Chicago Cubs Offseason Primer

Theo-and-Jed

Congratulations To Boston and Their Fans

First of all, a tip of the baseball cap to the 2018 Boston Red Sox on their World Series Championship. This was a juggernaut club with a valid argument to be considered among the greatest in baseball history. Few clubs achieve a 108-win season, and even among those that do, they don't always go on to win it all.

They've raised the bar. Now it is up to the Cubs to scale over it.

Key Offseason Dates

MLB Trade Rumors has a full list of the important dates you can check out here, but I will highlight a few that are most relevant to the Cubs this season:

Oct. 29-Nov. 2nd: Exclusive negotiating window with pending unrestricted free agents.

Nov. 3rd: Free agent signing period begins.

Nov. 6-8th: General Managers’ meetings.

Nov. 20th: Deadline to set 40-man rosters in advance of the Rule 5 Draft.

Nov. 30th: Deadline to tender contracts.

Dec. 9-13th: Winter Meetings.

Dec. 13th: Rule 5 Draft.

Jan. 11th: Arbitration filing deadline.

Current 40-Man Roster

The Cubs six unrestricted free agents are officially off the 40-man roster as of today, temporarily putting the Cubs roster number at 34, Addison Russell and Oscar de la Cruz do not count toward the total as both are on the restricted list until after the 2019 season opens so the Cubs will not need to factor them during the entire offseason but will need to free up space as soon as their suspensions end. The team also has until 5 PM EST on Friday to re-instate the five players who finished the year on the 60-Day Disabled List (Yu Darvish, Brandon Morrow, Drew Smyly, Justin Hancock, Mark Zagunis) which essentially sets the Cubs roster at 39.

40manoct2018AZ Phil brought up the possibility of both Terrance Gore and Justin Hancock being activated, but then not tendered a 2019 contract by the Friday deadline in order to free up a 40-man slot until after the Rule 5 Draft passes, and then re-signing them to a Minor League deals (for MLB money) in December. This seems like a plausible scenario to me. Hancock has a Major League arm, but the Cubs have tons of competition in Iowa with similar upside right handed relievers and it seems unlikely Hancock would be near the top of the list for any potential openings in Chicago. The club can only afford to keep a certain number of RHRPs on the 40-man without causing roster shortages elsewhere. The front office obviously values players with Gore's skillset, but have shown no willingness to carry them on the 40-man roster until the 2nd half of the season. If Gore is willing, my guess is the Cubs have him chill in Des Moines for a few months and then bring him up for the stretch drive once again.

Taylor Davis and Mike Freeman were good soldiers for the Cubs for the second straight September, but they will most certainly be outrighted this week in order to free up two additional roster spots. Assuming Gore and Hancock are both removed as well, this would set the roster at 35.

Justin Steele (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Justin Steele (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

As for additions to the roster from the Minor Leagues, two young arms are near locks as both Justin Steele and Trevor Clifton rank among the Cubs Top 20 prospects and both must be protected from the Rule 5 Draft this offseason. With the lefthanded relief roles in the Chicago pen in flux, I believe the Cubs will also add veteran Kyle Ryan, who is coming off a great rebound season in Iowa. The former Tigers reliever is still just 26, and is very likely to be chosen in the draft if he is not added to the roster.

The Cubs have a trio of young catchers eligible for the Rule 5 draft. They sent two (P.J. Higgins and Jhonny Pereda) to the Arizona Fall League this season, while Ian Rice spent his 2018 fall there as well. Willson Contreras and Victor Caratini are the only two catchers currently on the 40-man roster, so the club may chose to add one of the three in order to protect their upper level depth at the position. Pereda possesses the highest upside among them, but is also the furthest away from contributing. Higgins is the most polished receiver, while Rice has rounded into a nice offensive option. The club's decision may ultimately come down to whether they plan to pursue a veteran receiver to replace Caratini on the big league roster.

Other players on the fringe that the Cubs could try to sneak through waivers at some point include Jen-Ho Tseng, Allen Webster and Mark Zagunis. Brian Duensing is under contract for one more season, but after his 2018 struggles it is possible the Cubs choose to simply release him and eat his $3.5M salary for 2019 should the need for the roster spot develop.

Projected Arbitration Figures and Potential Non-Tenders

The Cubs have a number of key players eligible for arbitration this season, including Kris Bryant (~$12.5M), Kyle Hendricks (~$7.5M), Javier Baez (~$7M), Mike Montgomery (~$3.0M), Kyle Schwarber (~$3.0M), Tommy La Stella (~$1.2M), and Addison Russell (~$4.3M). C.J. Edwards (~$1.4M) has also been added to that list as he qualified for Super-2 status. All of these players are in their first or second season of arbitration so none of the salary figures are expected to outpace the player's usefulness, and none are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents after the 2019 season.

