The offseason is now such an unending desert of free agency without a single oasis of a signing in sight, that the rumors the baseball community is latching onto are becoming more and more delusional and hilarious by the day. But we’ve all got to eat, and sometimes the outlandish rumors can at least provide enough sustenance to make it until the Padres decide they’re in the mood to make another trade.
Which is why I’m here to tell you that no, the Chicago Cubs are absolutely not going to sign Lorenzo Cain in free agency this offseason.
Even the provenance of this rumor is a bit sketchy. A few days back Bruce Levine, on his Inside the Clubhouse broadcast on 670 the Score, reported this on the possibility of the Cubs and Cain striking a deal (transcription courtesy of Cubs Insider).
“Lorenzo Cain is a name I’m throwing out there that the Cubs are definitely attached to and definitely have interest in on a three-year deal.
“We’re talking about four or five teams in that are interested in three-year deals. Not huge money, from what I’m understanding…I’m hearing between $13 and $15 million a year times three. That doesn’t sound like a lot of money these days. Obviously the Cain people are holding out for a four-year deal somewhere. They’d like five, I don’t think they’re going to get it.”
From that brief passage, Cubs fans and various Baseball Twitter residents spun the possibility of the Cubs being interested in Cain into that they had already made a serious offer. Nope, not the case apparently. They were just considering it, and there’s no sign they actually, officially extended a three-year offer to Cain’s camp.
Why this makes sense for the Cubs
Mostly, it doesn’t. They have no room for Cain in the outfield right now. They’re pretty full up out there, and if they were going to say, trade Kyle Schwarber or Ian Happ and add another piece that could serve as a backup in centerfield at a reasonable price, it probably wouldn’t be Cain. As things stand right now, they don’t need another starting centerfielder with Happ, Albert Almora Jr., and Jason Heyward all able to fill that role as needed.
They’re also still in the hunt for Alex Cobb, the negotiations of which I can only assume are ongoing in the background why we all try not to starve of deal dehydration. So they have money presumably set aside to make that deal whenever they strike a mutually agreed upon set of terms, which leaves them little to pay Cain without paying the luxury tax, which they are trying to avoid.
So the situation for the Cubs if they want Cain is ... pay his asking price to sign a 31-year-old for two or three more years than you’d like to commit to, ideally a 31-year-old who doesn’t fill any catastrophic holes and might not be productive beyond two or three seasons from now.
A 31-year-old who would take away opportunities for the team to get better at other positions (where they need it far more), would require another trade or two from the Cubs to even have a consistent place in the outfield, and would potentially be be making about same as Dexter Fowler ... who left in free agency for the Cardinals ... and is currently [Googles his birthday real quick just to make a point] the same age as Lorenzo Cain, give or take.
Figure out if they can get him for much cheaper than his team is asking for on the open market, for a shorter term, and hope he gives the outfield lineup a boost (especially defensively) for a few seasons ... and figure out how to trade any combination of Schwarber, Happ, or Almora Jr. as you go.
The latter is the way more likely reasoning behind this rumor, and is just the natural extension of every team in the league waiting out free agents to force salaries or years south enough to make them more palatable. That low-balling, patience-based strategy is just leaking more into the open as January rolls on.
Why this makes sense for Lorenzo Cain
Those proposed numbers? That much money? For that few years? Compared to what he’s reportedly asking for?
The answer to this section is “it does not,” next question.
F. None of this makes sense, is the only clear conclusion in this case. It would take way too much for Cain to be worth it for the Cubs when you take into account the money and their other priorities that still haven’t been checked off. And it makes even less sense for Cain because it would mean he’d have compromised every facet of a hoped-for deal to put himself in a situation that is so far away from “ideal” that it keeps checking to see if flight prices are discounted on Kayak so it can go see its family for Christmas, and they never are.
Free agents are in a bind right now, but not that much of a bind. This isn’t happening.