For those looking for an indication of the Cubs’ offseason spending strategy, this week’s comments from president Theo Epstein provided little satisfaction–even if Epstein has previously shown a willingness to lift the curtain on club plans. “As an organization, we’re not talking about payroll or luxury tax at all,” Epstein is quoted as saying in an article from Jordan Bastian of MLB.com. “I feel like every time we’ve been at all specific, or even allowed people to make inferences from things we’ve said, it just puts us in a hole strategically.”
While North Side fans would likely love for the club to pursue upper-echelon free agents like Gerrit Cole or Anthony Rendon, Bastian calculates that such a development is unlikely given the club’s current payroll commitments. Chicago is accountable for roughly $107MM toward eight contracts next season, before providing for team options on Anthony Rizzo ($16.5MM) and Jose Quintana ($10.5MM). The Cubs opened 2019 with a payroll in excess of $203MM, before finishing with a disappointing 84-78 record and missing the playoffs.
In more news from around the NL…
- After the Dodgers were connected to Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor this week, is it possible the Cardinals could also take a run at Cleveland’s superstar infielder? That’s a question pondered by Mark Saxon in a reader mailbag for The Athletic–with Saxon venturing that such a pursuit could be manageable for St. Louis (link). While it’s important to underline that this is only the speculation of one writer, Saxon draws up a potential trade package headlined by prospect Nolan Gorman and one of Paul DeJong, Tommy Edman, or Kolten Wong. While such a hypothetical package has its merits (and it’s laudable for a writer to go out on a limb regarding trade scenarios), it is worth pointing out that Gorman, at 19, is likely two years away from being considered an MLB-ready contributor. MLBTR readers, of course, took their own crack at projecting Lindor’s future in a recent poll.
- After a 2019 season that saw the Padres use eight different rookie pitchers in their starting rotation, writer AJ Cassavell of MLB.com notes that–strange though it may sound–the club is likely more focused on offense heading into the offseason (link). As Cassavell notes, pitching prospects MacKenzie Gore and Luis Patino promise to aid a 2020 rotation mix that includes Chris Paddack, Garrett Richards, Dinelson Lamet, Joey Lucchesi, Eric Lauer, and Cal Quantrill, whereas the projected lineup of new manager Jayce Tingler provides a few more question marks. The veteran scribe underscores that, by virtue of wRC+, San Diego received worse-than-average production at every position save for shortstop in 2019. Although Cassavell offers second base, catcher, and outfield as areas in need of an upgrade, it might be added that San Diego ran out well-regarded rookies at those spots for much of 2019 in Luis Urias, Francisco Mejia, and Josh Naylor. It stands to reason that the club could simply look for sophomore improvements at those particular positions while moving to offset Eric Hosmer’s tremendous struggles against left-handed pitching (59 wRC+ against lefties in 2019) by way of a first base platoon addition.