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With the Cubs, hope for the best, expect the worst
It's easy for them to act like they're in on Carlos Correa when nobody can sign him
It’s a holiday week so you can just pretend that the day on the graphic makes sense, OK? Anyway, thanks to all of you who subscribe the newsletter and Happy Holidays to you all. We can’t let any more time pass without talking about the big made up Cubs story of the week.
Let’s open the old Tweetbag, shall we?
So, do we think GarFam™ might just go ahead and pull this off, or are we being teased by some of the world's worst people? — Carlos R.
Carlos was referring to, of course, Crawley and Son Ranto’s annual Cubs Caroling (he was not calling then the world’s worst people, that was directed at the Omaha hillbillies that own the team) where they change the lyrics to familiar carols. In this case they were making a direct plea to the best free agent on the market to come play for the Cubs.
The fact that Carlos responded was fun, and seemed like that’s all it was, until reports started surfacing that before Rob Manfred and The Billionaires (a terrible band, by the way) shut down baseball, that there was “mutual interest” between the Cubs and Correa.
Ricketts family spokesman, Marquee Network and 670 The Score baseball reporter Bruce Levine said the Cubs are serious, but…
So the Cubs really want Carlos Correa. They want him so bad they have no intention of meeting his contract demands. Well, isn’t that terrific?
Tom Ricketts: So, Jed. Are there any more free agents you have your eye on?
Jed Hoyer: Well, we have a gaping hole at shortstop and Carlos Correa would be a great fit. I mean, he’s a perfect fit on basically any team, and his agent says he’s interested in playing for us.
Tom: That’s terrific. Huzzah. Well done.
Jed: We haven’t signed him. We haven’t even really talked years or annual average value.
Tom: You said he was interested. I don’t understand.
Jed: If we can come close to his contract demands, I think we have a good chance of signing him.
Tom: Contract demands? Oh, he would like to be paid money? Well, I don’t know about that. I think we need to revisit your original plan where Jordy Mercer plays short for us and Todd pays him in used French bicycle parts.
Jed: Yes sir.
As we know the Cubs’ committed payroll for next season and seasons beyond is comically low, even with the flashy signings of Marcus Stroman and Ildemaro Vargas. Signing Correa would not only excite a disinterested and mostly distrustful fanbase but it would deliver a true impact player at a premium position and wouldn’t really hamper future moves to improve the team.
We’ve discussed before that the shortstop market next year is bad, so you either fill it this year or we all get really comfortable with a few years of Sergio Alcantara wandering around between second and third bases while Nico Hoerner is on the injured list with…whatever.
The Cubs not “wanting” to go to ten years is fine. They shouldn’t “want” to commit a decade to any player. But there’s a big difference between not wanting to do something and being unwilling to do it. Given that Corey Seager already got ten years to play shortstop in Texas, it’s hard to believe that nobody is going to step up to give that many years to Carlos. In fact, Robert Stanbury Olney III reported on ESPN that before they signed our old buddy Javy Baez, that the Tigers offered Correa 10/$275MM. So the Cubs need to find the fortitude to go to a decade if it comes to that.
Bruce floated an idea that the Cubs would offer Correa seven years, that would run through his age 33 season. And that number makes sense given that Correa wants ten years and has a five-year $160 million offer in hand from his old team, the Astros. So the Cubs would be offering something in between those two lengths.
One idea is to offer Correa the seven years, but really load up the first two years of the deal and give him a player option after the second season. He can either opt into the last five years of the deal or be a free agent again at 28.
That seems like a good idea. In fact, the Cubs had the same idea when they signed Jason Heyward to the albatross of an eight year, $184 million deal in the offseason before 2016. They gave him an opt out after year three and were sure that he’d play so well in the first three years that the odds of him opting in for the lower paying five years at the end of the deal were super low. Hahahaha. He sucked and they’ve been stuck with him ever since.
The big difference of course is that Heyward was a pretty good (far from great) player and Correa is an actual star. So the risk of Carlos not being worth the final four years of his deal is a fraction of the risk of Heyward realizing he’d never top his current contract.
But a star signing a deal with options in it would be a big change from recent big contracts. The huge recent deals for Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, Fernando Tatis, Francisco Lindor and Bryce Harper do not include any opt outs and all are at least 10 seasons.
There was a time in the NBA when players were signing short deals for maximum flexibility, but they have basically stopped doing that, too. The reasoning in both sports is that you get as much money as you can for as long as you can and if, in time, you want out from your current team, you have all the leverage. You just try to force your way out. Man, I wish Heyward wanted to force his way out.
