We're down to three days before the first pitchers and catchers begin to report for their first spring workouts. The promised land of baseball season is so, so close.
But for some players, it probably seems quite far away. The top free agents are still unsigned, and it's not unreasonable to question whether they and their agents are preparing to wait front offices out to try to make a statement rather than get themselves into a training camp as quickly as possible.
We'll see whether that tactic works. In the meantime, the rumors continue to fly, including a top pitcher who seems to have disappeared, a playoff team looking at an alternative to a long-term courtship, and a second-tier starter's possible destination.
Three days until spring training. This is the Rumor Roundup.
We've talked at length about the idea of Yu Darvish setting the market for starting pitchers and it seems like that's finally come to pass, but for all the talk of the big righty, the other premier starter on the market has practically disappeared from view.
Hardly any news has come out on outgoing Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta. Three seasons ago he turned in one of the more remarkable seasons in recent memory, going 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA. A regression from that high was always certain, but over the last two years his regression to the mean has been quite startling.
His hits and home runs per nine innings rates both spiked in 2017, his FIP rose to 4.16, and he threw almost 30 fewer innings than 2016 despite only starting one fewer game. Oh, and he'll be 32 in less than a month.
This has always been a problem for his bargaining position. At the beginning of the season it was reported that his agent, Scott Boras, was angling for a long-term $200m contract. He certainly didn't pitch like a $200m man last season, and the lack of action around him may be a sign that Boras hasn't backed off a demand that now seems rather ludicrous.
ESPN's Buster Olney, however, reported on Friday that despite the lack of coverage on the Arrieta sweepstakes, there are plenty of teams interested in him—just on their terms.
Olney reports that there are teams interested in matching Arrieta's demands in terms of salary—if he backs off his desire for a long-term contract and accepts a short-term deal instead.
This is totally understandable. We've all seen what happens when a team signs a 32-year-old to a six- or seven-year deal in this day and age—they'll get two or three good years and then the deal will become an expensive albatross.
This compromise makes sense, but it remains to be seen whether it's an acceptable option for Arrieta's camp. Boras is not known for backing down from his demands for his client, but it looks like the philosophy of all 30 MLB front offices is firmly trending away from long-term deals for players this old. Eventually, Boras may be forced to accept reality, even if it means defeat. Watch this space.
LoMo option for BoSox?
The stare-down between the Boston Red Sox and another Boras client, JD Martinez, has endured almost the entire offseason, and as Spring Training draws near the Red Sox are finally starting to look at alternatives in case the slugging outfielder doesn't cave and/or finds a new team to deal with after his frustration of Boston's immovability.
That alternative is Logan Morrison. While that may seem odd after Boston signed Mitch Moreland earlier in the winter to man first base, at present even Martinez figures to be a DH given the present state of the outfield—there's no way Martinez would be fielding given the presence of Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, and Jackie Bradley, Jr, all three of whom are plus defenders.
What the Red Sox need is power, and that's something Morrison can provide. He hit a career-high 38 home runs last year with the Tampa Bay Rays, and could be had far cheaper than Martinez, who is still balking at the five-year, $125m deal the Red Sox placed in front of him months ago.
It would be a challenge for rookie manager Alex Cora to find ways for Morrison, Moreland, and Hanley Ramirez to coexist between the first base and DH spots. The likely solution would be a platoon between LoMo and HanRam. The best option would be Martinez, who would put up video game numbers in Fenway, but, like Arrieta, having Boras as his agent reduces the chances of the player blinking in the face of Boston's offer, especially if some animosity has cropped up as negotiations have foundered.
Morrison would be a definite second choice, but a good one if the bottom falls out with Martinez–if he can replicate his production from last year, that is.
Jays kick Cashner's tires
The Toronto Blue Jays need some pitching and according to MLB.com's Jon Morosi have their eye on one of the market's second-tier starters.
Andrew Cashner, formerly of the Texas Rangers, is the man attracting interest from north of the border. Cashner went 11-11 for the Rangers last year with a 3.40 ERA.
It was his best season since his 2013 breakout with the San Diego Padres, but there is some danger in signing him. His peripherals were terrible, striking out a career-low 4.6 batters per nine innings. That's not high enough to compensate for 3.5 walks per nine. His home run rate, however, was low as always, and he got a ton of ground balls. But unless he starts missing more bats, he's going to be one stretch of bad luck away from a really bad season.
Cashner, like many of the second-tier starters, was likely hoping for a multi-year deal off the back of his strong season, but with the stove gone cold it's unlikely that he'll end up with anything more than a one-year pact. If he's successful on that, he might be able to ride the bonanza that will be next year's free agent class, when purse strings will likely be a bit looser.
Your thoughts on the latest rumors? Discuss in the comments below!