Jesse Rogers of ESPN really let the air out of the room yesterday. In case you missed it, Rogers suspects that the Cubs won’t be in play for any of the top free-agent shortstops, though he later walked that back a bit (more on that below). It was a dismaying revelation and I’m calling BS. It’s possible that the front office doesn’t want to add a record-breaking contract to the baseball budget, but to punt before free agency officially starts seems like an odd way to conduct business.
“I’m going to be doing some major changes,” Madrigal said in September. “Obviously, my body is out of whack right now. All these injuries popping up. I’ve been talking to some people that are going to help. Anytime I’m out there with the guys, I feel like I’ve got things to prove and want to prove. But I know there’s another side [to] being smart.”
That’s a nice sentiment, but the proof won’t come until spring training and the Cubs can’t depend on anything based on Madrigal’s track record. Perhaps GM Carter Hawkins can sell the Guardians on Madrigal’s promise. Moving Hoerner to second base is the safer play, something David Ross hinted at near the end of the season.
“We’ve got a really good shortstop here,” Ross said at the time. “If something works out where they identify a middle infielder that is of value that they feel fits very well, everybody is on board with that, including myself and Nico. Those are good problems to have. We’ll let the front office kind of pick and choose on that.”
Additionally, new shift limits are changing the way front offices evaluate talent. Every club has a system in place for projecting the impact of the shift on certain hitters and pitchers. Moving Hoerner to the right side strengthens Chicago’s infield defense if Jed Hoyer can sign one of the premium shortstops.
“We have total confidence in Nico’s ability to play shortstop,” Hoyer said after the season. “But, yes, the way the game is trending, athleticism in the middle infield will make a big difference. As long as you’re talking about winning and what can make us great, Nico’s totally on board.”
Hoyer doubled down on Wednesday and offered some insight into Chicago’s minor league middle infield depth.
“I look at the shortstop situation kind of the way you look at the draft, ”the president of baseball operations said, “If you drafted a shortstop every year you’d be in good shape. The best defenders usually play shortstop, the best athletes often play shortstop, and those are guys you can move around.”
Which free-agent shortstop is the best fit for the Cubs? Carlos Correa is probably that guy and he’s also going to be the most expensive. His agent is Scott Boras, who believes the Cubs are ready to open the checkbook to pre-2016 levels. It’s probably more about posturing than anything, but we’ve heard for two months that Chicago is willing to spend, something Tom Ricketts promised, though he can be just as much a blowhard as Boras.
Xander Bogaerts is another option. He’s the poorest defensively of the available shortstops, but he had a bit of a fielding resurgence in 2022. He and Christian Vázquez are best friends and one might follow the other in free agency. Though that’s rarely the case in these situations, their friendship is seriously that tight. Hoyer has experience in these matters thanks to the Ross signing after the Cubs inked Jon Lester in 2014.
Trea Turner wants to play on the East Coast. The 29-year-old is going to make bank this winter so he can be choosy. I don’t know where “signing with a team that intends to spend intelligently” lands on Turner’s list of prerequisites, but it’s probably near the very bottom. It would take a miracle to sign the former Dodger, or, at the very least, wheelbarrows full of money. I don’t think the Cubs have a shot in hell.
Dansby Swanson makes a lot of sense for the Cubs, however. According to Kiley McDaniel of ESPN, Swanson is projected to earn $150 million over six seasons. Getting a premier shortstop for $25 million per season seems like the very definition of intelligent spending. Avoiding eight- or nine-year deals for Correa and Turner seems pretty astute, too. At that price and contract length, the Cubs should be motivated to pursue Swanson. In fact, I’d bet one of Bogaerts or Swanson ends up playing shortstop for the Cubs in 2023.
Cubs News & Notes
- Hoyer and Boras share similar optimism regarding the Cubs’ competitive timeline.
- The Cubs will reportedly act very quickly to sign José Abreu once full free agency opens today.
- Expect a similar full-court press to acquire Koudai Senga.
- Gordon Wittenmyer of NBC Sports Chicago thinks Anthony Rizzo would be a good fit for the White Sox now that they’ve moved on from Abreu.
- Given their payroll flexibility, Hoerner’s versatility, and the overall strength of that group, it would be shocking if the Cubs didn’t seriously engage the agents ($) of this year’s class of shortstops according to Sadahev Sharma of The Athletic.
