It’s not the World Series, but baseball’s best teams will face off tomorrow in a winner-take-all Game 5 of the NLCS. If you’re still rooting for Kris Bryant, I’m sure you’ll have your eyes glued to your television set. Meanwhile, back at the corner of Clark & Addison, Jed Hoyer is readying himself for a busy winter and a chance to get the Cubs back into the postseason race as soon as possible.
His first move could be naming a new GM, possibly as soon as today, and then extending the contract of manager David Ross. With no games scheduled today, Hoyer has a window to announce any pending team news without interfering with the playoffs.
The league announced yesterday that the qualifying offer has been lowered to $18.4 million, a drop of $500,000, though Hoyer has no need to sweat that. Zach Davies is his lone veteran free agent and that option won’t be considered. Truth be told, I could live with kicking Davies to the curb being Hoyer’s only significant move this winter.
That said, the North Side baseballers have many holes to fill, so expect the front office to be active and engaging with even the top free agents this winter. I believe a premium shortstop will be holding a presser at Wrigley Field sometime before spring training, and if I were a betting man, I’d lay a good chunk of money on Willson Contreras receiving an extension. There just isn’t any premium catching available anywhere this year or next.
Ian Happ could get a big raise over his $4.1M salary this year and you know what? He’s worth it. If that idea pisses you off, take a few moments to read why it makes sense. https://t.co/ykxfkA9Fvy
— Cubs Insider (@realcubsinsider) October 12, 2021
What Hoyer does with Ian Happ should be interesting. He let Kyle Schwarber walk last year and it bit him in the ass. Like Schwarber in 2020, Happ doesn’t have a true position and underperformed for most of the season. He’s taken the team to arbitration previously and Hoyer will have to decide whether to lowball him or non-tender him. Happ is the team’s player rep and will likely choose let the arbitrator decide his fate, and he will probably win. Is he worth $6.5 million, or could the front office better allocate those funds toward more pressing needs? It’s probably not as easy a decision as it seems on the surface.
Other than that, Cubs fans will be living life in the fast lane from December 1 through the start of next season, with rumors likely coming at us in waves as the days slowly grow longer and warmer. We’ll cheer when Hoyer signs a premium player, we’ll get upset when members of the former core sign elsewhere, and we’ll be disappointed when rumors fall through. Tom Ricketts will speak about budgets while passing the buck to his team president, and a nation of Cubs fans will collectively grind their teeth. After all, Hoyer is responsible for all personnel decisions (wink, wink).
Before I dive into the rest of today’s post, let me make one more prediction: Davies signs with the Indians and returns to his 2020 form.
Cubs News & Notes
- It’s not a given that Nico Hoerner will be the team’s starting shortstop next year, but Hoyer expects him to be a lineup mainstay no matter where he plays.
- Shortstop Carlos Correa loves the city of Chicago and deep-dish pizza, but that’s probably not enough to find a fit with the Cubs in free agency. The Cubs would have loved getting him with the No. 6 pick in the 2012 draft, but the Astros took him at No. 1, so Theo Epstein selected Albert Almora Jr. instead.
- Justin Verlander could be someone Hoyer pursues this winter, but a match seems unlikely.
- Patrick Wisdom made Jonathan Mayo’s all-rookie team over at MLB Pipeline.
- CI’s Todd Johnson provides a nice synopsis of the Cubs’ minor league depth and ranked the organization’s position groups by overall strength and depth.
- How would you feel about a trade that netted the Cubs Jorge Alfaro, Kyle Nicolas, and Elieser Hernández from the Marlins for Contreras?
From the Front Office
“I think it’s hard to put timelines on things. I remember sitting in St. Louis in the summer of 2013 and looking at their lineup and looking at our lineup and feeling we’re light years away from being able to compete with them. Two years later, we beat them in the division series.” – Hoyer
Odds & Ends
I’m not a fan of Barstool Sports or John Cusack, but I’ve got Cusack’s back on this one, if only because grown men shouldn’t be acting the way Dave Williams did. That said, I absolutely wanted the White Sox to win. The Cubs rarely play their South Side counterparts, so there’s no real rivalry. Some people need to get over themselves.
— Barstool Chicago (@barstoolchicago) October 11, 2021
Postseason News & Notes
The Astros manhandled the White Sox 10-1 yesterday, a disappointing end to a successful season for the South Siders.
The White Sox believe they are set up nicely to be an annual postseason contender. They’ll need a starter or two and another left-handed power hitter.
The Astros will host the Red Sox in Game 1 of the ALCS Friday night.
The Braves eliminated the Brewers in Atlanta yesterday. Freddie Freeman hit an improbable tiebreaking homer off Milwaukee Brewers closer Josh Hader with two outs in the 8th inning to send the Braves to the NLCS.
Tomorrow’s Game 5 in San Francisco will be the third winner-take-all game between the Dodgers and Giants in the history of the rivalry, the first since Oct. 3, 1962, at Dodger Stadium.
The team with the best winning percentage will get home-field advantage in the World Series, however, if the Dodgers advance with a win tonight, the Braves, who had the worst record of all postseason teams, would get home-field advantage in the NLCS.
- Jose Altuve – With three hits in five at-bats, four runs scored, a home run, three RBI, and a stolen base, Altuve crushed any hope the White Sox had of forcing a Game 5.
- Mookie Betts – The Los Angeles outfielder was 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBI in helping the Dodgers stave off elimination.
How About That!
An epic postseason has been a much-needed boon for the league.
Rob Manfred said he was not sure if there is a path to success for the A’s if they remain in Oakland.
Imagine throwing 100+ MPH with little to no effort, like Brusdar Graterol.
Brusdar Graterol, "Get Me Over" First Pitch 102.5 mph Sinker. 😯 pic.twitter.com/vVeh2Xv9r3
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 13, 2021
They Said It
- “We’ve changed the expectations of what Cubs baseball is supposed to be. That’s one of the proudest things for me with the Cubs, is that we have done that.” – Hoyer
Wednesday Walk-Up Song
The Only Living Boy in New York by Simon & Garfunkel. Happy 80th birthday, Paul Simon. Don’t we all feel a little older this morning?