The Rundown: 3B Options Limited, Hoyer Intends to Be Aggressive, Big Trade Kickstarts Winter Meetings

The Cubs continue to be connected to big free-agent fish Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, but neither can play third base. Chicago’s current options include Nick Madrigal, Patrick Wisdom, Christopher Morel, and Miles Mastrobuoni. Madrigal surprised us defensively but has no power and is often injured, Wisdom has a big bat but feeble contact skills, Morel is very subpar defensively, and Mastrobuoni is strictly a depth piece.

Matt Shaw is one of Chicago’s top prospects and could be an option at the hot corner, but most analysts believe he lacks the arm strength to be an everyday third baseman. Shaw was a shortstop at Maryland when he was drafted but is better suited to play second base. That said, he’s never going to supplant Nico Hoerner unless, of course, Hoerner is no longer standing in his way.

I’m not suggesting that the Cubs trade Hoerner, but what if Craig Counsell asked the Gold Glove second baseman to move to third? What if he asked Dansby Swanson to move to third with Hoerner going back to shortstop? Shaw hit .393 with a 1.082 OPS, 197 wRC+, four home runs, 18 RBI, and seven stolen bases in 89 plate appearances at South Bend. In 70 plate appearances with Tennessee, he had a .852 OPS, three home runs, nine RBI, and six steals. He’s on a fast track to the bigs and could arrive in 2024, but he’s going to need a set defensive position.

Shaw’s ascension could make Morel expendable, but it would be almost sinful not to see those two exciting young players hitting in the same lineup. Morel is a perfect DH candidate if that spot is not occupied by Ohtani. Signing Ohtani might open up a permanent spot for Matt Mervis at first base, too. Counsell works well with younger players, so Shaw and Mervis could break camp with the Cubs. In essence, Chicago has needs at the corners despite a glut of players who fit in a pinch. I wouldn’t count on Rhys Hoskins accepting a one-year deal in this market, either.

That kind of odd roster construction is an example of the positional scarcity that should benefit Matt Chapman in free agency. Someone will overpay Chapman, let’s just hope Hoyer isn’t that guy. We shouldn’t have to worry too much about it, though. Hoyer is notoriously measured in the open market and won’t sign off on a deal that doesn’t make fiscal sense. Jerry DiPoto of the Mariners traded Eugenio Suárez and has been clearing salary since the season ended. Most think he will make a run at Ohtani or Yamamoto, but he could be the guy who overpays Chapman. His current third base options are Luis Urías and Josh Rojas.

I suppose Hoyer could look to trade for a third baseman, but the cost to acquire someone like José Ramírez or Alex Bregman would certainly be prohibitive. If Hoyer is looking for one-season stopgaps, players like Josh Donaldson or Evan Longoria should be relatively inexpensive. That said, Hoyer drank from that well last season with Eric Hosmer and Trey Mancini, so let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Neither would move the needle when it comes to signing Ohtani.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Delusional and unrealistic. I hope Jed Hoyer sends any call from A.J. Preller straight to voicemail.

Central Intelligence

  • Milwaukee: Wade Miley has agreed to return to the Brewers on a one-year deal. He’ll get $8.5 million with a mutual option worth another $12 million. News of the deal comes one month after Miley declined his half of a $10 million mutual option in his previous deal with Milwaukee. He got a $1 million buyout and a chance to shop his services on the open market. The two sides may have been close to a deal when Miley declined.
  • Cincinnati: The Reds need starters but Cincinnati president Nick Krall said Trevor Bauer is not an option he’d choose to pursue.
  • Pittsburgh: The Pirates are reportedly interested in free agent starter Jack Flaherty.
  • St. Louis: The Cardinals are in the thick of trade rumors for Glasnow and Dylan Cease, but John Mozeliak said the team has finished adding to his rotation. The president of baseball operations intends to concentrate on lineup additions instead.

Shohei Meter

I’ll use the pulse of social media as a guide and will readjust this order daily, as necessary, until Ohtani signs. The Yamamoto meter is practically inverse, by the way. I will not put the Dodgers in the top spot unless they first acquire a frontline starter.

  1. Cubs
  2. Blue Jays
  3. Dodgers
  4. Braves
  5. Red Sox
  6. Giants

Monday Stove

The Braves are a darkhorse to sign Ohtani, but they’re still in the running according to some reports.

On Sunday night, the Mariners and Braves agreed on the first trade of this year’s Winter Meetings. Seattle attached Jarred Kelenic to Marco Gonzales and Evan White to get those two latter contracts to Atlanta for pitchers Jackson Kowar and Cole Phillips.

What’s next for the Mariners? The trade of Suárez to the Diamondbacks and Sunday night’s deal will save Seattle a combined $42 million in future commitments. The team also declined to make a $20.325 million qualifying offer to outfielder Teoscar Hernández. They may make a run at Soto, but they’ve already announced they’re out on Ohtani. That leaves Yamamoto, Chapman, or Cody Bellinger, or perhaps a trade for Glasnow or Bieber.

I wouldn’t be shocked if DiPoto trades for Nick Castellanos, allowing the Phillies to jump back in on Ohtani.

Hernández could be a sneaky good pickup for teams in need of an outfielder.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said on Monday that Mookie Betts will be a full-time second baseman in 2024.

The Dodgers also hired Chris Archer as a special assistant in their baseball operations department.

Major League Baseball officials have decided to wait at least another year before considering the implementation of rules that would prevent teams from dumping players into the waiver market late in the season, as the Angels did in August, industry sources told ESPN on Monday.

Former big league outfielder Billy Bean, Major League Baseball’s senior vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion, has been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.

The Draft Lottery takes place tomorrow at 4:30pm CT and will be televised on MLB Network. The Cubs have a 0.4% chance of getting the top pick and will get the No. 16 pick if they do not move into the top six.

Extra Innings

I think we all know the answer, right?

They Said It

  • “You’ve got five teams and have a lot of young talent. I know the last few years, [the NL Central] hasn’t been quite as talented as the East and the West in the National League, but I would expect that that’s going to shift.” – Hoyer
  • “I have such a clear direction that I want to head and things I want to accomplish. I’m proud of the way I hung in there, took some punches, and then finished strong. There are definitely some things I learned about myself — some positives. And ideally, you learn from it and don’t let it happen again.” – Taillon
  • “I’m really excited to run it back. We’ve [reached] a really awesome place. We were in the trenches together. We worked through some things and I feel like we came out on the other side with a good, strong relationship and an understanding of what I need to do to avoid that going forward.” – Taillon

Monday Walk-Up Song

I thought there would be more transactions over the last 24 hours. Hopefully, some front offices are close to announcing deals this evening and tomorrow.

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