This tends to be a really slow period for baseball news, what with Thanksgiving around the corner and all. Conversations about players at the top end of the market are still mainly in the exploratory phase, though it’s possible the Giants could accelerate the process if they decide to push their chips in on Aaron Judge during their Tuesday meeting. Such a bold move would create huge ripples throughout the industry, pushing the Yankees to make a splash or two of their own.
Judge signing in San Francisco might also affect the Cubs, who are in need of help in center and might be able to take advantage of the Giants’ outfield situation. Farhan Zaidi, San Francisco’s president of baseball operations, said back in September that they would be “aggressive at the top end of the free-agent market” and that they would probably look to get younger.
That could mean moving 32-year-old Mike Yastrzemski, a possibility we’ve explored here previously. Cody Bellinger is also in play for the Cubs, but they’re far from alone in that regard as Scott Boras has already begun fielding offers for the former Dodgers star. Jon Heyman discussed that topic during his Tuesday spot on 670 The Score’s Mully & Haugh Show, though he quickly pivoted to reports of a different pursuit.
“Yeah, I’ve heard his name connected to the Cubs,” Heyman said. “I think the Cubs are really looking at those great shortstops, so that’s the big story with the Cubs. Are they gonna (Carlos) Correa or (Xander) Bogaerts or one of those guys, (Trea) Turner, that’s the big story. They’re looking at catching, I know they’ve talked about (Christian) Vázquez and some other catchers. It doesn’t seem like they’re gonna get (Willson) Contreras back, they never really had that inclination and never made him an offer…
“Shortstop is their big story, I have heard Bellinger connected with the Cubs. Bellinger certainly would fit the White Sox. I’ve heard him with Astros, Blue Jays, Cubs, I’m sure the Yankees as well would be interested in Bellinger. They’re looking at two outfielders, but he’s a fit for either of the teams here.”
Okay, he actually covered two different pursuits there with the little note on Vázquez, whose connection to the Cubs appears to be gaining momentum. Shortly after The Athletic reported that the front office has had internal conversations about the catcher, he started following Bleacher Nation on Twitter. No such luck for CI, probably need to fire the social media manager.
Now back to Correa, who has also been mentioned quite a bit recently by local beat writers as a legitimate possibility for the Cubs. The consensus holds that Jed Hoyer will not commit a huge sum of money and that limiting deals to six years or less is a priority, but it’s possible the market as a whole doesn’t stretch as far as expected and the Cubs can take advantage of that similar to how the Twins did last year.
“I’ve heard the price is enormous on Correa,” Heyman said. “He had a $275 million offer from Detroit last year and he didn’t take it, and then ended up with a one-year deal. So he was out there last year, different agent, and didn’t get what he wanted to get. So maybe he won’t get this huge price, but now he does have Scott Boras out there from the beginning and maybe that will help him.”
Correa is the best of the four available shortstops when healthy, but there’s a little wrinkle that could boost his value even further than what he does on the field. For a team like the Cubs that is experiencing some unforeseen issues with season ticket sales and attendance in general, adding star power might be worth a premium.
“I’m still leery looking at the Cubs, whether they’re really gonna go for the $300 million answer,” Heyman continued. “I still doubt it, I still don’t really believe that they’re gonna spend $300 million on a player. But it would be nice to see. And Correa’s a personality, you know…I do think he’d be a good fit for that young team.”
Having big names matters, and the Cubs have parted ways with most of the players on the roster who could put butts in seats. Winning sells tickets and stars sell tickets, but stars also make it easier to sell tickets even when you’re not winning as often as you’d like.
As for some of the other big names to whom the Cubs have been connected, Heyman reported that the Yankees are trying for both Justin Verlander and Koudai Senga. The reigning AL Cy Young winner will have a limited market due to a very high price tag that’s expected to be around $40-45 million AAV, but Senga is drawing interest from just about every team.
“We’ve seen a lot of teams connected to Senga, but Senga is very close to Yu Darvish,” Heyman explained. “I mean, he’s basically his mentor. And that is the same agency, the Wasserman agency, so my betting would be San Diego.”
The Mariners are another team that appears to be motivated, and each new report about the Japanese pitcher’s courtship makes it feel like a deal with the Cubs is that much less likely. Missing out on a top-line starter would be one thing because there are still other competent mid-rotation guys available, but whiffing on both a big pitching upgrade and a big infield bat would be a massive failure for Hoyer and his front office.
I still maintain that Bogaerts makes the most sense given what we know to this point and I’ll stick to that until something comes along to convince me otherwise. Until some of these free agents start signing, though, speculation is all we’ve got.