Love for Chafin, His Market, Bellinger Apparently Signed a While Ago, and Other Cubs Bullets

A very happy Christmas Eve to those of you who celebrate, and I hope you’re able to find some time with family and/or friends today/tonight/this weekend. The holiday means you’ll see lighter than usual posting this weekend. Much love to all.

•   A major league signing! … is what has been reported by Jeff Passan, but it actually ain’t all that sexy or new:

•   You could understand why this one didn’t get scooped just before the lockout, because deals to avoid arbitration – even for big-name players like Bellinger – weren’t at top of mind when the flurry of free agent signings were going down. But it is a reminder that deals could have been struck at the zero hour and simply haven’t made their way to the ears of anyone in the media quite yet. Nooooo no no, I’m not talking about major free agent signings*, but other deals like this, some minor league signings, and other modest procedural transactions could still be lurking out there.

•   *(On the major transaction front, here’s what’s possible: deals could have gotten to the one-yard line before the shutdown kicked in, with the sides understanding they would wrap it up as soon as the lockout ends. I actually tend to think there are probably several around baseball like that, which were kept VERY under wraps from the rumor mill because the sides knew there was about to be two months of inactivity in which their deal could get blown up if it leaked out. That is to say, whenever the lockout ends, I expect a miniature flurry of transactions being completed almost immediately, and not because there was shady dealings happening during the lockout. Then we’ll have a tiny lull, and then another made flurry of new deals.)

•   Oh, but about Bellinger – it’s not like the Dodgers were ever going to non-tender a guy who was playing at an MVP level just a few years ago, but it’s also hard to overstate just how bad his 2021 season was in every way. The results, we know, were bottom-of-the-league. But what is concerning is that he was a guy who always had a uniquely long swing, which exposed him to serious risks down the road, but benefited him for now when he was able to barrel the ball. Then he got hurt in multiple ways, the bat speed/path suffered (because of the injuries or for other reasons), and his ability to make hard contact went to about zero (while his strikeouts exploded). It was just so ugly. No idea what he can be for the Dodgers in 2022, but they had to pay to find out. He’s just 26, he’s been a superstar before, and he hits free agency in two years.

•   This guy sure was fun:

•   Still a free agent, Andrew Chafin figures to get a really healthy contract on the strength of his dominant 2021 season. Consider that it’s not just that he had the best season of his career, it’s that he was already pretty darn good with the Diamondbacks for a long time before he ever came to the Cubs. Then last year, the Cubs appeared to help him improve his sinker considerably, so he started throwing it a lot more, and it worked really well. But under the hood, what you notice about Chafin is that, outside of the pandemic year (when he barely pitched due to the length and injury), he was actually just as good from 2016 to 2019 as he was in 2021 (his FIP- was nearly identical for all those years).

•   There’s a reason the Cubs targeted him, specifically, last offseason to re-sign, and it wasn’t exclusively because they thought they could get a little more out of him. They knew he was already really good and was clearly being undervalued. That probably won’t happen this offseason, and thus I fully expect him to get a two or three-year deal at a really strong AAV. I doubt it will come from the Cubs, but in the spirit of the team (1) having lots of short-term money to spend, and (2) still wanting to add an impact arm in the bullpen, it’s not like I’d completely rule it out. (I’m not sure the Cubs have ruled it out either.)

•   But hey, Chafin didn’t make the top 50 free agent list at either MLBTR or FanGraphs, so maybe he WILL be undervalued again this offseason? I’m just sayin’, if you could get him on one of those two-year, $12-ish million deals, with a team option for a third year? That’d just be too dang good to say no. I still think he gets more.

•   The Angels ZiPS projections are the latest out, and the most interesting things to me are (1) how well Shohei Ohtani projects on both sides of the ball (basically a repeat uberstardom), (2) how Jared Walsh projects to be an impact bat despite being such a late-bloomer, (3) how Jo Adell still projects to be below average at the plate (how far his star has fallen, but he’s still only 22), and (4) how strong Noah Syndergaard projects in his comeback season.

•   Doing some good:

•   Sad news to pass on, and all the best to Billy Williams and his family:

written by

Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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