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Cubs Have Reportedly Been Doing Their Homework on the Elite Shortstop Free Agent Market

Chicago Cubs

Over at ESPN, Buster Olney spoke with a variety of talent evaluators around baseball about the top five shortstops in free agency: Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Marcus Semien, Trevor Story, and Javy Báez.

It makes for an interesting read on the top free agents, and how those around the game view them. There’s a deeper look at each player, and the market for their services. A whole lotta teams are going to be spending big this offseason, and a whole lot of them could use a shortstop.

What might stand out to you, though, is that the Cubs are actually acknowledged as a team with a need at shortstop. Someone is paying attention nationally! The specific line, in fact, is probably going to titillate you a little: “[T]he Cubs are seen as a wild card in the shortstop market, and some Chicago staffers have been cultivating information about the elite shortstops.”

Wild card! Cultivating information! Staying in the mix!

It’s a great line, and I have no doubt it’s true. But I think we have to recognize the big picture context here before we go too nuts.

The Cubs have (1) a hole at shortstop, (2) a lot of available payroll space, and (3) a market in front of them that features a lot of great shortstops. With that information alone we can say with confidence that the Cubs are going to investigate the players. They need to be in a position to jump into the market if a guy slips (relative to their internally-calculated value).

The Cubs SHOULD be cultivating information on all of these guys. It would be irresponsible not to, because, like we said recently with Carlos Correa, there could be a level at which the Cubs see too much value not to get involved in the bidding. It might be only a 5% chance that that happens, but you have to be prepared in case it does. And you can’t be prepared to jump if you haven’t done your homework.

But, for reasons we’ve gone over, I don’t see the Cubs leading the market on any of these shortstops. Of course the Cubs would want Corey Seager in the abstract – every team would – but his value to them might be less than his value to a team that is much more clearly going to win a whole lotta games in 2022 and 2023 (when Seager is most likely to put up his best remaining years). In that instance, the rational price tag for the Cubs might be slightly lower than the rational price tag for the Mariners or whoever.

So, do your homework, keep monitoring the market, and at least be in a position to pounce on value if something crazy happens and one of these top shortstops finds he’s out of big-market suitors at the price point he was hoping for.

… or maybe the Cubs have been playing a rope-a-dope all along and they’re actually going to ball out for one of these guys and coordinate it with other moves to really improve the team for 2022. I guess I can’t completely rule it out, but in the 10+ years of Theo/Jed, we’ve always known the general spending direction of a given offseason. Monster long-term contracts don’t feel like the order of the day this time around.

Oh, also: the Olney piece speculates on the possible landing spots for each of the five shortstops, and the only one where the Cubs show up is, you guessed it, Javy Báez. Interestingly, only two teams are named for Báez: the Cubs and the Mets (who are reportedly trying to get an extension done with him early in the offseason).



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.