The Rundown: Bellinger Signing Seems Inevitable, Cubs Creating Path Forward for Morel, Blue Jays Pivoting to SP Market

For all the changes Rob Manfred makes to improve baseball, the one that’s egregiously missing is a hard free agency deadline. Kudos to Scott Boras for the vice grip he has on the open market. I know he believes holding out for the best deal is the optimal path to maximize returns, but I think baseball owners lack the desperation Mr. Boras believes exists. Cody Bellinger, whose market has shrunk to two or three teams, is a perfect example.

You can blame Jed Hoyer for not pushing hard enough to sign Bellinger, but the deal Boras and Bellinger are seeking probably doesn’t exist. Waiting for the market to shift seems like pure folly, too. Any adjustments should benefit the buy side at this point. I’d never accuse front offices of colluding, but how many deals has the superagent completed this winter? His top five commodities — Bellinger, Matt Chapman, Jordan Montgomery, Blake Snell, and Rhys Hoskins — are still available. Pitchers and catchers report in about four weeks, so I can’t see how a continued freeze benefits his clients.

A lot of fans struggle with the economics of baseball. Boras can rub many people the wrong way, but only a very small percentage of fans will side with front offices and team owners. I often find it humorous that some Cubs fans feel the need to protect the Ricketts family’s finances because baseball has no hard cap. Yes, there are penalties for overexuberant spending, but at the end of the day, which of the 30 MLB owners is passing on any saved money to their fanbase?

Hoyer bases all of his financial decisions on value and rarely swims outside his lane. His pursuit of Shohei Ohtani was cursory at best, and he probably knew he had little chance to sign the two-way star no matter how much money he offered. Nobody believes Bellinger is a $200 million player, except perhaps Boras. I’ve said since May or June that the eight-year, $162 million deal Brandon Nimmo received from the Mets is the best comp for a Bellinger deal. I still believe that’s the magic number, despite what Matthew Trueblood stated above.

That’s fair value for both sides in cost and length. If Hoyer is in that vicinity, and I believe he is, Boras and Bellinger should accept. The AAV is about three million less than the Dodgers gave Teoscar Hernandez, but Los Angeles is only locked in for one year. I don’t see the Giants, Angels, Mariners, or Blue Jays going any higher, plus it seems like Bellinger would prefer to remain with the Cubs.

Would Boras and Bellinger accept another pillow contract? I’m sure Hoyer would love that but I don’t think the player and agent would be very comfortable assuming the risk of injury or regression. Time, therefore, is the only leverage Boras has, and a shrinking market weakens that type of resistance. The nearness of spring training can’t be helping either, especially with his top five players still seeking contracts.

The Cubs have Pete Crow-Armstrong and Michael Busch, which is exactly why Hoyer shouldn’t budge. I disagree with the over-the-top theatrics of Moneyball, but, using a contradictory phrase from that movie, Hoyer has recreated Bellinger in the aggregate. PCA provides Bellinger’s speed and defense while Busch will presumably match the free agent’s left-handed power. That said, I see no advantage in using two roster spots to equal the output of one player. The Cubs would be a much better team with those three instead of just the two rookies.

Evan published a piece before CubsCon that connected the Cubs to at least three of Boras’ clients. Trading for Busch and signing Shōta Imanaga changes that calculus considerably. Montgomery and Bellinger would be nice acquisitions, but they’re no longer necessary additions, especially when you add Cade Horton and Christopher Morel to the roster mix. Everybody wants Bellinger to return, including his teammates. Hoyer would love to have him back too, but he now holds all the face cards.

Who will blink first? I believe Bellinger will return and Hoyer won’t have to overpay.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Saying these things in January, especially after the Dodgers spent over a billion dollars, is little more than lip service. Mike Tauchman is spot-on, however, and October proves it every year.

Central Intelligence

Tuesday Stove

Who will be at the top of next year’s free agent list? Count on Juan Soto, Alex Bregman, Corbin Burnes, Zack Wheeler, and Jose Altuve, for starters. Everyone except Wheeler is a Boras client, by the way.

The Blue Jays are “quietly” monitoring free agent starter Blake Snell while the Yankees are getting a bit more aggressive in their pursuit of Josh Hader.

Kendall Graveman had shoulder surgery and will miss the 2024 season.

Dusty Baker has joined the Giants’ front office as a special assistant to president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi.

Modern strategies for pitching usage have turned the innings-eating starters into a dying breed.

Apropos of Nothing

I’m thoroughly enjoying the NFL postseason, but Vin Scully was correct when he gave baseball the edge back in 1976.

“Football is to baseball as blackjack is to bridge,” Scully said. “One is the quick jolt. The other the deliberate, slow-paced game of skill, but never was a sport more ideally suited to television than baseball. It’s all there in front of you. It’s theatre, really. The star is the spotlight on the mound, the supporting cast fanned out around him, the mathematical precision of the game moving with the kind of inevitability of Greek tragedy.”

Extra Innings

Imanaga might be the coolest acquisition by the Cubs since Andre Dawson arrived in 1987.

They Said It

  • “I think the world of Cody. Obviously, he had a great year here. Even beyond having a great year for us, he really ingratiated himself well with the city, fan base, and players. The players really think highly of him, and he knows I think really highly of him. None of that has changed at all.” – Hoyer
  • “We all love Cody. He’s a tremendous baseball player. He’s going through the process, which is what he’s played this long and this hard to be able to do. He’s going through the full process and eventually, he will make a decision and something will happen. But right now, it’s probably the hardest part of the process, being at this point in the year and not knowing where you’re going. It takes a lot to be able to get through that. I applaud him and respect him for going through the whole thing.”Ian Happ
  • “What happened was a couple days ago, I got a phone call from one of my agents – same agency [Octagon] with Shota. They said, ‘hey, Shota wanted us to communicate to you that he [wants to choose] No. 18.’ And he wanted to know if I’m OK with it kind of a thing. I was like, ‘of course, he doesn’t have to get my OK.’ But he just had some really nice things to say and I saw what he said at the press conference yesterday. Such an honor. Coming from an honor culture – the Japanese culture – and for him to say that about me, it means even more probably that he went out of his way and said that. It was very kind of him to say that.” – Zobrist

Tuesday Walk-Up Song

Andy Williams was never considered Rat-Pack cool, but this song says otherwise. Imanaga looks and sounds like he could be Chicago’s version of Sammy Davis, Jr., however.

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