The Rundown: Cubs-Brewers Rained Out, Looking Ahead to Free Agency, Cubs Fall to No. 25 in Latest Power Rankings, MLB Local TV Ratings Dropping

“I’m your only friend, I’m not your only friend, but I’m a little glowing friend, but really I’m not actually your friend.” – They Might Be Giants, Birdhouse in Your Soul

Instant Replay

The Cubs and Brewers were rained out last night, which means at least the Cubs couldn’t lose. The two teams will play a doubleheader today and even though the two games aren’t back-to-back, they’ll play under the Manfred Rules, meaning each will be seven-inning affairs barring any ties.

Yes, the Cubs are awful, but most of us were willing to embrace the suck if it meant a brighter tomorrow, so let’s put our GM hats on this morning and see if we can’t put together a plan for next year and beyond. It would be shortsighted to expect Jed Hoyer to bring back any or all of Javier Báez, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo, and based on comments from all parties involved in recent days, Hoyer clearly wants to move on. He has three players under guaranteed contracts for next season, so there’s immediate work to be done.

It would also be folly to expect Tom Ricketts to sign off on any spending that puts the North Siders into the upper echelon of the game’s elite teams. With that in mind, we can go one of three free agency routes, and though Hoyer continues to say this is not a rebuild, the pickings aren’t all that great this winter outside of shortstop. So he can choose to look for cornerstones in the open market, find guys he can sign and flip at next year’s trade deadline, or operate with a combination of both.

Let’s start with a cornerstone, and though the Cubs will have Nick Madrigal and Nico Hoerner up the middle, signing a shortstop provides the best opportunity to find an impact player to build around. Hoyer could break open the bank and sign Corey Seager, who will likely be seeking a Francisco Lindor-type contract. Seager could play third base and, though that’s unlikely, there’s also the option of moving Hoerner to centerfield. Carlos Correa is also someone to consider, as are Trevor Story and Marcus Semien.

In all likelihood, Hoyer is not going to want to start the Great Reset by signing players and then moving them out of position, so perhaps he looks to his outfield. Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber would be great additions, particularly since the NL will likely adopt the DH rule starting next season. Jason Heyward isn’t going anywhere, so he could move to center with Castellanos in right and Schwarber could be the team’s full-time DH and part-time left fielder. Ian Happ could man left field until Brennen Davis is ready, and Heyward’s contract will have finally expired by the time Pete Crow-Armstrong makes his debut.

If Hoyer is looking for sign-and-flip players, he could piecemeal a rotation together with guys like Charlie Morton, J.A. Happ, and Mike Fiers. Assuming Kyle Hendricks and Adbert Alzolay are the mainstays, and perhaps Justin Steele, flippable starters will allow the organization more time to develop Brailyn Márquez, Jordan Wicks, and Caleb Kilian, among others.

The Cubs also need a first baseman, and though Rizzo is the likeliest of any of the former core to return, C.J. Cron is the only interesting name available other than Freddie Freeman. Perhaps Frank Schwindel could man the position for a season or two while the Cubs seek a permanent replacement through trade or free agency.

Make no mistake, the new core will consist of players already in Chicago’s system. The Cubs do have plenty of money to spend, so kicking off the 2022 season with an outfield of Happ, Heyward, and Castellanos, and an infield of Patrick Wisdom, Hoerner, Madrigal, and Cron, Rizzo or Schwindel is not a terrible starting point. Hoyer still has Willson Contreras, who could be extended or traded; Schwarber would make a great DH; and a rotation of Hendricks, Morton, Happ, Alzolay, and Steele is decent enough to be competitive.

The best thing is that nobody on that list would command a contract longer than three years, giving Hoyer a great deal of flexibility. For Ricketts, bringing back fan favorites will help to sell tickets while we all wait for the junior Cubs to grow up and take over starting in 2024-25.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Former Rolaid’s Relief Fireman of the Year Goose Gossage would be disgusted.

Climbing the Ladder

“I hid in the clouded wrath of the crowd but when they said ‘sit down’ I stood up…” – Bruce Springsteen, Growin’ Up

Here are the minor league slash lines (links via of players Cubs’ fans should be watching with keen interest, bearing in mind that outside the top three, the others have limited at-bats due to their low-level assignments:

I’m looking forward to one day comparing Theo Epstein’s last draft to Hoyer’s first. Make sure you follow the Weekly Farm Report and the Growing Cubs Podcast here at Cubs Insider for full player recaps and much deeper insight.

How About That!

MLB is seeing a dramatic reduction in local television ratings compared to the 2019 season.

Shohei Ohtani should be a shoo-in to win the AL MVP Award.

White Sox announcer Jason Benetti has tested positive for breakthrough COVID-19 and will be sidelined while recovering.

If the Mets continue to slide and fail to reach the playoffs, the results may have a negative financial impact on pending free agents Báez and Michael Conforto.

According to baseball insider Ken Rosenthal, MLB may look to expand the postseason field to 14 teams in the next collective bargaining negotiations.

Major League Baseball and Barstool Sports have begun negotiations on giving Barstool a broadcasting platform to live stream baseball games that incorporates in-game gambling. Sources say there is a 50-50 chance a deal will be completed.

Doing business with Barstool could create controversy for the league.

It’s always fun to see Yankees manager Aaron Boone getting ejected from a game. Boone gets his money’s worth.

Monday’s Three Stars

  1. Eloy Jiménez – The White Sox slugging outfielder is on a roll, and now has consecutive two-homer games with a total of 10 RBI.
  2. Lucas Giolito – Chicago’s ace allowed just two hits in eight innings of work with eight strikeouts.
  3. Mother Nature – The Cubs have been flat as heck and really needed a day off after losing four straight.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

The Field of Dreams Game was inspired by Oak Lawn businesswoman Denise Stillman, who led a group of investors to buy the Dyersville property in 2012. Stillman passed away before her dream was realized. Her story nearly mirrors the W.P. Kinsella novel and movie, as Stillman was hours away from losing the property to foreclosure in 2016 before scraping up enough money to meet the debt obligation.

White Sox closer Liam Hendriks is hoping he doesn’t become the first pitcher to give a major league home run in Iowa.

Extra Innings

The most obvious answer to a dwindling MLB television audience is so simple it’s absurd that it is continually ignored. When televised baseball first debuted it wasn’t enough of a novelty to keep fans out of baseball stadiums, and it’s not hurting attendance now.

They Said It

  • “You can never explain the roller coaster you go on emotionally, but you can’t beat this. Once [Rizzo] left I knew there was an opening spot on the roster, not necessarily worried about starting but that opening, and I’ve always hit. So just going back to that, not trying to do too much, which I did at Iowa, but it ended up working out anyway. And then come up here and try to get back to a good rhythm, getting some consistent at-bats these last two days and go from there.”Frank Schwindel

Tuesday Walk-Up Song

Ghostbusters by Ray Parker Jr. – If you haven’t seen pictures of Wrigley Field during last night’s storm, it’s worth noting that most people expected appearances by Gozer as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and a fight to the death with Peter, Ray, Egon, and Winston.

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