The Rundown: Free Agency’s Bird Box, Branding vs. Baseball, Cubs as Mystery Team, News from Around MLB

At times I feel like all the meat has been chewed off the bone when it comes to the free agency of Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. Pushing that aside, the bulk of this will be dedicated to both, yet again. They’re baseball’s most polarizing free agents and I know most of the takes are old and redundant at this point. But Brian Kenny came up with a different, compelling narrative yesterday in debating branding vs. baseball:

At least it’s better than the Bird Box debate. I admit I may be the only person in America yet to see the Netflix movie but I was told the movie ends without a resolution to the plot. So I don’t know if I really want to invest two hours of my life that I will never get back watching the Sandra Bullock thriller. I’m not the only one. A large number of viewers didn’t stick around for the end of the movie.

Then again, I’ve probably refreshed my baseball feed on Twitter for hundreds of hours since November 1 wondering where Harper will sign. What’s the definition of insanity again? Right.

Anyway, branding vs. baseball: Where do you stand? To me, “Bryce Harper” is already a brand and it doesn’t matter where he plays, except maybe San Diego, where brands go to die and fans are least engaged of any baseball city in America. That works against the Cubs in any attempt to sign the free agent outfielder because he will bank endorsement money no matter where he plays among his alleged preferred choices.

But Machado is definitely not as strong a brand. He really needs a PR company to reverse his image. And maybe signing with the White Sox would actually help with that. He’d certainly be the face of the franchise and I truly believe the South Side community would embrace the shortstop, despite any misgivings about attitude and lack of hustle.

Further, a Machado signing would better affect Rick Hahn’s ability to sign other significant players, perhaps A.J. Pollock and a closer like Cody Allen.

If the Yankees sign either free agent, baseball will have that post-apocalyptic feel of the late 1970’s when the best available players flocked to play for the “fully operational Death Star.” In my mind, Machado to the White Sox and Harper to the Cubs would make Chicago the city for baseball all summer long and set up a potential Red Line World Series in the very near future.

Cubs News & Notes

Friday Stove

MLB-ready minor leaguers could be as good as any free agent or trade acquisition in 2019.

David Robertson signed a two-year $23M deal with the Phillies yesterday. That likely leaves only the Red Sox as a potential suitor for Kimbrel.

Now that Robertson has signed, the Yankees may target former closer Britton to fill the end of their bullpen.

Maybe Harper won’t get a dime more than the contract he turned down three-and-a-half months ago from the Washington Nationals.

Here’s what a potential Mike Trout extension could cost the Angels.

The Indians remain focused on cheap roster fills rather than big-ticket free agents. The team also seems disinclined to trade either Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer before spring training starts,

Former Cubs RP Justin Grimm signed with the Indians yesterday.

Should Kyler Murray play for football or baseball? Or both?

The Rays are not relocating to Montreal anytime soon. Still, another failed stadium proposal leaves the future of the franchise up in the air.

For Nationals fans, here’s what to expect from manger Davey Martinez in his second year leading the team.

On Deck

Bird Box. Harper. Machado. Cubs. Yes I just totally took advantage of trending topics and search engine optimization with this column. Do I feel shame? No. No, I do not.

Extra Innings

I can’t even…

Walk Up Song of the Day

Man on the Moon by R.E.M. Far away from all those damn birds.

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