“Now I’m lookin’ to the sky to save me. Lookin’ for a sign of life. Lookin’ for somethin’ to help me burn out bright.” – Foo Fighters, Learn to Fly
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Marcus Stroman will not opt out of his Cubs’ contract at the end of this season. In fact, I believe he and Jed Hoyer could agree to a new deal. The president of baseball operations would like to extend Ian Happ and Nico Hoerner, but Stroman could be a candidate too. The team’s new commitment to defense makes for an easy decision when it’s time to recruit starters, even those already with the team.
Stroman will earn $21 million in 2024, and he’d probably get something close to the $68 million over four years the Cubs gave Jameson Taillon if he elects free agency. I know Chicago’s farm system is bubbling over with potential starters, but adding three years and $47 million to Stroman’s deal seems favorable to both sides. The 31-year-old righty was 6-7 last year but earned five wins with a 2.09 ERA over his final seven starts.
Stroman’s value goes beyond measurable statistics. It’s doubtful that Hoyer will extend Kyle Hendricks this year, and Stroman would transition nicely into that role as staff leader, especially with all of the young starters on the horizon.
Then again, Shohei Ohtani is a pending free agent. He won seven of his final 10 starts to the tune of a 1.18 ERA, plus he batted .273 with 34 home runs and 95 RBI for the season. Would the Cubs be better off keeping Stroman and signing Manny Machado or just chasing Ohtani?
If only Ohtani could play third base. Patrick Wisdom is the incumbent, though he’s certainly not the long-term solution. Chicago’s farm system is devoid of any blue chip third basemen to boot. Barring a trade, the smart decision might be to extend Stroman and sign Machado. If Wisdom were released after this season, he’d probably be a top-three third-sacker in next year’s free-agent class.
Oddly enough, Stroman’s best chance of remaining a Cub actually depends on the development of pitchers Jordan Wicks, Cade Horton, Ben Brown, and DJ Herz. If any of those prospects can become top-of-rotation candidates, the team is less likely to pursue Ohtani. A one-two punch of Justin Steele and perhaps Horton would give Chicago one of the deepest rotations in baseball, all things considered. The other option might be to trade from that starting depth to acquire a veteran to replace Wisdom.
Cubs News & Notes
- According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Willson Contreras holds more than a little ill will ($) toward the Cubs.
- It’s almost as if Contreras wants Cubs fans to hate him. He accomplished that mission when he signed with the Cardinals.
- One of the more intriguing battles in camp will be Adrian Sampson vs. Hayden Wesneski. Both are vying for the fifth starter role and Sampson has added some velocity to his repertoire. Wesneski is countering with a cut-ride fastball.
- Javier Assad is also competing for that No. 5 slot in the rotation.
- Keegan Thompson and Adbert Alzolay will not be competing for rotation spots. Each performs much better statistically in relief.
- Codi Heuer, who had Tommy John surgery last year, will start throwing breaking balls in his bullpen sessions next week. He’s currently throwing three sessions each week, fastball and changeup only, with his heaviest throwing sessions (35-40 pitches) coming on Mondays and Fridays.
- Heuer was placed on the 60-day injury list to give Michael Fulmer a roster spot. Fulmer’s contract was officially announced on Monday.
- Seiya Suzuki is representing the Cubs as a member of Team Japan in this year’s World Baseball Classic. He’s also using that time to recruit Ohtani.
- Suzuki really bulked up over the winter.
- The hard-working Hoerner is quietly emerging as Chicago’s new clubhouse leader.
- New third baseman Edwin Ríos joins ex-Dodgers Cody Bellinger and Zach McKinstry on this year’s Cubs team. Ríos has also played with Swanson.
- If you want to talk third baseman, how about Machado in the royal blue pinstripes next season? Bob Nightengale of USA Today said the Cubs are likely to pursue the veteran third baseman in free agency next winter. The veteran infielder has already stated he will opt out and will be seeking a 10-year, $400 million contract.
- Bellinger changed his workout program in an effort to rejuvenate his performance this season.
- Tom Ricketts addressed the team before its first full-squad workout and then talked to reporters about the budget, direct-to-consumer streaming, and Wrigley Field’s new DraftKings sportsbook.
- The Cubs are ranked No. 24 in the FOX Sports 26-and-Under Power Rankings. That seems a little low.
- Eric Patterson, one of the team’s top prospects nearly 20 years ago, has returned to the organization as a coach at Iowa.
