The Cubs have been at the center of several free agent rumors over the last 18 months or so, from a report last year that they were “cultivating information” on top shortstops to a virtual guarantee that they’ll land one of this year’s elite shortstops. One common thread running throughout is Carlos Correa, a long ago draft target of the Cubs who they reportedly tried to convince to take a seven-year deal last winter before he eventually signed with the Twins for only three years.
Veracity issues aside, one thing that has been overlooked is the notion that Correa may not have wanted to play for the Cubs. At least not in 2022.
“I didn’t want to be part of no rebuilding,” the superstar, who is in Chicago to play the White Sox, told Gordon Wittenmyer.
“We had conversations, but there was never an offer,” Correa clarified. “It was just checking-in stuff. They were more in that rebuilding process. And they knew I wanted to be more in a championship-caliber atmosphere. That’s why I’m a Minnesota Twin.”
I’m not going to unpack everything here, but this certainly seems to throw more than a little cold water on the hot take that Correa’s representatives didn’t pass along the Cubs’ $30+ million AAV offer. Hmm, that sounds an awful lot like the accusation Doug Gottlieb leveled against Casey Close, the former agent for Freddie Freeman who Gottlieb claimed scuttled negotiations with Atlanta.
While it’s not unheard of for agents to make mistakes, this kind of blatant malpractice is hard to believe. In any case, the existence and amount of an offer might not have even mattered because Correa was pretty clear about his desire to win right away. The Twins are currently 3.5 games ahead of the Guardians in the AL Central while the Cubs languish in the NL.
One could easily make the argument that Correa’s addition and the benefit of a little good fortune could see the Cubs at least treading water this season, but you could also say a frog with wings wouldn’t bump its ass when it hopped. It sounds like the Cubs were either unwilling to share their big-picture strategy with Correa or, more likely, what they shared had them targeting 2024 as the time to really go for it.
Meanwhile, another would-be free agent was playing on the North Side as Xander Bogaerts and the Red Sox visited the Stock Standard Confines over the weekend. Bogaerts was far more complimentary of the environs than teammate Josh Winckowski, though that was before he had to leave Sunday’s game with a laceration suffered when Willson Contreras slid into second.
The shortstop was also a bit more guarded than his contemporary in discussing his future and whether the Cubs could be part of it.
“I’ve been through some rough years with the Red Sox also,” Bogaerts told Wittenmyer. “It’s not been as much years. For the most part we’ve done a lot of winning here. But I’ve been in some rebuilding years, but it hasn’t taken as long.
“We’ll see how it is with this team this year, man. They have a lot of good young players.”
Diplomatic though he was, Bogaerts did at least hint at the idea of an organization needing to provide clarity as to its direction. That’s something Jed Hoyer has not provided publicly outside of saying the Cubs will spend when the time is right.
“I would think everyone would want to have an idea, have a vision, something like that,” Bogaerts explained. “I think winning is always important.”
Add that to Buster Olney quoting a rival evaluator as saying potential Cubs target Aaron Judge “wants to win” and wouldn’t “sign with a loser like the Cubs are right now” and you’ll be forgiven for harboring a lot of pessimism and frustration. Or perhaps you see all of this and choose to interpret it as Correa taking the MLB equivalent of a gap year to backpack through Minnesota before settling down in Chicago.
Bogaerts has experienced rapid turnarounds with the Red Sox and might feel the Cubs are capable of the same thing. And maybe Judge believes spending a full season in the hitter-friendly NL Central will elevate both his already-lofty stats and the outlook for his new team. Then you’ve got Hoyer sitting on all that rolled-over payroll and prepping to hand out briefcases full of cash.
Good thing Prince Charles isn’t a free agent.
Or, and this is probably closer to the truth, there’s really nothing much of substance that we can discern from any of these statements one way or the other. If the Cubs choose to spend in a big way, they’ll be able to land the player(s) they want. Convincing a free agent that you’re prepping for a playoff run becomes exponentially easier as the size of your contract offer increases, so enough zeroes should allay any fears that players don’t want to sign with the Cubs.
The only question is whether Hoyer truly has the wherewithal or the desire to make a big splash this winter. Well, that and what Trea Turner thinks about the Cubs’ direction. I’ll remind G-Dub to ask him next time the Dodgers are in town.