The Rundown: Blame Hoyer Not Ricketts for Lack of Activity, Bellinger Return Possible, Glasnow Traded to Dodgers

According to Bruce Levine, Shohei Ohtani had little interest in playing for the Cubs, if any at all. Meanwhile, the Dodgers are building a super team, which is the exact same thing LeBron James did in Miami and Los Angeles, and my distaste for MLB is approaching the same bitter level as it has for the NBA. The sport, mind you, remains pristine. It is Major League Baseball that is flawed.

Now that the Rays and Dodgers have completed the Tyler Glasnow trade, you have to wonder where Jed Hoyer’s focus is. It was mentioned in the latest Wrigleyville Nation podcast that Hoyer is just like the fantasy baseball player who sits on the sidelines until all the other teams have run out of auction cash. There is some truth to that, as funny as it sounds. Chicago’s president of baseball operations tends to wait until players fall into his lap, which is to say the market for said players falls beneath the pricing algorithm dictates he spends.

Hoyer may snag Cody Bellinger by taking that route — the financial battle is reportedly down to the Cubs and Blue Jays — but what is Chicago’s front office essentially telling free agents?

“We’ll sign you at our price and not a penny more.”

There’s nothing wrong with protecting your payroll; the Braves operate a similar strategy to perfection. The difference between Atlanta and Chicago is that one franchise drafted better than the other at the end of the last decade and immediately locked up its best players at below-market wages.

That brings me back to Ohtani. What is his general distaste for playing for the Cubs? I’m not buying the usual excuses, such as weather, Chicago’s smaller Asian population, or travel distance to Japan. You could make a solid argument that the Cubs are no longer a global phenomenon since moving from WGN to Marquee. I’d buy that, and I do believe Chicago’s fanbase is much more localized than it was over the previous 40 years, give or take.

It’s also possible Ohtani doubted Hoyer’s ability to attract the game’s best players to Chicago’s North Side. I don’t know what the Cubs offered the two-way superstar, but according to Levine, Ohtani’s camp never seriously considered coming to Chicago. If you look at raw numbers, agreeing not to pay Ohtani $700 million makes good financial sense. I’d be willing to bet his agent never intended to negotiate with the same flexibility he gave the Dodgers, however. Why? I don’t believe Ohtani wants to carry a team. He’d have that responsibility playing for the Cubs, who would probably be handcuffed financially even with the deferred contract structure.

Los Angeles presented a plan that takes a lot of pressure off of Ohtani. The team’s fans won’t notice the excessive financial obligation because the bulk of it is neatly tucked away deep into his retirement years. The Dodgers’ roster is also built on a foundation of superstars that includes Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, with Clayton Kershaw possibly returning, and Yoshinobu Yamamoto. still a realistic target. If the Dodgers don’t win the World Series, Ohtani won’t bear the sole blame. If he came to Chicago and the Cubs flamed out in September or October, he might be saddled with that burden.

You may think that’s not a factor, but visit some of the Angels chat rooms. Fans have been saying for years that the massive extension Anaheim gave Mike Trout prevented their front office from building a championship-caliber team. That’s a false narrative because the Angels are a very profitable franchise, but it still adds to the pressure Trout surely feels. Ohtani probably had no interest in playing with that kind of weight attached to his contract.

I’m not pointing my finger at Tom Ricketts for this one, either. Ohtani represents profit at any cost, so Ricketts and his bean counters would have loved to introduce him as a member of the Cubs. No, this is all on Hoyer, who wants to sign modern superstars at medieval prices and has therefore failed to attract the game’s best players to Chicago. Bellinger and the Cubs are a perfect fit and the outfielder would love to return according to several sources. If he signs elsewhere, it’s fair to question the man in charge of building Chicago’s roster for failing to make it happen.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Yusei Kikuchi clearly loves his sushi. How does one say “Big Sexy” in Japanese?

Central Intelligence

Friday Stove

The Dodgers introduced Ohtani yesterday.

Los Angeles will pursue veteran closer Josh Hader next.

MLB is going to give its top prospects a spring showcase in 2024.

Sources around the league expressed to FOX Sports that much of the confidence around Yamamoto is related to his underlying pitch data and how teams think that data will translate against MLB hitters.

The Red Sox appear unlikely to engage in a bidding war for Yamamoto.

The Giants are the frontrunners to sign Blake Snell but are still pursuing Yamamoto.

Yamamoto met with the Phillies yesterday, according to reports. The same article also states the Blue Jays are interested in J.D. Martinez.

The Blue Jays could pursue Christian Yelich if they cannot sign a left-handed bat in free agency. Yelich had a big 2023 but also has a full no-trade clause. How would Cubs fans feel about Yelich joining Counsell in Chicago?

At least two unknown teams are actively monitoring the Astros in case they decide to trade Framber Valdez.

The White Sox are waiting until all of the top free agents are signed, including Yamamoto, Snell, and Jordan Montgomery, before getting into serious talks with teams about Dylan Cease.

The Royals are finalizing a deal with free-agent outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

Kansas City has also signed veteran starter Michael Wacha, adding to a revamped rotation that now includes Seth Lugo.

The Tigers and RHP Jack Flaherty have agreed to terms on a one-year deal.

The Pirates are close to finalizing a deal with outfielder Andrew McCutchen.

Apropos of Nothing

The last NL team with back-to-back World Series championships was the 1975-76 Reds.

Extra Innings

The Cubs never fail to promote their summer concert schedule just as the barbarians are arriving at the gates.

They Said It

  • “I’ve been pretty open, I don’t love the idea of long deals. It’s hard to see into the future that well. You’re betting on human beings with bones and ligaments and all those different things. But certainly, there are times when a player’s talent [makes] it make sense to do that. So, yeah, in theory, you’d love to keep deals shorter. If you have to pay a little more per year, I think it makes sense to do that, to make your future that much more nimble. But there are times when it makes sense to [go longer].” – Hoyer
  • “The hard thing with pitching is you need a lot of it. Writing out your five guys in your rotation — it feels like those days have gone away as an industry. As a team, you just don’t do that anymore. You just gotta have a lot of guys and realize that we [need] 1,400 quality innings somehow. That’s how we focus on it.” – Hoyer

Friday Walk-Up Song

Hoyer, to any remaining free agents, presumably.

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