You can tell it’s getting close to spring training because we are seeing a lot of Cubs news and getting quite a bit of quotes and soundbites up and down the organization. Of course, rumors surrounding a certain all-star third baseman continue to drive storylines across baseball media. You may not want to hold your breath on the end of those whispers, because they’re likely to persist until the trade deadline if a move is not made beforehand.
In the meantime, it’s time to get excited about baseball. Pitchers and catchers report in just two days and some players are already off to a nice head start.
Cubs prized prospect Brailyn Marquez: pic.twitter.com/iAWAUubcXS
— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) February 8, 2020
We are just 20 days away from the start of the 2020 Cactus League schedule, when the Cubs open against the A’s in what will also represent the launch of Marquee Network. We’ve got a nice little snowstorm up here in Milwaukee right now, but all I can think about is sunshine and Cubs baseball. Let’s get into it, shall we?
Cubs News & Notes
- Theo Epstein is not surprised he’s gone from hero to goat in the eyes of many Cubs fans.
- David Ross is excited as heck to get the 2020 season started and thinks the Cubs can win a championship this season. I wonder if the players will still call him Grandpa Rossy?
- New Cubs outfielder Steven Souza Jr. is going to wear number 21 this season. I don’t know about you, but I immediately thought of Sammy Sosa as their names look quite similar in the blue letters with red piping.
- St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer Jeff Gordon believes that Kris Bryant is disgruntled, and therefore the Cubs should trade him. That’s Cardinals fan-speak for “we fear the Cubs with Bryant.”
- Then again, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com thinks the Cubs and Cards match up well on a Bryant trade, so maybe that’s Gordon’s angle.
- Regardless, rumors about Bryant and a possible trade continue to hover over the team on the precipice of spring training.
- For his part, Bryant would rather just tune all the extraneous noise out. “Whatever happens, happens. I’m playing baseball for a living, I can’t complain about anything.”
- Despite 31 home runs and an OPS+ of 131, Bryant was not named one of the top third baseman in the game by the MLB Network’s Shredder.
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) February 9, 2020
- The front office believes there will be an intense battle at second base this spring.
- Jason Kipnis could be an option, too. The Cubs reportedly remain interested in the former Indians second baseman. Scooter Gennett was previously mentioned as a potential free agent option, too.
- Nico Hoerner feels that he’s in a good spot to win the job this spring. David Bote is probably the early favorite, and Ian Happ will likely be the team’s regular center fielder.
- Jed Hoyer likes Hoerner’s chances.
- Happ led the Cubs in barrels rate last season. Happ was the talk of Cubs Convention last month, and everybody in the organization believes he is headed for a monster year.
- Kyle Schwarber likes the Cubs’ odds this season, despite the fact that the team’s biggest change was replacing Ross with Joe Maddon. “What we have here is still top tier,” Schwarber said. “You look at a lot of people’s track records and see what they’ve done in this game and see what they’re still capable of. … I would take this team any day.”
- Can Yu Darvish repeat his ace-like second half of last season? His incredible run featured a 142-batter walk-less streak that spanned seven starts (35 innings).
- Craig Kimbrel is ranked as the 15th best closer in all of baseball.
- Bill Chuck, who is a regular contributor to the original Sunday Baseball Notes column at The Boston Globe, lists 48 fun facts about Chicago baseball, as we are just 48 days from Opening Day.
Apropos of Nothing
This is an interesting take by retired Mets center fielder Mookie Wilson.
Happy birthday to Mookie Wilson, professor of Slump Busting 101 pic.twitter.com/V6MnX1zCPf
— Ben Porter (@Ben13Porter) February 9, 2020
Updates On Nine
- The Rays have traded closer Emilio Pagán to the Padres, costing me my AL-only fantasy baseball closer. They received outfielder Manuel Margot and pitching prospect Logan Driscoll in return. Pagán earned 20 saves last season in Tampa Bay and put up a 2.31 ERA over 70 innings with 96 strikeouts against 13 walks. He’ll work in a setup role for San Diego closer Kirby Yates. I actually had hoped the Cubs could somehow find a way to acquire the right-handed Pagán.