Addison Russell

Addison Russell

The only potential non-tender candidate I see is Addison Russell, but that would of course be due to non-baseball related issues. This is actually my preferred course of action regarding Russell. However, I freely admit I am not able to remove my own personal feelings from the equation. I want him gone. I don't care about any potential trade return. And my only feeling regarding the timing is the sooner the better.

I understand this is not a popular opinion, nor the Cubs likely course of action. I for one would like my team to be out in front of the curve instead of being dragged along by it. Set a precedent for conduct and move on.

Player/Team Options and Opt-Outs

Jose Quintana ($10.5M) and Pedro Strop ($6.25M) have affordable team options that the Cubs will surely pick up. The team undoubtedly wants Cole Hamels ($20M) back in the fold as well, but with his option a bit pricey and Texas on the hook to pay his $6M buyout, it is possible the team will actually decline his 2019 option, then look to work out a less expensive deal, perhaps even a multi-year pact (or at least one with option years beyond 2019).

The $10M team option on Brandon Kintzler is going to be an easy "NO" for the Cubs, but the righty also has a $5M player option built into his deal. Taking his second half struggles into consideration, it appears the 33-year old would be wise to exercise the option, but it could prove an interesting conversation with his agent if they believe they can wrangle a multi-year pact out of the free agent market.

jason-heyward-5317-usnews-getty-ftr_w8m084unt63z1hpjrqt7ybn24At this point it would seem there is little chance of Jason Heyward opting out of the final four years (and $90M+) of his contract. His deadline to do so is Oct. 31, but that does not ensure his return in 2019. His full no-trade clause scales back to a partial no-trade, opening up a window of opportunity this offseason (and next) for the Cubs to make a move before Heyward's 10-and-5 rights kick in, if they wish to do so. Heyward will also have another opt-out next offseason if he reaches 550 PAs.

Unrestricted Free Agents

Jesse Chavez

Jesse Chavez

Six players are set to become unrestricted free agents on November 3rd, including four key members of the playoff bullpen (Jesse Chavez, Jorge de la Rosa, Jaime Garcia, Justin Wilson). The two position players scheduled to hit the market are Daniel Murphy and catcher Bobby Wilson. Chavez has expressed a burning desire to return to the club and with the way he pitched after his acquisition from Texas it seems likely the two sides will be able to come to an agreement, perhaps even before free agency kicks off on Saturday. Clubs have exclusive negotiating rights with their pending UFAs until 5 PM on the 3rd.

The other five players are long shots to return in my eye, although I could see a scenario where de la Rosa, Garcia or Bobby Wilson could sign a Minor League deal with a non-roster invite to spring training depending on how the market develops over the winter. Justin Wilson and Daniel Murphy should have no issue finding Major League deals this offseason and I cannot see the Cubs ending up the highest bidder for either, and they may simply decide to move on from both without making an offer at all. For it to work out both players would likely need to take less than market value in order to return.

As for who the Cubs may pursue? Check out the full list of available players here. I bet you can name a couple off the top of your head though.

Minor League Free Agents and Rule 5 Draft

I was going to go through this more in depth, but I already touched on the Rule 5 draft a bit, and this article is already getting a little long. I am sure you all know already AZ Phil always has a pretty good handle on this already. His breakdown aligns close enough to my own that I feel comfortable just providing a link.

If you have any questions on particular players or decisions just let me know in the comments and I'll be sure to follow up with you.

 

Comments

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  • Thanks Phil, I mean Michael.

  • Great write-up Michael. I'm curious if you think the Cubs may be able to find a trade partner for Tyler Chatwood to do a bad contract swap. With either a backup catcher, a middle infielder, or perhaps a relief pitcher coming back to the Cubs in return. I know a few of the names out there that could make sense for the Cubs in a change of scenery type deal, but don't have any kind of handle as to what's realistic based on the other teams' likelihood to do so.

    What love your thoughts on that and also, if you think the Cubs will make a play for Marwin Gonzalez? I think he could make a lot of sense as short term insurance policy for Addy or perhaps even as a replacement. Assuming they have any money left after signing Bryce of course.

  • In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    I'm sure they will explore options to move Chatwood but I imagine that is going to be a tough hill to climb.

