The Rundown: A Cubs Holiday Wish List, Winter Meetings Conclude With Little Movement, MLB Uncertain About April 1 Start Date
I am not sure why I hoped this year’s Winter Meetings would offer us a maniacal frenzy similar to that of Lt. Colonel Bill Kilgore (Robert Duvall) and his troops during the Ride of the Valkyries scene from Apocalypse Now, but with teams expecting to cut costs I was relatively certain that there would at least be more trade activity. However, after four days of virtual meetings, none of Francisco Lindor, Kris Bryant, Javier Báez, Yu Darvish, Sonny Gray, or Giancarlo Stanton have been moved.
Not counting Marcus Stroman and Kevin Gausman, both of whom accepted qualifying offers, reliever Trevor May is the highest-ranked free agent to sign a contract this winter. May was at No. 28 on the MLBTR Top 50 list, so the top of the market hasn’t moved at all yet.
Though I now chuckle at the fact that we are actually calling what happened this week “meetings,” it’s obvious that teams are loath to trade for high-salaried players with so much uncertainty surrounding 2021. When the Indians issued a statement yesterday indicating that they are going to “aggressively listen to offers” for Lindor, I wondered what they have been doing up until now.
Even Jed Hoyer issued a caveat yesterday regarding his much talked about third baseman.
“I think [trading Bryant] has been treated as a certainty,” the president of baseball operations said. “Listen, Kris is a great player — he’s a superstar player — that obviously didn’t have the year last year that he had hoped. But when you look at our offense, there were several other players that had similar struggles. I don’t think it should be treated as a fait accompli that [a trade is] going to happen.”
Does he really believe that, or is the fact that a market for Bryant just isn’t developing. Or, reverse engineering Hoyer’s statement, is it a passive-aggressive attempt to build some value after a dreadful season by the former Rookie of the Year and MVP?
Hoyer still has a number of holes to fill in the meantime, so I thought today I’d present my Cubs wish list for this holiday season. Under normal circumstances, I’d have George Springer, Trevor Bauer, Trevor Rosenthal, and Tommy La Stella at the top of my request to Santa Claus, but given the chokehold Tom Ricketts has placed on Hoyer’s checkbook, I’ll adjust accordingly.
- A starting outfielder – The Cubs can go one of several ways here, depending on where they’d like Ian Happ to play in 2021. David Ross could move him to left field or keep him in center based on who is acquired to replace Kyle Schwarber. The front office could also sign a pair of platoon players so that he would have the added bonus of not having to seek a fourth outfielder. Hoyer needs to find guys who get on base, so Robbie Grossman might be a good fit. Grossman has a career .350 OBP and he has a little pop, plus he’s a switch-hitter. He’s a perfect stopgap until Brennen Davis is ready. I’d love Michael Brantley, but he’s 34 and is expected to command a two-year, $28 million deal, which may be too rich for the Cubs. Let’s not rule out a return by Schwarber, either.
- A fifth starter – Jon Lester is the sentimental choice, but he may not be the most optimal option. I’ve mentioned my affinity for Chase Anderson and he’s still my top pick, but Garrett Richards is a little intriguing, too. He’s got a lot of miles on that right arm and I personally think he’d be better suited for relief, but he pitched well in 10 starts for the Padres last season. James Paxton is another starter I like and would likely accept a one-year deal, but his market price would have to drop about $2-3 million.
- A left-handed, high leverage bullpen addition – Who would have thought we’d be concerned with replacing Andrew Chafin, but here we are. Tony Watson has been attached to Cubs rumors for what seems a decade and he’s available at a reduced rate as are veterans Sean Doolittle and Jake McGee. I wouldn’t mind seeing Hoyer acquire Álex Claudio. The 29-year old is consistent and durable, and generally limits free passes, though he has trended downward the last two seasons. He also keeps the baseball in the park.
- A starting second baseman – Nico Hoerner may be the guy eventually, but he still has a lot of development ahead and I don’t think tossing him into the trenches full-time is the best way to help with that. I really want Tommy La Stella, and perhaps Hoyer can find a few extra dollars by moving another player to make that a feasible option. If he cannot, bringing back Jason Kipnis on a minor league deal could be one option, but Hanser Alberto or César Hernández might be better fits. I think Hernández would be well worth a one-year $6 million contract if Hoyer can swing it.
