January is typically a dead zone for notable transactions in baseball. In most years, the key free agents and trades would have already been made, leaving just the also-ran players to scrap for 1-year guaranteed deals or minor-league deals with Spring Training invites.
This year is different, however. There aren’t any franchise-altering free agents left on the market (not that it was great to begin with in this dismal free agent class), but there are a ton of teams that still could make some moves. While the Pirates are involved heavily in one of those potential moves, the after effects from other teams making moves could also benefit the Pirates tangentially.
THE WHITE SOX ARE NOWHERE NEAR DONE MAKING MOVES
At least they shouldn’t be. The White Sox are doing the right thing by tearing it down to the studs, while keeping one load-bearing wall in Jose Abreu (probably) for the time being, but they can’t go halfway. Jose Quintana, Todd Frazier, and David Robertson can all add to the impressive bounty of young prospects and MLB-ready talent obtained by GM Rick Hahn this offseason. The White Sox are going to be contenders until 2019 at the earliest, so keep on trading.
My feelings on Quintana are well-known by this point.
THE RAYS HAVE A DESIRE TO MOVE A STARTING PITCHER
If the Pirates fall short in their pursuit of Jose Quintana, I’d like to see them approach the Rays about RHP Alex Cobb. I’ve already covered my thoughts and what it would take to get him, but to put this into a more recent focus, I think Cobb would slot very nicely as the #4 pitcher between Ivan Nova and Chad Kuhl. A Cole-Taillon-Nova-Cobb-Kuhl rotation is economical on last name letters and above average in pitching production.
THE ROYALS WOULD STILL LIKE TO CUT PAYROLL
The Royals have $102.3M of committed payroll to 13 active players ($8M is going to Omar Infante to NOT play for them this year) and a whopping projected $29.3M to just four arbitration-eligible players in Eric Hosmer, Danny Duffy, Kelvin Herrera, and Jarrod Dyson. Add in $4.4M for 8 min-scale players and you have a projected 2017 payroll of $136M. GM Dayton Moore admitted early on this offseason that the Royals needed to trim payroll from the $131M Opening Day figure of 2016, so there’s some real work to do.
They started the process by trading closer Wade Davis to the Cubs for RF Jorge Soler, but I figure they’re going to want to tuck this payroll in the $120-$125M range. If there was a market for Eric Hosmer and his projected $13.3M arbitration salary, he would probably already be gone. OF Lorenzo Cain and his $11M could be the best chance to shave payroll, get a halfway decent prospect back, and not lose too much on-field production.
If the Royals trade Hosmer and were looking for a low-cost 1B option, I present John Jaso and his $4M salary. The Royals traded Jarrod Dyson ($2.5M projected arbitration salary) on Friday to the Mariners, but he would have been a good fit as their 4th OF.
THE DODGERS HAVE TONS OF STARTING PITCHING AND NO 2B
If the Dodgers aren’t able to pry 2B Brian Dozier loose from the Twins, they’re looking at starting the eminently underwhelming Kiki Hernandez at 2B. If the Pirates can’t procure another viable veteran starter and don’t feel comfortable with their internal options, maybe a deal between the two teams can be struck. 2B Josh Harrison has come back to Earth the past two seasons, but he’s at least a serviceable starter and represents an upgrade over Hernandez.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers have 10 legitimate options for 5 spots in their rotation. Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda have three of them on lockdown. The rest are going to be tussled over by young players that may need more time in AAA for either development or service time considerations (Julio Urias, Jose De Leon, Ross Stripling) or oft-injured starters like Brandon McCarthy, Hyun-jin Ryu, Alex Wood, and Scott Kazmir.
It seems like something has to give. I’ve already proposed a Ryu for Harrison deal earlier this offseason, but it sure appears as if one or two bodies need to be shipped out, unless they’re planning to carry two veterans as long relief in the bullpen.
It takes a special kind of baseball weirdo to follow every one of these intricate moves in this wintry clime we find ourselves right now. I’m your huckleberry for this task. With the glut of free agents still out there, coupled with trades that teams need to make, it appears as if the Hot Stove will keep warm into February.