Yesterday was quite the harrowing one for Cubs fans. After it was announced that Kyle Schwarber had signed a one-year deal with the Nationals that includes an $11 million team option for 2022, rumors cascaded across social media that Jed Hoyer was about to make another big trade. Speculation immediately centered on Kris Bryant, but Kyle Hendricks and Willson Contreras were mentioned, too.
Trying to make something out of nowhere. This is how social media works now days.
— Willson Contreras (@WContreras40) January 9, 2021
Conflicting reports surfaced about Bryant’s connection to the Mets and Contreras has been mentioned as a person of interest among several teams, including the Angels. Schwarber, as you may remember, was non-tendered as part of a financial reckoning because a market allegedly did not exist for the slugging outfielder. The Hendricks speculation was mostly the work of overzealous Mets fans. Still, it’s a little unnerving that you can’t just take this type of frenzy with a grain of salt.
Wheelin’ Dealin’ Jed has quite the itchy trigger finger this winter and even though he’s trimmed about $75 million in payroll, it seems he’s hell-bent on eliminating even more of the team’s short term financial obligations.
“We have a lot of great players on this roster,” the president of baseball operations said recently. “We have some guys that had great years last year and we have some guys that had down years, but I certainly wouldn’t speculate about the future of any one guy at this point.”
At first, I took that as a sign Hoyer was unlikely to make any significant moves until the July 31 trade deadline. In hindsight, that quote takes on a more ominous tone. The cosmic implications of the executive’s actions to this point, and the opinions they’ve generated among fans of Chicago’s North Side baseball team, have reminded me a little too much of the past. We all remember the days when being a Cubs fan was an annual exercise in surly self-defeatism with just a hint of masochism. If we truly distill things a little further, Hoyer seems like a mercenary of sorts, at least so far, and it’s difficult to simply pass off his first two months on the job as simply cleaning house.
As a sports city, Chicago is likely too amped up about the Bears playoff game today to concern itself with any Cubs news. That doesn’t mean Hoyer is going to stop working behind the scenes and if there’s a deal to be made, he’ll make it. If he’s even watching football today it’s probably with the sound off and his cell phone glued to his ear.
Cubs News & Notes
- Schwarber said signing with the Nationals was his preferred choice in free agency.
- The Cubs thanked Schwarber publicly after the Washington signing was announced.
- The well-loved left fielder thanked Cubs fans, too.
- The Phillies could turn their attention to Contreras if free agent backstop J.T. Realmuto signs elsewhere.
- If you know somebody who lives in Belize, he or she is probably a Cubs fan.
- It flew way under the radar, but the Cubs signed free agent outfielder Nick Martini to a minor league deal, which I suppose is a ringing endorsement of Hoyer’s intentions this winter.
- Tyler Chatwood has been named among a handful of players who allegedly doctored baseballs with a combination of pine tar and rosin.
- New play-by-play announcer John “Boog” Sciambi posted a funny video of himself narrating a backyard-style pickup game in Central Park.
Odds & Sods
Were you on Team Sosa or Team McGwire during their epic homerun showdown in 1998?
Please quote pic.twitter.com/vCAinfYWtl
— BaseballHistoryNut (@nut_history) January 7, 2021
Apropos of Nothing
If the Cubs really want to do Bryant a favor, they should trade him to the Rockies. That way he can go off this season without really hurting his former team, all while earning the fat paycheck Tom Ricketts would rather not extend to the pending free agent.
Updates On Nine
- On Friday, the Dodgers announced that former manager Tommy Lasorda had passed away at the age of 93. The Hall of Fame skipper had suffered from a heart condition going back to 1996 and had been hospitalized since the middle of November, some of that time in intensive care. He had recently released from the Orange County hospital, but his health quickly deteriorated. Lasorda managed the Dodgers from 1976-96, during which time the team won two World Series titles. He was in the stands for the team’s series-clinching victory over the Rays on October 27.
- The Padres and representatives for shortstop Fernando Tatís Jr. are working on a 10-year contract extension that is reportedly worth $320 million. I find it genuinely amazing that a small-market team can lock up a player for that much money while the owners of 95% of MLB teams claim they are hemorrhaging money.
- Schwarber admitted the Yankees and a handful of other teams expressed interest in signing him before he inked his deal with Washington.
- The Red Sox have apparently engaged in serious talks with multiple teams in an effort to trade former Rookie of the Year runner up Andrew Benintendi. The 26-year-old outfielder had four hits and 11 walks in 52 plate appearances over 14 games during the 2020 season, missing most of the year with a strained rib cage.
- Former Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo has signed a contract with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball. The NPB team officially announced the signing Friday evening. Castillo signed a seven-year, $72.5 million contract with Boston as an IFA in 2014, and then spent most of his career in the minors, getting just 317 major league at-bats.
- The White Sox are among a number of teams looking at veteran closer Liam Hendriks in free agency. Since the start of 2019, Hendriks has posted a 1.79 ERA with 161 strikeouts and 39 saves in 110.1 innings. The Australian star was Oakland’s primary closer the past two seasons after being traded to the A’s in 2015.
- The market for free agent outfielder Joc Pederson has been slow to develop this winter, due in part to his extreme splits. Among the 281 batters who have come to the plate at least 1,000 times against righties since 2015, Pederson is tied with George Springer for 28th with a wRC+ of 129. But among the 287 batters with at least 350 PA against lefties, Pederson’s 60 wRC+ ranks 281st.
- Former Phillies, Diamondbacks and Red Sox star Curt Schilling is once again a target of widespread criticism for remarks he made about the Washington, D.C. riots on Tuesday. He took to social media Wednesday night in support of U.S. Capitol mob, resulting in several tumultuous exchanges on Twitter. Schilling is on the ballot for Hall of Fame induction and his public support of Donald Trump, not to mention bigoted and/or insensitive comments, will no doubt drastically hurt his chances.
- Like everything else in the age of COVID-19, nothing is certain in major-league baseball right now, and that includes the opening of spring training camps in Arizona and Florida.
Sliding Into Home
I spoke to Scott Crandall on Friday and I’m not ashamed to admit I bawled like a baby after I got off the phone. In I.T. parlance, Scott’s probably got a sprint or two left. He’s in good spirits, which is more than elegant considering his fate has been determined. Please continue to keep “Twin31s” in your thoughts and prayers. I made a few promises to Scott, including a vow to self-publish my stories about growing up as a Cubs fan. I’m also happy I was able to write a tribute that Scott could read before he starts his next journey. We’re family here. Please never forget that.
This is a great read about former Cubs manager Joey Amalfitano.
Spoke with Joey Amalfitano, who retired from his Giants player development department gig weeks before his 87th birthday. Let me just say this. No one has had a baseball life quite like this man. And, boy, was he touched when I read him the @RWotus tweet: https://t.co/LPmxuwKaPI
— John Shea (@JohnSheaHey) January 10, 2021
They Said It
“I’ve got no hard feelings [toward the Cubs], but I’m excited to move on to Washington here and make new chapters. I know it’s a one-year deal but I told [GM Mike Rizzo] when we talked on the phone, ‘You know, I’m not approaching this as a one-year deal. I’m coming out and going to give you everything I have and I’m going to play like I’ve been here five years and still got a couple of years left. I’m going to give you everything I have and invest myself in winning.’ That’s what I want to do here.” – Kyle Schwarber
Sunday Walk Up Song
More Than a Feeling by Boston – I don’t like the vibe coming from the offices at Clark & Addison this winter. My gut tells me another big trade is coming soon, and if I was placing a bet I’d say it’s Contreras to the Mets. I hope I’m wrong.