The Rundown Lite: Cubs Extensions Talks Imminent, Braun Mulling Retirement, Spring Training Starts in One Week

This marks the third consecutive day we’ve milked Jed Hoyer’s Monday presser for story topics and you can make a safe bet we’ll make it four if the Cubs don’t do anything of note today. The president of baseball operations was able to be much more transparent in his most recent address, probably due to a combination of comfort and the fact that he has actually signed a few players now.

Not that Hoyer was necessarily uncomfortable addressing the media, mind you, but he’s still settling into his role as the team’s primary mouthpiece. Theo Epstein always seemed to relish the limelight, even when there were certainly times he felt a little sour. Hoyer has come across like more of the understudy in that regard, maybe even one who didn’t quite bother to nail the lines because the star of the show was so dynamic and prone to extemporaneous ad-libbing.

Perhaps that’s why he leans heavily on a two-word verbal crutch that props up nearly every other sentence of his answers. It’s also possible that his words are a true manifestation of his process, that he’s simply a very thoughtful person who is also taking care to let you know that he’s expressing his own understanding of a situation rather than making a definitive statement.

In any case, Hoyer was asked about the possibility of extending some of the team’s core players who will enter camp in Mesa with just a year remaining on their contracts. Javy Báez, Anthony Rizzo, and Kris Bryant headline that group, with the former two looking like much stronger candidates due to a number of factors we’ve covered here in the past.

“I think spring has always been a great time to have those discussions,” Hoyer said. “Some guys don’t like it to bleed into the last couple weeks, and some guys are willing to have those discussions [later]. But we’ll certainly have those discussions in spring.”

But how much of that is legit and how much is just a positive spin to keep fans on the hook and hopeful for the future of a team that hasn’t done much to ensure success down the road? The Cubs have been notably reluctant to spend, with even the recent splurges limited to just $7 million in actual payroll for 2021. A positive outlook for fan attendance could further open the budget, then there’s the incredibly meager commitment for 2022 and beyond.

As things stand right now, the Cubs are on the hook for an estimated $153 million in actual payroll this season, about $27 million less than what last year would have been sans proration. Their $165 million CBT number is even further below 2020’s mark of almost $218 million, though that’s simply an accounting function with little bearing on the future. What really matters is the shockingly low $43.5 million in payroll obligations for next season.

Hoyer could work out monster extensions for all three players at $30 million starting in ’22 and still be $20 million below his current aggregate. That means adding plenty of free agents to supplement a group of young pitchers and position players who should be ready in earnest by that point. Simply put, there is absolutely no reason not to extend these core players.



Cubs notes

  • The Cubs announced yesterday that pitchers and catchers will report in one week, February 17, with the first full-squad workout taking place five days later.
  • Keith Law ranked the Cubs’ system 26th in MLB, saying they are “really short on potential stars” beyond Brennen Davis and citing the lack of players capable of stepping up to fill out the roster in the coming seasons.
  • My personal thought is that Law’s ranking is way too low, which makes sense because he hates the Cubs. Okay, not really, but just about everyone thinks he hates their team. Though he didn’t say it explicitly, all indications are that he placed a great deal more weight on actual and immediate production rather than potential and general depth. That makes sense, it’s just somewhat contrary to how most system rankings work.
  • Hoyer also talked about rethinking organizational culture, specifically as it relates to women being comfortable in both the workplace and as fans. This was in response to the ugly situation with Jared Porter, who was working for the Cubs when he sent lewd text messages that eventually led to him being fired as the newly minted Mets GM.
  • The annual PECOTA projections from Baseball Prospectus have the Cubs at 85 wins, which is actually somewhat encouraging given the offseason. That would actually be good enough for second place in the NL Central and a tie for the second Wild Card if the postseason remains in its 10-team format. What’s really odd is that the Brewers are projected at 89 wins while the Cardinals are only at 81. The White Sox, meanwhile, are at 83 wins and third in the AL Central.

MLB notes

  • Maybe PECOTA hates Ryan Braun so much that removing him from the Brewers actually makes them better. The long-tenured outfielder is not under contract for 2021 and told MLB.com’s Adam McCalvey that he’s staying in shape but is “not currently interested in playing.”
  • Several aging Cardinals, however, are interested in playing. Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina have both re-signed rather than following through on bluffs to head elsewhere, though Dexter Fowler is finally free after being traded to Anaheim earlier in the week. The former Cub never seemed comfortable in St. Louis, which was entirely predictable from the time he signed there in 2017.
  • Speaking of Fowler, the Cards sent the Angels $12.75 million to offset most of his $14.5 million salary this season. That means the Angels will pay their new outfielder $1.75 million in 2021, which is $1.75 million more than the Cardinals will pay Nolan Arenado after the Rockies were so desperate to unload him that they offset all of ’21 as part of the $50 million offset they provided.
  • Former Cubs reliever Steve Cishek signed a minor league deal with the Astros, though the $2.25 million guarantee plus incentives if he makes the roster is pretty hefty for such an agreement. Seems like the Astros just want as much flexibility as possible heading into camp. Cishek had a rough season with the White Sox in 2020, posting a career-high 5.40 ERA — just his third season over 2.95 and first in five years — over 22 appearances. The submariner was a workhorse for the Cubs, making 150 appearances in two seasons, and may have needed some time to recover.
  • MLB has updated its policies on sexual harassment and discrimination following the disgusting situation with Porter and other allegations against Mickey Callaway.

Wednesday Walk Up Song

Alfred’s Theme by Eminem – Released in December of 2020, this is one of the bonus tracks from Side B of Em’s Music to Be Murdered By album that dropped the previous January. The whole project is a riff on the 1958 spoken-work LP Alfred Hitchcock Presents Music to Be Murdered By and this track samples the famous theme song from the  Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV series. Even as someone known for using double or sometimes triple entendre and leaning heavily on similes, Eminem lays it on thick here and I love it.

Probably not what most readers would consider their cup of tea, but it’s my show as long as Canter’s laid up.

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