What Now?

The two biggest dominoes fell in less than 24 hours to finally break the logjam that has been the 2017-2018 off-season. The Cubs were reportedly a possibility for each of Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton, but instead each went to an AL team as the hot stove might finally heat up. The extent of the Cubs interest in Giancarlo Stanton is something that we will probably never know, but it was clear that they were always on the periphery of the reigning National League MVP. The Yankees pounced on the unique opportunity afforded by an in his prime elite power hitter with full no trade clause protections on a team desperate to slash payroll.

Shohei Ohtani decided to sign with the Angels as Jared wrote. The Cubs were always a long shot to land the unique talent, but it still stings to come up short with how perfectly a 23 year old potential top of the rotation starter with no financial commitment or loss of talent required fit the core. The Cubs by all accounts made it interesting as Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer played master recruiters. There skill in this area has been noted by many successful landed targets in the past, but the uphill climb of limited finances and geography was just too much to overcome. The Cubs presentation apparently included a VR experience.

This has been the source of some ridicule, but it shows the length that this front office is willing to go to find an edge. That knowledge leaves fans in an interesting mental point. There is faith in this front office doing everything possible to keep this organization in the best possible point, but also disappointment that it wasn’t enough to landing perhaps the most unique talent ever. The Cubs themselves are an interesting position with enough talent currently on the roster to feel confident in their ability to hang onto the NL Central crown, but not enough that should inspire talk of completing the dynasty talk that filled the air not a calendar year ago.

Ohtani spurning the full court press Theo Epstein and company put forward means that the club still has a sizeable hole to fill in the rotation. The Cubs placed a fairly modest bet on Tyler Chatwood realizing his potential to take one spot in the rotation on Thursday. The Cubs could gamble that Mike Montgomery, Eddie Butler, Alec Mills or Jen-Ho Tseng could fill the final spot, but the front office is not content with that possibility by all accounts.

No the Cubs need to add to the rotation before Spring Training, and every indication is that they are hard at work trying to do just that. The question becomes who. Alex Cobb remains the likeliest bets. He was linked to the Cubs so frequently that many of us had all but penciled him into the rotation already. It made sense after how highly he spoke of his former pitching coach Jim Hickey. He went so far as to call it in honor to potentially join the Cubs. Cobb is one of the more attractive free agent targets in a weak class, and as such drew interest from first the Baltimore Orioles then New York Yankees. Peter Gammons reported that the industry consensus was that Cobb was going to choose between the Yankees and the Cubs before Thanksgiving, but then the trail went cold.

The lack of news and the signing of Tyler Chatwood put into doubt that the Cubs would be a landing spot for Alex Cobb. Shohei Ohtani was almost certainly going to be given a chance at starting, and unless the Cubs were going to get creative trying a 6 man rotation than the rotation was potentially going to be set after the Chatwood signing. That has become moot with Ohtani’s decision now, and the report yesterday by Bruce Levine suggesting that the Cubs are making a strong push to add Cobb before the start of the winter meetings on Monday is interesting.

The push could be a recent decision following Ohtani’s decision. Or perhaps Ohtani gave indications earlier to the Cubs that they were out which led to the Chatwood signing. That seems unlikely since reports just hours before the Ohtani news broke that the Cubs felt confident in their pitch. Tyler Chatwoods agent also said that the Cubs showed consistent interest from day 1. All of that suggests that Chatwood was a move made independent of the Ohtani decision.

There is another factor perhaps pushing the Alex Cobb decision, and that is a little discussed ripple from the Giancarlo Stanton trade. The Yankees are desperately trying to get under the luxury tax threshold this year, and the move they made today doesn’t jeopardize that goal. It does however drastically reduce the amount of money the Yankees have two holes in the rotation to fill, which according to the math in this NY Post article is somewhere between 15-18 million. That figure is probably what Alex Cobb is likely to land by himself in a 4 year deal, and so it would seem like the Cubs biggest competition for the starter might have priced themselves out of the market. The Yankees are of course seekingto unload salary elsewhere, and it is important to remember that luxury tax calculations are made at the end of the season. Spending all the way or over the threshold would leave no room to add salary at midseason which presents it own challenges to a contending team. These various pieces seem to point to the much rumored Cobb-Cubs union finally occurring in the not too distant future.

