There are two shortstops left in free agency and from my vantage point, three teams have a realistic chance of acquiring either. Carlos Correa and Dansby Swanson represent the ceiling and floor entries in this year’s season of shortstop shopping. Either would make any team they sign with immediately better. The Cubs, Giants, and Twins are the key players, and though other teams have been mentioned, such as the Braves, Cardinals, Red Sox, Angels, Mets, Dodgers, and Yankees, none seem to have a legitimate shot or need. In fact, Atlanta seems like they are no longer interested in Swanson at all.
I almost want to rule the Twins out, too. They’ve made several offers to Correa and he has yet to accept any of them. I don’t think they want a shortstop per se, just that they’d love to retain a guy they paid $35 million and change in 2022. It’s Correa or bust, mostly because they could move the veteran to third base when top prospects Brooks Lee and Royce Lewis are ready for the majors.
That leaves the Giants and Cubs as the likeliest suitors for Correa and Swanson, and it’s kind of a game of chicken at this point. Swanson probably wants to wait until Correa signs, but he needs a third team to create any leverage if he holds off. Correa is going to be a lot more expensive and could be this winter’s second-highest-paid free agent, just behind Aaron Judge but above Trea Turner. If he’s left with one suitor, he’ll need another mystery team, too.
It’s somewhat interesting to note that Jed Hoyer and San Francisco president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi have similar operating styles. Zaidi is a little more aggressive than Hoyer, but both tend to let the market come to them. There is nothing sexy about either franchise’s front office, and both gentlemen are masters of buzzless, short-term acquisitions. Zaidi strikes gold more often than Hoyer, but neither will ever be accused of overcommitting to or overpaying a player.
Until another team legitimately steps up, that leaves the two players in a bit of a holding pattern. Correa has an ace or two in the hole, however, and those hole cards are Tom Ricketts and Crane Kenney. It seems Hoyer’s bosses are looking to deflect any blame for an uneventful winter to the front office. Scott Boras, who represents Correa, may have met with Ricketts directly, and statements the super agent has made are at least circumstantial evidence of that fact.
“I think it’s identifiable now, where before they were moving veteran players, now their agenda is certainly to acquire them and to build something that they think brings them back to 2016 levels,” Boras told reporters last week. “I think the Tom-Tom drum is finally beating again.”
He didn’t get that notion from Hoyer, trust me, and Boras is no stranger to going directly to ownership to facilitate a deal. Ricketts has always said his top baseball executive is in charge of building the roster, but that may not be the case when it comes to Correa and/or Carlos Rodon. Swanson is the cheaper option, but Correa isn’t carrying a qualified offer. It’s not crazy to think that Boras is pushing his top two remaining clients on the Ricketts family, whether Hoyer agrees with that type of spending or not.
Hoyer, as you may know, favors short-term deals with higher AAVs. That strategy runs counter-clockwise to how this winter has played out so far. Xander Bogaerts got $280 million because the Padres stretched it out over 11 seasons. Correa is probably looking at 12/$375 million. Hoyer’s not going to get him for 6/$225. That might represent intelligent spending, but it’s a low-percentage strategy that flies in the face of current economic headwinds.
Cubs News & Notes
- Hoyer and GM Carter Hawkins had a “particular focus” on Swanson at the close of this year’s Winter Meetings.
- This year’s meetings were more exciting for the Cubs than usual, but the front office knows plenty of work remains. On the wish list: pitching depth (both starting and bullpen), catcher depth, and one of the premier shortstops.
- Swanson’s market could explode if several teams remain interested in him. The Cardinals could remain “interested” just to drive up any potential acquisition cost for the Cubs.
- Whatever internal projections their Ivy computer system made for Swanson and Correa the baseball operations group will have to readjust and react to those market forces ($) according to Patrick Mooney of The Athletic.
- It doesn’t make sense for Hoyer to punt on free agency this year in order to save money to pursue Shohei Ohtani or Manny Machado (if he opts out) next season.
- The president of baseball operations is prioritizing a catcher to replace Willson Contreras, is also interested in Trey Mancini, and remains in the hunt for Koudai Senga.
- The market for Correa is heating up.
- The Cubs signed LHP Eric Stout to a minor league contract.
- Jason Heyward and the Dodgers reached an agreement on a minor league deal with an invitation to big league camp.
- The Cubs are expected to sign shortstop Derniche Valdez in international free agency. Valdez is ranked as the No. 6 international prospect.
Odds & Sods
MLB teams spent well over $2 billion at this year’s Winter Meetings.
The Yankees are reportedly working on something big even after signing Judge. Most reports link to Correa, but Rodón is a better fit.
The Padres were hoping to sign Judge, but MLB might have had to veto an alleged offer because it may have been a way of circumventing the salary cap.
The lack of trades at this year’s gathering of executives and player agents was surprising, and MLB did a piss-poor job of promoting its inaugural Draft Lottery.
Rodón is said to be looking for a seven-year deal.
The Angels pursued Contreras before he signed with the Cardinals.
Los Angeles General manager Perry Minasian recently told members of the media that the club could push to pay the competitive balance tax in 2023 with no ownership mandate against it.
The Padres are winning the offseason again (so far), but that’s a hollow refrain minus any championships.
Giants outfielder Austin Slater says that Major League Baseball actively discouraged him from sending baseballs for testing to see if the league was still using balls of different weights. The warning included a reminder that MLB could fire anyone who was found giving out baseballs to nonaffiliated organizations, Slater said.
Apropos of Nothing
I’ve already had my fill of the Contreras deification. He plays for the Cardinals now and is therefore the enemy. I don’t wish him any success, and I’m frankly not wired that way. He got the money he greatly deserved but I hope he’s a bust and hurts his new team’s playoff chances. Sorry, not sorry.
If the Cubs acquire Sean Murphy they may want to consider bringing back Ladies’ Day on Friday afternoon home games.
Saturday Morning Six-Pack
- The Bears are on a bye week, so I took a bye week, too. I’ll be back at Bears Insider starting later today.
- Soccer journalist Grant Wahl, 48, died after collapsing while he was covering the Argentina–Netherlands match. One of the most prominent American soccer reporters, Wahl was instrumental in bringing the sport to US audiences and was a vocal promoter of the women’s game.
- Do you ever wonder which toy was the most popular holiday gift the year you were born? The Red Ryder BB Gun achieved top toy status in 1940, in case you’re wondering.
- If you’re willing to mix Pepsi with your milk you could earn a cool $1,000 from the soft drink behemoth. The combination is referred to as “dirty soda” or “Pilk.” Some of the recipes actually look a lot more appetizing than you might think.
- Church attendance has dropped precipitously nationwide.
- Nobody knows how difficult it was to follow “Frampton Comes Alive” better than Peter Frampton himself.
They Said It
- “[Taillon] is a guy we’ve had our eye on for a long time. He’s a really good starting pitcher; he has been really consistent. He has continued to get better as he’s gotten healthier in his career. He showed the promise he had as the 2nd pick in the Draft. Really good mix, good command, and fantastic makeup.” – Hoyer
- “Listen, I wish [Contreras] the best. I admire how much he fought through his early struggles and obviously, starting in 2015, he really came on. 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
- “It’s part of the game. Six years ago, Dexter Fowler signed a similar deal to go [to St. Louis] after we won a World Series. There are only 29 other teams people can sign with. This is going to happen from time to time. It doesn’t take away from what he did [here].” – Hoyer
Saturday Walk-Up Song
It’s a fine day to re-watch “Tin Cup.”