“There was too much of a sameness about the evening’s delights. He had been the same route too many times. He’d been there before, so double-damned often, and however you traveled—backward, forward, or walking on your hands—you always got to the same place. You got nowhere, in other words, and each trip took a little more out of you.” – Jim Thompson, author of The Grifters
The Stephen Frears-Martin Scorcese picture The Grifters, with a screenplay based on the book mentioned above, is a sleazy tale about con artists and short cons. A grifter, in case you were not aware, is a person who swindles another by means of fraud or deception. When Jed Hoyer told us the Cubs have money to spend and would spend it intelligently, he left out the fact that the team is apparently comfortable doling out deals that exceed three years of guaranteed commitment. Spending intelligently will therefore occur after all of the premium players have inked longer deals.
In fairness to Hoyer, he has inferred on more than one occasion that he is more comfortable with shorter deals that include higher AAVs. Where that ultimately fails is in total dollars and a lack of willingness by a potential signee to enter free agency again three years later and less in demand. Nick Castellanos is a perfect example, as the reason he opted out of his deal with the Reds was to command a larger contract while getting the security of the seven or eight years he is reportedly seeking.
It’s possible Hoyer pushed similar types of contracts on Javier Báez, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo before he traded each at the deadline. Though the executive may have believed he made fair offers, those players not named Rizzo are likely to find better opportunities from other teams. In that respect, it’s feasible Hoyer hasn’t finished tearing down the Cubs. Maybe Wade Miley is just a candidate to flip at next year’s deadline and perhaps Carter Hawkins will be instructed to field offers for Willson Contreras, Ian Happ, and/or Kyle Hendricks.
The front office could choose to strike quickly in the new pool of free agents who will be non-tendered today. Luke Weaver seems like the type of player Hawkins might think needs only a slight adjustment or two to be the top-of-rotation starter most scouts thought he once would be. The same goes for Matthew Boyd, though his flexor tendon injury means he won’t be able to play until at least June. Outfielder Manuel Margot could solve the Cubs’ centerfield and leadoff issues, at least until Brennen Davis is ready.
In yesterday’s Baseball America prospects chat, minor league analyst Kyle Glaser said something very interesting regarding the current state of Chicago’s organization.
“I studied this as part of our rebuilds research project we published in 2018,” Glaser said. “When a team does a tear-it-all-down, trade everybody type of rebuild, it takes a minimum of four years from the time they trade the final pieces away until they become a playoff contender again. Unless MLB expands the playoffs in the new CBA (which it may), the earliest possible year the Cubs will be back in the playoffs is 2025, based on precedent.
“They could still hit that target if they draft well, develop well, make some shrewd trades and sign some key free agents at the right time. But 2025 is the absolute earliest, best-case scenario for them to be playoff contenders again barring postseason expansion.”
That’s a lightbulb moment when you consider Hoyer’s inactivity so far. I don’t really think he grifted or hoodwinked the team’s fanbase because I truly believe he felt players might bite on short-term, high-AAV offers. He hasn’t wavered, which means he and Hawkins will be shopping the discount aisles in February and March, just as they have in every offseason since 2017. Like it or not, that’s the current iteration of The Cubs’ Way, at least until some of the minor league players matriculate through the system.
Cubs News & Notes
- Not surprisingly, Baseball America named Davis as Chicago’s No. 1 prospect (subscription required), but their farm system is still considered weak and in the 20-25 range of 30 franchises.
- The Cubs are not currently engaging in extension talks with Contreras.
- The biggest question of today’s non-tender deadline will be whether the Cubs tender an offer to Happ or not. He was having the worst season of his career before turning things around in the final two months. Through the first 77 games, he hit .183 with a .626 OPS before rebounding to club 16 home runs in the second half.
- Newly-acquired reliever Locke St. John could be a decent addition to Chicago’s bullpen or as a swingman if Alec Mills is traded or permanently moved to the starting rotation.
- The Blue Jays could look at Báez as a replacement for Marcus Semien.
- Báez is said to be close to a deal with the Tigers, though.
- Gordon Wittenmyer was correct when he predicted the Cubs would stand on the sidelines during free agency.
Odds & Sods
Rob Manfred and the league owners would like the players to agree to a 14-team postseason tournament in the next CBA. The caveat is that the division winners who do not receive a first-round bye would get to pick their opponent.
The Phillies could be the top suitor for Castellanos.
The Mets are also interested in Kikuchi and might make a quick strike in the non-tender market.
We are now less than 48 hours away from baseball’s first work stoppage since 1994. For now, the default assumption is that matters will be resolved before the regular season is affected.
As the lockout looms, the only thing falling from the sky is money.
Major League Baseball and the players association stopped blood testing for human growth hormone because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Sliding Into Home
The Rangers are the favorites to grab the first annual Jed Hoyer Winning the Offseason Award, but don’t sleep on the Blue Jays or Tigers. Both are shopping premium infielders.
Top 10 $ committed to free agents so far:
Texas: $561.2 million
New York Mets: $254 million
Toronto: $121 million
Seattle: $115 million
Detroit: $77 million
Houston: $67 million
Miami: $53 million
Los Angeles Angels: $45 million
St. Louis: $44 million
San Francisco: $36 million
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 29, 2021
They Said It
- “I’m not going to tip our hand as far as what we do in free agency. I’ve said repeatedly that we do have financial flexibility. We have money to spend this winter. But I think it’s really important that we do that in an intelligent way.” – Hoyer, at the end of the 2021 season.
Tuesday Walk-Up Song
Stuck in the Middle With You by Stealer’s Wheel – The Cubs still have yet to be attached to a single, legitimate free agent rumor.