Just to Be Clear, the Chicago Cubs Are Not Finished Trying to Land a Shortstop

If you’re at all like me, you needed a minute to exhale after the week of rumors and fits and spurts with respect to the Cubs and the shortstop market. I let myself get WAAAAY too high, and then WAAAAY too low throughout the week, which ain’t good, but I suppose that’s what the Winter Meetings are supposed to be like?

Anyway, when Xander Bogaerts signed with the Padres on an 11-year, $280 million deal, I think that was the moment I was most concerned that the Chicago Cubs would not actually accomplish something we all had adopted as fundamental for a successful offseason: sign one of the top four shortstops. I don’t know if that reaction was entirely rational, now that I’ve had that exhale this morning.

Yes, Bogaerts going to the Padres means 50% of the shortstops are now gone, and there are far more interested teams left than just two for the two shortstops remaining. That simple math means I need to accept the possibility that the Cubs won’t get one of these guys. And, also yes, the size of Bogaerts’ deal gave me a sufficiently large double-take that I’m definitely not confident the Cubs are going to be willing to go to the level necessary to land Carlos Correa or even Dansby Swanson. I think predicting this market now looks like a fool’s errand.

But I think two competing thoughts are fighting to chill me out a little this morning.

First, there are more than a few ways to build a competitive team, and it’s pretty silly to suggest that the Cubs have to land one of these specific four players, otherwise it’s impossible to compete. It would be more difficult! But I think I’d been treating it as impossible, and that’s just wrong. Second, there ARE still two shortstops left! Maybe my optimism has waned, but, I mean, it remains possible that the Cubs COULD land one of these guys. Why am I just resigning myself to the idea that it’s over? It’s not over yet!

That’s the vibe you get from the insiders as they departed the Winter Meetings, even after Bogaerts’ monster deal. Gordon Wittenmyer is still very much banging the drum for the Cubs to land a shortstop (recall, he was always saying it was Correa 1A and Swanson 1B in the Cubs’ mind, and that’s still on the table). Though he has softened a bit on the likelihood that the Cubs could actually land Correa in the wake of the Giants becoming aggressive (NBCSC):

The Cubs remain very much in the mix for Correa and Atlanta shortstop Dansby Swanson, according to multiple sources — one of several teams with offers on the table for Correa.

But when Judge returned to the Yankees on a nine-year, $360 million deal, it meant the other top cash-waving team in hot pursuit of Judge — the Giants — started waving the hundreds of millions burning a hole in their pocket at a new top target: Correa.

That’s not to say the Cubs don’t have the means to compete against any team for either shortstop — even after spending $85.2 million on pitcher Jameson Taillon and centerfielder Cody Bellinger Tuesday.

But as the Cubs’ top executives began heading home from San Diego on the final day of the Winter Meetings Wednesday, the job of landing the ideal-fit Correa started looking a lot more expensive, which made a pivot to Swanson start looking more likely.

Not an optimistic take overall, but hardly suggesting this is over.

Similarly, Patrick Mooney’s takeaway from the week was more positive than negative. Moreover, he, too, hears that the Cubs are still in the shortstop mix (The Athletic):

There is also a sense of optimism after the Cubs closed two significant deals during their stay at the Manchester Grand Hyatt, reaching agreements with former MVP/Gold Glove center fielder Cody Bellinger and starting pitcher Jameson Taillon. With a particular focus on Dansby Swanson, the Cubs also remained engaged in the discussions around the remaining All-Star shortstops on the free-agent market.

Note, though, that Mooney – kind of like Wittenmyer and several national pundits before him – is indicating that Swanson is the focus, not Correa. The same is true at Cubs.com, where Jordan Bastian writes that the Cubs are still trying to land a shortstop, but also said this: “By the end of these Meetings, there was a sense that Swanson might be the most realistic acquisition for the North Siders.”

As it relates to the shortstop market, the Winter Meetings did not play out as Cubs fans hoped. Obviously. Our dream scenario had the Cubs heading home from San Diego with Carlos Correa already in tow, or maybe Xander Bogaerts, or maybe Xander Bogaerts AND Dansby Swanson. But just a dream.

Reality is a little twistier and turnier than that, and I have to remind myself that, for every Cubs team that REALLY FREAKING NEEDS to land one of these shortstops, there are several others that REALLY FREAKING ALSO want to land one of these shortstops. And for every fit where you can see why a shortstop might really want to sign with the Cubs, there is another fit where you can see why a shortstop might really want to sign with this other team. It’s just the worst game of musical chairs, man.

For now, though, I’m gonna hold on to those two thoughts I mentioned. The Cubs can have a successful offseason from here, regardless of the shortstops. I need to see it, but I know that it is obviously possible. And also, the shortstop situation isn’t resolved yet. The Cubs are still involved. They might still land one of these guys.

written by

Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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