Cubs News & Notes
- Welcome to the Cubs, Gray Fenter, the team’s lone addition in the major league portion of yesterday’s Rule 5 Draft. Over 94.1 IP at High-A in 2019, Fenter logged a 1.81 ERA with 123 strikeouts (11.74 K/9) and 43 walks (4.10 BB/9), working primarily as a starter.
- Hoyer is hoping former big leaguers Chris Valaika and Jim Adduci can help jumpstart the Cubs’ stagnant offense.
- The president of baseball operations believes 2021 will be a “big turning point” for the team’s poorly-ranked farm system.
- The Cubs are operating under the assumption that the National League will not employ a designated hitter in 2021.
- The front office has stayed in touch with Lester, and has not ruled out a 2021 reunion.
- Though the Cubs have been given a one-year reprieve of their annual obligation to provide $250,000 for improvements in the Lakeview neighborhood, it is also important to remember that they have been relieved of this payment just weeks after Wrigley was given National Landmark status, which will give the team millions of dollars in tax breaks.
Odds & Sods
There is never a Dick Allen story that is not interesting. It is the highest of baseball crimes that the former White Sox and Phillies first baseman is not in the Hall of Fame.
I was sitting at my locker one day in Toronto and one of my teammates came up to me and said Dick Allen is in the visitors dugout smoking a cigarette. I jumped up ran to the bat room and grabbed one of my Cooper bats, sanded my name off of it so that he could autograph it for me! pic.twitter.com/89Y9QEoAvK
— Jesse Barfield (@JesseBarfield29) December 9, 2020
The Phillies have hired former Red Sox executive and baseball lifer Dave Dombrowski as their president of baseball operations.
The Rangers acquired first baseman Nate Lowe from the Rays in a six-player deal of mostly minor league players.
Yankee GM Brian Cashman threw some shade at shortstop Gleyber Torres yesterday for being out of shape during his dismal 2020 season.
MASN broadcaster and Orioles Hall of Famer Mike Bordick disparagingly slammed the work habits of Baltimore first baseman Chris Davis.
Reliever Daniel Bard of the Rockies and Royals catcher Salvador Pérez were named baseball’s comeback players of the year.
Pérez got a shout out for his award from Kansas City Chiefs QB and minority Royals owner Patrick Mahomes.
Today’s latest hot stove rumors: The Rockies are still looking to trade third baseman Nolan Arenado; the Blue Jays are showing strong interest in free agent infielder Justin Turner; the Mets are pursuing to free agent closer Liam Hendriks; Pirates’ veterans Joe Musgrove and Adam Frazier are drawing a great deal of trade interest from other ballclubs.
It’s no guarantee that the 2021 season will start on April 1 due to uncertainty surrounding plans to combat the COVID-19 virus.
Former A’s outfielder and fan-favorite Eric Byrnes is making waves this week after he shared a video of his reaction to his 9-year-old son’s first home run.
More great news for women in baseball.
Dodgers promote Janet Marie Smith to executive vice president. She has overseen the extensive renovation of Dodger Stadium after previously been instrumental in the construction of Camden Yards in Baltimore and renovations at Fenway Park in Boston.
— Ken Gurnick (@kengurnick) December 10, 2020
Despite rumors that biblical losses come with owning a baseball team
They Said It
- “I would say I pay a lot more attention to the game and what hitters do before I face them. And I let things go. Short memory. I used to remember everything that happened in a game and it held me back. Like remembering that double I gave up in the first and it was the fourth inning. Things would linger.” – Gray Fenter
- “There was definitely a lot of activity as far as teams calling around and the buzz has certainly picked up. I think that’s more because of the calendar. We have two full weeks before Christmas; in some ways I think that’s really the reason things picked up. I don’t think [the] virtual Winter Meetings had much to do with that.”” – Jed Hoyer
Friday Walk Up Song
The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late) by Alvin & The Chipmunks – If only Tom Ricketts wouldn’t be such a miserly scrooge when it comes to opening that checkbook.