The World Series has yet to commence, but the Cubs are already deep into hot stove season. Chicago is losing assistant general manager and senior vice president of pitching Craig Breslow to the Red Sox, according to multiple reports out of Boston. The Red Sox offered Breslow their top baseball operations job after firing Chaim Bloom last month. Breslow is often regarded as “the smartest man in baseball” and is a big reason the Cubs have such a deep stable of good pitching throughout the organization.
The former lefty pitcher has been with the Cubs since 2019 when he joined the club as the director of strategic initiatives. His title has been elevated on an annual basis since, and it was only a matter of time before another club offered him a top spot in its front office.
Now that that page has turned, Jed Hoyer and his front office entourage must decide if they want to keep Cody Bellinger. The Mets, Yankees, and Giants — among several other teams including the Red Sox — will heavily pursue Bellinger. Scott Boras indicated back in August that the demand for the former MVP and Rookie of the Year will be high.
“Demand is often created by rarity,” Boras said at the time. “When you have the rarity of age, the skill level, a five-tool player, a Gold Glove center fielder and first baseman who can run, throw, hit, and hit for power, that’s a rare commodity in baseball. And the demand for that is very, very high.”
Could Cody Bellinger be the Cubs' first baseman in 2024?
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) October 18, 2023
The Cubs have several holes to fill and Bellinger, who kept an open dialogue with Hoyer throughout the season, could end up being too expensive to retain. Chicago needs a third baseman, at least one starter, bullpen help, and a first baseman. Keeping Bellinger would stretch the development window for Pete Crow-Armstrong and give Chicago a bona fide first baseman. The former Dodger can expect to get a contract similar to or in excess of what the eight-year, $162 million deal the Mets gave Brandon Nimmo last year.
Christopher Morel will factor immensely in Hoyer’s decision. If the front office believes he is the answer at third base, the Cubs can concentrate on retaining Bellinger and filling their other holes via trade or free agency. Hoyer will likely pursue Matt Chapman if not. Morel, who blasted 26 home runs with 70 RBI and six stolen bases, will get an opportunity to improve his defensive chops in the Dominican Winter League, according to a tweet by MLB Insider Héctor Gómez.
Things will be mostly quiet over the next 7-10 days while the World Series takes baseball’s center stage, then you can expect all hell to break loose shortly thereafter. The Cubs will have a small negotiating window to re-sign Bellinger before other bidders swoop in. Hoyer won’t have to act too swiftly, but it will behoove him to keep tabs on the young star until a decision is made.
Cubs News & Notes
- Under Breslow’s watch, the Cubs have gone from one of the worst organizations in baseball when it comes to developing pitching to one that has other organizations very intrigued.
- Sources confirmed that several executives were interviewed for the Red Sox post. Boston’s assistant general manager Eddie Romero, Twins general manager Thad Levine, Guardians special assistant for baseball projects Neal Huntington, and recently-dismissed Giants manager Gabe Kapler were all considered for the opening.
- Several candidates also turned down the chance to interview for the position. Rays senior advisor Jon Daniels, Blue Jays vice president of baseball strategy James Click, and former Marlins general manager Kim Ng rejected the opportunity.
- The Cubs are retaining hitting coach Dustin Kelly, which could help them re-sign Bellinger ($) according to Sahadev Sharma and Patrick Mooney of The Athletic.
- The Mets purged payroll at this year’s trade deadline and have the means to outbid other teams for any players they want, including Bellinger.
- The two New York teams could engage in a bidding war for Chicago’s five-tool centerfielder.
- If the Cubs believe Crow-Armstrong is ready, they will likely pursue Pete Alonso instead of Bellinger. Mike Tauchman could be retained as a fourth outfielder in that scenario, though I’d rather see Hoyer give Alexander Canario a shot.
- Chicago is not one of the top five teams to sign Bellinger according to Bleacher Report.
- Hoyer could make a serious run at Japanese star pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who prefers to pitch for a big-market team.
- The Rangers’ success provides a blueprint for what Hoyer should do this winter.
- Odd stat of the day: Ian Happ struggles against fastballs in odd-numbered years. He batted .232 on fastballs this year after hitting .313 in 2022. Happ punished heaters to the tune of a .302 average in 2020 but hit a paltry .236 in ’21.