- The Cubs will be actively seeking a center fielder, at least on a short-term deal, so Brennen Davis can take more time getting healthy and better acclimated to upper-level pitching.
- Hoyer said Matt Mervis has earned his shot to be the Cubs’ regular first baseman.
- It appears that the Tigers, Red Sox, and Astros will be the teams most likely to pursue catcher Willson Contreras if he rejects Chicago’s qualifying offer.
- Of the three, Boston could be the most willing to forego draft compensation and international bonus money to sign the All-Star backstop.
Odds & Sods
2022 PitchingNinja Award for Front Door Two Seamer of the Year. 🏆
Winner: Alex Lange (22 inches of Run) pic.twitter.com/FuUKOVSMyt
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) November 10, 2022
Astros general manager James Click has yet to reach a new deal to return to the World Series champions.
Rizzo will enter free agency saddled with a qualifying offer.
The Giants and Marlins are potential suitors for Rizzo.
Boras believes the Giants will be “very aggressive” spenders this winter.
In fact, San Francisco may strike early in the sweepstakes to acquire Judge.
Boras also talked about the draft and said the timing of the event endangers players’ safety.
According to the New York Post, billionaire businessman John W. Henry is a potential bidder on the NFL’s Washington Commanders. Henry owns the Red Sox and the recently listed-for-sale Liverpool FC.
The White Sox are expected to prioritize trades over free agency so that they can navigate payroll constraints.
ESPN will air the White Sox-Astros game as its Opening Night telecast.
This Year’s Scott Boras Money Quote
“Last year, the thinking team chose Carlos Rodón,” Boras said. “And this year, Rodón has sculpted yet another masterpiece, and I think in the marketplace, his definition of museum-level art is now clearly understood by the teams and he’s looked at as a true No. 1 pitcher at a very young age, and frankly the only one of his kind.”
I don’t usually pin Cubs Insider tweets here but there is a lot to unpack. I’ve mentioned previously that Martín Pérez is a pitcher that would and should be on Chicago’s radar. According to Jon Morosi, the Rangers seem likely to extend a qualifying offer to Pérez. I’d love to see Trey Mancini playing for the Cubs. Rogers also said the Cubs were taking a meeting with reps for Josh Bell and Corey Kluber. The common denominator is that each can be signed to deals of three years or less.
Hot Stove Notes: More Hope on SS Front, Cubs Meeting with More 1B/DH Types, Boras Believes They're Getting 'Back to 2016 Levels' – Cubs Insider https://t.co/M3GCwwXDA5
— Cubs Insider (@realcubsinsider) November 10, 2022
Thursday Morning Six-Pack
- Cole Kmet has suddenly become an offensive weapon, and his emergence coincides nicely with the progress Justin Fields has made over the last four weeks.
- The sequel A Christmas Story Christmas starring Peter Billingsley as the adult version of Ralphie actually looks pretty good. It debuts on HBO Max one week from today.
- Speaking of Christmas, Amazon really needs a profitable holiday shopping season. The retail behemoth earned the dubious distinction of becoming the first public company to lose $1 trillion in market value after its market cap sank to ~$879 billion yesterday, down from a high of almost $1.9 trillion in July 2021.
- Vintage license plates are back in style, but things weren’t always better in the good ol’ days.
- Having a bad day? You can now get some sage advice and an endearing pick-me-up from a kindergartner. Just press three. You can also donate (and you should) to keep the service going.
- Sammy Hagar said a shelved Van Halen track, “Between Us Two,” may appear on a future archival release. The song was originally written for use in the 1996 movie Twister but didn’t make the cut. “Human Beings,” not one of Van Halen’s better songs, did appear in the movie.
They Said It
- “I’ve sort of talked about what I want to build. There’s no reason in the interim we can’t be really good. … I thought we played great toward the end of the season. We’ve talked about that. Yes, there was some good fortune in there, but I think we can definitely compete in the meantime. But we also don’t want to shortchange what we think we can build. That’s the balance.” – Hoyer
- “[Mervis] has earned a lot of runway and playing time going forward. He’s had such a great year at three levels and now the Fall League. He’s a big part of our plans. That said, we’ve talked about depth a lot and it’s important to keep building that depth. So, he’s very much in our plans, but I think we’re also going to be active in exploring alternatives that can play first, that can play DH and I think that’s really important.” – Hoyer
Thursday Walk-Up Song
I still think this is Hagar’s best song.