If some Cubs fans have their way, they’ll spend decades lamenting Chicago’s front office for the eight-year, $184 million contract Jason Heyward was given in 2015. The Cubs wouldn’t have won the World Series without Heyward, but I’m not going to discuss that. It’s true that the veteran outfielder was only worth 8.2 fWAR over the life of his deal. It’s also true the Cubs will pay him $22 million to play elsewhere in 2023. That’s not a good example of intelligent spending.
However, Heyward’s deal shouldn’t prevent the Cubs from pursuing Carlos Correa or any of the other top shortstops this winter. Some overwhelming contracts pay off and Jon Lester is a great example. To say Correa isn’t worth $290-300 million over nine or 10 years ignores the economics of baseball, which has a demand-driven financial system. If you want to accumulate wins in bunches, you must pay a premium price for the game’s best players.
It’s easy to say in hindsight that the Cubs made a mistake with Heyward but it’s not that simple. He was coming off of a walk year where he was worth 5.6 fWAR. He chose Chicago even though other teams, including the Cardinals, offered more money. His decision signaled to the rest of the league that the North Side was the place for premium, high-priced talent, so much so that he took a discount to sign. That’s worth its weight in gold. Correa would similarly be the pheromone that attracts other great players to Wrigley Field.
Additionally, and I won’t say it was outright collusion, GMs scaled back considerably on contract offers after Heyward signed. The veteran right fielder was awarded one of seven nine-figure contracts that winter, and the only outfielder to get one. Yoenis Céspedes was the only player to get a nine-figure deal in 2016 when he signed for $110 million. Three players joined in 2017: J.D. Martinez, Yu Darvish, and Eric Hosmer. In 2018, Patrick Corbin, Manny Machado, and Bryce Harper joined that club. As front offices started scaling back, Heyward’s contract looked more egregious. His performance didn’t help.
Correa is one of four premium shortstops available. Using the rate of inflation as a measure, the $28.16 million Heyward earned in 2017 would be worth about $34.3 million today. Correa will be 28 when he signs his next deal, a year older than Heyward was in 2015. In baseball’s financial ecosystem, it’s more than reasonable to expect that Correa is worth $30-32 million per year. That’s actually a bargain. Yes, regression and/or injuries are known risks, especially when Correa was fighting rumors about a bad back last year at this time.
I’d be more concerned with the language of the deal than just dollars. Will a no-trade clause, either full or limited, be included? Will either side ask for opt-outs or option years? Intelligent spending means remaining as flexible as possible in the present and the future. If money is your only reservation, don’t let it be. I like the way Matthew Trueblood answers that concern.
“Those numbers sound gaudy. Tough. Get used to it. That’s the reality of the sport right now, and Correa is going to get that kind of payday somewhere. The Cubs are well-positioned to be the place where it happens, and they shouldn’t miss the opportunity.”
In fact, Trueblood states that if the Cubs are going to pursue a shortstop this winter, it has to be Correa. He’s the whole package and the most consistent of the group that includes Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, and Dansby Swanson. In other words, there’s less quantifiable risk that Correa’s deal will age poorly.
Trueblood wraps it up by indicating Correa is worth $333 million over nine seasons, though he includes more creative options to lure the shortstop to Chicago. If Jed Hoyer can sign him on a slightly more conservative deal, he shouldn’t hesitate.
Cubs News & Notes
- The front office has had internal discussions about free agent catchers Christian Vázquez and Omar Narváez.
- The Cubs’ roster currently sits at 38 players, but the team will need to free up multiple spots for the players Hoyer acquires this winter.
- Cody Bellinger has been a hot topic here at Cubs Insider in recent weeks because the Cubs could sign the former Rookie of the Year and NL MVP if he is non-tendered by the Dodgers. Bellinger has literally fallen off of a cliff offensively since 2019, but Tieran Alexander of Prospects Live believes the former star can return to his old ways with a change in muscle memory — very difficult, but not impossible. Even if he’s only a slightly above-average hitter, Bellinger is an All-Star with his defense in center field. He’s also a better-than-decent placeholder until Pete Crow-Armstrong arrives.
