The Rundown: Cubs Better Off Without Hoskins, Bellinger Still Linked to Chicago, White Sox Want a Small Fortune for Cease

“Or they give you that P.T. Barnum bit; ‘There’s a sucker born every minute. You just happened to be comin’ along at the right time.'”Nighthawk Postcards (from Easy Street) by Tom Waits

“Always with the drama.”almost every character on The Sopranos

The winter of our discontent got a little chillier when the Brewers signed Rhys Hoskins, at least for many Cubs fans. That’s what happens when the guy calling the shots continues to sit on the sidelines. The North Siders do not need Hoskins unless he can play third base, and he can’t. Get over it if you’re upset, and who cares that he’ll play for Milwaukee? He’s a .238 hitter with five home runs and 16 RBI in 97 PAs against the Cubs.

Frankly, I’m surprised the Brewers gave him $34 million over two years coming off of ACL surgery, but realistically, Hoskins’ deal is a non-story for Cubs fans. He’ll do some damage against Chicago’s pitchers, but not enough that anyone will regret another season of over-redundancy at first base. They tried that last year with Trey Mancini, Eric Hosmer, Matt Mervis, Jared Young, and occasionally, Jeimer Candelario. Cody Bellinger played a little first base too, and he should be Jed Hoyer’s sole target anyway.

Brandon Belt and Joey Votto are available as free agents if Hoyer is forced to shop at baseball’s version of the Swap-O-Rama. Belt could be a sneaky good pickup if Chicago’s front office wants a veteran presence to play first base and DH while batting from the left side. He’s strictly a platoon player, but you won’t find many of those with a career OPS+ of 124 that will come as cheaply as Belt will. Votto would be worth little more than teaching Michael Busch and Christopher Morel how to field the position, as hopeless as that seems.

That said, Bellinger is Hoyer’s only realistic option, unless Chicago can find a way to pry Josh Naylor from the Guardians. I still believe Bellinger will end up with the Cubs and I don’t believe he’ll hold out until pitchers and catchers report, but who knows? It’s too bad none of the names I’ve mentioned can play third base, and yes, that includes Morel. It’s frightening that Hoyer could pair Gold Glove middle infielders Dansby Swanson and Nico Hoerner with Morel and Busch.

In the meantime, I’m tired of the Scott Boras freeze. I like writing a daily column, and neither Hoyer nor Boras are giving me much to work with. I can live with Morel at the hot corner if Bellinger returns to the Cubs. Busch will make a fine DH or trade candidate if that happens, but the Cubs will struggle to play .500 this season if Bellinger signs elsewhere.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

A glance back at happier times, courtesy of Jon Lester.

Central Intelligence

Friday Stove

Teams inquiring about White Sox starter Dylan Cease should be prepared to pay an exorbitant amount in players and prospects.

The Rangers signed reliever David Robertson to a one-year deal in the $11-12 million range.

The Diamondbacks signed outfielder Joc Pederson to a one-year deal worth $12.5 million.

Who will be the most sought-after players at this year’s trade deadline? My gut tells me that Cease, Juan Soto, Pete Alonso, Gleyber Torres, Yoán Moncada, Corbin Burnes, Walker Buehler, Kyle Hendricks, and Kenley Jansen are the players to watch. In fact, we could see one of the most active deadlines in years. I’d love to see the Cubs get Buehler and Jansen.

MLB Pipeline will drop its preseason Top 100 prospects this evening. Expect the Cubs to lead MLB in total selections.

Extra Innings

Instead of looking to trade him, we should prefer the right-handed power of Alexander Canario over Hoskins. Discuss amongst yourselves.

Apropos of Nothing

Please stop blaming Tom Ricketts for Hoyer’s absurd lack of aggression. The president of baseball operations is afraid to sign big contracts, and he’s said so repeatedly. Call it the Jason Heyward Effect if you need enlightenment. The following quote will never get old.

“When people say a small-market mentality, they’re talking about trying to find value in deals and undervalued players. I always want to do that. Yes, we have the ability to go out and sign a [Dansby] Swanson and that’s an advantage we have that others don’t. But you don’t want to be profligate with your money, you want to use it wisely. That’s really important to me.” – Hoyer

Brushback Pitch

Who do you have going to this year’s Super Bowl? I’m taking the Chiefs and 49ers, though I’d love to see the Lions advance. My predictions: Chiefs over the Ravens 26-17, with the 49ers edging the Lions 21-20.

They Said It

  • “We’ve got to be really careful not to get caught waiting on any one particular thing. I’ve learned over the years that you’ve got to have a lot of lines in the water and you can’t assume anything is going to get done. Sometimes, the dominoes fall as you think. But if you assume they’re going to fall that way, you can get yourself in a lot of trouble waiting. Clearly, we’re working on a ton of different stuff.” – Hoyer
  • “We don’t have any fixed deadline [to sign free agents]. I think in a perfect world you have your team going into spring training. I think a lot of these players that sign in March and into the season, there’s just a tough transition phase to get back up to speed when you’re behind the eight ball that way. It doesn’t mean that it can’t work, but just seems like it’s harder to work. That’s anecdotal of course. We wouldn’t rule it out. That’d be foolish for us to rule anything out. But, yeah, we’d much prefer to get our team sooner than later.” – Carter Hawkins
  • “There’s a lot of ways to skin the bullpen cat. But we do need to focus on it. It was an Achilles’ heel last year.” – Hoyer

Friday Walk-Up Song

The Black Pumas dropped a new LP late last year, and I’ve been playing the heck out of it. I love the Al Green-meets-Prince vibe of this single.

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