The Rundown: Cubs in Starting Blocks of Arms Race, A Little Grist for the Rumor Mill, MLB May Review Rule on Slides into 2B, AJ Pierzynski Gets New Deal

The Cubs have stated a desire to bolster their starting rotation. There are lots of pitchers on the market. Agents for the top arms are down in Boca Raton. Members of the Cubs front office are there too. I am writing in short, choppy sentences.

Plans to meet with representatives for David Price, Zack Greinke, and Jordan Zimmermann this week were made known a couple days ago, so it’s not as though this is anything new. But I do find it somewhat interesting that the Cubs announced plans for a stand-alone network prior to engaging in any potential free agent negotiations. Unless, that is, they have had a deal in place with Price since before the season began and only helped to orchestrate the trade to Toronto in order to avoid giving up that pesky compensation pick.

So you have the idea that the organization could be looking at a multi-billion-dollar broadcast-rights deal in the next 5 seasons coupled with the fact that they’re going to be sitting down with guys who could command hundreds of millions of dollars. But on the other hand you have Theo Epstein downplaying how much they’ve got to spend and Jed Hoyer doing much of the same.

“Our job is to deal with now, and then also deal with the future,” the Cubs GM said Wednesday. “We have a really bright future for a long time and we’re always thinking about how commitments for today will impact us down the road.

“There’s a natural inclination to sort of look at the top of the free-agent market, and there’s great players there…we have to think about the entire market (and) ways to get better at every tier.”

Am I the only one who keeps thinking of Cal Naughton Jr. here? I hear the talk of networks and possible influxes of cash and then I hear about how commitments will impact and I think of Ricky Bobby’s wingman waxing juxtapositional about “Jesus in a tuxedo T-Shirt because it says I want to be formal, but I’m here to party.” Shake and bake, baby!

I’m probably reading way too much into this, but I really do think there’s something to the timing and content of the Cubs execs’ words. They’re letting it be known that they’re willing to spend some money, but they’re also telling everyone listening that they’re going to be judicious in just how they do it. I love all the gamesmanship and double-talk this time of year, even I’m just making it up. But I don’t think I am. And that’s why the upcoming tête-à-têtes will be so important.

Nothing’s going to be hashed out, but I think the Cubs are letting these agents know exactly how serious they intend to be. At the same time, they’re going to want to suss out how serious Price was when he said winning in Chicago would be “the coolest.” Stay tuned for more conspiracy theory and rabbit trail chasing.


Andrelton Simmons trade talks and more from the GM meetings

Huh, so that’s kind of big news. Jon Heyman later reported that the Padres and “a few other teams” were talking to the Braves and that Simmons’ current club is actually listening. Heyman also mentions the Mets and White Sox as teams with less-than-perfect shortstop situations. After the news surrounding Jose Reyes, I’d expect the Rockies to maybe kick the tires too. As a Gold Glove defender who just turned 26 in September, Simmons figures to be worth quite the haul in return. He’s not without his flaws though.

Despite ranking 2nd in UZR since his debut season of 2012 (Jason Heyward 1st) and ranking 1st in Fangraphs’ catch-all Def ranking (he has a 90.7, while only 2 other players over that period are even in the 60’s), Simmons is below average at the plate. A team giving up a great deal to acquire him would need to bank on the hope that his offense improves or that his defense doesn’t suffer. Also at play is Simmons’ contract, which locks him up through 2020 and seems like a pretty good bargain at less than $8.3 million AAV.

But if I’m the Braves, I’m looking at the escalation of that deal — $6M in 2016, $8M in 2017, $11M in 2018, $13M in 2019, and $15M in 2020 — and wondering whether it’ll be holding my team back by the time it concludes. A potential trade involving Simmons could really impact what the Cubs do this offseason, given that they’ve been linked to both the Padres and Mets, at least in terms of needs and wants.

In other rumors coming out of Boca this week, Heyman first dropped names of several top-tier relievers said to be available. Ken Rosenthal then reported that “The list includes the Reds’ Aroldis Chapman, Yankees’ Andrew Miller, Pirates’ Mark Melancon, Rays’ Jake McGee and Brad Boxberger and Padres’ Joaquin Benoit and possibly Craig Kimbrel.” As we have seen from the Royals over the last two seasons, you can never have too many elite arms in the ‘pen.


MLB considers review of rules on slides into second

It’s not a new issue, but slides into second from Chris Coghlan and Chase Utley late in the season shined a very bright spotlight on how MLB governs such plays. This is probably going to be a tough issue for a lot of baseball fans, as takeout slides have been around since, well, forever. But just because something’s always been done a certain way doesn’t mean it’s right.

My concern with changing the rule doesn’t stem from a lament over eliminating some neanderthal concept of manhood and going all out, but that the resultant governance will be just as subjective as that concerning plays at the plate. While I don’t want to see good, hard baseball legislated out, I abhor having to watch men miss games and even seasons as the result of injuries suffered from a “clean” play.

Here’s my two cents, for what it’s worth: mandate that players slide into the bag. Simple as that. No arm’s length BS that leaves determination of intent and propriety in the hands of the umpires. This would eliminate a vast majority of injuries like the ones suffered by Jung-Ho Kang and Ruben Tejada and would do so without leaving millions of fans wondering exactly how to interpret the rule.


AJ Pierzynski gets a new deal

When I first saw this news, I assumed the aging catcher was just scamming the Braves for the free checkup. Health insurance is expensive, yo. Anyone else remember having to get those sports physicals every year? Our family doctor always used to have a bowl full of Saf-T-Pops, those lollipops with the loop for a stick, and I always liked grabbing one of those on the way out.

Pierzynski didn’t get a sweet snack after turning his head and coughing, but he did score a 50% raise on last year’s $2 million salary. The 38-year-old backstop hit .300/.339/.430 with 9 home runs and 49 RBI in 113 games for Atlanta, so that contract is actually a pretty good bargain. He probably won’t duplicate last year’s 2.1 WAR performance, but, assuming an incremental value of $8 million per win, even a paltry .37 WAR season makes it worth the cost.


Fun with seafood

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