Good morning, Cubs fans, and welcome to Hot Stove Season! I know we still have to get through the MLB playoffs, but with 2022 in the rearview mirror in these parts, it’s time to start thinking about November and December. As you might guess, I have some strong opinions guaranteed to elicit a swath of negative responses.
First of all, I want to thank Nico Hoerner, Seiya Suzuki, Christopher Morel, Justin Steele, Adrian Sampson, Keegan Thompson, Hayden Wesneski, and Chicago’s minor league teams for putting the fun back into baseball this year. It’s also a good time to potentially say goodbye to Willson Contreras, Ian Happ, Wade Miley, and, of course, Jason Heyward. Though the Cubs have signaled their intent to spend this winter, Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins will have to replace that production. That’s about 40 home runs and 7.5 wins from a team that struggled to put the ball (and fans) in the seats.
We’re all excited about the pending arrival of Matt Mervis, and it’s a good bet Brennen Davis will be on the 2023 roster sometime in April, if not to start the season. Yesterday, Evan Altman posted five things he’ll most remember about what is a forgettable 2022 season. Today, I’ll list five things I’d like Hoyer and Hawkins to accomplish this winter.
One inning of Shohei Ohtani reactions to brighten your day 😂
— B/R Walk-Off (@BRWalkoff) September 30, 2022
- Get a power arm and a left-handed power bat. The answer to that is Shohei Ohtani. It’s a good bet the Angels will trade their two-way superstar. And hey, guess what? The Cubs have the ammo to enter that race. Ohtani is 28, had 34 home runs with a 151 OPS+ as a left-handed designated hitter, and 219 strikeouts with a 172 ERA+ in 166 innings pitched as a right-handed starter. He’d immediately become Chicago’s most potent hitter and pitcher. Further, Ohtani will fill Wrigley Field to capacity and he’ll singlehandedly replace those 7.5 wins. He has already signed for $30 million next season, and Hoyer will need to extend him given the capital it will cost to acquire him, but it’s just as risky to wait for free agency as it is to trade for Ohtani if he is indeed a target.
- Sign Trea Turner and move Hoerner to second base. I’ve been on the fence about which of the four shortstops to sign because Dansby Swanson, Carlos Correa, and Xander Bogaerts would all look great in royal blue pinstripes. Correa started slow but finished his ‘22 season hitting .291/.366/.467 with 22 homers and 24 doubles, 4.4 fWAR, and a wRC+ of 140. There reportedly are eight teams in the market for Bogaerts already and as you can imagine, the Red Sox top that list. His 5.7 WAR is tied with Swanson for the best in class among his peers. Swanson has played in every contest and hit .277 with 25 homers and 96 RBI. He also earned his first All-Star nod this summer. But Turner offers a combination of OBP, speed, and power that none of the others do. Plus, he can play second base and center field.
- Exercise patience with Mervis and Davis. Mervis came out of nowhere to become one of Chicago’s best minor league offensive threats. Davis fought through a nerve issue in his back and hasn’t had consistent playing time, though his AFL season got off to a good start. There is no shame if one or both needs a little more playing time at Iowa.
- Ignore A.J. Preller. The Padres GM is going to be peddling big contracts and he missed his opportunity to pass his junk on to the Cubs. Hoyer and Hawkins do not need his stud minor leaguers and won’t have a spot for Wil Myers. Yu Darvish or Blake Snell would be exceptions depending on the prospect cost, but both will be free agents in 2024. But if the Cubs are looking for an extra starter, I’d rather they sign Japanese import Koudai Senga. The righty will indeed test free agency and does not need to be posted.
- Trade for a closer. My first choice is Liam Hendriks, who will also be a free agent in 2024. The Cubs have had one long-term relationship with a closer in the last decade, and that was with Brandon Morrow. Signing a free agent like Edwin Diaz will be as risky as it is costly. If the Cubs and White Sox can work out a deal, the asking price of which should be similar to what Craig Kimbrel cost, Hoyer should pull the trigger. I believe Rick Hahn will be fired after the playoffs, but give Nick Madrigal to whoever replaces the White Sox GM.
Cubs News & Notes
- David Ross would like to pop the cork on a bottle of champagne next season.