    I can only speak on Gonzalez in general terms as I haven't really watched him much since...well, since he was a Cubs prospect. He does have the versatility the Cubs value so I imagine he is of interest to them. I'm just not really the right guy to ask in such matters. I watch the Cubs and I watch the Cubs Minor Leaguers. It doesn't leave time or enabled rgy to watch other MLB games.

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    Would the Cubs consider bringing back Wilson? He was much better this year than last, and the more comfortable he is with the Cubs he could be better and effective.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I do believe they will consider bringing him back, but I do not believe he will be their first choice. I think they will try to upgrade there.

  • Off the top of my head wasn't Heyward's contract for eight year? I think there is still 5 years left on it if he doesn't opt out.

  • In reply to John57:

    You're right. My math applies to after 2019, not this offseason.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Heyward is still owed $126M. $106M in salary and $20M signing bonus.

  • The cubs have a lot of work to do, only good thing about the season ending so early is they've had almost a month to ponder.

    My personal wish list:

    trade quintana and heyward to the braves the cubs will probably need to eat some of heywards money to make it happen

    bring hamels back

    sign andrew mccutchen to platoon with schwarber in lf

    sign/acquire a nasty left handed reliever who can occasionally close.I'm skeptical on miller because of his health and declining #'s but if he can be signed for an incentive laden 2 year deal do it.Britton will probably cost too much

    Sign Bryce Harper :)

    Have no idea what to do with walkwood, seriously don't have a clue.He has 0 trade value and is not a bullpen option and can't be sent down.Hopefully he bounces back that's all I got lol

  • In reply to bolla:

    I'd like them to trade Heyward too, and if they can make a good deal for Quintana then go for it. Why the Braves specifically though? Who do you want back?
    (I think if you package someone expensive like Heyward with someone cheap like Quintana, it's a wash).

    I don't mind platooning someone with Schwarber, but I don't think they should spend money on McCutchen. I think Almora can fill that need and he's essentially free.

    LH reliever... I'd been high on Adam Conley from Miami but his numbers were underwhelming this year. Maybe Smyly can be the guy?

    Signing Harper is 1A. If they fail to bring him in i'll be sorely disappointed. I'd also love them to get Simmons from LAA but I'm not sure how realistic that is.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    The thing with harper is the cubs current salary projections have them right above the luxury tax(including arbitration raises) if they exercise hamels option.Say they sign harper with an aav between 30-35 then the cubs will be in the danger zone.They basically HAVE to dump salary to sign harper or machado

    I mentioned the braves because Nick markakis is a free agent so the braves need a right fielder and heyward is from ga and they may be open too bringing him back if the cubs eat some salary. Honestly just spit balling.If the cubs want to move heyward they absolutely have to do it the next 2 off seasons because he'll be 10 and 5 then and will have a ntc. Realistically darvish and lester are going nowhere and heyward is the only big contract left to move.

    Smyly and montgomery would be good lefty options for the pen and signing miller to a decent short term deal would be ideal.That would give the cubs 3 lefties but the cubs keep saying they want to stretch smyly out to start.So I don't know what their plans are because you'd have 5 lefty starters + darvish,hendricks,possibly alzolay at some point and that's a surplus.

    I'd definitely try to get simmons from the angels if possible he has 2 years like 28 mil left. It's gonna be an interesting off season because the cubs fo have some tough decisions to make.We'll see soon what happens

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    Smyly was actually fairly good out of the BP down his last year in Tampa. Considering hes coming off TJS and nasnt pitched in essentially 2 years hed be a BP option, Id prefer him over Duensing, who has no consistency.

  • Michael, nice write up and certainly a great place to start a conversation that we'll all be having for a while. The first order of business is going to be Hamels. I agree that they could offer an extension to balance out the AAV, but if that's the thought I think they should do it now before the option decision as I think he'll be attractive in FA. He'll be relatively inexpensive, 3/$45 mil is probably a reasonable thought, and there are a lot of teams that look at a competitor like that as valuable rotation piece even if he's a 3 for a year or two and then a 4 or 5. If I'm the Phillies I look at him immediately. Prodigal son and all that but more importantly another veteran to go with the young pitchers. The Braves could make sense too with their cavalcade of 55-60 grade pitching prospects. Now both of those teams are going to be in on the Big Two position players but I wouldn't take that chance. Get the extension done or pick up the option. I don't think anything else makes sense.

  • I make a move with Angels. Mike Montgomery (he wants to start but I am not convinced he is that) a catcher from the minor leagues and Addison Russel for Simmons. Move Javy back to second where his overall traits are more widely used. Simmons is a great glove man and his ops has continued to rise every year (last four .660, .690, .752, .754) And, he doesn't strike out.

