The Rundown: Cubs Named Faves for Swanson, Vázquez Also Linked Heavily, Cards Lose Competitive Balance Pick, Brewers Teardown Possible

Jon Heyman indicated yesterday that the Cubs are the favorites to sign free-agent shortstop Dansby Swanson, and that upset a lot of fans of Chicago’s North Side baseballers. If I had to guess, it wasn’t due to an outpouring of love for Nick Madrigal.

“If rumors are true that the Braves didn’t accede to his $140 million counter — the same deal Trevor Story and Javier Báez got — it’s obvious why some Atlanta people are pessimistic,” Heyman wrote. “Still, he is from Georgia. Favorites: 1. Cubs; 2. Braves.”

First, that’s Heyman’s opinion, though give him credit for having enough sources to make an educated assumption. Additionally, anybody playing up the middle with Nico Hoerner is better than Madrigal, who should be a utility player or pinch hitter until he can remain healthy and play with consistency. He could be the Thad Bosley of this generation. If you like Little Stick Nick that much, you can cross your fingers and hope that David Ross moves Hoerner to center field. I’m not on board with that plan, but you can be.

According to some estimates, Swanson will come at more than half the price of Carlos Correa, but by no means is he half the player. Jim Bowden of The Athletic estimates Swanson will receive a six-year, $154 million deal ($25.67 million AAV). That’s a legitimate bargain compared to his estimate for Correa (10/$345M). Swanson does want to stick at shortstop according to several reports, so don’t raise the motion of moving him over to third. Besides, my guy Matthew Trueblood offered a hot take for Chicago’s hot corner yesterday afternoon.

Mind you, Correa’s market price seems to have regressed somewhat since Bowden published his piece, but Heyman said right before Thanksgiving that he’ll still command upwards of $300 million.

We often talk about the versatility of Christopher Morel but we’ve yet to pigeonhole the rookie with a concrete position. An infield of Morel, Swanson, Hoerner, and Matt Mervis might not be the earth-shaking winter you had hoped for, but it’s a pretty good third-to-first if Mervis produces like he did last year. I broke down the offensive production of each of the four shortstops of the apocalypse during the World Series, but here it is again if you don’t feel like linking back:

  • Correa: .291/.366/.834, 24 doubles, 22 home runs, 64 RBI, 140 OPS+
  • Xander Bogaerts: .307/.377/.833, 38, 15, 73, 131
  • Trea Turner: .293./.343/.809,39, 21, 100, 121
  • Swanson: .277/.329/.776, 32, 25, 96, 115

Swanson finished 2021 with a 6.4 fWAR and Correa produced 4.4, though the latter has been a little more consistent throughout his career. Swanson is coming off of a career year, but because he is a candidate for regression, he’s been placed into the discount bin of available shortstops. He does come with a few warts, as Davy Andrews of Fangraphs mentions in his analysis. Of particular concern is that Swanson struck out 182 times in 2022. If you’re pro-Correa or Bogaerts, you might not want to read it.

The best I can offer is that Swanson is a significant upgrade over Madrigal. Like most of you, I’d rather have any of the other three. I’m particularly concerned that the savings that come with signing the beloved Braves shortstop won’t be put back into next year’s payroll. Swanson also comes with a qualifying offer and loss of a draft pick, so that would probably eliminate any pursuit of Carlos Rodón or Brandon Nimmo.

There is a silver lining, but it is a stretch. By signing a shortstop, the Cubs could dangle one or more of their middle infield prospects in an attempt to acquire Shohei Ohtani. Adding Correa and Ohtani (with an extension) is an unlikely financial endeavor. It is a little more palatable if you’re saving $100-150 million at shortstop, however.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Greg Zumach won the internet yesterday. Way to go Theo!

Friday Stove

The Rays and Zach Eflin have agreed to terms on a three-year, $40 million contract. That probably means Tyler Glasnow will not be available until the trade deadline, and only if Tampa Bay is out of contention.

The Tigers have reached an agreement to bring back lefty Matthew Boyd on a one-year, $10 million deal.

Justin Verlander and the Astros are said to be “far apart” in negotiations, which could open the door for the Mets, Yankees, or Dodgers.

The Diamondbacks are among the teams interested in Bogaerts.

The Yankees are rumored to be closing in on a potential contract with Judge.

One league executive doubts Judge will sign with the Giants.

Major League Baseball has accepted the Hanshin Tigers’ application to post right-handed pitcher Shintaro Fujinami, the Japanese club said Thursday.

Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry passed away yesterday due to natural causes. He was 84.

The Rick Rosenthal Files

More good stuff from Rosenthal’s “What I’m Hearing…” column ($) over at The Athletic.

Rival teams are asking the Brewers about the availability of their top players, namely right-handers Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff, and shortstop Willy Adames.

MLB sources continue to suggest the Padres are players in the shortstop market, possibly even for Turner. To make it work, San Diego could move Ha-Seong Kim to second and Jake Cronenworth to first while going with an outfield of Fernando Tatis Jr. in left, Trent Grisham in center, and Juan Soto in right.

The White Sox could be mulling a trade for Royals catcher Salvador Perez, who is close with Chicago’s new manager, Pedro Grifol.

Speaking of catchers, Sean Murphy is on the Braves’ radar.

Extra Innings

Mac-n-cheese aficionado Russell Dorsey of Bally Sports puts Swanson in the plus column for the Cubs or any organization that signs him.

Friday Morning Six-Pack

  1. I wrote up a moving tribute over at Bears Insider to honor Aaron Rodgers, who celebrates his 39th birthday today.
  2. Justin Fields has made significant progress with his shoulder injury and could play Sunday.
  3.  The new College Football Playoff format, slated to begin in 2024, will include 12 teams. That’s a big jump from the current four.
  4. Congress told striking railroad workers “you’re going to accept this deal, and you’re going to like it.” A separate vote to add seven paid sick days failed to pass.
  5. Kanye West went off the rails yesterday while praising Adolf Hitler.
  6. You may add this to my ever-evolving Christmas wishlist. I wear size XXL, in case you are wondering.

They Said It

  • “The best defenders usually play shortstop. The best athletes often play shortstop. Those are guys you can move around. Nico was one of the top defensive shortstops in the league last year. We’re totally comfortable with him playing there. But he also has the ability to play second base and probably many other positions as well. It’s a position where you can have multiple guys that can do it.” – Hoyer
  • “One of our real strengths — if you go back to ’15, ’16, ’17 — was we had [Addison Russell] and we had Javy. We had two elite defensive shortstops. We can move those guys around. When one guy did get hurt, we weren’t running out a utility guy that shouldn’t be playing at shortstop. I do think we saw early in the year when Nico was hurt just how destabilizing bad defense can be at shortstop.” – Hoyer

Friday Walk-Up Song

Friday mood. Happy Winter Meetings weekend!

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