- What does this year’s strong finish mean for 2023? Maybe nothing, and for what it’s worth, Ross has tempered expectations before seeing what his roster looks like come next season.
- Contreras was interviewed about his future with the Cubs while Chicago’s “If You Leave Me Now” was playing in the clubhouse background. Someone give the deejay a raise.
- After two seasons of franchise-altering trades, stockpiling down on the farm, and evaluating younger players at the MLB level, the Cubs could be poised for aggressive maneuvering in the coming months.
- The draft lottery odds have been finalized and the Cubs have a 1.1% chance of getting the top pick.
- Sahadev Sharma and Patrick Mooney of The Athletic knocked it out of the park again yesterday. They took an in-depth look at the new way ($) that the Cubs are developing their young players.
Apropos of Nothing
The Cubs finished a game better than the Angels even without Ohtani and Mike Trout.
Odds & Sods
Do you still need a reason to love Andre Dawson?
In 1991, Andre Dawson was called out looking by Cowboy Joe West and then ejected for arguing the call. He was fined $500 by the National League and paid it via check with the memo line filled out “Donation for the blind.” True story. I love Andre Dawson. pic.twitter.com/zk90nMbDM9
— Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) October 3, 2022
Postseason News & Notes
ESPN writers made their predictions for the postseason. Here’s mine: The Dodgers and Yankees will be your NL and AL champions, with New York celebrating its first MLB Championship since 2009.
The Guardians have suddenly become the darlings of this year’s playoffs.
The Rays are 2-4 against Cleveland this season but are favored to win their Wild Card series.
In case you’re wondering, Randy Arozarena still holds the single-season playoff record with the 10 taters he hit in 2020.
Today’s Post-Season Schedule
- Rays (Shane McClanahan) at Guardians (Shane Bieber), 11:07 AM CT, ESPN
- Phillies (Wheeler) at Cardinals (Quintana), 1:07 PM CT, ABC
- Mariners (Luis Castillo) at Blues Jays (Alek Manoah), 3:07 PM CT, ESPN
- Padres (Darvish) at Mets (Max Scherzer), 7:07 PM, ESPN
Friday Morning Six-Pack
- Bears’ rookie cornerback Kyler Gordon has been struggling this season, but the coaching staff must let him continue to take his licks.
- Injured running back David Montgomery practiced on Thursday and could play against the Vikings on Sunday.
- The Bears-Vikings rivalry has a bit of a bizarre history.
- ESPN and Draft Kings are close to signing a “massive” exclusive partnership, according to Investing.com. The sports and entertainment behemoth, which is owned by Disney, had been hesitant to dive into sports betting. But, as growing numbers of younger viewers watch sports just to lay some action, access to betting opportunities has become a “must-have,” according to the network’s president President Jimmy Pitaro.
- President Biden said the risk of nuclear “Armageddon” is at its highest level since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis due to the possibility of Russia using tactical nukes in its war against Ukraine. With that in mind, enjoy your Friday.
- “F*** ADIDAS I AM ADIDAS” – that’s your Friday morning quote courtesy of Kanye West after the shoe and sports apparel company said it is “reviewing its partnership” with the performer, who now goes by “Ye.” Adidas is not happy with West’s “White Lives Matter” line of apparel. “After repeated efforts to privately resolve the situation, we have taken the decision to place the partnership under review,” Adidas said in a statement, according to Reuters. “We will continue to co-manage the current product during this period.”
They Said It
- “I told them that after the [final] game — they fought all year. A lot of adversity, [and] a lot of change. A lot of up and down, plus a lot of guys making their debuts. And, going through what it’s like getting through 162 and these guys fought all the way and I’m super proud of how they finished.” – Ross
- “When I go to the mall, and I go to the Dior store and I want something, I get it. I ask how much it costs, and I buy it. So, if you really want something, you just go get it. I’m the product here, and if they want my product, they just have got to come and get it.” – Correa
Friday Walk-Up Song
I’ll be at both Dead & Company shows on June 9 and 10 at Wrigley Field next year. I already booked my hotel room at the J. Parker, and I intend to buy my tickets tomorrow if I can come up with the scratch.