The Rundown: Cubs Leadoff Options, Chatwood a Hot Commodity, Cards May Move Fowler…To Corner OF

The Managers of the Year were announced at the end of Day 2 of the GM Meetings, with Torey Lovullo of the Arizona Diamondbacks taking the National League award and Paul Molitor of the Minnesota Twins the American League. Voting was conducted by the Baseball Writers Association of America.  Runners-up in the NL were Bud Black of the Colorado Rockies and Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers. In the AL, Molitor edged out Terry Francona of the Cleveland Indians and A.J. Hinch of the World Champion Houston Astros.

No major player moves were announced yesterday, but there were plenty of rumors.

Cubs News & Notes

The Cubs are going to explore the possibility of bringing back John Lackey. There are worse choices for a fifth starter, though I suppose if Lackey were to return it would not be the most popular choice among Cubs fans. The big right-hander announced last week that he was going to pitch again in 2018 and the Cubs are almost obligated to express interest, so this report may be more smoke than fire, as Evan Altman pointed out yesterday.

After the 2017 season ended, Theo Epstein mentioned the Cubs would like to find a leadoff man to set the table the way Fowler did in 2016. There are more than a few options available:

Let Albert Almora Jr. bat leadoff
Almora had a pretty solid season last year, hitting .298/.338/.445 with 18 doubles and 8 home runs in 323 plate appearances, good for a wRC+ of 103. He killed lefties to the tune of .342/.411/.486, a 137 wRC+ and even hit a home run off of Madison Bumgarner. He’s only 23 years old and it may be time to see if he can be a full-time player. Theo Epstein promised as much after the season ended. If the Cubs believe he can handle leadoff responsibilities, the search ends here.

Re-sign Jon Jay
Jay was a favorite of Joe Maddon but signing him to a new contract feels vapid and wishy-washy. Jay is a decent player, but he didn’t flourish as a leadoff hitter or center fielder the way Fowler did in 2016. I suppose the Cubs could platoon him in CF but I’d prefer the team move on from the 32-year-old outfielder and give Almora more at-bats. Jay is probably seeking a multi-year deal. Hard pass.

Sign free agent Lorenzo Cain
Cain appeared in 155 games last season and hit .300+ for the third time in four years. He hit 15 homers, drove in 49 runs, and was plated 86 times. The outfielder stole 26 bases in 28 attempts and has been successful in 83.5 percent of his stolen base tries in his career.

Sign free agent Austin Jackson
Out of a job until late January, the 30-year-old OF rallied to revive his career with a decent 2017 playing in Cleveland. In a part-time role, the former Cub had career highs in batting average (.318), OBP (.387) and slugging percentage (.482). Unlikely to ever again steal 20 bases, and probably better suited as a platoon corner outfielder, Jackson would likely come pretty cheaply.

Trade for Kevin Kiermaier
The price would probably be prohibitive as the Cubs would likely have to move one of Javier Baez, Addison Russell, or Kyle Schwarber. Some of the commenters on other Cubs’ blogs have suggested a deal that includes Ian Happ and Pedro Strop or Hector Rondon, but I don’t think that makes much sense nor do I think it is enough. It seems these days that anybody with a connection to Maddon from his days as skipper of the Rays is rumored to targeted by the Cubs. Kiermaier is all-world defensively and batted .304 in 37 games at the top spot of the order.

Trade for Dee Gordon or Dexter Fowler
Both are long shots but both could be available. Fowler may have worn out his welcome in St. Louis and is owed $16.5M for each of the next four seasons, so to acquire him the Cubs would have to ask the Cardinals to eat some of that. And, of course, a Cubs-Cardinals trade is remote at best. As for Gordon, the infielder slashed .308/.341/.375 in 2017 with 114 runs scored and 60 stolen bases, and the Miami Marlins are looking to shed payroll. Gordon would easily score 100+ runs batting ahead of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. If the Cubs acquired Gordon it would probably cost them Happ or Almora and they’d have to move one of Russell or Baez in a separate deal.

Jesse Rogers believes the Cubs need to make some major moves this winter to keep their window of contention open.

Jed Hoyer has an answer for all of the Joe Maddon criticism: “Just the nature of being the manager in Chicago.”

The Cubs have officially met with Alex Cobb and his agent. I have to believe this is a slam-dunk signing for the Cubs.

Not in the Cards

Giancarlo Stanton reportedly will not waive his no-trade clause for the Cardinals or the Red Sox. I have an inside tip that claims he only wants to play on the West Coast, so this makes sense. However, the Giants don’t have a very robust farm system and don’t want exceed the luxury tax threshold again; the Dodgers are overloaded with outfielders and shy away from long-term commitments; and the Angels have limited payroll flexibility and I’m not sure they even have a farm system. My thoughts: They’re not on the West Coast, could Houston be a mystery team at this juncture?

Tuesday Stove

Tyler Chatwood stove? Bloggers for nearly every team are in heat for a Chatwood signing. Sean Holland of Cubs Insider named him as a high-impact bargain target for the Cubs. Here are few team blogs with the free-agent starting pitcher on their offseason wishlists:

The Chicago White Sox are open to trading Jose Abreu and others.

Carlos Beltran may be a candidate for the New York Yankees managerial opening.

The Mets are showing interest in Shohei Otani. I’d be more shocked if any team said they weren’t going to pursue the Japanese superstar.

J.D. Martinez has apparently upped his contract demands from $200M to $210M. By the way, Bryce Harper and a host of other All-Star position players will be available next year. So good luck with that, J.D. I’d say he is about $50M too high.

The Washington Nationals will seek an extension for Bryce Harper, though I think that is a long shot at best.

The Boston Red Sox have been in pursuit of five players this offseason: Stanton, Otani, Martinez, Logan Morrison, and Eric Hosmer. I’d bet they’ve had conversations with the White Sox about Abreu as well.

Tampa is open to trading starting pitchers Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi, closer Alex Colome, outfielders Corey Dickerson and Kiermaier ($63.5 million over six years), and perhaps even franchise third baseman Evan Longoria. However, it’s probably safe to say they are not actively shopping any off those players.

The St. Louis Cardinals allegedly have no interest in trading Dexter Fowler, but they would like him to play a corner rather than center field.

Wednesday Walk Up Song

Someday We’ll Go All The Way by Eddie Vedder. I just needed to hear it again.

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