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2019 Winter Meetings preview

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A few notes about baseball’s annual December get-together.

Major League Baseball has already seen some significant free agents come off the board before the sport has its annual Winter Meetings, this year to be held at the Hilton Bayfront in San Diego.

So, perhaps, there can be optimism on the part of those of us who follow the sport closely and look to this December week as one where there will be some signing or trading action. Last year, not much happened at the confab in Las Vegas; perhaps 2019 will be different.

In addition to wheeling and dealing, there are two other significant purposes of these Meetings. One is a giant job fair, where people looking to work in baseball — both in the major and minor leagues — can come, resumes in hand, hoping to land employment or at least to network.

Second, several awards will be announced this week. The Hall of Fame’s Modern Era Committee will announce whether any of these 10 men will be inducted in Cooperstown next July. That announcement is expected to be made during MLB Network’s live coverage, which begins at 7 p.m. CT tonight. Here’s a bit more about each of the 10 candidates.

The Hall of Fame’s Frick Award, honoring a local team broadcaster, will be announced Wednesday. Cubs radio voice Pat Hughes is among the nominees.

A similar award for “meritorious contributions to baseball writing,” the Spink Award, will also be announced this week. This year’s nominees are Patrick Reusse (active Minnesota Twins beat writer), Jim Reeves (retired Texas Rangers beat writer) and Nick Cafardo, a Red Sox beat writer who passed away in February 2019.

What you really want to know, of course, is whether the Cubs will make any trades or sign any free agents this week.

That question has multiple answers. To the question “Will the Cubs do anything?” the answer is probably “Yes.” The Cubs have already made a couple of depth acquisitions for the bullpen. They will likely do more of that, and it’s possible one or more of those will be made this week.

It’s my view that if you are looking for the Cubs to make a big splash in free agency, particularly this week, you are going to be disappointed. While it seems clear that the Cubs could spend more money on payroll, they have chosen not to, as they and the 29 other teams are treating the top luxury-tax level ($248 million for 2020) as a de facto salary cap.

Like it or not, that’s the way things appear to be.

Now, a trade? That could certainly happen this week, and it could possibly involve one of the Cubs’ core players, the guys who helped win the World Series in 2016. Willson Contreras’ name has been floated as one who other teams are interested in:

That next great chapter in franchise history might require giving up a homegrown Cub who helped make 2016 happen.

With that in mind, the Astros went into this offseason with an interest in Willson Contreras, according to a source familiar with the team’s thinking, and they have a need for a frontline catcher.

Another industry source predicted the Cubs will position Contreras as an option for teams that didn’t win a bidding war for Yasmani Grandal, who signed a four-year, $73 million deal with the White Sox the week before Thanksgiving.

Now, let’s parse those words for a moment. The Astros have an “interest” in Contreras, and the source for that is “familiar with the team’s thinking.”

Who knows who that source is or how deep that interest is? And “another industry source” has a “prediction” about what the Cubs will do with Contreras?

Last week, Josh posted this article saying that the Cubs should (probably) trade Contreras this winter. I’m going to disagree with that, because Contreras is affordable — his estimated arb salary for 2020 is in the $4.5 million range — and not easy to replace.

For me, if the Cubs are going to trade any of their core players, it should be Kris Bryant. Bryant is going to be gone after 2021 — the chances of him signing an extension appear to be near zero — and an acquiring team could have two years (or only one, if Bryant wins the grievance currently under consideration by an arbitrator) to work out such an extension. Bryant could bring back major-league players, including controllable starting pitching. The latter is something the Cubs definitely need, with Cole Hamels now officially a member of the Atlanta Braves.

There are more thoughts on what the Cubs might do this week in this Winter Meetings preview at cubs.com by Jordan Bastian.

And while a couple of major free agents are off the board, the guys at the top — Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon — remain unsigned. It doesn’t seem likely that all three will have 2020 (and beyond) employment by the end of this week, but you never know. Here is MLB Trade Rumors’ list of their Top 50 free agents for this offseason, some of whom have already signed.

The Winter Meetings will conclude Thursday, December 12 with the Rule 5 Draft, which will be streamed live on mlb.com. The Cubs probably don’t have room for a Rule 5 guy on the roster this spring, although it’s possible they could lose someone from the organization. Also please note, as per this official MLB logo, it is the “Rule 5 Draft,” not the “Rule V Draft.”

Major League Baseball

We will have Winter Meetings threads here Monday through Wednesday morning beginning at 9 a.m. CT, where you can discuss anything related to the happenings in San Diego. If the Cubs make a trade or signing, there will of course be separate stories on those. If you want to learn more about what goes on at these Meetings, check out the Baseball Winter Meetings website.

Poll

Which player of the Cubs’ "core" will be traded by the Cubs this week?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    Javier Baez
    (2 votes)
  • 35%
    Kris Bryant
    (150 votes)
  • 15%
    Willson Contreras
    (68 votes)
  • 0%
    Anthony Rizzo
    (1 vote)
  • 8%
    Kyle Schwarber
    (38 votes)
  • 4%
    More than one of the above (leave in comments)
    (20 votes)
  • 34%
    None of the above
    (147 votes)
426 votes total Vote Now