In the span of about 36 hours, the Cubs missed out on Kodai Senga, Sean Murphy, Chris Bassitt, and Christian Vázquez — four rumored targets of the team, all acquired for relative bargains.
And beyond the obvious (I’m so close to tweeting DO SOMETHING), I think the most frustrating realization is how those 36 hours changed the framing of even our wildest dreams for the rest of the offseason. Like signing Carlos Correa, for example.
I still want the Cubs to sign Correa – desperately, in fact – but a combination of those four players (in conjunction with Correa) was the clearest and most direct path to immediate impact at two clear positions of need. With the two clearest upgrades at catcher wiped away and two of the highest upside starters remaining gone, the Cubs will now have to pull off some unfathomable series of transactions over the next three months to make 2023 look even moderately competitive. It’s possible, but I’m certainly not counting on it.
And guess what happens a year from now? Kyle Hendricks is a free agent. Ian Happ is a free agent. Yan Gomes is a free agent. Marcus Stroman can opt out. From what I can tell, we are banking absolutely everything on Seiya Suzuki, Nico Hoerner, and Justin Steele being even better than they were last season (which isn’t fair) … and a bunch of prospects at or near the big leagues (Brennen Davis, Alexander Canario, Pete Crow-Armstrong, Matt Mervis, Hayden Wesneski, Caleb Kilian, etc.).
I love those players. I really do. But that’s not a plan. That’s not how the Chicago Cubs should behave. That’s just blind hope and short arms. And it’s draining my enthusiasm for the team.
With Cody Bellinger in hand, I’m not quite as upset by this news as I would have been had they whiffed. If you recall, the Cubs were in the market for a left-handed hitting outfielder and the Diamondbacks have several theoretically available via trade.
The Astros are kicking those tires on Daulton Varsho, who was very good last year, in large part because of his defense and base running, but wouldn’t be my first target among that group.
In any case, Nightengale has one thing correct, the trade market is definitely waking up. Maybe the Cubs can swing a surprise trade (Blue Jays catcher? Marlins starter? Shane Bieber?). I haven’t heard or seen anything like that lately, but I need to preserve my sanity somehow. I guess I’ve chosen delusion!
There are other crazy trade ideas flying around out there. For example, the Marlins checked in on Fernando Tatis Jr….
… And Jon Morosi suggested that the Cubs could reach out to the Blue Jays on shortstop Bo Bichette if they whiff on Carlos Correa and Dansby Swanson (though I’m not sure why you’d want to give up player-assets to acquire a top shortstop when you could just pay for one in free agency and KEEP YOUR PROSPECTS).
Rodon Offer Coming
Let’s stick with Jon Heyman, who last night reported that the Yankees are expected to deliver a formal offer to Carlos Rodon either last night or today. I doubt the offer will go as high as Rodon’s request, though, because … YEEESH. This is a lot.
The initial indication is that Rodon seeks seven-plus years at $200 million plus, and while the Yankees seem reluctant to go to that length, they also seem very serious and hopeful about this pursuit.
UNLIKE a massive deal for one of the shortstops, I can fully appreciate and understand the Cubs avoiding a $200M deal for Carlos Rodon. The Yankees just love paying starters who hit free agency at exactly the right time (Gerrit Cole). No thanks.
Heyman notes that Rodon has drawn interest from the Giants and Cardinals, as well, though I don’t see the Cardinals approaching that level of investment for Rodon, either.
As for the Giants, I’m not quite sure of my rooting interests. I can logic-it-out four different ways.
- They sign Rodon and become MORE willing to sign Carlos Correa in hopes of taking advantage of Rodon’s best seasons.
- They sign Rodon and become LESS likely to add another massive contract, because a budget is finite.
- They whiff on Rodon and become MORE likely to sign Carlos Correa, because they have unused funds and an appetite to spend after being turned down so many times this winter.
- They whiff on Rodon and become LESS likely to sign Correa, because they weren’t able to add the pieces around him they had otherwise expected.
Will Devers Even Reach Free Agency?
If the Cubs come up totally empty on star power this offseason, we’re going to start turning our attention to the next market of free agents (yes, I know that infamous definition of insanity). Obviously, Shohei Ohtani is the crown jewel of that class, but early rumblings have the Dodgers gearing up to blow away the field. Good luck beating them, everyone else.
The second most exciting player, Rafael Devers, is actually a really nice target for the Cubs. He’s the Red Sox 26-year-old, left-handed hitting third, who’s already posted a 6.7 WAR season (2019), a 4.2 WAR season (2021), and a 4.9 WAR season (2022). He hits for average, he gets on base, he’s got two 30+ HR seasons to his name, he’s young, and he plays a position the Cubs don’t currently have earmarked for anyone at all.
Oh, and the Red Sox are probably going to lock him up before the Cubs even get a chance to sign him. Should I have led with that?
Odds and Ends:
- Ken Rosenthal attempts to explain the A’s-Braves Sean Murphy trade, which somehow made the Brewers better:
Two separate occurrences helped the deal come together, according to sources familiar with the discussions. The first was the Cardinals’ pivot away from Murphy to sign Contreras’ older brother, Willson Contreras, to a four-year, $87.5 million free-agent contract. The second was the Braves’ willingness to send William Contreras to the Brewers so they could access center fielder Esteury Ruiz, a player whom the A’s had identified to clubs as one they wanted for Murphy.
- Basically, the A’s just really wanted Esteury Ruiz. Also, from the sounds of it, the Cardinals were getting either Murphy or Willson Contreras. And with much love to Contreras, Murphy is the better catcher. So I guess this was technically the best version of the sh*t sandwich the Cubs were force-fed?
- There are some updates on Carlos Correa and Dansby Swanson coming in a separate post later today.
- I’ll leave you with JD making more really good points on Marquee Sports Network.