The Rundown: Pitching Market Just Got Expensive, Cubs Eying First Base Options, Brewers Trade Wong

Nothing makes the blood flare like an unexpected, high-dollar baseball acquisition. Jacob deGrom agreed to a monster five-year contract with the Rangers Friday night, a deal that’s akin to snow-thunder on the penultimate eve of the Winter Meetings. The talented righty gets $185 million with an option for an extra $37 million, thusly pricing the Cubs out of the starting pitching market.

Forget Carlos Rodón, Justin Verlander, and for that matter, Sean Manaea, Chris Bassitt, and Nathan Eovaldi. Last night’s announcement provided a kick to the hindquarters of intelligent spending. The Cubs will be lucky to sign Noah Syndergaard, an aged Thor with a diminishing fastball. Those Andrew Heaney rumors are starting to smell a little more appetizing and Johnny Cueto might catch Hoyer’s eye, but if you thought Jameson Taillon might be a sneaky good signing, think again.

Maybe Jed Hoyer will just have to move his goalposts a little. The Rangers acquired the best pitcher available and deGrom didn’t get the $40 million in AAV he hoped for. But he did get five years, which would seem to be outside the parameters of Hoyer’s comfort zone. When he commences discussing contract extensions with Ian Happ and Nico Hoerner, the reigning president of baseball operations might want to extend an invitation to meet with Justin Steele, too. If the Cubs aren’t going to spend like the Rangers, they should start to operate more like the Braves.

Before I go any further, I do want to shift to neutral for a second. I have no idea what Hoyer is planning to do or who he intends to sign. I’m not privy to any of that information, nor do I think anybody outside the organization realistically is. If I had to make an educated guess, I’d say Hoyer’s focus is on offense, though I agree with Evan that the current, alleged dalliance with Dansby Swanson could be tremendously shortsighted. Before Theo Epstein arrived, acquisitions were almost universally tied to players coming off of career years, and they almost always failed.

Epstein walked that plank when he signed Tyler Chatwood and Brandon Morrow. Executives like Hoyer and his Jedi padawan Carter Hawkins operate much more successfully when they expose market inefficiencies. Banking against regression on players coming off of career years flies in the face of that logic. If the Swanson rumors prove to be true, we are all allowed to interchange “intelligent” with “cheap” going forward.

It’s okay to be conservative when handing out contracts. The Rangers guaranteed deGrom more years for a slightly smaller annual salary. Hoyer wants to do the opposite but he’s starting to look like a vigilante trying to buck the current headwinds. Players want long(er)-term security. Perhaps Verlander would agree to $80 million on a two-year deal, but if he’s offered $100 million for three, why would he turn that down?

Again, I don’t know Chicago’s plan for the offseason and I can’t rely on previous seasons because the team is in a place it hasn’t been since 2014. Whatever Hoyer decides to do, he is the one who stated that the Cubs need top-of-rotation starters and pitching depth. If that’s the case, he’s going to have to fly to San Diego with the intent of going chips-in on a future ace, no matter how much the offer hurts his agenda.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Porn mustache? Check. Freaky-good fastball? Check. An ass-kicking nickname? Check. Kicking Randy Johnson to the curb? Check. Spencer Strider is my new favorite pitcher, and Quadzilla might be the coolest moniker ever.

Weekend Stove

The Rangers admitted that signing deGrom is a risk due to injury concerns.

We could see a flurry of deals in San Diego if Aaron Judge signs next week.

The Brewers and Mariners exchanged players Friday afternoon as Milwaukee sent infielder Kolten Wong to Seattle for Jesse Winker and Abraham Toro.

The Angels are interested in Yankees infielder Gleyber Torres, among others.

Zach Eflin chose the Rays over the Red Sox because he wanted to play closer to home. Boston offered the starter the same three-year $40 million contract that the Rays did. Eflin, who lives in Orlando, asked the Rays to match it and they did.

The Phillies are going to meet with each of the top four free-agent shortstops.

The Orioles are also checking in on Swanson, Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, and Xander Bogaerts.

Jurickson Profar, Mitch Haniger, and Dominic Smith are expected to benefit more from new shift rules than any other players.

There is a growing belief that Haniger could get a three-year deal worth at least $15 million per season. The injury-prone outfielder has at least seven potential suitors.

Anthony Castrovince has a great breakdown of next week’s Draft Lottery.

The league and the MLBPA have agreed to resume blood testing. HGH testing stopped in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Testing also was halted during the 99-day lockout that ended in mid-March, and there were supply chain issues due to COVID-19 and additional caution in testing due to coronavirus protocols.

The Brewers have promoted Marti Wronski to COO, making her the franchise’s highest-ranking woman executive since Wendy Selig-Prieb was the president and chair of the board in the early 2000s. Brewers officials said Wronski is the only woman to currently hold that title for a major league franchise.

Extra Innings

Straighten up and fly right, boys.

Saturday Morning Six-Pack

  1. Justin Fields may get a chance to renew his onfield kinship with Cole Kmet on Sunday. Sean Holland has your Bears-Packers preview and predicts a high-scoring affair between the two rivals. Chicago and Green Bay are tied for the NFL lead in all-time wins. Maybe the game will end in a tie.
  2. If Fields can’t go, Nathan Peterman or Tim Boyle need to be ready to go. Understudy Trevor Siemian is out for the year with an oblique injury. That makes Siemian’s performance against the Jets last week gutsy AF.
  3. In other football news, Drew Brees posted a video of himself getting struck by lightning that racked up over 1 million views on Twitter, and just as many concerns for his life, but it turned out to be a staged publicity stunt for the internet sports betting company PointsBet.
  4. Today marks the 30th birthday of short messaging services, aka “texting.” You’d think by now we’d be able to include things like an infinity sign or a square root symbol in our messages. By the way, the first text message read “Merry Christmas.”
  5. Team USA meets the Netherlands in World Cup Action this morning. I will be participating in the Santa’s Rampage Charity Pub Crawl, but I’m hoping to catch a glimpse or two of the match
  6. Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones filed for bankruptcy and listed the families of Sandy Hook victims among his top creditors. That’s just shitty.

They Said It

  • “We’ve talked about depth a lot, and it’s important to keep building that depth. So, [Mervis] is very much in our plans, but I think we’re also going to be active in exploring alternatives that can play first [and] can play DH, and I think that’s really important.” – Hoyer
  • “I don’t think [Nico Hoerner] gets enough credit throughout the league. That guy shows up each and every day and puts his absolute best foot forward. His preparation’s amazing. No matter if he’s dealing with any bumps and bruises, he’s out there giving 110% each and every day. He grinds out every single at-bat; he’s all over the field making plays. He’s someone that you need on your roster to be elite.”Marcus Stroman

Saturday Walk-Up Song

I despise the lyrics, but combining George Michael with Boy George, Sting, Bananarama, Bob Geldof, and Bono was a musical stroke of genius. Happy Santa’s Rampage Day!

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