Adding Big in Free Agency Without the Long-Term Risk and Other Bullets

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Adding Big in Free Agency Without the Long-Term Risk and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

jason heyward cubsI mentioned yesterday that I was taking The Little Girl to the art museum, which was a lovely time. On the way home, however, we blew out a tire on an extremely busy stretch of the highway, which was kind of terrifying. Fortunately, if that kind of thing is going to happen, it happened in the best possible way to us (I had just merged and wasn’t going too fast yet, and was still in the right-hand lane). I thought for a minute about changing my own tire, but decided it wasn’t worth the risk with cars whipping by five feet away. So, then, thank goodness for AAA, and a helpful state patrolman who stopped to make sure everything was OK (and even offered to take The Little Girl to a nearby gas station so she could safely be picked up by The Wife).

Sometimes you never feel more lucky than when something bad happens to you, and getting out of that situation goes as smoothly and safely as possible.

  • Isaac Bennett took a very interesting look at the Cubs’ offseason moves thus far through a very specific lens: financial flexibility. It’s a very interesting read that underscores just how impressive the Cubs’ offseason has been, not just in terms of talent added, but also in terms of how little long-term risk the team took on to make the additions. Let me dwell on the big free agent moves for a moment: Consider that, given our expectation that it’s very likely Jason Heyward will opt out of his deal in three years, the Cubs have in free agency added a stud outfielder, a stud second baseman/utility man, and a middle-of-the-rotation starter, and three years down the road will probably have only $12 million owed to Ben Zobrist on the books (and he might still be worth that amount as a utility man). The team looks very complete right now, but when you think about arbitration salaries that will be escalating by that point, as well as a killer post-2018 free agent class that looms, it’s going to be very nice for the Cubs to be as financially flexible as possible at that point (which should be assisted by the completion of the Wrigley Field renovation project, as well as the long-term TV deal, which may have already been signed by then).
  • The point: usually, when teams upgrade this significantly in free agency, there are some serious long-term financial risks associated. You can see the dark years coming eventually, but you bite the bullet for the improvement today in the competitive window. Absent a catastrophic injury to or decline by Heyward, the Cubs didn’t really do that. The Cubs simply improved greatly for this competitive window, and held open the future. (AND they didn’t trade away a ton of young talent to do it, either!)
  • There are a bunch of Cubs-related thoughts in Dave Cameron’s latest chat, including his opinion that the Cubs have clearly separated themselves from the Cardinals and Pirates in the NL Central (I’d agree, though the offseason isn’t over). Cameron also mentions the Andrew Miller discussion (we talked about it yesterday, if you missed it), thinking that the Yankees would probably want someone like Kyle Hendricks, and the Cubs shouldn’t make that swap, in Cameron’s opinion. Given the Yankees’ clear need for starting pitching, I could see Hendricks being among their targets, too – and like I said yesterday, cost-controlled, MLB-caliber starting pitching is not something the Cubs can really afford to part with right now. Lots of other interesting thoughts in that chat, even if you don’t always agree.
  • Javy Baez homered in Puerto Rico yesterday, added a single, and pushed his hit streak up to seven games. His line is up to .250/.339/.423 on the winter, while playing all of shortstop, second base, and center field. If he could be that guy at the big league level, while play effective defense and rotating around as needed, he would be incredibly valuable (and maybe eventually land on a starting spot, too).
  • I missed this BP article on Derek Norris and pitch-framing earlier in December, but it’s a really good read. I knew that catchers could get a little better over the course of several years, but Norris pulled off something ridiculous, and something that basically never seems to happen: he went from one of the worst framers in the game through May to one of the elite framers in the game by the end of the season. And framing is not a small-sample flukey thing – the article notes that it usually stabilizes in just a few weeks. As near as we can tell, Norris simply made some significant changes to his receiving style through the course of the season. Very interesting to see this case study.
  • Because it took so long and because I think it’s especially fun for Cubs fans, I’m going to plug the “Remember That Time” article periodically to make sure people who wanted to see it get a chance. I think most folks’ reaction is something like: I knew there were a ton of incredible moments this past season, but I forgot just how many (that was my reaction writing it!).
  • The latest episode of Limited Range is up.
  • Whoa. It’s pricey, but this Cubs display case for a bat and ball is freaking sweet (and 30% off).

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.