The Rundown: Hot Stove Starting to Fire Up, Cubs Arbitration and Bullpen Questions, More Rumors

The hot stove is lit. We finally have a signing, though a somewhat underwhelming one, truth be told. The Texas Rangers signed 6-foot-8 right-hander Doug Fister yesterday. The underwhelming starter represents a low-risk/high-reward signing for the Rangers, who are one of at least five teams that are looking for two starting pitchers, including the Cubs and the Minnesota Twins.

Fister’s value will lie in his ability to eat innings. After bouncing around between three teams last season, the pitch-to-contact starter settled in nicely in Boston. He was a top 20 starter in all of baseball across August and September, pitching better in that time frame than Marcus Stroman, Dylan Bundy, Gerrit Cole, and Brad Peacock. Fister could represent a bargain for the Rangers as a fifth starter on a one-year, $4M contract with incentives could push that to $7M.

The Rangers are still showing sustained interest in Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn.

Cubs News & Notes

This Friday represents tender decision day for all all arbitration-eligible layers. Eight Cubs players qualify for salary arbitration, and two — Hector Rondon and Justin Grimm — may be potential non-tender candidates. Joe Maddon showed little faith in either last season, and I believe the Cubs are intent on completely overhauling their bullpen.

The other Cubs players eligible for arbitration this winter are Kris Bryant, Kyle Hendricks, Addison Russell, and Justin Wilson. Tommy La Stella is also eligible for arbitration and could be non-tendered, though I believe the team appreciates his contributions and his predicted salary of $1M still represents tremendous value.

Trade talks traditionally intensify as teams make arbitration offer decisions, so it’s possible other teams may have interest in some of the Cubs’ fringe players.

As the Cubs embark on a bullpen extreme makeover, one player who has been linked to Chicago on a few occasions is Brandon Morrow. His postseason work with the Dodgers left little doubt that the former Blue Jays starter could be an effective closer.

Morrow signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers last season and once he was recalled at the end of May, he cruised through the season to the tune of a 0.92 WHIP with 50 strikeouts in 43 ⅔ innings. The right-hander’s swinging-strike percentage was 15.9, better than Wade Davis (15.5), Greg Allen (15.3), and Cody Allen (14.9). Opposing hitters batted only .194 against Morrow.

Morrow worked in setup to closer Kenley Jansen but pitched in a lot of high-leverage situations, especially in the NL playoffs and World Series, where he logged time in all seven games. And with his success last season, one would think he’d be in line for a contract that rivals the top closers in the game. But Morrow comes with a checkered injury history, so MLBTR predicted he’d likely sign for $24M over three years.

Ryan Davis looks at the current state of the Cubs bullpen and which of those pitchers could be potentially employed elsewhere in 2018.

Weekend Stove

Because of their managerial vacancy, the New York Yankees may be starting in a hole and have significantly less leverage than other teams in their attempt to lure Shohei Ohtani.

The Giants’ payroll obligations for 2019, ’20 and ’21 are the highest in the sport, according to Spotrac’s payroll tracker. Yet they still remain a leader in the chase to acquire Giancarlo Stanton.

The Phillies have interest in bringing back 2B Chase Utley, but not as a player. New manager Gabe Kapler sees Utley as a potential bench coach.

David Schoenfield looks at why the 100-win Indians, Astros and Dodgers could be even better in 2018.

The Cardinals have been linked to a lot of players this offseason and may be looking at Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish, too.

Another couple of potential Brewers trades, including one which strengthens the back end of Milwaukee’s bullpen with the possible addition of RP Arodys Vizcaino. The other nets them INF Yolmer Sanchez (formerly Carlos) from the White Sox.

Rays SP Jake Odorizzi and closer Alex Colome have received more trade interest than SP Chris Archer so far this offseason.

Astros SP Mike Fiers is a potential non-tender candidate.

Twins OF Byung-Ho Park is returning to Korea this season.

The Orioles may look to the Rule 5 Draft for pitching help.

Monday Walk Up Song

Give Me Back My Hometown by Eric Church

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