- The Mookie Betts trade is still a mess and is in jeopardy of completely falling apart. The Twins have reportedly pulled out of the deal, but there’s been a lot of chatter about the various parties still trying to make things work.
- MLBPA chief Tony Clark has called for baseball to resolve the impasse regarding Betts immediately. “The unethical leaking of medical information as well as the perversion of the salary arbitration process serve as continued reminders that too often players are treated as commodities by those running the game,” said Clark.
- Rays starter Charlie Morton says he regrets not doing more to prevent the Astros from cheating when he was with Houston. “I was aware of the banging,” Morton said, per the Tampa Bay Times. “Being in the dugout you could hear it. I don’t know when it dawned on me, but [I knew] it was going on. Personally, I regret not doing more to stop it. I don’t know what that would have entailed. I think the actions would have been somewhat extreme to stop it. That’s a hypothetical.”
- The Red Sox and Andrew Benintendi agreed on a two-year, $10 million extension to buy out this arb year and next. The outfielder will earn $3.4 million this year and $6.6 million in 2021.
- President Donald Trump has thrown his support behind exiled MLB hits leader Pete Rose to be reinstated and enshrined in the Hall of Fame. “Rose played Major League Baseball for 24 seasons, from 1963-1986, and had more hits, 4,256, than any other player (by a wide margin). He gambled, but only on his own team winning, and paid a decades long price. GET PETE ROSE INTO THE BASEBALL HALL OF FAME. It’s Time!” Trump tweeted Saturday.
- In other news commingling baseball and politics, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who supports an Independent Dream League made up of some of the 42 affiliates he and baseball’s owners are committed to dissolving, has urged Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey to “encourage the Minor League operators in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to tell their representatives to cease their unproductive campaign of misinformation.” It might just be me, but Manfred comes across as more irritating than Trump at times.
- Hunter Pence is returning to the Giants. The outfielder has agreed with the team on a one-year $3 million major league contract that includes an additional $2.5 million in incentives. Pence played for the Rangers last season and before that spent seven seasons with San Francisco.
- Just as Epstein is feeling a little heat in Chicago these days, Milwaukee’s trust in David Stearns is equally waning. Brewers fans are upset that the general manager has done little in either of the last two offseasons to improve the team. Additionally, five of the nine players who started on Opening Day last season are no longer with the franchise, including the heart of the batting order — Travis Shaw (Blue Jays), Jesus Aguilar (Marlins), Mike Moustakas (Reds), and Yasmani Grandal (White Sox).
From Bill Chuck: Jon Lester has 34 career hits, all while playing for the Cubs, and has boosted his lifetime batting average to .107 since coming to Chicago. Who says the NL should adopt the DH?
God I love technology.
This view is mind-boggling pic.twitter.com/w1NNqxOCkO
— Baseball Central™ (@BaseballCentraI) February 9, 2020
They Said It
- “We knew once this CBA came out, there would be some real challenges toward the end of it for big market teams that had developed a lot of good players getting more expensive through arbitration, had added free agents on top and had won. Part of that is the reality of the CBA. We knew it would be challenging and ultimately there would be a choice between maximizing the moment in ’20 and ’21 or taking a longer-term view and trading out of that position a little bit while still trying to win.” – Theo Epstein
- “It’s new. New is always exciting to me. New adventures … I can’t wait to get started. There’s a lot of [negative] talk that goes around. I don’t feel like in general we’ve had that nice offseason excitement. I’m excited as heck. I hope the fans are. We’ve got a chance to put another banner up there in 2020.” – David Ross
Sunday Walk Up Song
What is Life? by George Harrison. Who’s your favorite Beatle? It’s Harrison for me. This video was selected by the Harrison estate as the winner in a fan-submitted video contest. Pretty cool.