Jesse Rogers has maintained that the Cubs will only land a top shortstop if one falls into their lap, but it sure doesn’t sound like Jed Hoyer is just sitting back and waiting. Even if they’re not going to do a monster deal for 10 years and $300 million, it’s evident here at the outset of free agency that they’re serious about exploring all the possibilities.
Cubs brass met with super-agent Scott Boras at the start of the GM Meetings to talk about both Carlos Correa and Xander Bogaerts, and Jon Morosi tweeted that they’ve been in touch with reps for Trea Turner and Dansby Swanson as well. While some will call that simple due diligence and the more pessimistic among you will say it’s a way to say they tried when they inevitably fail to land any of those players, it’s clear the Cubs are putting in work.
Sources: #Cubs among most active teams in the shortstop market during early days of free agency. They’ve been in touch with the agents for Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, and Dansby Swanson. @MLBNetwork @MLB
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 12, 2022
As for what that work leads to, well, no one can say for certain yet. All of the evidence points toward Bogaerts as the most likely target in terms of being amenable to what we think the Cubs are willing to spend in terms of both time and money. Swanson is actually projected to earn less, but the consensus opinion is that landing him as the crown jewel of this year’s free agency would be incredibly disappointing.
Swanson is a very good player, no doubt about it, he’s just not the kind of difference-maker — particularly as a hitter — who the Cubs should prioritize as a cornerstone. He’s coming off of a career year in Atlanta that saw him put up best-ever performances with the bat and glove, but his 116 wRC+ is well below any of his counterparts.
Swanson’s 6.4 fWAR in 2022 is greater than any other two of his seasons combined, so counting on him to maintain that level of production moving forward strikes me as very risky. I mean, when’s the last time anyone saw fit to extend a big contract to a player who came up with Atlanta and had a really big season right before hitting free agency?
As crude and unfair as it might be to comp Swanson to Jason Heyward, I can’t help but think there’s similar potential for the contract to age very poorly. Even though Bogaerts is a little more than a year older, his superior bat and greater consistency make him a safer bet in my book. Correa is probably the best pure fit, but the Cubs may not be willing to match his asking price. Turner will command a similar deal and carries risk in that the value generated by his elite speed could drop off quickly.
I believe what Morosi is reporting about the Cubs being very active in the market and I also believe what Rogers has reported about them being judicious in their approach. But rather than this being a matter of Hoyer and Co. hoping the market sags and they can pounce, I think they’ll remain aggressive when it comes to pumping up the AAV of a shorter deal than what might otherwise be expected.
Feel free to respond to that as Jake Arrieta did to Pirates fans ahead of the 2015 Wild Card game, it won’t dissuade me from being optimistic that the organization understands how important this winter is to its future.