Two more free-agent shortstops came off the board yesterday during an absurd day of Hot Stove hijinx. The Cubs added Sergio Alcántara (again), while the Mets agreed with Carlos Correa on a 12-year, $315 million contract. Correa became available after the Giants voided his deal due to medicals and the Mets jumped on the 28-year-old almost immediately thereafter. It’s going to be interesting to see how the Mets deploy Correa and Francisco Lindor.
The Cubs, who can never have enough shortstops in their system, inked Alcántara to a minor league deal so that they can inevitably ship him to the Diamondbacks. Jed Hoyer is a master chess player and he opened with the mundane but effective pawn-to-e4, a move designed to protect against a potential injury to Dansby Swanson, Nico Hoerner, Nick Madrigal, or anybody at Iowa.
The Mets immediately turned to the relief market because Steve Cohen is more of a bulldozer than a thinking man’s executive. The Flushing franchise is rumored to have a thing for White Sox closer Liam Hendriks, who would look much better in Cubbie pinstripes.
I don’t want to slight Hoyer, who’s had a nice hot stove recovery over the last week or so. The Cubs appear to be close to a deal with Trey Mancini, something that became a little more urgent after Brandon Drury signed a two-year deal to play for the Angels. Drury made a lot of sense for the Cubs, but if this winter has proven anything it’s that none of us Hoyerthinks™ better than the Cubs’ president of baseball operations himself. I like Mancini, especially if the Cubs can also grab Michael Conforto.
Speaking of Conforto, why is it a given that Hoyer will trade Ian Happ if he signs the former Mets lefty slugger? Happ is a baseball rat who transitioned from a middling middle infielder into a Gold Glove-winning outfielder. Maybe the switch-hitter can work as a catcher this spring. Of course, the Blue Jays are hot for Happer and have a plethora of catchers that might entice Hoyer to bait Toronto in an attempt to secure one of Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk, or Gabriel Moreno.
Perhaps Alcántara will be the sweetener to complete a deal with the Jays. As I suggested, Hoyer is always 2-3 moves ahead of the rest of us. Gary Kasparov and Bobby Fischer would be very proud.
Cubs News and Notes
- The Jameson Taillon signing is official and the starter immediately endeared himself to Cubs fans.
- Taillon believes the Cubs “can make some noise” in the NL Central. Chicago still needs a few more roster additions, but the team appears to be trending upward.
- The right-handed workhorse believes he can be a 200-inning starter for the Cubs. His attitude reminds me a lot of John Lackey.
- The Cody Bellinger contract is official too, and the former MVP and Rookie of the Year relishes the opportunity to play for the Cubs.
- Bellinger could be the one-year wonder that launches the team into its next competitive window. “Oftentimes, it’s just that one new voice, that one new idea that can really click something for you,” GM Carter Hawkins said.
- The new center field addition immediately boosts the Cubs’ up-the-middle defense, but Bellinger believes an offensive resurgence is coming, too.
- Bellinger, who looks like he could be the adult version of fictional Cubs wunderkind Henry Rowengartner, said Hoyer is collecting players who want to win.
- Chip Caray believes the Cubs got the perfect fit at shortstop in Swanson.
- Swanson immediately makes the Cubs better at the plate and in the field.
- Chicago’s ZiPS projections indicate the team needs a lot of things to fall the right way to compete with the Cardinals and Brewers.
- Hoyer’s recent spending spree lifted the club’s estimated luxury tax payroll for next season to roughly $200 million, according to Spotrac. That projection does not include the deal the Cubs are expected to finalize to bring back lefty pitcher Drew Smyly, nor does it account for the free agents still on Hoyer’s offseason agenda.
- The Mets are the hands-down Hot Stove winners, but the Cubs have had the most interesting winter in baseball.
- Kerry Miller of Bleacher Report gave Hoyer a B-grade for his offseason work so far.
Odds and Sods
Imagine spending half a billion dollars and still maintaining subservient status to the Yankees in the New York tabloids.
Correa’s deal is not yet official and is pending a physical, which is an important distinction. The Mets have also not confirmed the agreement.
Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle tweeted that the Giants did not void Correa’s deal “because of a back issue.”
The Mets have spent a whopping $806 million since free agency began, and they aren’t done yet.
Drury is set to earn $17 million on a two-year deal with the Angels.
The rise of the super-long contract has changed the way many teams are combating the competitive balance tax thresholds.
The Rangers are reportedly interested in signing Conforto. The Rockies are also among the teams interested in the slugging outfielder.
Some of the teams considering Conforto are concerned about his ability to throw at full strength. The outfielder had shoulder surgery last April.
Wednesday Morning Six-Pack
- Should the Bears “tank for two?” Justin Fields takes a lot of blows to the head and Chicago has nothing to play for. It might be smart to let Nathan Peterman finish out the season as the starting quarterback. If the Bears lose out, they’ll draft no lower than No. 2 overall next April.
- UDFA linebacker Jack Sanborn has a bum ankle and was placed on injured reserve. The rookie will miss the rest of the season, and that’s a shame because he has quickly become Chicago’s best defender.
- Have you heard a major storm system is about to hit the Midwest? The Weather Channel is tossing out terms like “flash freeze” and “bomb cyclone” in an attempt to scare the Dickens out of us this Christmas weekend. We just called it “winter” when I was a kid.
- According to the Earth’s position in relation to the sun, today marks the start of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. How appropriate, considering we are also on storm watch for the next 48 hours. Winter officially arrives at 3:48pm CT this afternoon. The good news is that the days start getting longer tomorrow, and we are just 99 days shy of MLB Opening Day.
- A large portion of the nation’s 112 million travelers will be forced to weather flight delays and cancellations. Some Christmas deliveries will be delayed too. That’s the bad news.
- It’s truly amazing that Robert Plant ages and Allison Krauss does not. Back in 1977, when real winters were not the stuff of legends, I never would have imagined Plant as a folk/roots/Americana/country star. “The idea of us being considered to be a country duet is fascinating,” Plant now admits. “The thing is, a nomination is a nomination. The very fact that it’s been recognized that we’ve had a good time is more than I could imagine. I didn’t get many Grammys [with Led Zeppelin]. So to be nominated as a country duet is out of my normal radar. It’s great.”
They Said It
- “I look at the shortstop situation kind of the way you look at the draft. If you drafted a shortstop every year you’d be in good shape. The best defenders usually play shortstop, the best athletes often play shortstop, and those are guys you can move around.” – Hoyer
- “From everything I’ve heard — off the field, in the clubhouse, in the locker room — [Swanson]’s going to make people better. I’ve heard he holds people accountable [and that] he really wants to win. I don’t think he would have picked Chicago or gone to Chicago if he wasn’t convinced that we could build a winner and get back to that level.” – Taillon
- “I’ve been with [the Dodgers] since 2013, right? I was 17 years old, trying on that jersey for the first time. But at the end of the day, man, I understood. I don’t have any hard feelings. I get it. I took it as a new opportunity or just another page, you know? I’m excited that I get to be able to do this at Wrigley Field in a Cubs jersey, and I understand how special it is to play for both organizations.” – Bellinger
Wednesday Walk-Up Song
The struggle is real.