We’ve had a trio of Cubs-specific rumors today, in case you missed it, including outfield options like Michael Conforto (I don’t see it) and Cody Bellinger (yeah, okay, that makes some sense), as well as a potentially new starting pitching target in Jameson Taillon (sure, but only as a complementary piece).
But there’s more going on with the Cubs and around the league, so let’s check in …
Cubs: Senga and the Starters
Although Patrick Mooney and Sahadev Sharma refuse to completely shut the door on any potential interest in Justin Verlander, Carlos Rodon, or Jacob deGrom, they make it pretty clear that when it comes to the Cubs: It probably ain’t happening.
With that said, the Cubs interest in Kodai Senga seems very real, and the Cubs chances seem pretty good:
The Cubs are continuing to monitor a group of starting pitchers that includes Kodai Senga, according to sources familiar with the club’s planning. Senga is represented by the same Wasserman agency that negotiated Yu Darvish’s six-year, $126 million deal and Seiya Suzuki’s five-year, $85 million contract. Through those recruiting pitches, the Cubs enhanced their reputation as an organization that is welcoming for Japanese players and attuned to soft factors that resonate with players’ families. Darvish raved about the Wrigley Field experience and recommended Chicago to Suzuki.
Later in the article, Mooney and Sharma write that “The Cubs will not be frozen out of this process,” even if they don’t ultimately control it. I think it all read pretty optimistically.
But here’s a little bit of cold water: The Athletic duo reports that “multiple teams view Senga at or near the top of that next tier” just beneath Verlander and deGrom. And if that’s true, if he’s seen as that good, the Cubs will have a whole lot of competition. The only other pitcher in that category is Carlos Rodon, who’s probably more of a sure-bet, but might be seeking twice the commitment and is otherwise attached to draft pick compensation. Plus, Senga has already visited San Diego, New York, and Texas … which, yeah, there are a lot of very teams very seriously seeking starting pitchers in those markets.
As Brett mentioned earlier, other names thrown into the mix by The Athletic include Jameson Taillon, Taijuan Walker, and Andrew Heaney. As secondary targets, I think each has his own appeal. As primary targets … well, that’s not what the Cubs need.
Trading for a Blue Jays Catcher
In the likely event that Willson Contreras moves on from the Cubs this offseason, Chicago will need to add another big league catcher to pair with Yan Gomes in 2023 — either a true impact/starter type, or more of a legitimate timeshare candidate. In either case, he’s likely to be someone whose work behind the plate outpaces his potential production at the plate.
To that end, there are a number of intriguing free agent options, including Christian Vázquez and Omar Narváez. But there are some really big trade candidates, as well, from Sean Murphy of the A’s to Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk, and Gabriel Moreno of the Blue Jays (who appear to be motivated sellers).
So to that end, The Athletic tapped into its stable of beat writers to discover what a Toronto trade might look like from the perspective of the potentially interested parties. And among all the teams included (Cardinals, Padres, White Sox, Red Sox, Twins, Guardians, Tigers) was the Chicago Cubs.
It’s all speculative, but Patrick Mooney has the Cubs pursuing Jansen, in particular, parting with Ian Happ and Adbert Alzolay to get it done. Mooney chose Happ as part of the return (presumably) because the Blue Jays seem to be seeking big leaguers in any such deal, but also because the Blue Jays have had real interest in Happ before.
HOWEVER, Mooney reiterates that the Cubs still intend to attempt an extension with Happ this winter, and that they otherwise view Alzolay as a legitimate asset for their bullpen next year. Obviously, that’s a lot to give up for two years of a part-time catcher, even if you think he’s got a lot more in the tank.
Jim Bowden replied to Mooney’s idea, implying that this would be an overpay for the Cubs, and that the Blue Jays would jump at the opportunity to strike this deal. I tend to agree, especially if the target is Jansen, who did have a legitimately great season (140 wRC+), but only over 72 games.
Plus, losing Happ — without an immediate and significant backfill — would put the Cubs’ offense into an even bigger hole in 2023, all while subtracting their only legitimate left-handed bat. And all that for a catcher with just two years of team control remaining? Nah. I don’t like it.
Ultimately, even Mooney seems to think this particular deal is unlikely for the Cubs, when they can otherwise add a catcher for just money in free agency. And if they’re going to target a Blue Jays catcher at all, Bowden believes it should be Moreno, who’s younger and controlled for longer. Agreed on all fronts.
My bet? Christian Vázquez ends up with the Cubs.
My reasoning? Entirely this exchange: