In 2012, the Boston Red Sox (69-93) finished dead-last in the AL East, 26.0 games out of first place, for the first time since 1992. Fresh off the losses of manager Terry Francona and executive Theo Epstein the winter prior, the 2012 Red Sox traded away Kevin Youkilis, Adrián González, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto mid-season. After that, they had a seemingly enigmatic offseason, that frustrated fans and confused pundits, mostly because of their large collection of short-term deals.
• Re-signed DH David Ortiz (two-year, $26M)
• Signed C David Ross (two-year, $6.2M)
• Signed OF Jonny Gomes (two-year, $10M)
• Signed OF Shane Victorino (three-year, $39M)
• Signed RP Koji Uehara (one-year, $4.25M)
• Signed SP Ryan Dempster (two-year, $26.5M)
• Signed SS Stephen Drew (one-year, $9.5M)
But boy did it work out!
Combined, those seven free agents netted the Red Sox 18.3 WAR, and David Ortiz went on to become the World Series MVP for the 2013 World Series Champion Red Sox. Dempster was the only free agent that didn’t really pan out (0.5 WAR), but even he managed to contribute 29 starts and 171.1 IP to their WS run.
So why do I bring that all up? Well, because it leads directly into our first rumor of the day.
Aside from the obvious parallels to the 2021 Chicago Cubs, who had also recently moved on from a big-time manager (Joe Maddon) and the exact same executive (Epstein) ahead of a series of pre- and mid-season trades (Yu Darvish, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javy Báez, Joc Pederson, Andrew Chafin, Craig Kimbrel, Ryan Tepera), Ken Rosenthal points out that what comes next might mirror those 2013 Red Sox, as well.
Well, not the World Series championship, necessarily, but the efforts to stay competitive with a swath of short-term deals (via Rosenthal on The Athletic Baseball Show podcast):
“I can see them signing a whole bunch of guys to shorter deals. Kind of like the 2013 Red Sox, if you go back to that. And then going about it that way, trying to stay competitive, while building up the farm and all of that.”
In case you missed it, those comments came at the end of Rosenthal’s discussion of the Carlos Correa-Cubs rumors, which we got into earlier today.
The broader take away here is that regardless of whether or not the Cubs reel in a big fish like Correa this offseason, they do have significant payroll room and a desire to be competitive in 2022. And the implication there was to expect additional, potentially even impact signings after the lockout. The only caveat is that the majority of those signings are likely going to be short-term deals, like the ones they’ve already handed to Marcus Stroman (3-years, $71M), Wade Miley (one-year, $10M), Yan Gomes (two-years, $13M), and Clint Frazier (one year, $1.5M) this winter.
If you’re curious for more/specifics, Brett took a look at the top remaining free agents with a special focus on the areas of need for the Cubs (shortstop, a significant bat, left-handed power, premium starting velocity, and relief help).
Market for Castellanos and Schwarber
At MLB Trade Rumors, Tim Dierkes attempted to identify the most likely suitors for two interesting free agents outfielders and former Cubs, Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber. But in so doing, Dierkes listed 26 teams … 13 each from the NL and AL (only the Pirates, Diamondbacks, Orioles, and Athletics were excluded).
But to be fair, we’re talking about two players, whose price tags don’t figure to be outrageous, with great bats, coming off excellent seasons, potentially just ahead of the arrival of the universal DH. It makes a great deal of sense for the field to be wide. Moreover, not even every team mentioned is considered a realistic option. For example, the Reds don’t have a DH, so these guys *could* fit, but aren’t expected to pursue either player.
So, you should read the article, but just consider it more of a general check-in on each team’s chances/outlook on these two free agents. WITH THAT SAID, there are some interesting conversations in the Cubs section, specifically with respect to Castellanos.
Dierkes doesn’t expect the Cubs to top the field for Castellanos right out of the gate, especially because he’s attached to draft pick compensation, but does suggest two ways he could wind up back on the North side: (1) If he’s not fielding the sort of long-term offers he was reportedly seeking (7 or 8 years … which has always seemed a little nuts), the Cubs could actually be the team to beat in the three-year range. And that certainly tracks with their apparent M.O. this offseason. And (2) If the combination of the lockout and draft pick compensation forces Castellanos to wait to sign until after the draft (a la Craig Kimbrel), detached from compensation, the Cubs could be involved without the need to surrender a draft pick.
I have a lot of nits to pick with that latter option – the biggest being the potential for the draft to – once again – be over a month later than it was when the Cubs signed Kimbrel. But it’s not worth getting into. The point here is that, yes, the Cubs need a significant bat (or two) particularly from the left side (like Schwarber), and yes, both guys played in Chicago and reportedly wanted to stick around, but unless either guy finds a softer market than expected, particularly in terms of contract length, the Cubs just won’t be the destination.
And with so many potential suitors because of the universal DH, I just find that difficult to expect.
Cubs Biggest Need
At The Athletic, various reporters commented on the status of the team in their beat (for the Cubs, it was Sahadev Sharma). And it’s an interesting read all-around, especially if you’re looking to catch back up on the NL Central. For the Cubs, Sharma reiterates that their biggest remaining offseason need is to improve their infield defense thanks to the collection of contact pitchers atop the rotation. And while he believes they could still take a swing at Correa, he doesn’t believe they’ll offer the number of years he’s seeking (and likely willing to receive).
Therefore, Sharma says:
A more likely route would be for them to find a versatile infielder who can play plus defense at multiple positions via trade or free agency. They know how big of a need this is and it will need to be addressed for the Cubs to go into 2022 with any chance to compete.
The only problem is that the Cubs need a plus-defender at shortstop so that they can free up Nico Hoerner to be that versatile-infielder-type. And at this point, the market has dripped down to only Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, and Jonathan Villar. So … I’m not exactly sure how they hope to accomplish that goal, outside of an unexpected trade.
Odds and Ends:
• I found the Cubs section of Derrick Goold’s latest coverage of the NL Central from the perspective of St. Louis to be really interesting:
It seemed a safe bet at the start of the offseason with so much focus on opening a sportsbook beside Wrigley Field and cost-cutting measures on Wrigley Field that the Cubs would recede from the division race. And then they splurge on pitching, investing $35 million for 2022 on two pitchers, Stroman and Miley, and teasing an interest in superstar shortstop Carlos Correa. Either they’re going to use the newcomer starters in trades to hasten a reboot or the reports of the Cubs’ hibernation were greatly exaggerated.
• Let’s hope it’s the latter, eh?
• Don’t expect a bunch of trades right out of the lockout, as teams are not permitted to have these discussions until a new deal is struck (a rule I’m sure they’re all totally definitely following).
Not only are MLB front-office folks not allowed to talk with free agents during the lockout, they’re not allowed to talk to other team’s front-office folks about potential trades during the lockout. https://t.co/lXTt1KubIf
— Ryan Fagan (@ryanfagan) January 4, 2022