The Rundown: Checking Down Those Schwarber Rumors, Bryant Speculation Continues, Reds and Brewers Make Significant Adds in Free Agency

“Look not mournfully into the past, it comes not back again. Wisely improve the present, it is thine. Go forth to meet the shadowy future without fear and with a manly heart.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Newspapermen eating candy
Had to be held down by big police” – Bob Dylan

We haven’t heard any Javier Báez trade rumors all winter. I suppose we can thank all the speculation surrounding Francisco Lindor for that. Kyle Schwarber had his pass through the rumor mill yesterday, because apparently the Cubs are so desperate to free up cash they’d trade the left fielder just to unload his expected $8 million salary. I don’t know about you, but I’m already tired of the offseason narrative: Theo Epstein’s desire for shock and awe in the trade market combined with Tom Ricketts’ refusal to open up his checkbook in free agency.

Back in the day, the Cubs would have been mentioned in rumors regarding all the top free agents. But for the second straight winter, we’ve been treated to the leftover morsels of grandma’s Christmas candy dish along with a year-long subscription to the jelly-of-the-month club.

No further proof is needed than the fact that Cubs signed a minor league journeyman outfielder yesterday who has a 41 wRC+ in limited big league action. Perhaps the ultimate goal in the Noel Cuevas acquisition is to make us all appreciate Albert Almora Jr. a little more. It certainly isn’t a precursor to a Schwarber trade as some on social media reasoned yesterday. I don’t think Cuevas will make the roster as the Cubs’ 26th man.

Frankly, with speculation surrounding Schwarber and Yu Darvish recently, I think baseball’s insiders are simply tired of talking about the possibility that Kris Bryant might be traded. In a winter when Epstein promised to do his best to keep his players out of headlines in the sports pages, there sure is a lot of chatter about which players are staying and which are leaving. Oddly, I have yet to see a rumor that actually makes the Cubs a better team. And though the Cubs continue to tread gently along the luxury tax threshold, others seem to be expecting a much more cinematic salary purge by the front office. Naturally that makes for more popular reading material.

Despite the fact that noted insider Ken Rosenthal specifically spelled out that there is no momentum in any talks between the Cubs and Yankees surrounding Schwarber, reporters and bloggers ran with potential trade scenarios. Some went so far as to suggest that the Cubs would acquire third baseman Miguel Andújar, along with New York’s top pitching prospect Deivi Garcia, so that Epstein can then move Bryant in another deal. Combined with rumors that Chicago will trade Willson Contreras, the Cubs could theoretically be unrecognizable this spring. I’m sure that’s just what David Ross was hoping for when he signed on to manage this team.

If you’re trying to navigate the winter without losing your mind, remember that Epstein said no player is untouchable. Any storyline regarding the availability of his players is therefore going to be big news, no matter how unsubstantiated the rumor or absurd the gossip. At least Rosenthal tried to keep everybody in check, though asking individuals not to perpetuate a storyline is usually a bad idea. Even the inkling that a possibility might exist is enough to become a trending topic in this age of instant media.

The bottom line is that Brian Cashman has been hunting for War Bear since 2016, and so far Epstein has yet to relinquish his power-hitting left fielder to the Evil Empire. As a fan of baseball, I’d love to see the damage that Schwarber can do with that short right field porch in Yankee Stadium. But as a Cubs fan, I’d rather see him mash at the Friendly Confines.

Cubs News & Notes

  • It’s certainly possible that Epstein could return after the 2021 season, but the decision to stay or leave will probably be entirely up to him.
  • Because the Cubs want to avoid big luxury tax penalties, trades that likely involve some level of salary offset are the only real paths toward change. That said the Cubs still would seem to be the team to beat in the NL Central despite finishing third last season, at least on paper.
  • Do you really want to read another Bryant-to-Philadelphia rumor? So far just about every Phillies player except Bryce Harper, Aaron Nola, and Jake Arrieta has been connected to the Cubs in return for the all-star third baseman.
  • Could the Indians keep Lindor and acquire Bryant?
  • Status quo could be a bad option for the Cubs, though trading for the sake of making a trade isn’t a fantastic strategy either. I don’t buy into the theory that a general shakeup will yield better results when every single professional ballplayer is a millionaire.
  • Accountability has become a buzzword within the Cubs’ organization. Ross himself admitted “the accountability thing is a real thing” last week in his first solo session with the Chicago media as Cubs manager.
  • Epstein and Hoyer graded out as incomplete for their lack of activity at the Winter Meetings.
  • Have you ever wondered what became of Michael Fulmer? The Tigers starter was once mentioned as a potential Cubs acquisition with Báez as the trade bait. Fulmer has become a forgotten man of sorts and is now the No. 15 prospect in a Detroit system that is very deep in starting pitching.

Tuesday Stove

The Cubs Central Division opponents were quite busy yesterday, and the Reds kicked things off by signing pitcher Wade Miley to a two-year, $15 million contract.

The Brewers may have overpaid just a little to fortify their outfield, signing Avisaíl García to a two-year $20 million deal yesterday.

Lindor remains a hot commodity for the Dodgers, who would also like to acquire pitcher Mike Clevinger in a multi-player deal with the Indians.

The Nationals continue to aggressively pursue free agent third baseman Josh Donaldson.

The Twins and Sergio Romo agreed to terms on a one-year deal to keep the closer in Minnesota. Romo was acquired from the Marlins last summer.

The Dodgers, Twins, Braves, Blue Jays, Rangers, and Cardinals all have varying interest in free agent pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu.

New Phillies starter Zack Wheeler was left feeling a little slighted by Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen’s comments in regards to Wheeler’s perceived value on the open market.

Mike Mozeliak may be the most hated GM in the history of the Cardinals franchise. St. Louis fans remain perplexed at the team’s lack of movement so far this winter.

Extra Innings


They Said It

  • “When you communicate with your players and your team of what you expect and you don’t see that, then you have to say something. I equate it a lot to being a dad. I want to have fun with my kids. I want to love my kids, but when my kids act up and do things that I don’t expect them to do or things that I feel like is misbehaving, I’ve got to call that out.” – David Ross

Tuesday Walk Up Song

Check Yo Self by Ice Cube. Try to take all the Cubs rumors with a mouthful of salt.

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