A lot can change still though despite the Levine report and the various tea leaves supporting it. The Cubs could trade for pitching given the weak free agent market. For what it is worth. Phil Rogers tossed out the Rays as potential one stop shopping to address the top of the rotation and back end of the bullpen. The only problem is that the only pieces the Cubs have that get the discussion started for Chris Archer alone are on the major league roster. That is even assuming that the Rays are willing to deal Archer, which isn’t assured. The front office has strongly suggested that such a move will be coming at some point, but the fit for one of those deals is something that the front office will not force either. The materials including in the front office’s initial pitch to Ohtani suggests they still view Addison Russell and Javier Baez as part of the core. Ian Happ might have the most value of the other players that the Cubs are willing to move, but he also probably has the most value for the 2018 Cubs. Kyle Schwarber’s value has to be at the lowest point in his professional career, and the Cubs front office has always been higher on him than most of baseball. Albert Almora is a guy I am certain most teams would love to have around, but do they love him enough to accept him as the main in return for a young top of the rotation starter with team control? Finding the right fit in dealing their young position player depth is certainly a lot more difficult than just looking at the teams with available and desirable starting pitchers.

Trades are always a harder road to travel, and the Cubs most plentiful resource this off-season was always cash. If the news on Cobb goes cold once again, the other options on the free agent market present their own limitations. Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta are the only free agents that remotely qualify as a front of the rotation option. The Cubs have not fully shut the door on Arrieta, but it seems like both sides are more than willing to part ways at this point in time. Yu Darvish is someone that the front office was heavily interested in when he first came over from Japan, and a few national sources have connected Darvish to the Cubs. There has really be no other indicators that the Cubs are interested in committing large dollars into any pitcher for 6 years at this time.

The remaining options on the free agent market are as plentiful as they are uninspiring after Alex Cobb and those two. Lance Lynn might be the most interesting name, but it is likely that the Cubs will wait the market out to see what options are available at that point. That might also increase the amount of money the Cubs are willing to invest into the bullpen. The front office is persuing numerous relievers while trying to fill out the rotation with reports of Brandon Kintzler, Jake McGee, and Addison Reed as potential targets.

The Cubs off-season has been uninspiring so far. The good news was that Stanton and Ohtani went to two places that did not affect their path to another World Series, but there is another obvious Cubs implication drawn from the Yankees acquiring Giancarlo Stanton that needs to be mentioned. That is the free agent class of 2018, and the impending free agency of Bryce Harper. Theo Epstein has talked about not just focusing on a particular off-season at the tie, but making moves that anticipate the upcoming off-seasons. Those comments aren’t a surprise from a front office that has talked about spending more due to a lack of free agents in an upcoming class like the free agent splurge before the 2016 season. They also discussed this as part of the reason to pay the heavy price to land Jose Quintana in the middle of last season, but these comments also seem to perfectly apply to the pending free agency of the Nats young superstar. Bryce Harper has teased us often this past year of his interest in possibly rejoining Kris Bryant, but the Yankees have long been seen as a favorite to spend heavily on Harper. That seems a lot less likely with an outfield picture crowded with two premier corner outfielders in Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge. It isn’t impossible that the three could coexist on the same roster, and Scott Boras is already appealing to the Yankees owner to figure a way to make it work. It also is unclear if the Cubs are going to be willing to invest heavily in Harper with Jason Heyward likey to stay with the Cubs for the duration of his 8 year deal, but it is hard to not read the Stanton deal as anything other than a positive indicator for the Cubs pursuit of Harper.

