A frozen free agent pool finally began to thaw last Saturday when the Cubs hooked Yu Darvish with a six-year, $126 million offer. You could almost hear the collective sigh of relief that rippled through the league–well, except for the NL Central clubs who are now expected to face down a rotation of Darvish, Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, and Tyler Chatwood.
While it’s not too far-fetched to believe that the remaining 100-some free agents will start dropping off the board over the next several weeks, the full ramifications of the Cubs’ signing are still unclear. Talk of collusion and a players’ strike has all but died away, but tensions between club owners and players have yet to dissipate, and it looks like a large group of unsigned free agents are still planning to move forward with their own spring training this month.
For now, however, the attention has shifted to the seven free agents who stand to receive the biggest paychecks: J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Jake Arrieta, Mike Moustakas, Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn, and Greg Holland. There’s been no shortage of reported interest in the group since the offseason began, but few formal offers have cropped up, either.
With Darvish off the market, Arrieta replaces him as the most expensive free agent starter still available. Aside from a brief courtesy call from the Cubs last week, though, there haven’t been any strong suitors in play for the right-hander’s services just yet. Both the Phillies and Brewers have reportedly checked in on him, and Buster Olney of ESPN points out that many more teams could be interested if the veteran gave up the pursuit of a long-term contract for a more lucrative short-term deal–something he may not be inclined to do as he comes off a 4.24-DRA, 93-cFIP performance in his age-31 season.
The Dodgers have engaged in “serious talks” with second baseman Chase Utley, according to a recent report from Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. The veteran infielder figures to be a cheap get for the club, especially after seeing a sizable dip in his production over the last year. Although the terms of any potential offer have yet to be disclosed, it would likely be something comparable to the one-year, $2 million contract Utley signed with the Dodgers in 2017.
Per Heyman’s comments, the Dodgers are looking for more than the .268 TAv and 1.2 WARP Utley brought to the table last year. The 39-year-old has “abject professionalism” and an undeniable presence in the Dodgers’ clubhouse. Plus, the Los Angeles Times’ Andy McCullough adds, he’s already been working out at Dodger Stadium this offseason. Provided the team can squeeze him onto the roster this spring, bringing Utley back should be a no-brainer.
Big Time Timmy Jim is back again, kind of. Free agent and two-time Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum has scheduled a pitching showcase in Seattle this Thursday, where he’s expected to entertain the Giants, Brewers, Yankees, Padres, and Braves. The last time he threw for teams during an offseason, he netted a one-year contract with the Angels and promptly flamed out in the span of six weeks; there’s no telling if he’ll be able to pull off such a stunt a second time.
It may be foolish to hang your hopes on a pitcher who limped to an 8.18 DRA the last time he took a major-league mound, but there have been some good omens this offseason to offset the bad memories. Multiple reports suggest that the 33-year-old has been bulking up his frame and targeting upper-body strength this winter, while his workouts have seen him top out in the low 90s–a far cry from the 88 mph fastballs he was putting up several years ago. Sure, it’s a stretch to think that any team would be willing to give him a full-time role in the rotation or bullpen, but given the way the market has evolved over the last several months, it wouldn’t be the craziest thing we’ve seen this offseason.