The Rundown: Cubs Need Help Everywhere and It’s Going to Be Expensive, McGriff Gets Hall Call, Murphy Trade Appears Close

The Winter Meetings have started and the rumors attached to the Cubs can best be described as polarizing. Dansby Swanson is at the foundation of the inherently divisive chatter, though the pro-Swanson fans pale in comparison to those who believe the former Brave isn’t a good fit in Chicago.

Of course, the courting of Swanson is seen by some as a tactic to get Xander Bogaerts engaged, and indeed, the Cubs were reportedly set to offer the ex-Red Sox shortstop a contract on Sunday. That report seems suspect at best and akin to blatant chicanery at worst. In the meantime, the Giants are exhibiting interest in Carlos Correa, though he’s probably a backup in case Aaron Judge remains with the Yankees or signs elsewhere. Trea Turner is still the favorite in Philadelphia, but the Phillies don’t seem as aggressive as they should be. By the way, Jed Hoyer covets Turner, though I doubt the admiration is mutual.

The Astros have been aggressive and they’re not pumping the brakes. Houston signed José  Abreu and Rafael Montero, and they’re the favorites to sign Willson Contreras. The reigning champs are lining up an interview with Andrew Benintendi, too. Imagine a team that’s been to the World Series four times in six years doing everything they can to stay on top. It must be nice for Astros fans to have an owner who doesn’t pocket the money earmarked for Justin Verlander.

Speaking of finances, it looks like the Mets, Padres, Dodgers, and Phillies don’t give a damn about the luxury tax. That’s pretty exciting stuff until you read that Hoyer is courting the likes of Matt Carpenter and Corey Kluber, which, combined with a potential signing of Swanson, might leave Cubs fans feeling more than a little ripped off. Couple that with a report from Sahadev Sharma and Patrick Mooney of The Athletic that agents are “laughing when asked to define ‘intelligent spending'” and you may start to feel like the offseason is nothing more than an early and protracted April Fool’s joke. In fact, Chicago may already be waxed from this year’s pitching market.

Let me quote what might be the most damning paragraph from SharMooney:

Multiple agents remain skeptical of the Cubs’ eagerness to spend huge money on one player this offseason, forecasting a winter of diversified investments, value signings, and players who could be flipped for prospects at next year’s trade deadline if the team underperforms. Those observations aren’t criticisms as much as an acknowledgment that the Cubs have so many holes and question marks on their roster, as well as an improving farm system that should begin paying larger dividends in 2023 and beyond.

How expensive is pitching? Chris Martin signed with the Cubs last season for $2.5 million and parlayed a very uneventful season into a two-year, $17.5 million deal with the Red Sox. The middle tier of starting pitching is reaching uncomfortable levels, with Jameson Taillon and Chris Bassitt potentially pricing themselves out of Chicago’s level of palatability. It’s very frustrating, isn’t it?

I hope Hoyer understands that new financial benchmarks are created every winter. The price to go shopping will only get higher next year and the year after. Personally, I’m starting to think the president of baseball operations is in over his head. He’s made some tough decisions and more than a few excellent trades, but he seems a little too reluctant when it comes to putting a competitive dollar sign on the muscle.

Put another way, perhaps intelligent spending means getting aged players on short-term deals while the organization continues to ask for patience from its fanbase. Nothing inspires disappointment like the thought of Hoyer putting a death grip on the compensatory draft pick he’ll get for Contreras. We’ve experienced this scenario too many times for it not to be real. If being a Cubs fan means accepting patience and pragmatism, maybe it’s time for Tom Ricketts to sell the team.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Greg Maddux won the internet yesterday.

Monday Stove

The Red Sox may have blown any chance they may have had to retain Bogaerts.

Of all the shortstop-related scuttlebutt, the Twins’ pursuit of Correa seems like the most advanced story thread. That suggests Correa could be the first domino to fall in the derby to land him, Turner, Bogaerts, or Swanson.

Verlander is looking for a three-year deal that matches the contract given to Max Scherzer. The Mets and the Dodgers seem the likeliest to give the Cy Young award winner the extra year.

It’s very likely that the winning bid for Judge will be a record-breaking nine-year contract. Will he get $40 million in AAV? He’s certainly got a chance.

The Pirates say they aren’t going to trade outfielder Bryan Reynolds despite his trade request.

The Athletics are close to completing a trade involving catcher Sean Murphy. In case you’re wondering, my guy in Milwaukee believes the Cardinals are the frontrunners.

The Dominican Republic will host the first international office for the Major League Baseball Players Association.

Extra Innings

This is kind of cool.

Santa Claus is Back in Town

We did a good deed in Milwaukee on Saturday, so here’s a little taste of Santa’s Rampage.

Apropos of Nothing

I have to return to my office full-time starting January 16 and I am not sure just yet how that will affect my schedule here at Cubs Insider. Amtrak used to offer internet service so I could write on my inbound trip, but that are no longer available.

Monday Morning Six-Pack

  1. The Packers beat the Bears 28-19 for their eighth straight victory in the series. However, there is a prevailing feeling that Aaron Rodgers may be passing the baton of “Best Quarterback in the NFC North” to Justin Fields.
  2. The Bears have losing streaks of five games or more in each of the last three seasons.
  3. Team USA has been booted from the FIFA World Cup thanks to a 3-1 loss to the Netherlands on Saturday.
  4. OPEC+ gave the United States a fat middle finger as it agreed yesterday to maintain planned production cuts.
  5. If you haven’t seen Echo in the Canyon I highly recommend that you do. I’m a big fan of Jane Castrinos and Cat Power thanks to the documentary.
  6. Dolly Parton is going to cover Prince, The Rolling Stones, and Lynyrd Skynyrd on her forthcoming rock album.

They Said It

  • ‘We’re in the market for good players, so we’re not that positionally focused.’’ – Hoyer
  • “The problem for Hoyer is that shortstop is not the Cubs’ only hole. For all the talk about the Next Great Cubs Team, the major-league club is short on long-term building blocks, and the farm system, while plenty deep, is short on potential stars. Hoyer bid for Abreu to fill the team’s void at first base. He wants a center fielder, but rather than Nimmo, he might prefer a one-year stopgap while awaiting the arrival of prospect Pete-Crow Armstrong. Rotation help, bullpen help, Hoyer’s team needs that, too. Playing in one of the game’s weakest divisions, the Cubs are in a position to spend their way into contention. But it likely will require Hoyer going outside his comfort zone.” – Rosenthal

Monday Walk-Up Song

Castrinos was once the female lead for Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. I can’t believe this song is 12 years old already.

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