The Rundown: Is Epstein Lowering Fans’ Expectations? Cubs Christmas Wish List, Latest Free Agency and Trade Rumors

It’s going to be a slow week in baseball. Hopefully I’ll dig up enough stuff to make this column at least semi-compelling. I don’t expect Bryce Harper or Manny Machado to sign this week, and free agency movement will probably remain at a standstill until one or both make a decision. A slew of teams are in the market for starting pitching, both in free agency and on the trade market, but rumor news will be dominated by each of the 26-year old free agents.

The city of Chicago held their annual tree lighting ceremony this week, so it is as good as time as any to cobble together my offseason wish list, assuming the Cubs are on a limited budget:

  1. Sign Adam Ottavino.
  2. Fix Tyler Chatwood.
  3. Find a high-contact, low-strikeout, everyday player, even if it means trading from their roster depth.
  4. If feasible, get Corey Kluber.

Free Agent Profile: Nelson Cruz

Nelson Cruz is a player that I can guarantee the Cubs will have no interest in signing. The 38-year-old has averaged 41 home runs per season over the past five years for the Orioles and Mariners but is strictly a DH at this point of his career. The six-time All-Star had another solid season in 2018, despite spending time on the disabled list for the first time since 2013 with an ankle sprain.

American League contenders with fully open DH spots are hard to come by, but the Twins and Rays could be options. Don’t discount the Astros, either. If Cruz wants one more chance at a ring, Houston could be a viable option at the right price.

Because Cruz has previously received a qualifying offer in his career, he is not attached to one this year. That should help him navigate free agency more easily and he could be one of the first major free agents to sign. Obviously, a one-year deal seems likely for the slugging DH. I’d put my money on Houston.

Handicapping Cruz:

  1. Astros
  2. Mariners
  3. White Sox
  4. Rays

Cubs New & Notes

Monday Stove

The Phillies are “in play” for both Harper and Machado.

Several Sports Illustrated writers made their predictions for where Harper could sign this offseason, and for how much.

The Mets could deal Noah Syndergaard but their end game is not a complete rebuild. The team is intent on improving in both 2019 and beyond and is unwilling to take a step backward next season, according Ken Rosenthal (subscription to The Athletic required).

Hall of Fame slugger Reggie Jackson, whom the Yankees signed as a free agent back in 1976, spoke to Wallace Matthews of the New York Daily News, saying that Machado’s lack of hustle “ain’t gonna play here [in New York].”

The D-backs are reportedly shopping Zack Greinke, and possibly first baseman Paul Goldschmidt as well. If that pair is available, it injects a former Cy Young winner and a perennial MVP candidate into the trade market.

The thought of trading Mike Trout may be unthinkable to some, but MLB Network analyst Ron Darling was asked what Los Angeles should do, and responded with an eyebrow-raising proposal.

RHP Nathan Eovaldi has at least nine suitors in free agency, including the Brewers, Braves and Phillies.
Several teams have interest in Toronto SP Marcus Stroman. The Blue Jays have not engaged in “serious trade discussions” per Jon Morosi.

Closer Craig Kimbrel is “highly unlikely” to rejoin the Braves in free agency, and catcher J.T. Realmuto is not likely an option in trade as the Marlins do not seem intent on trading their catcher to another team in the NL East.

A look ahead at the marquee players who could be free agents next winter, including Nolan Arenado, Chris Sale, and Gerrit Cole.

The Red Sox are sure to discuss an extension with Sale this winter, even if they don’t feel the southpaw will be staying beyond the coming season.

On Deck

It’s going to be a short week for me since the kids will be home from school. I have to travel half the state of Wisconsin this weekend and I have some early morning and late night Black Friday festivities planned. So this week’s schedule includes a Rundown tomorrow and Wednesday, one on Saturday mid-morning, and then back at it full-time on Monday.

As always, be careful driving and shopping this week. I am not sure I can say with much certainty which is actually safer. And from experience, if you think you are getting that door-busting 55″ 4K Smart TV, stick to online shopping and save yourself the grief of line jumpers and stock limitations. I learned the hard way last year that “while supplies last” means “we have just one in stock, and it’s a floor model.”

Extra Innings

From the “Is This Really a Thing?” files.

Monday Walk Up Song

Let it Snow by Dean Martin. I only tolerate the powdery, white precipitation until New Year’s Eve. After that, I hope Cubs Insider sends me to blogger spring training in Arizona.

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