The Rundown: Cubs in Football Mode, Arrieta’s Future in Chicago
And here’s Freddie Freeman, trying to complete the two-point conversion for the tie. He drops back…and he’s sacked by Wade Davis! Cubs win!
On the first full Saturday of college football, the Cubs and Braves engaged in a slugfest that read like a score more befitting the gridiron. It’s amazing that Davis had to be in the game at all after the Cubs had ridden a convoy of runs to an early 10-4 lead. But the bullpen surrendered eight runs in the final three innings to let the Braves right back in.
Saturday’s 14-run outburst represented the sixth time the Cubs have hung double digits on an opponent since August 14 and they’ve managed to win all but one of those. We’re seeing a reverse of the early-season narratives that told us the Cubs couldn’t manufacture runs and couldn’t hit with runners in scoring position. They’re hitting the longball too, though Saturday’s contributions came from unlikely sources.
Javy Baez hit his 21st homer of the season, which wasn’t necessarily unexpected. It had been 55 plate appearances since his last one, though, as he’s been staying within himself and sticking to low liners. Then you had Jason Heyward hitting his first homer since July 29 (106 PA’s), a laser shot to right. And glove-first catcher Rene Rivera added his first Cubs home run, which also happened to be his first career grand slam.
Yes, a lot of this damage has come against bad teams with bad pitchers. But you know what? The runs count the same and wins count the same. And maybe — I need you to follow me here, ’cause this is some next-level isht — these are the games that build up the Cubs’ confidence. Don’t get it twisted, it’s not like they were ever timid or unsure of themselves.
It’s just that sometimes when things aren’t going your way you get into a wrong way of thinking and you start questioning yourself. But then you start hanging crooked numbers and winning games and increasing your division lead and things get back to normal. You puff out your chest and you stand up a little straighter and you raise your hand, curling your fingers in a “c’mon” gesture.
If you’ve seen The Matrix, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The Cubs are starting to realize who they are again. And they’re doing it without a pair of key everyday players, which makes it that much better.
This has been kind of strange year when it comes to assessing Jake Arrieta’s future in Chicago. First it was a sure bet that he was gone because he was going to want too much many and too many years. Then fans were looking at him almost like persona non grata when he opened the season with a rough patch. Now he’s worked himself back into good favor and a big contract.
But it does feel as though the Cubs might have a little more desire to bring Arrieta back, at least should his contract demands be more reasonable than $200 million over six or seven years. It’s hard to believe any other teams would be willing to offer that kind of cheddar to a 32-year-old who is getting good results but is also showing a lower velocity.
Then you’ve got Justin Verlander being traded to the Astros, which may have impacted the Cubs’ strategy. While they were never seriously involved in the pursuit of the former Tiger in terms of a trade, they absolutely remained in conversations with Detroit and probably would have been legit suitors this winter. The Cubs are definitely going to be in the market for a pitcher one way or the other, so it makes sense to at least keep the door open to Arrieta.
Jed Hoyer addressed the former Cy Young winner’s impending free agency, among other things, when he joined 670 The Score’s Spiegel and Parkins Show (full audio) on Friday.
“He’s been a big part of our culture,” Hoyer said of Arrieta. “He’s been an enormous part of our success, and so of course we’re going to have those conversations. He’s earned free agency. He has every right to look around, but certainly, we’re going to be involved in that.
“So I don’t think people should look at it and say we’re not going to have those conversations.”
Whether those conversations will result in anything obviously remains to be seen, but I do think keeping Arrieta in Chicago is a much more realistic scenario now than it was even two months ago. The Cubs have the money and there’s obviously a great deal of familiarity there. Loyalty plays a role too, as the Cubs were the ones who showed faith in a guy who had run out of chances in Baltimore and who almost walked away from the game at one point.
Of course, the business side of baseball is likely to trump all of that and it’s going to take the Cubs and Arrieta finding a sweet spot in order for things to work out. That means enough money for the pitcher and fewer years for the team. The Cubs aren’t going to want to tie themselves up with a bunch of money that’s still on the books when it comes time to extend their young position players and Arrieta isn’t going to take a big hometown discount.
I still think the odds are greatly in favor of Arrieta leaving for greener pastures this winter, but I’m not as steadfast as I once was in thinking he’s gone for sure.
Freddie Freeman fading
You’d never guess it from his performance Saturday, but Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman is losing strength in the wrist he broke earlier this season.
“I’ve got nothing left, really,” Freeman said after his team’s 14-12 loss. “It feels like I’m swinging a wet newspaper.”
The Braves are crazy if they don’t just shut him down immediately, and that’s not just the Cubs fan in me talking. There’s no reason to keep running a guy out there if he’s less than 100 percent, let alone when he’s saying he’s got nothing.
More news and notes
- Even if Freddie is out, there might be a Freeman on the field Sunday. Javy Baez looked to have tweaked a foot or an ankle beating out a play at first yesterday. He remained in the game, so it wasn’t anything too serious, but this would be a good time to give him a breather by starting Mike Freeman. Or not.
- Jon Lester gave up a bunch of dingers, but the real key is that he was feeling fine and had his velocity back. The location was the only real issue and that can certainly improve.
- Both the Brewers and Cardinals lost yesterday, so the Cubs gained another game on both.
- Leonys Martin joined the Cubs Saturday and it’ll be interesting to see when and how they deploy him this month. If all goes well, he’s an unnecessary insurance policy and will act more as a late-game defensive replacement.
- Bryan Price will return as Reds manager in 2018, which, sure. As long as he remembers to keep bringing in lefties to face Anthony Rizzo, I like this move.