The Rundown: Hoyer Vows to Spend Intelligently, Bryant Relieved to Leave Chicago, White Sox Lose ALDS Opener, Arozarena Owns October

Jed Hoyer has indicated that he really doesn’t want to spend like a drunken sailor in free agency this winter and many Cubs fans, as well as some local writers, are losing their minds. The gist of what Hoyer said is that he has money to spend and a lot of holes to fill, so he has to maximize value by spending intelligently. Thank God. Who needs another long-term contract that provides negative value over the course of five or six seasons? No offense to Jason Heyward, but do fans really want to see the team’s president of baseball operations handcuff himself the way his predecessor did?

There is no use trying to interpret what Hoyer is saying until we see him put those words into action. I know some writers think they have some special ability to “read the tea leaves,” which is one of the dumber ways of saying “we can predict” without actually making a prediction, but does anybody really know what Hoyer and his entourage intend to do this winter? I don’t. However, I wouldn’t say players like Kris Bryant, Carlos Correa, or Corey Seager are off the table, just that Hoyer would like to gauge their markets to see if there’s a fit.

That said the Cubs need at least two starting pitchers, something the front office and manager David Ross are well aware of, and the best starters available look to be old and/or overpriced. Considering that the Padres reportedly intend to pursue Marcus Stroman, Hoyer should stay away from any potential bidding war on any available starter. You know what they say in San Diego: You can’t corner the market on a 79-win season until you have signed or traded for every available premium pitcher.

Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if A.J. Preller tried to sign Trevor Bauer, assuming the Dodgers find a way to shed that contract (Bauer has an opt-out, but why on earth would he exercise it?). If Preller is seeking to add to his rotation this winter, perhaps a guy like Yu Darvish will be available in trade at a discount. Why couldn’t Hoyer take a bad contract like Eric Hosmer if Darvish and a handful of prospects were included? It almost makes you wish the Cubs had another year of control with Zach Davies so they could ship him and his 10-15 four-innings-or-less starts back to Preller.

Give Preller some credit though. He went down in flames this year and he still has the balls to climb back into that same fighter jet.

In the meantime, let’s not get carried away with tea leaves, crystal balls, or any other type of black magic to determine what Hoyer will spend and to who he will be passing out those checks. It’s not like the Cubs are a player or two away from contention, and free agency really is a bit of a crapshoot. A long time ago we begged Theo Epstein not to throw money at aging players whose best years were behind them. Why would things be any different this winter?

If the Cubs have to be mediocre for another year and sign guys they can flip at the deadline for prospects, I wouldn’t be that upset as long as they don’t deviate from the plan. Speaking frankly, Hoyer was left with a hot mess to clean up — on the heels of a pandemic, no less — and had to play the heavy from day one because Epstein spent recklessly and couldn’t part with any of the guys he drafted. The wretched part of turning over a roster is done. Let’s see where the front office goes from here before passing judgment.

Cubs News & Notes

From the Front Office

“I’m not going to tip our hand as far as what we do in free agency. I’ve said repeatedly that we do have financial flexibility. We have money to spend this winter. But it’s really important that we do that in an intelligent way. Trying to win the offseason – we just talked about the Giants, for example – they certainly didn’t win the offseason. They won the season. The Rays lost Blake Snell and Charlie Morton – they certainly didn’t win the offseason last year. They won the season. There are teams out there that made huge splashes. They were aggressive. They were lauded for all the things they did, and they’re not playing in October, just like us.” – Hoyer

Odds & Sods

If you’re looking for a GM, poach somebody from the Rays’ front office, like Kevin Ibach. Tampa Bay wins almost every trade and their front office is equally successful in the draft.

Postseason News & Notes

For the first time in franchise history, the White Sox have made the playoffs in consecutive seasons.

To celebrate, Lance Lynn and his teammates really laid an egg in Houston yesterday, losing 6-1 to the Astros.

The Rays manhandled the Red Sox last night and look to be on a mission to get back to the World Series.

Popcorn was available in the Tampa Bay dugout. “Yeah, it was relaxing,” said DH Nelson Cruz. “I was there watching the game. We were winning by five runs, so let me eat my popcorn and enjoy it.”

Due to injuries and/or poor performances, the Brewers and Braves both remade their rosters on the fly this season. The Brewers acquired Willy Adames from the Rays in a midseason trade and the Braves acquired Adam Duvall to offset the loss of Ronald Acuña Jr.

The Braves were a Milwaukee institution, but the Brewers own the city now. Expect both teams to honor Hank Aaron during the series.

The Giants will start Logan Webb against the Dodgers tonight, with Kevin Gausman expected to take the slab in Game 2 tomorrow. Los Angeles will counter with Walker Buehler and Julio Urías.

The Dodgers and Giants represent one of the game’s greatest rivalries and the five-game set between the top two teams in the NL West will take that to a new level. San Francisco finished the regular season with 107 wins, one better than Los Angeles.

MLB has a full slate of games today, with all eight remaining playoff teams playing.

Yesterday’s Playoff MVPs

  1. Randy Arozarena – This generation has its very own Mr. October and it is Arozarena. The Tampa Bay left fielder hit a home run last night, his first postseason tater this year after hitting 10 last year, and he stole home.
  2. Wander Franco – The heralded Rays rookie was 2-for-4 last night with two doubles.
  3. Shane McClanahan – The rookie hurler, who made his MLB debut in last year’s playoffs, shoved for five innings in leading the Rays to a 5-0 win over the Red Sox.

Arozarena was acquired in a trade with the Cardinals, Franco was signed as an international free agent, and McClanahan was the No. 31 pick in the 2018 amateur draft. All three are rookies. Who needs free agency?

How About That!

Mets outfielder Michael Conforto is expected to reject the Mets’ qualifying offer. That doesn’t seem like the smartest move for the 28-year-old free agent.

Bryce Harper finished with a 189 wRC+ at Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia, the greatest single-season performance since the stadium opened its doors for the first time in 2004.

The Padres have fired manager Jayce Tingler.

Extra Innings

Javier Báez was the last player to steal home in a postseason game. He did it in Game 4 of the 2016 NLCS against the Dodgers.

They Said It

  • “I‘ve said a number of times David [Ross] has done a fantastic job as manager. He’s learned a ton on the job and even while learning I think he’s excelled. He’s kept morale good, he’s running the staff very well. I love having him as a partner. I certainly hope David will be here for a long time.” – Hoyer
  • “I just think I’m happier. It’s not like I wasn’t happy in Chicago, but it’s new. It’s fun to be a part of something new, and of course, the team is winning. It feels good.” – Bryant

Friday Walk-Up Song

Hero of the Day by Metallica – Mr. Arozarena, October is all yours, my man.

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