The Rundown: Cubs Finally ‘Splurge’ in Free Agency, Farm System Surging, Dodgers Feel Cheated, Sunday Baseball Notes

Happy Sunday. The Cub and Brewers will start the regular season exactly two months from today. With that in mind I thought I’d beat PECOTA to the punch and give you my projected NL Central win totals for 2020, bearing in mind that my hunches are slightly less reliable than the algorithm Baseball Prospectus uses. In other words, don’t bet the farm on me.

  1. Cardinals 89
  2. Cubs 88
  3. Brewers 85
  4. Reds 83
  5. Pirates 69

It would be nice if the Cubs could find a win or three from outside the organization. Yesterday the Cubs reportedly signed free agent right fielder Steven Souza Jr. to a one-year deal, which should provide help if he can stay healthy. Souza, who turns 31 in April, last played a full season in 2017, when he hit .239 with 30 homers, 78 RBI, and 16 steals in 148 games for the Rays.

MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal first reported that the sides were close to a deal, though the Cubs have not yet confirmed Feinsand’s report. Evan Altman published a more in-depth perspective of the potential signing on Friday, when the sides were said to be closing in on a deal. Souza represents the first guaranteed addition to the major league payroll this winter.

One would think that the Cubs and Nicholas Castellanos will not be reuniting any time soon if the report is indeed accurate. If the Cubs are planning on starting Souza, Jason Heyward would move to center field. If they platoon the two right fielders, the Cubs still have a question mark in center. Obviously, any scenario where Theo Epstein would roster three potential starting right fielders seems beyond absurd. Then again, this is a team that has seven players capable of playing second base.

Last year’s biggest free agent splashes were Daniel Descalso and Brad Brach. In a like manner, it appears that Epstein is reshaping the fringes of his roster in hopes that his core is good enough to retake the division from St. Louis.

Cubs News & Notes

Updates on Nine

  1. Some of the younger Mets players are pretty excited that Luis Rojas has been hired to manage the team after Carlos Beltrán was dismissed last week, particularly Pete Alonzo and Jacob deGrom. Both played for Rojas at AA Binghamton. “I was just like, look: Luis works great with everybody,” said Alonso. “It would make sense to have someone who works well with other people. Because at the end of the day, if someone butts heads or clashes in a workplace, it doesn’t translate to good results. Luis is a great guy, he’s paid his dues and I think he’s going to be a great fit for us.”
  2. Despite the Pirates’ apparent desire to trade outfielder Starling Marté, no deal seems imminent at this time. Most teams don’t like to disrupt their rosters this close to the start of spring training. If you think that’s a veiled reference that the Cubs probably won’t deal Bryant, either, you’d be correct in that assumption.
  3. After seven straight losing seasons, the White Sox appear ready to make some noise in the AL Central. Manager Rick Renteria believes a division title is well within reach. ““Our guys are telling our young players, ‘Hey it’s time to go,’” Renteria said. “We don’t have time to mess around. We have a window of opportunity. Let’s take it. That’s where we’re at.”
  4. New White Sox starter Dallas Keuchel apologized this weekend on behalf of the Astros, becoming the first member of that 2017 squad to make such an admission publicly. Keuchel backtracked quite a bit in covering for his teammates and at times seemed to justify the illegal activities. He also admonished former teammate and whistleblower Mike Fiers. “It sucks to the extent of the clubhouse rule was broken and that’s where I’ll go with that,” Keuchel said. “I don’t really have much else to say about Mike.”
  5. Fiers refused to answer any questions regarding the scandal at the A’s annual Winter Fan Fest this weekend, saying he doesn’t want the issue to become a distraction in Oakland this season.
  6. The Dodgers feel victimized by the Astros for their sign stealing activities in 2017, and with an ongoing investigation into allegations that the Red Sox used similar measures in 2018, Los Angeles players are starting to speak up on the matter. The Dodgers lost back-to-back World Series to both teams. “It’s really frustrating if you look at what could’ve happened,” Dave Roberts said. The Dodgers’ manager mentioned pitchers Clayton KershawKenley Jansen and Yu Darvish received “unfair criticism” for their performances against the Astros in ’17.
  7. The Rangers need a big bat and still have Castellanos and Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado on their radar.
  8. After bidding farewell to third baseman Josh Donaldson, the Braves are confident that recently signed outfielder Marcell Ozuna can replace him statistically.
  9. Former Yankees great Andy Pettitte, who is now a special advisor to GM Brian Cashman, was instrumental in convincing Gerrit Cole to sign with New York. The two pitchers had a 20-minute one-on-one after Cole met with Cashman and the team’s ownership group. The meeting with Pettitte apparently convinced Cole to agree to terms.

On Deck

The Astros are still the scourge of baseball, in case you forgot.

Extra Innings

SC Johnson and the Brewers jointly announced a new, and possibly historic, partnership Friday at Miller Park, where SCJ will have the stadium’s used plastic cups collected and recycled to make Scrubbing Bubbles bottles. That’s a good thing and it would be nice if more teams follow that lead.

They Said It

  • “There is zero doubt in my mind of the player and person that I am in baseball. I came down to Arizona and ran and they were the ones who confirmed that I looked just as good as I had before. I am completely confident in my ability and I’m just excited for the next adventure.”Steven Souza Jr.
  • “I think the tough part is we know how hard it is to win a World Series. Getting there back-to-back years and not being successful, we know that it’s something you really have to earn. With the commissioner’s report and the evidence and what they had, it’s hard to feel like [the Astros] earned the right to be called champions.”Justin Turner

Sunday Walk Up Song

California Dreamin’ by Jose Feliciano. A more somber and gloomy version of The Mamas & The Papas’ classic represents a big mood for fans of the Dodgers these days

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