Lukewarm Stove: Thoughts on a Cubs "Rebuild," Contreras' True Availability, Springer Race Down to Two, Bauer's Ask, More | Bleacher Nation

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Lukewarm Stove: Thoughts on a Cubs “Rebuild,” Contreras’ True Availability, Springer Race Down to Two, Bauer’s Ask, More

Chicago Cubs

Last night, in a frustrated stupor, I accidentally phrased the title of our post on the official announcement of the Darvish trade as “… Cubs Trade Darvish and Caratini to San Diego for Davies, a Package of Prospects, and Cash,” when in reality the Cubs are the ones sending cash to the Padres. I wrote the post correctly (as though the Cubs were sending cash), but there was clearly some subconscious disconnect between what I thinking and what really went down.

But don’t get me wrong. Brett is correct when he says it’s actually a *good* sign that the Cubs added cash to improve the return …

… but it is *also* correct to say that the extra cash took an already frustrating deal and technically did make it worse. It’s such a small amount of money that it doesn’t really matter, but it blows my mind that the Cubs had to kick in more to get a return I already don’t necessarily love *in terms of the direction it takes the franchise, not because of the players, themselves.*

Speaking of which …

The Rebuild is On?

At The Athletic, Patrick Mooney has a fresh post entitled “The Cubs rebuild is here: Why stop now after trading Yu Darvish?” And I think you should read it. It does a good job of soberly resetting our collective psyche, so that we’re all on the same page on this and any future deals that come this offseason.

But here’s the part I’d like to add: Trading Darvish, in isolation, wasn’t the signal of a full-on rebuild. And I actually did/do support trading him this winter, in general. I love Darvish, but he’s turning 35 this season, is coming off a monster year, during which he likely attained peak value, and the Cubs system was absolutely in need of an infusion of young talent to help smooth the transition from this core to the next. Instead, it’s the age (risk) and distance to the majors (timeline, also risk) of the prospect package that rubs me the wrong way and indicates a longer-term rebuild is in store.

I do not buy that there was NOT a package of prospects (or some combination of prospects and current, pre-arb big leaguers) that would’ve helped this team turn things around more quickly than the Cubs got from the Padres. Would it have meant less overall talent? Yeah, probably. But this particular return has its eyes on competing *after* 2022. And that’s the part I can’t stomach.

This is still a talented team and there are still some core pieces who could help compete in 2022 and beyond, particularly given the monster free agent classes coming up over the next two offseasons. And, sure, I can buy that the Cubs probably needed to add some significant dollars to get that sort of nearer-term return (be that with the Padres or to open up more realistic landing spots in the market), but that’s sort of the rub, now, isn’t it? The Cubs wanted to ditch that salary and they got the best return they could within those parameters. Which is … not a great sign?

Alas, time to look forward, because there are not likely any big signings coming this year:

Contreras Trade Rumors

Speaking of which, yeah, I heard Jed Hoyer identify any recent reports of the Cubs “extensively shopping” Willson Contreras as “fictional,” but I think Brett nailed my reaction to it in his writeup earlier today:

Is it possible there’s a middle ground there, where Hoyer’s right that it’s not accurate to say the Cubs are “extensively shopping” Contreras, but it’s also true that they’re listening in a way that goes beyond “oh, hey, we listen on everyone”? Yeah. I think it’s impossible to have listened to that whole presser and not come away focused on the Cubs’ desire to add even more for the long-term. It was clear. Hoyer did not hide that ball a bit. So, against that backdrop, given how valuable Contreras could be in trade, yeah, I’m pretty sure the Cubs are open to dealing him if it netted significant impact prospects.

To that end, two Chicago sources said something very similar, with the weight of some background information behind them:

Did trading Contreras become a little more dicey after losing Victor Caratini? Of course. But he’s available. Almost certainly more than usual.

For what it’s worth, I really hate the idea of trading Contreras, even with Miguel Amaya on the way. Given the way Contreras improved his pitch framing last season, I’d actually have him as my No. 1 extension priority at the moment. Alas, I don’t make the decisions around here. And who knows, maybe Amaya is closer to big league ready than we think. It’s not difficult to imagine him as the starter in 2022, and if that’s how the Cubs feel, cashing in Contreras for a MONSTER return makes sense.

But so help me if they trade him for anything less than a monster return ….

George Springer Race

George Springer is one of the offseason’s biggest free agents and his race is reportedly down to just two teams. No surprises here: “Steve Cohen’s Mets and the Toronto Blue Jays are the final clubs competing to land the high-priced outfielder, a source told the Daily News.

According to the report, Springer is likely to land a contract worth “well over $100 million,” and the two most (expectedly) spendy teams are apparently the finalists. Springer has been the Mets priority all offseason, while the Blue Jays seem to have … several priorities (though they did just miss out on Ha-Seong Kim, in whom they had serious interest before he was scooped up by the Padres).

If the Mets do land Springer, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them pursue a trade from their crowded and talented outfield depth, but the target of those potential efforts is pretty unclear at the moment. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays are still largely in play for Francisco Lindor, who *will* be traded this offseason. I guess the big point here is that Springer’s decision, not unlike J.T. Realmuto’s, has a lot of tentacles.

Trevor Bauer Race

Didn’t Bauer previously say he wanted to sign one-year deals:

I don’t (and never) bought that Bauer was going to seriously consider a one-year deal when there’s clearly so much more available over the long-term (why wouldn’t you sign a long term deal as the best starting pitcher in a free agent class coming off a Cy Young season? I get the idea of making more year-to-year, but … that’s insanely risky. Just take advantage of peak value and change your family’s life for generations, dude).

For what it’s worth, I think any team that gives Bauer $36 million is going to be making a huge mistake, even as I suspect he’ll be a valuable pitcher over the next few seasons, at least.

Odds and Ends:

•   Crazy that Kolten Wong, Yadi Molina, and Adam Wainwright are not on the Cardinals, while Kyle Schwarber, Yu Darvish, Victor Caratini, Albert Almora, Jon Lester, Jose Quintana, Tyler Chatwood (and others) are not on the Cubs. HOWEVER, I suspect some of those Cubs could still return to the homeland, and ditto the Cardinals:

•   “Fun!”

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami