The Rundown: Cubs Poach Counsell, Hoyer Prepping Roster for Offseason Additions, Three Cubs Win Gold Gloves, GM Meetings Begin

Welcome to the first day of the hot stove season, officially speaking. The 2024 season begins in a scant 20 weeks and executives for 30 teams are already reshaping their rosters. Today is also the final day for options to be exercised or declined as the GM Meetings kick off in Arizona.

  1. Breaking: The Cubs have hired Craig Counsell to replace David Ross. Evan has all the details.
  2. The Cubs got some clarity on their 2024 roster over the weekend when Marcus Stroman opted to enter free agency, a decision that shocked some. I believed it was a no-brainer because Stroman should focus on total value rather than AAV at this stage of his career. He won’t get the $21 million the Cubs would have owed him for one season, but a two-year deal for $28-35 million seems doable.
  3. Cody Bellinger has declined his option and he’ll enter free agency attached to a qualifying offer. Some readers think I am against retaining the lefty slugger, but that’s not true. It is simply my opinion that Bellinger is a strong regression candidate. I also believe his power will age poorly and I don’t know if he’ll be worth the contract he’ll eventually get. That said, I’d like to see him return as long as the contract length and AAV make sense.
  4. The Cubs picked up their option on Kyle Hendricks, a move that was widely expected.
  5. The team also retained catcher Yan Gomes. I’d love to see him win a ring in Chicago and then retire, just like Ross did in 2016. Retaining the veteran backstop also means Chicago will be very strong up the middle, whether Bellinger returns or Pete Crow-Armstrong becomes a full-time starter. By the way, I’d bet Gomes will make a great manager once he retires.
  6. The Cubs declined their option on reliever Brad Boxberger, which seemed inevitable.
  7. Chicago also outrighted pitchers Jeremiah Estrada and Nick Burdi and first baseman/outfielder Jared Young. You was just claimed off waivers by the Cardinals, so he won’t be returning to the organization.

So what comes next? The Cubs will be on Bellinger’s shortlist with a handful of other teams. The two sides have a genuine idea of what the other is looking to do, but if Bellinger’s time on the open market extends beyond the first of the year, it will probably mean a reunion is unlikely. Jed Hoyer could pivot to the trade market, with Juan Soto and Pete Alonso at the top of his wishlist. Don’t forget: Mike Trout is reportedly available, too. Nothing says Hoyer can’t retain Bellinger and still trade for another slugger.

The Cubs will also be looking to add a starter or two this winter. Tyler Glasnow is reportedly available in trade, and Aaron Nola and Yoshinobu Yamamoto top this year’s list of free agents. Hoyer might be interested in Eduardo Rodríguez or Jordan Montgomery if he’s feeling a little more frugal.

Chicago’s biggest hole is at the hot corner, especially if Christopher Morel is traded. Matt Chapman is the best of a very limited and uninspiring third base group, and trade candidates could include Nolan Arenado, José Ramírez, and/or Eugenio Suárez. Hoyer might have to get creative to avoid sticking with Patrick Wisdom and Nick Madrigal until Matt Shaw is ready, but Madrigal is probably the odds-on favorite to be next year’s Opening Day starter.

Hoyer has some work to do in the bullpen, and he won’t be able to bend the ear of Craig Breslow when doing so. Adbert Alzolay is a fine closer who has only scratched the surface of his abilities. Still, Chicago needs a couple of high-leverage arms that pack serious big-league heat.

If I were a betting man, I’d say the Cubs will be more aggressive in the trade market than in free agency. My wishlist starts with Glasnow and Shohei Ohtani, but I’d be excited if two of Bellinger, Soto, and Alonso are wearing Chicago’s royal blue pinstripes in 2024. Regardless, it’s going to be a fascinating offseason for the Cubs and the rest of baseball, too.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Few starters dominated the opposition like Nolan Ryan.

Central Intelligence

Monday Stove

Ohtani’s free agency has already taken center stage at the GM Meetings.

Odds are that no major trades will take place this week, but that doesn’t mean teams won’t begin getting a feel for what might be in the cards in the coming weeks.

Soto, Glasnow, Paul Blackburn, Manuel Margot, and Ezequiel Durán are among the big leaguers most likely to be traded for prospects. Other than Trout, Logan Gilbert is the most intriguing player on the list, and I’d love to see him come to the Cubs if Glasnow and Nola go elsewhere. A potential Morel-Gilbert trade makes a lot of sense for both teams.

Multiple MLB insiders believe that Yamamoto will sign with the Red Sox, which may also help Boston sign Ohtani.

The Mets were expecting a decision from Counsell today, and he declined to accept the position despite them making a big run at him.

The Flushing franchise has hired Yankees bench coach Carlos Mendoza to replace Buck Showalter as manager.

Stephen Vogt has been named the new manager of the Guardians, replacing Terry Francona. Vogt was considered one of the favorites to replace Counsell in Milwaukee.

Nelson Cruz has officially retired.

Extra Innings

Congratulations to Happ, Hoerner, and Swanson!

They Said It

  • “I truly didn’t have a great sense of what we were going to get out of him. He was confident going into spring training and throughout the winter that he was going to get back and be the old Kyle Hendricks. And he did it. I was really impressed. He worked on his velocity and his arm strength and he was even touching some 90s in his last outing. He really had an exceptional year given what we were expecting.” – Hoyer
  • “I love it so much in Chicago. For my whole career, playing in front of the best fans in the world, going out on Wrigley Field all the time, I wouldn’t want to trade that for anything.” – Hendricks
  • “There are so many different factors you can point to. I feel like most of my waking moments are thinking about those moments and what we could have done differently, how things could have been different. But we have a lot of time this winter and this fall to think through it.” – Hoyer

Monday Walk-Up Song

A little mood music to kickstart your Monday morning.

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