A frustrating winter continues for Cubs fans, and those clinging to hope that Jed Hoyer will be overly active in the next few weeks — just as I do — are becoming skeptical. Four of the top 10 free agents remain unsigned with pitchers and catchers set to report in about three weeks. If you’re hoping for a trade or two there aren’t many rumors to be found.
Scott Boras represents the four players at the top of the market, and one obstacle he’s fighting to overcome is limited interest in each of those free agents. Logic and lack of substantial intel indicate that the markets for Cody Bellinger, Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery, and Matt Chapman are probably down to one team apiece.
- Bellinger – Cubs
- Snell – Yankees
- Montgomery – Rangers
- Chapman – Blue Jays
The front offices of those teams are positioned nicely to hold firm to their offers as Josh Hader, who signed a five-year, $95 million deal with the Astros, provides some clarity for fans who continue to sit on pins and needles. Hader was seeking a deal north of $100 million that never materialized. Bellinger is said to be looking for $200 million. The Blue Jays offered Chapman a four- or five-year extension that reportedly exceeded $100 million but fell short of the $150 million he is seeking. Snell wants $30 million per season but his offer from the Yankees is closer to $25 million. The Rangers are waiting to see how much a failed television rights deal with Diamond Sports will affect their bottom line.
Rhys Hoskins is another Boras client, but he will probably have to accept a pillow contract. While Hoskins could end up with the Cubs or Mariners, he is more likely to sign with an unexpected team, such as the Rays, Red Sox, or Twins.
Even with an inevitable thaw, Boras may have trouble finding additional teams to compete for those upper-tier players’ services. The Giants’ aren’t acting out of desperation and the Dodgers are
thankfully nearly done spending, with reports indicating they’re close to signing James Paxton. That would means they may have likely given up on their pursuit of Dylan Cease.
Peripheral free agents — and I can’t believe I am including Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in this group — remain in holding patterns, too. Kershaw will probably retire but Greinke could end up with the Cardinals, who have financial issues of their own plus a propensity to sign past-their-prime players but want to add at least one more starter. The best players outside the Boras group include Joc Pederson, Jorge Soler, Michael A. Taylor, Amed Rosario, Tim Anderson, Héctor Neris, Michael Lorenzen, Jakob Junis, Carlos Carrasco, and Hyun-Jin Ryu.
Most experts still believe Bellinger will sign with the Cubs once Boras lowers his asking price. I’d say we are inching closer to blue-light bargain territory if his top clients remain unsigned come February 1. That said, Hoyer may opt to run with Pete Crow-Armstrong, Christopher Morel, and newly acquired infielder Michael Busch to recover the offense he’ll lose if Bellinger’s price doesn’t come down. Don’t forget, Hoyer would also acquire an additional draft choice if the center fielder signs elsewhere.
That said, Houston GM Dana Brown did Boras an unexpected solid after signing Hader, who is repped by CAA. The Astros executive told team beat reporter Brian McTaggart, “If we could somehow get a left-handed bat, preferably an outfielder with some speed, that type of package we’ll pounce on it.”
Cubs News & Notes
- Chicago’s farm system continues to receive adulation from baseball’s top analysts.
- Busch sounds like he has a solid future as a DH to me.
- The rookie’s role on the ’24 Cubs has been a hot topic since he was acquired from the Dodgers.
- Hoyer can’t help himself from bargain-hunting while finalizing his bullpen.
- The Cubs are one of six teams interested in signing reliever Ryan Brasier according to insider John Heyman.
- The Cubs intend to help Shōta Imagana with his transition to MLB, both on the field and off.
- Kyle Hendricks is fully healthy, has added “dad strength” to his offseason regimen, and expects to have a stellar 2024 season.
- Ben Zobrist explained what made the 2016 Cubs so special on the latest Cubs Weekly Podcast.
- Jason Heyward called the 2016 season “the gift that keeps on giving.”
