The Rundown: Frosty Offseason Ahead, Marquee Increases Television Footprint, Angels Eying Big Offseason

Two early snowstorms have robbed Wisconsin of its fall colors this year and that’s my mood for today. To lessen my distaste for arctic conditions seven weeks before winter officially starts, spring had better agree to come early as the Cubs home opener will be played on March 30.

The following weather update is brought to you by the classic Dennis Quaid flick, The Day After Tomorrow.

You’d think that after living in the Midwest for my entire life, I’d be more aware of the potential for unseasonable weather, but I’m not.  In fact, I am seriously considering a transfer to my employer’s Tampa offices.

Now back to your regularly scheduled Cubs article.

If you need some added wintry discontent with your morning coffee, the Cubs announced yesterday that they will slightly lower the cost of season ticket packages. That news is somewhat of a Trojan Horse in my opinion. Cheaper tickets – great! But if you want to continue to believe the Cubs will spend money this winter, have at it. Willfully agreeing to lower revenues would seem to be all the ammunition Tom Ricketts needs to keep the baseball operations budget barely treading water.

On the positive side of the balance ledger, Sinclair Broadcasting announced that they’ve reached a carriage agreement with Mediacom to provide the Cubs’ Marquee Network to its subscribers. In addition to an earlier agreement the broadcaster signed with AT&T, the organization has substantially boosted its viewership footprint. Still, a majority of Chicago-area residents are Comcast/Xfinity subscribers, and there is no known progress on bringing Marquee to those individuals. The Cubs will need an agreement with that carrier to get as close to 100% market coverage as possible.

The agreement with Mediacom impacts a good deal of subscribers in Iowa, along with many in Illinois and Indiana, who will get Cubs baseball starting with spring training games. Looking at the business from a high level though, there doesn’t seem to be any spending leeway for Theo Epstein in free agency. That’s just as frosty a notion as Milwaukee’s 20-degree weather this morning.

Today’s Proposed KB Trade

I started this exercise yesterday, and the responses indicated that I wasn’t being quite clear. First, I am not in favor of trading Kris Bryant. Second, it is not about replacing Bryant with a similar player or just the best player on another team. Hell yeah, I am undoubtedly in favor of trading the Cubs all-star third baseman to the Angels for Mike Trout and letting David Bote play third base. Finally, I am not posting any rumors, just scenarios to ponder.

Instead, it is about keeping the championship window open sans KB while adding to a farm system that will need to start producing major league players no later than 2022, and reducing payroll obligations for next season and beyond. That should be Epstein’s goal in any trade that involves one of his core four.

As such, here’s another potential scenario…

  • Braves get Bryant and minor league shortstop Aramis Ademan.
  • Cubs receive 3B/OF Austin Riley, pitcher Bryse Wilson, and minor league center fielder Christian Pache. Bryant is the difference maker Atlanta’s lineup needs to become a championship team, and as Cubs fans all know, that means it’s time to pay up. Riley would be his replacement at the hot corner; Pache is a 20-year-old potential five-tool center fielder; Wilson gives the Cubs a high-ceiling, cost-controlled pitcher with a near-elite fastball, great control, and the potential to be a top of rotation starter.

The Braves could just re-sign Josh Donaldson, but Anthony Rendon is not in their budget and if Donaldson signs elsewhere, a potential fit with the Cubs exists. The Rangers are said to be highly interested in the Braves’ free agent third baseman.

Please don’t tell me the Cubs need to get Ronald Acuña Jr. in any deal for Bryant.

Cubs News & Notes

  • If you are shopping the blue light specials in free agency and looking for value, a number of players could provide immediate dividends on short-term, low-cost contracts.
  • While 2019 was obviously a disappointment, this is the first time since a stretch between 1967-72 the Cubs have had five straight .500+ seasons. Of course, that last span included zero playoff berths. Though the outlook for spending to improve the team this winter looks beyond bleak, Matt Snyder of CBS Sports looks at ways the Cubs could potentially make a big splash this winter.
  • The Cubs have parted ways with longtime bullpen coach Lester Strode after 31 years in the organization.
  • As things currently stand, the Cubs are one of the favorites to win the NL Central next season, but like this year, the competition should be spectacularly tough.
  • Yu Darvish is at the top of his class when it comes to social media skills. He took another poke at Anthony Rizzo on Instagram yesterday.

Thursday Stove

The Angels are eyeing Gerrit Cole and a whole lot more.

I don’t see the White Sox as having any chance of signing Cole, but a number of bold predictions by Anthony Castrovince at can make sense if you let your imagination get away from you.

CC Sabathia may be recruiting Cole on behalf of the Yankees.

Madison Bumgarner is a rotation option for the Braves, who are said to be interested in the free agent pitcher.

The Giants have narrowed their managerial search to three candidates, including former Phillies’ skipper Gabe Kapler.

On Deck

Extra Innings

When dealing with offseason Cubs rumors and innuendo, it is important to take a realistic look at what is being said and who disseminated the original leak. Looking for Easter eggs when it comes to this organization is a futile endeavor, as nobody has ever been as transparent and forthright as Epstein. Though I believe he is a bit more guarded heading into this winter than he was last year, when he says the Cubs want to compete in the short term while being aware of the need to fortify their farm system, I’d believe him. That means two things:

  1. The Cubs aren’t likely to be even moderately big spenders this winter.
  2. If they do spend any money in free agency, it won’t be on any player who is towing a qualified offer into the open market.

They Said It

  • “Next year is a priority. We have to balance it with the future. That’s probably more important now than it was even a year ago, because we’re now just two years away from a lot of our best players reaching their end of their period of club control with the Cubs. I think the goal is to do everything we can to win the World Series next year, but we also have to pay attention to the long term. Maximize this window while also putting in a lot of good work to open a new one as well.” – Theo Epstein

Thursday Walk Up Song

Serpents by Sharon Van Etten. Beware of false rumors, they lurk everywhere.

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