Last week, the Houston Astros hired the former Atlanta Braves CEO Dana Brown as their new general manager. Brown’s appointment capped a lengthy search that began shortly after the Astros won the World Series, and served as a good reminder that even though the spring training coastlines are in sight, that doesn’t mean all offseason activities are complete.
With today being February 1st and all, we here at CBS Sports thought it would be a good time to highlight four dynamics that could play out between now and when pitchers and catchers report in about two weeks.
1. Profar, Wacha lead among remaining free agents
Believe it or not, there are still three unsigned players who ranked among CBS Sports’ top 50 free agents entering the winter: right-handed starter Michael Wacha and outfielders Jurrickson Profar and David Peralta.
Wacha, who is the No. 32 pick, is seeking a two-year, $30 million deal, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. That deal would be comparable to the one the Rangers handed former teammate Nathan Eovaldi (two years, $34 million with an option year). Wacha was previously tied to the Orioles and Twins, but each club made a recent pitcher acquisition via trade (Cole Irvin and Pablo Lopez, respectively), which would appear to reduce their chances of spending to add Wacha at this point in the offseason.
Profar and Peralta, meanwhile, look like worthy candidates for some team’s left field spot between now and Opening Day. The Athletic reported recently that the Yankees are reluctant to honor Profar’s request, suggesting he may have to find work elsewhere. The Yankees have shown interest in Peralta, who of course would cost less to sign than Profar is likely to cost.
2. Who stays on the trading block?
At this point in the offseason, it seems unlikely that the Pirates will comply with a trade request for star outfielder Brian Reynolds. However, there is room for other teams to make trades until camp begins.
In our estimation, the most obvious candidate to switch addresses between now and Opening Day remains Twins outfielder Max Kepler. Minnesota’s depth chart is full at this point. In addition to Kepler, the Twins are recruiting star Byron Buxton, youngsters Trevor Larnach and Alex Kiriloff and offseason additions Joey Gallo and Michael A. Taylor. The Twins could move Gallo or one of the others to first base, but that would still leave them with more players than available spots. Moving Kepler would also free up additional funds.
Elsewhere, the Red Sox are reportedly interested in getting more middle infield help. It doesn’t have to be done through a trade, but it can be easier to find traction at this point in the offseason, when teams are more likely to trim their rosters with players no longer in their plans.
3. Arbitration Cases to be Decided
You don’t need to understand how the arbitration system works to know that February is usually full of headlines about pending or settled arbitration cases. In a sense, the Yankees and Gleyber Torres saved themselves the trouble over the weekend reaching an agreement on a one-year pact.
A total of 33 players were set for arbitration hearings. Some, like Torres, have since found common ground with their organizations. Could the same be true for Kyle Tucker, Beau Bichette, Max Fried and some of the other big names headed for an uncomfortable afternoon in front of an arbitration panel?
We’ll find out soon, as the sides have until their hearing date — almost always before spring training games begin — to resolve the issues.
4. The extension season is in full swing
We’ll end this piece by stating the obvious: It’s the time of year when teams chase extensions with certain players. Unlike arbitration, there is no official end date for these deals, but most players like to wrap up negotiations before opening day so they can focus on the games.
In the last week alone, the Mets locked up reigning National League batting champion Jeff McNeil to a long-term extension; In addition, the Rays agreed to new contracts with three players: infielder Yandy Diaz, starter Jeffrey Springs and reliever Pete Fairbanks. If both the spendthrift and thrifty organizations are hammering out long-term deals, then you can bet most of the teams in between those extremes are at least considering them.
Which team could be the next to strike, and which players could prove to be the benefactor? Our own Mike Axisa recently highlighted 10 players he thinks could be in line for an extension, including Pete Alonso, Zach Gallen and Ian Happ.