Hot Stove lingering questions ahead of 2024 spring training
But while the clock is very much ticking on the offseason, a number of notable free agents remain on the open market. To find out how this situation might evolve over the next week — and perhaps beyond — we asked insiders Mark Feinsand and John Paul Morosi to address some lingering questions about Hot Stove.
Fine sand: As we’ve discussed for weeks, all four players are represented by agent Scott Boras, who has never been afraid to wait for the right deal. The one who looks most likely by next week is Montgomery, who appears destined for a reunion with the Rangers if the two sides can agree on a number.
Morosi: I believe Montgomery will sign by Thursday. There is more incentive for pitchers to sign than position players, because they generally need more time in camp to prepare for the regular season. The Rangers are the favorites to sign him, but I wonder if the Red Sox could make a late push by clearing salary via the Kenley Janssen deal.
2) Is there a chance any of these players could see their free agency delayed past Opening Day?
Fine sand: As I mentioned before, Boras has never been one to panic heading into the season. It would be unusual for players of this size to remain unsigned when the season opens, but it would not be unprecedented. In 2019, Dallas Keuchel didn’t sign until June, while Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew did the same in 2014. These situations largely arose as a result of the qualifying offer, which operated under different rules at the time. But to think that any of these four players might find themselves without new deals on Opening Day is by no means crazy. A spring training injury could also impact a club’s desire/need to sign one of the four free agents.
Morosi: There’s certainly a chance, but I don’t see those as likely, especially for Montgomery and Snell. The market obviously didn’t unfold the way they expected, but both are young enough to have a more successful run on the open market during the 2024-2025 season. Of course, the only way to achieve this is with a strong performance in ’24; The chances of this improve by signing early enough to have a consistent competitive lead in the regular season.
3) Pick from these Big Four, which player/team pairing do you think is most likely to pay off, whether it’s before or after spring training begins?
Fine sand: I’d have to go with Montgomery and the Rangers, although a reunion between Bellinger and the Cubs seems quite likely. Chicago did not replace Bellinger’s bat in its lineup this winter, and unless the Cubs focus on Chapman, the need to bring back Bellinger continues. It looks as if the Giants will play Snell, Bellinger, and/or Chapman, so I wouldn’t be shocked if San Francisco ends up with at least one of them.
Morosi: I can’t see a better fit than reuniting Bellinger and the North Siders. The Cubs are flexible at his two positions — first base and center field — and Bellinger found a home in Chicago after struggling mightily toward the end of his tenure as a Dodger. And while he’s not listed as one of the Big Four, I see Jorge Soler and the Giants as a strong possibility, as Susan Slusser recently pointed out in the San Francisco Chronicle.
4) Is there a team that didn’t originally seem like a likely destination for one of these players who could sneak in and make a serious play now that their positions remain unresolved this late?
Fine sand: There’s been some buzz about the Phillies jumping for Snell or Montgomery, and while Dave Dombrowski said he doesn’t expect any big moves from this point forward, he left the door open during a recent radio interview on 94 WIP-FM, saying: “I can’t tell you that “Someone is not going to fall into your lap at some point when you say, ‘Oh my God, this is an opportunity we can’t refuse.'”
Morosi: I agree with Mark that the Phillies are the prime candidate. They’ve had a quiet offseason, and Dombrowski once signed Prince Fielder to a $214 million contract in late January. The Red Sox could fit that description as well, but only if they are able to clear the payroll by moving Jansen’s contract.
5) The two biggest names outside of that quartet are probably Soler and JD Martinez. How do their markets overlap or contradict now that a number of other major companies have exited the market in recent weeks?
Fine sand: Martinez and Soler are two of the best hitters remaining on the market, although Soler can also play corner, giving him more versatility in dealing with potential suitors. The Giants have been linked to Soler in recent days, while the Mets have been reported as a potential landing spot for Martinez. It’s hard to believe their markets don’t overlap, even though they’re the two main batsmen still available in free agency.
Morosi: Their markets are different, as I think Soler will sign a two-year contract while Martinez is likely looking for a one-year deal. The Blue Jays and Soler had substantive talks earlier in the offseason, before the Jays ultimately signed Justin Turner to a one-year, $13 million deal.
Fine sand: The Brewers are still the team to watch on the trade front, especially after they traded Burns. Devin Williams and Willie Adams are the two high-profile players Milwaukee could still be dealt, with Adams – who is set to become a free agent at the end of the season – the more likely of the two. Williams, who won the 2023 Trevor Hoffman Award as NL MVP, will be under club control through the end of 2025, but with young outfielder Abner Uribe waiting in the wings to take over as closer, the Brewers could trade Williams to address other areas of need on the roster. .
Morosi: My bold prediction is that the Marlins will make a big trade before Opening Day. Peter Bendix has had a quiet first offseason with the team, meaning this camp in Jupiter, Florida represents a crucial evaluation period for him. After seeing his personnel up close, perhaps he would be more comfortable moving one of his young starting pitchers for a pool of young player-focused talent.
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