Am I required to rip Jed Hoyer when I’d rather move on than celebrate the 14 years Willson Contreras spent with the Cubs? I apologize, but I’m going to be whatever is the opposite of the life of the party for a moment or two. Few will agree with me, but frankly speaking, I’m glad nearly all remnants of the 2016 team are gone. Kyle Hendricks and David Ross are still with the Cubs, but that’s it.
The fact of the matter is that 2016 was one of the best years of my life and Chicago’s stunning World Series win over Cleveland is a big reason why. It was also the year I was hired by my current employer and, though I didn’t know it at the time, my last year with Sue. I’ve ridden the coattails of that year for long enough and I sure wish Cubs fans would feel the same way, too.
Yes, 2016 was a historic season for Chicago’s North Side baseballers. The Cubs won 103 games, the best in all of baseball, and every game at Wrigley Field was electric. But that team peaked a little too early and fell from grace a little too soon. In the wake of their loss to the Dodgers in the 2017 NLCS, the Cubs looked gassed and appeared to be uninterested in meeting expectations. Watching Cubs baseball from 2018-20 meant enduring way too many excruciating losses at critical times.
Contreras was a good player on a handful of underachieving rosters. The same could be said of Hendricks, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Báez. If you’re brave enough to remove your blinders and champagne-stained sunglasses, you’ll see that where the Cubs are today was always inevitable. Sure, that sounds a little too Thanos-y for most, so color me the big blue antagonist.
I don’t blame the players. The pipeline of incoming talent was shut down, Chicago drafted poorly, couldn’t develop pitchers, and refused to trade any of their stars before it was nearly too late. Further, Tom Ricketts took away the dowry he had originally bestowed upon Chicago’s front office. If you don’t feed the wolf, he starves to death.
It must have taken a midnight visit to Ricketts from the Ghost of Christmas Future to open up that Cubby-blue checkbook this winter, but the jury remains out. Between Cody Bellinger and Jameson Taillon, Hoyer has spent a grand total of $85.5 million. I know the front office anticipates adding a catcher, first baseman, and a prized shortstop, but none of that has happened yet.
However, Hoyer deserves a crap-ton of credit for making the tough decisions nobody else would. He knew this day was coming when he took over for Theo Epstein, and it was as inevitable as death and taxes, as the saying goes. The rebuild, or whatever it is defined as by the organization, might have gone off the rails if Hoyer appeased Cubs fans rather than follow his instincts.
I’m not upset that Contreras was added to the dirty laundry basket, and I wish him the best of luck in St. Louis. It was never about money, but a change in philosophy did make the All-Star catcher a little too expensive. The Cardinals are paying Contreras $2 million more than Hoyer spent on Bellinger and Taillon combined. I’m fine with that trade in large part because I see the same type of regression ahead for Contreras that his former teammates have experienced away from Chicago.
Saying goodbye to a fan favorite is always tough, but I applaud the move. Actually, let me rescind my apology. I see great things ahead for this franchise without the former core weighing it down with tales of past glory. It’s time to stop clinging to 2016, and I promise it’s okay to finally let go. Let Ian Happ, Nico Hoerner, and a shortstop to be named later serve as the new faces of this franchise.
Cubs News and Notes
- The Cubs will receive a compensation pick (No. 85 overall as of today) after Competitive Balance Round B for losing Contreras. St. Louis will forfeit its second-round pick and $500,000 from its international bonus pool.
- Hoyer deserves credit for his strong start to the offseason, but the president of baseball operations said there’s still a lot of work to do.
- The Cubs remain very much in the mix for Carlos Correa or Dansby Swanson according to multiple sources and are one of several teams with offers on the table for Correa.
- Gordon Wittenmyer of NBC Sports Chicago said Taillon’s deal means the Cubs are a near lock to sign one of Correa or Swanson.
- The Cubs specifically targeted Taillon in free agency and Hoyer was very happy the two sides were able to agree on a contract.
- GM Carter Hawkins believes the best may be yet to come for the 31-year-old righty who has already undergone two Tommy John surgeries and a bout with cancer in his career.
- Hawkins also said the Cubs targeted Bellinger to bring a little more balance to their lineup.
- The Giants, Blue Jays, and Dodgers were in the mix right up until the very end to sign Bellinger.
- Hoyer revealed that he has signed two of his top targets. It remains to be seen if Swanson or Correa is on that list, too.
- Sadahev Sharma of The Athletic said the price for Chris Bassitt or Nathan Eovaldi wasn’t going to make sense to Hoyer if it meant giving up a draft pick ($) along with the steep increase in cost to acquire middle-tier starters.
- Seiya Suzuki has officially committed to play for Japan in the World Baseball Classic.
- Radio play-by-play announcer Pat Hughes was selected as the 2023 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award Wednesday morning, an accolade handed out to a broadcaster each year by the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
- The Cubs lost RHP Chris Clarke to the Mariners in the major league portion of the Rule 5 Draft. Chicago acquired LHP José Aquino from the Mariners in the first round of the minor league phase. The Cubs selected Nick Burdi from the Padres in Round 2 and OF Jefferson Encarnacion (Phillies) in Round 3. Burdi is a former second-round draft choice.
- The Astros grabbed LHPs Bryan King and Luis Rodríguez from the Cubs in the minor league draft.
Odds and Sods
My name is Michael Canter, and I fully endorse this statement.
Swanson’s suitors appear to be down to the Cubs and the Red Sox. The Twins are also a consideration.
If Correa is truly on Chicago’s radar, it’s going to mean venturing into uncomfortable territory for Hoyer and a lot of the team’s fans.
God Bless Pat Hughes!
Thursday Morning Six Pack
- Wishing a happy birthday to Tom Waits, one of my all-time favorite recording artists.
- The Winter Meetings are over, and frankly, I’m happy to take a break from the MLB Network. I did, however, enjoy repeat viewings of Geico’s “We’ve Got Aunts” commercial. “Expired! Expired! Expired!”
- Michael Rubin’s sports platform company Fanatics has raised $700 million in fresh capital, pushing its value to $31 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.
- Google’s most popular search for 2022 is Wordle.
- The New York Knicks are now 50 years removed from their last championship. Those iconic teams were led by the likes of Willis Reed, Bill Bradley, and Walt Frazier.
- Feeling apocalyptic? A free online game will let you take out your frustrations by hurling an asteroid at any city you like. It’s a harmless and fun way to punish St. Louis for signing Contreras. You’ll have to adjust the map in the lower right corner to move west, but it’s worth the effort.
They Said It
- “We still have a lot more work to do. The offseason is far from over. But for me, it’s always really important to sign guys that you target. Sometimes in free agency, you miss on your targets, and you have to kind of move down the list. Those are two guys that we targeted from the beginning. Obviously, Cody, once he was non-tendered [by the Dodgers], it felt like a great fit for us both in handedness and positionally. And obviously Jameson, we targeted.” – Hoyer
- “[Willson] was a Cub for a long time. We won a World Series with him. I admire just his toughness and resilience behind the plate. He played hurt a lot. He always came to the ballpark wanting to play. Obviously, he signed with the Cardinals, but I wish him happiness. He gave us a lot of happiness and I wish him the same.” – Hoyer
Thursday Walk-Up Song
Contreras is really a Cardinal. Stick to the roads, stay clear of the moors, and beware the full moon.