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The Chicago Cubs have been rumored to be in the shortstop market this offseason — especially a strong defensive one — and reports on Friday said they went out and got one. That news, however, wasn’t met with the greatest of reactions from Cubs fans.
The team’s reported signing of free-agent shortstop Andrelton Simmons wasn’t the superstar signing many fans were hoping for, but that doesn’t automatically preclude the Cubs from making one of those deals in the near future. Simmons’ contract is reportedly for $4 million over one year. That’s definitely not breaking the bank, leaving the Cubs still with plenty of room to navigate the new competitive balance tax.
Simmons also provides some insurance in a few areas; not just to help cover for potential injuries to Cubs middle infielders during the season, but also to be a piece to use in a defensive rotation in case they do miss out on some other players on the market. Defensively, Simmons is one of the better shortstops in the league, finishing No. 4 among shortstops with 16 outs above average in 2021 (per Baseball Savant) and No. 2 with 15 defensive runs saved (per FanGraphs) at the position.
So at the very least, the Cubs signed a solid defender who can rotate in at either short or second. With Kyle Hendricks, Marcus Stroman and Wade Miley are set to lead the Cubs rotation coming off a season in which all three finished in the top 20 in ground ball percentage among qualified pitchers. Simmons’ glove should provide solid protection behind them. And if the change of scenery helps him put up better numbers at the plate than last season (.223/.283/.274 slash in ’21), that deal could look like a bargain for president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer and Co.
Could the Cubs still sign Carlos Correa?
The Cubs were linked to Correa prior to the lockout, and since baseball returned, that didn’t stop. In fact, MLB Network’s Jon Paul Morosi reported on Friday that Chicago would “play a major role in the courtship of Correa” as the team would be among Correa’s top suitors.
Of course, that was before the Cubs signed Simmons, so that means they’re out of the Correa sweepstakes now, right?
Well, maybe not.
After the Simmons news broke, Morosi and The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal doubled down on the idea that Chicago’s pursuit of Correa wasn’t over. And it isn’t like Stroman has simply stopped trying to get Correa to join him at Wrigley Field.
“I’m just doing my little pitch on Twitter there, man,” Stroman told reporters about his recruitment of Correa after throwing his first bullpen as a Cub on Saturday. “Everyone thinks I have insider info. I have no insider info.
“I’m just trying, man, like I said. It’s always good to just put that out there, that good energy.”
Those reports — and Stroman’s social media presence — aren’t the only reasons the Cubs should still be seen as a suitor for Correa.
Whereas Simmons helps shore up the infield defense, Correa would provide Chicago with another Gold Glove-caliber infielder who also has a well-above-average bat (his 134 wRC+ in 2021 was tied for 24th among qualified hitters). Signing Correa would not only allow the Cubs to rely on Simmons as more of a utility player around the infield, but it also frees manager David Ross to tinker more with his lineup, like having Nico Hoerner play more outfield.
There’s also the money situation. Correa reportedly turned down a 10-year, $275 million contract offer from the Tigers, and there’s a belief that he’s looking to surpass Corey Seager’s 10-year, $325 million contract with the Rangers. Whether or not he gets that larger contract, it’s clear that Correa won’t sign with the North Siders for cheap.
But Simmons’ deal still shouldn’t mean the Cubs are out on Correa. The team cleared plenty of money off its books at the trade deadline last season, and a one-year, $4 million contract shouldn’t be the deciding factor in whether or not to pursue arguably the top free agent on the market, one who would take care of multiple areas of need on the roster.
Now, Simmons’ deal could certainly be what turns the Cubs’ focus to filling other holes on the roster. Chicago might be satisfied with a combination of Simmons, Hoerner and Nick Madrigal manning the middle-infield positions, and it might decide that Correa’s asking price is too high. That could turn the team’s attention toward bringing in a left-handed bat or another outfielder or a high-leverage reliever.
If the Cubs ultimately decide they’re not quite done shopping for shortstops, though, it would only make sense that they continue to stay in the mix for Correa.
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