The Rundown: Cubs’ Winter of Discontent Continues, Báez Close to Joining Tigers, Value May Be Found Among Non-Tenders, Lockout Looms

“There was too much of a sameness about the evening’s delights. He had been the same route too many times. He’d been there before, so double-damned often, and however you traveled—backward, forward, or walking on your hands—you always got to the same place. You got nowhere, in other words, and each trip took a little more out of you.” – Jim Thompson, author of The Grifters

The Stephen Frears-Martin Scorcese picture The Grifters, with a screenplay based on the book mentioned above, is a sleazy tale about con artists and short cons. A grifter, in case you were not aware, is a person who swindles another by means of fraud or deception. When Jed Hoyer told us the Cubs have money to spend and would spend it intelligently, he left out the fact that the team is apparently comfortable doling out deals that exceed three years of guaranteed commitment. Spending intelligently will therefore occur after all of the premium players have inked longer deals.

In fairness to Hoyer, he has inferred on more than one occasion that he is more comfortable with shorter deals that include higher AAVs. Where that ultimately fails is in total dollars and a lack of willingness by a potential signee to enter free agency again three years later and less in demand. Nick Castellanos is a perfect example, as the reason he opted out of his deal with the Reds was to command a larger contract while getting the security of the seven or eight years he is reportedly seeking.

It’s possible Hoyer pushed similar types of contracts on Javier Báez, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo before he traded each at the deadline. Though the executive may have believed he made fair offers, those players not named Rizzo are likely to find better opportunities from other teams. In that respect, it’s feasible Hoyer hasn’t finished tearing down the Cubs. Maybe Wade Miley is just a candidate to flip at next year’s deadline and perhaps Carter Hawkins will be instructed to field offers for Willson Contreras, Ian Happ, and/or Kyle Hendricks.

The front office could choose to strike quickly in the new pool of free agents who will be non-tendered today. Luke Weaver seems like the type of player Hawkins might think needs only a slight adjustment or two to be the top-of-rotation starter most scouts thought he once would be. The same goes for Matthew Boyd, though his flexor tendon injury means he won’t be able to play until at least June. Outfielder Manuel Margot could solve the Cubs’ centerfield and leadoff issues, at least until Brennen Davis is ready.

In yesterday’s Baseball America prospects chat, minor league analyst Kyle Glaser said something very interesting regarding the current state of Chicago’s organization.

“I studied this as part of our rebuilds research project we published in 2018,” Glaser said. “When a team does a tear-it-all-down, trade everybody type of rebuild, it takes a minimum of four years from the time they trade the final pieces away until they become a playoff contender again. Unless MLB expands the playoffs in the new CBA (which it may), the earliest possible year the Cubs will be back in the playoffs is 2025, based on precedent.

“They could still hit that target if they draft well, develop well, make some shrewd trades and sign some key free agents at the right time. But 2025 is the absolute earliest, best-case scenario for them to be playoff contenders again barring postseason expansion.”

That’s a lightbulb moment when you consider Hoyer’s inactivity so far. I don’t really think he grifted or hoodwinked the team’s fanbase because I truly believe he felt players might bite on short-term, high-AAV offers. He hasn’t wavered, which means he and Hawkins will be shopping the discount aisles in February and March, just as they have in every offseason since 2017. Like it or not, that’s the current iteration of The Cubs’ Way, at least until some of the minor league players matriculate through the system.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Rob Manfred and the league owners would like the players to agree to a 14-team postseason tournament in the next CBA. The caveat is that the division winners who do not receive a first-round bye would get to pick their opponent.

Tuesday Stove

The Rangers have signed Corey Seager to a massive 10-year $325 million contract.

The Mariners and Robbie Ray have agreed on a 5-year $115 million deal. Ray is the first qualified free agent to sign with a team.

The Giants are reportedly close to a deal with starter Alex Cobb.

The Braves have agreed to terms with reliever Kirby Yates.

The Marlins have acquired catcher Jacob Stallings from the Pirates for right-hander Zach Thompson and prospects Kyle Nicolas and Connor Scott.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported on Monday that the possibility has now emerged of the Dodgers pursuing beloved Braves star Freddie Freeman to be the top left-handed hitter in their lineup.

The Phillies could be the top suitor for Castellanos.

The Blue Jays are among several teams interested in starting pitcher Yusei Kikuchi.

The Mets are also interested in Kikuchi and might make a quick strike in the non-tender market.

The $100 million contract extension that the Twins gave to Byron Buxton is a win for the player and the organization.

We are now less than 48 hours away from baseball’s first work stoppage since 1994. For now, the default assumption is that matters will be resolved before the regular season is affected.

As the lockout looms, the only thing falling from the sky is money.

Major League Baseball and the players association stopped blood testing for human growth hormone because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Steven Matz broke his silence and revealed why he chose the Cardinals over the Mets.

Sliding Into Home

Last week’s bloodwork came back a little bad and I had some imaging done Saturday. The results were also not great. My liver function is better and the scarring has reduced somewhat but there is some pancreatic tissue that’s concerning, so I’m having a biopsy Thursday morning. I’m happy about the liver, but I really need this pancreas issue to be a non-issue. That’s one of the scary organs. Keep me in your thoughts. I’m feeling positive and so is my doctor. I’ll have the results Thursday night.

Extra Innings

The Rangers are the favorites to grab the first annual Jed Hoyer Winning the Offseason Award, but don’t sleep on the Blue Jays or Tigers. Both are shopping premium infielders.

They Said It

  • “I’m not going to tip our hand as far as what we do in free agency. I’ve said repeatedly that we do have financial flexibility. We have money to spend this winter. But I think it’s really important that we do that in an intelligent way.” – Hoyer, at the end of the 2021 season.

Tuesday Walk-Up Song

Stuck in the Middle With You by Stealer’s Wheel – The Cubs still have yet to be attached to a single, legitimate free agent rumor.

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