Nick Nelson

Offseason Lowdown

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Lowdown: Rotation Roulette

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


We're marching into the middle of January, and incredibly, every coveted starting pitcher -- available via free agency or trade -- is still out there on the market.


Numerous teams have been frontal about their desires to bolster the front ends of their rotations, yet nobody has pulled the trigger, and we are closing in on one month to the start of spring camps.


Something's gotta give. It's only a matter of time. And some new rumblings this week suggest that two of the league's foremost World Series contenders could be preparing to strike.


Astros Inquiring on Cole


They already have Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel, but it seems clear that the defending champs are intent on adding one more frontline starting pitcher.


In December, the Astros met with Yu Darvish, and this week owner Jim Crane acknowledged that his front office is "actively pursuing a high-end starter."


This quote comes alongside a report via Jeff Passan that Houston has engaged the Pirates in discussions about Gerrit Cole. The 27-year-old's availability is no secret, and for a while there was considerable steam connecting him to the Yankees, but a deal never materialized.


Passan suggests that Derek Fisher could be included in a Houston package for Cole, but adds that a higher caliber prospect like Kyle Tucker or Forrest Whitley would likely need to be present.


A report on Wednesday morning from MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez indicated that talks between the Astros and Pirates are "picking up steam."


Cubs Staying in Touch with Top Starters


Patrick Mooney of The Athletic wrote this week that the time seems right for the Cubs to make a big free agency splash, with other big-market spenders taking a step back to get under the luxury tax cap. He notes that Chicago's front office continues to be in touch with top free agent arms like Darvish, Jake Arrieta and Alex Cobb.


Mooney adds that the team's brass doesn't appear to hold Lance Lynn in the same esteem as the other three, and it's not clear how serious their interest is in any of them either. The Cubs met with Darvish back in December but there's been little buzz since. They haven't been heavily pursuing Arrieta despite (because of?) their familiarity with the 2015 Cy Young winner. They reportedly made a low-ball three-year, $42 million offer to Cobb, who unsurprisingly rejected it.


If they want to fend off rising challengers in what figures to be a highly competitive NL Central, the Cubs seemingly need another high-caliber arm to join their current trio of Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana. But for now, it seems they're content to keep waiting out the market with hopes they can score a bargain.


It's a gamble, but they're not alone in taking it. Pretty much the entire league is anted up at the roulette table now.


Iglesias Trade Market Coming Up Short


It comes as no surprise that the rebuilding Tigers are reportedly seeking to trade Jose Iglesias, who's a year out from free agency. It also comes as no surprise that that the shortstop isn't drawing a great deal of interest. Though he's a stout defender, Iglesias owns a .673 career OPS in the majors and was a shade below that mark in 2017.


Jon Morosi reports that Detroit might "retain him through the start of spring training and evaluate (his) market then" – in other words, see if some other team comes up totally empty in its pursuit of a capable starter at short. But even as things stand now, there aren't many – if any – contenders that would view him as much of an upgrade.


Quick Hits: The Red Sox avoided arbitration with reliever Carson Smith, agreeing on a one-year contract worth $650,000 ... Justin Morneau, who sat out the 2017 season, officially announced his retirement and joined the Twins organization as a special assistant ... According to Scott Merkin of MLB.com, the White Sox are eyeing James Shields as their Opening Day starter, which seems fitting enough ... The Angels signed catcher Rene Rivera to a one-year deal worth $2.8 million; he's in line to back up Martin Maldonado ... The Reds signed Vance Worley to a minor-league deal, with an invite to spring training ... Matt Garza is undergoing surgery on Wednesday for a torn shoulder labrum, putting his career in doubt.



Nick Nelson is a frequent contributor to Rotoworld's baseball coverage and regularly blogs about the Minnesota Twins at Twins Daily. Follow him on Twitter @NickNelsonMN.
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