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    After Harper, Simmons has jumped to the top of my wish list. Not sure how available he is though.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    Simmons would be an awesome get for the Cubs but if he's available at all it'll be at a super high price. I don't know much about the Angels plans - will they tear down & rebuild or build on the fly?

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I'd assume they'll try to build on the fly as long as they have Trout. I think it would be prudent to trade Trout but I'd be shocked if they did it. Simmons is probably their next most valuable player.

    I hate conjuring up potential packages because who knows who is available or which teams like which players, but maybe something like Montgomery, Russell, Ademan, and a MiLB pitcher?

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Not sure it would be super high. Giving Addy a change of scenery hopefully gets him back on track and the Angels might love to have a younger former A's draft pick. They always need so much pitching. Throw in Chatwood and pay some of that salary along with Monty.

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    It will take a lot more than that

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    Agree 100%.Montgomery and russell for simmons. That saves the angels money and gets them a younger ss and a starter.

  • In reply to bolla:

    The Angels consider themselves a contender, they likely aren't one but they don't believe that. Simmons has put up 5.5 and 5.1 WAR the last two seasons. Montgomery and Russell won't come close to moving the needle. Russell is essentially the player they traded for when the got Simmons, a below average run producer but slightly worse defensively. It would be like them erasing all of Simmons progress and getting a #5 starter/swing man. There is no possible way they make that move.

  • In reply to TC154:

    all depends on whether they want a younger shortstop who maybe can make similar improvements.

  • In reply to bolla:

    Don't think that even starts the conversation

  • In reply to bolla:

    I have never thought of Simmons as a Cub. Like the others point out, it would probably take more than Russell and Monty, though I haven't really thought it through. I'm a defense and run prevention guy, and that would make me happy. I've joked a few years ago the thought of Russell and Javy up the middle sent me to a cold shower, but Simmons and Javy? Good grief! PLEASE!

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    While we're at it, pry Chapman away from Oakland to play 3B and I'd need my own personal ice-maker. :)

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Chaoman isnt going anywhere, unless maybe say the Yanks might trade Judge or Torres for him.

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    I really do beleive a Russell/Happ for Simmons trade is plausible. Pujols is fast losing value i to the Angles, and with Ohtanis injury he is much more likely to DH than to play OF. Simmons offensive numbers jumped a lot this year also.

  • I prefer a free agent signing of DJ LeMahieu to put at second. He is an outstanding hitter, not just a Coors product, and he costs no players. Play Baez at shortstop and possibly move him to third when Hoerner is ready. Bryant goes to the outfield then, probably in 2020.

    Resign Hamels, of course, let Justin Wilson drift, sign Jesse Chavez and Pedro Strop. My outlyer ideas are to trade for Michael Lorenzen of Cincinnati and use him as a primary pinch hitter and relief pitcher for the middle innings unless he improves to later inning status. He has a big time arm and is a scary hitter. Brings more versatility. A poor man’s Ohtani.

    I think the question of Addison Russell’s future is unclear, but at his age and contract I would be reluctant to give him away if the team will accept him in the clubhouse.

    Regarding Bryce Harper, it is a cold business decision for Epstein and Hoyer and the Ricketts family. He is a bigtime player and only 26, but is he worth his contract? It is a corporate call.

    The riskiest possibility on the market is Nathan Eovaldi as closer. It would be gutsy with his injury history, but what a dynamite possibility.

  • In reply to Swarf:

    DJLs offense stunk outisde of Coors. I mean hugely, his OPS was close to 100 points lower on the road than at home.

  • LeMahieu is a Coors product through and through. He's the only Rockie who has consistently failed to slug despite playing 81 games in Colorado. He is Ryan Theriot with good defense.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    I've read a number of players are Coors products and hit fine outside Colorado. Much better than Theriot.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    LeMahieu does not hit well outside of Colorado. He's had 1 year as an above average hitter, and it was 2016.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    I think his career away ave is in the .260’s and he is a GG fielder.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Blackman and Arrenado are the only 2 Rox players who in the last 3 yrs or so have hit well wherever they played. DJL CarGO and Desmond last year were far better at Coors than on the road, David Dahk will likely replace Car Go and Parra in 2019.

  • Agree on Russell. I thought he was odd man out before the off field stuff , but at 24, he has too much upside to give him away, and that's what a trade now would be. The boys and Joe night look at it differently, so I defer. Second chance?

