Lukewarm Stove: Vazquez as a Cubs Target? Digging into Rodon? Judge's Options? Tatis's Spot? More

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Lukewarm Stove: Vazquez as a Cubs Target? Digging into Rodon? Judge’s Options? Tatis’s Spot? More

Chicago Cubs

If (when?) Cody Bellinger became available this offseason, would you want the Cubs to take a look? The risk — at least, financially — should be low, and the reward, however unlikely, could be pretty high, as he’s still just 27 years old and only three years removed from an MVP campaign. In fact, the biggest cost of going after Bellinger this winter might just be the moves you don’t make instead (and that would, indeed, be a reason NOT to go for Bellinger if it stops you from other moves).

I laid out my interest and conditions for a pursuit right here, if you missed it:

Now let’s get to the rest of the MLB rumors floating around out there …

Could Christian Vazquez Be a Cubs Target?

Catcher Christian Vazquez is a free agent this offseason and was reportedly displeased with his playing time in Houston after being traded there from Boston at the deadline. He’ll probably be second to Willson Contreras in the offseason pecking order, but he’s also a very different free agent: less offensively inclined, better behind the plate, cheaper to sign, detached from draft pick compensation …

“[Playing less often] was hard and it’s still hard,” Vazquez told Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. “But I’ll be a free agent after the postseason and I can choose where I want to go. Everybody knows that.”

… And in a lot of ways that could line up with what the Cubs are hoping to accomplish this offseason, absent a surprise reunion with Contreras. The Cubs do have Yan Gomes behind the plate, but he’s older and the only other *big-league ready* upper-levels catching depth is P.J. Higgins. Point here being, I don’t think the Cubs want to head into 2023 with only Gomes and Higgins behind the plate. Pairing Gomes with another catcher in more of a true time-share while stashing Higgins at Iowa (or utilizing his positional versatility in Chicago) might be the best path forward.

Vazquez could be an intriguing option in that tier of catcher. We’ll dig into his production more later on this offseason, but suffice it to say, he’s a stud behind the plate, a known positive in the clubhouse, and was a league average bat this year (who hit lefties particularly well: .304/.343/.480 (130 wRC+)).

His career stats at FanGraphs:

At MLB Trade Rumors, Simon Hampton lists the Mets, Twins, Rays, Cardinals, Brewers, Guardians, and White Sox among the “contending teams” that could seek an upgrade. But I do think the Cubs could pretty clearly fit right in that mix.

Digging into Carlos Rodon

We all know how interested the Cubs *should be* in Carlos Rodon this offseason, but if you’re looking for a solid dive into what makes him so attractive, Lance Brozdowski has a great breakdown for you right here via Marquee.

This is just quality content from a very smart dude:

Aaron Judge’s Options

Although we’ve all seen stray reports connecting the Cubs to Aaron Judge this offseason, I think we all know it’s fairly unlikely. I’m sure the Cubs would love to have him in the abstract, but I don’t think they’re really the right fit for Judge, who can have his cake (a big contract) and eat it, too (from a more certain, near-term contender). Maybe more to the point, I don’t think Jed Hoyer plans to get in a bidding war, which is what it’s going to be.

I think a return to the Yankees is the most likely outcome, but at this point it’s not like he’s not going to test the market. And Mark Feinsand examines five possible landing spots for the single season AL Home Run record holder at MLB.com.

Yankees – The Mets and Dodgers may have joined the upper-echelon of spenders in the last half-decade, but the Yankees are still the Yankees. They can spend what it takes to get him, already tried to extend him once, and always have a desire for star power.

Giants – I understand why Feinsand included the Giants, who not only need a big bat but have barely any money committed to the future (pre-arb: $92M next season, $70M in 2024, and $20.5M in 2025), but I feel like they’ve been connected to a lot of big ticket free agent position players the last few years without really landing any of them.

Maybe this time it will be different, especially with this report out there now:

Mets – You can’t really rule the Mets out on anything these days, and there are already rumors of them planning to exceed the highest luxury tax tier of $290M. Their offseason focus will likely begin with their many free agents, including Jacob deGrom, who could command $44M per year, though. And if they do get him, it’s a little difficult to imagine them landing Judge, as well. I think they’ll be in play for Judge, but maybe only if they whiff on deGrom and/or some of their other players internally.

Dodgers – There have also already been rumors connecting the Dodgers to Judge, including Mookie Betts’ willingness to move out of right field for him. But if I had to bet, they’ll try to get him on one of those obscenely high-dollar, short-term deals they’ve tried in the past, and I don’t think that makes the most sense for an older free agent like Judge. He should just take the biggest overall commitment at this point.

Red Sox – This one is fairly new, and not something I saw coming. Maybe if the Red Sox fail to re-sign Xander Bogaerts, they’ll make a play for Judge? Both for Judge’s own sake and as an eff you to the Yankees? I don’t know. I don’t really see it.

Again, I think the Yankees make the most sense. That’s where I think he’ll end up after getting as much boost to his value as he can from shopping around.

Odds and Ends

  • With Manny Machado (152 wRC+, 7.4 WAR) at third base, Ha-Seong Kim (105 wRC+, 3.7 WAR) at shortstop, and Jake Cronenworth (110 wRC+, 4.2 WAR) at second base, the Padres might not have an immediate answer of where they’ll play Fernando Tatis Jr. when he returns from his suspension on April 20 next season. At FanGraphs, Michael Baumann examines the options, but I’m here to say the Cubs can totally help you out of that jam, Padres. Just send any of those guys to Chicago. We’ll take them off your hands. Hey, maybe you’re really unhappy with Tatis at this point, and want to eat half of his contract just to move on.
  • I still don’t see a reunion with Anthony Rizzo happening, though he’s theoretically an option that checks some key boxes: lefty, power, first base.
  • I missed this over the weekend, and it really bums me out, because like Brett, I think the Rangers are going to be spend-happy this offseason. Sigh.


Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami