The Rundown: Cubs Still Need OF Help, Service Time Davis’s Only Obstacle, Calendar Now Biggest CBA Enemy

If there’s one thing about last season I still can’t get past, it was when Kyle Scwharber was non-tendered as part of Jed Hoyer’s budget reckoning. I suppose the fact that the Cubs started the season with a rotation of Kyle Hendricks and mainly spare parts was also more than just a random annoyance, so that makes two, but let’s focus on the outfield. As things stand today, Chicago has Ian Happ and a whole lot of nothing in their outfield, and it doesn’t seem that’s a pressing need for the front office. So yeah, I’m still more than a little perturbed about Schwarber being cast into free agency rather than tendered or signed and traded.

The hulking left fielder was having a career year with the Nationals last year before he got hurt and subsequently traded to the Red Sox. Starting June 13, Schwarber went on a tear that saw him hit 15 home runs in 16 games, including three against the Mets on June 18. He had four games with two or more taters in that stretch, and by the time the season ended he made Hoyer look silly by posting a 145 wRC+ with 32 home runs and 76 RBI.

In Chicago, Hoyer and manager David Ross navigated the season with an outfield that could be considered patchwork at best. Joc Pederson, who was signed to replace Schwarber, was traded to the Braves in July and Rafael Ortega picked up the bulk of the starts as his replacement.

This year the Cubs will come to camp with nine outfielders on the team’s 40-man roster, though most are projects at best. In addition to Happ, Ortega, and Jason Heyward, Ross will choose from among Clint Frazier, Harold Ramirez, Greg Deichmann, Michael Hermosillo, Nelson Velazquez, and Alexander Canario, who has virtually no shot of heading north with the team at the end of March. Nico Hoerner and Alfonso Rivas are also part-time outfield options.

Though he is better suited to DH, Velazquez is intriguing based on his torrid stint in the AFL. Ramirez is a steady fourth outfielder who should earn frequent spot starts and Frazier is a bit of a wild card, literally and figuratively. The former Cleveland and Yankees castoff hasn’t hit his stride as a big leaguer, though he has shown promise at times.

Before you ask, Brennen Davis is not on the 40-man, though he looks physically ready and the Cubs do have one open slot. Since the owners are refusing to budge on service time in this winter’s CBA negotiations, expect Davis to start at Iowa unless something changes.

Schwarber and another former Cub, Nick Castellanos, are still available in free agency, though each may be better suited to DH. An extended lockout favors Chicago’s chances of signing either veteran, but that’s not something any of us should count on. Other free-agent options include Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Eddie Rosario, Tommy Pham, Andrew McCutchen, and Pederson. Cody Bellinger, Trey Mancini, Ben Gamel, Manuel Margot, Ramel Tapia, Andrew Benintendi, and Randal Grichuk are potential trade candidates, and Giancarlo Stanton is probably available considering his contract.

In the meantime, the only thing blocking Davis is the service time issue. While no one can predict the young man’s future, he might be potentially better as a rookie than anybody on Chicago’s roster as it stands now. Nobody wants to relive the Bryant scenario from 2015, but even if Davis is lights out in Arizona this spring, he’ll still get an extended look at Triple-A, most likely to “work on his defense.”

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

A picture of a B-17 bomber buzzing Yankee Stadium during Game 1 of the 1943 World Series is amazing, to say the least. The size of the aircraft alone compared to the great New York cathedral will make you do a double-take. Still, it’s the solemness of knowing it’s packed with pilots headed to England to fight against Germany’s Luftwaffe that really hits home. For a lot of those kids, it was probably the last glimpse of a baseball game they ever saw.

MLB News & Notes

MLB rejected Tampa Bay’s petition to play a split-season schedule at home and in Montreal.

With Montreal no longer an option, the Rays will pursue a new stadium in the Tampa Bay area.

Pete Rose said he almost played Divison I football at Tennessee instead of baseball.

Former Red Sox prospect Rusney Castillo has signed a minor league deal with the Nationals. Castillo signed a $72.5 million deal with Boston in 2014 and has yet to earn a full year of MLB service time.

Yasiel Puig hopes to one day return to the Dodgers.

Hall of Fame Game

Hall of Famer Andre Dawson said he’s thankful for his career and his life.

Potential inductee David Ortiz stands out as a bellwether of several hot button Hall of Fame issues.

Support for the candidacy of Cleveland shortstop Omar Vizquel has all but vanished.

Curt Schilling has no one to blame but himself for his inability to earn induction.

Negotiations & Love Songs

The MLBPA is expected to present the owners with a counteroffer to their latest proposal today, and it is also expected the owners will reject it.

You’ll need a subscription to The Athletic to read it, but it appears the owners are resolved to test the mettle of the players’ union by refusing to budge on any of the major issues at play. Neither side has come close to a bottom-line proposal, but the players have at least been direct with their messaging: We need more than the league is offering.

By week’s end, the calendar will officially become the game’s enemy, pushing back the start of spring training and, by extension, potentially Opening Day. It’s a disgrace waiting to happen.

Realistically, failure to reach a new agreement by March 1 will likely delay the start of the 2022 season.

John Tomase of NBC Sports Boston compares current CBA negotiations to “showing up for a custody hearing and then fighting over curtains.”

George Brett believes the owners and players will come to their senses and not jeopardize the season. He did add that a prolonged work stoppage could be the death of the game.

Extra Innings

In his second appearance with the Cubs, Wieck snapped a curve that caused Mariners’ third baseman Kyle Seager to duck for cover, only for the pitch to break over the plate for a called third strike.

They Said It

  • “My timing is still a work in progress after not throwing the ball for a while, but it feels great to be back on the mound. My body and arm feel very good. It’s just a timing issue right now. It takes time to sync up your body. And I’m a big dude, so it’s good to get on the mound and figure out that mound timing.” – Wieck
  • “That’s the unique part [of CBA negotiations] for me. Being on the other side, I understand it and it’s not anything out of the blue, but being in this spot is definitely a challenge. But it’s also been a good opportunity for me to connect with my coaches … really plan [for the season] a little bit more intently.” – Ross

Monday Walk-Up Song

I Just Wanna Stop by Gino Vanelli – Today’s long-distance dedication goes out to the city of Montreal from Rays’ principal owner Stuart Sternberg.

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