The Rundown: Lack of Moves Shouldn’t Leave Cubs Up Schitt’s Creek, Lester Rips Manfred, Maddon Claps Back at Organization

A lot of people have been on Tom Ricketts during the past two winters because the Cubs have not been shopping in the Nieman-Marcus section of free agency, and I get that. Once you get a taste for the finer things in life, nothing feels more like a dagger to the heart than having to go back to finding value in the irregulars section at Ross for Less.

That Schitt’s Creek mentality just doesn’t sit well with Cubs fans, though.

In exercising financial prudence, the Cubs are hoping to find a deeply discounted gem or two in veteran players such as Jason Kipnis, Steven Souza Jr., Brandon Morrow, and Jeremy Jeffress. There’s no doubt that adding Gerrit Cole to the rotation would have been a headline move, and finding a way to trade for Nolan Arenado would have made for some fun analysis. Heck, even bringing back Nick Castellanos would have inspired more confidence in the team this winter.

And though Ricketts has said many times in the last 24 months that spending money isn’t always the best way to do things, he always mentions that baseball operations decisions remain solely in the hands of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. That also includes the decisions to extend the contracts of the team’s core players. And sure, the ownership group has to approve all financial expenditures, but other than a brief flirtation with Bryce Harper last winter and a reported interest in bringing back Castellanos this year, Epstein has really shied away from any of the bigger ticket items.

The Cubs have also fielded trade offers for some of their better players this winter, yet they came to camp with basically the same team that has disappointed its fans over the last two seasons. Why? Maybe the front office actually believes in their guys. Sure, it’s possible they underestimated the market while sifting through offers for players like Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras, but maybe we are looking at it from the wrong perspective.

Big trades are great fodder for offseason analysis, but trading your best assets for unproven ones is more often than not a recipe for disaster. Though it worked for the Yankees when they decided to retool back in 2016, their farm system was already one of the best in baseball, which provided a nice hedge when trading Aroldis Chapman. A very robust deadline market worked in their favor, too. As spectacular a move as that was for Brian Cashman — and Gleyber Torres will probably be an elite shortstop for the next 10 years — the Cubs got their elusive championship. Was it worth it for the organization and its fans? Absolutely.

The smart move for Epstein and his entourage this year given the reported offers (or lack thereof) was to stay the course. Even if it lacks the pizzazz of recent winters that saw the Cubs sign Yu Darvish and trade for Wade Davis, refusing to make a trade simply for the sake of change gives the team the best chance to get into the playoffs. It’s a boring strategy no doubt, but I’ll trade a winter in hibernation for an exciting October 100 out of 100 times.

Cubs News & Notes

  • David Ross has already made a believer of Bryant. “I wanted to run through a wall,” the third baseman said after his new manager officially opened spring training with a motivational speech.
  • The daily Bryant trade speculation refuses to die, however.
  • Joe Maddon defended his laissez faire method of managing and in doing so, awkwardly refuses to simply move on.
  • Maddon believes The Outpost, his Wrigleyville restaurant, would still be open if he had remained with the Cubs.
  • Ricketts believes the Cubs have the best team in the division.
  • Our own Ryan Thomure has some thoughts on what the Cubs must do to win the division, including avoiding injuries and keeping Bryant on the roster all season.
  • Jon Lester absolutely destroyed MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred for calling the Word Series trophy “just a piece of metal.”
  • Following the precedent set by the Blue Jays, the Cubs will be increasing minimum salaries for minor league players by at least 50% for the 2020 season and beyond. Raises will range from $112-295 a week, depending on level and year of professional ball, with the average player getting a bump of about $200 a week. This will take effect ahead of MLB’s plan to institute a pay hike next season.

MLB Spring Training Notes

With regard to the Astros’ cheating scandal, Manfred continues to take a bad situation and make it worse on an almost daily basis. It seems as if baseball’s czar would like the issue to simply go away. We’re still talking about the Black Sox scandal 100+ years after the fact, so good luck with that.

At least the commissioner apologized for disrespecting the championship trophy that bears his name. What a tool.

Even LeBron James is piling on Manfred.

Manfred is an inspiration to anyone who stinks at their jobs.

Will Houston players really have to fear for their safety this season?

Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton believes he could hit 80 home runs if he knew what pitches were coming.

Manny Machado certainly fancies himself the cock of the walk. Nothing wrong with projecting a monster year for yourself, but I don’t believe the Padres third baseman is the elite player he thinks he is.

White Sox outfielder Luis Robert is a living legend and probably a good choice to be this season’s AL Rookie of the Year.

Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas will miss at least the first month of the season after receiving a platelet-rich plasma injection. I’d bet the over on that.

Milwaukee principal owner Mark Anastasio said that the Brewers operated at a financial loss last season.


Apropos of Nothing

Have you seen Ford v Ferrari yet? In my next life, I’m coming back as Carroll Shelby. Man what I wouldn’t do to drive this baby.

Extra Innings

I’d just like to say thanks to our readers, especially Tin Cup Sailor, who sent me a US Navy Challenge Coin and a very motivational note. Everybody has been so wonderful. Today I have to be tested for Hepatocellular Carcinoma at 10:30 am. Don’t look it up, it will frighten you. Hell, it frightens me.

They Said It

  • “I think we have the best team in our division. I think we have a really dynamic, exciting new manager. I think the players are going to play very, very hard for David Ross. Barring some kind of crazy injuries, I think we should win our division and get back in the playoffs.” – Tom Ricketts
  • “I’ve seen the intensity. But to see how [Ross] is as a manager — I don’t even know how to describe it. It was one of the best speeches I’ve heard from anybody in this organization. Theo gave a really good one, too. Just completely different sides of them, which I totally appreciated it. I already feel like the change is happening. It’s really weird. Not weird. But it’s good. Guys are walking around with their notebooks and everybody’s ready to go and ready to embrace whatever change is coming.” – Kris Bryant

Wednesday Walk Up Song

This Old Porch by Lyle Lovett. Usually that which is most familiar is better than anything else.

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