I’ll start this morning with a personal anecdote. During Hot Stove season, I write this column bottom-to-top because of my fascination with the machinations of free agency. Exceptions occur when the Cubs sign or trade for a big-name player, but Miles Mastrobuoni is not the headline-grabber I was hoping for. Chicago acquired the former 14th-round pick for minor league right-handed pitcher Alfredo Zárraga. That’s a lot of vowels for a two-player transaction.
Expect the obligatory “we like his flexibility and he gives us options” quote once Jed Hoyer or David Ross comments on the trade.
Mastrobuoni seems like a decent acquisition with a name that will tongue-tie many writers, but he doesn’t move the needle for anybody except front-office executives, Nick Madrigal, and Zach McKinstry, the latter of whom is out of options. Hoyer loves to add miles to the corporate airline account via the Iowa-Chicago shuffle, and Mastrobuoni — who definitely needs an (ahem) wholesome nickname — will ultimately pay for Hoyer’s 2023-24 scouting excursions.
Madrigal may be on the outside looking in come Friday afternoon, which is the non-tender deadline. The oft-injured second baseman doesn’t earn much by baseball standards, however, so he’s probably safe. His hit tool is still considered elite as long as he’s healthy, and the Cubs believe he can be an integral part of the club in some capacity going forward, even as potential trade bait, though they’d definitely be selling low.
It’s also possible Mastrobuoni will never don the royal blue pinstripes. He’s 27, has 16 career MLB at-bats, and served as little more than minor league depth for the Rays. His value could lie in providing a roster spot for a yet-to-be-determined teammate, like Carlos Correa. The Cubs could waive Mastrobuoni without much fear of losing him to another organization, and even if they do, so what?
I’m a little more upbeat about the latest Correa rumors. As I mentioned in the comments section of Evan’s column, I’d be on board with the potential acquisition of this year’s No. 1 free-agent shortstop, with a caveat or two.
I’d like to see Hoyer trade for Tyler Glasnow, sign Cody Bellinger if he is non-tendered by the Dodgers, and then grab a catcher like Tucker Barnhart or Omar Narváez in free agency. Glasnow is owed $5 million this year, with a $20 million raise in 2024. The Cubs will no longer be paying Jason Heyward ($22 million) in ’24, so that’s definitely doable. Hoyer could close out his shopping season by signing David Robertson or trading for Liam Hendriks. Once those moves are complete, Mastrobuoni might be able to squeeze onto the final roster.
Bellinger is the wild card. He can play outfield, first base, and DH, so he can platoon with Brennen Davis in center and rotate with Matt Mervis at first base. That solves two parts of the roster puzzle, though with a lot less panache than trading for two-way star Shohei Ohtani.
Who knew being a front office executive was so easy?
Cubs News & Notes
- Chicago selected the contracts of outfielder Kevin Alcántara from Low-A Myrtle Beach, right-handed pitcher Ben Brown from Double-A Tennessee, outfielder Davis from Triple-A Iowa, and right-handed pitcher Ryan Jensen from Tennessee. The Cubs’ 40-man roster now stands at 38 players with the addition of Mastrobuoni.
- Anthony Rizzo will not be returning to the Cubs in free agency. The fan-favorite inked a two-year, $40 million deal to remain with the Yankees.
- The Astros had Rizzo atop their first base wish list and could now turn their attention to José Abreu, who’s been heavily connected to the Cubs.
- Willson Contreras has officially rejected the club’s qualifying offer, as expected. Once he signs elsewhere, the Cubs will receive a compensatory selection between the second and third rounds of the 2023 draft.
- The All-Star backstop will enter the open market with a high level of “personal motivation.”
- Jim Bowden of The Athletic once again mentioned the Cubs in connection with the top shortstops. He added that Hoyer won’t land one “at market value” ($) because the big four wish to play for contending teams.
- Jordan Shusterman of Fox Sports says the Cubs might not be as active this offseason as most analysts predict. He does like the idea of signing Correa as a foundational piece, however.
