A happy St. Paddy’s Day to you – my first since my brother’s DNA test confirmed that we are, indeed, quite Irish! So now this is MY HOLIDAY.
• Although transactions will start to take more of a back seat now that Spring Training games are starting today, that doesn’t mean the Cubs are finished making moves. The compressed calendar means that lots moves around the league are going to bleed way into Spring Training games (if not the regular season), and the Cubs are still signing guys even as of last night. To that end, I think it’s worth underscoring that Sahadev Sharma – not known for being over the top in making bold proclamations – is still not taking anything off the table. An example section in his latest:
Still, the Cubs aren’t done. They shouldn’t be counted out of being willing to add a player like Eric Hosmer from the Padres if San Diego is also dangling a prospect. There is no doubt this front office would take on money if it meant adding another top prospect to its system. Hosmer would even fit well as a lefty bat who can play strong defense at first, even if that bat is well below average at the moment. The longer Carlos Correa lingers on the market, the more the Cubs have to be wondering whether he’ll come at that “value” price Hoyer is always searching for. The star shortstop has no obvious suitors to start a bidding war, a scenario the Cubs front office likely hoped for. Whether that matters remains to be seen. Never doubt agent Scott Boras’ ability to gin up a market for his clients.
The lack of an extension for Willson Contreras poses a dilemma. Moving him would be viewed as a step backward, but if done with other moves in mind, perhaps it could be an acceptable blow that still manages to help the team now and in the future. That’s the balancing act Hoyer faces.
Regardless, the Cubs will continue to be what they deem as intelligently aggressive. Hoyer won’t want to be financially handcuffed for years to come, but he and the front office are willing to be creative and add talent at any level. They need more pitching. They need a left-handed power bat. They just need more talent.
• There are still a lot of ways this could go. My guess is the Cubs do find a lefty power-ish bat (though on the Moran-Hosmer tier), and add another arm or two. I think the other big things are still possible, though no one would call them likely. The Cubs’ roster on Opening Day is unlikely to be fundamentally different than it looks today. But I would say the BIG potential moves I still have my eyes on for monitoring purposes: the Hosmer-prospect trade, and a Contreras trade. I’d say maybe something like a 40% chance on the first one and a 20% chance on the second?
• (Lotta people wonder about the lag in time between the Astros stepping things up with Correa on Monday, and then no deal since. I tend to think the most plausible explanation is simply that it’s going to be a crazy complex contract, with multiple opt outs and complicated team options, that it is taking a lot of time for the reps and lawyers to go back and forth to hammer out precisely what it should look like. I still expect him to wind up back with the Astros when all is said and done, but, hey, if Sharma isn’t yet ruling it out entirely, then neither am I.)
• As for the incoming stream of arms, just a general reminder note:
Every year, I think, well, maybe this is the year that none of the Cubs' reclamation options works out. And then some do. Every year. This time, among them: Norris, Robertson, Brault, Gonsalves, Leiter, Yardley, Menez, St. John.
(Less volume this year bc more actual prospects.)
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) March 17, 2022
• We will get more drip-drip of the particulars from the new Collective Bargaining Agreement over the coming months, until the full text is finalized and made available for publication. Evan Drellich has a comprehensive breakdown at The Athletic of some of the less-discussed, nerdy terms if you want to dig in. One section in there to highlight: the new limit on options in a season reads, to me, like a player has to hit waivers the fifth time he’s optioned, not after the fifth time. So that would mean a team can option a player only four times before they risk losing him. That doesn’t quite sound right to me based on the reporting, but I suppose we’ll find out soon enough. In any case, when the player is optioned that final time, he hits waivers, and if claimed, his new team gets to send him to the minors just that one time.
• Oh, one other rule of note for this time of year: retention bonuses for minor league free agents are gone. Instead, those players get three opt-out dates if they aren’t on the 40-man roster yet: five days before Opening Day, May 1, and June 1. So at any of those dates, a veteran player who signs a new minor league deal can head back into free agency if his team hasn’t put him on the 40-man roster.
• The Dodgers, man:
To illustrate what the Dodgers have: Gavin Lux is still just 24, wildly talented, more than worthy of regular ABs. Depth is a key for teams at the major league and minor league levels, and Dodgers have built it. Giants, too. NL West is gonna be an awfully good time this summer.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 17, 2022
• Some Chelsea fans are not keen to have the Ricketts family owning their favorite team:
News that the Ricketts family aims to add Chelsea to its sporting portfolio brought an instant reaction from the storied English soccer club’s local fan group:
— Chicago Tribune Sports (@ChicagoSports) March 17, 2022
• A particular concern for them is the financial side of things – I was not aware it was like this:
Though the Ricketts have been successful in American professional sports, Chelsea fans noted that European soccer is a much different environment. There is no salary cap or luxury tax, and the best teams generally spend the most, often to the point of losing astounding amounts of money.
Chelsea, under Abramovich, has been especially profligate: Last season, in which they won the Champions League title, the ultimate prize in European club soccer, the organization lost more than $200 million, by far the most in England.
• To be sure, the teams are still appreciating like wild, so you might make up in the long-term anything you “lose” on an annual basis, but I’m not sure stateside MLB owners are the types that are itching to go hundreds of millions out of pocket on payroll.
• The Tampa Bay Rays are very smart about reclaimed pitching, and they just gave former Cubs pitcher Jason Adam a big league deal. I think they’re going to be very happy about that. All the best to Adam.
• If you are looking for the best NCAA March Madness promos, we’ve collected them right there for the sports bettors among you.
• Let’s hope this changes this year:
The 2021 Chicago Cubs hit more batters than any other team since the 1899 Cleveland Spiders. 😨🐻🕷️ pic.twitter.com/musC9DtPRe
— Codify (@CodifyBaseball) March 5, 2022