It’s been a crazy week over at Bears Insider and coming out of Black Monday I’m now keenly aware of two things:
- Baseball is my first love, specifically the Cubs; and
- Because the McCaskeys have decided to retain Ted Phillips as team president and CEO, the Packers are my second. It’s kind of scary, but Phillips looks frighteningly similar to former Bulls GM Jerry Krause.
Enough about the NFL, though. I’m here today to talk about how the Cubs may find left-handed power this winter and after myriad discussions at the Cubs Insider Discord Community, I’m convinced a trade is necessary and I’d love to see Jed Hoyer bring back Kyle Schwarber if the president of baseball operations is willing to swallow his pride. I mean, he basically cut Schwarber last year by non-tendering him. New GM Carter Hawkins could handle the negotiation, which might at least remove some of the awkwardness, but Schwarber is probably too expensive anyway.
Another expensive option would be a trade with the Padres to acquire overpaid and underperforming first baseman Eric Hosmer, but with a nice caveat. Word leaked last month that Hosmer was in play at the trade deadline and that Hoyer was negotiating a package that might include a premium prospect or two. Hosmer has $59 million left on his contract, so the Cubs would be essentially buying two prospects for that price with the lefty first baseman serving as the kicker. Hosmer has four years remaining on his deal with an opt-out after this season that he’s unlikely to exercise.
The going rate for the veteran first baseman would seem to be two top-10 prospects from San Diego’s system, so I perused their list and found two I really like.
The first is Justin Lange, a 20-year-old fireballing righty ranked No. 8 in the Friars’ system. He didn’t make the MLB top 100 and I believe he is grossly underrated. At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds and armed with a 65-70 grade fastball, he certainly passes the eye test. That heater sits in the mid-90s but he’s dialed it up to 100 mph on occasion, enough to make him a supplemental first-round pick in 2020. An inconsistent slider has kept him at the lower end of San Diego’s top 10 and his changeup is a tad weak, putting it nicely.
If the Cubs get him into their pitching lab, get his slider to be a power-plus secondary, and work on that changeup, he has the makings of a No. 2 starter. Lange should be ready for the big league rotation by 2024. Teach the young man to command a cutter, and he could be dominant.
My second choice would be catcher Luis Campusano, who is practically major league-ready and opens up all kinds of possibilities for Hoyer and Hawkins. Campusano could spend a season or two backing up Yan Gomes before becoming the everyday catcher in late 2023 or at the start of the 2024 season. Of course, that means trading Willson Contreras, and maybe there’s a separate deal with the Padres that would send the fiery backstop West for even more prospects. The Marlins, Giants, and Guardians would all have interest in Contreras, and Hoyer and Hawkins should be able to poach a pitching prospect or two from any of those teams, or possibly an outfielder.
Campusano’s strengths are the bat and the arm, and both are special. The 21-year-old has raked at every level and homered in his big league debut last season. He may be a younger version of Contreras with the potential to be even better.
I’ll let MLB.com take it from here:
“Campusano’s plate coverage and bat path through the zone fuel his hit-to-all-fields mindset at the plate, and he already demonstrates an advanced, selectively aggressive approach as well as a penchant for punishing mistakes. Defensively, Campusano has the athleticism, agility, and the strong arm needed to stick behind the plate, and he’s made significant gains with his blocking and receiving since signing.”
Sign me up for a Hosmer deal. Any production the first baseman might provide is gravy, and he allows the Cubs to move Frank Schwindel to DH once that rule is made official.
Cubs News & Notes
- How bad was Zach Davies last year? In 2020, his changeup was ranked No. 2 in all of baseball. Last year it was ranked No. 590, which was dead last, by the way.
- Nick Madrigal, who is rehabilitating a troublesome hamstring, is reportedly sprinting again. Speed is his game.
- Brailyn Márquez, DJ Herz, and Jordan Wicks lead a thin but lethal left-handed arsenal of hard throwers in Chicago’s farm system.
- The Cubs and Nationals, who played in an epic NLDS just a few years ago, are at a point of similar paths in their respective rebuilds.
- The Bears need a GM and naturally, some writers view Theo Epstein as the perfect candidate. Hard pass, unless he were to replace Phillips.
Odds & Sods
ESPN studio host Dan Le Batard is claiming that Rob Manfred tried to have him fired for lashing out at Derek Jeter back in 2017. The Marlins had just slashed payroll to the bone, and Jeter had simultaneously purchased a very expensive home in Miami, which drew Le Batard’s wrath.
MLB News & Notes
Apple has held “substantial” talks with Major League Baseball about broadcasting games next season on Apple TV+.
That would fulfill some broadcasting observers’ long-held ambitions for Apple, but it would also help Apple keep pace with all the new entrants into sports coverage, notably Amazon, which has been making NFL inroads with streaming. MLB would provide nationally televised Monday and Wednesday games if a deal is struck.
Imagine the Ted Lasso promos! Apropos of nothing, it is nice to see that the owners are still allowed to profit while their players have been put on ice this winter.
Keep an eye on the Marlins. They may be baseball’s biggest surprise this season.
The Mariners are calling their minor league pitching camp “Dominate the Zone.” I love that.
Today’s Baseball Jones
Negotiations and Love Songs
The owners and the MLBPA are now scheduled to meet on Thursday. That will represent the first substantial talks between the two sides in nearly two months. Please don’t feel the need to rush into anything on account of baseball’s dwindling fan base.
Remember when Manfred said a “defensive lockout” would “jumpstart negotiations” back on December 2? Those were some swell times.
Major League Baseball may look a lot different once we see its post-lockout iteration.
The best any of us can hope for is that the 2022 season will start on time.
Barry Bonds and Michael Jordan, 1993 pic.twitter.com/vUczG2Y8Qw
— Baseball In Pics (@baseballinpix) January 8, 2022
Sliding Into Home
I’m thinking of doing a weekly chat on Discord, maybe an hour or two every Thursday night where I’d welcome baseball and music questions. If you’d be interested, let me know in the comments section.
They Said It
- “We caught him saying some things that we could prove, factually through documentation, were not true. In doing that interview, what happened after that, ESPN defended us a hell of a lot better than MLB Network defended Ken Rosenthal.” – Le Batard
- “[Epstein] has won three World Series. Yeah, he’s ready for the Super Bowl.” – Joe Maddon, in 2020.
Tuesday Walk-Up Song
If I Had a Hammer by Peter, Paul & Mary (live at the Newport Folk festival in 1965) – If only Davies had a major league curveball to offset that wretched changeup.