A reminder – this is me saying it to myself, because I just caught myself getting saucy earlier today – that nothing has *actually* happened yet this offseason. The Cubs didn’t earn much in the way of benefit of the doubt last offseason, but we should also wait to rip the decisions they actually make. But obviously today’s financial report isn’t making folks feel optimistic.
Oh, hey, the Winter Meetings start tomorrow …
- And speaking of reasons to feel saucy, this is dark:
Last time the Winter Meetings were in San Diego, the Cubs were about to change the course of the org with some big spending. The Winter Meetings return to SD and they're at a critical point again. Big moves? They hope. Big spending? Not likely. https://t.co/V0VfjbDTRf
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) December 8, 2019
- Each individual point made by Sharma – and/or pursued by the Cubs – is reasonable in isolation, but it’s the picture it all paints when taken together that is dark. That’s especially true when you think about what the Cubs are *supposed* to be. Among the flaccidity-inducing points made:
“Handcuffed by the budget imposed by ownership — as well as mistakes in free agency and the draft — Epstein had to try and upgrade the roster last offseason by spending as little as possible. The bargain shopping led to the additions of Daniel Descalso, Brad Brach, Xavier Cedeño and Tony Barnette, who combined to produce -0.6 WAR (FanGraphs) for the Cubs.
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports the Cubs are “telling representatives of even low-budget free agents that they need to clear money before engaging in serious negotiations.”
There were already strong signals that this will be another winter of austerity for Epstein’s baseball operations department, which might force the Cubs to move money in order to make a significant deal for a free agent, the way picking up Cole Hamels’ $20 million option last offseason first required the Drew Smyly salary-dump trade.”
- Anyway, we do know that the Cubs do at least intend to be very active this week in San Diego, even if it may not involve extensive and pricey free agent negotiations:
Many teams getting to the winter meetings early . Cubs could have upwards of 25 people working as support staff during the four days.
— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) December 7, 2019
- Mark Gonzales’s Winter Meetings pre-write mentions a couple familiar names at second base for the Cubs in Whit Merrifield and Adam Frazier, each of whom would be an attractive trade target in different ways. We’ve discussed the problems with acquiring Merrifield here, and the fit of Frazier here.
- Meanwhile, other big market orgs are about to go nuts for one of the best free agent pitchers in recent memory:
I'm told #Yankees have a seven-year, $245 million offer on the table for Gerrit Cole. Would be a record-setting contract for a pitcher, surpassing Greinke’s $34.4 million AAV. Question is whether #Dodgers or #Angels will go to 8-9 or even 10 years.
— Bob Klapisch (@BobKlap) December 8, 2019
- Doesn’t mean it’ll work out for the ultimate winner of the sweepstakes, of course, but the megadeals for starting pitchers in recent years have actually been surprisingly successful across the board.
- Interesting approach the Brewers are taking to the rotation so far, but it’s hard for me to rip them after an extreme poverty approach to the rotation worked so well for them the last two years:
#Brewers have been out-bid on every one of their free agents thus far. Tells you something about what they are willing to spend this offseason. Still in need of multiple arms for starting rotation. https://t.co/fOz9z6qK1u
— Tom (@Haudricourt) December 7, 2019
- Former Brewers pitcher Junior Guerra found a new home quickly after being non-tendered by the Brewers:
The Diamondbacks have signed right-hander Junior Guerra to a one-year deal worth $2.55 million. The contract includes a club option with a $100,000 buyout, bringing the total value to $2.65 million.
— Nick Piecoro (@nickpiecoro) December 8, 2019
- Miscellaneous predictions for the week ahead, including a trade of Willson Contreras:
Let’s go to Saint Diego… https://t.co/6cXNrEjHS3 ⚾️
— Anthony Castrovince (@castrovince) December 8, 2019
- I could certainly see the Padres as an attractive trade partner for the Cubs – plenty of quality young arms and high-level prospects to turn heads – and I could also see the Padres wanting to add Contreras’s fire power behind the plate. They are in that mode. What I can’t quite see is defensively-challenged catcher Francisco Mejia being the center piece of the return unless the Cubs were so enamored with the bat that they don’t really care where he winds up positionally (he played a little outfield in the Indians farm system). Obviously Mejia was an extremely highly regarded prospect in his Indians days, as an extreme-contact switch hitter with developing power. The issue is that, in the big leagues, his strikeout rate has been closer to (or slightly above) league average, and he doesn’t walk. So he’s a guy who has to post a huge BABIP to have success, and has to do it with meh speed. That’s a lot of pressure on his ability to hit a lot of line drives (it’s a similar profile, in that regard, to Victor Caratini, actually). As a good catcher, that’s a great bat. As a bad catcher or a corner outfielder, it’s gotta be a lot more than that.
- CBS’s set of bold predictions also has a Contreras trade, as he goes to the Astros for righties Josh James, Bryan Abreu, Brandon Bielak … a reliever and two solid pitching prospects not in the top 100. Hey, look, I sincerely get that it’s hard to put these kinds of deals together for every organization in baseball and we have the privilege of looking only at a single idea and ripping it to shreds, but, well, consider this one ripped to shreds. Do the Cubs need upper-level pitching that might have a chance to start in the big leagues? Sure. But they actually already *have* a decent bit of that. What they need is more chances at higher impact.