  • LeMahieu hit 15 homers last year, high for his career and if you watched him at Wrigley you would not call him a Theriot.
    Does anyone else see the potential in Michael Lorenzen? He might even play outfield in a pinch like he did at Cal State Fullerton.
    Think out of the box, guys and girls.
    And I still think Zobrist has another good year left, at least.

  • In reply to Swarf:

    I'm sorry but LeMahieu and his career .264/.311/.362/.673 slash line away from Coors Field paints a much more accurate picture of who he really is when playing outside of Coors field than 1 year with 15 home runs does. He's not even worth a moments thought in my book.

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    Coors Field has made a hero of many mediocre hitters, but leather plays everywhere. I'm not really thinking of D.J. but more looking forward to Arenado. That's going to be an interesting FA case. He's a player I'd love to have on my team and I'm curious how various FO's will pinpoint his actual $ value. But of course that is another year away and we shouldn't be considering it now. We'll only have to consider his trade value at the 2019 non-waiver deadline.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Arenado is different because he's actually a good hitter. Coors makes him look a LOT better than he really is, but he's still great. I find him very similar to Machado, with regards to the value they bring as a fielder (each makes a case for best 3B in baseball) and hitter.

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    Yeah, he’d be ok if they didn’t have so many 2B options.They already have Zobrist, Happ, LaStella, Bote & Baez (when he’s not at SS or 3B) to play 2nd.

    If they go for another 2bman, he’s gotta be way better than the current options already here. A guy who could also lead off maybe.

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    In reply to Milk Stout:

    Everyone is talking about a 2b, but we need a legit SS instead of another 2b. Unless we keep Russell, who is our backup SS? No one. Atleast no one of any value. That should be our #1 priority. God forbid Javy goes down, we're literally F"d.

    I'm not on board with Machado at SS either. He's a GG 3b and moving KB to the OF makes no sense. He needs to play most games at 3b and occasionally fill in at an OF position.

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    I'd look at Eovaldi as a starter or reliever and want Harper for his talent and intensity.

  • Nice work, Michael. Things are about to get interesting.

    The decision on Russell certainly stirs opinion, and we all have our own. On one hand it is easy to let go and make a point, and Theo acknowledged that the fan base will be judging based on this decision. Non-tender and be done with the whole situation is one option, and many agree with that. I'm in that camp. But there are baseball considerations.

    Russell is a talented young SS. His value is at an all-time low. We can let him walk, and make a point, or we can try to rehabilitate him, making another point. Second chances and all. But I think most reasonable people would see that for what it would be, trying to rebuild baseball value.

    I am a huge fan of what this FO has done in building a talented, character-based core of young players. The FO touts this trait often, explaining in detail the process of examining the person as much as the potential. But I don't blindly follow, either. There have been some misses. Theo's response to the question of how he would testify as a Russell character witness, when he said he only knows him in a baseball context, was disingenuous at best. I'm nobody and I know Russell is no good as a human being. There is no possible way I knew more than they did. That statement and front disappointed me.

    We'll see what happens, but baseball is a business. Whatever happens will be a combination of moral values and cold hard reality.

  • I am very intrigued on what the Yankee' will do with Didi G. who is up for arbitration and expected to make about 13m in 2019. As we know Didi is out until about Aug of 19 with TJ surgery on his throwing elbow and is a candidate to be non tendered a contract if the Yankees use that money and roster spot for Manny or Harper?
    Didi does not the best OBP but doesn't K a lot. So I have a my problem for your problem trade.

    Maples
    Russell
    Kintzer
    5m

    for

    Didi G (must sign a pillow or long term contract)

    Call KC about Whit. Now I don't think the Cubs have enough young assets needed for KC but I would start with:

    Swarbs
    Chatwood
    Smiley
    top ten minor leaguer
    25m cover the salaries
    yes it is too much but can Whit be that spark plug?

    for

    Whit

    2019
    Whit 2B
    Almora/Happ CF
    Rizzo 1B
    Bryant LF
    Baez SS
    Didi 3B/Bote/Zo
    Heyward RF
    Wilson C

    Sign Cole 2 yr 38M? Chavez, J Kelly. and take your risk and pay from the pool of FA bullpen help. Pitching help from the minors Mekkes, Clifton, Steele?? Need to find some 100mph arms. Low cost off season

  • In reply to Rock:

    IMO, those are 2 horrific deals for the Cubs. Neither of those make much sense because of what was given up in the deal.

    Schwarber alone could net Merrifield and then you included $25 million and a top minor leaguer too? No thank you.

