The Rundown: It’s Rule 5 Day, Hottovy Preparing Staff for Increased Workload, Virtual Meetings Mostly Uneventful, MLB Contracts 40 MiLB Affiliates

If you’re a Cubs fan and the most exciting part of the Winter Meetings for you is the Rule 5 Draft, today is your day. More than a handful of relatively unknown prospects will move to new organizations with a real opportunity to grab a spot on a major league roster. The goal of the annual exercise is to prevent teams from stockpiling young players, but it’s more of an exercise in payroll frugality in baseball’s new economy.

I have no idea who the Cubs will choose or lose, so thankfully Cubs Insider has Todd Johnson, who is an expert in this sort of thing. He detailed at his own site what today may look like for Jed Hoyer and his entourage.

There has been little movement so far at these virtual meetings. All of the big ticket free agents are still seeking life-changing contracts and though there has been talk that the trade market would be more than robust, it has not. It’s tough to trade when all but a few teams (Mets, White Sox, and Blue Jays) are looking to shed millions of dollars in financial obligations. The Cubs are no exception and current projections have them trimming $40-50 million in payroll, their second straight year of budget cuts.

Daniel Descalso, please remain on standby.

Okay, I was just kidding about Descalso. But if you need to trim so much fat from your rib roast that you can’t make gravy for your mashed potatoes, why not just go vegan? Do I sound like Scott Boras there? That man really needs to write a book. In the meantime, I’m still waiting for the super agent to drop this year’s keynote quote.

As it stands entering the final day of what has been nothing more than a winter snoozefest, Hoyer still needs to replace Kyle Schwarber. Then the new president of baseball operations has to find a fourth or fifth starter, rotation depth, a backup infielder and outfielder, and a few bullpen pieces, all while having nothing more than a little walking-around cash.

Even Ian Happ, who is as much a fan of baseball as any player, believes the the Winter Meetings have become more pomp than circumstance. To him, though, it’s simply a matter of timing.

“It’s not until the first or second week of January that things really kick off with arbitration, which I don’t think makes sense for the timing and the process of the offseason,” Happ said. “So we’re waiting until January to get cost certainty, and you wonder why teams aren’t pulling the trigger on free agents until the middle or the end of January or February. Well, it’s because they don’t have cost certainty.”

He elaborated a little further regarding the situation surrounding Hoyer and the Cubs.

“A team like the Cubs that has six, seven guys in the arbitration process and four or five of those guys with big numbers, what could be a few million this way or a few million that way, that really changes the ledger when you go down to the total salaries they’re willing to give out.”

So far the White Sox, Royals and Braves have been the league’s most active teams. We’ll see if anything picks up today, but if you really think about it, in a virtual environment, aren’t the Winter Meetings truly an event that may extend all the way until Spring Training? Pitchers and catchers report in 69 days.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Our parents and grandparents truly lived the Life of Riley when it came to baseball fanaticism. Perhaps Tom Ricketts can bring Harry Styles in this year to serenade David Ross and his troops when they report to Sloan Park in February.

Thursday Stove

A total of 40 affiliates were officially dropped by their parent clubs in yesterday’s muscle-flexing reckoning.

Throughout his career, White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton has been a grinding player advanced stats loved, even if his teammates did not feel the same way.

Cardinals free agent catcher Yadier Molina rejected what he felt was a “ridiculous offer” to remain in St. Louis. The veteran backstop is reportedly seeking $10 million on a one-year deal, but would prefer to sign for two years.

Schwarber and Michael Brantley are among the Twins’ top offseason targets according to a number of baseball insiders.

The Pirates are reportedly shopping starter Jameson Taillon and first baseman Josh Bell, and the Yankees are said to be interested in both. The two could be “pennies-on-the-dollar” options for New York, and both are under team control through 2022.

The top players available in today’s Rule 5 Draft include a high number of back-end rotation and bullpen options.

Longtime MLB umpire Brian O’Nora was arrested at an Ohio hotel the other night as part of a sex sting operation.

Cedric Hunter, the new senior adviser to the Joe Biden administration, is a “50-WAR” baseball legend.

Safety Squeeze

Maybe Boras is right, and Evan made a compelling case on The Rant Live the other day (embed above) that supports the fact that owners didn’t really lose that much money in 2020. Nothing better masks unwavering financial unity among baseball’s 30 owners than phrases like “cost uncertainty.”

Extra Innings

If Hoyer’s intended goal was to free up payroll this week, he’s failed his first assignment since grabbing the big seat. His roster stands at 34 players as of this morning and the offseason still has a few months remaining, so perhaps we’ll soften that narrative just a little.

They Said It

  • “All you’re doing is listening and talking. I don’t think there’s a single player on our roster that some team hasn’t called about at some point. If we were just to shut down the discussions immediately, it wouldn’t do us any good. [Other front offices] know which players would be really hard for us to trade and teams can act accordingly. I think that’s always the rule of thumb. I’ve never operated differently in 20 years and we’ll continue to do that.” – Jed Hoyer
  • “It will be interesting to watch how [starting pitchers] go from 80 innings to 180 [during the upcoming season]. Going to 180 is a significant jump.” – Tommy Hottovy

Thursday Walk Up Song

So Damn Lucky by the Dave Matthews Band – If you are a fan of one of the teams that’s actually trying to improve its roster this winter, I’m envious.

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