This is the topic I teased near the end of a recent post about the Cubs trying to be like the 2013 Red Sox with several short-term deals, though it might not have been worth a separate headline were we not in a news void. As it stands, there has been no apparent progress ($) in CBA negotiations and no new talks are scheduled. Whether the two sides magically hammer something in January or this stretches into or beyond mid-February as everyone expects, the ensuing free-agent rush will be wild.
That shouldn’t impact the market for Carlos Correa, who probably won’t have to come down from his target of 10 years and $350-ish million. Nor will the low end be affected, since there’s really no wiggle room there. Where we could see some concessions made is in the tiers between, where guys like Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber who have sort of tweener value are looking to score big.
Castellanos in particular figures to land something well shy of the seven or eight years he was reportedly seeking, though Schwarber could still come in around the five-year, $70 million projection from MLB Trade Rumors. Depending on how things shake out, it’s possible one of these two could find themselves back in the orbit of their former team. It’s not likely in either case, as MLBTR laid out, but a(n) (im)perfect set of circumstances could result in a reunion.
Schwarber is honestly the better fit at this point if for no other reason than the Cubs desperately need more left-handed power in their lineup. Both sides are also familiar with one another, so it’s easy to see Schwarber landing back in Chicago in the event that his market doesn’t develop and he’s got to do another prove-it deal. But since it’s very difficult to imagine him not getting at least three- or four-year offers from several teams, this is probably a moot point.
There’s also the matter of pride, as Schwarber could enjoy further proving his old team wrong elsewhere and the Cubs might not want to pay a premium for a slugger they foolishly non-tendered.
Castellanos might seem like a longer shot given his reported ask, though he may have also set himself up for a much shorter list of suitors. If he does indeed have to back down and the Cubs come at him with a three-year deal that has a much higher AAV than he’d been targeting, there’s certainly reason to believe something could get done.
MLBTR projected Castellanos at five years and $115 million ($23M AAV), but what if the Cubs offered $90 million over three years? Maybe they even have an option after the second year just like they did with Marcus Stroman. That would put Castellanos $25 million lower than projected, but he’d be hitting free agency again ahead of his age-33 season with the possibility of making that much or more if is performing well.
While still not likely, this fits more of what Jed Hoyer has said the Cubs want to do and it’s right in line with what Ken Rosenthal posited. That would also mean kissing goodbye to the prospect of signing Carlos Correa, though the front office would presumably add more supporting players instead. Therein lies the rub, as the whole Boston comp coming to fruition necessitates those additions playing their respective asses off.
A big part of what sunk the Cubs in those post-World Series seasons is that the few role-players they signed didn’t even perform up to the limited value of their deals. As much as people want to blame the core that has since been imploded, the roster simply didn’t have enough of a supporting cast to pick up the slack when necessary.
If Hoyer can finally find a way to do that the right way, this retooling thing might work pretty quickly after all.