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D.J. Short

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Lowdown: What About Cain?

Friday, January 5, 2018


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That the chatter with this year’s free agent class has been painfully slow doesn’t exactly qualify as news, but the market for outfielder Lorenzo Cain has been especially quiet. We've heard next to nothing. It’s a bit curious for someone who ranks 20th among position players in fWAR over the past four seasons, but it appears that things could finally be picking up.

Cain was linked in two reports on Thursday, the first from ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, who wrote that the Rangers have “ramped up their pursuit.” Meanwhile, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that the Brewers have also expressed interest.

Cain was originally drafted by the Brewers in 2004 and made his major league debut with the club in 2010 before being dealt to Kansas City in the Zack Greinke trade. Milwaukee already has more outfielders than spots available, so a reunion seems unlikely unless they pivot with a trade to clear the logjam. It was reported in December that the Brewers were listening on Domingo Santana, though dealing him would require a significant haul in return.

As for the Rangers, they also have some moving pieces. Nomar Mazara, Delino DeShields Jr., Shin-Soo Choo, and Willie Calhoun are among the internal options for the outfield. DeShields would be the starting center fielder if the season started today, but he’d presumably slide over to left field if the club signed Cain. If the Rangers are willing to spend the money it would take to sign Cain, there’s an argument to be made that they should just apply it to their rotation, even after adding Mike Minor, Doug Fister, and Matt Moore this offseason.

Cain turns 32 in April and batted .300/.363/.440 with 15 homers and 26 steals over 155 games last season. He’s known for his speed and defense in center field, so it’s understandable that teams might be hesitant about giving him a big-money contract into his mid-30s. He’s an imperfect fit for either of these teams, but the slow pace of his market (and of other players) could open up some interesting and unexpected possibilities.

The Blue Jays and Mets have also been linked to Cain at various times this offseason.

 

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Great Scott

We’re still waiting for the Hot Stove to finally kick into gear, but there was a three-team trade on Thursday which featured some familiar names. We'll take it. The breakdown:

Dodgers receive: left-handed reliever Scott Alexander from the Royals, minor league infielder/outfielder Jake Peter from the White Sox

White Sox receive: right-handed reliever Joakim Soria from the Royals, left-handed reliever Luis Avilan from the Dodgers, cash considerations ($2 million from the Dodgers, according to Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic; $1 million from the Royals, per Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star)

Royals receive: prospect right-hander Trevor Oaks and minor league infielder Erick Mejia from the Dodgers

Soria is the big name involved here, but Alexander is the true headliner. The 28-year-old posted an impressive 2.48 ERA over 58 appearances with the Royals in 2017. His ground ball rate was the highest in the majors (73.8 percent) and he held both right-handed and left-handed batters in check. Alexander isn’t slated to be arbitration-eligible until 2020 and won’t a free agent until 2023, so he could be a long-term piece in the Dodgers’ bullpen.

With Soria and Avilan, the White Sox pick up two experienced arms for the back-end of their bullpen. Perhaps most importantly for the rebuilding club, they could also be trade options down the line. Soria, who turns 34 in May, posted a 3.70 ERA and 64/20 K/BB ratio over 56 innings with the Royals last season. Avilan, 28, compiled a 2.93 ERA with 52 strikeouts and 22 walks in 46 innings with the Dodgers.

On the surface, this is a curious deal for the Royals, but they were able to shed Soria’s salary. This could be motivated by their efforts to retain free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer. Looking strictly at the talent coming back, Oaks has a chance to be a contributor in the big-league rotation. Recently added to the Dodgers’ 40-man roster, the 24-year-old posted a 3.64 ERA over 16 appearances (including 15 starts) at the Triple-A level in 2017. The 23-year-old Mejia fits the mold of a possible utility player.

Don’t Forget About Dahl

Rockies outfielder David Dahl was a popular breakout candidate in fantasy leagues just one year ago, but his 2017 season was torpedoed due to a nagging stress reaction injury in his rib cage. The 23-year-old ended up appearing in just 19 minor league rehab games all year. So far, 2018 is off to a better start.

According to Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post, Dahl swung a bat Thursday for the first time since last July 31. He was shut down for the year shortly after that, but an MRI in November showed that the injury finally healed. Dahl said Thursday that he “felt really good” and as opposed to last season, “he wasn’t hesitant or worried.” Letting things loose in game action will be the big test, but this was an important and encouraging first step toward putting his lost season in the rear view mirror.

We tend to have a short attention span these days, so it’s easy to forget that Dahl batted .315/.359/.500 with seven homers, 24 RBI, and five steals over 63 games as a rookie in 2016. Don’t make that mistake with a player who could play half of his games at Coors Field. Fantasy owners would be wise to monitor him closely as spring training approaches.

Quick Hits: Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Marlins are not trying to attach a high-salaried player in a potential trade involving Christian Yelich or J.T. Realmuto … Per multiple reports, the Nationals and Braves have both shown interest in Yelich and Realmuto … Darren Wolfson of ESPN 1500 reports that the Twins are still trying to schedule a meeting with free agent right-hander Yu Darvish … Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Mets and Pirates have discussed Andrew McCutchen, though no deal is close and New York is said to be considering a variety of options … Jon Morosi of MLB Network reports that the Blue Jays are not involved in any active trade talks regarding Josh Donaldson … Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Dillon Gee has agreed to a one-year deal worth between $1.5 million and $2 million to pitch for the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Central League. He’s reportedly hoping to re-establish his value before returning to MLB … According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, Tyson Ross will receive a base salary of $1.75 million if he makes the Padres’ roster … Former Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard, who pitched in the minors with the Mets and Cardinals in 2017, has retired from baseball … The Phillies have signed former Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training … The Padres and reliever Carter Capps avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $1.0625 million contract …



D.J. Short is a Rotoworld senior baseball writer and hosts the Rotoworld Baseball Podcast. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook.
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