The Rundown: Schwarber Among Non-Tendered Cubs, Hoyer Indicates Deal Still Possible, New Additions to Free Agent Market Stoke Hot Stove

“Remember me and smile, for it’s better to forget than to remember me and cry.” – Dr. Seuss

Yesterday didn’t go quite the way I expected, and I’m sure a lot of fans feel similarly. Right before Wednesday night’s deadline to tender contracts to arb-eligible players, the organization announced Kris Bryant, Javier Báez, Willson Contreras, Ian Happ and Victor Caratini would be tendered, allowing each to go through the arbitration process. They did not offer a contract to Kyle Schwarber.

Hoyer offered kind words after the parting and time will tell if it was genuine or just poignant lip service. It will also give us a glimpse as to whether the new president of baseball operations is as transparent as his predecessor, Theo Epstein. Hoyer may or may not be truly hoping to work something out with Schwarber, but facts being facts, a market for the left fielder exists. And given some of the contracts that have been handed out in free agency already, it’s likely that some team will offer Schwarber the $8 million or so he might have earned in arbitration, possibly on a multi-year deal.

“I’m still taking everything in,” said Schwarber about an hour after he was officially non-tendered. “Obviously, I’m very appreciative of all the fans and the support of the city of Chicago, and they’re never going to leave my heart.”

Despite the bittersweet disappointment in saying goodbye to the big-swinging outfielder, there were valid reasons for Hoyer to cut the cord with Epstein’s man-child. Sure, Schwarber hit some towering home runs, many of them in key situations. But the 27-year-old also had an underwhelming 2020, slashing a measly .188/.308/.393 with 11 home runs and 24 RBI over 59 games while tying for seventh in the National League with 66 strikeouts.

Schwarber also carries a career strikeout rate of 28%, which wouldn’t be that bad if the Cubs had more contact hitters in their lineup. At least one of the big four was likely to go, and Anthony Rizzo, Bryant, and Baez will remain with the team. For now, anyway. With the Winter Meetings starting in just three days, it’s possible Hoyer could move more of his core players in trades, so perhaps yesterday’s moves are just the start of a thorough rebuild.

More than likely, given what we know and what Epstein said as he left the organization, the front office must have known this was coming and the move may even have been a firm suggestion from owner Tom Ricketts. If that’s the case, and it’s not inconceivable, what does that say about Hoyer’s upcoming tenure with the Cubs?

Hoyer also chose to part ways with reliever Ryan Tepera. At first I was surprised by the move, especially since the Cubs completed pre-arb deals* with relievers Colin Rea, Kyle Ryan and Dan Winkler. My guess is that Tepera was offered a reduced contract as well and he declined, as he should. However, the Cubs are dealing from a position of strength with regards to their bullpen, and the front office likely believes that prospect Burl Carraway, who is said to be major league ready, is a suitable replacement.

There are also plenty of good relievers available in free agency, including Archie Bradley, who was non-tendered by the Reds, and Brad Hand, who was released by the Indians a couple weeks ago. Hoyer also claimed hard-throwing reliever Robert Stock off waivers from the Red Sox to add depth to the back end of the bullpen.

*I think technically those players were non-tendered and re-signed, but it’s semantics, really.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

One and done like the ’85 Bears, which led to some very valid points from ESPN’s Buster Olney.

Thursday Stove

A total of 59 players were non-tendered ahead of Wednesday’s deadline, though some immediately re-signed with their clubs.

The Dodgers acquired reliever Corey Knebel in a trade with the Brewers. Milwaukee will receive a player to be named later or cash as compensation.

The Angels acquired shortstop José Iglesias for two minor league players in a trade with the Orioles.

Rosario seems like a perfect fit for the Red Sox.

If the Yankees can’t reach an agreement with second baseman DJ Lemahieu, potential suitors include the Mets, Dodgers, Angels, and Cardinals.

The Yankees opted to retain Gary Sánchez, which was a surprising move according to some insiders.

