Cubs targets keep coming off the board, this time with catcher Christian Vázquez joining the Twins on a very reasonable three-year, $30 million deal. Between this deal and Sean Murphy being traded to Atlanta, the top end of the catching market is drying up really quickly. The Cubs have also been connected to glove-first backstops Omar Narváez and Tucker Barnhart, both of whom are very realistic options as the front office seems to be seeking value in spite of the mandate to spend.
If Jed Hoyer is looking for a little more consistent offense to form a timeshare with Yan Gomes, he could also look to Toronto. The Blue Jays have expressed a willingness to talk about their trio of catchers, with Danny Jansen probably being more desirable than either Alejandro Kirk or Gabriel Moreno. None of those guys will come cheap from a prospect standpoint, but it might be worth it when considering how badly the Cubs need to upgrade their offense.
Not that it will matter if Hoyer isn’t able to land either Carlos Correa and some decent ancillary pieces or Dansby Swanson and bigger scores at first base/DH, and perhaps third base. Whatever the plan is, the eye of the needle is about to get too small to accommodate even the finest thread.
To that end, I want to briefly address the latest bit of discourse surrounding Hoyer’s apparent reluctance to meaningfully engage in big-ticket deals. As Sahadev Sharma noted on 670 The Score Monday afternoon, and subsequently clarified on Twitter, there’s a sense that Hoyer might be a little wary of the potential monkey’s paw repercussions of spending big this offseason.
That’s what happened after the Cubs signed Yu Darvish in 2018, when ownership may have moved the goalposts rather than okaying the money to sign Bryce Harper. While Theo Epstein was very transparent about the way Darvish’s late deal decreased financial flexibility, it was evident at the time that he thought more money would be there for the man everyone thought was an obvious fit.
“We have some work to do to make sure we’re in a position to pounce if a certain great fit or just the right special player happens to become available,” Epstein said. “Or somebody wants to be in Chicago and something becomes too good to turn down, it’s just too impactful, or too good a deal (and) would mean too much to the team, we just need to be in a position to do that.”
Hoyer could be concerned that eating up most of their room under the cap by meeting Correa’s demands and then trying to pursue Shohei Ohtani, Manny Machado, and/or Rafael Devers next year could put the Cubs in the same spot. If they don’t win with a high payroll and the financial faucet is turned off again, they’ll be right back in the same spot they were when Epstein had to talk about the offense breaking somewhere along the lines.
Then again, failing to spend in a meaningful way both now and next season — when $60-80 million more falls off the books — means Hoyer might not be around to make those deals at all. Unless every one of their top prospects pops in a big way over the next year and beyond, the Cubs have no choice but to add stars in free agency. The other huge concern here is that simply having money doesn’t guarantee you can sign players.
Other teams will have just as much money and can also boast better value props like more competitive rosters and a recent track record of proving their desire and ability to keep spending. I’m just getting really worried that the Cubs are going to be paralyzed by analysis and that they’re going to keep letting solid players go by the wayside because they’re unwilling to meet the market.
Ed. note: The dollar figure on this deal came out just as I was publishing, so I threw it in without trying to shoehorn additional commentary into the mix. Not that it would have changed much other than to make my tone even more disheartening. Given what the Cubs need to do yet, $30 million for a really solid catcher who would be there for two more years after Gomes’s deal expires seems like a bargain. Whether Hoyer can’t pull the trigger or the Cubs are really just losing out to teams with more competitive outlooks, this really sucks. And I’m saying that as someone who wants Barnhart, though I’ve noted more than once that it’s a personal thing as much as a baseball move for me.