It’s Opening Day, so I’m going to play around with my Magic 8-Ball this morning to look ahead at what may happen this season. I made some Cubs predictions last week and I have a few more, but I’ll also cover all of baseball this morning.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 1, 2021
- Kris Bryant and Javier Báez will get qualifying offers from the Cubs at the end of the season. Báez will accept, but Bryant will decline and move on, though I believe Jed Hoyer will do everything he can to sign him.
- Anthony Rizzo will get his extension, possibly as soon as today, and finish his career in Chicago.
- Joc Pederson will have his $10 million option exercised and Shelby Miller will be extended mid-season.
- David Bote will be the lone Cubs regular who is traded and Hoyer will work out an extension with Willson Contreras before the end of the calendar year.
- I would expect Hoyer to make a strong attempt to retain Zach Davies, too.
- If the Cubs are terrible, all bets are off and you can expect a number of shocking trades.
- Trevor Story will be the only one of the four free agent shortstops to actually hit the open market. Francisco Lindor has already agreed to his extension with the Mets and Carlos Correa will re-up with the Astros.
- The White Sox will be this year’s Rays. They may not win the AL Central, but they’re going to enjoy a very deep postseason run and will be one of the best teams in baseball after the All-Star break. Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech, and Carlos Rodón will have breakout years. Tony La Russa and his staff have the magic touch when it comes to pitching.
- Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers will lead the Red Sox back to the postseason. They’ll also run parallel with Mike Trout for league MVP honors.
- The Angels will finally make the playoffs. The A’s will not.
- Vanderbilt players will go 1 and 2 in June’s draft. Expect the Pirates to grab Kumar Rocker with the Rangers selecting Jack Leiter.
- Cubs farmhand Cristian Hernandez will make a huge jump in prospect lists, moving all the way into the top 10 overall. In my book, he’s a 70-grade player with a 40-grade risk. He will be Chicago’s number one prospect next spring, as the Cubs system vaults into the top 10 in all of baseball.
- The Pirates will be this year’s 47-win team. The Orioles did it in 2018, the Tigers in ’19. Pittsburgh played .317 baseball last season (51 wins in a full season) and are worse this year. Ke’Bryan Hayes will be fun to watch, though, and should offer Pittsburgh fans a little hope for the future.
- The Diamondbacks and Marlins will be the first NL teams to go to full capacity attendance. In the AL, it will be the Rangers and Astros. The Yankees, Mets, Cubs, and White Sox will be last.
- The Astros, Phillies, and Reds will be the first teams to go into full tank mode. Teams to tentatively put on tank-watch are the Cardinals, Nationals, Rockies, Blue Jays, and the Cubs, if only because of all their pending free agents.
- The most shocking story of the year will occur when Philadelphia trades Bryce Harper to the Red Sox.
- Division winners: Braves, Cubs, and Padres in the NL; Twins, Yankees, and Angels in the AL. NL Wild Cards: Dodgers and Mets. AL Wild Cards: White Sox and Red Sox
- ALCS: White Sox and Yankees
- NLCS: Padres and Dodgers
- World Series: Padres and White Sox
- 2021 Champs: White Sox
- There will be no players’ strike or lockout after this season. If I represented the MLBPA, I’d challenge the owners on everything. If they’re truly facing “biblical losses” due to the pandemic, the last thing any of the owners will want is an extended work stoppage.
Honorable Mention: Yu Darvish mentioned off-the-cuff that he expected the universal DH to be re-implemented this season. I don’t think it will happen, but baseball agreed to expand playoffs just before last season’s first pitch so I suppose an announcement could occur today. Knowing Darvish, he’s probably messing with reporters in the tradition of April 1 hijinks.
Cubs News & Notes
- Jason Heyward has fully embraced his role as the team’s clubhouse and vocal leader.
- Does 2021 represent the end of an era for Cubs fans?
- Extension talks with Bryant and Baez haven’t really gained any traction, which may mean Hoyer and Rizzo might not reach an agreement anytime soon, if at all, per Gordon Wittenmyer.
- Hoyer said that the team’s underdog status has put a chip on the shoulders of most Cubs’ players.
- Chicago may be putting too much hope in a “walk year bounce” this season. Time will tell.
