The Rundown: ‘Swanson or Bust’ Stakes Higher with Cards Involved, CubsCon Minor League Attendees, GMs Gaming Long-Term Deals

Do you know what would put a nice Christmas bow on Jed Hoyer’s offseason? How about Dansby Swanson signing with the Cardinals? It could happen, especially now that St. Louis is “unlikely” to meet the demands of starting pitcher Carlos Rodón. Adding Swanson to an infield that includes Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, and Paul DeJong/Brendan Donovan/Tommy Edman might cause Cubs fans to storm the gates at 1060 W. Addison.

Swanson would help in Chicago, but he’d be the guy who sets Hoyer’s rebuild back another year and then some if he signed with St. Louis. When the Redbirds signed Willson Conteras, they net-added eight WAR to a team that finished 19 names ahead of the Cubs in 2022. Adding Swanson to that arithmetic would be soul-destroying to the team, its reputation, and to Cubs fans near and far.

Tom Ricketts and media plant Crane Kenney would certainly have the necessary ammunition to fire Hoyer and reconstruct Chicago’s front office in such a scenario. A rift already exists ($) according to Patrick Mooney and Sadahev Sharma of The Athletic. Kenney revealed in an interview on 670 The Score that Hoyer is flush with money and the blessing from Ricketts to spend.

“The business is still healthy and that left Jed with a lot of money to spend this year,” Kenney said. “Like last year, where he didn’t spend all the money he had. Last year, he just didn’t see transactions that made sense to him. I hope there are transactions that make sense to us this year to spend all the money he has.”

If you watched or listened to the latest episode of The Rant Live, Evan mentioned that the Yu Darvish signing might be causing Hoyer’s performance anxiety in the open market. I highly encourage you to listen so I won’t get too into it, but the premise is that the contract Theo Epstein gave Darvish effectively prevented the Cubs from signing Bryce Harper. The current president of baseball operations might be extraordinarily passive if he fears a similar happenstance once he starts doling out contracts that exceed 10 years and nine figures.

What if it’s not Hoyer who’s gun-shy? Chicago’s top executive reportedly offered Christian Vázquez the same contract the catcher signed to play for the Twins. Koudai Senga signed with the Mets at pre-free agency market value, and only one year of commitment separated the Cubs and José Abreu. Perhaps it is the players who feel Ricketts will put the brakes on spending once the Cubs are good enough to revive sagging attendance but not good enough to run away with an NL Central crown.

That brings us back to Swanson and the Cardinals. St. Louis is committed to winning and the Cubs are not, something Contreras pointed out in his first presser with the St. Louis media. Players talk to each other and if that’s the reputation Chicago has at the moment, then Hoyer has to overpay — and by a lot — to attract the game’s best players. Unfortunately, every team is overpaying in baseball’s new economy. That leaves Hoyer and his front office entourage navigating a rudderless boat.

By the way, I’m not trying to apologize on Hoyer’s behalf. He did an amazing job of tearing the team down to the studs while avoiding 100-loss seasons. He’s rebuilt a pisspoor farm system in two seasons and somehow convinced Seiya Suzuki that a bright future exists on Chicago’s North Side. However, his death grip on the team’s budget is annoying at the least and possibly detrimental to the future of the team. The dynamic between Hoyer and his bosses also appears to be a clown car that’s going off the rails.

If Hoyer has to be replaced, who is going to want the job? Chicago’s big market and media popularity would certainly sell any potential executive on the Cubs, but there are more than a few red flags in accepting the position. Folks in St. Louis and Milwaukee are laughing at the top-level dysfunction in Chicago. If it’s more than just hearsay, the Cubs have a real problem that may require massive changes to put behind them.

Don’t be surprised if Swanson signs elsewhere. Besides the Cardinals, the 111-win Dodgers are interested, as are the Red Sox, Braves, and Twins. The Cubs cannot compete with any of those teams from a marketing standpoint because of their growing, negative reputation. The phrase “Swanson or bust” takes on an entirely new meaning if the shortstop signs elsewhere, particularly if he agrees to join the Cardinals.

Apropos of Nothing

Cubs Convention has been a very happy place, but the tone will be much darker this year. The team made a preemptive strike to generate a more positive vibe by announcing the minor league players who will be in attendance, including Pete Crow-Armstrong, Brennen Davis, and Kevin Alcántara.

Cubs News and Notes

Odds and Sods

The Cubs should never be hogtied to the phrase “competitive relevance,” and never compared to the Guardians and Rays. Chicago is the nation’s third-largest market and has resources that two dozen teams do not. You don’t strive for relevance. You should annually compete for rings with the abundance of riches the organization enjoys.

Thursday Stove

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that creative front offices might be using long-term contracts to circumvent luxury tax thresholds ($).

Team owners have negated their ability to cry poor in baseball’s new economy.

Retired slugger Chris Davis will earn $59 million from the Orioles over the next 14 years thanks to deferred payments. That kind of puts Bobby Bonilla to shame.

The Mets, who are still paying Bonilla, set an all-time payroll record this winter but haven’t really improved.

Many baseball insiders believe Shohei Ohtani will eventually end up with the Mets or Dodgers.

The Dodgers have reached an agreement on a one-year contract with pitcher Noah Syndergaard.

The Tigers and dual-threat pitcher Michael Lorenzen have agreed to a one-year contract worth $8.5 million.

The A’s received an F for the players they picked up in the Sean Murphy trade.

Liam Hendriks, Pablo López, and Gleyber Torres head the list of potential trade candidates.

The Twins are drawing trade interest in pitchers Sonny Gray and Kenta Maeda.

This ballot from Art Davidson makes a mockery of the Hall of Fame voting process.

The Blue Jays are showing interest in starter Johnny Cueto.

Extra Innings

Credit South Bend with the kick save.

Thursday Morning Six-Pack

  1. We are quite possibly at the end of an age in the most scientific means. By the end of the year, scientists are expected to decide whether there’s clear evidence that the Earth has entered a new epoch called the Anthropocene, which would reflect humans’ profound impact on Earth’s geology through industrial and radioactive materials. What’s your new epoch resolution?
  2. The NBA is renaming its MVP award to honor six-time champion and former Bulls star Michael Jordan.
  3. The World Cup final is set. France defeated Morocco 2–0 yesterday and will face Argentina in a battle of global soccer giants on Sunday.
  4. Health officials are expecting another winter surge of Covid.
  5. Jessica Chastain had a difficult childhood, apparently. The actress admitted she ate banana peels in her grammar school classroom so that other kids would notice her.
  6. Stevie Nicks and Billy Joel will co-headline at least seven concerts in 2023, the first of which will take place in Los Angeles on March 10. Joel is also scheduled to perform a handful of solo shows, including several at his beloved Madison Square Garden in New York City.

They Said It

  • “There wasn’t a mandate. The one beautiful thing about our ownership group is they don’t issue a lot of mandates. They urge and encourage us to think broadly, whether it’s about saving the stadium or building a better spring training home or improving what we’re doing in the Dominican or doing what we can with our media network to serve our fans better. They leave that in our hands, mine on the business side and Jed’s on the baseball side.” – Kenney

Thursday Walk-Up Song

The Hoyer-Kenney kerfuffle is as juicy as the feud that inspired Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours.”

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