— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) October 24, 2019
The official start to hot stove season is less than a week away, so once Ross announces any coaching changes or additions to his staff, it will be time for us to start speculating on who will or won’t be part of next season’s roster. Try to alleviate any doubts that some of you may have just because Ross has friendships with a number of the players he will now lead. One issue that was painfully obvious over the last two seasons was that the team had started to drift apart. Ross will help bring them back together. Will it improve their play on the field? That’s debatable, but it certainly can’t hurt.
That said, change is coming. Will Epstein break apart his core four of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Báez, and Willson Contreras? If he signs Nicholas Castellanos, what does that mean for Kyle Schwarber? Could the front office do something bold and trade a starting pitcher on a friendly contract, such as Kyle Hendricks, for multiple players? What happens to Albert Almora Jr. and Addison Russell?
David Kaplan of NBC Sports Chicago made an off-the-wall suggestion yesterday that has been echoed by many fans. He believes the Cubs should take a gap year, step back just a bit, and retool for 2021. It’s not a bad idea, except that Epstein has just two years remaining on his deal. And while Ross will get a three-year deal with a fourth-year option, there is no guarantee he will be kept if Epstein steps down when his contract expires. With those kinds of expiration dates looming on the horizon, the smarter play would be to try and win it all the next two seasons.
What is known is that the Cubs need to find a starter or two, rebuild depth in their bullpen, and continue to search for the elusive leadoff hitter. They’ll need to decide if Nico Hoerner is ready to be an everyday second baseman, and the front office will need to find ways to spend optimally within their budget. If you are hoping for a Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, or Anthony Rendon signing, you are probably not going to have a happy winter.
But one step at a time, right? A new manager is in place and these are exciting times for Cubs fans. So grab your hard hats for now – for the first time in quite awhile, there may be more construction with the roster this winter than there will be at Wrigley Field.
Cubs News & Notes
- Behind the scenes as a player, Ross earned a reputation as a leader in the clubhouse, especially when it came to offering the kind of veteran edge that held teammates accountable.
- The perception that Bryant was promoted one day shy of being eligible for a full year of service time looks suspicious, but it might not be convincing enough for him to win his grievance against the Cubs.
- Bryant’s camp, presumably, would like credit for the lost day of service time, which would allow him to become a free agent after next season or, perhaps, financial compensation for delaying, if not suppressing his earning potential. The Cubs might instead propose an extension, although executives with other teams say they expect Chicago to look to trade Bryant this winter as part of a roster makeover, per R.J. Anderson of CBS Sports.
- The things that Joe Maddon says sound a bit more odd and eccentric when he represents a different organization. He’s hoping to beat the Cubs in the World Series next fall. I’ll be beyond thrilled if both teams make it to the Fall Classic.
- Rizzo and Jason Heyward were named as finalists for Gold Glove awards at their positions.
- Finding a way to trade José Quintana could free up quite a bit more spending room for Epstein, while perhaps opening the door to a major roster upgrade.
The Padres also named a new manager yesterday afternoon, appointing first-time skipper Jayce Tingler, who had served with the Rangers as their outfield and baserunning coach.
Analytics pioneer Bill James is leaving the Red Sox organization after 17 years with the team. His historical and industrial knowledge is unlikely to be replaced within Boston’s front office.
The Astros have fired assistant GM Brandon Taubman, according to a team release. Taubman’s termination comes days after a clubhouse incident in which he made repeated inappropriate comments toward Sports Illustrated writer Stephanie Apstein and other female reporters concerning the club’s acquisition of pitcher Roberto Osuna, who was arrested for domestic violence prior to his acquisition in July 2018.
Houston GM Jeffrey Luhnow still comes across as similarly irritating, by the way.
Astros GM Jeff Luhnow was asked whether he had personally reached out to @stephapstein to apologize.
Luhnow said he’s been busy and hasn’t had the time.
Stephanie was sitting in the room.
— Hazel Mae (@thehazelmae) October 24, 2019
Speculation continues to grow that the Angels have clearly set their sites on Cole after owner Artie Moreno promised a payroll increase on Thursday.
Age and a potential qualifying offer could hurt Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson in free agency this year. Donaldson signed a one-year pillow contract for $23 million last winter, and Atlanta most certainly will present the 34-year-old veteran with this year’s $17.8 million QO.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman announced yesterday that outfielder Aaron Hicks would be undergoing Tommy John surgery on Monday, with an estimated recovery time of about 8-10 months. The Yankees may bring back Brett Gardner for another year to take his place and they have Clint Frazier in reserve as well.
Cashman took some heat from reporters for not beefing up New York’s starting pitching when presented with alleged opportunities to acquire Cole, Justin Verlander, and/or Patrick Corbin. The GM said he had “no regrets” regarding any of the three elite starters.
As we officially change the guard today from Joe Maddon to David Ross, it feels fitting to throw it back to one of Joe's classiest moves as the Cubs manager: Removing David Ross mid-inning so he could receive a standing ovation in his final reg season game at Wrigley. pic.twitter.com/PDbOVEnTIN
— Cubs Insider (@realcubsinsider) October 24, 2019
They Said It
- “A lot has been made, and rightfully so, of my connection to the 2016 World Series team, and the notion that I’ll now be managing players I once counted on as teammates. Having those relationships going into this will be a bonus, no doubt about it. But those guys know I’ll be the first to hold them accountable, the first to demand their best daily effort and the first to let them know about it if they give anything but their best. I never had a problem dishing out a lot of tough love as their teammate, and that won’t change as their manager.” – David Ross
- “[Ross] earned the job on [his own] merits, and he will move the team forward in a new and different direction [than Joe Maddon].” – The Epstein
- “We’ve been through a lot things together, as far as on the field. Off the field, we’re obviously good friends. And this deal going forward will definitely be a unique and fun chapter that we’ll get to go through together.” – Jon Lester
Friday Walk Up Song
Your Life is Now by John Mellencamp – Congratulations to Ross. Let’s start by getting Chicago back atop the NL Central and see where things go from there.