The Rundown: Javy’s Hammy, Bounceback Seasons, Competitors and Conspiracies

Javy Baez is not seriously hurt. Everybody take a deep breath. He was dehydrated and cramped up. It happens.

The Cactus Cubbies continued rolling with a 10-4 victory over the Padres in a game that was over by the time the 3rd inning started, with the Javy hammy scare providing the game’s only drama. The team is 10-2 in Cactus League play and will face the Angels Friday afternoon.

Of note: Ben Zobrist had his first hit and scored a run after a late spring training start. Tyler Chatwood allowed one run on two hits and two walks in three innings.

Though these contests are meaningless, the Cubs open the regular season with 10 straight road games so I like that they are conditioning themselves to jump to early leads. A long road trip that includes stops in Florida, Cincinnati, and Milwaukee will sort of feel like extended spring training anyway.

There are only three weeks until the season opener and Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn remain unsigned. All three rejected the $17.4 million qualifying offer from their former teams and have compensatory draft picks attached. The Padres have had internal discussions about Arrieta but don’t seem to truly be in the mix to add any of the three starters. There’s also that competitive balance tax drying up the market.

I have a suggestion: let’s not call it a competitive balance tax unless teams are given a mandatory payroll floor. The Padres will open the season with a payroll around $90 million that includes the contract they gave Eric Hosmer. Meanwhile, the Cubs are committed to about $184 million in payroll for this season. That difference hardly screams “competitive balance.”

Cubs News & Notes

The Cubs went to the NLCS for the third straight season, yet they still have a number of players looking to have bounceback years. Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, and Kyle Schwarber are among them, and you can add Addison Russell to the mix. That speaks to just how good this organization is. Due to problems on and off the field, no player on the team endured a more tumultuous 2017 season than Russell. Russell is aiming to be a better player, teammate, and person this season.

“I’m happy being in a Cubs uniform,” he said. “I want to be in a Cubs uniform for sure. But there was some talk out there. If I got traded, I got traded. But that’s not the case here.”

Despite both clubs facing each other the past two Octobers, Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi doesn’t believe the Cubs and Dodgers should be considered rivals.

“Personally I don’t think so because it doesn’t give enough appreciation for how hard it is to win your division and get in that position,” Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi said. “We had two obviously really good, competitive series with them with a lot at stake. But it’s a little presumptuous to start choosing rivals outside your division.

“It’s hard enough to get through your division.”

I’m speechless.

How About That!

White Sox prospect Luis Robert launched a grand slam on Wednesday afternoon, but the story behind the prodigious blast may be even cooler.

Mike Moustakas signed a one-year deal with an option for 2019 to return to the Royals. The Royals third baseman will receive $5.5 million in 2018 with a $15 million mutual option for the following season. The deal has a $1 million buyout in 2019 and also includes incentives that could add up to $2.2 million.

The Rockies are close to reaching a deal to bring back free agent outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, according to Jon Heyman. If finalized, the deal would be for a one year term, per the report.

Road teams are expected to field lineups with at least four regulars from the previous season during spring training games, and Major League Baseball is getting aggressive about enforcing that edict. The Twins caught an earful yesterday for violating the rule.

The Red Sox have received some trade interest in catching prospect Blake Swihart.

Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard struck out seven consecutive Nationals yesterday. How about that!

Fun stuff: A look at baseball’s best bullpen carts from back in the day. I’m hoping baseball will bring back 1970s-style team fight songs, too.

Hot Takes & Syrup

  • Pardon My Hot Take: “We’re not the Cubs,” Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel said when asked about the Cubs returning almost the same team from their 2016 championship while winning 11 fewer games. “I firmly believe we have better players.” Whether the World Series hangover is a real thing or not (it’s not), the real problem is that teams will be gunning for the Astros the way they went after the Cubs last season. Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. The Astros are a very good team that plays in a pretty weak division. They’ll win a lot of games, but talk to me after the playoffs.
  • Pardon This Obvious Hot Take: Yankees OF Aaron Judge should never bat leadoff.
  • Pardon This Conspiracy Theory Hot Take: Outspoken Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer implied Thursday that someone from the commissioner’s office or the Indians organization tried to keep him from using his Twitter account.
  • Pardon This Crazy Talk Hot Take: Red Sox manager Alex Cora says recently-signed OF and DH J.D. Martinez reminds him a lot of Manny Ramirez. No, that isn’t even close to correct.

Friday Walk Up Song

Iconic Radio Station WLUP (The Loop) was sold this week and this Saturday the station is changing its format for the first time since it debuted in 1977. The new format will be Contemporary Christian. I grew up on The Loop and the station was very dear to me so I thought I’d provide a classic rock playlist instead of a single walk up song today.

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