The Cubs have signed a top-of-rotation starting pitcher and there are talks of possibly adding a premium shortstop on a long-term contract. That has naturally led to debates here in our comments section and on social media as to whether the Cubs are in a position to spend or not, and if potential additions are with the cost. My answers are yes on both counts. By all means, now that Marcus Stroman is in the fold, give Carlos Correa or Kris Bryant whatever each wants. Maybe look at Danny Duffy, too.
With the potential for big spending in mind, I thought I’d take a look at Chicago’s five worst free-agent signings. Don’t look for Jason Heyward, his eight-year, $184 million deal from the 2015-16 offseason didn’t make the cut. With two years left on his deal, he’s hitting .247/.326/.709 as a Cub with a 93 wRC+, all pretty much near his career norms. His production equates to a 9.6 WAR, which is worth approximately $77 million, but he was part of a World Series title and he’s very active in the community
A lot of people feel that Heyward should be a cautionary tale for signing Correa, but if the Cubs give the shortstop $340 million over 10 years and he leads helps them become perennial contenders for the next decade, I’ll be okay with it. Chicago has done far worse, historically. Let’s take a look at some acquisitions that went horribly awry.
- Milton Bradley – The enigmatic outfielder signed a three-year, $30 million deal to play for the Cubs in 2009 that probably had a lot to do with the franchise moving on from Jim Hendry in 2011. In his first game with the Cubs, he was ejected in the 1st inning for arguing balls and strikes with the bases loaded. In another incident, manager Lou Piniella sent the mercurial outfielder home mid-game after he smashed a water cooler in the dugout. Bradley constantly criticized his teammates and ended his one-season Cubs career having played in just 124 games with 12 home runs and 40 RBI before being traded for Carlos Silva.
- Todd Hundley – Son of fan-favorite Randy “Rebel” Hundley, the younger Hundley was considered baseball royalty by Cubs fans after the two-time all-star catcher signed a four-year, $23.5 million deal in 2001. In two seasons, Hundley batted just .199 with a 79 wRC+, though he did club 28 home runs in 171 games.
- Danny Jackson – The right-handed starter was just two seasons removed from a 1988 season in which he finished runner-up to Orel Hershiser in the Cy Young race. Jackson was signed to a four-year, $10.5 million deal to be Chicago’s SP3 behind Greg Maddux and Rick Sutcliffe. Instead, Jackson struggled to a 1-5 record and 6.75 ERA in 1991 while battling injuries. He was a little better in 1992 before getting traded to the Pirates in July for Steve Buechele. I am still of the opinion that Jackson’s failures prevented the Cubs from retaining Maddux in 1993.
- Candy Maldonado – GM Larry Himes signed the outfielder in 1993 to replace Andre Dawson, who left to join the Red Sox in free agency that winter. Dawson was coming off of a 2.8 WAR season in which he played 143 games with crippling knee injuries. Himes thought Dawson, who batted .277 with 23 home runs and 90 RBI, was finished. Maldonado, who had just helped the Blue Jays win the World Series, batted .186 with three taters and 15 RBI with Chicago before he was traded to the Indians for Glenallen Hill on August 19.
- Brandon Morrow – The Cubs gave the reliever $21 million in guaranteed money to be their closer heading into the 2018 season. A World Series hero as a result of his postseason durability with the Dodgers in 2017, Morrow was overused by manager Joe Maddon and never pitched again after 35 appearances first-half appearances in his first season with the Cubs.
Cubs News & Notes
- Stroman’s contract is certainly a prime example of what Hoyer meant by intelligent spending. The signing may also indicate the Cubs could complete another big move or two once the lockout ends.
- The new Cubs ace displays freakish athleticism and balance.
- It makes sense that Stroman was given some insight into Jed Hoyer’s plan for the rest of the winter and it is expected he came to Chicago because he was assured the team intends to compete immediately.
- Javier Báez said the Tigers remind him of the pre-2016 Cubs, which is one of the reasons he chose to sign with Detroit.
- If a bidding war for Correa ensues, the Cubs are best positioned to make the best offer if they choose to do so.
Odds & Sods
Nothing to see here…or is there?
Need this to become the way all umpires call strike three pic.twitter.com/b7nAT7D0Qd
— Jomboy Media (@JomboyMedia) October 29, 2021
Can you name the most recently retired former Montreal Expo to play in the big leagues? For extra credit, name the most recently retired former Cub who once played for the Expos?
MLB News & Notes
Yup, the owners have locked the players out. Despite the BS rhetoric from Rob Manfred, a lockout provides leverage to the owners that strengthens as time goes on.
One player’s wife had a little fun with baseball’s decision to scrub player content and likenesses from its websites.
Baseball had gone 26 years without a work stoppage until this week.
If there is one benefit to a work stoppage, it’s that Manfred may not be able to implement any rules changes that aren’t included in the CBA (such as the universal DH) ahead of the 2022 season.
Curtis Granderson is not interested in the Mets managerial opening, and I can’t help but wonder if the number of individuals who withdraw from consideration will be bigger news than whoever gets the position.
I’m Bananas for Savannah
MLB players may be locked out right now, but it’s business as usual for the Savannah Bananas, my go-to non-MLB organization and second favorite team. I wanted to clarify an error in my Wednesday column regarding Savannah’s World Tour. First, let me explain “Banana Ball.”
The rules of Banana Ball include no bunting, no mound visits, and no stepping out of the batter’s box. There are no walks and if a fan catches a foul ball on the fly, the batter is out, though I’m not sure how they credit the putout. Innings are scored individually like golf or bags (cornhole), so if the visitors score three runs in the first inning but the home team plates four, the first inning ends with a 1-0 score. The first team to five wins the game regardless of innings played, and there’s a two-hour time limit on all games unless there is a tie.
While on tour, the Bananas will play the Party Animals in five cities after kicking off the series in Savannah, and then they’ll play a challenge match against the Kansas City Monarchs on May 6, 2022.
I just ordered a fan-designed Bananas jersey as a Christmas present to myself, which I will proudly wear to a few Cubs and Brewers games this season. The sporty threads, reminiscent of the 1980s Astros jerseys, were designed by Spencer Jedrzejek and come with free shipping. I just wish I could have had it customized with number 56, but that wasn’t a deal-breaker. Maybe I’ll try out and ask for that number if I make the team. More realistically, I may actually take a spring trip to one of the games.
Today’s Baseball Jones
This epic Wrigley Field home run from May 11, 2000, should satisfy your baseball cravings. It’s gotta be the shoes.
They Said It
- “It was just being silly. It’s a meme. When you think about it, by us posting a picture of what MLB does, we’re doubling down on what they’re doing. It’s not supposed to be serious.” – Williams
Saturday Walk-Up Song
Mellow Yellow by Donovan – Go Bananas! Literally!