Since the Cubs have remained mostly silent so far this offseason, the only impact on their 2024 chances has come from what other teams are doing. The Reds seem to be moving on a nearly parallel track when it comes to the pursuit of short-term pitching via trade, and now they may have increased the likelihood of such a move by signing former Cub Jeimer Candelario. In a deal that surprised a lot of folks, Candelario inked a three-year, $45 million guarantee with a club option that could push it to $60 million over four years.
With several young infielders on the roster and Jonathan India already the subject of trade rumors for quite a while now, the sense is that this will intensify the Reds’ desire to land a pitcher. It’ll take more than India alone, though rookie Noelvi Marte played primarily third base and could be moved as well. Spencer Steer played the hot corner quite a bit and also handled first for much of Joey Votto‘s absence, though he can handle an outfield spot.
None of that makes the Reds a match with the Rays for Tyler Glasnow, as Tampa is said to want young pitching in return. The Reds are also reportedly involved in talks with the Guardians for Shane Bieber and could be willing to go even bigger for Dylan Cease, though the White Sox aren’t settling for a pair of expendable infielders. If that the was case, the Cubs would be frontrunners since they’ve got those aplenty even after losing Candelario to free agency.
I’m not the least bit bothered by the Candy Man signing elsewhere because I never really felt he was a great solution as more than a stopgap. Though he ended up with a 106 wRC+ and six homers over 157 plate appearances, much of his production came in the first three weeks following his trade from the Nats. After batting .348 with a 172 wRC+ and two homers in 75 PAs, Candelario dropped to a .127 average with four homers and a 45 wRC+ in his final 82 PAs.
Some of the decreased production may have been attributable to a low back strain that cost him over two weeks in mid-September, so maybe he’ll bounce right back over the next three years. The main issue for the Cubs at this point is that the third base market was pretty thin to begin with and is now down to almost nothing. Could they really choose to stick with one of several internal options — Nick Madrigal, Patrick Wisdom, Christopher Morel — while waiting to see whether top prospect Matt Shaw can handle the hot corner?
If we’re being completely honest here, I’d have preferred Morel over Candelario.
Or maybe another Matt is the better option. Matt Chapman‘s offense collapsed after the first half in Toronto, but he’s still one of the better defensive third basemen in the game and getting back to full health should make him an above-average producer again. It’s all about working his asking price down to a level that makes sense given the risk, which includes losing a draft pick because he declined a qualifying offer. Cubs GM Carter Hawkins talked during the Winter Meetings about not blocking prospects with a bunch of long-term deals, but they can’t just sit back and do nothing.
With the Cubs seemingly out on Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and with Juan Soto going to the Yankees, team leadership has yet again failed to show a desire to do what it takes to land a huge star. Aside from a few serendipitous deals that seem to have almost fallen in their lap, it’s fair to question whether paralysis by analysis may continue to make “intelligent spending” look dumb. Hoyer’s executive IQ will ultimately be judged by how many games his team wins this coming season, so he can still be perceived as a genius if he makes the right moves over the rest of the winter.
I just hope for his sake that he gets a bigger needle, because it’s starting to look like he’ll need tweezers and a magnifying glass to thread the one he’s working with now.