Before 2023 winter signings, I gave my recommendations for players the Cubs should go after to improve the team in an “If I Were Jed” sort of scenario. Almost exactly a year later, I wanted to go back and see how my recommendations worked out versus the players Jed actually signed so I could gloat, er, audit my efforts before the Cubs did their work. Let’s see how things might have turned out had Jed listened to me!
(Note: Jed has already gotten a jump on 2024 by doing his best shark-in-the-water impression and absolutely shocking everyone to hire Craig Counsell to manage the team without anyone at all knowing about it. I'm still processing this and working to let go of nine years of pent up hatred and angry squirrel jokes, but I'll get there. Eventually. The tears of Brewers fans are helping immensely. Just know this: Jed will cut you if he needs to in order to improve the team.)
Jed exactly listened to me and extended Ian Happ, Nico Hoerner, and yes… Drew Smyly. A bit of an eek on that last one, because both of us thought Drew was worth a 2-year deal (although I only wanted to pony up 2/$14M and the Cubs gave him 2/$18M). The other two, though, showed they were worth the coin and worth keeping around a few more years, at the very least. They both won Gold Glove awards, too, which is 100% fun! Winner: Both!
First Base Jed: Trey Mancini/Eric Hosmer Staci: Brandon Belt
The Cubs gave Trey Mancini a 2 year, $14M deal to get DFA’d in August. Hosmer’s deal was pretty much budget dust, so I’m not even going to comment on it. It was a low-risk, high possibility of reward deal. I, however, suggested the Cubs sign Brandon Belt to hold down the 1B spot until they could identify a younger, more permanent solution. Belt signed a 1 year, $9.3M deal with the Blue Jays and promptly put up a 136 OPS+ in 103 games. Winner: Staci
Shortstop Jed: Dansby Swanson Staci: Trea Turner
Both shortstops had slightly disappointing, uneven offensive seasons. Turner, in particular, wound up far below his previous offensive campaigns, finishing the year with a 111 OPS+ even as he heated up in the late weeks. Swanson was the opposite, cooling off when the Cubs needed him most down the stretch. Still, Swanson’s overall value eclipsed Turner due to his elite play at shortstop, something that once again netted him a Gold Glove win and pushed him to a 4.8 bWAR. Swanson also agreed to a shorter-term deal—the Phillies signed Turner up through his age 40 season. While I’m very willing to spend billionaire owners’ money, I’m always going to be concerned about signing a guy until he’s 40 to a premium position. Also, Dansby is more handsome, which cannot be overlooked. Winner: Jed
Starting Pitcher Jed: Jameson Taillon Staci: Justin Verlander
Who won this decision depends on how you value a contract. Verlander signed a 2-year, $86 million deal with the Mets last winter. He didn’t exactly put up Cy Young caliber numbers, but he still pitched to a well above average 3.22 ERA and 122 ERA+, even as he dealt with some injury issues. He’s old. Things are gonna break. TRUST ME. For what the Mets paid for about a year and a half of Verlander, the Cubs got four years of Jameson Taillon. Whether you think that’s a bargain depends on whether you think he will improve on his 4.84 ERA/93 ERA+ going forward. The second half of the season showed a lot of promise, and Taillon has the reputation of being an extremely hard worker, so I wouldn’t bet against him. Winner: TBD?
Center Field Jed: Cody Bellinger Staci: Cody Bellinger
Wouldn’t you know it, the one time Jed listened to me, we were both resoundingly correct! I don’t think I really need to go over what Belli did in his year with the Cubs, but for a measly $17.5 million, he hit .307 and belted 26 Belli Bombs for a delightful 133 OPS+. Comeback Player of the Year? You best believe it. We all got WAY too attached to Belli (and his Belli Faces), and now Jed has the unenviable job of ensuring his production is replaced in 2024. BRING HIM BACK, JED! Winner: ABSOLUTELY ALL OF US
So there you have it. I'm not saying that Jed should hire me or anything, but I'm not NOT saying it, either. Maybe I should just go ahead and manifest that Ohtani signing and Tyler Glasnow trade right now, eh?