- The Cubs announced that their annual fan convention will take place January 12-14. Passes go on sale tomorrow. Hope to see you there.
Odds & Sods
You can spend an entire day researching great beer quotes and never be disappointed, but this one by Babe Ruth might be the best.
“Sometimes when I reflect on all the beer I drink, I feel ashamed. Then I look into the glass and think about the workers in the brewery and all of their hopes and dreams. If I didn’t drink this beer, they might be out of work. And their dreams would be shattered. I think, ‘It is better to drink this beer and let their dreams come true than be selfish and worry about my liver.’”
Odds & Sods II
Since 2018, each team that knocked the Brewers out of the playoffs has gone to the World Series.
- Milwaukee: Multiple MLB officials have said they believe it is far from a slam dunk that David Stearns is just biding time and that the Mets will ultimately hire Brewers manager Craig Counsell. Counsell’s current contract expires on October 31.
- Cincinnati: The Reds are not expected to be big spenders in free agency. Then again, nearly half of their 2023 roster was made up of rookies.
- Pittsburgh: The Cubs aren’t the only NL Central team looking for a new first baseman, and the Pirates may have their sights set on Ryan Noda of the A’s. Perhaps Frank Schwindel is available.
- St. Louis: The Cardinals won’t be winning the NL Central anytime soon if they decide to trade Paul Goldschmidt and/or Nolan Arenado. The Redbirds’ trade history is almost embarrassing aside from the acquisition of those two players.
World Series News & Notes
Two winner-take-all LCS games on consecutive evenings make 2023 one of the best postseasons ever.
The Diamondbacks stunned the Phillies last night to advance to the World Series.
Carroll has folks in Arizona talking about a potential dynasty.
Arizona will travel to Texas to play the Rangers in Games 1 and 2 starting Friday night.
The Diamondbacks’ post-game celebration was the talk of social media last night and this morning.
Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale lost $7.9 million when the Astros failed to win the ALCS.
The Diamondbacks and Rangers both lost 100+ games two years ago. Both teams also finished under .500 a year ago.
Loudmouth analyst Chris Russo promised to retire if Arizona beat Philadelphia last night, then backed out of it Wednesday morning on the Howard Stern Show. Russo then agreed to Stern’s terms that he would need to walk down the street in Manhattan wearing a bikini and a sign reading, “I’m a douche.”
Several retired big league stars are financing a new baseball league that will play its games in Dubai. The Baseball United League is a collaborative effort bankrolled by Barry Larkin, Mariano Rivera, Robinson Canó, and Bartolo Colón, among others. Canó and Colón were also selected in the league’s inaugural draft.
Are you a fan of dynasties or competitive balance?
MLB will have 9 different champs in 10 years. 14 teams have reached the World Series in that span. I don’t care about national TV ratings. More markets winning, more fans falling in love with their local teams is good for baseball.
— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) October 25, 2023
Wednesday Morning Six-Pack
- While most of Bears Nation debates the merits of Justin Fields and Tyson Bagent, Chicago’s run defense has quietly become a top-five unit.
- The NFL has the most boring trade deadline of any of the major sports leagues, and the Bears aren’t expected to do much of anything this week. Wide receiver Darnell Mooney has the best chance of being traded.
- Keith Richards can do whatever the heck he wants whenever he wants.
- Do we ever get tired of The Rolling Stones? The answer is no, but that was a rhetorical question.
- I suppose I can ask the same question about Creedence Clearwater Revival and get the same answer.
- After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, anti-abortion advocates expected the ruling would lead to fewer abortions. Turns out the opposite happened. While the number of procedures performed in the 16 states that ban many or most abortions has unsurprisingly plummeted, the number performed in states that still allow them has skyrocketed. That’s more than enough to offset declines elsewhere, according to figures released by the Society of Family Planning.
They Said It
- “I feel like our hitting department has caught up — or is close to — how much confidence we have in the pitching group.” – David Ross
- “It’s a very individual game to a certain extent. We game-plan as a team. We come up with team principles that we want to execute. But they still have to go up there and have their at-bat and stick to their strengths. It’s balancing that and giving guys some freedom to go in there and have their at-bat. But it’s also the overarching game plan of: ‘This is how we’re going to beat this pitcher as a group.’ That message stayed consistent all the way through.” – Kelly
Wednesday Walk-Up Song
I’ve got to fly to St. Somewhere…