The Dodgers have real interest in pursuing free agent reliever Aroldis Chapman, Andy McCullough suggests (Twitter links). While we’ve heard plenty of indication that the organization also intends to make a bid on its own departing closer, Kenley Jansen, it appears that the fireballing lefty also represents a viable target for one of the game’s biggest spenders — despite the fact that the club jettisoned a deal to acquire Chapman last winter when domestic violence allegations arose. While Los Angeles has spent very little on its bullpen since hiring Andrew Friedman to run its baseball operations, the club obviously saw the value of a shut-down arm while leaning heavily on Jansen during the postseason. The big question remains just how hard the Dodgers will push, but their presence in the market for the two best-available relievers is certainly a boon for the earning power of both.
- Meanwhile, the Cubs are giving signals that they may be less inclined to pay top dollar for an established relief arm, as Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago reports. While the organization gave up a haul for Chapman at the trade deadline, and featured him frequently en route to a World Series win, Chicago would seemingly prefer to think outside the box to find its next dominant relief arm. GM Jed Hoyer spoke of a “targeted” approach to the roster, with the club set to “explore every avenue” in finding a replacement for Chapman. He cited two prominent examples of pitchers who failed as starters but later emerged in a late-inning role. “You never know who that guy’s going to be,” said Hoyer. “If you stop thinking that way, you have no chance to find that guy. You always want to think like: ’OK, who is going to be that next Andrew Miller? Who’s going to be that next Wade Davis?'” As Mooney notes, Carl Edwards Jr. represents a possible internal option to take high-leverage opportunities, along with former closer Hector Rondon. Beyond that, Hoyer says, the team will “be looking at a lot of ways to acquire pitching” and will “explore every avenue” to add arms this winter.
- That somewhat unconventional approach has long been pursued by the Pirates, and Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review looks at the team’s rotation prospects this winter. Pittsburgh’s reclamation strategy has paid dividends time and again, but that may be tougher than ever with a thin market and perhaps added competition from other organizations who have seen how the Bucs’ approach can work. GM Neal Huntington emphasized that, while a veteran pitcher would “take some pressure off,” it remains hard for his small-budget organization to commit the years and dollars needed to compete on the open market. He stressed the need to continue pushing the development of the team’s homegrown starters, and certainly there are a variety of options already on hand, as MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth analyzed in taking stock of the Pirates’ offseason outlook. As he notes, and Huntington acknowledges, the club could consider bolstering that group by dealing from its fairly robust array of position-player talent.
- Another organization that could look to the trade market for starters is the Braves, as David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. Per Jon Morosi of MLB Network (via Twitter), Atlanta has spoken with the Rays about staff ace Chris Archer, who is one of the game’s top starting pitching assets (even after a disappointing 2016 season) due in large part to his youth and highly appealing contract. That’s notable, but hardly should be read as an indication that the Braves will push the pedal to the floor for a top arm. GM John Coppolella stressed that the club is looking for value in all regards, and will continue to be opportunistic rather than stretching to add a premium starter. “Starting pitching is the main need that we have, and we want it badly,” he said. “That being said, if the numbers get crazy or the years get too long [for free agents], we’ll just stick with what we have. Or we’ll look to the trade market for short-term guys. … We’re going to look for value, whether it’s starting pitching, catching, whatever. If the market spirals too far out of control, we’ll just move on to other areas of need. Maybe build a killer bullpen and add to [an area that is a strength already.”
- Though the Rockies have received promising returns from their own rotation of late, the team isn’t satisfied with its pitching entering the winter, GM Jeff Bridich said in an appearance on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (Twitter link). Certainly, that could take the form of a focus on a bullpen that struggled last year, though perhaps a move for a starter can’t be ruled out either. Bridich said that the club is “going to have to take some risks” this offseason and will seek to “improve the impactful pitchers we have.”
- The NL West-rival Padres also seem primed to take some risks on pitching (and in other areas), and Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the organization was one of many to send scouts to watch free agent reliever Greg Holland in his recent showcase. San Diego has done well recently in finding undervalued assets for the bullpen, and a targeted bet on someone like Holland could make sense — though he’ll presumably draw wide interest given his lofty established ceiling. Meanwhile, the Pads may also consider trade offers for their own controlled arms; Lin mentions Ryan Buchter, Brad Hand, and Brandon Maurer as pitchers who have “consistently drawn outside interest.” Though GM A.J. Preller didn’t exactly suggest that the team would be looking to deal, he acknowledged that clubs have come calling. “There’s definitely been clubs checking in on our bullpen,” he said. “They saw the jobs those guys did this year.”