Back when Theo Epstein first became the Cubs President of Baseball Operations with Jed Hoyer as his GM, there weren’t too many teams with that particular front office arrangement. Most teams, at the time, had a GM in charge of their baseball operations (with assistant GMs underneath them), perhaps also with a general team president who leaned more toward the business side of the ledger. That made Epstein’s role a little more significant. But today, with virtually every team moving into the President/GM structure, it’s kind of like we’re back where we started. Ultimately, if you’re the top baseball executive, you’re the top baseball executive. What does the title really mean? It’s not like Hoyer has any powers right now that he didn’t have when he was the GM of the Padres (without a baseball ops president), right?
And I’m not being rhetorical! I’m curious! For example, I’d like to know — in a legal sense — if new Cubs GM Carter Hawkins could, if he wanted, execute a transaction without the literal sign off of Jed Hoyer? I don’t mean going behind his back (that’s not going to happen), but in a boring, legal sense, if Hoyer was unavailable … can Hawkins do it? Can he bind the Cubs to a deal on his own? And is he the only other one who can? And if so, who makes those rules, the league or the individual organization? And do other organizations and agents know who’s allowed to do what? And how does that change how transactions are negotiated? Is there a best way to set up this relationship? Is this hyper-specific and probably not all that important? And wasn’t this post supposed to be about MLB rumors?
Oh, hey look, the Cubs just hired a new assistant GM, which is basically just like an intern, I think.
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) October 22, 2021
Free Agent Predictions
Depending on how this tweet displays on your device, you might not be able to see all of Jon Heyman’s free agent predictions from MLB Network, including the one most relevant to you: The Cubs re-signing Javier Báez.
Here's some early free agent predictions from Jon Heyman. pic.twitter.com/sBwk3Rdxkt
— Michael Mayer (@mikemayer22) October 22, 2021
Given the Cubs (1) positional needs, (2) financial flexibility, and (3) intimate familiarity with his game, plus Javy Báez’s (1) strong end to the season, (2) obvious love for the Cubs/Chicago, and (3) the relatively recent extension efforts that were probably unfairly complicated by the pandemic, this doesn’t feel too off base, even despite some of our Cubs free agent expectations (fears?).
After all, it was just two days ago that Buster Olney reported that the Cubs were doing their homework on the elite shortstop free agent market, and just one day since Mark Feinsand called them a “likely suitor” for Trevor Story. So, yeah, I buy it. And on the right deal, I’d love to have Javy Báez back. I won’t dig further into that right now – it’s so early, there are still a ton of hurdles to clear, and there are already rumors of an early Báez-Mets extension – but suffice it to say, the national baseball reporters are CLEARLY not ready to count the Cubs out on the top shortstops.
As for Kris Bryant to the Mets? Yeah, that’s not going to happen. I just don’t see it.
Other Javy Báez Suitors
So aside from the Cubs and Mets, who else could be involved? Well, according to Andy Martino, the Yankees.
The Yankees, you might recall, were one of the most aggressive teams in pursuit of Báez at the trade deadline, and are still looking for a legitimate shortstop to push Gleyber Torres of the position indefinitely. So I guess if Báez is looking to stay in New York, but return to shortstop (which he can’t do as a Met with Francisco Lindor around from, now until eternity) the Yankees could be the solution.
Martino reported that Baez “would be inclined to stay” with the Mets if the team makes him a “serious offer early,” but the Yankees “are expected to be a suitor” if Baez and the Mets don’t reach a deal.
So between the deep pockets and short-term competitive advantage of both teams in New York (at least, relative to the Cubs), a reunion is looking like a pretty tall order for Báez and the Cubs. He’d have to really want to come back, I think.
Marcus Stroman’s Price Tag
If you’re looking for the article version of a pros and cons list on free agent starter Marcus Stroman, Danny Abriano has you covered. He attacks it from the perspective of the Mets, but most of the points and transferable to just about any team targeting Stroman.
The part that stands out in particular, however, is the financial discussion. Theoretically, Stroman might begin by seeking a contract that pays him roughly $25M/year for five or six years. And we basically already had this discussion, relating it to the six-year, $126M deal the Cubs gave Yu Darvish, concluding that Stroman may not be at that level – at least not to the Cubs right now.
But at the end of the article, Abriano wonders if a four-year, $92M deal could work ($23M AAV). And, uh, yeah … sign me up yesterday for that. That’s precisely the sort of shorter-term, high-AAV dance we want the Cubs to perform this offseason. And if Stroman’s negotiations trickle down to the four-year range (or shorter!), the Cubs must be ready to pounce with a strong offer.
Victor Robles Is Probably Very Gettable
Well, I’m glad the Cubs didn’t end up swapping Kris Bryant for Victor Robles last winter like we had hoped, because the former untouchable top prospect has continued to spiral this season and the Cubs got two very good prospects from the Giants at the deadline (Alexander Canario and Caleb Killian) for Bryant …
… But that doesn’t mean I’m not still interested! Especially not when the Nationals seem so eager to move on.
Victor Robles has gone from untouchable top prospect to starting center fielder on a World Series champion to Triple-A castaway. Will the Nationals give him one more shot in 2022. And if he doesn’t seize it, then what? https://t.co/WEINRaL3pP
— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) October 22, 2021
And, look, we don’t have to make this too complicated: The Cubs are not guaranteed to be competitive next season and have an outfield devoid of anyone they absolutely cannot move. Thus, they can probably offer a better opportunity to give Robles more runway than many other teams, and maybe that’ll be enough for him to figure stuff out. Is it a low-probability reward at this point? Yeah, sure, but he’s still just 24 years old with a (once) very high ceiling. Maybe a change of scenery, a bit of a reset in terms of expectations, and some new coaching can turn the tide. And if it costs as little as it should to pry him away from Washington, I’d absolutely welcome the gamble.
Again, we know they were interested at one point, so why not?
It’s kind of easy to forget that Kyle Schwarber is going to be a free agent again at season’s end, now detached from draft pick compensation, with some additional positional versatility, and perhaps also with the most convincing offensive stretch of his career. Given the history and the Cubs needs everywhere, I do find it a little odd that he hasn’t been brought up more often, but maybe that’ll come in time, especially after we know for sure if the DH is coming. In any case, any team’s pursuit of Schwarber is now certain to have to go through the Red Sox first, who clearly love everything about him.
There’s really no one line to quote to illustrate the picture. From his work ethic, to his experience, to his production, to his clubhouse leadership, the Red Sox are enamored with Schwarber and I’d call them the front-runners just based on the same gut feeling that puts the Giants in the same spot with respect to Bryant.
So, I guess … be on the lookout for that? End of post.