When it comes to taking the air out of Cubs fans’ hope balloons, few are more willing to wield the pin of reality like ESPN’s Jesse Rogers. I know a lot of folks will say that’s more schtick than stick and I’m not going to try to argue it one way or the other, but he’s connected on both a local and national level when it comes to this hot stove stuff.
Rogers set an ice-cold pot of water on the burner when he joined ESPN 1000’s Carmen and Jurko Tuesday morning to talk about how the Cubs and Sox are approaching the offseason. We won’t get into much on the latter, though there was one hint that ties in nicely with other reports about what’s cooking on the North Side.
But first, a look at the shortstop market in which the Cubs have been so frequently mentioned. From the sounds of it, their plan to spend intelligently could see those players heading elsewhere.
“I’m still doubtful,” Rogers said. “One is going to have to fall into their lap. I think the Cubs’ strategy is kinda similar to last offseason. Yes, we will spend. But we’re gonna be nimble, we’re gonna be deft, we’re gonna be not necessarily locking ourselves into an 8-10 year deal.
“So if one of these guys — like Correa last year fell to the Twins — I think they’d be more willing to grab one on a short-term deal that maybe wants some opt-outs, but I’m not sure Correa or Bogaerts are gonna wanna go down that road because they already did that once.”
For what it’s worth, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi said Tuesday that “the Cubs and Correa will be one of those pairs we’ll probably talk about for weeks to come.” That could mean Morosi is more bullish on the possibility of a pursuit or maybe just that Correa will be one of the last big names to sign and will thus carry the Cubs along for the rumor ride.
Salary projections are all over the map on these guys, but it was interesting to see Xander Bogaerts listed at just $168 million for six years in Kiley McDaniel’s latest free agent rankings for ESPN. That’s two years and around $100 million less than either Carlos Correa or Trea Turner, the latter of whom has long been thought to prefer an East Coast team.
“So here’s the feeling, Trea Turner — shortstop, great shortstop — everyone’s talking about him going to Philadelphia. If that happens, the Dodgers would probably replace him. If Swanson leaves the Braves, he’d go to LA. That leaves Correa and Bogaerts… Maybe one of them falls to the Cubs, but that’s the strategy. More of the Stroman and the Seiya Suzuki kind of signings.”
If this is truly the way Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins are approaching the offseason, in terms of not truly targeting an impact hitter, it’s very difficult to see a path toward truly being competitive. Especially if they’re also avoiding the top of the market for ace pitchers.
“Former White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodón, a lot of people have talked about him,” Rogers offered. “He’s going to the Rangers. Barring something crazy, he’s not going to the Cubs. The Cubs are not going after Verlander, Rodón, or…deGrom.”
I’m always a little reluctant to put much credence in such definitive statements, but Rogers did not mince words here and it’s not difficult to believe the Cubs could get a little too cute as they try to avoid longer deals. They will still have to sign some players, though, and Rogers’ claim that Andrew Vaughn is moving to first base on the South Side indicates that the Sox aren’t going to bring José Abreu back.
Rogers also noted that Lucas Giolito is probably on the block after a rough season that followed three very strong campaigns. There’s part of me that wonders whether the Cubs would look at Giolito or possibly Yasmani Grandal as trade possibilities, perhaps in conjunction with closer Liam Hendriks. That’s a whole lot of Sox flavor for one offseason, but we know the two teams are more than willing to deal with one another.
The other wrinkle here is that the Cubs could be downplaying a few bigger pursuits while they line up what appear to be more aggressive targets in Abreu and Koudai Senga. What I mean is that they might need to first prove they’re serious about fielding a winner before really approaching Correa et al with a proposal. Or maybe they really are just going to avoid any superstars for the time being unless, as Rogers mentions, the market shifts downward in a big way.
So do we rebel against this because it contradicts our optimism or do we nod along because it supports our pragmatism? As with any other reports, we’re only going to be able to determine the accuracy with hindsight. Take it as part of the puzzle and see what image is starting to take shape, then keep checking back to see what’s new.
All I will say in closing is that if the Cubs are truly unserious about addressing some of their needs with at least one very big name, I can’t really see how they expect to compete next season. Even for an organization that’s repeatedly stepped on its own junk PR-wise over the last few years, that would be a very bad look after everything they’ve been saying.