I Have Many Thoughts About the Cubs Not Landing Jose Abreu

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I Have Many Thoughts About the Cubs Not Landing Jose Abreu

Chicago Cubs

I guess it’s Jose Abreu Day around here at BN, and not for any particularly pleasant reasons.

Michael wondered in the latest Lukewarm Stove about where the Cubs-Jose Abreu rumors had gone, and then, almost as if on cue, word broke that Abreu was signing with the Houston Astros. I had some family obligations this afternoon, so I didn’t get a chance to participate in the immediate reaction-eering to the signing, which was maybe for the best. I was able to send just a one word text when I saw the news, and it was a word not suitable for publication.

That’s what you get when you ask the baseball gods for ANY news. A greatly-desired free agent target signing with some other team.

With a little more time to digest, I have four primary reactions to the news that I wanted to discuss.

1.) I’m Mad

This is the purest and simplest reaction, and it requires very little nuance. I loved the fit for the Cubs, and I’m mad that Jose Abreu is instead going to the Astros. I wanted the Cubs to get the guy. They didn’t. I’m mad. Not complicated, but also the feeling that is really sticking with me the most. I’m gonna say a lot of words below these ones, but as soon as I click publicly, I’m just going to be mad again.

2.) I’m Also Not Mad?

These signings don’t happen in a vacuum, and if I do allow myself some space for nuance, I get less mad. Maybe a lot less? The reality of free agent pursuits is that, at an individual level, you’re never a great bet to get the guy, right? If four teams are in on a popular free agent, you might be the “favorite” to get him … with, say, a 35% chance. That would mean, even though you’re the “favorite,” there’s a way better than 50/50 shot you won’t get him. Free agency is best viewed through a more macro lens, in that case – did you get some good pieces to cover the areas you wanted to cover? Cool. You didn’t? Boo. But thinking a SPECIFIC player absolutely must sign with your team is just a mathematical fool’s errand.

There’s also the contract. I’ve said since the jump that a two-year deal for Abreu would be fantastic for the Cubs. Yeah, I said, one year would be even better, but two is at least what it would take, and that would thus be fine. I kinda had two years and $34 million in my head until Anthony Rizzo signed for a bigger chunk of change, and then I was kinda thinking maybe two years and $40 million.

But three years and $60 million? Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s not my money. I know the Cubs need upgrades right now. I know you have to “overpay” sometimes to get your guy. But the budget is not imaginary, and it’s not like 2024 and 2025 don’t matter at all. Abreu was, in all age-related-likelihood, going to matter most to the Cubs in 2023 (especially if, as we hope, Matt Mervis becomes a regular). Would I have loved that the Cubs, on a two-year deal, would have $20 million crossed out of the budget in 2024 for a guy the Cubs might not “need” as much? No, but I would’ve gladly accepted it. But another $20 million out of the budget in 2025 for a 38-year-old Abreu? I’m sorry, but that’s not good. That’s a potential issue.

I still wanted the Cubs to get Abreu. But the context … it softens my anger at the edges. Maybe I’m not even that angry.

3.) The Cubs Need to Feel Some Pressure

I’m not saying missing on this ONE free agent is a disaster, but I am absolutely saying that it’s an option for a big bat off the board. And it’s a big bat that the Cubs had, reportedly, prioritized this offseason as a desired addition.

The Cubs need to add MULTIPLE big bats this offseason, realistically, if they’re going to have a competent offense in 2023. Abreu would’ve been a significant assist in that regard, and now he’s gone.

So I would think the Cubs now feel additional pressure to figure out how to upgrade the offense. Additional pressure to land that next free agent target. Or make that next trade. Whatever it is. Their offseason quest to upgrade the offense just got a little more difficult, and they should feel some added urgency accordingly.

4.) I Wonder About First Base

Jose Abreu and Matt Mervis coordinating at first base throughout 2023 was never the ONLY path for the position, nor was it even anything close to a guarantee. But it was certainly an option I thought would look pretty darn awesome. It was a first base setup that made sense.

What’s the first base setup now? Or, I suppose I mean: what is the first base setup I can imagine being sensible?

I guess I can come up with thoughts. The Cubs talked to Trey Mancini’s reps, and maybe he winds up being Abreu-lite in this scenario: holds down the job for a bit until/unless it becomes clear that Mervis should be the guy, and then it’s a time share and/or he spends more time at DH, if deserved.

You could probably conjure something similar involving Patrick Wisdom, depending on what the Cubs wanted to do at third base.

There is also Josh Bell out there, whom the Cubs might like, though I know not everyone is on board.

For now, though, the first thought that popped into my head in relation to first base when I heard Abreu was off to the Astros: the Cubs should definitely make sure they get Cody Bellinger now.

I’m not sure I’m RIGHT about that first thought – first thoughts are often reactionary and weird and wrong – but there is a relationship. Part of the value Bellinger brings to a signing team is his ability to play great center field AND first base. On a Cubs team with Abreu (and Mervis), I’m not sure how much you’d actually have seen Bellinger at first base anyway. To be sure, with Mervis a fellow lefty and no obvious other center fielders ready to go with the Cubs, it’s possible Bellinger wouldn’t play much first base with the Cubs anyway. But who knows? Maybe some other outfield option surprisingly becomes available? Maybe Brennen Davis is actually healthy and awesome in the early going, and you wish you had somewhere to start both him and Bellinger every day?

The point is, you don’t know, and Bellinger’s flexibility is a value-add on a team that has a wide opening in center field AND at first base. That’s still the Cubs.

And of course, it’s worth remembering that first base is the easiest spot to park a position player if you love his bat, so I don’t want to rule out some surprising – and seemingly-lesser – acquisition where the Cubs want to give a guy a shot at first base, maybe as competition for Mervis. I don’t love that approach because of Thought Number Three (the Cubs need to upgrade this offense badly, and that doesn’t necessarily mean more “hey maybe this guy can break out at age 30” types). I could envision myself understanding the approach, though, depending on the player and depending on what else the Cubs do this offseason.

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.