Odds & Sods
Ronny Simon is almost guaranteed to be selected in the Rule 5 draft. I wish there was some way the Cubs could get him to Chicago, though they’d probably have to make a trade with a team choosing higher. The Cubs have the 12th selection of this year’s draft, which will be held on December 7.
— MLB's Arizona Fall League (@MLBazFallLeague) November 8, 2022
Justin Verlander is seeking a contract that is comparable to the three-year $130 million deal that Max Scherzer signed with the Mets. The Dodgers may be willing to meet his asking price. The Mets are a fit, too.
The Yankees will gauge Correa’s market as well.
Joc Pederson and Martín Pérez were the only players to accept a QO. Pederson finished 2022 with a 144 wRC+ and president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi believes the outfielder will be even better now that shift restrictions are in place. Pérez would have been a great pickup for the Cubs, perhaps next year.
Apropos of Nothing
Don’t believe the rumors that the Cardinals might be in play for Correa, Xander Bogaerts, Trea Turner, or Dansby Swanson. Correa is too expensive and the other three are carrying qualified offers. St. Louis is averse to giving up its draft picks, so Contreras is a stretch too. The Cardinals are a plant every winter, except when it comes to trade talks. When will we learn?
Jon Morosi says the Cubs and Correa are a “clear pairing.”
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) November 15, 2022
Wednesday Morning Six-Pack
- The Bears will be without running back Khalil Herbert for at least four weeks and the budding second-year star may sit for the rest of the season.
- Come to Milwaukee and watch the World Cup with me at Highbury Pub. You have to love a bar that opens up at 4 am. The tournament might interfere with my writing schedule, however, so don’t tell Evan. (Ed. note: Too late, Canter, good luck playing hookey now)
- The days of an internet behemoth trying to e-scooter its way toward solving world hunger while broad-stroking the finer points of the potential solution at the free smoothie bar are over. But, we are not in a recession.
- Ticketmaster temporarily crashed when hordes of Taylor Swift fans tried to buy tickets to her 2023 tour. Now Swifties are going all Eddie Vedder on the overpriced distributor.
- Speaking of Vedder, I plan to be at the Extra Innings concert festival in Tempe at the end of February. If you live nearby or are also planning on attending, let us imbibe and nosh in such a manner that we redefine gluttony. Perhaps we can convince Randy Johnson, Jake Peavy, Dontrelle Willis, or Ryan Dempster to throw us batting practice. If Vedder plays this song, I’ll lose my mind.
- Only eight countries have won the World Cup, and they’re all in Europe or South America, Can you name them? Incidentally, the United States is listed at 100-1 to win the whole shebang this year.
They Said it
- “Patience is always a really difficult thing, but it’s the thing that typically gives you more rewards in the end. I’m happy with our development structure. Our scouting process continues to improve. The young players in the system continue to improve. Outside of some unfortunate freak injuries, across the board, a lot of our top players made great strides. We see them impacting our major-league club here in the near future. You see the guys that are at the major-league level making some big strides. We still have a ways to go. We still have to make some pretty big leaps. But at the same time, the future is really bright for the Cubs.” – Carter Hawkins
- “We need to add a lot of arms. I think you saw what happened when you run out. I don’t think we’re going to sort of stop [after just one]. We want to add a lot of arms and a lot of innings.” – Hoyer
- “Our pitching coaches have various skill sets, and it’s a total team effort. And that’s what we want to create. What we want is a hitting department with different areas of strength and ultimately everyone has a plan to make players better together. We want to have different people working on different things, whether it’s one guy might be more of a mechanics person, one guy might be more game planning, the mental side. … I think that’s really important in becoming more collaborative. We definitely have it on the pitching side right now and getting the hitting side to that place was really important to us.” – Hoyer
- “I think the Cubs can land one of the top four free-agent shortstops if and only if they are prepared to go 10 years and $300 million. Chicago will have to overpay because most of those shortstops prefer to play for a contender.” – Bowden
Wednesday Walk-Up Song
We were talking about covers that are better than the originals yesterday, and though the Joni Mitchell version of this song is superior, I do like this one a lot because it’s a duet. I always thought Vanessa Carlton would have become more of a star than she did.