A man who has found success with a particular tactic is likely to return to it, though I don’t know whether the man in this case is Bob Nightengale or a member of the Cubs organization. Perhaps it’s both. The USA Today scribe whose reporting accuracy is far from unimpeachable recently quoted an anonymous GM as guaranteeing the Cubs were going to land one of the top three shortstops in the upcoming free agent class.
That would be Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, and Xander Bogaerts, the latter two of whom are expected to exercise opt-outs. Huh, this rumor sounds an awful lot like the one from last that said the Cubs were considered a player in the market for elite shortstops. Then there were the persistent ties to Correa, which I don’t necessarily believe were outright false as much as they were a matter of style over substance.
I get it from Nightengale’s perspective because we’re in the same business when it comes to driving traffic. But as far as the specific topic here, it sure feels like the Cubs are trying to find any way they can to drum up interest in a product that hasn’t been selling quite so well. Consider that Sunday’s series finale with the Cardinals drew only 31,000 fans — and that’s the paid attendance — and that Pat Hughes boasted on the broadcast how each game in the series had more than 30,000 fans.
It’s clear a lot of those were wearing red, as chants of “YA-DI! YA-DI!” were clearly audible when the aging catcher trundled to the plate.
It’s been clear for quite some time now that the Cubs have little choice but to traffic in emotional currency tied to either nostalgia or anticipation, so salting the clouds with a rumor or three is most definitely in their best interests. Am I saying that Carter Hawkins texted Nightengale with his plans? No, I’m saying Jed Hoyer did and then Nightengale goofed up the title. That was a joke, but only kind of.
The Cubs will spend money this winter, of that I have no doubt, it’s now just a matter of whether they’ll actually use the resources Tom Ricketts said would be available to build a competitive team. Adding Yan Gomes, Seiya Suzuki, and Marcus Stroman was a great start that signaled bigger things to come, but either the budget or timing meant Hoyer and Hawkins stopped well short of what had to happen.
Rather than dive back into a lament of their current payroll and where it ranks among other big markets, I’ll simply say that it’s irresponsible for the Cubs to continue operating in their current manner. It also seems pretty dumb from a business perspective if you believe the claim that 70% of the team’s revenue is generated from gameday activities. I would think having a competitive team would generate more of that revenue than the added payroll cost, but I also think it’s bad optics to pursue a European soccer club.
I would love for the Cubs to be in the market for an elite free agent, shortstop or otherwise, but this all feels like some manufactured rumor-mill stuff. We’ll find out one way or the other in a few months.