  • I know we're just now getting into the offseason, but I'll go ahead and make my first bold prediction of 2019: we need another middle infielder, preferably to complement Javy. And to brush his luxurious fur, and polish his horn. To all those who have said "this is who he is" at various levels, I say watch this unicorn emerge. It will be glorious.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    ^^^^ This. Whether the Cubs spend the cash for Machado to make this happen remains to be seen, but another middle infielder is a must - especially if Russell is dealt. The Cubs need Zobrist as a utility guy and won't want to lock him in at 2B. There are a few other options that could work (LaStella, Bote, Murphy) but none that give them the strength up the middle and bat they need.

  • Jed Lowrie is a 2B to consider.

  • As I see a lot of suggestions of guys the Cubs could acquire I also see folks not quite seeing what the Cubs need in terms of offense. A good place to look to determine those needs is the Boston lineup. The Red Sox had six regulars or semi-regulars over .350 in OBP with three over .390. At the same time they had four players over .500 SLG and two over .600. They had seven players in that category over 100 wRC+ and only two semi-regulars below 100 (both at 90).

    In contrast the Cubs had five regulars over .350 in OBP but none over .378. They had only one player over .500 SLG and none over .554. Like the Red Sox they had seven regulars or semi-regulars over 100 wRC+ but unlike Boston who had four they had only one over 130 wRC+.

    Obviously the Cubs can't set out to duplicate the Red Sox lineup. For various reasons it's both impossible and not necessary but you can look to it to see need. The first is that they need at least two guys nearing .400 OBP. You might get one of those guys from a healthy Kris Bryant but the second really has to come from the outside. Next you need at least two, more comfortably three, players over .500 SLG. Again a healthy Bryant might be one of those guys, and certainly Anthony Rizzo cans get there as well. We wish on Schwarber in that area but he's not there yet which is a much bigger reason to consider moving him that the tired trope about his defense. This is where you might look at Bryce Harper. He fits the OBP bill at .388 lifetime and is certainly capable of over .500 SLG even if he just missed that mark in 2018. Machado clicks the SLG box but not the OBP box even if he fits more comfortably into the current lineup. Of course with the questions that concern him and looking at these numbers for the first time I have to conclude that Harper would be the guy you sign if you go big.

    The bottom line is that it's going to be very difficult for the Cubs to fill all their holes but Harper and some improvement from Bryant, Rizzo and hopefully Ian Happ could go a long way towards getting there. If Happ stays he's almost certqinly going to need to play more at 2B to go along with the aging Zobrist. We keep looking at 2B to fill but there really aren't any great answers either in trade or in FA. the guys mentioned the most, DJ LeMahieu, Whit Merrifield, and Starlin Castro really don't move the needle and un less there is a potential guy out there not currently showing up on leader boards you probably have to fill it internally. So again, with the assumption that you sign Harper, the only position that makes sense to move Schwarber for is CF (or a young pitcher with TOR potential but that's both another topic and a longshot). Like 2B there's not a lot to trade for there and frankly you might be OK with Almora and another gy be it Happ or whomever. Ideally you could keep Schwarber, move Heyward and put Harper in RF but I thinkl the chances of moving Heyward are slim and none but I'd like to be proven wrong. You could also move Heyward to CF primarily making Happ mostly a 2B and LF but Heyward's value dips maybe an entire win in WAR if you transfer his numbers to CF where his defensive advantage is mostly neutralized. So to me, I think the only regular that makes total sense to move is Russell, and I'm only talking baseball here. He's never had a wRC+ over 100 and frankly Heyward has to be your worst everyday hitter in that category or you're in trouble. You could trade Schwarber but it would have to be to improve the OF, preferably CF, and since there don't seem to be a lot of choices there I think you keep him and live with the WAR loss in CF with Heyward. All this leads me to conclude that Harper should be the target and I wouldn't have said that before running the numbers and looking at all the scenarios. This is why you can't be distracted by names when you think of need.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Nice post TC.

    I think a lot hinges on moving Heyward. He has to be the #1 priority of the FO to move. Moving Heyward frees up some money that can be invested in a Harper or Machado, if you will. I think because of the additional monies owed on that deal, the Cubs will look to include something of value. Who would provide value to a team willing to take on a bigger deal? I think it start with 3 guys -- Schwarber, Quintana, and Happ. Monty and Russell could provide some value but at far less interest, IMO. Also, the $50 Million TV check the Cubs will cash now from MLB will be interesting to see how it is utilized.

    I am excited for the off season as I expect many changes. My dream which I stated last off-season of both Harper and Machado while moving many guys that just never developed to their ceilings is still my "under 1%" hope. I think we end up with 1 of them and it helps the offense immensely.

