The following are insights, ideas and notes gathered from recent conversations with team sources, rival executives, reporters, front office assistants, and talent evaluators...
Instead of Citi Field, call it Bryant Park...
Now that suitors know Kris Bryant will be under team control through 2021, as opposed to becoming a free agent after this season, the Cubs have engaged teams that once expressed interest in their third baseman.
If they move Bryant, the Cubs want a center fielder, your top pitching prospect, and at least one or two position prospects considered to be among the league's top 100. In addition taking on all of Bryant's 2020 salary, they're also pushing the acquiring team to take on another contract, such as reliever Tyler Chatwood, who is due $13 million this season before becoming a free agent.
This is a lot to give up, I think.
I know the Cubs have inquired about RHP Matthew Allan, who they scouted heavily in advance of the 2019 MLB Draft.
"He's raw, young, but he has fastball and feel for pitching to make him a possible frontline starting pitcher," an NL talent evaluator told me about Allan late last week. "I hate making comparisons, but he does have a Noah Syndergaard quality to him given his size and presence on the mound."
The thing is, at 18 years old and having never pitched above Short-Season Brooklyn, it's hard to see Allan being a linchpin in a deal for Bryant, which -- based on the above, I'm guessing -- would likely also cost Brandon Nimmo and one of Ronny Mauricio or Brett Baty, both of whom are widely considered to be top 100 prospects.
Oh, and the Mets would apparently also be asked to take back, say, Chatwood, which would mean adding $31 million in salary.
This addition would put them over the luxury tax threshold and there's been zero indication this winter that they're willing to make such a move.
The point being, while it seems there is a path to Bryant, I don't see how it happens.
In talking with insiders now out of the market, I still think Bryant starts 2020 with the Cubs or Rangers.
Keep adding to the bullpen...
The most sought-after reliever continues to be free-agent RHP Collin McHugh, who fits in with multiple teams, including the Mets. The thing is, because it is not yet known if he'll be 100 percent healthy and ready for Opening Day, teams seem reluctant to guarantee him money and a roster spot.
By the way, I was told again that talk of the Brewers shopping closer Josh Hader was never accurate, which I wrote about earlier this offseason.
As is usually the case, teams interested in acquiring an elite closer -- such as the Mets and Yankees -- contacted the Brewers, who were asking for players neither team ever considered dealing, such as Jeff McNeil and Miguel Andujar.
Milwaukee has taken a step back from the roster that made the Wild Card last season. My hunch is that, while they need to take their best shot when starting the season, Hader will very much be in play this summer if the Brewers fall out of realistic contention for October. Then, at that point, after having talked with interested teams this past winter, they'll have a better sense of his value and where he can be traded in July. This happens all of the time.
What about Mookie Betts?
It's looking more and more like Mookie Betts will be traded to the Dodgers before the end of this week, at least according to speculation and loose reports scattered across Twitter, MLBTradeRumors and others.
The Dodgers make the most sense for the Red Sox. Los Angeles can take on the money, they have the open position, they'll be interested in re-signing him, and they can part with Alex Verdugo, who perfectly fits the Red Sox. Plus, if they had to, I'm sure the Dodgers would also find a way to take back David Price and his obscene contract.
What's up with Nolan Arenado?
"It would be a suicide mission," a rival NL executive told me, speaking about Rockies GM Jeff Bridich trading the team's All-Star third baseman.
According to this one source, though I've heard other insiders talk in a similar way, Bridich's job is very much on the line. Colorado's downward trend and the public back and forth with Arenado over the organization's commitment to winning has upped the pressure for the Rockies to win now and return to the playoffs, otherwise they could look to a new front office to lead the way...
"If he moved a top producing, franchise player like Arenado, or a Trevor Story, to do it right now and weaken the roster and their chance of contending, he would be sealing his fate," the same executive added.
This is a great point.
As former Mets GM Steve Phillips often says: "Prospects get General Managers fired! Win when you have a chance to win! You never know what next year will bring."
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is a senior writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. His book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime.