The Rundown: Some Top Free Agents Still Seeking Work, Alzolay Confident, Ross High on Pederson, Baseball Has ‘Kevin Mather Problem’

All movie quotes in this section from the Woody Allen film “Broadway Danny Rose.”

  • “My hand to God, she’s gonna be at Carnegie Hall. But you – I’ll let you have her now at the old price, OK? Which is, which is anything you wanna give me. Anything at all.” 
  • “I don’t wanna badmouth the kid, but he’s a horrible, dishonest, immoral louse. And I say that with all due respect.”

If you’re an available free agent and spring training camps have begun in earnest, I’d think you’d have to wonder if your agent is doing an effective job. I understand that decisions are ultimately up to the players, but as an agent, it is important to level-set expectations. If your player is expecting a multi-year deal worth tens of millions of dollars and those offers don’t exist, it might be time to redefine presumptions.

As of this morning, Jake Odorizzi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Rick Porcello, and Cole Hamels are still available. All were included among MLBTR’s top 50 free agents for the 2020-21 season, none are tied to a qualifying offer, and each offers valuable skillsets to teams that still have needs. It’s highly probable that all have fielded at least some offers, though Porcello and Hamels may have gotten nothing better than minor league deals with camp invites. For aging pitchers with injury histories looking for work in an allegedly distressed baseball economy, the clock is ticking quickly.

“May I interject one statement at this juncture? And I don’t mean to be didactic or facetious in any way…” 

For Odorizzi and Bradley, it may be a case of either the players or their agents misjudging the market. Anthony Rizzo put things pretty succinctly when speaking about player agents the other day.

“The agents do all the talking and all the work – rightfully so, it’s their job. It’s just making sure everyone’s in the right mindset and focused on the right things.”

Bradley might fit nicely with the Cubs. Signing the former Red Sox center fielder would mean parting with Cameron Maybin or Jake Marisnick, but it might also allow Ian Happ to get the bulk of of the reps at second base, allowing Nico Hoerner a little more time to develop in the minors. It might also prevent David Ross from leaning on that 2B-3B-LF carousel that has been a mainstay since the Joe Maddon era started.

The problem is, the Cubs and many other teams likely have little appetite to meet the outfielder’s alleged demands. Jed Hoyer hasn’t handed out any multi-year deals this winter and I don’t think Bradley is his ace in the hole.

The same could be said of Odorizzi. He would instantly earn a spot in Chicago’s rotation, perhaps bumping Alec Mills to a swingman role with Adbert Alzolay working in shorter relief. Or the Cubs could use the two as tandem starters if Ross is comfortable executing that type of plan to maintain mileage. It’s doubtful Hoyer would pay any of the available starters more money than he gave Jake Arrieta, though.

Still, some teams have overpaid in free agency this winter and those teams could represent an option for the still-unattached players. I’ll leave the Padres out since they have absolutely no holes right now except maybe middle relief, but the Giants and Royals have gone above and beyond this winter to attract players. San Francisco starter Kevin Gausman was issued a qualifying offer, which he agreed to before the ink dried, and the Royals are one of the few teams that have given guaranteed, multi-year contracts to middle-tier free agents.

Bradley should find work soon, as it looks like the Red Sox, Astros, and Brewers still have strong interest in signing the underrated outfielder. That said, it might be time for those other remaining free agents to do a little soul searching. Their agents should be brutally honest about current market conditions, though it’s probably okay to spice things up a little bit, at least for morale, if nothing else.

“If you take my advice, you’ll become one of the great balloon-folding acts of all time! Really, ’cause I don’t just see you folding balloons in joints. You listen to me, you’re gonna fold balloons at universities and colleges.”

Cubs News & Notes

  • The Cubs are now conducting full-squad workouts, and the Chicago Tribune captured some of the early action in this excellent pictorial piece.
  •  Alzolay may be the most confident player in camp right now, and that bodes well for the rotation if he can back it up on the field.
  • Arrieta is a big believer in Alzolay’s potential too. “From the get-go, I can tell that he wants it,” Arrieta said during a Zoom discussion this past weekend. “There’s no doubt in my mind. He’s focused.”
  • Happ enters camp with two guarantees for the first time in his career: He will be the team’s starting center fielder and leadoff batter unless he proves he cannot handle wither task.
  • Happ, who is also the team’s player rep, said dismissive comments by now-former Mariners president and CEO Kevin Mather regarding service time manipulation should be an eye-opener to fans.
  • Ross expressed confidence that Joc Pederson can be his everyday left fielder.
  • We haven’t talked about potential qualifying offers for all of the Cubs pending free agents. Who do you think would accept once those offers are extended?

Odds & Sods

Perhaps we should add the term “speed merchant” to the list of superlatives describing Babe Ruth.

Spring Training News & Notes

Apparently Albert Pujols has no immediate plans to retire, and his wife may have misspoken in saying so.

Fernando Tatís Jr. is a very wealthy man after agreeing to a 14-year, $340 million contract extension with the Padres. But he’s not going to be as wealthy as he would have been had he not committed to sharing a portion of his career earnings with Big League Advance. The agency is a futures market that operates as a loan originations firm, hedging risk with prospect potential for significant ROI. In the case of Tatís, BLA may have earned a return worth up to $34 million.

On the heels of that record-breaking extension, pending free agent shortstops across baseball — a group that could include Javier Báez and Francisco Lindorwill be in the spotlight all season.

Cleveland manager Terry Francona is back with the term after missing most of last year due to health issues and he’s fully prepared to move on without Lindor.

The Phillies had the worst bullpen in all of baseball, but former Cub Blake Parker, who left Philadelphia for Cleveland, could be a sneaky good signing for the Indians.

Extra Innings

Gerrit Cole went right for the jugular when it comes to front offices manipulating service time. He even thanked Marvin Miller for helping players break from baseball’s old reserve clause. Patrick Dubuque of Baseball Prospectus hit the nail on the head, too (subscription based content). Baseball genuinely has “a Kevin Mather problem.”

They Said It

  • “We’ll find out if [Joc Pederson can be a full time player]. He wants to prove it to himself. He wants to prove it to us. He wants to prove it to a lot of people. That’s a very powerful thing. Trying to prove something can go a long way.” – David Ross
  • “I’m pretty confident. I feel like…as a professional, you prepare for these moments. I know what I can control 100%. I knew what I needed to do in the offseason to get all my pitches to the same level, and I think we’re getting pretty close to that.” – Adbert Alzolay
  • “I think that it’s a good thing that the fans can see some of the underbelly of the game and some of the issues that we have, especially leading into the end of this year and into a bargaining cycle.” – Ian Happ

Wednesday Walk Up Song

Gentle on My Mind by Glen Campbell – Campbell is too often neglected when we talk about music’s greatest guitarists. Wait until you hear the remarkable solo on this song, see the reactions by Willie Nelson, Ray Stevens,  and Roy Clark, and the look on Campbell’s face when he realized he nailed it in front of all of his legendary peers.

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