The Rundown: Status Quo Remains on North Side, Maddon Thanks Chicago, Robo Umps Coming Soon, Sunday Baseball Notes
A number of fans on some of the more popular social media sites have asked me not to write about possible Kris Bryant trades, underwhelming free agent signings, or anything that has to do with the Cubs’ current financial situation. Unfortunately that’s your basic North Side offseason syllabus, so, removing those three topics leaves me with little to discuss.
Spring training starts in just eight weeks and the Cubs have yet to make a significant trade or free agent signing. That doesn’t mean there isn’t time to change the face of the ballclub, although a lot of the teams who might be interested in some of Chicago’s players are filling holes elsewhere. Naturally, when your potential market shrinks, the likelihood of an impact trade lessens too, because less demand tends to diminish any potential return.
A couple of free agents that might interest the Cubs, namely Nicholas Castellanos and Shogo Akiyama, are still available but Dallas Keuchel just signed with the White Sox and right now, unless David Ross is considering Tyler Chatwood, the Cubs don’t have a clear fifth starter.
A lot of people think the Cubs might need to sign a second baseman, and Joe Panik has been mentioned quite a bit lately, but the team has many middle infield options already. Though none of them are Whit Merrifield, the Cubs can field a better-than-decent infield by giving the position to Ian Happ, David Bote, or Nico Hoerner, and plenty of backup exists with Daniel Descalso, Hernán Pérez, Robel García, and Tony Kemp. Once again the Cubs have cornered the market on “average joe” athletes to man second base.
The Cubs also have a gaping hole in center field, and if the season was to start today, it could be Happ or Albert Almora Jr. playing in-between Kyle Schwarber and Jason Heyward. That is unless Tom Ricketts approves the expenditure required to sign Akiyama.
And if you are anxiously waiting for Josh Donaldson to sign somewhere so that a trade of Bryant might materialize, don’t hold your breath. I believe Donaldson is waiting for a team to cross the $100 million barrier. That said, the biggest impetus to trading Bryant is the announcement of a ruling in his ongoing grievance over alleged service time manipulation. But is that really it? Nolan Arenado has been made available by the Rockies and his market doesn’t seem to be as robust as it should be.
It’s probably not what you want to hear, but a real possibility exists that Epstein will go to battle with basically the same team that choked away potential division championships in each of the past two seasons. Any significant change, therefore, may not come until the 2020 trade deadline, depending of course on how well the team is doing at that point.
Cubs News & Notes
- Not a shocking surprise, but most of the current Cubs’ roster has been named to its all-decade team. In fact, every player on the list finished last season with Chicago except Jake Arrieta.
- The Cubs have five prospects who could see marked improvement by working with director of pitching Craig Breslow and getting into the Cubs pitching lab.
- Ryan Tepera joins the growing list of high upside under-the radar signings by Epstein. Tepera was added to the 40-man which now sits at 39 players.
- If the Cubs are going to play “Let’s Make a Minor-League Deal” all winter, then they are going to have to rely on their organizational improvements, a new clubhouse atmosphere under Ross, and a revamped coaching staff (subscription to The Athletic required).
- Pretty classy move by Joe Maddon and his wife Jaye. The flamingo knows.
Joe and Jaye Maddon thank Chicago fans in full page ad in Chicago Tribune today. Cheers to @MaddHalos . #Cubs pic.twitter.com/X578uttro7
— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) December 22, 2019
Updates On Nine
- MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark is probably not a happy man right now. Despite a number of record breaking free agent deals and others that probably seem like an overreach based on the deals of the last two offseasons, the average player salary has dropped in consecutive years for the first time since detailed records were kept starting in 1967.
- Meanwhile, commissioner Rob Manfred and his merry band of owners and front offices are probably quite happy these days. For the 17th year in a row, Major League Baseball has set a new revenue record, raking in $10.7 billion in 2019. That’s up from $10.3 billion the year before, per Maury Brown of Forbes. What’s more, that growth is poised to continue and accelerate.
- The Mets saved a hefty bit of coin over the weekend. A deal between the team and Yoenis Céspedes has changed the outfielder’s base salary for the upcoming season from $29.5 million to $6 million. Incentives could cut that difference by more than half, but Céspedes is not expected to play again until 2021. New York withheld part of the slugger’s salary, alleging he was hurt during an activity prohibited by a guarantee in the language of his contract. The MLBPA filed a grievance, and the sides settled on an amended deal before the case was heard.
- The Blue Jays and Travish Shaw have agreed on a one-year deal that will pay the infielder $4 million. The deal includes an additional $675,000 in performance incentives. Shaw, 29, played mostly at third base for the Brewers but also saw action at first and second, slumping to a .157 batting average with seven home runs and 16 RBIs in 86 games last season.
- Anthony Rendon cashed in spectacularly in free agency, and he will be joining Mike Trout as part of the highest paid tandem in baseball history. Artie Moreno, despite winning just one World Series in 2002, has never been shy about spending his money. If you add in the contract of Albert Pujols, the Angels will be paying out just shy of $92 million in guaranteed money for the three players in 2020. Rendon also has bonuses included for all-star selections, and MVP awards in both the ALCS and World Series.
- Ian Kinsler has retired after 14 seasons in the big leagues, leaving the game just one hit shy of 2,000. The infielder will join the Padres’ front office as the two sides figure out how to settle the $4.25 million that is left on his contract.
- New Cleveland outfielder Delino DeShields Jr. is excited about playing for the Indians, thinks he is a perfect fit to answer some of the club’s offensive and defensive needs, and expects to make a significant contribution in 2020. The center fielder said he did have a chat with manager Terry Francona, and the Tribe skipper told DeShields that the team has had interest for some time in acquiring his services.
- Though they are likely sign-and-flip candidates, the Tigers signed veterans C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop. The two will be everyday players at first and second base respectively. Detroit is in the midst of a long rebuild that has yet to provide much hope for fans of the organization.
- A proposed trade between the Rockies and Cardinals for third baseman Nolan Arenado would definitely make St. Louis the team to beat in the NL Central and a formidable challenge for the Braves, Nationals and Dodgers in the 2020 playoffs. That said, an offer of Harrison Bader or Randy Arozarena, Yairo Munez, and number two prospect Nolan Gorman, probably has no legs without the inclusion of starter Jack Flaherty.
Apropos of Nothing
I will be taking a Rundown sabbatical on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years, Eve, and New Years Day unless some significant news breaks. Starting January 2, I will be back to my six-columns-per-week schedule as we gear up for CubsCon 2020 and spring training.
I hope MLB uses the voice of Peter Weller and calls the “umpire” Robocop.
MLB Umpires agree to electronic strike zone testing and development for 'robot umps' in new union deal https://t.co/pFwIQsZ7OQ
— CBS Sports MLB (@CBSSportsMLB) December 22, 2019
They Said It
“We’ve been talking in a lot of hypotheticals — if we get this guy, if we get that guy. And we also always circle back to with the roster we have right now — status quo — because it’s hard to acquire players.” – Theo Epstein
Sunday Walk Up Song
We Ain’t Got Nothing Yet by Blues Magoos – How do you feel about a status quo squad on the North Side starting in March?