Before I get started, I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. If you haven’t read Evan Altman’s letter of thanks to our readers, I highly recommend you do before continuing here.
With the latest holiday in our rearview mirrors, it’s time to draw up our holiday shopping list. We’ve talked about all the big names, under-the-radar guys like Jameson Taillon and Andrew Heaney, and the promising 40-man castoffs. Jed Hoyer keeps things close to the vest and all we know for sure is that the president of baseball operations is as opaque as Theo Epstein was transparent. Hoyer also prioritizes surplus value and long-term flexibility over big names and splashy pressers.
That means Hoyer is akin to that “less attitude, more gratitude” parent during the shopping season. Nobody wants to hand Santa an impossible wishlist when conferring with the big guy, so we have to be mindful of the golden rule of holiday giving. That is, gifts should be scaled in economic value to the emotional value of the relationship. I, therefore, offer my apologies to all those holding out hope for Aaron Judge and Jacob deGrom.
With that in mind and strictly relating to the needs of the team, I present my wishlist.
- Starting Pitching: Since the Cubs won’t be pursuing the likes of deGrom, Justin Verlander, and Carlos Rodón, I’m hoping Hoyer signs Koudai Senga and trades for another big-armed starter. Any of Tyler Glasnow, Shane Bieber, or Blake Snell will do.
- Bullpen: I’m not interested in Kenley Jansen or Craig Kimbrel. I do think Aroldis Chapman would come pretty cheap, though. Still, Liam Hendriks will remain at the top of my list until he is traded elsewhere or retained by the White Sox. I also like Michael Fulmer and I’d roll the dice on a non-rostered flier with Alex Reyes. Like Reyes, former Cub Pierce Johnson is an intriguing option.
- Outfielder: Give me Cody Bellinger on a one-year deal. I believe he will have a big season in Chicago. Shift limitations will add 20-30 points to his batting average and new hitting coach Dustin Kelly is the right guy to help Bellinger find his power stroke. I’d also request that Hoyer extend Ian Happ.
- Shortstop: Speaking of extensions, let’s get Nico Hoerner wrapped up on a long-term deal as well. Then sign Carlos Correa, no matter the price tag. Don’t even wait for the ink to dry on Hoerner’s extension. Correa is my “Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle, with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time.” The Twins have presented several options to Correa already. Let’s hope Hoyer is closely monitoring the shortstop’s market.
- Catcher: I’m almost certain Correa and Christian Vázquez will be playing for the same team next season, so the answer is obvious.
- First Base: I’m a big believer in Matt Mervis, and though José Abreu is everyone’s preferred choice, I’d rather Hoyer seek a more frugal option. With that in mind, give me Trey Mancini or Brandon Belt.
Cubs News & Notes
- Michael Conforto is another power-hitting outfielder who should benefit from the new shift rules, and the Cubs are reportedly interested in the lefty slugger.
- Bellinger could play center field — or first base, really — and bat in the middle of the Cubs’ order, giving him every opportunity to rebuild his value in one of the most high-profile situations in the sport. And Chicago makes sense as a multi-year option if Bellinger’s up for that.
- Bellinger has drawn preliminary interest from at least 11 teams according to Jon Heyman of the NY Post.
- Vázquez will have a very competitive market, but he may be the best option to replace Willson Contreras based on what Hoyer wants from that position.
- This one is behind ESPN’s paywall, but David Schoenfield predicts (with several caveats Brandon Nimmo will be the Cubs’ biggest free agent signing. He has Correa going to the Orioles, Xander Bogaerts to the Yankees, Dansby Swanson to the Angels, and Trea Turner to the Phillies. Schoenfield lists the White Sox as an obvious fit for Contreras.
- Senga remains at the top of Hoyer’s shopping list ($) according to Patrick Mooney and Sadahev Sharma of The Athletic. The pair of writers also mentioned that Hoyer believes Seiya Suzuki adapted well this year and that he may be more productive now that he has developed routines.