    Would you kick the tires on 1 year of Daniel Murphy for 2B? LeMahieu, Merrifield, et al do nothing for me personally.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    If Murphy would sign for 1 year, then sure, I'd probably do that, but he's being estimated at a 3 year deal between roughly $50-$60 mil and there are a lot of AL clubs who he would be attractive too so I don't think it's an option. I also don't think that trading Heyward is an option until all the complicated language of his deal is past, ie the limited no trade and the vesting opt out, which is after the 2019 season.

    The added money to me is tricky. I don't think the Cubs are worried about spending but the CBT is difficult to navigate due to how it affects future years, drafts and international signing pools. I expect them to exceed the $206 mil CBT this year but by how much? If they pick up Hamels option they will be, including arb awards, pretty much at the threshold. If they don't cut any salaries, which none of the proposed trades would do to any significant level, and add Harper they'd be in danger of those draft/international penalties. Theo and his team have a tough job ahead.

  • In reply to TC154:

    The Cubs could blow it away this year with some big additions and then they have a lot of money to come off in 2020, so they could conceivably go back down near or under.

  • In reply to TC154:

    As things stand now the Cubs are at the CBT now for 2019. That does not include signing Hamels. If they sign Hamels and one of Machado or Harper they would be around $50M over the CBT. I agree Theo and his team do have a tough job ahead. This off season is going to be fun to watch.

  • We've seen a lot of posts about potential trades and FA signings, but the Cubs will also need improvements from some players who are not traded. That said:

    WHO will step up for the 2019 Cubs? Who breaks out in 2019?

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Happ. I've become a Happ fan

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    Wouldn't that be interesting? His SLG dropped while his SO went up in 2018. Maybe some offseason work and a different hitting coach could make a difference?

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    But his walks went way up. He chased a lot fewer pitches in 2018 compared to 2017 (24.7% O-swing in 2018 vs 31.5% in 2017), and he swung at fewer pitches over all. His contact dropped a bit, and Ks are definitely an issue.
    He was never going to maintain the 25% HR/fly ball he put up in 2017. But the patience-power profile is so appealing. If he cuts the K rate, he becomes a monster.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    I hope he does!

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I think Javy puts up a very similar year .325+ OBP with .525+ SLG.

    Bryant and Rizzo need a consistent .900+ OPS season each from start to finish.

    Contreras would be a great candidate to bounce back based on '17. And Harper earns his first MVP with the Cubs. :-)

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I expect some regression from Javy simply because the odds are against having career years two years straight. Something is liable to fall off, but I'm not expecting huge regression either. If Schwarber is still on the team I expect something like .260/.370/.480 with a 135 wRC+ which is what he was on pact to do until the entire offense fell off the table in August. Granted, he may not be on the team. Bryant will be the 2016-2017 Bryant if he's healthy, Rizzo's numbers will come back and I would expect Contreras to bounce back as well.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    If he's still on the team (and even if he isn't) I'll go with Schwarber. He has the talent to become an elite offensive force. He hasn't reached it, obviously, but it's there, and you can't say that about any random player.

    I love his attitude and work ethic, but I think his desire to please, his willingness to learn and soak in coaching and roles, has actually hurt him.

    We know of the knee injury at the beginning of the 2016 season and his monumental comeback to play in the WS. I assume that offseason was focused on getting the knee back to full strength. I believe the stint as lead-off man did change his approach, as he is so willing to sacrifice and adapt to a particular role. The 2017-2018 offseason was spent transforming his body to become a better overall ballplayer, and reinforced his work ethic and desire to improve.

    There are differing opinions on the impact a coach can make, but I think Chili really had an adverse effect on Schwarber, largely due to Schwarber's sponge-like mentality. There have been reports of several players telling management Chili changed them for the worse. I haven't seen names, nor should we, but I'd bet Schwarber is in there.

    I don't know specifically what Schwarber is working on this offseason, but I know he's working. I think he is primed to begin to grasp at that lofty ceiling. He strikes me as the kind of person who is willing to please, but gets to the point where he realizes who he is and what works for him. I think that's where he's at and is due for a monster 2019.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    All of this is accurate describing Schwarber. I have been bullish on him and always felt he would replace Rizzo as the middle of the order force. Now I am relegated to thinking he could be moved.

