If Jed Hoyer had picked up the phone last week and presented Scott Boras with an offer of $200 million for his top client, Cody Bellinger probably would have been at Cubs Convention. Instead, he was there in spirit only as fans and players alike talked about bringing him back. Hoyer and Carter Hawkins danced deftly around questions about any ongoing negotiations, though it was impossible to avoid the elephants in the room when it came to Boras, Bellinger, and several other players to whom the Cubs have been linked.
“There are a lot of players available that are not his client,” Hoyer said. “Obviously, he has a very good stable of clients as well. We’re kind of working on all angles. Some offseasons he works quickly and sometimes he doesn’t. This year he hasn’t. Ultimately, there’s many paths to a good offseason. Our goal is to navigate that path as well as possible.”
Navigating that path means getting deals and not being profligate with their money, something Hoyer said Saturday after having previously described his small-market mentality. As for the pace of the offseason, he also advocated for a signing deadline to hasten movement in free agency. Hoyer even said Shota Imanaga might have gone unsigned for several more weeks had his posting window not been about to close.
But for all that desire to wrap things up quickly and all the questions from fans about why last year’s best Cub isn’t in line to be on this year’s roster, the front office apparently feels no urgency. Well, unless you count Dansby Swanson as a de facto assistant to the GM.
“Before we get to next year, we’ve got to re-sign Belli,” Swanson said during one of the panels on Saturday afternoon.
Getting a deal on Bellinger means being willing to wait him out until his asking price comes down. Probably way down. Though there’s strong mutual interest between the two sides, a source with knowledge of the situation told Cubs Insider the Cubs have been unwilling to budge from an offer that isn’t close. And unlike Imanaga, who signed for as little as half of what some reports felt he’d get, there’s nothing to prevent Boras from keeping Bellinger unemployed as long as it takes.
We don’t have intel on specific figures, but I’d put the Cubs at maybe as high as six years and $150 million at a stretch. The number is probably even lower, however, so something like five years at $125-135 million might be more realistic. That’s just not going to get it done at this point, and I’d suspect Boras isn’t willing to list to anything below Swanson’s seven-year, $177 million contract.
I’ve noted previously that Boras might view Kris Bryant’s $182 million pact with the Rockies as a starting point for Bellinger negotiations. That’s more a matter of pedigree, as both players followed up Rookie of the Year seasons with MVP honors and have similar defensive versatility, but there could be a measure of pettiness involved as well. At the end of the day, Boras just wants the Cubs or another team to pay top dollar.
It sure doesn’t sound like the Cubs are willing to break from their strategy of seeking value, though Hoyer talked about being able to make opportunistic moves for players like they did with Swanson last year. Sahadev Sharma believes the arrow is pointing up in terms of the Cubs’ willingness and ability to re-sign Bellinger, citing both the vibe at CubsCon and the obvious fit.
“I think the world of Cody,” Hoyer said. “Obviously, he had a great year here. Even beyond having a great year for us, he really ingratiated himself well with the city, fan base and players. The players really think highly of him, and he knows I think really highly of him. None of that has changed at all.”
The only question is whether the waiting game brings Bellinger’s price down to a level the Cubs are comfortable meeting or makes another team desperate enough to jump. The latter strikes me as a very real possibility right now, though I think the Cubs are more likely with each day he goes unsigned.