The Rundown: Rebuilding Quickly with Limited Budget, Armchair GM’s Strategy Revealed, Cubs Hire Hitting Coach, Yankees Cooling on Story

It’s really been five years and, with a nod to Joe over at Obvious Shirts, yes, the greatest game in the history of baseball was played on a Wednesday in Cleveland. The Cubs somehow managed to pull a championship out of their hind parts after falling behind three games to one while having to win two games in Cleveland to break a 108-year-old curse.

Things looked bleak for our heroes when they dropped three of the first four games, but they managed to win three straight to snatch victory from the jaws of championship defeat with an ending even Hollywood couldn’t produce. As insurmountable as that task seemed at the time, rebuilding the recently decimated team is probably going to require a much greater effort. To say Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins are on the clock is the understatement of the soon-to-be-lit hot stove season.

Let’s try an exercise, and you can use as much real estate in the comments section as you like to support your theories. Imagine you have Hoyer’s job and you were given a payroll cap of $165 million for this year and next. You would be able to take that up to $200 million in the third year if a shot at winning the World Series was a real possibility. For this year and next, however, you’d have to stay at a hard cap. Keep in mind the club’s financial obligations for next season will be about $70-75 million.

The things you have to be truly mindful of are the Cubs’ improving farm system and the matriculation of those prospects to the major leagues; whether to trade or extend Willson Contreras; and finding the right mix of starting pitching to build a better than replacement level staff. Most of all you have to remove your blinders because you’re building a juggernaut, not a team of your favorite players.

Last, but not least, you have to spend intelligently with a three-year plan to get your franchise as it sits now into the World Series by October 2024. I’d say that pretty much describes the task Hoyer and Hawkins have at hand. I’m going to tell you the moves I’d make and I’m going to lean conservatively because, like the new front office regime, I want to build a self-sustaining system that can avoid a repeat of what we witnessed this year. I think we can all agree we don’t want to see the organization handcuffed the way that Theo Epstein left it.

  • Which prospects who will be major leaguers by 2024 can I fully count on to be regulars? OF Brennen Davis, OF Alexander Canario, OF/DH Nelson Velazquez, 2B Nick Madrigal (not really a prospect anymore but still somewhat unproven), RP Alexander Vizcaino, SP Brailyn Márquez, SP Jordan Wicks, SP DJ Herz, and SP Caleb Kilian.
  • What will I do with Contreras? Extend him, but it won’t be cheap because he is one of just a few elite two-way backstops in baseball. I suppose the template for any agreement would be the 5-year/$115 million deal J.T. Realmuto signed with the Phillies, so Contreras is going to cost me $23 million. I think Contreras is worth more in trade, but I need to earn some goodwill with the fanbase so he stays.
  • I need two power arms on short-term deals. Who am I signing? I’d be okay with giving Jon Gray $10-12 million on a three-year deal, but that won’t get it done. I’d also be really intrigued to see what Hawkins could do with Dylan Bundy. That said, I’m going with Noah Syndergaard and Alex Cobb on three-year contracts, which will probably cost me $33 million per year combined. That leaves me with $34 million and a crap ton of risk, but isn’t there always with pitching?
  • Where do I find a backup catcher to whom I am comfortable giving 200-250 at-bats? The Mariners are going to help me here by taking Kyle Hendricks for Tom Murphy and minor league pitcher Brandon Williamson. Murphy will probably get $1.7 million in arbitration, but I’m adding $11.3 million to my stash by moving Hendricks. Williamson would be a decent get and it’s a fair deal for both teams.
  • I need a shortstop and I’ve now got roughly $44 million. Who do I target now that I’ve done my due diligence on each of the pending free agents? I love Carlos Correa, but I’m going to go Javier Báez here. I still believe the team and the fan favorite were pretty close to an extension agreement, and I have the money to make it work. I’d be comfortable with a 5-year/$120 million deal and I’m sure Báez would, too. That would leave me $20 million to sign an outfielder.
  • Who will that be? I believe I could get Nick Castellanos on a 5-year/$90 million deal and he’d sure fit nicely on this team. He may get better offers, though. My backup choices would be Avisaíl García or Chris Taylor, each of whom will probably be a little cheaper.
  • Anything else? Yes, I’d non-tender Ian Happ and reserve the $6.5 million he is expected to get in arbitration for any in-season additions. I’d also bring back Andrew Chafin.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

It never gets old, and though I know it’s impossible, I wish Bob Uecker could be around forever.

World Series News & Notes

The World Series resumes tonight with Game 6 in Houston.

José Altuve could unseat Derek Jeter as baseball’s new Mr. November if he continues his consistent postseason play in Games 6 and 7.

The fate of the World Series could rest on the shoulders of four Jewish players: Max Fried, Joc Pederson, Alex Bregman, and Garrett Stubbs.

Braves manager Brian Snitker has combined analytics and new approaches with tradition to get the Braves within one win of a World Series championship.

The final two games between the Braves and Astros will probably be decided by the bullpens.

Pending free-agent first baseman Freddie Freeman would like to remain with the Braves.

The Dodgers are the current betting favorites to win next year’s World Series.

Tuesday Stove

Bob Melvin was officially introduced as the new manager of the Padres.

Mark Kotsay may be an option to replace Melvin in Oakland.

The Red Sox are expected to grant Raquel Ferreira permission to interview with the Mets, assuming she’s interested in doing so.

A tweet attributed to Steve Cohen may have the Mets’ principal owner in a little trouble.

The Yankees have reportedly soured on free agent shortstop Trevor Story.

A wrinkle in the league’s domestic violence policy may complicate a Trevor Bauer suspension.

The Dodgers could seek to sign Marcus Stroman to fill out their ’22 rotation.

Extra Innings

People forget Bill North was originally with the Cubs. Imagine if those early 1970s teams had North and Lou Brock? The Cubs traded North to the A’s for Bob Locker.

They Said It

  • “Player development there is a must. There is no success without it. In a bigger market, you can spend some money, go after free agents.” – Hawkins
  • “We have the resources necessary to compete in 2022 and beyond, and we will use them. We will be active in free agency and make thoughtful decisions to bolster our team this offseason.” – Tom Ricketts

Tuesday Walk-Up Song

I Need a Dollar by Aloe Blacc – Number one on Hoyer’s offseason playlist, I’m sure.

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