Chicago Cubs: Go all-in for 2021
Not some halfway, shot in the dark, hope to catch lightning in a bottle kind of all in. I mean ALL in. if we want to see Cubs Manager David Ross hoisting the Commissioners Trophy in 2021, here’s how you do it.
The Cubs start $110.7 million under the 2021 luxury tax threshold. If they decline Jon Lester’s option and Daniel Descalso leaves the payroll if the Cubs buy him out, that frees up an additional $17.5 million in salary space below the threshold. That’s $128.2 million with which to play.
The first order of business would be securing a TOR pitcher. Target: Trevor Bauer. There are lots of reasons this makes sense. Bauer is only 30; he’s durable, prefers one-year deals, and is at the top of his game.
Bauer’s current one-year deal with the Reds is $17.5 million. Take some of that $128.2 million and give Bauer his one-year deal. He won’t be cheap…likely in the range of $30 million, but it’s only for one year. Your 2021 starting rotation would be Bauer, Darvish, Hendricks, then whoever from Alec Mills, Adbert Alzolay, or someone else to best fill the four and five spots.
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The second order of business is to bring in hitters. I mean proven, no-nonsense guys. DJ LeMahieu fills that need and the second base spot. Gone is the crap about Coors Field hitter bias. DJ has slashed .336/.386/.536 with a .922 OPS since leaving Coors Field. He plays multiple positions. He’s won the batting title in both leagues since going to the Yankees.
Further, his injury in 2020 is no cause for pause. Trading him was a huge mistake; getting him back is not, though he won’t be cheap either, even at age 32.
If LeMahieu proves too rich in free agency, Francisco Lindor brings elite numbers and leadoff spot potential. 2021 is the last year of his contract with the Indians. So the Tribe could be convinced to move their star shortstop with the right combination of players. Baez would move back to second.
Finally, if the National League adopts the DH in 2021 and knows what changes happen after 2020. But IF the NL adopts the DH, Nelson Cruz would be the guy to get. He’s not just a slugger. He’s hit an average of .287 since 2013. Even at age 40, he’s slugging and hitting like he’s 10 years younger, maybe better.
With Ian Happ at leadoff, the addition of two of these three hitters lengthens the line-up and wraps nicely around the core group, something that has been lacking since 2017.
Sure, the core is in arbitration. But so what If you blast through the threshold? It’s the last year of the current CBA, so any long-term penalties die after 2021. Worse, a strike or lockout looms after 2021, and if that happens, your core is gone anyway and you get nothing for them.