The Rundown: Market Sluggish with Winter Meetings One Week Away, Cubs Hire Baseball Scientist, Angels Aiming High in Free Agency
“A pessimist sees the glass as half empty; a Cubs fan wonders when it’s gonna spill.” – Mike Royko
We are now less than a week away from the Winter Meetings, and yes, everyone says the market will remain frozen until Aaron Judge signs. That narrative is part and parcel of the primary falsehood of baseball’s open market. I suppose there could be a run on shortstops if one of Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts, Trea Turner, or Dansby Swanson inks a new deal. Don’t count on it though. If the last decade has taught us anything, it’s that club executives and player agents would rather play chicken than be first to market. How utterly childish.
There is a competitive advantage to being a first mover, but that’s only for teams that wish to maintain customer loyalty. Being that baseball is a regional enterprise, loyalty isn’t all that much of a concern. It’s not like Red Sox fans are going to start rooting for the Yankees just because New York signed Jacob deGrom or Justin Verlander. For example, the White Sox opened up the team checkbook and signed Mike Clevinger yesterday. Is anybody here jumping on the Red Line to 35th and Sheilds?
Remember when the Cubs and their South Side counterparts — or the Yankees and Mets, for that matter — battled for local headlines? That’s no longer the case and it’s bad for free agency. I wouldn’t be surprised if Scott Boras drops a quote from The Paper or something by Charles Foster Kane when he holds court next Tuesday.
“Oh, come on. I dump a big, fat juicy steak in your lap, and you ask for sauce?”
It’s a little more dramatic for Cubs fans. We’re die-hards, for the love of Andy Pafko, and we wrote the book on team loyalty. I’d like to think Tom Ricketts doesn’t use that against us, but the cynic in me won’t allow it. That makes Jed “We Spend Intelligently” Hoyer the perfect foil. The president of baseball operations will wait for the right deal to fall in his lap before committing to years and dollars. I’ll have the side salad and a glass of water, please and thank you. Mr. Ricketts appreciates the frugality.
I do fear that Hoyer and his cohorts are overvaluing the farm system a little too much. There’s nothing wrong with believing in your guys unless it negatively affects the architecture of your roster. Kids offer no guarantees — just ask any parent — and passing on a known entity for one that is wholly untested is almost always pure folly. That’s especially true with pitchers. I believe Hoyer when he says you can never have enough pitching. I’ve also been waiting for him to solve that riddle for three seasons.
As evidence, I present Zach Davies, Jake Arrieta, Trevor Williams, and Daniel Norris. Williams is a self-aware starting pitcher, to say the least.
BLACK FRIDAY FREE AGENT SALE! TODAY ONLY! 2 for 1 Deal: Buy one Trevor Williams the RHP and also get Trevor Williams the LHH Corner Outfielder! (deal expires at midnight EST)
— Trevor Williams (@MeLlamoTrevor) November 25, 2022
I don’t know if it’s realistic to believe the Cubs can attract guys like deGrom, Verlander, or Carlos Rodón. If Koudai Senga signs elsewhere, who will be this year’s version of Davies? At least it won’t be Clevinger.
For Hoyer to convince me he’s serious about winning, he’s going to have to acquire a starter that can beat any team on any given night. Until such an acquisition is announced, color me skeptical.
Cubs News & Notes
- Jim Bowden of The Athletic listed Chicago’s potential trade targets ($), and it includes some interesting players. Bowden named Anthony Santander, Jake McCarthy, Alek Thomas, Oswaldo Cabrera, and Trent Grisham as outfielders that may pique Hoyer’s interest. He also mentioned starting pitchers Tyler Glasnow and Pablo López.
- Bowden’s list of free-agent targets is even longer. He identified Correa, Turner, Bogaerts, Swanson, Josh Bell, Cody Bellinger, Brandon Nimmo, Kevin Kiermaier, and Andrew Benintendi as potential offensive acquisitions. Senga, Chris Bassitt, Jameson Taillon, and Nathan Eovaldi are Hoyer’s alleged pitching targets.
