The Rundown: Expect Big Changes for Cubs, Dodgers Under DOJ Investigation, Yanks Claim to Be Out on Harper and Machado,

It sure seems like baseball has transitioned from the World Series to the hot stove a lot quicker this year. I know last winter seemed painfully slow because signings were initially few and far between, and the fact that the Cubs’ season ended prematurely this year probably has me a little more amped toward breaking transactions and rumors than usual. It just feels like there will be a lot of player movement in the next three months and it feels almost imminent.

I also believe the hype attached to some of the bigger names — both in free agency and available for trade — means we are going to hear a lot of “mystery team” references starting as early as next weekend’s GM Meetings. And is it just me or does it seem like Jon Heyman usually reports first whenever a mystery team is attached to a rumor? He gets a lot of inside dope, so maybe its just part of the territory and a way for agents to keep him honest.

Scott Boras got my engine revved up the other day with his troll job, too. Only Boras could successfully overhype what is arguably baseball’s most overhyped free agent class ever. This year truly feels like baseball has no offseason. I suspect the 100 or so days from Chris Sale’s strikeout of Manny Machado to end the World Series to the day pitchers and catchers report in February will probably fly by.

Cubs News & Notes

Patrick Mooney of the Athletic indicates that the entire outfield would likely be revamped if the Cubs sign Bryce Harper (subscription required). Evan Altman touched on it a little more in detail while delving into the production of free agents vs. traded players this past season.

Theo Epstein has been hesitant to say that the Cubs have achieved the sustained success he stated would be the MO of the organization, despite four straight postseason appearances, including a world championship in 2016. Everyone expects big changes ahead of spring training.

The Cubs value Daniel Murphy’s leadership and could possibly re-sign the free agent second baseman.

Jeff Burdick put together another stellar article exposing the flaws in the third-time-through-the-lineup theory, perhaps Joe Maddon’s favorite analytic.

The Cubs must decide by Friday whether to pick up the options on starters Cole Hamels ($20M) and Jose Quintana ($10.25M) and relievers Pedro Strop ($6.25M) and Brandon Kintzler ($10M). Strop and Quintana will most certainly be retained and Hamels is a near-lock. Kintzler will have to exercise his $5M option to stay with the team or walk, because the front office will not pay him $10M next season.

The Cubs are getting into the game of professional golf starting in 2020. The team, along with the PGA Tour, Western Golf Association and the MLBPA, will stage an event during spring training that features Tour Champions and retired MLB players.

Tuesday Stove

As mentioned above, with all prominent Boras-led free agents, you can bet a “mystery team” will enter the Harper sweepstakes before it is over. The Rangers, Brewers, and Cardinals could all be lurking beneath the surface, if only to drive up the costs to acquire the 26-year-old all-star for other teams. I don’t even want to think about a Yelich-Cain-Harper Milwaukee outfield. Yikes.

The Yankees claim that they don’t have a need to pursue either Harper or Manny Machado. They are, however, expected to pursue Patrick Corbin.

Peaceful labor relations are among the top 10 story lines for this off season. There has not been a work stoppage in baseball since 1994-95.

On Deck

Extra Innings

The Dodgers’ long history of spotty tactics involving Cuban prospects is under scrutiny by the Department of Justice. Last month SI reported that, acting on this dossier, the U.S. Department of Justice has begun a sweeping probe into possible corruption tied to the recruitment of international players, centered on potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which makes it unlawful to bribe foreign officials.

They Said It

  • “Everybody knew I was going to be a free agent seven years ago because everybody talked about it seven years ago. Nobody talked about this or that or the other. It was: When is Bryce going to leave? In seven years he’s going to go here. Or seven years he’s going to there.” – Bryce Harper

New Music Tuesday

  1. The Who By Numbers by The Who – The underrated 1975 release bangs in all the right places and sets the stage for Pete Townshend’s string of hit-selling solo LPs starting with 1980’s Empty Glass. Everyone knows “Squeezebox” and it’s inside joke but the keeper here is “They Are All in Love” which defines Townshend as one of the classic non-voices of the decade. That’s a compliment by the way. If you prefer songs about booze this is your album.I actually bought the LP on the 43rd anniversary of the album’s release.
  2. Life’s Rich Pageant by R.E.M. – I’ve said it before, R.E.M. is my go-to desert island band and to pick up their long-players on vinyl always makes me feel a little shopping-accomplished. There you go, I’m buying records in Theo-Speak now. “What if We Give it Away” and “Begin the Begin” need to be part of anyone’s personal canon, whether you like the band or not.
  3. Still Crazy After All These Years by Paul Simon – In the very first season of NL, episode two is fully dedicated to Paul Simon. He is the face of every skit when he is not performing the songs from this album on the show. The best bit is Simon’s one-on-one basketball game vs. Connie Hawkins. I scored a mint-condition original gem here with no bar code. Includes the Art Garfunkel reunion track “My Little Town.”

Tuesday Walk Up Song

Me & Julio Down by the Schoolyard by Paul Simon.

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