As a Cubs fan, I have no interest in Matt Chapman or Cody Bellinger. I love what Bellinger did this season, but I’ll use Jason Heyward as a cautionary tale. A fat Bellinger contract could be something Jed Hoyer regrets as that sucker ages. His hard-hit rate is too low and his BABIP is high enough that the combination scares me. Bellinger’s next contract could exceed the $184 million Theo Epstein gave Heyward in 2016.
I lumped Chapman in with Bellinger because the two would fill Chicago’s needs at the corners, especially if Pete Crow-Armstrong is ready to be a full-time center fielder. The Cubs would be a better team in the short term with both players, but I believe each would regress rapidly, and there’s no turning back once they enter their diminishing-returns phase. That would be fine if Hoyer is aiming for a shortened championship window, but is it his best option?
The better course of action might be to trade for Juan Soto and Tyler Glasnow, then acquire one of Rhys Hoskins or Pete Alonso. Those are all one-year options that will put a dent in the payroll and cost some prospects, but would still allow Hoyer to pursue Shohei Ohtani. Though the Cubs would eclipse the luxury tax threshold in that scenario, it would only be for one year and Hoyer wouldn’t be hamstrung for the rest of this decade. The only downside as I see it is finding at-bats for everybody.
- Ohtani would DH this year and replace Glasnow in the rotation in 2025. Glasnow would presumably depart next winter, leaving Hoyer with an extra draft pick the following year.
- Alonso or Hoskins would buy another year for Matt Mervis or at least lessen the burden of being forced to produce immediately.
- Soto could buy Crow-Armstrong an extra year of development and net an extra draft pick, too. Ian Happ should have no problem moving to center for a season.
- Hoyer can feasibly force the trade market to go through Chicago, which means parting with premium prospects may not be necessary. Players the Cubs could/should make available include Alexander Canario, Brennen Davis, Cristian Hernández, James Triantos, Moises Ballesteros, Jordan Wicks, Caleb Kilian, Kohl Franklin, Porter Hodge, Haydn McGeary, and Jefferson Rojas.
Craig Counsell stressed during his Monday presser that development has to continue at the major league level. Mervis and Crow-Armstrong, and possibly Ben Brown and/or Cade Horton, should be the poster children for that rationale. Matt Shaw, Jackson Ferris, and Kevin Alcántara might be candidates the following year, provided none are traded.
Hoyer enters the offseason with an unexpected bonus in the form of Nick Madrigal. If the front office can load up on offense via trades in what is a historical low for decent free-agent hitters, he can run Madrigal at third base all season. On the flip side, Madrigal might be more valuable in trade this winter than he ever will again. Hoyer should find a robust market if he decides to field offers for the multi-positional infielder, praise be to positional scarcity and high demand.
I don’t foresee a Bellinger return because it limits Hoyer’s future flexibility, and that same logic applies to signing Chapman. Upper management has expressed a willingness to spend, but nobody thinks the front office is going to hand out gigantic contracts just because they can. Hoyer doesn’t operate that way, which is why Tom Ricketts trusts him.
Free-agent starting pitching is going to be very expensive this winter and there isn’t much offense beyond Ohtani and Bellinger. No buyer is better positioned to take advantage than Hoyer in a trade market that favors sellers. That’s the benefit of being a big market team with a top-five farm system. The president of baseball operations might find it’s better to trade for impact players on expiring contracts while chasing Ohtani and a few bullpen additions rather than to sign a couple of corners to long, unfavorable deals.
I also wouldn’t mind seeing Hoyer retain Jeimer Candelario, just not for anything longer than two seasons. Candelario will probably have a handful of three-year offers, and I hope Hoyer has the willpower to walk away if that’s the case.
Cubs News & Notes
- Bellinger’s odds of returning to the Cubs have increased, though it’s nowhere close to a guarantee.
- Bellinger declined his qualifying offer, as expected.
- Ohtani “might be open to a short-term deal” with a massive AAV, which could help Hoyer.
