I’m a little late to the party on this one, but it’s the first I’ve written at all since Sunday because I’ve been tied up with other commitments. Given the nature of the offseason, it was even more refreshing than usual to step away for a few days. But the content mines must remain in action so I’m back at it with a little news regarding the most infamous group of free agents still on the market.
What makes this particular nugget worthwhile is that it comes from Jeff Passan, whose reputation is nigh impeccable when it comes to breaking baseball news. During a conversation with ESPN 1000’s Waddle & Silvy on Wednesday, Passan confirmed much of what we already knew or believed about the Cubs’ ongoing pursuits — or lack thereof — as spring training approaches.
But what’s more interesting than the confirmation of what we already knew is the twist that the Cubs could still end up with a Scott Boras client even if it’s not the most obvious one. This clip was initially shared by Aldo Soto of Sports Mockery and the Pinwheels and Ivy podcast and the selection begins at the most salient portion of the interview, which is also quoted below.
“All this being said, by the way, I do think the Cubs are gonna sign one of the four Boras guys,” Passan said. “Matt Chapman‘s one of them, Blake Snell‘s one of them, Jordan Montgomery‘s one of them. I think with Bellinger, they don’t wanna go seven or eight years. They don’t wanna go 200 million-plus dollars.
“And if the price comes down on that, if they can do a shorter-term deal, if they can do something with opt-outs, then, yeah, maybe it becomes more attractive to them. But I don’t think the desperation is necessarily there the same way that it is for the Blue Jays.”
First things first, let’s backfill a little context. Passan prefaced this by mentioning the possibility that Nico Hoerner takes another step forward and that Pete Crow-Armstrong‘s bat comes around enough for him to be Cody Bellinger Light. Even beyond the Cubs’ situation in particular, the market is such that teams have a great deal more leverage than players at this point.
That’s why we’re sitting here with less than a week from pitchers and catchers reporting and there are still over a dozen unsigned players who project for more than 1 WAR this season. As you’re certainly aware already, four of those are named above. And as you may also be aware, none of them have been very busy fielding offers to this point.
It’s even possible that there’s only been one legitimate offer made between all of them, that being the $150 million the Yankees gave to Snell. But that was pulled immediately when it was scoffed at, so it’s possible there’s still nothing formal on the table for any of Boras’s top clients. That isn’t to say figures haven’t been exchanged, otherwise teams wouldn’t know what not to offer.
The only thing I take issue with here when it comes to what Passan is saying is that the Jays would be the team desperate enough to make a big splash. Toronto is already at an estimated $250 million CBT payroll for next season and would have to blow way past the second penalty threshold to sign Bellinger or any of his high-priced colleagues. They also have to figure out what to do with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who is earning nearly $20 million this season and still has another arbitration year remaining.
On the other hand, the Jays have about $47 million falling off the books along with a great deal of wiggle room in their other arb-eligible players, so they could look at this year as being the best time to spend big. All things considered, I’d put them in the same boat as the Cubs when it comes to being opportunistic in landing another big free agent.
To bring this in for a landing, I’ll add in the additional context that Jesse Rogers told Waddle & Silvy on Tuesday that he believes the odds are 51/49 in favor of Bellinger not coming back to Chicago. That’s consistent with what he’s said for a while now, which varies from nearly every other report over the last several weeks that says the Cubs are the most likely landing spot. Of course, you need to take that all with a grain of salt because Boras is doing whatever he can to regain leverage as time draws short.
For what it’s worth, I do still get the sense that the Cubs are Bellinger’s preference and that he’ll be back if it comes down to choosing between various disappointing offers. Disappointing to him and his agent, anyway. It’s really hard to believe that any team is going to be willing to push to either eight years or $200 million, especially at this point.
Wait, I completely forgot about the notion that the Cubs could end up with one of the other Boras guys. Snell doesn’t make sense unless his price drops tremendously, Montgomery would give them at least three lefties in the rotation, and Chapman would block young guys if he gets a multiyear deal. It’s just really difficult to look at the situation and see something working out unless one of these players just says “F— it” and decides to take a prove-it deal.
So let me throw it back to you: If it’s not Bellinger, which Boras client is the most likely fit for the Cubs and what would the deal have to be for it to work?