- Speaking of Crow-Armstrong, he will immediately be Chicago’s second-fastest athlete, trailing a certain QB1 who has taken the NFL by storm.
- New hitting coach Dustin Kelly calls his group a “Swiss Army knife” and intends to take a holistic approach to offense.
- Mark Feinsand of MLB.com believes the Cubs should make an effort to bring back Wade Miley.
- Yes, Justin Verlander is a fit for the Cubs rotation, even at his asking price that is said to be comparable to the deal Max Scherzer signed with the Mets. I’ll have more on this in Friday’s Rundown, where Verlander will be the topic.
- And then there was one: With the release of Heyward and Willson Contreras all but gone, Kyle Hendricks is the last remaining Cub who played for the 2016 world champs.
Odds & Sods
They don’t make TV sports intros like they used to… pic.twitter.com/G5BvCUTi7Q
— Alex Patt (@chifanpatt2) November 17, 2022
The Blue Jays have a strong interest in Brandon Nimmo, so the Hernández trade might be a precursor to another significant move. The Mariners could be chasing Nimmo, too. Seattle’s front office presumably desires an upgrade over Jarred Kelenic and would like to trade Jesse Winker, as well.
Bryce Harper will have UCL surgery next Wednesday. It is unknown if he will have Tommy John surgery or an internal brace procedure that has a faster recovery, so his timetable to return in 2023 is unknown. Harper has been playing with a torn ligament in his elbow since April.
Cubs GM Carter Hawkins compared this year’s GM Meetings to the Winter Meetings and he’s apparently not alone. Boston has reportedly made offers to several top free agents.
The 2023 Spring Training schedule will include 20 exhibition games featuring Major League teams competing with World Baseball Classic teams. The Cubs will host Team Canada on March 8.
Still tough to see Billy Williams in Oakland green. We called those A’s teams “the Green Goons” because players like Sal Bando, Joe Rudi, Ray Fosse, and Gene Tenace looked like they walked out of Heinold’s First & Last Chance Saloon and onto the baseball diamond.
You sure he played for them?
Billy Williams (1975-76 Oakland A's) pic.twitter.com/5XJbrZB9gh
— OldTimeHardball (@OleTimeHardball) August 25, 2021
Thursday Morning Six-Pack
- The Bears signed former first-round pick Taco Charlton off of the Saints’ practice squad. The veteran edge rusher is a placeholder at the very least until the offseason when Chicago is expected to overhaul its defense in the draft and in free agency. If Charlton can finally reach his potential, credit Poles with the steal.
- The 3-7 Bears could run the table with seven straight losses, but the future is incredibly bright thanks to Justin Fields, a plethora of draft picks, and an obscene amount of cap space that is nearly 10 times the amount of their closest cap competitor in the NFC North.
- Do you know who had one of the coolest sports logos ever? The Chicago Sting. Oh for the days of Karl-Heinz Granitza, Charlie Fajkus, Rudy Glenn, and Arno Steffenhagen. Yes, I still have World Cup fever.
- A previously unreleased scene from the comedy classic Planes, Trains and Automobiles has been released in anticipation of the film’s upcoming 35th anniversary. The reason it hit the cutting room floor is obvious.
- Working at Twitter under Elon Musk is going to feel a lot like being part of the chain gang in the movie Cool Hand Luke. I wonder if minor violations will be punished by “a night in the box.” Come to think of it, Musk reminds me of a younger Clifton James.
- James also played Charles Comiskey in Eight Men Out. He was a brilliant character actor. “29 is not 30, Eddie. You will get only the money you deserve.”
They Said It
- “We’re going to leverage as much as we can to help the players. A big part of what we’ve done at the minor league level is really simplifying our messaging. There’s a lot of minutiae that goes on with hitting. All of that has value. There are little things here and there that will help each and every player. But as a group we made our messaging really, really simple. Making good swing decisions, making quality contact, and doing damage.” – Kelly
Thursday Walk-Up Song
This song still slaps in my opinion. Carlos Santana is such a timeless guitar player.