- Jeff Passan indicated in a sprawling hot stove speculative piece that Ohtani, Soto, and Yoshinobu Yamamoto are all connected to the North Siders. Cubs Insider EIC Evan Altman provided an abridged analysis.
- Here’s the link to Passan’s full article ($), where he mentioned Ohtani might prefer to sign sooner rather than later.
- Glasnow could have a new employer relatively soon.
- Baseball Prospectus dropped its top 10 Cubs prospects for 2024, with Crow-Armstrong, Shaw, Horton, and Owen Caissie topping the list.
- Triantos was named to the All-Arizona Fall League team.
- The Cubs added three pitchers to their 40-man roster on Tuesday: Hodge, Bailey Horn, and Michael Arias.
- Craig Breslow isn’t allowed to take any Cubs front office personnel to Boston for one year. Chicago’s pitching infrastructure will therefore remain intact for the time being.
- Pat Murphy was named the new Brewers manager, so he won’t serve as Counsell’s bench coach in Chicago.
- Counsell has a lot of work ahead with the team’s current roster. He admitted that he has yet to spend much time talking to current players or staffers.
- Counsell is also excited about the pressure that comes with managing in Chicago.
- Former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillén said Counsell is not an upgrade over David Ross.
- The new Cubs skipper finished second in the voting for NL Manager of the Year.
Odds & Sods
Eye-opening stuff from BA.
Leaving a player unprotected is a clear sign that a team would not repeat that decision if given a do-over.
Here are the 3⃣ first-round picks that were left unprotected for the upcoming Rule 5 Draft ⬇️https://t.co/6vEs6EFtMR
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) November 15, 2023
- Milwaukee: The Brewers are expected to go into fire sale mode, so Jim Bowden of The Athletic gamed five trade scenarios ($) for starter Corbin Burnes. The Cubs are not listed, but I believe Milwaukee would be better off holding its stars until the trade deadline and then taking the best deal no matter the trade partner.
- Cincinnati: Infielder Jonathan India is officially on the block and the Red Sox are a potential suitor.
- Pittsburgh: Starter Johan Oviedo is being evaluated for an elbow injury and may need Tommy John surgery.
- St. Louis: The Cardinals are closer to a teardown/rebuild than they are to competing, but the team expects to be very active during the winter.
Seven players were tendered a qualifying offer (a one-year, $20.325 million deal for 2024) this offseason, but none accepted.
The Padres are now the only team without a manager, though they are expected to announce a new hire before Thanksgiving.
Giancarlo Stanton has dealt with numerous injuries in his career with the Yankees, and Brian Cashman said “That’s part of his game.” Ouch. Stanton’s agent immediately criticized Cashman and the entire organization.
Padres owner Pete Seidler passed away yesterday. He was 63 years old.
A’s owner John Fisher met with protestors ahead of the league owners’ vote to approve the team’s relocation to Las Vegas.
A small but devoted fan base sent gift boxes to 15 MLB owners in an attempt to swing their votes against relocation. Money, and lots of it, would have been a better option.
Coincidentally, or not, the league is hosting its inaugural all-MLB event in Vegas this weekend.
I’d love to see the Cubs add Yamamoto, but I think he’ll be too expensive. The upper tier of the pitching market is going to be very competitive. Chad Jennings of The Athletic believes the Japanese star will get a seven-year deal ($) worth $203 million.
Working on a video about Yoshinobu Yamamoto.
Really enjoy this replay angle from NPB. It shows the horizontal movement of his ball beautifully.
Below is a cutter down-in ➡️back-door four-seam ➡️ up-in four-seam. pic.twitter.com/Z8rbcVFt7O
— Lance Brozdowski (@LanceBroz) November 13, 2023
They Said It
- “Player development does not stop when it gets to the big leagues.” – Counsell
- “Counsell’s got the feel of a manager, but he can also think along with a front office. He understands the analytics and that’s a real strength. His experiences there molded that. You can’t win like that in a small market without relying on young players.” – Hoyer
Wednesday Walk-Up Song
This 1985 classic by Talking Heads is too often forgotten or ignored.