The Mets signed starter Steven Matz to a one-year $5.2 million pre-arb deal.

In what seems like a rarity, the Tigers tendered contracts to all nine of their arb-eligible players.

For the White Sox organization, it’s “World Series or bust” in 2021. They’re good, but they’re not the best team in the American League. Let’s wait and see how Rick Hahn navigates free agency and how well he does in the trade market.

The White Sox are one of many potential landing spots for free agent outfielder George Springer.

The Giants and Blue Jays are showing interest in OF/DH free agent Marcell Ozuna.

In fact, the Blue Jays have been in the thick of most free agent and trade rumors this winter.

The Reds and Cardinals are two of six potential destinations for shortstop Francisco Lindor, who is being aggressively shopped by the Indians.

Apropos of Nothing

I was asked yesterday why I often use literary quotes to start my articles. There is a reason and his name is Harry M. Stevens. Mr. Stevens was baseball’s first official vendor, and when hawking scorecards at Ebbets Field, he would often use literary quotes to spur the sales of his merchandise, which included peanuts and ice cream. His success paved the way for proprietors of ballpark goodies and souvenirs league-wide, so I thought I’d pay my respects whenever possible by emulating the godfather of baseball retail.

Stevens is often falsely credited with inventing the hot dog, which is not a sandwich. For the record, and despite what most Chicagoans say, ketchup is certainly an acceptable condiment for the steamed deliciousness. In fact, you should dress your dog any way you want. I’ve had a sushi dog in Seattle and a variety of dogs at Yankee Stadium, including my favorite, a footlong with grilled onions and brown mustard.

In touring some of America’s other ballparks I’ve discovered some tasty treasures as well:

  • At Marlins Park, you can get a Butifarra Dog, which is a pork sausage finished with aioli and Frito pie, topped with Spanish Ibérico pork chili and Idiazabal cheese sauce.
  • At Nationals Park, vendors sell a Ben’s Chili Dog, a traditional dog smothered in D.C’s favorite chili.
  • At Oakland Coliseum, the Athletics offer an amazing Tamale Dog. That deliciousness consists of a Miller’s All beef hot dog wrapped in a sweet corn tamale, with pico de gallo salsa, chipotle crema, scallions, and crisp tortilla threads.
  • At Minute Maid Park, you must try the Nolan Ryan Dog with smoked burnt pork ends, cheese sauce, serrated pickle chips, green onions, and a secret spicy BBQ sauce. It’s truly delicious.
  • At Citi Field, the Mets offer a Bases Loaded Dog, which is A Nathan’s footlong topped with cheddar cheese strands, Applewood smoked bacon, and green onions, all on a potato roll.

Extra Innings

Schwarber (or Schwarzer) was the biggest name to be set free yesterday, though other teams made some surprising moves as well. Bradley, Dahl, and Eddie Rosario, could be interesting options for a lot of teams. Like Schwarber, Dahl had a wretched campaign, but the former Rockies outfielder slashed .302/.353/.524 with 15 home runs and 61 RBI in 2019.

They Said It

  • “It was a hard conversation. I called Kyle [Schwarber]. We’ll definitely keep the door open. We’ll continue to talk about ways to bring him back….We had a good conversation. He’s a legend. No question about that.” – Jed Hoyer
  • “The organization faces a number of decisions this winter that carry long-term consequences. Those types of decisions are best made by someone who will be here for a long period, rather than just one more year. Jed [Hoyer] has earned this opportunity and is absolutely the right person to take over this baseball operation at such an important time.” – Theo Epstein, when announcing his resignation
  • “The championship reservoir is about the water. If ownership gives a damn, Jed has the wrench to control the valves.” – Scott Boras
  • “We’re different people. Different personalities. I can’t be someone I’m not. I can’t try to act like Theo. I have to act like me.” – Hoyer

Thursday Walk Up Song

Goodbye by Night Ranger – Cheesy but appropriate in the wake of Schwarber’s departure.

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