I don’t pay closer attention to local reporting or national reporting more or less than the other. I don’t think one is, in the aggregate, better than the other. Rather, I like to think about the implications of reporting that comes from one area or both, or the timing of each, or what sourcing might be informing the reporting. I just like to consider it all together in concert.
Which I mention up top because I found it highly interesting that we now have a local Chicago writer predicting free agent shortstop Carlos Correa to wind up with the Chicago Cubs.
Gordon Wittenmyer kicks off his predictions piece today at NBC Sports Chicago with a lengthy explainer on why it’s been easy to surmise from the outside that the Cubs are very serious about the shortstop market this offseason. I know some Cubs fans think the Cubs are never serious about top free agents (a bizarre position, if you ask me, and if you just look at the last decade), but it seems pretty clear that they are keeping their options open this offseason. Very open.
So when Wittenmyer gets to predicting what happens with Correa, he lays it all out there:
Wait, what? The Cubs? THE CUBS?!! Despite signals from team sources that they don’t have an appetite for the kind of long-term contract that left them with Jason Heyward several years longer than optimal, the Cubs can’t go into next season without a significant addition to their middle infield, especially with the shift going away next year and all the payroll flexibility they have over the next few years.
If Correa was a fit for the Cubs last year on a long-term deal (he was), he still is, as the youngest of the four elite shortstops in the marketplace — and without the qualifying offer that ties the three others to draft-pick compensation. The Cubs have liked this guy since working him out at Wrigley before the 2012 draft (when they were poised to take him at No. 6 before he went No. 1 overall).
How aggressive does Wittenmyer see the Cubs being (having to be?) in order to land Correa? The deal he suggests is nine years and $290 million. Why? Because he (rightly) surmises that Scott Boras could then say Correa – together with the $35.1 million he got from the Twins last year – effectively beat Corey Seager’s 10-year, $325 million deal with the Rangers … by exactly $100,000.
Would the Cubs actually go nine years? You’d think not based on Jed Hoyer’s oft-rumored and frequently-just-about-outright-stated antipathy for deals longer than even five years. But if that’s what it took to get it done? And if the deal was crafted in a way to make the tail end of it less painful? Yeah, maybe. I tend to think the Cubs would still rather go higher on the AAV over six or seven years, but I have to admit, I like that there is a local writer even SUGGESTING that the Cubs would be willing to go nine years on Correa if that’s what it took.
I do also think it’s worthwhile to note what Wittenmyer has reported on the Cubs and Correa previously. He has never been entirely poo-poo’ing of the idea that the Cubs could get Correa, but I don’t know that I saw a prediction coming from him.
Last week, at the start of the GM Meetings, on Correa and the Cubs, he wrote this:
“The Cubs will be involved in the deep end of the big-name shortstop market this winter, but they have no appetite for another Jason Heyward-length contract — and probably not even a contract for a year or two less than his eight-year deal. Especially given the fact that all of the Big 4 free agent shortstops are 28 or older. Look for maybe a five-year offer for Trea Turner or Xander Bogaerts. The Cubs are said to be a serious player for Carlos Correa, too, but sources, perhaps obviously, say he’s seeking the lengthiest deal of the group, and that Cubs interest may wane in proportion to the number of years he seeks.”
So, Wittenmyer was hearing that the Cubs were interested in Correa, but their lack of interest in a long-term deal could foreclose a real pursuit. That was the “vibe” anyway. Wittenmyer wasn’t alone in laying things out that way, and my hopeful takeaway was that it was largely a matter of the Cubs wanting to make sure they weren’t opening the offseason by telling the world that they were open to a super-long deal.
At the close of the GM Meetings, Wittenmyer again touched on the Cubs and Correa. His words were not at all inconsistent with what he’d written at the start of the meetings, but maybe, if you squint, you see a little softening:
“(T)he Cubs may not be quite ready to go all-in this winter, but they’ve certainly anted up, and they’ve got their seat at the shortstop table for some four-stud dealing ….
“Turner and Correa will command the longest-term contracts, if early industry predictions are to be believed, which could dissuade the Cubs off those players in proportion to the years it would take, given team president Jed Hoyer’s distaste for the idea of big-dollar commitments beyond, roughly, Seiya Suzuki’s five-year deal in March.
“But more than one source said the Cubs ‘love’ Correa, whom they worked out before his 2012 draft and thought they might have a chance to select at No. 6 before the Astros took him first . And depending on the years, the Cubs don’t appear to have serious concern over Correa’s past minor-injury/back issues (he has played in 89 percent of his team’s games the last three seasons).”
So, again, the length of an expected deal might scuttle it, but there’s a sense that the Cubs are serious, and the section ends with a but, hey, the Cubs do really like Correa, so ….
Any chance that writing, from start of the GM Meetings to end of the GM Meetings to today, kinda tracks the subtle evolution of things he was hearing? From probably not, to OK maybe, to well actually yeah this is possible? Or am I just reading way too much into it because I want to give myself another reason to be hopeful?
Ultimately, it’s just another data point, and they’ve certainly added up already. We know that the Cubs seriously talked to Carlos Correa and his pre-Boras agent before the lockout last year. There were the rumors out of Minnesota that the Twins feared the Cubs were readying to pounce on Correa. There was Jon Morosi saying people should expect to hear the Cubs and Correa connected a lot this offseason. There are the betting odds that may or may not mean anything but have the Cubs as the strong favorites for Correa. There is the most recent insider speculation that the three teams on Correa are the Cubs, Twins, and Orioles.
Oh, and there’s the long-standing fact that Correa makes so much sense for the Cubs! He’s young (28), he’s long been a top defensive shortstop (can move Nico Hoerner to second, where he is also awesome), he’s got a power-discipline combo at the plate, he doesn’t come attached to draft pick compensation, he’s a leader with a sky high baseball IQ, and the Cubs don’t have other middle infielders in the system immediately forcing their way onto the big league roster.
Yes, I get that signing Correa to a six or seven or eight-year deal comes with risk. It’s a big swing, with long-lasting consequences. The fact that the Cubs just yesterday released Jason Heyward after year seven of his eight year deal is not lost on me. But risk, alone, is not a reason not to do something. It is a reason to consider it carefully … and then try to get the best deal you can get.
Maybe that’s what is happening with all of this. Maybe the Cubs really, really want Correa, but also want to make sure they have a chance to move the contract in a shorter direction. So there’s a dance going on, publicly and privately. With Boras in the lead on Correa’s side, it could be a very long dance.