We’re not even quite a third of the way though the 2017 season and many are already looking past this year and long into the future. It’s hard to blame White Sox fans if they want to ignore this fifth year of the shitshow that has been the Rick Hahn Era and hope beyond hope for a merely relevant future that may or may not arrive sometime in the next decade.
But our own PV has been desperately trying to write off the 2017 Cubs since the last piece of World Championship parade confetti hit the pavement at Clark & Addison and as recently as the second inning of yesterday’s victory over St. Louis.
Even Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan got in the act by jumping ahead to the 2018-19 “mega” free agent class and forecasted how each of the 30 MLB clubs is positioned to land such lofty (and undoubtedly VERY expensive) names as Harper, Machado, Kershaw,
Donaldson, Murphy, Keuchel, Blackmon, Miller, Britton, and Kimbrel.
Just to indulge all you future gazers, here’s a look at how Passan characterized the situations of MLA’s “core 4” clubs. Not surprisingly, among his top-five positioned teams was the White Sox given the long-overdue complete teardown and rebuild attempt finally begun last winter:
“Chicago White Sox: Speaking of good shape, the White Sox might have the best farm system in baseball right now – hello, Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Luis Robert, Alec Hansen, Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito, Zack Collins, Dane Dunning and Zack Burdi – and have plenty of money to spend. If they hold on to Jose Quintana, their guaranteed money for 2019 is $16.55 million. Should they deal him and bolster their prospect hoard that much more, they’ve got $6.05 million on the books. Never have the White Sox been what one would call big spenders – their middle-of-the-pack $132 million payroll last year set a team record – but the opportunity to complement that array of young talent with free-agent production feels just about perfectly timed.”
The $64,000 question is will the Sox actually finally open up the purse strings? They’ve never done it before, but who’s to say what control a then 83-year old Jerry Reinsdorf will have over those purse strings or what his heirs or even a new ownership will be willing to spend? Your guess is as good as mine.
Also not surprisingly, Passan placed the fiscally hamstrung Tigers and Giants among his worst positioned franchises for the forthcoming free agent feeding frenzy:
“San Francisco Giants: Nobody owes more money to players in 2019 than the Giants, who have nearly $113.4 million guaranteed. That could dip back into eight figures if Johnny Cueto opts out of his deal this year, but that doesn’t lessen the burden on San Francisco. Perhaps this season is an anomaly and the core on which they’re spending – Cueto, Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Jeff Samardzija, Mark Melancon – is enough.
Barring a surprising turnaround in a farm system that scouts believe lacks impact players, the Giants will need to supplement that group through two difficult-to-stick-the-landing avenues: free agency or undervalued veterans. And no owner, not even one as munificent as the Giants’, who pushed their payroll past $200 million last season, is going to stand by as a team treads water with that sort of cash outlay. The closest facsimile to these Giants is the late 2000s Phillies. They were great, but when it ended, it ended fast. Every core player for the Giants will be on the wrong side of 30 in 2019. That’s a bad place for any team to be.
Detroit Tigers: Following the death of owner Mike Ilitch, the Tigers are widely expected to slash payroll. Here’s the thing: It’s not going to be easy. The Tigers owe more than $111 million in 2019 to Miguel Cabrera (36 that year), Justin Verlander (36), Justin Upton (31), Jordan Zimmermann (33) and Prince Fielder (35, retired). Cabrera’s contract, which extends another four years, plus two options on top of that, is untradeable. Zimmermann’s is, too, on account of his performance. Upton is striking out more than ever and isn’t even 30 yet. And while Verlander has value, he also has 10-and-5 rights to block any trade. The Tigers are going nowhere fast, and it’s only going to get worse before it gets better.”
While the Giants took full advantage of their window of opportunity winning three championships in five years, that window is slamming shut on the underachieving Tigers and we fans will continue to feel that pain for the foreseeable future.
More interesting is that Passan placed the Cubs in his “Have Money, Will Spend” tier:
“Chicago Cubs: In terms of pure talent, of course the Cubs are among the five best-positioned teams. When it comes to free agents in 2019, though, they aren’t in the right place to go after more than one big name and another mid-tier. While only $71.8M is guaranteed for 2019 (Jon Lester, Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward), the arbitration raises of Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Hendricks, Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber, among others, will suck up tens of millions of dollars and limit what the Cubs are capable of doing that season. This won’t be stinginess; it’ll be prudence.”
That “one big name” could be the none other than Bryce Harper according to Peter Gammons. While the prohibitive price tag makes it unlikely, where there’s a will, there’s always a way. Cubs revenues show no signs of decline and the ball is in Harper’s court if he wants to make the move to the North Side.
Okay, I’ll admit it — the future is indeed fun to think about.