The Rundown: Cubs’ Quiet Winter Continues, Lester Hungry, Astros Players Discuss Cheating Allegations
The Cubs’ inactive offseason has been unsettling to say the least, and news surrounding the team over the weekend hasn’t provided any relief. This has been the loudest “quiet” offseason ever.
For the record, I’m done writing about whether Kris Bryant will or will not be traded. Since the asking price to acquire the third baseman has been deemed unconscionably exorbitant, let’s just pencil Bryant, who celebrated his 28th birthday on Saturday, into the Opening Day lineup for rookie skipper David Ross.
As the linked article above indicates, Willson Contreras will more than likely be the team’s starting catcher when the season starts, too. I’m still puzzled that a large number of Cubs fans would want to trade Contreras or Bryant.
Happy birthday, @KrisBryant_23!
The @Cubs star has been among the standard-setters at the hot corner over the last half-decade. pic.twitter.com/nElFxaEgPU
— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) January 4, 2020
The Cubs still need a starter and, with no money to pursue one in free agency, will have to look at internal options. The most likely candidate is Tyler Chatwood. I’d rather see Alec Mills get the nod, but Chatwood might be the smarter play because if the Cubs can build any kind of value in the right hander, he could be a decent trade piece at the July 31 deadline. And though he has been valuable as a swingman, the return Theo Epstein got for Mike Montgomery was less than inspiring. Mills can grab the fifth spot in the rotation if/when Epstein deals Chatwood.
Chicago could use some bullpen help and may need to look internally for that as well. Basically, the team needs to replace Brandon Kintzler, Steve Cishek, and Pedro Strop. It may be time for Duane Underwood Jr. to step up, and I’d be intrigued by Adbert Alzolay working out of the bullpen. Ryan Tepera could win a spot, but only if Tommy Hottovy can get the righty back to the 9.4 K/9 mark he displayed in 2017 and ’18. He dropped all the way to 5.8 last season, which is why the Cubs could afford him on a split deal in free agency.
Dan Winkler is another low-cost, high-upside signee who could pay dividends. He was tremendous for the Braves in 2018, but followed it up last year with a much more pedestrian effort. The culprit was Winkler’s strikeout-to-walk rate, which fell from a career-best 3.45 to a career-worst 2.0, so maybe Hottovy can right him as well.
As far as centerfield and second base, get to know Ian Happ and Nico Hoerner a little better. If you tend to see things from a positive perspective, each had a great September and grabbed their share of late-season headlines. If you tend to be pessimistic, Hoerner may need some more seasoning, as his 88 OPS+ indicates, and Happ still strikes out quite a bit. In fact, Hoerner may start the season in the minors with David Bote taking regular reps at second.
Despite all of that, and barring any trades, the Cubs are projected to enter the season above the CBT threshold. If getting beneath that number is a real objective, Epstein could attempt to make any number of in-season trades depending on how well the team is playing. If the Cubs are competitive, however, and by all accounts they should be, will they be able to fortify the roster with a mid-season acquisition? Right now, that seems unlikely.
Cubs News & Notes
- Only “greed and ineptitude” will prevent a wide launch of Marquee this spring. Those two words have been used often when describing team ownership the last two seasons.
- Would the Cubs consider trading shortstop Javier Báez? It’s absurd that I had to ask that question.
- David Kaplan of NBC Sports Chicago initially dropped the news that Epstein’s asking price for either Bryant or Contreras was a bit too rich for other front office executives, but he should ask for the highest return possible. What competent GM would give away his own players, especially ones as good as the two lineup cornerstones? Sources requesting anonymity are more likely to embellish slightly, too.
- With Cubs Convention just 11 days away, the team’s odd winter is nearing its end. Pitchers and catchers for most teams will report in about 35-40 days.
- Since the Cubs signed Jon Lester in 2015, the big lefty has gone 74-41 with a 3.54 ERA in 159 starts. averaging 32 starts per year. Lester meeting his averages of 15 wins and 180 strikeouts since signing would be a huge boost to the team’s rotation. He’s certainly motivated to get back on track.
- The Cubs are ranked 12th in MLB.com’s first power rankings of the year. They’re behind the Cardinals (8) but ahead of the Reds (13) and Brewers (15). Surprisingly, Chicago has moved up a spot since the 2019 season ended despite not making any significant changes. Thank Milwaukee, who has been equally idle this winter after losing two of their best players, Mike Moustakas and Yasmani Grandal.
Dodgers fans are frustrated by their team’s lack of movement so far this winter.
MLB.com’s Jon Morosi recently reported that talks between the Dodgers and Red Sox for outfielder Mookie Betts were “more dynamic” than discussions Los Angeles was having with the Indians over shortstop Francisco Lindor.
The Angels are reportedly interested in trading for Cleveland starter Mike Clevinger.
Collin McHugh is still a free agent and might be a great fit for the Mets (or the Cubs).
Astros shortstop Carlos Correa stated that he believes sign stealing allegations levied against the team shouldn’t taint any of their success, namely their 2017 championship. Correa expressed surprise that former teammate Mike Fiers blew the whistle on Houston’s tactics.
This is an embarassing take.
Pirates pitcher Joe Musgrove was w/the 2017 Astros,hasn’t been contacted by MLB,didn’t c the rules violations that were alleged:“Everyone always accuses people of something-Everyone heard how we cheated-but no one sees the work we put in every day..to give ourselves an advantage” pic.twitter.com/rpUGi8e4BR
— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) January 5, 2020
They Said It
- “He’s a grown man, and he can do whatever he wants to do. It’s a free country, Knowing Fiers, it was surprising, because we were a team. We were a team. We were all together and we had a bond, and we won a World Series championship. But, this is America, the land of the free. You can say what you want to say.” – Carlos Correa
Monday Walk Up Song
Dance Apocalyptic by Janelle Monáe. This fun song is number nine on my list of 10 best songs of the decade.