- Kelly has high hopes for Mervis, Pete Crow-Armstrong, and Jake Slaughter. A third baseman, Slaughter compiled 23 homers, 21 doubles, 36 steals, 75 runs, and 80 RBI while slashing .284/.381/.514 between South Bend and Tennessee this year.
- Pitcher Ryan Jensen has shortened his arm stroke and has improved his control in the process. Per Evan’s article, it’s “a matter of the Cubs finding a way to unlock potential that might otherwise have remained untapped, and it’s pretty obvious they believe Jensen can take a big step forward next season after getting more reps.”
Odds & Sods
Kyle Schwarber will make a fine manager once his playing days are over.
2022 PitchingNinja Award for the Best Reaction to Ángel Hernández's Strike Zone. 🏆
Winner: Kyle Schwarber pic.twitter.com/mKQypeIc4e
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) November 26, 2022
According to Dan Hayes, also of The Athletic, the Twins have a “definite interest” in Rodón ($), though Hayes adds that the left-hander’s price may ascend into a region that the club “might not feel comfortable paying.”
The Rays have reportedly checked in on Nimmo, per a report from SNY’s Danny Abriano and Alex Smith.
Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com proposed a deal that would free the Brewers of outfielder Christian Yelich and his weighty contract. His deal, which would send Yelich to the Dodgers, would also have to include starter Corbin Burnes and infielder Willy Adames to get it done.
Cardinals top prospect Jordan Walker is already being compared to Mariners outfielder Julio Rodríguez. St. Louis team president John Mozeliak on many occasions said Walker is the club’s best prospect since Albert Pujols and Oscar Taveras.
The Astros handed out the biggest postseason bonus in MLB history.
Wrigley Field is now a winter wonderland, and in that spirit, I offer to you this year’s holiday playlist.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) November 23, 2022
- As many of you know, my father worked as a contractor for the Cubs in the 1960s and ’70s. He tried to do so for the Bears and George Halas threatened to sue him. So, I grew up a Bears fan in a Packers household.
- Justin Fields is hurt and may or may not play against the Jets on Sunday. That makes it difficult to predict which team will win, but Sean Holland took a stab at it on Friday.
- England and the US played to a disappointing nil-nil tie in World Cup action on Friday. The American team must now beat Iran on Tuesday in order to advance past the group stage.
- The US Supreme Court agreed yesterday to hear a trademark lawsuit from Jack Daniel’s against a dog toymaker, VIP Products LLC. The whiskey maker claims a dog toy, shaped like the brand’s iconic bottle and bearing the name “Bad Spaniels” along with a couple of dog poop puns, infringes on its trademarks.
- Believe it or not, people use the word “password” or the string “123456” to protect their online identities and to access their financial services apps and websites.
- If Charles Schulz were alive, he’d be celebrating his 100th birthday today. Schulz died in February 2000, the night before his final comic strip ran in the Sunday paper.
Walk-Off Grand Slam
Congratulations to CI media personality Danny Rockett on his impending marriage!
— Danny Rockett (@SonRanto) November 26, 2022
They Said It
- “[Catcher] is a two-way position. “Obviously, you want guys who can hit, but it’s a run-prevention position. So much of it is game-calling, preparation, feeling strongly about everything that pitchers do is a ‘we’ thing. It’s about teamwork and that collaboration.” – Hoyer
- “We expected going into the season that there would be assimilation challenges [for Suzuki]. New league, new pitching, new ballparks, the language, food, et cetera. I thought he dealt with those things exceptionally well. I thought we saw glimpses of what he could become at different times during the year. And then we also saw struggles, at times, during the year when he made those adjustments. But we have exceptionally high hopes.” – Hoyer
Saturday Morning Walk-Up Song
A shoutout to other bloggers who have mimicked what I do here at Cubs Insider. Imitation is the finest form of flattery.