The Rundown: Hot Stove Officially Lit, Pondering Offseason Moves, MLBTR Releases Annual Top 50 Free Agents

We have liftoff on hot stove season, ladies and gentlemen.

“Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.” – Oscar Wilde

“We choose to go to the Moon. We choose to go to the Moon. We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” – John F. Kennedy

I have been reading The Critic as an Artist by Wilde since I returned from my trip, and I have been bingeing* on the HBO Series From the Earth to the Moon because I gormandize on almost anything that has to do with NASA. The common subject matter between the two is dreaming, so I’d like to share some of my thoughts for the offseason.

Now that Anthony Rizzo has had his option picked up by the Cubs, what can Theo Epstein do to make him a Cub for life? Rizzo falls into a category of former Chicago players who bled Cubbie Blue, including Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ryne Sandberg, and Ron Santo. If you think about it realistically, doesn’t it seem awkward to entertain any thoughts of the Cubs first baseman wearing any uniform but the one he currently sports?

What do we think it will take to get Nicholas Castellanos back to the Cubs and what, as a fan, would you be willing to sacrifice to get him here? It’s not just about money, playing time, and team chemistry, nor is it about moving Kyle Schwarber to mitigate any defensive liabilities. At some point the Cubs are going to have to start rebuilding their farm system, and the more guys they sign to long term contracts, the more difficult that becomes. Signing Nicky Two Bags means fielding a competitive team around him for four or five years, and that may mean trading more prospects in the future.

Let’s assume one or two of the core four has to be traded to shake things up. It’s probably not going to be Rizzo considering his relationship with David Ross. I’d probably say Kris Bryant will stay, too. That leaves Javier Báez and Willson Contreras. Though Contreras has improved a great deal defensively, it stands to reason that Ross might prefer a veteran who plays similarly to how he did as a catcher. Contreras could probably bring a haul in return. Trade him or keep him? What would you expect in return? The Cubs definitely need at least one starter and some relief help.

Where oh where is that elusive leadoff hitter and will he find his way to the Cubs this winter?

Cubs News & Notes

  • MLBTR has published their annual Top 50 Free Agents list with expected contracts and potential buyers. The rumor aggregation site has the Cubs landing Kyle Gibson and Will Harris, and predicts Castellanos will sign with the White Sox for four years and $58 million. The writers at MLBTR also see Hamels signing with the Braves, Steve Cishek going to the Diamondbacks, and Pedro Strop latching on with the Red Sox. I’ll have my free agent predictions tomorrow. Last year I got two right.
  • I heard Jim Bowden say on MLB Radio yesterday during my commute that the Braves and Cubs are the favorites to sign Castellanos. He also said the Cubs are likely to sign Hamels and Eric Sogard. Those predictions seem genuinely lazy to me, but it may be another genuinely lazy winter for Chicago fans..
  • The Cubs decided not to tender a qualifying offer to Hamels, which really isn’t too surprising.
  • David Phelps did not have his option picked up, which is also not a surprise.
  • Kendall Graveman was released, which comes as surprise to some and was one of the more polarizing topics on Twitter yesterday. I don’t often disagree with Evan, but I do slightly in regard to Graveman. I believe that the Cubs are not going to spend money this winter, but I do not believe that letting the journeyman pitcher walk is proof positive of that. That’s only because Tom Ricketts dropped that bomb last week. It’s also possible the Cubs could bring Graveman back for less money or on a minor league deal.
  • Rizzo may be the only untouchable on this team right now.
  • Jordan Bastian of MLB.com breaks down the Cubs’ biggest needs and potential moves.
  • The Cubs continue to make sweeping changes behind the scenes (subscription to The Athletic required).

Tuesday Stove

Including Zack Wheeler and Jake Odorizzi, 10 players were extended a qualifying offer by their teams before yesterday’s deadline.

Red Sox DH J.D. Martinez decided not to opt out of his deal, which means new Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom has a decision to make regarding Mookie Betts.

For some reason the Cardinals extended a qualifying offer to outfielder Marcell Ozuna. The outfielder batted .241 in 2019, and he’s far from elite offensively or defensively. Ozuna will probably accept the QO or negotiate a longer term deal with the team. That takes St. Louis out of the running for Castellanos, one would think.

The Astros believe they have a chance of signing Cole, and have a 10-day window to try to work out a deal with their ace.

MLB announced yesterday that 10 players have been named to their Modern Baseball Era ballot, including Yankees great Thurman Munson.

Extra Innings

I actually dig this description.

New Music Tuesday

  1. Document by R.E.M. – When I first heard Exhuming McCarthy, R.E.M. became my favorite band, exceeding the likes of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. This is my favorite release by Michael Stipe, et al., but I change my mind quite a bit because I love every album R.E.M. has dropped.
  2. Darkness on the Edge of Town by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – Prove It all Night is a song that shows the Boss at his most vulnerable when it comes to songwriting. Though Springsteen was famous for his incredible OCD in the recording studio, it took the band 49 takes before one was deemed suitable for release. The song, and the number of trashes takes, are part of a popular Springsteen motif – “Success takes sacrifice.”
  3. Ellington at Newport ’56 by Duke Ellington & His Orchestra – This is probably the best, live orchestra album ever, and whether you are a fan of that type of music or not, I urge you to go to your favorite streaming service and give it a listen. Jeep’s Blues is a magnificent song.

They Said It

  • “For David [Ross], it was never enough for him or for the teams he was on just to show up and hope that the talent would be enough to win. He took winning personally. It was very intentional about winning and making sure the bonds were created that would ensure the whole was greater than the sum of the parts.” – Theo Epstein

Tuesday Walk Up Song

Torn by Natalie Imbruglia – Continuing my month long tribute to female artists. Wonderful song, and a decent video to boot, but neither will ever be topped by a mimed karaoke version of the song from comedian David Armand.

 

*The addition of the “e” was an editorial move, as Mike had initially just used the not-at-all incorrect “binging.” Both spellings are correct according to Grammarly, but I prefer the version that looks a little stranger because I find it forces me to read it as it’s meant to be said. 

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