The Rundown: No Joy in Cubville, Vegas Projects 89-Win Season on North Side, Epstein Confident in Current Roster

There is no joy in Cubville these days.

I grabbed this blurb by Steve Adams in his latest chat for MLBTR (emphasis mine):

“I really don’t expect a ton from the Cubs, short of a creative trade. I know there’s all the stories of them lurking on the [Bryce] Harper market, but that seems more beneficial to Harper’s camp than anything else. There are constant reports that the Cubs need to move money to even add a marginal free agent — Rosenthal just suggested as much yesterday — and I was told earlier this winter that they basically told one of their players’ reps to not even bother bringing up an extension because the money wasn’t there. I genuinely believe that ownership just isn’t giving them much financial leeway.”

That runs parallel with Evan Altman’s piece yesterday on the availability of funds that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have to work with, as both are limited not by luxury tax benchmarks, but the team’s baseball operations budget for this season. That’s the Cubs’ version of the double doink .

In typical Epstein ambiguity, which seems to be the theme of the front office this winter, the Cubs President of Baseball Operations said, “The CBT threshold is not dictating any of our actions or inactions this winter at all. We’re not governed by that. There are times when strategically you want to make sure you’re under it or where you don’t mind going above it.”

Still, the Cubs did pick up the option on Cole Hamels and that’s a pretty significant move. And though it is getting bashed a little on social media, it doesn’t seem like the Cubs really would have made any significant moves if they had just let Hamels walk into free agency.

At the time, the move was universally praised.

Even if they had extended him to two years at $32 million, the $4 million in wiggle room based on AAV doesn’t mean anything if an operations budget is the guide. In fact, it sounds like that move was an exception based more on pure need and uncertainty in their rotation than anything else, though Epstein did indicate in his dissection of the 2018 season that Hamels would most likely be back.

I suppose that also means foregoing the right to sign Addison Russell wouldn’t mean there is an extra $4 million to sign a relief pitcher. Potential moves aside, Epstein has confidence in the current roster.

“They’re a motivated and determined bunch,” he said. “I wouldn’t bet against us.”

So maybe Ken Rosenthal was right. “Bryce Harper to the Cubs? Ha!” Except you could substitute Harper with just about any free agent unless the Cubs make a creative trade or two to free up some dough.

Cubs Convention is less than two weeks away, and yes, at this point we all just want this winter to end.

Cubs News & Notes

Wednesday Stove

It was reported yesterday that baseball’s revenues exceeded $10.3B in 2018. Also of note, team payrolls dropped for the first time since 2010.

The Phillies and White Sox are making all the headlines lately, and now both teams are said to be interested in free agent third baseman Mike Moustakas. I think he’d be the second coming of Paul Konerko on the South side.

New Yankees shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is hoping the Bronx Bombers sign Manny Machado, even though it will likely cut into his playing time. He’d be earning $38M if he just decided to veg out on his sofa for two years so why not?

Could the Phillies sign both Harper and Machado? Despite their meeting with Harper, NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that they are not relenting on their pursuit of Machado, whom they are also very keen on signing. It is being claimed that they will make another offer to the shortstop, while the details are unclear on the terms, they have made no such progress with Harper.

Both the Astros and Braves are said to be pursuing a deal with Miami to acquire all-star catcher J.T. Realmuto.

Will Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado forego free agency next winter to stay in Colorado?

Former Cubs prospect and Tigers shortstop Isaac Paredes is a big part of Detroit’s future. He closed out his Mexican League season in blistering fashion, slashing .333/.512/1.045 over his final 10 games.

On Deck

Tomorrow’s column may be incredibly long. I’ve started writing it already and it’s a venting think piece. Stay tuned. Want a hint? Tomorrow’s walk up song should be Going Underground by The Jam. It won’t be now, of course, but that’s where I am emotionally in regards to Hot Stove 2018-19.

Extra Innings

If you kick it, beer will flow. Goose Island is taking a novel approach to standing beside beleaguered Bears placekicker Cody Parkey. Kick a 43-yard field goal and you’ll win free beer for a year.

Wednesday Walk Up song

Pulling Mussels from a Shell by Squeeze. Lots of favorable feedback to yesterday’s spins selections. My college-aged stepdaughters are big fans of Argybargy, as am I.

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