The Rundown: Bellinger Key to Cubs’ Offseason Agenda, Swanson Wins Fielding Award, Manfred Aims to End American and National Leagues

Five key players are critical to how Jed Hoyer will approach this offseason: Cody Bellinger, Pete Crow-Armstrong, Kyle Hendricks, Marcus Stroman, and Christopher Morel. I’ll break it down for you.

Bellinger: There are 10-12 teams that will be interested in Bellinger the minute he becomes a free agent, including the Cubs. The outfielder loves Chicago and just had a breakout season that could earn him Comeback Player of the Year honors, but that’s probably not enough to give the Cubs a discount or exercise his contract option. The Mets, Yankees, and Giants all have enough resources to outbid the Cubs. That said, a good portion of his success this season was a matter of good luck and shift restrictions. Somebody will overpay Bellinger and he deserves it. I believe a five-year, $125 million contract would be a fair offer by Hoyer. It probably won’t be enough, though.

Crow-Armstrong: Cubs fans were quick to label PCA a bust and, well, it’s too early to tell. He’s already the best defensive center fielder in baseball and flashed speed on the basepaths, but he’s still hitless. Then again, 19 plate appearances is far too small a sample size to make a call either way. If Bellinger leaves, Crow-Armstrong will undoubtedly be an everyday player in 2024. There will be growing pains, but he’s going to be special.

Hendricks: The Cubs are expected to pick up The Professor’s option and could extend him with a two-year deal to lower his AAV. I won’t believe either until something is official. Jed Hoyer is a very calculated executive who rarely leads with his feelings. He traded Yu Darvish, non-tendered Kyle Schwarber, and removed the heart, soul, and wow factor of the team by trading Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Javier Baez. Jesse Rogers recently appeared on ESPN Chicago’s Waddle & Silvy saying that in addition to not hearing anything about a potential extension between Hendricks and the Cubs, simply exercising his option is the more likely outcome. Cade Horton and Ben Brown are nearly ready to be promoted, which could factor in Hoyer’s decision.

Stroman: I believe he is going to exercise his opt-out. Stroman is currently a No. 4 starter, but Brown and/or Horton making the team next spring could push Stroman into a swingman role. That will hurt his market value the following year. The Cubs are on the hook for $21 million if the enigmatic veteran sticks around, though Hoyer could eat some of that and trade him. If Stroman elects free agency, he could probably get a three-year deal in the $40-45 million range. That’s why I believe he’s pitched his last game as a Cub.

Morel: The slugging infielder/outfielder needs to find a permanent position, and he makes Hoyer’s job a lot easier this winter if the Cubs believe third base is that spot. If Chicago’s president of baseball operations has to look outside the organization to cover the corner infield, he’ll have little money left over to build a better bullpen or find another starter. Morel could be trade bait, too. I’d like to see him succeed at the hot corner and stay in Chicago. He strikes out a lot, but he still hasn’t reached his potential as a hitter.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

It sure would be nice if David Ross had more faith in his younger players. Maybe a little patience, too.

Central Intelligence

World Series News & Notes

Stolen bases and batting averages have increased this postseason while average game times are down.

The Rangers are among six MLB teams that have never won a World Series.

The Diamondbacks are one of the biggest underdogs to reach the World Series.

The writers at make Texas a slight favorite to win the World Series in either six or seven games.

No player embodies the success and resiliency of the Rangers more than Adolis García.

Rookies Corbin Carroll, Brandon Pfaadt, and Alek Thomas are a big part of Arizona’s postseason success.

Savvy trades are largely responsible for this year’s Fall Classic combatants.

Friday Stove

Rob Manfred has an offseason agenda every year, and his current honey-do list contains expansion, new stadiums, and the end of the American and National Leagues through radical realignment.

The Braves started building their 2024 bullpen by extending reliever Pierce Johnson.

The second annual draft lottery will be held at this year’s Winter Meetings in Nashville on December 5.

The Rangers are the new favorites to sign Shohei Ohtani according to Jon Heyman. The MLB insider lists the Cubs’ odds as 20-1.

The Yankees and Padres have not discussed a Juan Soto trade despite rumors to the contrary.

The Yankees might be more interested in Bellinger, anyway.

The folks at Bleacher Report put together some fascinating trade ideas, including Mike Trout to the Giants and Corbin Burnes to the Orioles.

Phillies GM Dave Dombrowski expects to run it back with mostly the same squad in 2024, but that depends on keeping Aaron Nola.

Extra Innings

I love that the Rangers are going to honor Fergie Jenkins during the World Series.

They Said It

  • “[Breslow] combines a powerful intellect and deep pitching expertise with a real understanding of players and a fearless approach to problem-solving. With his mind, work ethic, and character, there is no limit to what he can accomplish in this game.” – Theo Epstein

Friday Walk-Up Song

Good music never gets old.

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