The Cubs are weighing all sorts of decisions at the moment. They need to maximize their chances to win in 2018, but they also need to be able to leave room to be able to make the decisive moves to try to extend this window beyond the current identified 4 years. The events of the past day have clouded the picture, but they also have provided the Cubs with some opportunities for this hard working front office to exploit this year and next.

Comments

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  • Yankees trading for Stanton likely took out a major player for Cobb.

    Cubs need to get it done... if they do they'll have years of control over their entire rotation.

  • If the cubs can sign cobb to a 4 year 56-62 mil deal that would be great. Chatwood,Lester,Quintana & Cobb contracts would all expire when the cubs minor league pitchers should be ready, with hickey and benedict the cubs should maximize the pitchers they have. Alzolay will be the exception he should be ready by late '18/early '19 and he may be a bullpen option.

  • heyman just tweeted cubs are focused on cobb but the rangers,yankees,blue jays and orioles are too. I hope this doesn't end up in the 5 year 75 million territory

  • In reply to bolla:

    Is Cobb that good?

  • fb_avatar

    Is it just me, or are there a lot of broken links?

  • In reply to Dave Boer:

    Not just you. I sent a message to Dabs to let him know

  • In reply to Dave Boer:

    It's not just you. Difficult to read with all the code showing up as text.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Should be good now

  • Ohtani was a gift for the overspending and questionable decision making of the Angels of recent years.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Arte Moreno must have given his lifetime passes to Club 33 at Disneyland as part of the presentation to Ohtani.

  • A rotation of Lester, Hendricks, Q, Cobb and Chatwood is solid. Maybe no true ace, but all 5 guys are 2-4 type rotation guys.

    With Montgomery and Tseng waiting to fill in as needed, the rotation looks good over the next couple seasons.

    I eagerly await to see what the FO does for the bullpen. Might be able to clean it up without trading away any of the young positional guys.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    I agree so do not understand merits of signing another back of rotation starter like Cobb for 3-4 years Rather sign / trade to strengthen the bull pen

  • I think I fixed most of the broken links to make it readable. Apologize if there are errors as I am doing this on the phone.

  • Cobb, Lynn and so on would be nice additions to our rotation but we seem to be aquiring to many guys of the same mode. (# 3 starters). These kind of additions are fine as far as winning divisions, but we need an ace or two that can toe to toe against the Scherzer, Strasberg and Kershaws of the world. Now who that might be this year or next, I don’t know. But winning divisions should not be our goal right now. Another thing. The cardinals Possibly have a very good rotation for years to come, especially if Reyes comes back strong. We need an Ace.

  • In reply to TheSarge#36:

    Idk, 5 times 3=15 and 5, 4,3 ,2, 1= 15. An organization can only do what is available and makes sense. There has to be a true and affordable ace out there to acquire one.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I agree. Not sure a true ace is out there this year or next but it will make another championship hard to come by without one.

  • Cubs about to sign Morrow they’re closing in on a deal

  • In reply to bolla:

    Cubs signed Brandon Morrow 10-11 mil a year length of contract unknown , hopefully it’s 2 years

  • In reply to bolla:

    Reported 2 years with an option.

  • In reply to bolla:

    2 year 20 million deal with an option for 2020

  • In reply to bolla:

    If he can close, it's great.
    Cubs have expended many assets trying to fill that role.
    It would be nice to have a multi-year guy.

  • Brandon Morrow in the fold.

    Will be interesting if they have signed him to be the closer or an 8th inning guy.

    Price tag makes it look like a closer.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    His health/injury history, along with the Dodgers beating him to death in the post season, regarding innings, tough innings and back to back to back appearances, I urge caution regarding euphoria...but his stuff, if he used right, is electric.

  • Morrow is a nice fit. He’ll be the closer but I bet they sign an insurance policy with another guy who you can at least squint and see a closer.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I'd like them to get another guy. Load up that pen.
    Six from your starter and lock it down. That's the goal.

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