It’s been nearly eight weeks since we lit the hot stove, and frankly, I’m surprised at the dearth of trades. Teams aren’t afraid to spend money and free agent transactions came at us at a torrid pace, as only eight of the top 50 free agents remain unsigned. Of those, three have been linked to the Cubs at some point: Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Conforto, and Corey Kluber. Eovaldi is the lone remaining free agent attached to a qualifying offer and most expect him to re-up with the Red Sox.
The lack of trades is concerning, however. Sean Murphy is the biggest name to be traded so far, but that was 10 days ago. Players that were expected to be moved because of their current contract situations now look like bargains in baseball’s new economy. Tyler Glasnow is a great example. He’s owed $5 million this year and $25 million in 2024. That contract is suddenly the game’s greatest bargain.
It seems Steve Cohen’s free-spending ways have changed the business of baseball. In San Diego, Xander Bogaerts got four extra years and $91 million more than expected. The per-year figures for player contracts have generally been in line with expectations, however, with the top free agents receiving a group average of $22.8 million per year, versus an expectation of $22.7 million. The downside is that teams are reluctant to trade players who are signed to more normalized deals.
One would think that the asking prices for players like Ian Happ, who should earn $10-11 million in his final year of arbitration, would be astronomical as a result. Cody Bellinger got $17.5 million guaranteed for essentially one year with a mutual option. It might behoove Jed Hoyer to ink his switch-hitting, Gold Glove-winning outfielder to a deal similar to the one the White Sox gave Andrew Benintendi. That would be a perfect starting point for extension negotiations.
Likewise, Hoyer needs to extend Nico Hoerner to at least the length he gave new shortstop Dansby Swanson. Chicago has middle infield redundancy in the minor leagues, but nobody wants to see Hoerner depart.
Remember, baseball is just entering the second year of a new collective bargaining agreement. It’s natural to believe money will be a little tighter as the current contract meanders toward its expiration. Perhaps that’s why owners like Cohen are striking now. The game’s best players have deals that will extend past the current agreement and it’s a given that Shohei Ohtani and Juan Soto will be locked up until their age-40 seasons or later once they hit the market.
In the meantime, there’s not much more to look forward to this winter unless the trade market thaws a little. It’s almost as if the game has formed opposite poles when it comes to player movement. That evolution means more trades at the deadline following winters of hyperactive spending. It makes sense, too, especially with expanded playoffs. With that in mind, it’s very possible Happ will remain in Chicago until the deadline or until he hits free agency, even if Hoyer does sign Conforto.
Cubs News and Notes
- Swanson met the Chicago media yesterday and proclaimed that Cubs fans “are the best in baseball.”
- The shortstop said he would have taken less money to stay with the Braves…
- …Except for the part where Swanson said joining the Cubs was a calling of sorts.
- Hoyer said Swanson interviewed him as much as he interviewed the free agent, focusing on the Cubs’ “plan” for winning. That confirms a plan is actually in place, I suppose.
- Chicago’s newest superstar intends to lead the Cubs back to the playoffs. “We don’t do losing.”
- You can place Hoerner and Swanson in the mutual admiration society.
- Hoyer is still trying to squeeze every last ounce of value from free agency.
- Hoyer’s recent additions are starting to worry Cardinals fans.
- The White Sox need a second baseman and Nick Madrigal is available. That would be something.
- The Cubs apparently signed lefty pitcher Roenis Elias to a minor league deal. Elias was a starting pitcher with the Mariners when he first came up to the big leagues.
Odds and Sods
I grabbed these quotes that lightly dance around collusion from an article on Cohen ($) by Evan Drellich of The Athletic. Imagine baseball owners working together to suppress player salaries. That couldn’t happen, could it?
“I think it’s going to have consequences for him down the road,” said an official with another major league team who was not authorized to speak publicly. “There’s no collusion. But…there was a reason nobody for years ever went past $300 million. You still have partners, and there’s a system.”
“This game is based on partnership and relationships, and these small markets are going to be really pissed at him,” the club official said. “They’re going to try and gin up shit and cause Rob (Manfred) to fucking get pissed at him. It’s not that they can do anything to him, but everybody needs help in this game. I don’t think he’s going to get any help.”
By the way, the Mets will pay more in CBT taxes than some teams are paying in total salaries.
If you didn’t get a shortstop this winter, the store is closed for the foreseeable future. Wily Adames is the most notable pending free-agent shortstop, and he won’t be available until 2024.
Care to guess which team now has the best lineup in baseball?
I just happened to be cutting onions for my holiday stuffing mix while the Cubs held their Swanson presser. Swear. Do you get the feeling that Chicago’s new shortstop slept in his new jersey last night? The man clearly wanted to play for the Cubs.
Thursday Morning Six-Pack
- Winter Storm Elliott is about to batter the Midwest, and tickets for Saturday’s Bears-Bills match are selling for as low as $15 as a result.
- A number of major airlines are waiving the usual fees and fare differences for travelers looking to rebook their trips ahead of the expected dangerous winter weather.
- Retailer H&M pulled Justin Bieber merchandise from stores after the singer called it “trash” and said he never signed off on it. H&M denied Bieber’s claim.
- Facial recognition technology at sports and entertainment venues seems far too personally invasive to me.
- Madison Square Garden has been quietly analyzing its attendees’ facial features since at least 2018, scanning faces and comparing them to entries in an unidentified database. The venue remains pretty mum on who they’re blacklisting, but it clearly goes beyond the FBI’s most wanted.
- Is hallucinogenic spinach a thing? I’m willing to be part of the test group.
They Said It
- “[Hoerner] is a winner. That’s all I’ve ever heard about him. He reached out to me before I even had a chance to reach out to him. That tells a lot about him, and I’m excited to have this partnership over the next however many years.” – Swanson
- “This is home now. It’s a beautiful place to be.” – Swanson
- “It got to a point where we’re on our honeymoon, that we felt like this is where we’re supposed to be regardless. That feeling was starting to come about even before some of those conversations were had, and that kind of solidified and brought as much clarity as there could be.” – Swanson
Thursday Walk-Up Song