In a winter filled with bigger deals than expected, the Padres shocked everyone by blowing the market up with an 11-year, $280 million deal for Xander Bogaerts. I was going to make a joke about the military town encouraging them to spend like drunken sailors on shore leave, but no amount of hookers, booze, and tattoos would tally $1 billion. That’s about how much San Diego now has tied up in shortstops alone between Fernando Tatis Jr. ($340M), Manny Machado ($300M), Bogaerts ($280M), and Ha-Seong Kim ($28M).
The Cubs, on the other hand, haven’t even extended Nico Hoerner.
While other contracts have exceeded projections by a fair margin, the massive deal for Bogaerts is at least 50% larger than most believed he’d land. Maybe projections had gotten to seven years, $210 million after seeing where other deals were going, but this completely resets the bar. Or perhaps it’s so wildly out of line that the rest of the league treats it as an aberration.
This really feels like a case where the Padres, after losing out on Trea Turner and Aaron Judge despite offering more money, simply decided they weren’t going to be outbid. Must be nice. Their estimated luxury tax payroll currently stands at around $255 million — $22 million over the first penalty level — and their future obligations don’t dip below $131 million until 2028. The Cubs are at $176.5 million this year and then drop to around $82 million next year.
We can debate the wisdom of this kind of deal for a player entering his age-30 season, but the fact of the matter is that you can’t have “intelligent spending” without spending. The Cubs have added Cody Bellinger on a one-year deal at $17.5 million that looks great for several reasons, the biggest of which is that there’s no such thing as a bad one-year deal. They then stretched a little to meet the market for Jameson Taillon at $68 million over four years.
That one still looks nice even if it fell a million bucks short of the threshold for such things because it gives the Cubs a starter who should be a workhorse by modern standards. What isn’t very nice, however, is the way the organization has backed itself into a corner when it comes to the rest of the offseason. There are only two big shortstops remaining and the Cubs need to add one of them to a lineup in need of serious upgrades.
The only problem there is that Carlos Correa may now be able to command a stratospheric salary and Dansby Swanson isn’t the kind of impact bat who can elevate the roster all on his own. Don’t get me wrong, Swanson is a fine player who would make the Cubs better if he signs. But even adding Correa wouldn’t improve the offense enough, so going with Swanson would put even more pressure on the front office to make upgrades at other spots.
What’s more, that Bogaerts deal may have the former Brave seeking a massive increase over what the industry believed would an ask roughly half that of Correa and Turner. The speed and degree to which the market has shifted is something I don’t think anyone was prepared for, but Jed Hoyer can’t afford to sit there feeling as gobsmacked as the rest of us while other teams snatch up all the best players. What the Cubs can afford are deals that make ownership squirm a little while writing payroll checks.
That means getting Swanson and then some combination of JD Martinez, Justin Turner, Christian Vazquez, a trade for Sean Murphy or a Blue Jays catcher, and then some. Like it or not, the Cubs don’t have much choice other than to go big right now. Sure, they could opt to wash their hands of this league-wide spending spree and craft yet another round of excuses. But with sagging Marquee ratings, depressed ticket sales, and Cubs Convention around the corner, any money saved through a conservative winter is just going to be lost to shrinking revenue streams.
Hoyer and Tom Ricketts can’t just shrug their shoulders and mansplain to fans about how unforeseen developments kept them from following through on their plans. If the San Diego Fucking Padres can do it, so can the Cubs. They need to either get it done or understand that they’ll have nowhere to hide from what would be an egregious failure.