I just can’t give it up, man. I like the fit too much. And I dream big.
Although it remains as unlikely as ever, signing free agent third baseman (and World Series Champion!) Anthony Rendon is still something I’d like to see the Cubs accomplish this winter. He has the talent, youth, and – most importantly – offensive profile to take this still-loaded Cubs roster back to the promised land.
But while I haven’t given up hope, I should probably take the hint(s) …
- “The first competitive balance threshold will be $208 million for 2020. The Cubs have not said whether they plan on going over that figure” – Jordan Bastian (MLB.com)
- “Think cheaper …. Despite obvious flaws on the roster that could be fixed by lavish spending, ownership prefers the front office find ways to extend their window of contention through more modest means.” – Sahadev Sharma (The Athletic)
- There is a dude across the way at the coffee shop just STARING at me. – Brett Taylor (Bleacher Nation)
The message is loud and clear: The Cubs, with their currently-projected $215.5M payroll, will almost categorically avoid the deep end of free agency … unless something ridiculous and unforeseen changes down the line.
Ah. But that unless – the word that’s pretty much always fair to deploy, no matter how practical its usage. For example: Anthony Rizzo is completely untouchable in any trade … unless the offer is too overwhelming to ignore.
Everything that comes after any use of the word “unless” in this context is the part most of us get hung up on. It’s that tiny part of your brain that keeps you going throughout the winter, reminding you that technically anything is possible. And when it comes to Anthony Rendon, the Cubs aren’t signing him, unless ….
But while we’re usually forced to fill in the blanks after the unless ourselves, I have one Jeff Passan, who jumped on NBC Sports Chicago’s Cubs Talk Podcast earlier today, to do it for us (podcast embedded at the end of this post).
Passan (and the gang) get into a lot, so I encourage you to check the whole thing out, but here are some of the money-quotes with respect to this discussion:
I think what we’re going to end up seeing [from the Cubs this offseason] is a significant trade, maybe two.
When it comes down to it, the guys they’re going to get the most back for are going to be Bryant and Contreras, but those are also pretty seminal pieces of this core. So in order to do that, you’re going to have to get a ton back.
I’m not going to completely say that they’re out on … I don’t think they’re in on [Gerrit] Cole, but I’m not going to say they’re completely on [Anthony] Rendon. There’s certainly a scenario in which they trade Bryant and they trade Contreras and all of a sudden, you’re losing quite a bit of salary there and they could potentially fill that in with a guy like Rendon.
Note: Passan concluded that thought by conceding that Cubs fans should look “more to the middle tier” of free agency.
To recap what Passan said there: (1) The Cubs most likely offseason includes a “significant trade, maybe two,” (2) Bryant and Contreras are the guys likely to fetch the best return, and (3) if the Cubs were to trade Bryant and Contreras, it’s at least conceivable to imagine them filling in the payroll and lineup holes with a free agent bat like Anthony Rendon.
There’s a whole lot of ifs and this and ifs and that going on there, but it is by far the shiniest (tiniest) glimmer of hope we’ve gotten yet this offseason (especially since it feels darn well likely that one of, if not both, Bryant and Contreras will be dealt).
Speaking of which, for the sake of this discussion, how much would the Cubs actually save on that if the trading team assumed the whole of their salaries? Does the math even work out on this if you wanted to think about it?
Well, both Bryant and Contreras are arbitration eligible so it’ll be nothing more than an estimate, but MLB Trade Rumors would guess a total of $23.5M in savings in 2020 ($18.5 for Bryant and $4.5M for Contreras).
Next season, when Bryant is likely to cost at least $25M and Contreras roughly $10M, the 2021 savings would amount to at least $35M.
So if the Cubs traded Bryant and Contreras this winter, they’d save roughly $58 million over the next two years – that’s a $29M AAV – plus whatever Contreras would make in his third trip through arbitration (imagine something between $12-$18M). Obviously, some of that salary would be offset by whomever they acquire, but chances are either deal would feature young, cheap, cost-controlled players, so it’s not much of a factor.
Point being: Yes, sure, the math works out. If the Cubs traded Bryant and Contreras, the nearly $30M in average annual value they’d free up over the next two years could be put towards Anthony Rendon, who’s likely to cost roughly that much. And if the return for Bryant and Contreras was appropriately strong – and you believe in Victor Caratini/the future of Miguel Amaya – it isn’t at all crazy to be interested in this kind of series of moves.
… but it’s also way too many moving parts to feel realistic. At least not right now. Pulling off any one part of this three-pronged plan (trade Bryant for big value, trade Contreras for big value, sign Rendon) is a minor mountain to climb, and all three feels like a pipe dream.
So, basically, nah. The Cubs aren’t signing Anthony Rendon.