The Rundown: Building Rotation Depth With Reclamation Projects, Heyward Mentors Team’s Younger Players, Orioles OF Trey Mancini Cleared to Play

When new president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer indicated that his team may have to add rotation depth using rookies and reclamation projects, I couldn’t help but think about how bad the rotation might be next season. With Jon Lester, José Quintana and Tyler Chatwood all removed from last year’s squad, there’s a steep drop-off in talent after Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks.

Alec Mills, who has been inconsistent despite throwing a no-hitter last season, and Adbert Alzolay are the team’s likely third and fourth starters. Though Lester could be signed to that fifth slot, he’s hardly a reclamation project. If you take away the big lefty’s starts against the White Sox in 2020, his ERA improves from 5.16 to 3.35. That’s what happens when you get hammered for 15 runs in 7.3 innings of work.

So though I was initially against Lester coming back, he could be an asset as long as David Ross can avoid pitching him against the team’s crosstown rivals. And though I would expect the veteran starter to carry more than a little fire in his belly to reverse that ugly pitching line, it’s best to keep him away from Chicago’s latest iteration of the famed South Side Hitmen.

Even if the Cubs do bring back their beloved left-hander, Hoyer still needs plenty of pitching depth. I don’t know if any of their minor league starters are ready to make the jump, but in the right spot start situations, pitchers like Brailyn Márquez and Cory Abbott could be an effective way for the Cubs to conserve the workload of their top five. Rule 5 pick Gray Fenter could be an intriguing option, too.

The pitchers one might consider “reclamation projects” are more of a scary lot with plenty of question marks, and include:

Mike Leake and Chase Anderson could be decent additions too, but they’re probably too good to be considered depth pieces. Each should find full-time gigs as part of some rotation, though they’re certainly decent replacements for Lester if he goes elsewhere.

There’s also the trade route, through which Hoyer’s primary goal in moving any mainstays should be to acquire talented young starters. He and his front office staff can gauge the market in a very deliberate manner, as it looks like the rest of the NL Central teams are taking a similarly frugal approach to building their rosters. The Cubs may not have to do much to be considered the division favorites.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Cleveland won’t have a new nickname until 2022 and will play the ’21 season with no name or aesthetic changes. That said, some of the suggested logos look pretty cool. Did you know that writers changed their name from the Naps to the Indians in 1915 after second baseman Nap Lajoie was traded to the Philadelphia A’s?

The Tuesday Knish

When I was a kid, my grandmother would try to introduce me to foods from different cultures, so I tried all kinds of random and odd dishes in my formative years. Every Tuesday she’d stop by our house with a box of knish, which was always my favorite. Today is the anniversary of her death in 1982, so this will be a new section going forward and will feature mostly historical tidbits.

In her will, she left me her change jar, which contained about $45, so I could “take a date to a Cubs game.”

  1. Roy Campanella and Yogi Berra are the only catchers in MLB history with three league MVP awards.
  2. Bill Buckner walked 450 times during his 22-year career and struck out 453 times. In 1982, the Cubs first baseman struck out just 26 times in 709 plate appearances.
  3. Despite a putrid short-season campaign, Kyle Schwarber was absolute fire over the final 38 games of 2019. In that span, he slashed .318/.397/.667 with 12 doubles, two triples, 10 home runs, and 30 RBI over 151 plate appearances.

Tuesday Stove

A very aggressive and optimistic vaccine timeline could allow fans back into baseball stadiums sometime in 2021.

Padres general manager AJ Preller said that an extension for shortstop Fernando Tatís Jr. is one of the team’s top priorities.

The Red Sox signed free agent outfielder Hunter Renfroe and they believe he has too much upside to be just a platoon player.

With the Mets signing James McCann and the arrival of Dave Dombrowski in Philadelphia, the chances that free agent catcher J.T. Realmuto will re-sign with the Phillies increased significantly.

Philadelphia manager Joe Girardi has been nothing short of brutal when speaking about the failures of his bullpen in 2020. “I was talking to – golly, I don’t remember who it was the other day – and I said, I really believe that we could have told the hitters what was coming and it wouldn’t have turned out as bad as it did.”

Though the two sides are said to be about $25 million apart, the Yankees are said to still be the favorites in the DJ Lemahieu sweepstakes.

Retired New York starter CC Sabathia said yesterday that during his darker days with the Yankees, he was sometimes too drunk to perform his job.

For a team with World Series aspirations, the White Sox have made some pretty minor moves as compared to last winter.

Orioles manager Brandon Hyde is excited that outfielder Trey Mancini has recovered significantly enough from colon cancer to play in 2021.

Extra Innings

The Players Alliance, created after the George Floyd killing in Minneapolis, is currently touring 32 Black communities across the country. Last week, Heyward, Howard, and Hoerner, among others, made stops on Chicago’s South Side to distribute baseball equipment, essential goods, and COVID-19 supplies.

They Said It

  • “We’re totally comfortable with Ian [Happ] playing center. But obviously if an acquisition brought us a pure, natural center fielder, Ian would be well above average defensively in left and we could certainly do that. We are open to it.” – Jed Hoyer
  • “But I know when I get the chance and I’m able to get up there and start playing, I’m ready. That’s my goal. I want to bring a championship to this city.” – Ed Howard IV
  • “A lot of guys got a taste of not making the playoffs [in 2019]. Many guys had down years in 2020, and we still won [the NL Central], a tough division. You have new respect for that. That’s where you’ve got to start. You want an opportunity to get into the postseason and go forward. That’s the mindset. You can’t win the World Series without getting into October. Next season, that’s the immediate goal.” – Jason Heyward

Tuesday Walk Up Song

All Those Years Ago by George Harrison – Last week many mourned the anniversary of the death of John Lennon, who was killed by Mark David Chapman on December 8, 1980. In writing yesterday’s column, I had a difficult time choosing between two songs, so you get this one today.

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