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SAN DIEGO — If the Chicago Cubs are truly looking to add a shortstop this winter, they might have to get moving.
As reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan, two-time All-Star shortstop Trea Turner inked a deal with the Phillies on Monday. ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel later reported the details of Turner’s contract.
Regardless of how he fits into Philadelphia’s current payroll or long-term flexibility, the fact is the runners-up in the 2022 World Series just went out and signed Turner to the second $300 million deal they’ll now have on the books (Bryce Harper signed for $330 million over 13 years in 2019).
And for the Cubs, in an offseason where adding a top-tier shortstop should be high on the priority list, there are just three of those potential targets left in free agency.
With Turner off the board, Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson are remaining. The Cubs have been connected to that trio in various rumors throughout the winter, and certainly as of late, but then again, they had been connected to Turner himself recently, too. So in that sense, it’s reasonable to believe the Cubs could find themselves on the outside looking in when the other “Big Three” shortstops are eventually off the market.
For any baseball executive, knowing one of your four shortstop targets is off the board may give you a sense of urgency to get a deal done with one of the other three.
What about for Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer?
“I think you always have to kind of run your own race,” Hoyer said at the Winter Meetings in San Diego on Monday. “I think I learned pretty early on [that] you can’t react to what’s happening. You have to make the right decisions.”
It makes sense. As the president of a Major League Baseball team, it’s not prudent to blindly chase one free agent after a different one picks a different team.
Still, things have heated up quickly. The Turner deal went down on Day 1 of the Winter Meetings, hours before Hoyer even had a chance to talk to the media. Hoyer may not be feeling a sense of urgency directly from that signing, but even he knows how quickly things are starting to come together for other parties.
“Certainly, it’s been active so far,” Hoyer said. “I do think the fact this [year’s Winter Meetings] is a day shorter, you see a little bit more activity on Day 1 than you see sometimes. It was a really active weekend. Sort of Friday, Saturday, and then even on Sunday as everyone’s getting out here. A lot more phone calls than usual. I feel like usually there’s a lot more, ‘Yeah, we’ll sit down at the meetings,’ and this time, there was more preparation going in, I think, from the agents to get here. So, I think that urgency was happening already, and then it only spilled over into into Day 1.”
Throughout the day Monday, however, reports began surfacing that the Cubs may be a bit more aggressive on the shortstop market than Hoyer let on.
Earlier in the day, 670 The Score and Marquee Sports Network’s Bruce Levine reported the Cubs had met with Correa in San Diego, while a meeting with Xander Bogaerts occurred 10 days prior. And after Hoyer spoke, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported that there’s a scenario in which the Cubs sign two of the three remaining shortstops, the likeliest combination being Bogaerts and Swanson.
So, the Cubs are clearly not out of the sweepstakes by any means, regardless of how quickly Turner and the Phillies reached their agreement. Every year is different, of course, and when it comes down to bringing a priority free agent into the fold, it’s always going to be tough to gauge how much sitting back will truly affect a team’s ability to sign those players just based on how quickly other contracts are being signed.
“It’s hard to know how the early deals impact later deals,” Hoyer said. “Certainly, I think oftentimes you see some big deals early on, but it’s hard to get a real feel for it. But certainly it’s been an aggressive market. There’s been a lot of deals coming in. Obviously, those numbers in some cases are probably higher than some projections. So far, it’s been a pretty aggressive market.”
All of that can be true at the same time as this: at some point, the Cubs have to figure out how to get one of these shortstops to sign.
Correa, Bogaerts and Swanson won’t come cheap (though the latter two likely do come cheaper than the first), but there are more than three teams out there looking for a shortstop and that will be willing to pay those prices. There’s much less supply than demand right now. When that happens, the Cubs may see prices rise higher than their own internal projections originally indicated.
That’s just where the market is right now thanks to Turner and the Phillies’ getting that deal done on Day 1 of the Winter Meetings. Sure, that deal could have no bearing on how long it takes Correa, Bogaerts and Swanson to sign. But then again, we all know what happens when one domino falls.
So, maybe all it took for the market to start moving was a deal to get done. And maybe that’s all it will take for Hoyer and company to start moving, too.
“The whole concept of a market being set, I just think that sometimes it just takes some deals at the top coming off to sort of break the ice and free people up to do deals,” Hoyer said. “I think sometimes there’s a sense of avoiding, and I think that sometimes having some big deals happen can kind of break the ice and allow some deals. It’s clear now that that’s going to happen.”
Follow Ryan Herrera on Twitter for more from the Winter Meetings in San Diego.
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