The Rundown: Morrow Could Be Key Bullpen Piece, Alma Mater Honors Rizzo, Astros Name New GM

Pitchers and catcher report in a week. Are you excited? I know I am. This has been one bone dry winter for Cubs fans, and nothing cures that like the sound of baseballs popping into gloves.

Which new Cub are you most excited to see? I don’t know if I have a favorite, but I wonder if anybody will recognize Brandon Morrow — it’s been an awfully long time since he’s been seen in Cubbie Blue. Jokes aside, the Cubs are counting on Morrow to pitch the way he did before he injured his elbow in 2018.

Just like last February, the team starts a new season with a bullpen that is very fluid. There isn’t a member of the Cubs’ relief corps that doesn’t carry a question mark or two, including closer Craig Kimbrel. A healthy and effective Morrow would go a long way toward replacing Steve Cishek and Brandon Kintzler.

Morrow had 22 saves and a 1.47 ERA in 35 games before his 2018 injury. He wasn’t supposed to miss the rest of that season, let alone all of 2019, but by all accounts appears to be ready to earn a spot with the team. When healthy, the former closer has been nothing short of elite.

Morrow served as a primary setup man for the 2017 Dodgers, helping to lead the team to the World Series. He had a 2.06 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in 45 appearances, registering a 10.3 K/9 rate and just a 1.9 BB/9 mark. He pitched in 14 of the 15 playoff games for Los Angeles that fall, including all seven World Series games.

As a free agent heading into 2018, Morrow inked a two-year deal (plus a team option) with the Cubs that included $21 million in guaranteed money. He’ll enter camp this season on a minor league deal and without a guaranteed roster spot.

A fully functioning version of the 35-year-old reliever would make for a heck of an offseason addition. Morrow’s deal is worth $1 million if he makes the big league roster and could reach $2.25 million if he makes 65 big-league appearances. He and Kimbrel would really solidify the back end of the bullpen if both are healthy and pitching to their capabilities.

Cubs News & Notes

Tuesday Stove

Former Rays’ executive James Click is the new Astros’ GM.

A Mookie Betts trade still appears to be imminent, though as of right now the outfielder remains with the Red Sox. The Dodgers and Padres continue to be the favorites to land the superstar.

In their effort to shed salary, the Red Sox reportedly want to attach David Price to Betts in any trade with Los Angeles. Price has three years and $96 million remaining on his deal.

The Mariners and starting pitcher Marco Gonzalez have agreed to terms on a four-year contract extension worth a reported $30 million.

The White Sox hope new catcher Yasmani Grandal will help in the development of their young starting pitchers, particularly Dylan Cease.

Yankees first baseman Luke Voit wins this year’s “Best Shape of My Life” award.

Apropos of Nothing

The idea that baseball seasons starts as soon as the Super Bowl is officially over is nonsense. It seems to be a new cliché that gives the NFL far too much credit and already seems beyond tired.

On Deck

Here’s a quick recap of where some former Cubs will be playing in 2020:

I still think Russell will find his way to Cincinnati.

Extra Innings

“Got your ears on Bandit?”

They Said It

  • “It’s crazy, especially with all that’s happened the last couple of years. But going to school here, growing up here, playing with a lot of really good players that have played at this school and come into this program, and having this named after us is something that I’ve never thought of. To be able to do it is just surreal.” – Anthony Rizzo
  • “We are still optimistic that some of these players that we control through 2021 will be long-term Cubs. There is still time.” – Jed Hoyer

Tuesday Walk Up Song

Eastbound and Down by Jerry Reed. Sure the Cubs are headed West, but this is still a helluva good truck driving song.

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