- The team worked out at Wrigley Field yesterday.
- Adbert Alzolay is pretty excited to be back in Chicago and can’t wait to meet fans.
- Hoyer will encourage Cubs players to get vaccinated so that the organization reaches the recommended 85% thresholds for relaxed protocols, but he said he will not make it mandatory for players.
- The club is remodeling Wrigley Field to honor franchise icons and has raised 24 flags to honor its Hall of Fame inductees, among other aesthetic changes.
- Marquee Network has announced a new carriage deal with fuboTV.
- If you’d like a ballpark hot dog but can’t get a ticket to today’s game, there are 24 hot dog stands throughout Chicago that can provide a similar experience.
Odds & Sods
Back in the day, the Bleacher Bums would have looked at this Opening Day forecast and still decided to attend the game shirtless.
Opening Day wake up call: 36 degrees with a wind chill of 25. pic.twitter.com/ZOxV3pwIZM
— Paul Sullivan (@PWSullivan) April 1, 2021
MLB News & Notes
Joe Biden said the Rangers are making a terrible mistake by allowing full capacity at their home opener.
By extending Lindor, Mets owner Steve Cohen showed the rest of baseball exactly what well-run franchises do with star players.
The Nationals are going to celebrate their 2019 championship team in lieu of a traditional first-pitch ceremony. Because of the pandemic and last year’s late start and shortened schedule, Washington never really had the chance to honor that team.
Take Me Out to the Ball Game
- The majority of teams will open their stadiums Thursday at 20-30% capacity to allow fans to socially distance. Average capacity will be 28%. Wrigley Field is allowing 25% of its seats to be occupied.
- The Arizona Diamondbacks will allow 41% capacity (20,000 fans) at home games, while the Dodgers will seat 28% capacity (15,500), most in the majors discounting the Rangers plans for today.
- Some teams are limiting or prohibiting autographs this season. Many stadiums will require 6- to 12-foot buffers between fans and players.
- At Yankee Stadium, fans will be required to take a PCR or rapid antigen Covid-19 test with negative results, or provide proof of a single (full) or two-stage Covid-19 vaccination on each game day.
- Health and safety protocols for players include frequent polymerase chain reaction tests, known as PCR, the most common and most accurate tests for determining whether someone is infected with the novel coronavirus.
Apropos of Nothing
Wisconsin has vacated its mask mandate, except in Milwaukee, but Gov. Tony Evers has introduced a new 10-mask mandate for the next 60 days. That’s right, he wants residents to wear 10 masks at a time. Fun times here in America’s Dairyland.
We’ve got a lot to be thankful for since 2015, but a lot of Twitter (and Chicago media) is lamenting that 2021 represents an end of an era for Cubs fans. Veteran fans like myself know that eras don’t really exist when you’re a die-hard. Each new season brings its own adjustments, but we just roll with the changes. The organization is wholistically omnipresent, more so than any team in the game except maybe the Yankees and Red Sox. That’s why names like Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Billy Williams, and Ryne Sandberg are always part of the team’s ongoing culture. Nobody burns out or fades away. The Cubs just are, if that makes any sense, and for myself, six decades of fandom has proved that.
There is no way Rizzo doesn’t finish his career with the Cubs.
Nothing like receiving this incredible video the night before Opening Day to remind me why I go out and play hard every day. Thank you to all my friends @LurieChildrens. I'm excited to be back at Wrigley playing in front of my family and friends. https://t.co/PezKUA0809
— Anthony Rizzo (@ARizzo44) April 1, 2021
They Said It
- “I don’t think I have to explain my affection for Anthony Rizzo. Obviously I want him playing first base for the Cubs for a long time, in 2022 and beyond. And I’ve made that really clear to him throughout the process I respect his decision to put a deadline on it. That’s his decision. And one I respect completely. But our door is open. I am optimistic we’ll end up reaching an agreement.” – Jed Hoyer
- I feel like it’s just my time, my responsibility, to be one of those people that pass things along to the next generation of players.” – Jason Heyward
Opening Day Walk Up Song
Drunk in the Day by Wally Dogger – Officially a tradition now that I’ve gone to this video for three consecutive home openers. Go Cubs Go!