Last year’s hot stove truly benefitted from the impending lockout. Teams executed a flurry of deadline deals before the calendar turned to December, with the Cubs signing Marcus Stroman just minutes before the league shut things down for a few months. A second frenzy occurred when MLB resumed the business of baseball in the spring.
Sadly, things are crawling at a snail’s pace this year, which has been the historical norm. There are plenty of rumors and more than a hint of innuendo, but nothing concrete will happen until the league gathers for this year’s Winter Meetings. Gaggles of GMs and agents will hit sunny San Diego December 4-7, and though I don’t expect the top names to sign, we should see plenty of player movement. If the Cubs truly intend to extend stars Nico Hoerner and Ian Happ, it behooves them to do so before Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins start working on their laundry list.
Which of the four shortstops of the apocalypse will be the first to sign? Your guess is as good as mine, but if Carlos Correa signs with the Cubs, I would expect that announcement to come sooner rather than later. I wish Hoyer acted with the same transparency Theo Epstein did. We’d probably have a better idea about how the front office intends to acquire its roster additions. The Dodgers, Giants, and Phillies have signaled their willingness to spend aggressively. Hoyer paints a picture of a front office that will wait for the right deal to come to them.
Then again, the Cubs lack depth. It’s the same thing each year, which is the drawback of short-term contracts. As such, the front office has to budget for the yawn-inducing acquisitions we’ve grown accustomed to. I’m no payroll expert, but I believe the Cubs will be working from a current floor of about $140 million. What Hoyer will be willing to add to that is the million-dollar question. Chicago has been swimming in place since starting the 2020 season with 13 wins in the first 16 games.
History and a now-deceased naiveté preclude me from believing any of the premium shortstops will land in Chicago, but if I was making odds, I’d go Correa (6-1), Xander Bogaerts (10-1), Dansby Swanson (12-1) and Trea Turner (20-1). “None of the above” would be an even-money wager. I do believe Tom Ricketts will allow Hoyer more access to funds this winter, I just don’t believe Jed is as motivated to spend Tom’s money as the rest of us are.
That means when I see stories linking the Cubs to Correa, Bogaerts, Justin Verlander, or Jacob deGrom, I take it with a grain of salt. I think there are better options in the trade market anyway, and the Cubs have a more aggressive demeanor when it comes to prospects as assets than the wherewithal to guarantee contracts that exceed four years. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m not buying the company line until I see the organization announce a headlining acquisition. Even if it makes me sound like Paul Sullivan, I need proof of effort before I’ll allow myself to dream on the next contending team.
Cubs News & Notes
- Matt Mervis was named the Cubs’ top Rookie of the Year candidate.
- The Cubs are among the teams that could make a play for deGrom, who will heavily consider location when he decides where to pitch next season.
- Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker are also on Chicago’s radar.
- Cody Bellinger is seeking a one-year deal and a bidding war for his services is expected.
- The Willson Contreras-to-the-Cardinals rumors are getting uncomfortably loud.
- John Lackey is now eligible for induction into the Hall of Fame.
Odds & Sods
Not even a “hello” from Aaron Judge? I might be wrong, but I do not expect the slugger to leave San Francisco without a record-setting deal in tow. Judge is originally from Sacramento and went to college at Fresno State. If he signs, expect the Yankees to immediately pivot to deGrom and Verlander.
Breaking news into @MLBNetwork, via video from San Francisco: Aaron Judge has arrived in the city and is expected to meet with the #SFGiants this week. Join us on #MLBNHotStove at 9 am ET tomorrow for the latest. @MLB pic.twitter.com/pq0at6kgQ6
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 22, 2022
The Yankees are acutely aware that Judge is probably not returning. They’ve already asked for medicals on deGrom.
The Astros and Padres are the latest teams to be linked to Abreu.
This year’s Hall of Fame ballot has been released. Before you ask, I just don’t care until they add Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and every other banned player who deserves induction. Yes, that includes Sammy Sosa. Give Rose his plaque, and add the disclaimer “banned from MLB in 1989 by Bart Giamatti.”
The Twins are getting new uniforms, but retro-meets-future rarely works well. They’re uninspiring in my opinion, especially when so many wonderful options exist.
Speaking of uninspiring, these outside-the-box free agency projections are puzzling, even with the accompanying disclaimer.
The MLB Draft Lottery is two weeks from today.
Apropos of Nothing
The Cubs go through hitting coaches like Spinal Tap goes through drummers.
- Thank you to the late Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, who is my inspiration when it comes to sports journaling.
- Pickles Dillhoefer, who played for the Cubs in 1917, went 4 for 5 in his career against Abraham Lincoln “Sweetbread” Bailey. Only baseball provides the types of anecdotes that live with you forever, and Cafardo knew them all.
- I’ll have a column tomorrow, but I will be absent Thursday and Friday like last year. I will pen something on Saturday, however. Of course, my schedule will change if the Cubs do anything of significance.
- Thanks to America’s food banks. I just donated $1,352 to the Food Depository courtesy of those who have requested playlists over the last year. I raised $676, I matched it, and it will be matched by the organization. $2,704 dollars will provide 8,112 meals. Give yourselves a hand.
- Finally, thank you to those who read and comment on the column. I’ve been with Cubs Insider for five years now. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for each of you. Craic and sláinte!
Thank God that pitcher doesn’t need an extra letter on the back of his jersey. Dee Strange-Gordon isn’t quite the flash his father was.
2022 PitchingNinja Award for Best Actor in Comedy. 🏆
Winner: Travis d'Arnaud 💀 pic.twitter.com/lLaGJ7sggE
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) November 21, 2022
Tuesday Morning Six-Pack
- Justin Fields is hurt, but the extent of his shoulder injury remains a mystery.
- The Bears are 3-8, and they’d have the No. 3 pick in the draft if the season ended today.
- The Vikings are the first team in NFL history to have a negative point differential (-2) with a record of 8-2.
- Wednesday is Fibonacci Day. Celebrate accordingly and have a designated driver on standby in case it runs into Drinksgiving Wednesday.
- Saturday is the day we shop at local and small businesses. I can’t think of a better stocking stuffer than a M*A*S*H Mervis t-shirt. Please do not print out that picture of Evan to place in your wallet, implying friendship. You’ll need his expressed, written consent first. By the way, Evan and Jon float Cubs Insider and Bears Insider out of their own pockets, so a t-shirt purchase helps keep the lights on, so to speak. As usual, please, and thank you.
- I’ve decided to go bold with my Thanksgiving appetizers. This is the first Thanksgiving I’m actually celebrating with others since Sue’s dad died. I’ll be in Menomonee Falls, which sounds like the perfect holiday town.
They Said It
- “You focus in the offseason on writing out your lineup card. ‘This is what we are. This looks really good.’ And then you realize that takes effect like five games a year. The rest of the time you’ve got injuries or different things happening. The entirety of your 40-man roster — the entirety of your organization — is exceptionally important. There were periods this year when we weren’t prepared for that. We had too many injuries. We didn’t have the depth to handle it. That is going to be a significant focus.” – Hoyer
Tuesday Walk-Up Song
I was at a local joint Sunday night and somebody played this song on the jukebox over and over. This morning I’m sharing it with you. I believe there is more irony in this song than in Morissette’s bigger hit, “Ironic.”