Though Tuesday saw scores of players changing laundry, the Cubs actually had a pretty quiet deadline. Heck, the most excitement may have come from an early report that the Marlins had traded side-winding righty Brad Ziegler. With no details and previous reports of the Cubs’ strong interest, several rumor-mongers tried to jump the legit reports and claim that Ziegler was headed to Chicago.
He ended up going to Arizona, tweets were deleted in order to erase guesses disguised as sourced info, and the Cubs ended up getting Brandon Kintzler. Wait, what? Even with the Nationals going into partial sell mode, the 34-year-old righty seemed like an odd player to move. He’s not super expensive and has an interesting option that could keep him around for a reasonable price next season.
In addition to his work for the Nats, Kintzler might be familiar to Cubs fans from last year’s deadline and also this winter. He was closing for the Twins and had actually racked up 28 saves before eventually being traded to Washington. Kintzler then became a free agent, opting to remain in DC on a one-year, $5 million deal that could beget a second year.
If you’re keeping score at home, you’ll note that this is the second straight season in which Kintzler has been traded at the deadline. It also means that it’s the second time in two seasons that he’ll travel to join his new team on his birthday. He’s moved to a better situation each time, but that still can’t be fun.
His contract has a $10 million team option that becomes a $5 million player option if the team doesn’t pick it up. Because the Cubs probably won’t exercise their option, they’d only be on the hook for the smaller figure, and even then only if Kintzler doesn’t feel he can do better on the open market. So from a luxury tax standpoint, they’re only responsible for the roughly $1.8 million remaining for this season.
Kintzler isn’t a big strikeout strikeout guy, though his 6.54 K/9 is a little higher than his 6.16 career average. His value is in avoiding walks and home runs, the latter of which he allows at a lower rate (0.42 HR/9) than all but 26 of 287 MLB pitchers with at least 40 IP. He’s also got that closing experience noted earlier, though he’ll ideally serve as more of a mid-to-late-innings guy with the Cubs.
Another important factor to consider with Kintzler is his tendency to be tougher against lefties than righties. Though his platoon splits are nearly identical this season, the righty has traditionally held lefties more in check. The .272 wOBA he’s allowed to lefties over the last several years is 47 points lower than what he’s given up to righties.
In addition to what he brings on the mound, Kintzler seems like the kind of guy who fits what the Cubs look for from a personality standpoint. Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post wrote that he “was a major presence in the clubhouse, leaned on by veteran starters and less-experienced relievers alike for advice on mechanics and approach.”
Janes also suggested that that same leadership role may have precipitated the move, as Nats leadership was often irked by Kintzler’s willingness to speak his mind about how he was being deployed. You’d think that might be a good thing, but perhaps the front office wants a little more control in the clubhouse. That shouldn’t be an issue in Chicago, unless you believe what Alex Rodriguez says.
It’s not a sexy move, but it’s the kind of deal Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have been saying all along they were going to make. And they’ve still got another month to keeping digging for waiver-wire moves to solidify any other areas.
Darvish feels no pain
Yu Darvish was on the bullpen mound at PNC Park for a 35-pitch session that may have provided the best news yet about his rehab. You may recall that he reported feeling a little pain in a previous session, which he alleviated by tweaking his mechanics a little bit.
Then there was the rehab start in South Bend, after which he said he felt a little odd but mainly just fatigued. After that came the more serious pain in a bullpen that led to a new evaluation and subsequent cortisone shot.
So, yeah, not having any pain is kind of a big deal.
“For the first time in two months, I felt nothing from the first pitch, playing catch, to the last [in the] bullpen session,” Darvish told Jesse Rogers and other media members through his interpreter. “This is the actual starting point. I need to build up the self-confidence from within from this point on.”
Some folks will probably run with that last statement as further evidence of the mental weakness too often listed as a knock on Darvish. Rather, he’s talking about coming back from an injury and feeling confident in his ability to really let it go out there. If you’ve ever dealt with a lingering issue like that, the mental stigma is often harder to shake than the physical.
And you knew he was going to be asked about the A-Rod claims, nearly all of which have been thoroughly debunked by various members of the organization. There is, however, some truth to the notion that Darvish has been directing the progress of his rehab.
The pitcher sidestepped any deep response to the color man’s comments, but spoke to the issues with the timeline of his absence and echoed some of the same dismay and frustration felt by fans.
“I took the MRI and nothing showed up but it turns out I can’t throw,” Darvish said. “As much as it’s a mystery to you guys, it’s more of a mystery to myself because I’m the one trying to process it and grind through.”
I love Yu, man
Bryzzo. Bozo. Yuzo?
Asked about any tension in the clubhouse, Darvish relayed a story about the team’s de facto captain set him at ease following those comments on Sunday Night Baseball.
“Rizzo gave me a big hug and told me ‘I love you’ but then again I’m not sure if he means it or not,” Darvish deadpanned through his interpreter.
Darvish: “Rizzo gave me a big hug and told me 'I love you' but then again I'm not sure if he means it or not.” (laughing)
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) July 31, 2018
That sense of humor often goes overlooked, whether it’s because of the language barrier or the delivery that’s as dry as Death Valley. But it might be that very thing that helps Darvish to come back and get into the good graces of fans again.
We all saw it on Twitter this past winter as Darvish toyed with rumor-mongers and beat reporters alike. Once he’s able to get right from a health standpoint and his pitching comes back around, I’d wager we see more and more of his personality.
Already running long, so I’m only going to touch on Addison Russell’s ill-fated slide into third. He should have been safe, but then again, he shouldn’t have been stretching the play in the first place. Not trying to slide like Javy Baez probably would have helped too, since his left hand would have been on the bag. And don’t get me started on looking back at the ball instead of his base coach.
Finally, there’s the replay, which did not give us anything definitive based on the angles given to us on the NBC Sports Chicago broadcast. If MLB has different angles they can see, it’s imperative that they make those available to fans as well. Not because the rest of us are deserving of more, but because it’s detrimental to MLB’s product to have even the faintest perception that they’re hiding things or that any shenanigans are taking place.
It’s a simple fix, but one Rob Manfred and MLB are surely too busy loving the smell of their own farts to bother addressing.