- Jason Kipnis has officially announced his retirement.
Odds & Sods
I love this. https://t.co/Zo8dQQEA5m
— Michael Canter of Cubs Insider ✨ (@MEdwardCanter) February 21, 2023
Climbing the Ladder
“Have you ever had the odds stacked up so high you need a strength most don’t possess?” – Mighty Mighty Bosstones, The Impression That I Get
I understand Ricketts is excited because he’s finally spent some money. I also know that the Cubs could be baseball’s most expensive .500 baseball team with a payroll that touches $225 million. The arrow points upward, but a lot has to go right for Chicago to make the playoffs. The chairman’s excitement was palpable nonetheless.
“I mean, just look at everything (manager David Ross) has to work with this year compared to last year in Year 4. This is a team that should compete for the division. I think we have the right manager. We have the right guys and I think Jed did a great job putting it together.
“We always have the ability to add resources at the deadline. We’ll make that decision as it gets closer. … You want to be thoughtful about it and you want to be alert and manage around it if you can. If we’re midseason and we need a player, we’ll do what we have to do.”
Ricketts could contend for the spirit award at any cheerleading camp if he’d just stop with the disclaimers. The guy always finds a trap door to sneak behind.
“We’ll manage (the CBT) year to year. I’m not going to promise top-five or anything like that, but we will definitely put the resources we have on the field.”
How About That!
Bally Sports skipped its $140 million interest payment earlier this month, and MLB is forming an economic reform committee as a result. Baseball is also concerned about Steve Cohen’s complete disregard for luxury tax thresholds.
In fact, some insiders believe Cohen will stop at nothing to sign Machado next winter.
When I was in Tampa last week, the sports radio stations connected the Cubs with Jesús Luzardo on numerous occasions.
Despite a very disappointing 2022, the White Sox enter this season with high expectations.
I love the hype video, but the slogan is going to need some time to grow on me. Hoyer has built a very “trust the process” roster. That’s how the team should be marketed.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) February 15, 2023
Tuesday Morning Six-Pack
- Happy Fat Tuesday. Make sure you get yourself some paczki (pronounced pooch-key for you non-Chicagoans). I’ve started a 70-day toxin cleanse, so no sweets for me this year.
- The Supreme Court is hearing two cases this week that could redefine the rules of online speech and content moderation. Both deal with how social media companies have handled terrorist content and argue the companies should be legally responsible for their algorithms.
- Get ready to talk about the weather. Chicago (and Milwaukee) is bracing for what could be the biggest snowstorm of the season. That said, the hype machine that is commonly referred to as The Weather Channel has been in overdrive since last week. By the way, naming snowstorms is absurd. I’m predicting 3-5 inches in Milwaukee and 1-2 in Chicago, where freezing rain will be a bigger concern. ‘Nuff said, and safe commuting.
- Speaking of weather, just 7% of the Great Lakes’ surface was covered in ice as of February 13, compared to a historical average of 41%. That almost makes you want to wear a Hawaiian shirt and drink Pina Coladas, but it has been a sore spot for us ice fishermen.
- We live in times of financial despair but I come bearing gifts. Several YouTube channels will let you watch movies for free (legally). MLB.tv will run you about $150 before you ask.
- If you did not know who Mac McClung was before this weekend, you do now. He’s only 6-foot-2 but can jump like Michael Jordan in his prime.
They Said It
- “Listening to those things, it’s really tough. I was there for six years. I prepared myself the same way every day. … I think I did everything right. That’s what I told [the Cubs] the day I walked out of there, that I was going to walk out with my head up high because I know during the six years I was there, I did my best to make everyone better.” – Contreras
- “I watch video. I watch a lot of video. When I go home, I write stuff down, which I don’t show to the team, because I don’t have to show what I do. I just have to show what I do on the field. That’s what people don’t know. There’s a lot of work behind the scenes that people don’t know.” – Contreras
- “I can’t say enough good things about Willson. I played against him for a long time and look forward to competing against him. I’m not Willson. I don’t want to be Willson. I have my own way of playing. I’m a defense-first guy. I love to play emotionally, but I’m going to play hard and try to help us win in whichever way I possibly can.” – Tucker Barnhart
- “I think the best way to describe the Cubs in a player, it’s [Hoerner]. That’s what Cubbie baseball should look like.” – Pete Crow-Armstrong
Tuesday Walk-Up Song
That feeling when you’re less than 48 hours shy of a somewhat suspect blizzard.