Now that Dansby Swanson has finally gotten his Cubs connection, we can say it: All four big free agent shortstops have been connected to the Cubs at one point or another over the last month or so.
Obviously, that’s a little frustrating in that it doesn’t quite reveal which guy they might actually prefer, or which guy they might actually be able to land. Though I prefer to look at it as implicit confirmation that they are – at least – going to be involved in that market. Heck, Jed Hoyer more or less said as much this week.
In any case, today, we have some additional context for you on the shortstop market, including the Cubs’ willingness to get one of those guys in the door, and who may ultimately represent their best shot.
Let’s start with the market, itself, which is VERY crowded. Jon Heyman jumped on 670 The Score today, identifying NINE teams involved in the process: The four teams who are set to lose one of these shortstops (Dodgers, Twins, Braves, and Red Sox) plus the Phillies, Cardinals, Giants, maybe the Mariners, and “certainly the Cubs.” He also mentioned the Angels, but said they’re looking to go cheaper at shortstop, implying they won’t be a threat in this tier.
That’s a lot of competition, certainly, but I’ll add some context of my own:
- The Dodgers have internal solutions for whom they may be happy to provide playing time. I’ve also just generally gotten the sense that they’re not expected to go wild for one of these shortstops. Heyman added that while they “love” Carlos Correa, more than even Turner, they’re also “hesitant” to sign him because of the cheating scandal — the Astros, and Correa, went through the Dodgers for the World Series the year they cheated.
- The Twins may want to keep Correa, sure, but they just don’t have deep enough pockets to compete with the rest of this list.
- The Cardinals do not strike me as likely. They have much more pressing needs at catcher and in the rotation and rarely go to the top of these markets in free agency.
- The Braves and Red Sox are dark horses here. They can afford to sign one of these guys, but have also struggled to extend their own shortstops, despite trying. In fact, Heyman says both the Braves (Swanson) and Red Sox (Bogaerts) are trying to extend their players right now, but on “hometown discounts,” which just isn’t going to get it done. In fact, Heyman said the Red Sox are “getting nowhere” on a Bogaerts deal. Keep that in mind.
- The Giants do look like a big spending threat this winter, and their president basically said they can afford anyone they want, but they seem to be focused on Aaron Judge. I doubt they’d sign two players to a $300M+ deal (not out of the question, but unlikely). So with the lack of a Yankees mention here, I’d say your rooting interest is Judge to the Giants.
- Speaking of which, I’m happy to see both the Yankees and Mets omitted from this list. That was the expectation initially, but there had been some smoke over the past week. It has died down considerably and this is more of the same.
- The Phillies and Mariners are big threats in this market — some people think Turner to the Phillies is fait accompli – but the Cubs are right there in the pretty much every rumor.
In fact, not only did Heyman say “certainly the Cubs” when listing interested parties on The Score, he also jumped on MLB Network to say that the Cubs are likely to be among the most active teams, right there next to the Giants, and specifically for one of the shortstops:
Here’s what he said, if you couldn’t listen:
“Yeah, I’m with Joel, the Giants are going to be very active. But I’m going to say the Cubs. I think they’re going to look at the big shortstops, and there are some outstanding shortstops on this market, as we know, with Correa, Turner, Bogaerts, and Swanson. (The Cubs) played well the last couple months under David Ross. They did a nice job there. Nico Hoerner is one of their best players, but he can easily slide over to second base.”
And rounding out his assertion, Heyman wrote yesterday at The New York Post that the Cubs “seem very interested in adding a big piece and have the flexibility to move young star Nico Hoerner to second base….” In other words, he tripled down on the Cubs interest in adding one of the free agent shortstops — in writing, on the radio, and on TV. Clearly, he’s heard that.
Now to answer the question about which shortstop is most likely to end up in Chicago — Heyman believes it’s Xander Bogaerts, though not necessarily because that’s their No. 1 target. We’ll turn back to Heyman’s radio hit this morning:
“The Braves should re-sign Swanson. He’s a world champion and a Georgia guy, but they’re having trouble (extending) him right now, they’re trying to get him on a hometown discount. Turner Wants to be on the East Coast, and that probably counts for Spring Training too, so maybe less likely there. And you know obviously Correa is a lot of money. So, you know, Bogaerts maybe … if I I had to pick one of the four that might be the fit for the Cubs.”
The full context there is a little more dot-connecting and a little less “here’s what I think is definitely going to happen because they want this guy so bad.” In fact, Heyman says Correa is actually the “best fit” for the Cubs, and I’d agree, but only if they’re willing to spend $300 million, which he doesn’t see. Also agreed.
So what are our takeaways here? For one, the Cubs are going to be involved in the shortstop market. Period. I think we can rest easy on that one. For another, Trea Turner seems increasingly distant from the Cubs in these rumors. He prefers the East Coast, he might be the most coveted shortstop, the Phillies are all over him and willing to spend. And he’s probably going to get more than the Cubs are ready to dish out. Beyond that, Correa may represent the best “fit,” for the Cubs, but he too might price himself out of their range (so frustrating), which could mean that Bogaerts falls into their laps at a more comfortable level. And maybe those Swanson rumors start to make a little more sense, too.
None of that is ideal — Turner and Correa are the CLEAR top of the class – but I’d be happy to see the Cubs come away with any of the four, particularly if they use the relative savings to invest elsewhere (like the top of the rotation).