After swinging and missing on Kodai Senga last night, it has become imperative to land one of the remaining two shortstops this winter for the Chicago Cubs. Not for lack of trying, but Jed Hoyer and crew now need to be willing to pay top dollar, even in an inflated market with more years on a contract than you're comfortable with. The alternative at this point is not being competitive this winter. When the team's owner has openly stated the funds are available to turn the team around this winter, it is on you to make that happen one way or the other.
Glancing over a new article by Sahadev Sharma this morning, one alternative for the Cubs is simply waiting until next year. However, Manny Machado could very well exercise his player option if he has any down year, and by the way, the Padres are spending at will; they could lock him up if he has a solid year. It's nice to think about landing Rafael Devers or Shohei Ohtani, but as we've seen with the market this year, you can't just assume you'll land whoever you want because you have the money to do so.
The Cubs are one of three teams connected to the two remaining shortstops in free agency. They must strike while the iron is hot. There is no guarantee they will be a final three contender for a top-tier guy again anytime soon. The Cubs chose not to show interest in Justin Verlander, Jacob deGrom, or Aaron Judge and instead prioritized the shortstop marking and their oversized ticket spending item. You are now in the final three for both All-Star shortstops. The odds are great, but you must seize the moment and capitalize.
The Chicago Cubs may be forced to sitout of the deep end of free agency.
Complicating matters further for the Cubs is the fact that the National League is so stacked at this point that looking at a wild card, as things currently sit, is a stretch to envision. With only six teams making the cut, it's hard to find a way to get the Cubs in that conversation over the New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, or St. Louis Cardinals. St. Louis won 93 games last year, and as solid of a ballclub as they are, the NL Central was rather lackluster with three teams well below .500. It appears the best avenue to the playoffs for the Cubs is through the NL Central by winning the division.
Now, as it sits, the Cardinals appear to be a dark horse for Carlos Rodon. The Cardinals landing Rodon would be a critical blow for the Cubs, who are still leaps and bound behind St. Louis and struggling to land a significant acquisition themselves. Considering both Adam Wainwright and Miles Mikolas are free agents next winter, the former of which may retire, you can imagine the Cardinals looking to lock up Rodon long-term to at least have a vital piece in their rotation in place moving forward.
In closing, you'll never be able to assume you can land a free agent because you have the money to do so. Most teams do. The Cubs have a solid chance to strike now and land their superstar. Whether you want to or not, signing him for ten years may be the only way you compete. Nobody can fault you for going for it with a Carlos Correa, and then it not working out for whatever reason. Sitting back and not going for it, though, is unforgivable if you have the choice to do so. Respect to Jed Ho for trying to build a long-term winning organization, but it's a slippery slope if you don't acquire a stud this winter.