2017 MLB Winter Meetings Start Sunday

Joe Maddon on MLB Network set at Winter Meetings(MASsitio via Flickr)

By Doug Preszler

As all of the baseball world turns its attention to Orlando, Florida and the 2017 MLB Winter Meetings, the stage is set for the hotstove to get red hot.

The Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes ended with the announcement that the young two-way superstar in the making had chosen to join Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels.

The New York Yankees have pulled off a trade to bring the reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton to the Bronx and join Aaron Judge and form the present day bombers.

The Cubs grabbed Tyler Chatwood from Colorado and signed him to a three year deal. He is a player that the Cubs brass has had their eye on for awhile.

With holes to still fill on the roster, we should see Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer look to add another starter, relief help, and a closer. I really don’t see them making any significant moves for position players although filling the hole left by Jon Jay’s free agency may need to be made.

The winter meetings are setting up to be fairly active as none of the significant free agents have yet to sign.

The Cubs 40 man roster currently stands at 35. Carl Edwards, Jr., Justin Grimm, Mike Montgomery, Pedro Strop, and Justin Wilson are the significant relief pitchers on the 40 man roster. It is safe to say that when the Cubs traded for Justin Wilson and Alex Avila at the trade deadline it was with the intention of Wilson being the closer headed into the 2018 season. But Wilson struggled after coming to Chicago and could not find the strike zone. The question is can he find the answers this off-season or do the Cubs need to grab several more options in case he doesn’t?

Here are several options that are available in free agency:

Addison Reed (29 y.o.) Reed started the year with the Mets and was traded to the Red Sox at the deadline. He went 2–3 with a 2.84 ERA and saved 19 games. His WHIP was 1.053. He struck out 76 in 76 innings over 77 appearances. He has a career 6.8 WAR. As the youngest available closer he is an attractive option.

Brandon Kintzler (33 y.o) Kintzler started the season with the Minnesota Twins and was traded to the Washington Nationals at the deadline. He went 4–3 with a 3.03 ERA. He saved 29 games, 28 of those with the Twins. He struck out 39 in 71 innings over 72 appearances. His WHIP was 1.150. He has a career 4.4 WAR.

Brandon Morrow (33 y.o.) Morrow has been a rumored Cubs target. Morrow spent the 2017 season in the Dodgers bullpen. He made 45 appearances with a 6–0 record and a 2.06 ERA. He posted 2 saves and had a 0.916 WHIP. He struck out 50 in 42.2 innings. His career WAR is 9.7. Morrow is an intriguing option either as a closer or a late inning option.

Bryan Shaw (30 y.o) Bryan Shaw spent the last 5 seasons with the Cleveland Indians. Although he was not Cleveland’s primary closer he is definitely someone who could fill that role. He made 79 appearances last year. He has a career WAR of 6.4. He struck out 73 over 76.2 innings. His ERA was 3.52 and his WHIP was 1.213. He went 4–6 with 3 saves.

Greg Holland (32 y.o) Holland shot out of the gate last year for the Colorado Rockies but faded at the end of the year. In spite of saving 41 games he struggled in August while giving up multiple runs in 5 of his appearances that month. He turned it around in September and finished strong. He posted a 3.61 ERA and a 1.151 WHIP. His career WAR is 11.4. Holland struck out 71 in 57.1 innings.

With only 5 relievers on the 25 man roster, bullpen help is needed. The current Cubs depth chart lists Cory Mazzoni, Dario Alvarez, and Randy Rosario as part of the bullpen depth.

The Cubs signed Dario Alvarez to a one year contract on December 1st. He has pitched parts of 4 seasons in the major leagues including 20 relief appearances for the Rangers last year. He is a former first round draft pick who has not had success as of now harnessing his nasty stuff. Control problems have plagued him and led to Texas releasing him.

Raymond Rosario is a 23 year old lefty claimed off of waivers from the Twins in November. He is a hard thrower who had troubles in his brief major league stint. He allowed 8 hits in 7 innings over 2.1 innings. He is a guy that is probably a work in progress and will more then likely be in the minors next year.

The Cubs added Cory Mazzoni when they picked him up off of waivers from the Padres. He is another guy who will probably be in the minors next year.

So with that being said, here are several options in the free agent market to help round out the bullpen.

Juan Nicasio (31 y.o) Although Nicasio is someone who really hasn’t been connected to the Cubs, I believe he is a strong option as a late inning guy. He had a strange journey last year. He started the season in Pittsburgh but was waived in August. The Phillies picked him up and then flipped him to the St. Louis Cardinals. His numbers were not poor on the season. He posted a 5–5 record with a 2.61 ERA. He struck out 72 in 72.1 innings and posted a 1.078 WHIP. His career WAR is 4.1.

Anthony Swarzak (32 y.o.) Swarzak started the year with the Chicago White Sox and went to the Milwaukee Brewers at the deadline. He made 70 appearances last year posting a 6–4 record with 2 saves and a 2.33 ERA. His WHIP was 1.034 and he has a career WAR of 4.9. He struck out 91 in 77.1 innings of work. He only walked 22 in that span.

