Live From DC: Cubs News & Notes – 12/5/16: Winter Meetings, Otani Alert, Will Cubs Be Dealin’ in DC?

I arrived in Washington DC yesterday and headed straight over the the Gaylord National Resort and Conference Center, site of the Baseball Winter Meetings, and it was everything I expected and more. A true baseball cornucopia in epic proportions. I’m attending a conference today, Monday, held by Sports Management Worldwide, which is a company that offers sports conferences and related courses. I’m currently enrolled in the Baseball General Manager and Scouting course, mainly just to hone my baseball scouting and critiquing skills so I can bring you all better analyses.

The obvious upside is that I get to be at the Baseball Winter Meetings and report back to you. Now, while I’d love to be the guy who breaks that big Cubs’ signing, like maybe Aroldis Chapman (?), I don’t think I’m in any position, yet at least, to be breaking any huge deal. Someday. But I will tell you that walking into the lobby of the Gaylord was simply incredible for any baseball fan. Everyone in baseball is here, and I mean everyone, so there’s no need to name drop but, needless to say, the place is packed.

The resort is enormous. I walked all around last night, peeking into conference rooms like a little kid peeking at Christmas presents – no, I NEVER did that – and it was very cool. Now, it’s trying to figure out how to get access to some of the events which will be my next challenge. On the second floor of the resort is where there are several Television network sets assembled, one next to the other, MLB Network – both TV and Radio – and ESPN were there, but it was late so they were empty. I’ll be sure to take and post pictures of everything later today for you guys.

  • The Winter Meetings kicked off last night with an awards banquet for some not-to-oft mentioned awards in the world of baseball, such as the John H. Johnson President’s Award, Minor League Baseball’s top award, which is presented annually to honor the complete baseball franchise based on franchise stability, contributions to league stability, contributions to baseball in the community, and promotion of the baseball industry. This year it was awarded to the Fort Wayne TinCaps. So, I guess that’s officially the first story I’m reporting from DC. Hmm. Not quite breaking news but hey, I’m here!
  •  Today, the meetings really get underway with, you guessed it, lots of meetings. Like I said, I’m in a conference all day and that should be fun and exciting. It’s officially called the Baseball Career Conference and you can read more about it here. The bulk of big ticket free agents on the market are still just that, on the market, and that includes Dexter Fowler, who, with the signing of Jon Jay, is even more likely to sign elsewhere than he was before. I’m expecting that a bunch of deals should get done over the next couple of days. That’s not based on ‘my sources,’ just the fact that things have been so darn quite leading up to the Meetings.
  • There’s news that the Nippon Ham are set to post – that’s how Japanese pro players get released to MLB, read more here –  Japanese baseball star Shohei Otani after this season, which would make him eligible for the 2017/18 season. Bottom line, this kid’s a freak and everyone wants to see him in MLB, preferably with the Cubs, of course. We’ll see about the latter but in order to get here there may be some hoops to jump through. The biggest being the restrictions the new CBA Agreement just placed on international free agents. Under the new agreement, if a player is under 25 and has not played at least six years in a top league they would be subject to the more strict international bonus pool system – that means they’d get paid way less. There’s a good read on the subject at MLBTR, but the prevailing thought is that, since, for the 2017 MLB season, Otani will only be 23 and have played five years in the Japan NPB, there will likely be an exception made to get him onto an MLB team.

  • The question around whether the Cubs will be dealing this Winter or not still remains. Their biggest need remains the bullpen and, as we’ve said in the past, that can all be washed away by signing Aroldis Chapman. Of course, that’s a matter of how much the Cubs are willing to spend compared to how much they’ll have to spend to keep him. But here’s a guy who is, arguably, one of the top 2 or 3 closers in the game, who just got a ton of postseason experience in which he was leaned on heavily to lead the Cubs to the World Championship, and now can be signed to a multi-year deal. I’m not saying to spend carelessly, but with the new CBA only just barely raising the luxury salary tax threshold from $189 million to $195 million, it’s fair to think that there’s no team that will pay Chapman the rumored $100 million that his camp was seeking. If that number comes down to, say, $80-85 million, I sure hope that Theo gives it a long, hard look.
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