- The Cubs hired a “baseball scientist” last month to help the team’s on-field performance. Mike Sonne developed PitchAI, a single-camera motion capture system that tracks 3D biomechanics for pitchers. Driveline Baseball is among the partners of ProPlayAI, which Sonne co-founded.
- Unfortunately, there isn’t much else to report. It was a weekend holiday for MLB writers and insiders, too. It’s so bad, in fact, that my baseball Twitter feed is nothing but news about Aaron Rodgers.
Apropos of Nothing
The Saturday Rundown was a big hit, at least according to the search engines, so I think I’m going to make it a regular thing. It was ranked fourth among my peers when I went to bed last night. Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune wrote a piece that was third. Thank you to everyone who stopped by to read my post.
Odds & Sods
Defense wins championships. “It beats…as it sweeps…as it cleans.”
Great moments in PR department history… pic.twitter.com/Mdbbqq0ZmH
— OldTimeHardball (@OleTimeHardball) November 20, 2022
Turner is the top prize in a loaded shortstop market, at least according to Mark Feinsand of MLB.com.
Judge is the top bat, but José Abreu is considered by many to be the next-best offensive option.
The Mariners have checked in on Benintendi and Nimmo, although it remains more likely that an outfield addition would come via trade.
The Yankees, Phillies, and Mariners reportedly explored a three-way deadline deal involving Marco Gonzales and Joey Gallo.
Add the Twins to the list of teams that are pursuing Rodón.
After reading this article in The NY Post, I’m convinced Judge will sign during the Winter Meetings. He’ll make a fine addition to the Giants’ roster.
The Angels could shock the baseball world by signing one of the big four shortstops.
Senga has begun meeting with Major League teams as he explores the open market. The 29-year-old is drawing interest from several clubs.
The Dodgers are interested in trading for Brewers infielder Willy Adames.
Here’s Narciso Crook stealing our hearts as he says goodbye. Ignore the “sensitive content” disclaimer. Twitter has been nothing short of a shitshow since it changed hands.
I can’t fit everything I want to say in one tweet, but I’m extremely grateful to the @Cubs for the opportunity they gave me 🙌🏽 and also all the fans that showed up. And I’m very excited to be a party of the @RedSox this upcoming year. Let’s gooo 🤘🏽🤘🏽🤘🏽 pic.twitter.com/PyOAzhYBOJ
— Narciso Crook (@ThatOutfielder) November 24, 2022
Monday Morning Six-Pack
- The Bears almost started Nathan Peterman at quarterback, which would have made David Montgomery his backup. Trevor Siemian did start after a misleading injury report said he would not and the Bears got smacked in Gotham, losing 31-10 to the Jets.
- If you’re looking for a silver lining, Chicago would have the No. 2 pick in the 2023 draft if the season ended today.
- COVID restrictions are starting to cause mass rioting in China. Fueling some frustration is the contrast between the bleak situation in the communist country and the festive World Cup in Qatar. Seeing jubilant, maskless crowds at a normal global event has led some Chinese people to question if they are living on a different planet than the rest of the world.
- Ahead of the team’s Tuesday match against Iran, the US Soccer Federation briefly displayed the Iranian flag on social media without the emblem of the Islamic Republic. It was intentional: The post aimed to show the organization’s “support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights.” Iran state-affiliated media Tasnim wants the U.S. to be suspended from further World Cup play. That should make Tuesday’s match a little more interesting.
- R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck said the band broke up at the right moment in 2011 and explained why he wouldn’t want to go through their level of success again, making a reunion unlikely.
- Merriam-Webster announced that “gaslighting” is the word of the year. It sounds like the M-W panel has spent a little too much time on Twitter in 2022.
They Said It
- “In the future with the Cubs, the goal is to create our own story. We got a big group of people who are going to be impactful players. We all expect World Series plural. I want to bring rings back to the city of Chicago.” – Pete Crow-Armstrong
Monday Walk-Up Song
This is what it must feel like to live in China right now. “Land-locked, kiss the ground, the dirt of seven continents going round and round…”