    I also hated his swing last year. Not a fan of his adjustments. I wish he would go back and see his video of AA/AAA and his first MLB stint pre-injury and then see how different he is today. Maybe Iopace is the guy to return him to the Beast he has been his entire life until recently. I would also like to see Schwarber catch again—as a 3rd/emergency guy. I believe no longer tracking pitches daily as a catcher has hurt him as a hitter. See the spin, angles, and movement can only help. Not catching is another big change for him as was playing LF and missing time from the blownout knee.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Early on I liked what Kyle was doing, pretty much through July. At the ASB Schwarber slash was .249/.375/.498 .873 OPS and 130 wRC+. After that he looked like he was trying to sell out for the HR and started pressing. Kyle's focus should be getting the K's to about 20%-21% at which point I think he'll be fairly close to who we thought he was. As I mentioned in my earlier post though his trade value is the highest on the team so that might be inevitable.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I hated his downward swing plane where he used all hands. He stopped using his lower half and lost the rotation in his swing. He looked like a slap hitting 2B versus the powerful middle of the order hitter he came up as. I hope he goes back to his previous mechanics.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Any love for Almora?

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    The thing with Almora is he's a complementary offensive player. He is not someone who will be a key driver of the offense. Good contact skills but below average power, potential .300ish hitter but gets few walks. In the right situation he can be very valuable but he'll be a guy who probably should bat towards the end of the lineup on a good team.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Right or wrong, any time I think of Almora now my mind immediately goes to a couple statements Theo made during his end-of-season press conference. He said there were young players whose playing time was reduced down the stretch due to not showing up ready to play every day. I still don't know what that means. Not watching video and scouting matchups? Pre-game physical preparation? Too many late nights and adult beverages?

    The process of elimination can easily lead to a couple fairly obvious candidates. Hopefully these were temporary transgressions and fixable.

    But yes, I love Almora. GG-caliber CF defense, 15-HR pop, excellent contact ability, and superb baserunning. I think he fits especially well on this fluid team with the rotating playing time and inter-changable parts. He's a very solid player, although not one I think of when I envision a "break-out"-type performance.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Almora has the worst approach on the team. He's a hacker/ambusher. Not willing to be patient or wait for a drivable pitch (this has been his problem at every level since he got drafted).
    I commented yesterday about how LeMahieu is an "empty batting average" hitter. Almora is the same. High average, but no patience or power.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    Yes. I agree 100%. I just don’t see him as an everyday guy any more. He virtually has no power now. I really thought he was a 15-18 HR type and he is nothing more than a 5-10 HR guy. As hot as he started he was equally cold near the end.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    This is probably the most important question being asked/investigated by our FO this off season. Especially of the young guys, who are the probably candidates for significant improvement. This determines whether other position players are added, which current players should be traded, etc.. It basically hinges on this question.

    The two biggest candidates for a "Javy-like" jump in offense are probably Contreras and Happ. Mainly because they struggled for long stretches last year. Contreras was just plain bad with the bat by the end of the season. Judging by his previous seasons, he is much better than that. But how much better, or did he "get figured out" last year? That is a big question that needs answering.

    Can Happ significantly improve his contact ability? If yes, he will play a huge role for the offense next year. If no, then his value as a trade piece will probably be explored this offseason.

    Schwarber improved last year from 2017, and overall was quite good. If he improves by the same amount in 2018, he is a major cog in the offense and will be a star. But he faded a bit in the second half last year. What was the cause for that? That should be explored.

    The one guy I worry the least about is KB. As long as he is healthy he, Rizzo, and Javy will be the offensive cornerstones. I think at least one of the other young guys will make it four.

  • I really hope the Cubs sign Nathan Eovaldi. Great arm, a competitor, bounced back from injury. Just do not overuse him. He probably wants a 3 or 4 contract. I would overpay him for 2 with his history.

    I don’t know if he starts or relieves, but arms like his are rare.

    Probably won’t happen with the memory of Darvish so fresh.

  • Starting pitching really isn't a need and Eovaldi is going to be signed as a starter. His injury history is going to hurt him but 4/$60 mil sounds about right. The Cubs can't play in that particular sandbox right now with their offensive needs.

  • Sorry, but I'm not looking at any of these guys changing too much, with the exception of a healthy(?) Bryant. A hitter uses the approach that's works best for them, aggressive, patient etc. Javy improved because he got better at figuring out how they were trying to pitch him, not by changing his approach or swing. I think it's time to trade for the type of hitters that we would like.

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    How about Schwarber + an arm for either Simmons or Mallex Smith? Then we'd finally have a legitimate lead off bat and both fill positional needs that we desperately need. Add great defense on top of that. Either of those 2 players would be of more worth to the Cubs than Schwarber imo.

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