Steve Cishek (31 y.o) Cishek started the year with the Seattle Mariners and was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays at the deadline. He posted a 3–2 record with 1 save and a 2.01 ERA. His WHIP was 0.896 and he has a career WAR of 8.6. This is a guy I believe the Cubs should take a hard look at. In 49 appearances he threw 44.2 innings and struck out 41 while walking 14.

Taking a look at position players the Cubs have 1 or 2 needs. If Victor Caratini is not destined to be the back-up to Willson Contreras then another catcher will be needed. And Jon Jay potentially leaving as a free agent leaves an outfielder as a possibility.

I would personally like to see Theo bring Jon Jay back.

The catching market is sparse and if Caratini is not a given then bringing Rene Rivera back would not be a bad move. He seems to have assimilated into the Cub family nicely.

Finally, adding another starter is a distinct possibility. The current rotation looks like this.

  1. Jon Lester
  2. Jose Quintana
  3. Kyle Hendricks
  4. Tyler Chatwood
  5. Eddie Butler
  6. Mike Montgomery(Bullpen is desired spot)

Looking at the free agent market there are several options.

Alex Cobb (30 y.o) Cobb is a guy who was connected with the Cubs very quickly after the season due to his connection with Joe Maddon and Jim Hickey in Tampa Bay. But the chatter has quieted significantly recently. Cobb is 48–35 on his career with a career 3.50 ERA. His career WAR is 10.8. As a result of arm problems and Tommy John surgery he has completely changed his pitching repertoire. He is no longer utilizing his split-finger fastball. He went to his four seamer instead. He also incorporates an improved curve. His fastball and a sinker average 93 m.p.h. He also throws a knuckle curve.

Michael Pineda (28 y.o.) Pineda is 40–41 with an ERA of 4.05 on his career. He sports a 8.7 career WAR and 1.190 WHIP. He has struck out 687 in 680 innings of work in 117 starts. Pineda is another guy who has had Tommy John surgery. He throws a fastball, slider, and a change up. He is in the mid 90’s with his fastball. He averages 92–93 but has topped out at 97 or 98 m.p.h.

Jeremy Hellickson (30 y.o) Hellickson started his career with Tampa Bay, pitching for Joe Maddon. He then went to Philadelphia and was traded to the Orioles at the deadline last year. He is 69–69 with a 4.12 ERA on his career. He has posted a career 1.252 WHIP and a 10.6 WAR. Hellickson’s pitching repertoire includes a fastball that averages 90 m.p.h. He also throws a cutter, a sinker, a curve, and a change.

Jhoulys Chacin (30 y.o) Chacin spent last season in San Diego. He is 59–67 with a 3.93 ERA on his career. He has a 17.9 WAR over his 9 year career. His best season was with Colorado in 2013. He went 14–10 that year with a 3.47 ERA and a 1.262 WHIP. Chacin’s primary pitch is his sinker. He also throws a fastball, curve, slider, and a change.

Lance Lynn (30 y.o) Lynn has spent his entire career in St. Louis. He is 72–47 with a 3.38 ERA on his career. He has a career 1.288 WHIP and a 14.1 WAR. Lance Lynn has also had Tommy John surgery, causing him to miss the entire 2016 season. Lynn throws four pitches: four-seamer between 93–95 m.p.h. He throws a 2 seamer as well. He also has a cutter and a curve. Lynn has also battled weight issues most of his career which also has affected his conditioning. Lynn has also been a difficult guy emotionally which also has affected his performance. His inability to process negative results on the field has caused him to lose focus. He also has had issues trusting his catchers, mainly Yadier Molina, to call pitches.

The next week in Orlando should be interesting. There is a good chance by the end of the week we should see significant player movement. Theo Epstein has had a habit of jumping the field so look for something to happen quickly.

Here are a few things to keep in mind concerning free agent signings:

Sign a qualified free agent

  • Signing team received revenue sharing money in 2017: Forfeits their third highest 2018 draft pick. Keep in mind this is not necessarily their third rounder.
  • Signing team paid luxury tax in 2017: Forfeits second and fifth highest 2018 draft picks, plus $1 million in international bonus money during the 2018–19 signing period.
  • All other teams: Forfeit second highest 2018 draft pick plus $500,000 in international bonus money during the 2018–19 signing period.

Lose a qualified free agent

  • Player signs deal worth $50 million or more: Former team receives a 2018 draft pick after the first round.
  • Player signs deal worth less than $50 million: Former team receives a 2018 draft pick after Competitive Balance Round B, which is before the third round.
  • Former team paid luxury tax in 2017: The compensation 2018 draft pick is after the fourth round regardless of contract size.

December 14th will be the day of the rule 5 draft.

MLB network will be broadcasting live from Orlando all week. So set your dvr’s and get ready for some hotstove craziness. Wrigley Rapport will be keeping you updated with tweets and articles.

Doug Preszler is the type of person who can be a Cubs fan and an Iowa fan while living in South Dakota. He is a man who cares not for regional loyalty. He can be found on Twitter here, telling tales of the Dakotan Cubs fan’s existence.