Top Of The First
Today is the Cubs’ first full-squad work out of the spring. Dexter Fowler finally signed with Baltimore. There was a dramatic twist regarding phenom Lazaro “Lazarito” Armenteros. MLB put Colorado SS Jose Reyes on paid leave.
Hope Springs Eternal
Cute, viral slogans and hashtags aside, today we finally get down to baseball. All Chicago Cubs rostered and non-rostered invitees will participate in the team’s first full spring workout. The ever-present storylines have been beaten to death already. We’ve all heard the expectations. If anything is going to temper my excitement for baseball this season it is going to be the over analysis of every minute detail of the 2016 season, something that comes with the territory I suppose.
Personally I would rather focus on April 4th than October 4th. The Cubs have to navigate through 26 weeks and 162 games of baseball before any of us need to worry about breaking the Curse. We’ve said it for four years — In Theo We Trust — and there is no reason to believe that Epstein is focused on anything beyond Opening Day right now.
I am glad to see Dex got a job. I was genuinely worried. He is a great fit for Baltimore and vice versa. I do find it odd that in Baltimore, Fowler — a centerfielder by trade — will play right field while Jayson Heyward — who spent his career in right field — will play center for the Cubs.
Fowler will earn $33M over three years to hit leadoff for Baltimore. Obviously this signing is all about offense because the former Cubs outfielder was below-average defensively in a position he was comfortable playing. Moving him to a new position probably won’t improve his defensive metrics.
Turns out the reason Fowler took so long to sign was because he was holding out for the best possible deal. Reports on 670 The Score indicated that Fowler had had a firm offer from the Chicago White Sox in hand for quite some time, but thought someone would pay him more. Baltimore obviously stepped up.
Fowler will cost Baltimore either their first or second round draft pick (depending on the outcome of the Yovani Gallardo issue), and the Cubs will reacquire the second round pick they lost when signing Jason Heyward. If my math and analytics skills are correct, the Cubs’ first pick will be the 67th overall. They could move up one spot depending on where Ian Desmond signs, if he signs before Opening Day, or drop to 68th if the Gallardo signing is voided. Speaking of Gallardo, Fowler will have to pass Baltimore’s strict physical before the signing is official.
The Lazarito Conundrum
I have spent the morning trying to make some sense of what is going on with Lazaro Armenteros. Ken Rosenthal has the full story.
Apparently Charles Hairston, who has been the player’s negotiating representative in discussions with Major League clubs, told FOX Sports on Monday night that his life was threatened by the Dominican Republic-based investor who represents Lazarito. In a nutshell, the Dominican reps want Armenteros to sign once the new IFA signing period begins on July 2nd. That would eliminate the Cubs, Dodgers, Giants and Royals because they have exceeded their spending limits this year and would be limited to offering no more than $300,000 to sign any international free agent over the next two years. It would also eliminate the Yankees, Red Sox, Diamondbacks, Rays and Angels, all of whom exceeded spending limits in 2015.
All signs would seem to point to Lazarito’s Dominican camp wanting the 16-year old phenom to sign with either San Diego or Atlanta, though other teams like Philadelphia and Milwaukee have indicated that they will be overly aggressive in that market during the next signing period.
Jose Reyes Placed On Paid Leave
Pending the resolution of his domestic abuse case, Jose Reyes has been placed on paid administrative leave by Major League Baseball. Commissioner Rob Manfred made the announcement Tuesday.
Reyes was arrested on charges of assaulting his wife last October. The official police report alleges that an argument with his wife turned physical at the Wailea Four Seasons Resort. Reyes’ wife was treated for minor injuries and released, while the Rockies shortstop was held on a $1,000 bond and ordered to stay away from his wife for three days. The court case in Hawaii is scheduled for April 4th.
MLB has two other domestic violence cases pending. New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman and Los Angeles Dodgers OF Yasiel Puig have pending domestic violence cases up for review with the Commisioner’s Office. Manfred expects a quick resolution with all three cases once he has reviewed all of the evidence. With the Reyes case, Manfred will wait until a verdict has been reached before making a decision.
Fact, Fiction, Truth, Or Rumor
Jayson Heyward is earning high praise from his new teammates.
Anaheim Angels first baseman Albert Pujols tops Dan Szymborski’s list of MLB’s 25 Worst Contracts (subscription to ESPN Insider required). While no Cubs players made the list, three Detroit Tigers (Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander and Victor Martinez) were named as was Prince Fielder, who was signed by Detroit but has since been traded to Texas.
Due to skyrocketing crime, most MLB teams are closing their Venezuelan Baseball Academies and are moving their players to similar academies in the Dominican Republic.
Major League Baseball has launched the 2016 Honorary Bat Girl Contest, which will recognize one fan per team who has been affected by breast cancer and has demonstrated a commitment to battling the disease.
The Miami Marlins have built a fence to prevent the time-honored tradition of fans asking for autographs. The impetus for the change seems to be stopping “autograph broker,” something Marlins players complained about last year.
Daryl Strawberry wonders how good he could have been had he not sidetracked by a number of vices and familial issues.
MLB is asking fans to vote for the best baseball movie ever. The selections are great and I am personally torn between The Sandlot and Bull Durham. I also really like a League Of Their Own because I have a number of friends who had small roles in the film.
Bottom Of The Ninth
With full squads reporting this week I am now anxious for Spring Training baseball. As this is my first spring in Chicago in nearly ten years, I missed out on a lot of Cubs baseball. In fact, the last game I watched in Chicago was the three game sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2008 NLDS. The Cubs had the best record in the National League that year, finishing 97-64. Los Angeles won the NL West with a record of 84-78. Temper your expectations, anything can happen in baseball.