So unless Correa has a different idea, or the new CBA (whenever they get around to actually discussing that again) includes some sort of incentive for doing it, the front-loaded contract with an opt out isn’t going to be that tempting.
Even if it were, players don’t always remember what a great deal their front loaded contract was when they signed it. A famous Chicago example was the deal Lance Briggs signed with the Bears in 2007. Jerry Angelo was getting creative trying to figure out a way to pay both Brian Urlacher and Briggs, and the way he came up with was to front load Lance’s deal. Briggs signed a six-year $36 million deal and made $16 million in salary and signing bonus in the first year, and his actual salary went down every year after that to create room for other players. (In fact, the Bears nearly traded Briggs and their own number one to the Redskins before the 2007 draft before they got this deal done, and would have received the number six pick in the draft in return, which at the time was expected to be…Brady Quinn. So we could have added Brady to the pile of failed Bears quarterbacks.)
Lance got a good deal. Money in hand is worth more than money promised in the future. But as his paychecks went down in year three and four of his six year deal he got mad and complained about taking a “pay cut.”
Of course, it wasn’t a pay cut. He was getting the money he had been promised, but Lance had apparently spent his signing bonus on Lamborghinis to abandon on the Edens and conveniently forgot how much he’d already been paid.
So while doing a deal like that might be the sensible financial move at the time, freeing up payroll room in later years, there’s no guarantee that your player will bother to remember why he made more money earlier in his deal.
Anyway, it’s really easy for the Cubs to attach themselves to the best remaining free agent on the market right now. Because of the lockout they are at no risk of actually having to sign him any time soon. They can just sit back and let Cubs fans delude themselves into the idea that “It’s Gonna Happen.”
Then when the lockout ends, I’m sure the Garbage Family That Owns The Cubs™ will have no problem acting like the new CBA ends up being too generous for the players and they can’t afford to compete on top free agents now.
Given the recent history of how this franchise operates that seems pretty likely, doesn’t it?
When the summer solstice arrives and maybe baseball comes back, it’ll be a terrible sign if the Cubs don’t go balls out to sign Correa, and then actually do it. It’s not enough just to try. Even though there’s no guarantee they really will. The idea here isn’t to “send a message” that the Cubs are back in business, the idea is to get as many good players as you can.
Because right now they don’t have very many at all. Stroman was a nice start, but that’s all it is, a start. And he’s enjoying his love-in with his new fans, and I hope it holds for a long time, but his history is that once he has a bad start he’ll search for his name on Twitter for any hint of criticism and most of you will find you’ve been blocked.
So let’s hope he has a lot of new faces join him for spring training because this is the current projected roster and it’s really fucking terrible.
This ownership has really accomplished two incredible things. They won a World Series, and they have convinced a fairly big segment of the fanbase and bloggers that the expectation shouldn’t be that the Cubs actually act like the large market team they are.
There will be plenty of water carriers out there when Correa signs somewhere else and the Cubs bring in four moderately priced free agents. They’ll tell you how shrewd those moves are. When the reality is that the Cubs should sign Correa and go find more top of the rotation pitching AND those four or so moderately priced free agents. The only reason I can think of for constantly tempering your expectations as to what this franchise should aspire to do is to protect your fragile emotions.
I’m currently reading Mel Brooks’ autobiography “All About Me! My Remarkable Life In Show Business” and it’s everything you want it to be. Because of the book, I took the time to watch the one Mel Brooks movie I’d never seen. It’s the second one he ever made called The Twelve Chairs.
The basic plot of the movie is that a family in Russia that was wealthy during the reign of the Czars lost everything after the revolution and is struggling in the newly formed USSR. The matriarch of the family is on her death bed and tells her son that before the Soviets took all of their possessions that she sewed all of her valuable jewels into the upholstery of one of the 12 chairs (hence the name of the movie) in their fancy dinette set. That sets him on a quest to find the chairs to find the jewels. A very young, and surprisingly handsome Frank Langella is in the movie, so is Mel, and so is a fairly thin Dom DeLuise.
Anyway, Mel wrote one song for the movie, and it’s basically the anthem for Cubs fans since early 2019.
“Hope For The Best, Expect The Worst”
If you’re worried about your extended family members talking politics at Christmas, just put in some earbuds and listen to both of our podcasts from this week.
Mike Pusateri and I looked back at the mess that was the Bears loss to the Vikings and pondered what’s next.
And then Mike Donohue and I looked back at the history between the Bears and this week’s opponent, the Seahawks of Seattke (and come to think of it, we probably missed an opportunity to explain why I always spell it that way) which includes two of the Bears last three playoff wins.
Enjoy your holidays, thanks for subscribing and if you need a last second gift, well, I know a guy.