- Dansby Swanson and his wife Mallory have something to celebrate this week. Mrs. Swanson is the first USWNT player to have a four-year deal with a fifth-year option.
Odds & Sods
Nobody games the game better than the Dodgers.
— Howard Cole (@Howard_Cole) January 20, 2024
- Milwaukee: The Brewers are among the teams listed as a potential fit for Hoskins.
- Cincinnati: Infielder Alex Blandino, a former first-round pick by the Reds, is attempting a comeback as a knuckleball pitcher.
- Pittsburgh: The Pirates signed closer Aroldis Chapman and announced their intention to contend for the NL Central title this season.
- St. Louis: Matt Carpenter will be the 26th man on the Cardinals’ 2024 roster and the team’s fans are pretty pissed off about that.
Boras isn’t the only reason for the lack of movement this winter. A meager free-agent class combined with quality trade candidates and the Diamond Sports fiasco are contributing to the stagnation.
Apropos of Nothing
What’s that, you say? Are you looking for a more fulfilling employment opportunity? Do you want to do something that will change lives for the better? Would you be interested in a C-level position that offers the perks of free pizza AND beer? I’ve got you covered.
Earlier today, Ryne Sandberg announced he is beginning treatment for metastatic prostate cancer. pic.twitter.com/F1ChNJod5z
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) January 22, 2024
Tuesday Morning Six-Pack
- The Bears announced that Shane Waldron is replacing Luke Getsy as the team’s offensive coordinator.
- Waldron’s hiring adds more speculation to the future of quarterback Justin Fields, but perhaps it’s a good time to start separating fact from fiction.
- Joel Embiid scored 70 points against the Spurs last night, passing Wilt Chamberlain for the most points scored by a Sixers player in a game in franchise history. By the way, I did not know until this morning that Chamberlain was a player-coach of the ABA’s San Diego Conquistadors in 1973-74.
- Fun fact: Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” from the movie Armageddon was nominated for both a Razzie (Worst Original Song) and an Oscar (Best Original Song). The 2023 Academy Award nominations will be released today.
- Donald Trump could all but seal the Republican nomination by defeating Nikki Haley in today’s New Hampshire presidential primary.
- Joe Biden is completely skipping today’s primary. He had a very poor showing in New Hampshire back in 2020, but it’s a risky move nonetheless.
They Said It
- “When I hit the ball, I knew I hit it solid and at that angle. I didn’t get a lot of hits on that side of the field left-handed. I knew if he was there and could backhand it, it was a double play because I hit it too hard for me to beat it out. But thankfully I saw the diving, outstretched glove and it zipped past him. I think I just blanked out. Everything right there was just muscle memory until the time I got to second base and then [realized] what happened, it was just an incredible moment. Looking over at Anthony Rizzo, looking at the bench, it was just the most adrenaline I could have probably ever had.” – Zobrist
- “I am by no means a finished product, there’s a lot for me to learn, and there’s a lot for me to study day in and day out. I believe that my approach in that way somehow earned me the [Throwing Pbhilosopher] nickname.” – Imanaga
- “Our expectation is [Busch will be] on the Opening Day roster. I think there’s an opportunity at first base — that’s kinda the easy plug-and-play. He’s got really good reviews defensively over there from our scouts who have seen him. But he can play second, he can play third. We have [Nico Hoerner], so it’s unlikely that he’ll play over there as much. Third, I think there’s an opportunity over there. That’s probably the spot that he has to work on the most, but it’s a spot that we’d be open to him playing. We [want to] get his bat in the lineup and we’ll figure out any way we can do that.” – Carter Hawkins
- “We’ll have a lot of conversations with [Bellinger]. It’s going to be a process. It’s going to play out for a while. I think the world of Cody, and we’re certainly going to be in communication.” – Hoyer
Tuesday Walk-Up Song
This is a very underrated song from a band that too few have heard of.