What’s Left to Do, Sitting Out the Top of the Shortstop Market, Qualifying Offer Cost, and Other Cubs Bullets

Because my dad died of colon cancer at a young age, I’ve had the privilege of getting preventative colonoscopies since I was 25. Today is prep day for the latest installment, which comes tomorrow. Huzzah. It’s a crappy process, but I’m happy to do it just in case. And if you reach whatever age is deemed appropriate for you to start getting screened, DO IT. Colon cancer can be one of the most preventable types of cancers with regular screenings.

•   Trevor Story signed with the Red Sox this morning, which means the free agent market is down to almost exclusively minor league deal types. Among the best names remaining, though: Michael Conforto, Tommy Pham, Kevin Pillar, Johnny Cueto, Brett Anderson, Tony Watson, Andrew Miller, and … ? That’s roughly the range at the top of the remaining market.

•   For the Cubs, I tend to think the free agent signings are all done (outside of a minor league deal here or there), and instead they will be looking at the trade market from here. Could mean reshuffling the roster a bit at the margins (that seems REALLY likely, because there is so much crowding now). Could mean trying to do the prospect buying trade. Could mean a selling trade (sorry to say). Could mean a surprising buying trade. On the whole, I would expect at least one fringy trade at the edges of the roster, and then I’d go maybe 50/50 on one of the other types. I have no doubt the Cubs have been working on those other types (actually, I know it for a fact!), but you can’t ever count on them definitely coming together.

•   The Cubs got TWO shortstops for just $10 million, so clearly they won the shortstop market (that is a joke, do not scream at me (OK, it’s a bad joke, you can scream at me)):

•   The Rangers still project to win two fewer games than the Cubs as of right now at FanGraphs. Eek.

•   In all seriousness, I think it’s fair and important to say that, although there may be explanations and excuses, it is just a fact that this offseason was loaded with high-end shortstop options, and the Cubs did not sign any of them. We’ll see if that proves to have been a whiff, because the bet cannot be that Cristian Hernández or Kevin Made or Ed Howard or whoever else will definitely be the long-term shortstop of the future, and especially not within two or three years. There was a clear multi-year opening there at shortstop for the Cubs, and they instead opted to go shorter-term. I can see the pros and cons, so I’m not offering it – at this moment – in an angry way. I’m just saying it’s a fact: the market was there, and the Cubs did not ultimately participate.

•   Two interesting notes from Ken Rosenthal on the Carlos Correa saga: (1) it’s pretty clear that the eventual contract format came from Correa’s camp (Scott Boras), not from the Twins – they were shopping that same deal to other teams and just wanted someone to say yes; and (2) the Astros never actually did make a revised offer to Correa, despite reports to the contrary. They stayed at five years and $160 million that whole time. Which is to say, since that was not going to be an acceptable offer, they pretty clearly never intended to actually re-sign Correa. That, in turn, sure makes me wonder what’s going on with their knowledge under the hood.

•   By ZiPS, the 5/$100M deal Nick Castellanos got from the Phillies was a massive overpay (even before you consider the draft pick compensation). To that I say, (1) good for Castellanos, and (2) the Phillies had to do this at some point to stop staying stuck at .500 (that is basically the author’s conclusion, too). I don’t know if going all bat and no D is going to work out for them, with the existing roster and the additions of Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber, but that could be an impressive lineup. The NL East is just loaded.

•   With Trevor Story off the board, Michael Conforto is the last impact-ish free agent on the market, and last free agent attached to a qualifying offer. I’d been pretty into the Cubs trying to add Conforto on a reasonable multi-year deal (fits what they’re doing, lefty power, upside in a bounce back, etc.), however:

•   That definitely underscores why the Cubs definitely wouldn’t do a one-year deal for pretty much ANY qualified free agent (and I think they’re right about that). Even a two-year deal would be pretty tough to make up that $20 million in value. Three or four years for Conforto? It’s certainly possible, but there will be other teams out there for whom that extra “cost” is much less than $20 million. So in a rational market, Conforto SHOULD be able to find a much better deal from a team that isn’t the Cubs.

•   Side note: this is a data point for the players when they decide whether or not to trade the international draft for ditching draft pick compensation this summer.

•   It is great having this guy involved in broadcasts:

https://twitter.com/LanceBroz/status/1505320447029612547

•   As for the substance there, I do love the method of improving our analysis of command. And for context, it’s useful to know that if a pitcher locates his pitch within two baseballs – six inches – of his intended target, that’s considered a “hit location.” So that’s basically as good as it can realistically get with any remote consistency.

•   It remains to be seen if it is serious, but Brewers infielder Luis Urias has a quad strain. Urias, 24, finally started to break out last year after years of hype, hitting .249/.345/.445 (111 wRC+) and playing solid defense at third, short, and second (2.7 WAR over 150 games). Losing Urias for any meaningful stretch of time would be a blow to the Brewers. Tis the season.

•   Meanwhile, the Brewers couldn’t come to an agreement with reliever Devin Williams on a contract for 2022 (he’s pre-arbitration, so they don’t HAVE to come to an agreement, but teams try to), so they have renewed him for just $14,500 over the new Major League minimum. Last year, the Brewers paid him $110,600(!) over the minimum. That’s quite an abrupt shift in how they are treating one of their star relievers, though you do wonder about the relationship after Williams missed the postseason because of a broken hand suffered after a wall punch.

•   Interesting comments from Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty, who is going to be out for a while:

•   Is Flaherty implying that there was something insidious in the current reporting on the tear in the labrum, which has apparently been there for a long time and he’s pitched through it before?

•   I wonder how much longer until he gets into a Spring Training game:

•   And I wonder how soon we see this guy in the big leagues:

•   Pillows, books, smart watches, and more are your Deals of the Day at Amazon. #ad

•   This is just bonkers:

•   I feel bad for any other similarly follicularly-challenged players, but this is tremendous content:

•   Art:

•   The NHL trade deadline is tomorrow, so stay tuned:

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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