The Rundown: Lots of Cubs Notes, Machado Gets Record Contract, More Harper Speculation
Looking back at my free agent profiles and predictions from November, I correctly guessed on only one of the top 30 available players at the time: Nathan Eovaldi. Do I have any hope for at least one more? You tell me:
- Bryce Harper – Cubs
- Craig Kimbrel – Braves
- Dallas Keuchel – Astros
- Marwin Gonzalez – Astros
Admittedly, not looking good.
In case you haven’t heard, Manny Machado signed with the Padres yesterday. It was the largest contract ever signed by a free agent and the second-largest contract in all of baseball. Pending the results of his physical, Machado will earn $300 million over 10 years with limited no-trade protection and no deferred money.
The Padres were late entrants into what had been a more pronounced market for the free agent infielder, at least compared to the submarine race for Harper’s services. White Sox fans were a combination of pissed off and dejected after the signing was announced. Kenny Williams was really caught off guard.
The signing puts the Friars on the bubble as a team that wants to contend in 2019. They’ll need to bolster their pitching staff and will probably start to be a little more aggressive in pushing their minor league players up the ladder. San Diego has MLB’s best farm system according to a number of analysts.
Where does that leave Harper? To the Phillies? It’s still hard for me to agree with that sentiment no matter what Jim Bowden says. Phillies GM Matt Klentak said yesterday that he wasn’t prepared to go to $300 million on the Padres’ new shortstop and Machado was known to be the Phillies’ first choice. If Harper is expected to exceed the $325 million contract of Giancarlo Stanton, how does Harper to Philadelphia seem like a lock?
Bryce or bust now for #Phillies? Here's Matt Klentak's take on that idea: pic.twitter.com/PntRZpqJzw
— Scott Lauber (@ScottLauber) February 19, 2019
SNY’s Danny Abriano is also reporting that Harper is unsure if he wants to play for Philadelphia, an idea that’s actually been out there for at least the last two months.
By the way, Machado was 14th in WAR last year in all of baseball. Harper was 78th. I know a lot of Cubs fans are holding onto hope that Theo Epstein will sign baseball’s top free agent and you could not have convinced me a week ago that they wouldn’t.
Despite that, I’ve never actually wanted that to happen. Yes, Harper has much more upside than the 1.3 WAR he posted last year. But the Cubs have a lot of players with upside and I’d rather see Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ reach their projections. Addison Russell too, if we are to be stuck with him. Remember, at this time last year Cubs fans were split down the middle regarding a possible trade of Russell-plus to the Orioles for Machado. Time and circumstances have obviously changed.
I would be on board if the Cubs signed Kimbrel, however. I think a lights-out closer is the only real difference between the 2016 championship team and the two that followed it.
Cubs News & Notes
- Per Dayn Perry of CBS Sports, there is no reason why the Cubs and Cardinals shouldn’t pursue Harper.
- The latest simulations at Scout.com have the Cubs winning 92 games, with a 14.8 percent chance of reaching the World Series. I’ll take those odds. In case you were wondering, the Brewers project to 89 wins according to the site.
- Yu Darvish sat 92-94 mph in a live bullpen session yesterday and reportedly felt good afterward.
- Javier Baez wants to take more walks in 2019. The MVP runner up is also seeking more urgency and accountability from himself and his teammates.
- The horizontal movement on Carl Edwards Jr.’s fastball is filthy.
- Jose Quintana is hoping to add more changeups to his limited repertoire.
- Anthony Rizzo has is looking very fit and trim this spring.
- If you are wondering what the bullpen will look like until Brandon Morrow returns, remember the Cubs had five saves by five different pitches over a 10-day span after Pedro Strop went down with a hamstring injury.
- Tom Ricketts continues to cite business sense — and not collusion — for baseball’s slow pace of signing free agents.
- The NL looks to be much more compressed in 2019, with maybe only three teams (the Marlins, Giants, and Diamondbacks) that aren’t legitimately trying to be competitive.
- Russell is grateful for the support of his teammates; Baez thinks the Kris Bryant–Yadier Molina kerfuffle is amusing; and Mike Montgomery is still sidelined. Mark Gonzalez has all the notes from yesterday’s workouts.
- Bryant has no plans to alter his swing in 2019.
- Has anyone seen Ben Zobrist yet?
- Ricketts isn’t doing anything at all to change the team’s image right now. It’s been awhile since we’ve heard anybody speak in positive terms regarding this organization.
- I’m not very fond of the Cubs new Own It Now marketing slogan, but the Cubs Insider t-shirts are pretty rad.
- Maybe if you put the slogan to music I might like it better.
- Congratulations, Fergie Jenkins!
Thank you @cactusleagueaz for today’s induction. I love my time in spring training every year I’m there. pic.twitter.com/lKrkKTcSsT
— Fergie Jenkins (@31fergiejenkins) February 20, 2019
Spring Training Notes
Godspeed, Don Newcombe. The former Dodgers pitcher passed away yesterday at the age of 92. Newcombe made his debut in 1949 and was just the third African-American pitcher to ever appear in an MLB game.
Justin Verlander is the only other pitcher besides Newcombe to win the Cy Young, MVP, and Rookie of the Year awards in his career.
A lot of marginal players are hip to bemoan baseball’s broken free agency, no offense to Adam Wainwright and Jeff Samardija. But when Mike Trout speaks, you should probably pay attention.
“Everybody sees it. It’s obviously not good for baseball,” Trout said the other day. “You’ve got two of the top guys not signed yet. With teams saying they want to rebuild, why not start with one of the top guys? Manny, Bryce, look at the pitchers out there. It’s pretty incredible. It’s disappointing for the players. It’s good they’re standing up for themselves.”
Rob Manfred wants fans to be patient and just let baseball work out its own issues. To help deflect attention away from any intensifying labor discord, the commissioner has vowed to crack down on sign-stealing this year.
The Orioles have the lowest projected win total for 2019. It’s not a pretty number.
Matt Barnes is considered the favorite to close for the Red Sox this summer.
Have you seen the future Mike North? This pint-sized Yankees fan was the rage of social media yesterday. I like the kid’s heart. It’s good to see that passion for baseball still exits among the Gen Z crowd.
Despite Machado’s record-setting contract, free agency hasn’t been cured. Those who think there is still not a reprehensible problem with baseball’s open market are right up there with anti-vaxxers thinking once-eradicated diseases are not making a comeback thanks to poor judgment. Tom Verducci of SI provided the hottest of takes yesterday afternoon with one of the most insane comparisons ever:
Let’s discuss the “free agent [sic] is broken” narrative and the “one-third of the teams are tanking” canard. Just one day after players association chief Tony Clark wickedly called out teams for not trying to justify the cost of a ticket, a low-revenue team without a winning team in six years under its current ownership just spent $300 million on a guy called out as a dirty player and who projects as Ryan Zimmerman with a better glove.
Wednesday Walk Up Song
The Fall by Rhye. My second entry by Rhye and I actually like this song much better. I may forego MLB Radio for this album on the way to work this morning.