The Rundown: Cubs Confident in Hamels, Huge Chips on Shoulders, Camps Open Across MLB, This Week’s New Spins
It is looking more and more like the Cubs’ biggest acquisition of the offseason will be Cole Hamels, which really wasn’t an acquisition at all. They picked up Hamels’ $20 million option about two days into the offseason and now it will be up to the veteran pitcher to prove he is worth the expenditure.
Hamels was the team’s best starter from the day he arrived last July, posting a 2.36 ERA in 76.1 innings for the Cubs after coming over in a trade with the Rangers. The ace lefty allowed just one earned run in his first 11 innings pitching on the North Side. In 114.1 frames with Texas, however, he pitched to a far less impressive 4.72 ERA and even uglier 5.20 FIP.
.@ColeHamels and @JLester34 have spent most of their careers pitching against each other, but now look forward to pushing and learning from each other for a full season. #Cubs pic.twitter.com/nfW4BrQk9N
— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) February 9, 2019
Hamels thinks he has much more in the tank and believes his arm action and the angle of the ball look more and more like they did during his best years. Theo Epstein had high praise for Hamels at this year’s Cubs Convention, referring to the lefty as “a dude.” Jed Hoyer is a believer, too.
“Zero second thoughts,” said the Cubs GM. “Cole had such an incredible impact on our pitching staff, on our clubhouse. He was totally rejuvenated coming over here. We loved having him. Having a talent like Cole both on and off the field, on a contract like that for one year, seemed like the right thing to do. No regrets whatsoever.”
Hamels entering his age-35 season and hasn’t been a genuine top-of-the-rotation arm since 2016, when he posted a 3.32 ERA in 200+ frames. The possibility exists that he can be the dominant starter he was over the last two months of last season, but the Cubs are paying an awful lot to find out.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs are pissed about the way 2018 ended and they want everybody to know.
- After a winter of discontent, will the Cubs be able to move on?
- Adbert Alzolay is going to be a “big piece” for the Cubs this year.
- After 18 days, the Brad Brach signing is now official and their 40-man roster is full, for now. Oscar de la Cruz and Addison Russell remain on the restricted list.
- The Cubs’ failure to draft and develop pitchers has really hamstrung the team in recent years.
- The Shepherd Express is a weekly arts and entertainment newspaper here in Milwaukee and I pick my father-in-law up a copy every weekend because they have the New York Times crossword puzzle, which helps keep his mind sharp. This week they also have an article about the Cubs very quiet winter.
- The Cubs want you to know that they are not affiliated with Joe Ricketts, nor his views.
- An offseason filled with fan anxiety and no significant roster additions leaves the Cubs with more than a few questions heading into spring training.
- Joe Maddon has been ranked as MLB’s sixth best manager by Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. He has been a notorious Cubs hater since Theo Epstein bolted Boston for Chicago.
- It looks like the backup catcher position will go to Victor Caratini. I’m a big believer in the stick, but I just hope that means Maddon isn’t planning to exhaust Willson Contreras with a heavy workload behind the plate again.
- Contreras isn’t concerned about the moves the other Central Division teams have made this winter. “I think the division this year will be tougher, but that’s good for us. We like to compete. We’re good.” He also admitted that it was strange having nearly a full extra month off this winter thanks to the quick postseason elimination.
- Jon Lester is just 23 wins shy of 200 for his career. In case you were wondering, Curt Schilling and Barry Zito were the last starting pitchers to win 23 games in one season, both accomplishing the feat in 2002. Randy Johnson was Schilling’s teammate in Arizona that year and he won 24 games. Lester’s career-high single-season win total is 19 (2010, 2016).
Today marks the end of the hot stove until November. Not much of a stove this year. It was more like a survival candle, actually. I’ll replace this section with “Spring Training Notes” until the season starts at the end of March.
Kyler Murray will commit to the NFL this season, though the A’s are not giving up on him. Murray will have to repay a significant portion of his signing bonus back to Oakland, and the A’s will not receive a compensatory pick in this year’s draft since Murray did initially sign with the team.
Justin Verlander had a thing or two to say about the current economic state of baseball.
MLB Network’s countdown of baseball’s best players at each position came to a conclusion on Saturday night. Here’s a look at the lists for each position.
Bleacher Report takes a look at the players who had every reason to expect more from free agency this winter.
Jonathan Mayo lists 20 rookies who could make a significant impact this season.
A look at the spring training agendas for all 15 Cactus League teams.
Eduardo Rodriguez is the first player to declare himself “in the best shape of my life” this spring. Confetti cupcakes for everybody.
If you are off to Arizona or Florida for spring training, you left the Midwest just in time. Winter storms Maya and Nadia are set to wreak havoc this week. I’m already tired of this winter, which really didn’t even exist until mid-January.
Over 100 million Americans are affected by weather warnings this morning. Unfortunately, this is the new norm. If you’re driving, be safe. I am working from home today. I can’t even get to work because of 8-12 inches of snow that is being nicely glazed over by freezing rain.
Coolest thing on the internet yesterday:
Evan Longoria's kid doing his best Benny The Jet is A++ Internet.
(via @Evan3Longoria on IG) pic.twitter.com/eCFWha2kcm
— Yahoo Sports MLB (@MLByahoosports) February 12, 2019
This Weeks News Spins
- Retrospective: The Best of Buffalo Springfield – Before Twitter was a thing, musicians use to compose songs to educate their fans on the social injustices of the world. Now musicians just whine about it for the most part. For What it’s Worth is a great reminder of the impact music used to have on the world. There is not a bad song on this LP, which is a sprawling folk, bluegrass, and psychedelic trip back to the socially-charged late ’60’s.
- Back to Black by Amy Winehouse – I believe her career was about to explode before the 27-year-old Winehouse passed away due to complications of alcoholism. This was her breakthrough record, one in which she wholly embraced the R&B vibe that had her on a path to commercial and mainstream superstardom. The sexually charged You Know I’m No Good is still a killer cut, though the lyrics to the title song seem very prophetic in retrospect – “We only said good bye with words, I died a hundred times/You go back to her, and I go back to black.”
- No Nukes (Various Artists) – The No Nukes protest concert in 1979 was one of the defining ’70’s events for aging ’60’s hippies, coming on the heels of the Three Mile Island core meltdown incident in Pennsylvania but well before the Chernobyl disaster in ’86. It had little, if any social impact and the album features a lot of throwaway songs that didn’t age very well. But the performances by Bruce Springsteen (Mitch Ryder Medley) and Tom Petty (Cry to Me) are the treasures of this two-disc set. Both songs left an impression on the 15-year old version of me, as both artists became favorites of mine, and still are. I will admit that I still love Mockingbird by James Taylor and Carly Simon. Don’t @ me.
Tuesday Walk Up Song
Ride by Cary Brothers.