The Rundown: Free Agency Unfolding Slowly for Cubs, Kilian Perfect in AFL Outing, Quintana Signs With Pirates

“Dead ground” is a term I recently came across while reading the book “Roots, Radicals, and Rockets” by Billy Bragg. It refers to an area that is hidden from the observer due to undulations in the terrain ahead. You can see what is in the distance, but between here and there, things that are in plain sight are obscured by the prominence of nearer objects, drowned in the contours of the landscape. This is also the concept behind sleight of hand, a trick magicians use to hide their tell from their marks.

Free agency works much the same way. You’d think by now the Cubs would be linked to at least a couple of free agents but, unlike his predecessor, Jed Hoyer keeps things much closer to the vest. There have been whispers regarding Jon Gray and Michael Conforto, though the pursuit of either would seem contradictory to Hoyer’s mantra to spend intelligently. Gray overvalues himself, at least so far, and Conforto is a qualified free agent, which comes with penalties assigned to signing such a player.

Jon Heyman has mentioned on more than one occasion that Javier Báez and the Cubs could come to an agreement, which makes a lot more sense. I understand Báez likes the idea of staying in New York with his pal Francisco Lindor, but given the opportunity to come back, my gut tells me the shortstop would love to be the face of Chicago’s quick turnaround into tournament playoff contention. Báez needs to be universally loved to play at his best, and Wrigley Field is probably the closest he can get to that.

It has also been reported that the Cubs were in on Andrew Heaney, who was the first free agent to sign this winter. Heaney inked a one-year $8.5 million deal with the Dodgers before many executives had a chance to check their inboxes. Patrick Mooney of The Athletic reported that he was indeed an early target of Chicago’s front office (subscription required).

It’s doubtful Hoyer and Carter Hawkins are going to be able to buy an elite starter this winter. Justin Verlander looks like he never intended to leave the Astros, even after rejecting their qualifying offer, and it’s unlikely the Cubs will be players for the likes of Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, or Robbie Ray. On the flip side, signing a starter such as Marcus Stroman, Steven Matz, or Kevin Gausman might be considered a coup of sorts.

It’s possible Hoyer is looking into mid-rotation guys like Anthony DeSclafani and Yusei Kikuchi or reclamation starters like Mike Foltynewicz, Dylan Bundy, Corey Kluber, and Danny Duffy. All come with risks and noticeable blemishes, but Hawkins may see something he likes or that is correctable with each of those veterans, particularly Kluber based on their history. All except possibly Kikuchi should be available on one- or two-year deals. If the new GM and the team’s pitching coaches feel they can squeeze a successful season or two out of any of them, it will go a long way toward getting the Cubs back into the “tournament.”

Cubs News & Notes

From the Front Office

“We still need a bunch more innings. That’s something we’ll be really focused on as we go through the rest of this offseason.” – Hoyer

Odds & Sods

If Mike Trout replicated the MVP season that Bryce Harper just had, Trout’s career wRC+ would slightly decrease.

Monday Stove

Catcher Pedro Severino and the Brewers are in agreement on a one-year, $1.9 million contract, pending a physical.

The Pirates have agreed to a one-year deal with free-agent left-hander José Quintana said to be worth $2 million.

Milwaukee is among the potential landing spots for outfielder Nick Castellanos.

The Yankees offered Verlander $25 million before the veteran re-upped with the Astros, per reports.

Gausman is apparently drawing heavy interest from the Blue Jays.

It’s looking more and more like Carlos Correa and the Tigers will be a match this winter. Correa and Detroit manager AJ Hinch were spotted having lunch together on Friday in Houston.

Baez and Kris Bryant are among baseball’s boom-or-bust free-agent candidates.

It’s going to take a ridiculously high package to acquire all-star first baseman Matt Olson of the Athletics.

The Red Sox are reportedly interested in Matz and Ray.

New Mets’ GM Billy Eppler doesn’t expect to be active in the trade market this winter.

Extra Innings

If Hot Stove season is for dreaming about the future, Kilian sure made us all feel just a little warmer on Saturday night.

They Said It

  • “I think that’s the goal, to be there in time and get back to that place we were in ’15, ’16, ’17. But as far as how we construct this team and as we look at free agency, certainly the goal is to construct a team that has a chance to make the playoffs. And that’s what we’re going to do.” – Hoyer
  • “I’ll outlast and be healthier than all the high-velocity guys. Also, once they start fatiguing and their velocity dips…will they be as effective? Doubtful. My game will never rely on velocity for outs. My repertoire is elite and everything moves all over the place!” – Stroman

Monday Walk-Up Song

Copperhead Road by Steve Earle – Just beyond the terrain, immune to nostalgia, and surrounded by a blue haze of uncertainty lies the Cubs’ next great tournament team.

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