The Rundown: Black Friday Roster Musings, Be Thankful for Jason Heyward, Orioles Cut Villar

Tough to dig up any real baseball news from yesterday, but things should pick up this weekend and all next week as we inch closer to the Winter Meetings.

What are the Cubs going to do about Addison Russell? Personal issues aside, his salary is expected to jump to $5.1 million in 2020 and he is coming off a year where he badly underperformed. He also admitted to a complete lack of preparation and concentration, spending a short time in Iowa as a result. If the Cubs tender a contract to all of their arb-eligible players and each gets his expected bump, Theo Epstein is looking at a payroll that will be over the $208 million luxury tax threshold even before free agents are added.

That would seem to leave Russell in a precarious position, but we all said that last year, too. Could the Cubs really keep Russell choose to tender the infielder by the December 2 deadline. As unpopular as it might be, nothing would be shocking at this point.

Who is going to fill the fifth spot in the rotation? Tyler Chatwood seems like the probable choice, but Joe Maddon liked him as a swingman and David Ross might as well. When Kyle Gibson, who MLBTR had pegged as a possible Cubs’ acquisition this year, received a three-year, $30million contract from the Rangers, it probably left some uneasiness with the front office that they could find anybody within their limited budget that would be better than current internal options. Alec Mills deserves a shot and Adbert Alzolay is probably on the short list to be the fifth starter, too. I suppose we shouldn’t discount Brailyn Marquez, though he seems more likely to be a mid-season call up at the earliest.

We should probably drop the Whit Merrifield trade talk as well. Not only does Kansas City want a king’s ransom for the second baseman/outfielder, Royals’ GM Dayton Moore isn’t particularly interested in trading Merrifield. If the Cubs go outside the organization, they’ll have to acquire a guy like David Fletcher from the Angels, or possibly sign Eric Sogard, who’s looking at a $1.5 million contract or even a minor league deal. Hunter Pence is another possibility from the back-of-the-store sales rack. Would Los Angeles trade Fletcher? Maddon, now with the Angels, already knows what it’s like to lose a bona fide leadoff hitter, so to me it seems doubtful.

In case you weren’t watching, Pence slashed .297/.358/.552 last season and his .910 OPS was the highest full-season mark of his career. But he turns 38 on April 13, so a repeat of last year seems unlikely. He still might be worth a look on a minor-league deal.

With the exception of closer Craig Kimbrel, who will be 32 next season, the Cubs bullpen should look much younger next season. Outside of lefty Danny Hultzen (30) and potential moves before spring training, most of the Cubs relief corps will be in their age-27 or 28 seasons. Dellin Betances is the current best reliever available in free agency, so if the Cubs add to their bullpen from outside their organization, it will probably have to be through a trade.

As for bigger moves, are the Cubs really going to pull the trigger and move any of their core four? Will players on the periphery with redundant skill sets, like Ian Happ, be moved to shore up the bullpen or land a young starting pitcher? With this lull before the storm of the Winter Meetings, it almost feels like Epstein is going to stand pat again this winter. We’ve grown to expect big moves early into the offseason, but all the front office has done so far is replace Kendall Graveman with Jharel Cotton. It will be interesting to see the plan unfold.

Cubs News & Notes 

  • Would the Angels part with outfield prospect Jo Adell, who has drawn comparisons to Juan Soto, in exchange for Kris Bryant? It would fill one Cubs’ need, but leave a gaping hole at third base.
  • Though Cole Hamels would seem like a good fit to fill the fifth starter role, it’s unlikely that the Cubs will re-sign the free agent lefty.
  • How about some Jason Heyward highlights to remind you that the right fielder is a lot better than most Cubs fans will admit. Forget the salary and be thankful he’s a Cub.

Friday Stove

The Dodgers’ dearth of African-American players underscores a bigger league-wide issue.

White Sox sophomore Eloy Jiménez is on a mission to be one of the best outfielders in the game.

If the A’s decide to trade infielder Marcus Semien, they should have no shortage of potential suitors.

A couple of former Astros players believe that MLB should suspend anyone found guilty in its investigation into using technology to steal signs.

The Orioles have outrighted Jonathan Villar in hopes of trading the infielder, who is projected to earn $10.4 million in arbitration. The 28-year-old slashed .274/.339/.453 and was worth four wins last season.

The New York Post called the Villar outright a “soulless, tanking move.”

Starling Marté is open to being traded by the Pirates, and would like to play for a contender. That may be a subtle hint at asking not to be moved to the Mets.

Reds’ starter Trevor Bauer had a bit of a fender bender the other day.

The nationals will be in a bit of a pickle of their own if they lose both Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg in free agency.

Extra Innings

Happy Black “Magic” Friday all y’all.

Friday Walk Up Song

Family Affair by Mary J. Blige. Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving.

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