The Rundown: Verlander an Affordable Option for Cubs, Maddon ‘Humbled’ in Return to Chicago, Happy Non-Tender Day

The Cubs are rarely listed as a team that may sign Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander, but I think he fits as that potential Jon Lester-like signing fans continue to talk about. Verlander reportedly wants a contract that competes with the deal Max Scherzer signed with the Mets last year, which has led to tons of speculation that the veteran righty’s floor is three years and $130 million. I’m not buying it.

I’m convinced Verlander would sign the first two-year, $90 million offer that lands on his agent’s desk,in which case the Cubs should be considered a potential suitor. That deal fits Jed Hoyer’s willingness to sacrifice higher AAVs for a reduction in contract length. Verlander would lead Chicago’s staff and serve as a conduit to up-and-coming pitchers Jordan Wicks, Ben Brown, Caleb Kilian, Cade Horton, and Jackson Ferris.

Wicks, Horton, and Ferris might benefit the most from Verlander’s presence and big-league tutelage.

Some analysts are saying the premier free agents may pass on Chicago because the team is still in a rebuilding phase. But the Cubs are reportedly one of the favorites to land Carlos Correa or Xander Bogaerts and could be in play for Koudai Senga, José Abreu, and Christian Vázquez or Omar Narváez. Hoyer’s willingness to spend, and the belief that he will, should sufficiently imply the Cubs are committed to contending in 2023.

If Hoyer wants to get cute, he could add an option to the end of Verlander’s potential deal. However, the key might be agreeing to a year-two opt-out. Verlander could then parlay a great year into $50 million next year. He could command $100 million over two years if he’s again named the top pitcher in 2023. The 40-year-old likes some wiggle room in his contract, so the opportunity to enter free agency again next season might be appealing.

Verlander is at the top of the list of baseball’s usual suspects, i.e., large-market, coastal cities. He’d be a welcome addition to any of the California teams and the Yankees will be interested, especially if they lose Aaron Judge. Verlander may also prefer to stay with the Astros. He likes it there, the team is young, and the reigning champs should compete for a title again next year.

Still, Verlander reportedly wanted to play for Chicago when the Tigers traded him to Houston in 2017. The Cubs may not appeal to him now that Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Báez, and Kyle Schwarber have moved on, but the North Siders have everything else going in their favor. If Hoyer can sell the veteran on his vision, the Cubs have a big chunk of payroll flexibility to sign Verlander and acquire enough key veterans to make an immediate postseason run.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

It’s really that simple, as I prove in this column on the daily.

Friday Stove

Today is MLB’s non-tender day and here are your potential household name candidates. Cody Bellinger is the name most will be following. Those who once hoped Chicago would trade Willson Contreras for Jorge Alfaro might want to enable Padres’ notifications today. Shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa might become a free agent by 7pm CT, too.

I wonder if the White Sox will non-tender starter Lucas Giolito if they are unable to trade him. I was perusing their roster last night and it seems to me that the South Siders have a lot of overrated players.

Cubs players to keep an eye on include Brailyn Márquez, Alfonso Rivas, Rafael Ortega, Zach McKinstry, Michael Rucker, Erich Uelmen, and Mark Leiter Jr.

The Blue Jays could pursue Bellinger if he’s set free by the Dodgers. Trust me when I tell you that will never happen. I could see Justin Turner landing in Toronto, however.

The AL and NL MVP Awards go to Judge and Paul Goldschmidt, which means Shohei Ohtani has been shut out when it comes to league hardware.

The Mariners made another trade yesterday, mostly because that’s just what Jerry DiPoto likes to do. Seattle traded outfielder Kyle Lewis to the Diamondbacks for catcher Cooper Hummel. It looks like DiPoto is preparing to take a run at Brandon Nimmo. Trey Mancini, Joey Gallo, and Andrew Benintendi might be options as well.

Don’t forget, Toronto was very interested in Ian Happ at this year’s trade deadline. Happ is entering his walk year, so that’s something to keep an eye on.

The Rangers have landed the 2024 All-Star Game.

In a news conference at MLB’s offices Thursday, Rob Manfred addressed a letter sent by baseball legend Pete Rose, who pleaded for a chance to be considered for the Hall of Fame and again apologized for his 1980s gambling scandal. As Manfred has stated in the past, he believes players who bet on baseball belong on the permanently ineligible list.

As you may recall, the Cubs and Draft Kings partnered on a $100 million deal earlier this year to add a sportsbook to Wrigley Casino Field. That’s me questioning the hypocrisy of baseball, by the way.

The Mets, Yankees, Dodgers, and Phillies are the betting favorites to land Verlander.

Extra Innings

The Cubs have launched a new series on YouTube called “On Deck” and Pete Crow-Armstrong is its first feature player. He grew up watching Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramírez, and later idolized Báez’s style of play. “When I get in base, something is probably going to happen.”

Friday Morning Six-Pack

  1. Tom Thayer broke down the play of Bears’ linebacker Jack Sanborn and he loves the rookie’s aggressiveness.
  2. Buffalo is expecting 5-6 feet of snow on Sunday, so the NFL has moved the Bills’ home game against the Browns to Detroit.
  3. I watched A Christmas Story Christmas on HBO Max and it was wonderful. Sorry for the slight spoiler, but the tagline should be “If you’ve lost your old man, you’ll cry your eyes out.” It’s not as good as its predecessor, but its genuine moments are sweeter and they drive the movie home.
  4. Twitter suffered a mass exodus yesterday as hundreds of employees posted saluting emojis in Slack that signified their choice to quit in the face of Elon Musk’s ultimatum to commit to an “extremely hardcore” culture or leave. Things got a little ugly afterward. Twitter is not going to survive Musk, but the looming recession would have probably killed it anyway. It has only been an occasionally profitable company.
  5. Yesterday was Red Cup Day Rebellion at many Starbucks chains. For those unaware, the liquid candy store disguised as a coffee dispensary gives out reusable holiday cups one day each year. This year, striking employees handed our pro-union cups instead. The giveaway day is traditionally the biggest sales day of the year for Starbucks.
  6. Cultivated and lab-grown meat, aka “no-kill meat,” received a big boost this week from the FDA. Manufacturers take a biopsy of a living animal and grow the cells into fat or muscle tissue for human consumption, in case you were wondering how it works. Who knew 1950s horror movies would provide the blueprint for potentially feeding the world?

They Said It

  • “When I dealt with the issue the last time [Rose] applied for reinstatement, I made clear that I didn’t think the function of that baseball list was the same as the eligibility criteria for the Hall of Fame. That remains my position. I think it’s a conversation that really belongs [with] the Hall of Fame board. I’m on that board, and it’s just not appropriate for me to get in front of that conversation.” – Manfred

Friday Walk-Up Song

I went down a Carlos Santana rabbit hole yesterday, and lo and behold, I found the perfect Friday song. As you may know, I listen to a lot of music, but I had never heard this before yesterday. I love the accordion and Latin percussion, and the horns are great too, but the guitar work is mesmerizing. A nice bonus is that the lyrics promote awareness of violence against women.

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