The Cubs Approach, Extension Talks, Hoerner, Cruz, Draft Notes, and Other Cubs Bullets

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The Cubs Approach, Extension Talks, Hoerner, Cruz, Draft Notes, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

It’s hard not to get caught up in the flurry like last night, and kinda lose your perspective on where you always saw things with this Cubs team. For me, I have to remind myself of my (own personal) context for this Cubs offseason: I think they want to give themselves a SHOT to compete in first half. I think they want short-term deals that they see as good value (which can be $1M or $25M, depending on player). I don’t think they want to sign a couple huge long-term deals to try to turn a 75-win 2022 team on paper into an 83-win team on paper. I think they want to make a whole lot of shorter-term moves that give them a chance at becoming a surprise 85+ win team if a lot of things click, but in a way that does no harm to 2023 and beyond.

This is the position you put yourself in when you see the cliff coming for years, and then – thanks to a combination of bad decisions, unfortunate circumstances, and years of disappointing player development – walk right off of it. That was 2021, and because of it, 2022 was always going to be, at best, a “let’s give ourselves a shot” year.

In the meantime, I remain as patient as I can be about what else the Cubs might pull off before Opening Day …

•   First official team workout is today, with the first game coming in just three days. All while new players are likely to keep trickling in. Lord this Spring Training is going to be so weird.

•   Apropos of yesterday’s comments from Willson Contreras on the lack of extension talks with the Cubs, and his hopes for free agency if there is no extension with the Cubs, here’s how Cubs President Jed Hoyer talked about the topic of extensions – generally – this past week ( “This is a condensed window. As we’ve talked about, you want to get guys in camp as quickly as you can. Not all those deals are going to come together right away, but that’s certainly the goal. As far as our own guys, we’ll probably, once we’ve kind of filled out our roster, that’s something we’ll re-address.” A wholly reasonable perspective with so much external transacting happening right now, and also the still-open questions about whether the Cubs would consider trade offers for Contreras. (Whole lotta people did some speculating last night after the Yankees traded away Gary Sanchez, but I think that’s just dot-connecting, rather than some new rumor.)

•   With Andrelton Simmons arriving, whatever happens next, Nico Hoerner’s role is going to be adjusted from what he might’ve been hoping throughout the lockout. That said, he says he was always ready to do whatever was asked (NBCSC): “I’m ready to play shortstop every day and able to play other spots as well as we’ve gotten work everywhere this offseason, too. So it hasn’t been a closed mindset at all. I’ll be ready as I’m needed.”

•   I’d like to think that the Cubs appropriately prepared Hoerner last year, after the Javy Báez trade, for the possibility that he was viewed more as a super utility guy than the future locked-in shortstop. Like I’ve said before, I was never fundamentally opposed to Hoerner getting a shot to show he can be average defensively at shortstop, but I also did think it seemed more likely he could be a rare guy who is great defensively at a couple spots and perfectly solid at a couple others, while bringing an above-average bat. If you can get that guy – Ben Zobrist and Chris Taylor being recent, extreme examples – it’s so valuable.

•   Nelson Cruz got another deal in free agency – shockingly from the Nationals – and this is humorous, but also true:

•   I guess it wouldn’t be unfair, given the history and the fact that Cruz is still raking at such an old baseball age, to wonder how he’s physically been able to do it. If there were edges he’s gained along the way, maybe not by explicitly cheating, but by staying right up at the cutting edge of what can be done (because that was at least part of what Biogenesis was about – it’s just that they were also supplying banned substances). And yet we don’t really talk about it, despite that history.

•   I share this only kinda because of Sean Doolittle returning to the Nationals:

•   The 55% reason I share it is because it looks to be the first time in years that something has been reported because a reporter was permitted back in the clubhouse.

•   I think this is almost certainly correct, and Trevor Story is probably the name to watch:

•   Major MLB Draft news:

•   Whisenhunt was one of the top college arms in the draft, and now he might not even wind up going in the 2022 draft. It was a class that was ALREADY thin on college starters and has seen MULTIPLE high profile injuries already. And now Whisenhunt maybe out, too? Good thing the Cubs are picking in the top ten in a draft where the strength is considered the bats in the top ten (plus Dylan Lesko).

•   Manny Rodriguez just keeps getting more and more jacked:

•   Rodriguez is certainly among the guys who will have an opportunity to win late-inning assignments right out of the gate, especially after Codi Heuer went down. ManRod (he actually goes by that, so don’t yell at me!) can approach triple-digits with the fastball and can throw a nasty slider. But the command to pair those together hasn’t quite been what it needs to be, and the slider hasn’t been consistent enough. His fastballs (four-seam and two-seam) found the middle-middle of the zone far too often last year. So, basically, the individual pitches have the kinds of qualities you’d look for in a back-end reliever, but the execution hasn’t been there yet.

•   NFL Free Agency opens up today with the legal tampering period, so get ready for madness. The Bears have so many needs, particularly on the offensive side, and there’s only so much they can realistically do. Add a couple quality pass-catchers and a couple quality linemen and I’m pleased. Get ready for the rumors.

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.