The Rundown: Spending Tom Ricketts’ Money, World Series Notes, Managerial Moves & News

Let’s have a little fun while all of baseball goes coast-to-coast (and before we spend Tom Ricketts’s money).

With a break in the World Series and with the Dodgers not putting up much of a fight thus far, it sure feels a lot more like Hot Stove season than baseball season. An unexpected early exit by the Cubs this postseason has us nearly a month into baseball’s offseason, and this winter already feels too long.

Though it’s always an exercise in fun and futility to predict who the front office will sign in free agency, we at least know how much Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer will have to spend on this year’s gaggle of eligible players.

That would be nothing, or as much as they want, or somewhere in between. I admit I’m no help. Sorry.

Now I’m no accountant — heck I can’t even manage my own checkbook, mostly because I have two young adults in college who seemingly have access to every financial asset I own. I do know that if the Cubs retain Cole Hamels, and find no takers for Tyler Chatwood, and considering arbitration raises due, they are already over the luxury tax cap by about $2M dollars, if I am doing my math correctly.

So the question is no longer how little can the Cubs spend, but how much do they want to go over that threshold? And as disappointing as Yu Darvish was in 2018, giving him six years instead of five kept the team under the cap last year (think AAV), which keeps Chicago out of penalties for teams that spend too much in consecutive seasons.

Given the opportunity to fictionally borrow Tom Ricketts’ checkbook for a few months, here’s what I’m doing this winter:

  1. Sign Bryce Harper.
  2. Find a way to acquire Whit Merrifield or re-sign Daniel Murphy.
  3. DFA Addison Russell.
  4. Sign Jesse Chavez and Adam Ottavino.
  5. Trade Mike Montgomery for pitching prospects if he is not needed to acquire Merrifield.
  6. Trade Ian Happ to Cleveland for Brad Hand or Danny Salazar, putting Salazar in the bullpen.
  7. Consider trading Albert Almora Jr. if Harper and Merrifield find their way to a mid-winter presser at Clark & Addison.

Mr. Ricketts, you may have your checkbook back now.

World Series News & Notes

Cubs News & Notes

If you had to guess which Cubs players would be finalists for Gold Glove awards, which players would you choose? If you guessed Javy Baez, Anthony Rizzo, and Jason Heyward you’d be spot on.

Jon Lester invited Tyler Trent to Opening Day in April. Trent is a 20-year old Purdue super fan who is fighting bone cancer.

With the contracts of Joe Maddon and White Sox manager Rick Renteria set to expire following the 2019 season, Joe Girardi may end up managing in Chicago.

When it comes to offense and things like launch angle and plate discipline, Cubs players would be wise to approach their at bats like JD Martinez.

With only two managerial openings left – Baltimore (who wants that mess) and Texas (not much more appealing), it’s looking like Brandon Hyde may stay with the Cubs through at least this season.

Baseball News & Notes

A look at the most over-hyped free agents set to hit the market in one week.

Rocco Baldelli has been named manager of the Twins and he’s pretty jacked up about that.

Though not as outwardly ecstatic, Charlie Montoyo has been named manager of the Blue Jays.

Here’s the rundown on all of baseball’s new managers.

Despite a rotating cast through the last few years, ESPN’s Baseball Tonight remains the behemoth’s only baseball analysis television show.

Fans in New York feel that the Yankees are the front runners to sign Manny Machado.

Who are baseball’s most uncomfortable pitchers to face? Brandon Kintzler does not make this list, sorry, but Steve Cishek does.

On Deck 

Happy Dress-Up-and-Get-Drunk Weekend! Oh wait, not all of you live in Milwaukee like I do. I’m going as Kurt Cobain. I’ll be sure to tweet some pictures for you.

Extra Innings

The Wall Street Journal, which apparently feels the need to write about baseball occasionally despite the current stumbling stock market, has come up with an idea or two to save baseball. You’ll want to read about banning mound visits and giving batters four strikes (subscription required) so that you can divert focus away from your dwindling financial portfolio.

