB is currently investigating under its domestic violence policy.
That investigation is looming over Chapman, but right now the lefty is projected to earn $12.9 million in his first season with the New York Yankees. If Chapman ends up going to a hearing with the AL East heavyweights, he should let ex-teammate Todd Frazier handle the case.
“If he has a one-run lead, it’s shutdown time," Frazier told Kevin Kernan of the New York Post. "And if he has a lead of two runs, it’s basically game over.’’
The stats agree with Frazier. Last season, the closer sported a 1.63 ERA, a 15.7 strikeouts-per-nine ratio and a .181 opponents average. As we suggested earlier this week, the Yankees' brass should be looking into a multiyear extension to keep Chapman in the Bronx beyond the end of 2016.
The Answer: Chapman
Will Carlos Gonzalez Still Be with the Colorado Rockies on Opening Day?
In short: Yes.
But the long answer is far more complicated.
As Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post wrote, Carlos Gonzalez can't seem to shake the constant trade talk. It doesn't help that the Colorado Rockies just brought in another outfielder in Gerardo Parra.
Earlier this week, Saunders checked in with general manager Jeff Bridich to get the latest on the Venezuelan's status with the club.
“I did speak with CarGo. I told him that there’s a lot of media rumors, speculation and guessing going on about his status. [I] reminded him that if he reads something but doesn’t see me quoted directly, then it is likely a rumor or a guess and nothing more.”
That's not so much a guarantee that Gonzalez will be back with the Rockies as it is a carefully phrased non-answer.
The biggest reason why the 30-year-old doesn't need to worry about checking his phone every 30 seconds to see if his agent called is that winter market for outfielders is in a strange spot.
Sure, Gonzalez, who will make around $38 million over the next two seasons, is playing on a more than reasonable contract.
Then again, as long as free agents like Yoenis Cespedes, Chris Davis and Justin Upton (who can all play the outfield corners) remain unaccounted for, teams could be hesitant to hand over prospects for the Rockies slugger.
The smart play for Colorado is to play it cool with Gonzalez and pawn him off to the highest bidder right before the July trade deadline when there's certain to be a few power-starved contenders.
The Answer: Yes
Who's Going to Win the Stare-Down Between the Baltimore Orioles and Chris Davis?
The Baltimore Orioles have no interest in playing games with Scott Boras—the king of the free-agent slow play.
"How much is enough?" Manager Buck Showalter said on Wednesday, per Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun. "I asked Chris during the season, 'Chris, when you walk into a Target store, can you buy anything you want. So, how much is enough?'
"I love Chris, but if that [his decision] makes or breaks our team, shame on us."
The O's sound intent on making sure that Davis, who smashed 47 yard shots in 2015, doesn't put them to shame.
According to Roch Kubatko of MASN, Baltimore has made an offer to Yoenis Cespedes to play the role of lineup anchor. Jerry Crasnick provided some numbers on what that offer could look like: "It's believed the Orioles are willing to go to five years and the $75-90M range to sign Cespedes."
But here's the question: If Cespedes is really the guy that the Orioles want, why did it take until mid-January for the club to extend an offer?
The answer appears to be that the Orioles are leaning on Davis. The team looks like its using Cespedes as leverage to prove that it is very much ready to move on. It's just the type of pressure that should get Boras and Crush Davis back to the negotiating table.
The Answer: Baltimore
Where Is Yoenis Cespedes Going to Find His Payday?
Gold Glove winners who are coming off a 35-home run campaign aren't supposed to be available in the middle of January, but here Yoenis Cespedes is.
So, who's going to pay up? How about one of his old clubs, the Detroit Tigers.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post speculated about just such a reunion at the end of December.
“They have insisted they are done. But owner Mike Ilitch, 86, has demonstrated he will exceed budget to try to win in his lifetime. Detroit’s left fielder is currently Anthony Gose. The front office really liked Cespedes.”
And Ilitch must love how much the price appears to be dropping on La Potencia. As we just pointed out, ESPN's Jerry Crasnick pegged the Baltimore Orioles' five-year offer at between $75 million and $90 million.
If the Tigers could swing a five-year pact in the $100 million range, that would be a tremendous value for a guy who was fifth in the bigs in WAR in 2015, per FanGraphs.
The Tigers could get really creative and build an opt-out clause into a potential Cespedes deal. By giving the outfielder to ability to bolt Motown after two seasons, the Cuban would have a major incentive to play big for the Tigers in the short run before chasing one more payout as a 32-year-old following the 2017 season.
Who's Going to Snag Justin Upton?
It's been a bummer of an offseason for Justin Upton.
The right-handed hitter doesn't offer the pop of Chris Davis, and he's not the same type of all-around game-changer that Yoenis Cespedes is. And like Davis, Upton is lugging around draft-pick compensation after declining a qualifying offer from his old club, the San Diego Padres.
But he's no slouch. Far from it.
Upton has averaged slightly more than 27 jacks a year over the past three campaigns.
That's the kind of pop that would play awfully well at the Big A, where the Los Angeles Angels are planning to platoon Craig Gentry and Daniel Nava.
As Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register detailed in his mailbag column, Angels owner Arte Moreno doesn't want to end up with another Josh Hamilton-type fiasco on his hands.
“I believe Moreno would be more likely to give a 1-year $25 million deal than a 6-year, $120M deal, even though the AAV is lower on the latter.”
Could Justin Upton fit that bill? Per Jerry Crasnick of ESPN, his agent Larry Reynolds says no. As Crasnick reported, Reynolds is still hunting for that elusive multiyear megadeal.
It's time for Upton's camp to change that stance. Taking a one-year deal in the neighborhood of $20 million could end up paying serious dividends for the three-time All-Star.
Looking ahead at the 2016-17 free-agent class, Colby Rasmus stands out as the biggest star in left field. With a strong showing in 2016, Upton would position himself to score that haul that no one wants to give him right now.
If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.