Despite coming off a roughly five-win season, Reds shortstop Zack Cozart could face a difficult market in free agency, writes Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Buchanan quotes an exec from the American League and another from the National League who suggested that Cozart would struggle to match even the three-year, $40MM pact attained by J.J. Hardy at a similar age three offseasons ago. A lack of contending teams in clear need of a shortstop is working against Cozart, as is the fact that he doesn’t have a track record of producing at his 2017 levels. An NL exec opined that Cozart could expand his market by adopting a super-utility role in which he started a couple of times per week at shortstop, second base and third base, though Buchanan notes that Cozart “feels strongly” about remaining a shortstop. Cincinnati is thought to be “leaning heavily against” a qualifying offer for Cozart, per Buchanan, which would certainly help his free-agent stock. From my view, it still seems likely that a team will ultimately see Cozart as too good a value not to find a spot for him at a certain point. It’s difficult to see his market falling below even the three-year, $33-36MM range, as even if he doesn’t replicate his 2017 excellence at the plate, he could still be reasonably expected to more than justify that level of commitment.
Elsewhere in the NL Central…
- The Cubs need to replace 40 percent of their starting rotation in 2018, writes Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago/670 The Score, adding that the team is “expected” to pursue an acquisition similar to its July pickup of Jose Quintana (i.e. a controllable arm on the trade market). Levine speculatively lists former Cub Jeff Samardzija (now the Giants and owed $58.5MM through 2020) and Rays right-hander Chris Archer (owed $34MM through 2021, with the final two years being club options) as possibilities. Of course, the Giants have shown no inclination that they’ll be selling off veteran pieces this winter, and the Rays have no pressure to move Archer, whose contract is one of the most affordable commitments to any established starter in the big leagues. Levine also notes Alex Cobb as a potential free-agent target, noting the righty’s connection to manager Joe Maddon and pitching coach Jim Hickey — each of whom knows Cobb well from their days with the Rays.
- Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has posted highlights from a lengthy, comprehensive chat on the Cardinals and their offseason plans. There are more than a dozen interesting scenarios covered within, including the team’s search for a closer, the need to add a known quantity to the middle of the lineup and the possibility (or lack thereof) various players currently on the roster will be moved. Goold notes that the Cardinals have had interest in Brandon Morrow on multiple occasions in the past and notes that he could well be a target if the Cardinals ultimately decide to pursue multiple arms and have a competition for the ninth inning next spring. He also adds that St. Louis will likely pursue top-end closers (e.g. Wade Davis, Greg Holland), though the Cards will have obvious competition on that front. Any who track the offseason closely, especially fans of the Cardinals or other clubs in the NL Central, will want to take a full look for some insight into the Redbirds’ upcoming plans.