I was in the middle of writing an excellent (debatable) article on how we should expect the Chicago Cubs to make a move before the Winter Meetings. Then… BOOM. The Cubs signed pitcher Tyler Chatwood to a three-year contract.
Shoot! There goes several hours of research and writing down the drain!
I will be writing a piece on “getting to know new Cubs pitcher Tyler Chatwood.” But right now a lot of Cubs fans want to know what this signing means for other potential deals, specifically Alex Cobb and Shohei Ohtani?
Really this move doesn’t change anything in regards to the Cubs chase of Ohtani. He wouldn’t be a huge investment at all and the Cubs still have an opening in their rotation for another starter.
Having Chatwood could improve the Cubs position with Ohtani. With a rounded out rotation which Ohtani would complete, this could be a huge advantage over teams like San Diego, Seattle, LA, or Texas. Ohtani would have the chance to come into a good rotation, settle into the American game, even with the media circus that will surely follow.
I am not going to say I think the Cubs are in the lead for Ohtani. I do think it is telling that the two of the teams in the sweepstakes (Angels and Mariners) have been working like a frenzy to add International Bonus Pool money. Maybe that means they need to sweeten the pot? He’s leaning elsewhere and they want to lure him in with that extra money?
Regardless, a Cubs rotation that looks like this is impressive, to say the least.
- Jon Lester
- Kyle Hendricks
- Jose Quintana
- Shohei Ohtani
- Tyler Chatwood
Without Chatwood and Ohtani, the Cubs starting rotation looked fairly strong 1-3.
So long story longer… this doesn’t change a thing in the Cubs pursuit of Shohei Ohtani. Not at all.
This one is a bit trickier. With the Cubs and Chatwood coming to an agreement, it appears that Cobb balked at the four-year $54 million offer. I am sure Cobb expected a higher AVV, something in the $15 million per season range. It is also suspected that the Yankees would be willing to go there (even though they would jump over the luxury tax threshold).
There was also a lot of chatter about the Cubs trading a player from their 25-man roster for a young, cost-controlled starter.
I don’t think the Chatwood signing stops the Cubs from going after Cobb. But I do think it changes their aggressiveness (or lack thereof…?).
With an ability to sign a pitcher or trade for one, the negotiating power turns back into the Cubs favor. Heck, the Cubs are expected to meet with Jake Arrieta’s agent at the Winter Meetings and he could come back down to their range.
Ultimately, I think this points to the Cubs looking to the trade market for the other starter if they strike out on Ohtani. There was a point in this offseason, Thanksgiving week, that I would have put it at a 95% possibility that Cobb would be a Cub. Now I think that chance is somewhere in the 25% range.
Strange how the offseason works sometimes.
The dollars and sense of it all
The way the Cubs roster sits now, they should have an estimated $135 million team salary. The Cubs still have two or three relief roles to fill and that other starter. Adding Alex Cobb, along with the relievers, would bring the team’s payroll to around $180 million for the 2018 season. If the Cubs luck out and get Ohtani, well, then their team salary would wind up around $165 going into the 2018 season.
In either case, the Cubs salary wouldn’t limit them from being able to do anything. They wouldn’t be over the luxury tax. They would be able to add at the trade deadline if needed. It would give them the ability to stay at or below the 2019 luxury cap as well.
Hell, the Cubs could elect to sign Cobb and still sign Ohtani and it wouldn’t change much at all.
Ultimately the Chatwood signing doesn’t affect the team’s interest in Ohtani, but it might reduce their aggressiveness in pursuing Cobb. All along I believed the Cubs would sign a starting pitcher and trade for a starter. That idea is still as solid now as it was two days ago, as it was a month ago.
Now we just sit back and watch Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer work their magic.