Given the slow-moving free agency we've seen in recent seasons and the impending CBA standoff at the end of this month, the expectation from many is that we'd see a pretty significant lull in player movement here in the next few weeks.
In a twist, maybe that will turn out to be an incorrect assumption? Let's make that our jumping off point for the latest roundup of MLB offseason news and rumors.
An unexpected free-agent signing surge?
In a long column on ESPN.com, Jeff Passan outlines where baseball is headed with the Dec. 1 expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and contained therein is a very intriguing section.
Teams essentially suggested players have a choice: Sign before the lockout or wait until February, when most everyone expects the labor discord to end, and have fun navigating the frenzy of signings and trades that will ensue. Agents for some of the highest-profile free agents this winter, in the meantime, inverted the posture: If you want a player, step up financially, because the February stampede is going to be so different, so unfamiliar, that it's worth paying more for certainty now than having to overpay or be left empty-handed on the eve of the season.
Passan specifically mentions Corey Seager and Marcus Semien as "increasingly likely" to sign before Dec. 1. Might there be a domino effect with the other high-profile shortstops -- Carlos Correa, Javier Báez and Trevor Story -- also deciding to follow suit? It could really create a cascade of signings before the CBA expires.
That would be pretty fun and it's certainly something worth watching in the next few weeks, when we're usually just gathering rumors and waiting on the winter meetings in hopes of something significant happening.
Tigers in on shortstop(s)
The Tigers "are taking a comprehensive approach" in looking at the shortstop market, reports Jon Morosi of MLB Network. He specifically mentions the five names we just mentioned above. Morosi follows up that the Tigers' "willingness to sign a player in the $250 million range is uncertain," but surely only Correa and maybe Seager can top that figure. Even if the Tigers aren't willing to go to that number with a shortstop, it still leaves at least Story, Semien (he's 31 years old) and Báez on the table.
If they did want to go huge, there's a connection between Correa and former-Astros/current-Tigers manager A.J. Hinch.
The Tigers surprised by winning 77 games last season as they look to fully recover from their rebuild. We've already heard they are in on rotation help and adding one of these shortstops would also be a big boost.
Cardinals moving Reyes and/or Hicks into rotation?
The Cardinals believe they are set with four members of next season's rotation right now in Adam Wainwright, Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas and Dakota Hudson. In a column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Derrick Goold outlines the Cardinals' ideas to beef up the rotation for next season, which could possibly include signing a free agent. Also thrown in the mix? The possibility of former closers Jordan Hicks and/or Alex Reyes joining the rotation.
Hicks, 25, opted out of the 2020 season and made only 10 appearances last season due to an elbow injury. When he's right, though, he's one of the hardest throwers in baseball. His four seam fastball has averaged over 101 miles per hour in all three of his MLB seasons. He's been sinker and slider heavy in his career, too, so he has the arsenal to become a starter.
Reyes, 27, was developed as a starter and was once a top-five prospect in baseball. Myriad injuries forced him to the bullpen where he was an All-Star closer last season, but he faltered and lost his job down the stretch. He certainly has the stuff to be a regular starter and he throws five pitches.
Marlins seek a catcher via trade
The Marlins are looking for a catcher and Jon Heyman of MLB Network points out Alejandro Kirk of the Blue Jays could work. It sounded purely speculative, but the main point here is the Marlins want catchers and the free agent market for the position is dreadful. Instead, the Marlins will likely look to their pitching depth to deal for a catcher. If they shoot for a bigger name, perhaps Gary Sánchez or Willson Contreras (though the Cubs might keep him and extend him, so the package would have to be huge) would work?
Brett Cecil retires
Via a message on his private Instagram account (tweeted by Alyssa Cohen), left-handed reliever Brett Cecil has announced his retirement. He was under contract with the Cardinals through 2020, but a slew of injuries (shoulder strain, foot strain, carpal tunnel syndrome, hamstring strain) kept him off the field after Sept. 25, 2018.
In parts of 10 seasons, Cecil appeared in 443 MLB games, pitching to a 4.29 ERA (98 ERA+) and 1.36 WHIP with 670 strikeouts in 756 innings. He collected 44 wins and 12 saves. He made the All-Star team in 2013 as a member of the Blue Jays and threw six scoreless innings in eight career playoff appearances.