With our normal Rundown writer tied up at work, I had to put in a call for someone who could fill his shoes. When no one answered, I volunteered as tribute. Unlike pretty much every previous time I’ve broken my promise to keep this one as brief as a more traditional pinch-hitting performance, I’m going to stick to it this time.
The Hall of Fame will induct no players this summer for the first time since 2013, an outcome that was only mildly surprising to some. Curt Schilling came the closest, but still fell a few points shy of the 75% required for induction. Despite some hubbub about writers asking to rescind their votes for Schilling following his vocal support of the insurrection at the Capitol earlier this month, it turned out it was only one writer and the request was not honored.
M. Ramirez 28.2
A. Ramirez 1.0
— Baseball Reference (@baseball_ref) January 26, 2021
The Hall may, however, honor Schilling’s desire to be removed from the ballot in his final year of eligibility. Jane Forbes Clark, chairman of the board for National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, said in a statement that the board would consider the matter at its next meeting. That was in response to a letter Schilling wrote to the Hall and subsequently posted on Facebook.
Hey guys. Couple things. First off I am not sure I can express my level of gratitude and sincere appreciation at the graciousness, kindness and desire on all your parts to help me navigate this process. I can say at this point I am mentally done. I know math and I know trends and I know I will not attain the 75% threshold for induction…
I wanted to reiterate this final point. I will not participate in the final year of voting. I am requesting to be removed from the ballot. I’ll defer to the veterans committee and men whose opinions actually matter and who are in a position to actually judge a player. I don’t think I’m a hall of famer as I’ve often stated but if former players think I am then I’ll accept that with honor.
That’s just an excerpt of what is a much longer missive, most of which is a passive-aggressive takedown of all the ways Schilling has been wronged. It’s clear he’s got a much higher opinion of himself than I do, just as it’s clear we differ strongly in our views on a variety of topics. One of those may be his worthiness for enshrinement, which I believe in his case is limited to the Hall of Very Good.
I’ll not go further into that topic at this point because it really doesn’t matter. Schilling gained a little ground over his 70% from last year and may have gotten in next year with a little rehabilitation of his public image. That he’s unwilling to do so is almost admirable in a weird way, but taking his ball and going home is juvenile at best.
No one else on the ballot was even close, though several did see their vote totals increase. One of those is Sammy Sosa, who made it all the way up to 17% this year. Barring an incredible reversal of opinion, he’s not going to make it in at any point in the future.
Cubs Infield 2B determined
That Schilling quote ate up a lot of my limited space, so I’m going to boil this down quickly. I wrote a while back that not getting Jake Cronenworth from the Padres meant the Cubs might pursue a second baseman in free agency. Well, two of the three names I listed have signed elsewhere and the third appears to be way out of their budget at this point.
César Hernández re-upped with Cleveland for $5 million, which is equal to the second-biggest deal — both AAV and total value — the Cubs have given a position player since 2016. Interestingly, Daniel Descalso got $5 million for two years prior to the 2019 season with the idea that he’d play second. That void was created by trading Tommy La Stella to the Angels for lefty Conor Lilis-White, who has not pitched professionally since 2018.
The 32-year-old La Stella is finalizing a three-year deal with the Giants that figures to be more than the $14 million he was projected to earn. That leaves Kolten Wong, who was probably the best fit on paper for a Cubs team that needs elite defense, contact hitting, and better performance against southpaws. But he’s also two years younger than TLS and will almost certainly command more, either in AAV or years.
So where does that leave the Cubs? The most likely scenario sees Nico Hoerner and David Bote splitting time, with the possibility of bringing Jason Kipnis back on another non-guaranteed deal. I don’t like that even one bit, as I believe Hoerner needs more time in the minors to work on his approach, something last year’s shutdown robbed him of.
Despite a cult following that grows with each clutch hit, Bote hasn’t proven himself to be an everyday player. He’s a solid defender and an average hitter with big strikeout numbers and reverse splits that were atrocious last year. Interestingly enough, Bote’s superior performance against righties means the Cubs could actually use him and Hoerner in a platoon even though they both bat right-handed.
What it all comes down to is that Jed Hoyer probably isn’t signing a second baseman this winter, at least not on anything other than a minors deal, so we’ll probably see a piecemeal approach.
Anniversary of Ryno trade
Ryne Sandberg was a throw-in to the trade that took place 39 years ago today and was headlined at the time by Ivan de Jesus and Larry Bowa. That one worked out pretty well for the Cubs, huh? It’s also good timing given the HOF and 2B topics above.
On this day in 1982, the #Cubs made a trade that had Hall of Fame written on it.
Chicago traded SS Ivan DeJesus to Philadelphia for SS Larry Bowa…
…and 2B Ryne Sandberg. pic.twitter.com/8Hpt4hkaqN
— Midway Minute (@MidwayMinute) January 27, 2021
- The infield market really picked up steam yesterday and may actually determine some of the Cubs’ other moves.
- J.T. Realmuto signing with the Phillies should increase interest in Willson Contreras.
- For those who believe Bryce Harper‘s contract is an albatross, consider that the Phils have inked Realmuto and Zack Wheeler to 9-figure deals in the time since landing Harper. They’ve still got something like $30 million left under the CBT threshold, too.
- Jon Lester signing with Washington wasn’t about the Cubs opting not to pay him $5 million, and not only because he actually offered to stay in Chicago for less. His Nats deal only pays him a $2 million salary this season with another $3 million paid as a signing bonus in 2023. That the Cubs couldn’t even engage him at that level is insulting.
- Lester’s value as a pitcher is hardly even relevant at this point because the Cubs aren’t trying to win. They should, however, be looking to salvage a little PR. Whether it’s as an olive branch to fans or to have him mentor the young pitchers they’ll need to use in bulk this season, Lester would have been well worth another contract.
- Kyle Schwarber likewise has a chunk of his guarantee structured as a buyout, while Brad Hand agreed to defer $6.5 million of his deal over the next three years. Those are the kinds of deals the Cubs should be pursuing with mid-tier free agents if they’re serious about competing, but it appears they’re projecting budget issues to last well beyond this year.
Okay, that’s it. I think I was under 1,000 words if you cut the Schilling quote.