If the price tags for Carlos Correa and Trevor Story balloon out of range whenever the time comes to make a deal in the second half of this offseason, the Cubs will be forced to look elsewhere for that much-needed defensive upgrade at shortstop. That’s why Brett jumped at the chance to discuss Jonathan Villar and Jose Iglesias when the two free agent shortstops were mentioned as possibilities for Chicago late last week. It isn’t that they will get you super excited, it’s just that they may become necessary.
But the free agent market isn’t the only place to look for a defensive upgrade. So that’s where we’ll start today.
Trade for a Shortstop?
At NBC Sports Chicago, Gordon Wittenmyer gets into three potential trade candidates for the Cubs to target in the Offseason Part 2, starting with Nick Ahmed of the Arizona Diamondbacks:
The Cubs have nobody in-house with close to the everyday, big-league defensive chops of Ahmed. And the front office has a longtime relationship with Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen.
The key is the $18.25 million left on the final two years of Ahmed’s contract — which could make some teams balk for the bat he provides. The Cubs have enough payroll flexibility in the short run to take on that contract without a flinch, and if taking the contract in full means giving up little in player capital to acquire him, then it could be a fit.
But I’m not quite so convinced.
If Ahmed, 31, had enough at-bats to qualify in 2021, he would’ve been the second worst hitter in MLB (64 wRC+). And his expected stats were even worse. He has been an above-average hitter against lefties throughout his career (106 wRC+), including last season (103 wRC+), which actually does pair with Nico Hoerner’s reverse splits for some sort of frankenstein platoon up the middle, but … is that really the best way to spend $18.25M over the next two years? I don’t think so. It’s not a crazy suggestion, the glove is legit and the cost-to-acquire would likely be as low as it gets, but I think going after Villar or Iglesias *or* rolling with Hoerner and hoping for the best are all better options. (Brett: I still have Ahmed acquired on the cheap (as in, literally just taking on most of the contract) as my slightly preferred non-Correa option, for what it’s worth, but Michael just wanted to put me on blast …. )
Other Trade Candidates?
But Wittenmyer’s other two suggestions should get your engine revving. First, he suggests the Cubs call up the Mets on any of their many available position players, including buy-low 2B/3B Jeff McNeil (93 wRC+ in 2021, 126 wRC+ for his career) or no-glove J.D. Davis (130 wRC+ in 2021). I don’t need to link any stories to tell you these guys are available, it’s the worst kept secret of the offseason, and I do think there’s some opportunity here if the Mets are willing to play ball.
McNeil, 29, and Davis, 28, each come with three more years of team control via arbitration.
Wittenmyer also continues beating the drum for a long-term play on Tyler Glasnow, which has been one of Brett’s favorite angles of the offseason. Wittenmyer guesses it would take a “win-now” player like Willson Contreras to get a deal done. A deal for Glasnow centering around Contreras would take a lot of guts – and would really neuter any early-season excitement the Cubs will have built up – but it’s not completely out of the question (seems like Cubs would need more, though, since they would be paying for two years of Glasnow’s salary for (maybe) one year of production). I still prefer to extend Contreras. Maybe there’s another way to get Glasnow in the door.
Actually, the Mets Are Not Done?
Just a few days ago, reports dropped that the Mets were going to be OUT on any other big ticket items when the offseason restarted, especially on the positional side. But now? It’s starting to seem like that may have been the first half of a public negotiation, because Jon Heyman just dropped this nugget on Twitter yesterday:
Have heard Mets might consider signing another significant pitcher and hitter once the lockout ends, on top of Scherzer, Marte, Canha and Escobar. If so $270M payroll could approach $300M.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 31, 2022
There’s still no reason to believe they’ll be in on Carlos Correa, and I think the same goes for Kris Bryant, if they can’t trade Davis or McNeil, but maybe they’ll find a way to fit all this in and continue to leverage their owners financial might to buy themselves a playoff spot.
Rockies in on Schwarber, Bryant
Kyle Schwarber, 28, picked the right time to have his best big league season, and now figures to be a fairly highly sought-after free agent when the lockout ends. Early rumors had the Red Sox and Phillies interested in a deal, but there may be a new entrant into the market: The Colorado Rockies.
Here’s Patrick Saunders setting it up at the Denver Post in no uncertain terms (emphasis mine):
But if I had to pick one player the Rockies will make a run at, it would be free agent Kyle Schwarber. He could be a designated hitter, play left field, or fill in at first base for the Rockies. I know that the Rockies are interested in Schwarber, but that doesn’t mean they will land him.
The Rockies, however, will have plenty of competition for Schwarber. In fact, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury wrote that the Phillies were “in full pursuit” of Schwarber in the days leading up to the lockout.
Interestingly, Saunders also mentions Kris Bryant as a target of the Rockies (or rather, they were already looking at him before the lockout), but he quickly concedes that he doesn’t expect Colorado to pay what it’ll take. Either one of these former Cubs could hit a lotta dingers at Coors Field.
A Big Padres (Double) Move?
There’s almost too much context to share to fully appreciate the impact of the following set of rumors, so be sure to head over to The Athletic to read everything Dennis Lin has to say on the matter. But the short version can be bulleted as such:
• The Padres need to find a starting caliber hitter before the season.
• That hitter will likely have to call the outfield home.
• There is reason to believe they can pump up the payroll a little higher; however …
• Any move of significance (Nick Castellanos, Kris Bryant are mentioned) will require trading either Eric Hosmer or Wil Myers.
But the juicier part came after all of that: “There has been at least one discussion involving a high-profile target in which the Padres suggested that the price would require them to move Hosmer and Myers.”
*AND* being the operative word there.
Obviously, that’s a fun enough rumor all on its own, but I bring it up here because of the connection to the Cubs, who were in talks with the Padres at the deadline to help facilitate one of these cost-saving trades (basically, the Cubs would get a nice prospect in exchange for paying down the rest of Player X’s salary). Both Myers and Hosmer have been included in these rumors, so my antenna is on high-alert.
Myers: $20M in 2022, $20M club option ($1M buyout) in 2023
Hosmer: $20M in 2022, $13M/year 2023-2024
(Brett: I’ll just be over here drooling about the package of prospects the Cubs could demand from the Padres to take both players off their books … )
For what it’s worth, Lin reports that the Padres have checked in with Castellanos’ agent, but says they’re not particularly high on him given the price tag, which also comes with draft pick compensation. And if you had to give a pick to sign Castellanos *in addition* to trading a prospect to save enough money to make it happen, you can see why that’d be a tough pill to swallow.
Lin also mentions potential Cubs target Seiya Suzuki as an option, but thinks he’ll also cost too much to sign on his own, without a cost-saving trade.