Friday Walk Up Song

Dreams by the Bodeans. Hot Stove is a week away.


Michael Canter

Favorite Quote: "Look Ma! Top of the World!" Cubs fan since I was five years old (1969): lover of B&W movies, the Oxford Comma, classic rock, and of course, baseball; annual roto-champ; partial insomniac; I detest the liberal use of the word 'albeit' by baseball writers; Nice guy, though somewhat brooding. Comment me, please and thank you.

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  1. I think the only longer distance World Series would be Miami vs. Seattle!

    I didn’t think the Dodgers had a prayer in this series, although I thought they would sprinkle in a couple wins. After watching the first two, I’m not so sure about that.

    Mookie Betts is just about un-unlikeable.

    “Trade Ian Happ to Cleveland for Brad Hand or Danny Salazar” – this would be a perfect trade!

    In spending Ricketts money – I think there’s a good chance that their biggest spend is picking up Hamels option. I’m seeing things play out where they take a shot at Harper, but get outbid – largely because they are trying to work the “this is the best place to play” discount. Then they make some shrewd trades, probably for guys we aren’t even talking about, and take a flier or two on lower level FA relievers. With injured guys getting healthy (presumably) – wouldn’t this be a viable way to play it, and still put a darn good team on the field in ’19?

      1. Heyward had two opt outs and I imagine anything an agent and GM agree too is fine as long as MLB approves. I think the Cubs tried to slip in a clause on Chatwood’s contract that gave him a bonus for a single Cy Young vote, not that there is any chance of that happening!

        1. So that was one heck of a W.S. game last night. When the Dodgers didn’t do more than 1 run of damage to Porcello, I just felt the whole time that it would come back and bite them. Machado turned another double into a single. Jansen chokes on it in the 8th, Kinsler boots one for the re-tie in the 13th. Muncy walk-off in the 18th!

      2. Definitely allowed, so long as the structure of the opt-outs doesn’t obviously circumvent the luxury tax. For instance, it’d be illegal to sign him to a 3-year, $30 million deal with $30 million vesting clauses that kick in for, say, batting .210 or hitting 20 homers. As Mike indicates below, Chatwood’s deal was also illegal, but for other reasons. Because the Cy Young is voted on my BBWAA members, there’s a hint of impropriety in that a player could agree to buy a vote. You can have All-Star and other escalators, but nothing based on number of votes.

      1. Awe, you make me blush with such comparisons! Although apologies to Jeff if I was copying him, or just saying what he said?

      1. Speaking of, he turned another double into a single last night. I hate to project meaning into perceived demeanor through the television, because it’s just not fair. But I grow to dislike Machado more every time I watch him.

  2. Alive or dead Kurt Cobain? (Sorry for the morbidity for the more sensitive readers.) Zombie Kurt might take the edge off it…

  3. PS – though the WSJ is usually subscription-based, I think the article referenced in the Extra Innings section is not behind their paywall. I do not have a subscription and can access it on my apple products

  4. 1, 3, and 4 I have no particular problems with but 2) has the same problem I had with Russell for Machado rumors this season, what assets do the Cubs have that would still be good/around on the next good Royals team? and the Cubs should stay far away from Murphy to avoid another fiasco like claiming him without reincorporating shifting was in the first place, 6) you’re not getting Hand for Happ when Cleveland just dropped their best prospect for him and Salazar has an injury history and is right handed, 5) I don’t know where this drive to trade Montgomery is coming from with an older rotation with iffy injury histories and this list leaves Rosario? as their top lefty out of the pen which is scary with his peripherals, and 7) fine, but for what? a Kintzler level reliever? Other teams can see he can’t hit righties and was entirely dependent on his BABIP for production. That’s probably not going to get you something worth more than he is as a good side of a platoon/late inning defensive replacement.

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