Cubs lose in Toronto; would off-season aggressiveness include a new SS? Or Ohtani?
Jed Hoyer promised the Cubs would be aggressive this offseason, pursuing trades and free agents.
MLB.com’s Jon Morosi went on WSCR 670-AM last week and said it “wouldn’t surprise him” if the Cubs traded for two-way Angels star Shohei Ohtani.
OK, that would be very aggressive. But the question floating around in the winter all season is whether the Cubs should hunt one of the four free agent shortstops who will likely be on the market when Nico Hoerner played so well.
Hoerner went 1 for 5 with an RBI on Monday in Toronto, but the Cubs squandered a 4-0 lead and fell 5-4 in 11 innings, spoiling another strong start from rookie Javier Assad. The Cubs had 14 hits, but had 4 runners ejected on base.
Looking ahead to this winter, Atlanta’s Dansby Swanson and Dodgers’ Trae Turner will be free agents after the season. Boston’s Xander Bogaerts and Minnesota’s Carlos Correa can opt out.
Offensively, these four players rank ahead of Hoerner in most categories, in addition to strikeout rate. On the defensive end, Swanson and Hoerner rank 1-2 in MLB with above-average strikeouts, according to Statcast.
The other three are at the bottom of the list, so there would be no way to justify playing any of them at shortstop in front of Hoerner. Bogaerts has some third base experience, but not since 2014.
Turner might be the least likely to switch teams, since the Dodgers let Corey Seager walk as a free agent last year and rarely have spending issues. Bogaerts may be the most likely to leave, as the Red Sox have already added former Rockies shortstop Trevor Story.
The 28-year-old Swanson will be interesting because while Atlanta has tried to keep its core together, it let Freddie Freeman go last year and the team’s highest-rated prospect is shortstop Vaughn Grissom. . He’s already made a strong start in the majors by replacing the injured Ozzie Albies in second.
Swanson at court and Hoerner at second would give the Cubs the best defensive infield in the game. Bogaerts, 29, played for two World Series winners, including 2013 with Cubs manager David Ross as a teammate. Bogaerts posted the best offensive season among those five shortstops in 2019, when he hit .309 with 33 homers and 117 RBIs.
Hoerner spoke about the dilemma of free agent shortstops during the latest homestand.
“What the Cubs are doing in free agency this offseason, if they’re making moves that are going to help us win baseball games, that’s not going to be a big deal here,” he said.
“Obviously I believe in myself as a shortstop. I’ve been saying that for a while and people believe it now. Just keep going. If we have the problem of having too many good players, then I like that problem. .”
Ohtani may be a top pitcher and a huge home run threat, but what would a trade look like? Well, start by picking the Cubs’ top five assets and assuming the Angels would get them all.
At the major league level, that would appear to include Hoerner and pitcher Justin Steele. Maybe the Cubs could talk the Angels into younger, higher-risk prospects like Kevin Alcantara and Christian Hernandez instead of, say, Brennen Davis and Alexander Canario, but who knows how the talks would pan out? And that’s just speculation for now.
Wherever Ohtani lands, he will be expensive. The 2021 MVP is eligible for arbitration this winter and becomes a free agent after next season. His next contract will be around $35 million per season, if not more.
On Monday, Assad made his second major league start and went 5 scoreless innings, with 4 hits and 2 walks. He has now played 9 innings in total without allowing a run.
According to STATS, Assad is the first pitcher in the modern era to have a scoreless start against a team 10+ games above .500 in his first two career appearances.
PJ Higgins hit a 2-run double in the sixth to give the Cubs a 4-0 lead. But catcher Dan Jansen hit a 3-run homer off Erich Uelmen in the seventh. Then in the eighth, Manuel Rodriguez got the first two outs before a Cavan Biggio double and Matt Chapman single tied it.
The Cubs failed to score in either extra innings, in part because Nelson Velazquez was doubled up at second base on a line drive and then Franmil Reyes was kicked out trying to double when his pop fly landed in center field.
Prior to the game, the Cubs officially placed Justin Steele and Adrian Sampson on the shortlist due to their vaccine status and added Brendon Little as a substitute player. They can add Jeremiah Estrada, one of the organization’s top closes, on Tuesday.
Sunday time change:
The Cubs have announced that the Sept. 11 home game against San Francisco will begin at 7:08 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN.