The Rundown: Random Baseball Thoughts, Shaw Focusing on 3B, Clase Linked to Cubs Again, White Sox Looking to Move to South Loop

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”Rogers Hornsby

Because I have been so busy and relatively absent from the comments section here at Cubs Insider, I feel the need to share some random thoughts, which are — as always — open for debate. Bear with me while I put thoughts to paper, so to speak, and feel free to add content to or rebut anything I write.

Call me crazy, but I believe the record-setting contracts that the Dodgers gave to Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto have condensed the market for the remaining top free agents. Scott Boras is bearing the brunt of that fallout because he represents five of the top 10 available players. Cody Bellinger, Blake Snell, and Josh Hader would be the top 2024 acquisitions if not for Ohtani and Yamamoto, but now they’re almost afterthoughts.

The Cubs may regret trading Christopher Morel (if they go that route), but a chance also exists that Morel will regress while playing for another team. I’ll use Javier Báez as my example because both are spotlight players. If Morel goes to Cleveland or any other small market organization, his high strikeout rate and inability to play decent defense will be more of a focus than his majestic home runs and absurdly high energy.

If I was forced to pick one Cubs player who will improve the most in 2024, it would be Jameson Taillon. You can make a solid argument for Pete Crow-Armstrong if you believe his failure to get a hit last season is alarming, but that’s too small a sample size for me. If I bypassed Taillon in favor of a younger player, it would be Jordan Wicks.

Nobody talks about Alexander Canario, who deserves a little more press after his exciting debut in 2023. Don’t forget, he provides right-handed power with plus tools as an outfielder and baserunner, all with 30-homer upside.

I believe Brennen Davis is going to have a breakout campaign, but will end up being traded for a below-average return.

I think we are focusing too much on the loss of Jackson Ferris to appreciate the void Michael Busch fills. The obvious need is left-handed power, and Busch had a .431 OBP and 1.059 OPS at Oklahoma City last year.

The rookie has some warts to his game, however. His hard-hit rate isn’t much higher than Bellinger’s and he had a lower exit velocity, but the sample size at the big league level is too small to rush to judgment. FanGraphs gave him a fielding grade of 20/20 (current/future) though that is at second base. Let’s hope Busch is much better as a first baseman or he’s nothing more than a DH prospect. I struggle with the word “versatility” when it comes to Busch because he lacks defensive chops at any position.

That sounds like I talked myself out of appreciating Chicago’s newest acquisition. Maybe the Cubs can flip him to the White Sox for Dylan Cease.

It seems highly improbable to me that the Cubs will give up on Matt Mervis or trade him because Busch will struggle defensively, at least initially. That said, Chicago would be better off with Bellinger at first and the two rookies rotating between DH and backing up Belli.

Adbert Alzolay will be an All-Star this summer.

Is it just me, or did Nico Hoerner look like he bulked up this winter? He certainly looked a little more solid in his appearance at CubsCon. That may portend more power, but I worry about his hamstrings.

Which Cubs players should get extensions this year? Justin Steele is the obvious choice but I’d sure like it if Jed Hoyer could add a year or two to the contract of Yan Gomes.

When will Matt Shaw make his big league debut? I think June is a real possibility, though it could be sooner if Hoerner gets injured.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Search for Jamie Moyer whenever you want to find baseball’s coolest absurdities.

Central Intelligence

  • Milwaukee: The Brewers are one of five teams that will have their 2024 games televised exclusively on Amazon Prime. The Tigers, Rays, Marlins, and Royals are the others.
  • Cincinnati: Manager David Bell intends to rotate his infield to get at-bats for six premium players at four open positions.
  • Pittsburgh: The Pirates went viral on social media for signing international free agent outfielder Iverson Allen, who is, by the way, not Allen Iverson.
  • St. Louis: There’s a growing sense the Cardinals might be cautious in how they invest future dollars into the team for the rest of the year and beyond due to money that could be lost in a TV rights deal that could expire at the end of the 2024 season. That’s probably why they are in wait-and-see mode regarding an extension for Paul Goldschmidt. Don’t be surprised if St. Louis tries to move Nolan Arenado this season, too.

Thursday Stove

The White Sox are reportedly “in serious discussions” to build a new ballpark on Roosevelt and Clark streets in Chicago’s South Loop. That’s fantastic news in my opinion.

This collaboration between the city and its American League franchise could be beneficial for both Mayor Brandon Johnson and the team. The city is faced with likely losing the Bears to a site in nearby Arlington Heights, a northwest suburb, while the team has seen its attendance shrink at Guaranteed Rate Field, which opened in 1991 across 35th Street from historic Comiskey Park.

The Blue Jays have agreed to a multiyear deal with Cuban right-hander Yariel Rodríguez, according to a report by  Morosi on Wednesday.

The Yankees and Reds are among the teams pursuing reliever Héctor Neris, who is looking for $50 million over three years.

Extra Innings

Everybody is optimistic that the Cubs will re-sign Bellinger except the team’s fanbase. I believe a deal will get done, but patience is required.

They Said It

  • “[David Ross] was the best. He was the best manager I’ve had up to this time. I can’t thank him enough for how he treated me, the respect he gave me, everything. The friendship we have going forward will never stop. We’ll always be connected. On the other side of that coin, getting Counsell is amazing. It shows where this organization is headed and where we’re trying to go in these next coming years. We have so much respect for him after seeing him on the other side. He’s been a thorn in our side for years.” – Hendricks
  • “I want expectations, [and] our players want expectations. That’s why we’re here. We should be held to those expectations. That’s part of this. That’s a great part of it, and you work really hard to get expectations, and you want to be in an atmosphere that produces the pressure of [those] expectations. We want that., but if you don’t, [you’re] in the wrong place.” – Counsell
  • “The elite, elite closer, the leverage [situations] they pitch on can make a difference. But the bullpen performances are the most volatile on the baseball field. We traded for [Aroldis Chapman in 2016] because we had inventory to do so and knew in the short-term he could make a difference. Same thing with Wade Davis and moving [Jorge Soler], whom we did not have a place for. The pen is a higher volatility and aggression area. So you want to put your dollars to use in the areas you are most certain about.” – Hoyer
  • “I love the competition. I like playing every day, I like guys throwing hard and I like wood bats. So I just really look forward to it. You can never really control the outcome. There’s a lot of luck in baseball. I’m not saying everything is luck, but you’re not going to always hit .370. It’s gonna happen where you go up and down. I was lucky enough to have a good couple of months. I’m sure there will be a couple of months that are not very good. So it’s just [about] being consistent and enjoying it every day.” – Shaw
  • “After the ugly incident in Paris, the Stade de France issue [in 2015] the league assessed every ballpark for risks for terrorism through an automobile, and we were in one of the bottom rungs there.” – Crane Kenney

Thursday Walk-Up Song

Take a step back, add a deep breath or two, and wait for the market to play out. Half of the top 10 free agents are still looking for contracts.

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