We had a little fun yesterday presenting our armchair GM ideas, but things get real starting today with the Braves being crowned the 2021 MLB champions last night. Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins are on the clock and they have about 21 weeks until Opening Day to build a competitive roster.
In addition to needing help all over the diamond, the Cubs are going to have to ensure players like Frank Schwindel, Patrick Wisdom, and Rafael Ortega build on their successful seasons. Hiring Greg Brown as the team’s new hitting instructor should help, though this is the 41-year-old’s first coaching gig at the major league level. All three have holes in their games: Wisdom strikes out too often, Ortega struggles against right-handed pitching, and Schwindel gets no love from a lot of Cubs fans because he looks a little more like the 12th man on an NBA bench than a baseball player.
The organization has made a number of internal moves in recent weeks to prepare itself for the busy winter ahead. In addition to hiring Hawkins, the Cubs have added Ehsan Bokhari as assistant GM, moved on from vice president of player personnel Jason McLeod, and announced that Randy Bush has moved into an advisory role. The moves seem to indicate that Hoyer wants a hierarchy in place that clearly defines the roles and responsibilities of his executives. The restructured front office certainly seems considerably more progressive than the fraternity-like assembly that existed under Theo Epstein.
Hoyer’s new staff has a clearly defined objective, and that’s to strengthen the organization from the ground up while strategically using trades and free agency to give the team the necessary edge to potentially win a championship. Competing for a division title doesn’t seem like too tall a task, but the Cubs are well behind the elite National League teams like the Dodgers, Giants, Padres, and Braves. Chicago has one of the worst starting rotations in the league, little depth, and, as much as we love the team’s surging minor league system, Brennen Davis is still the only farmhand with true All-Star potential.
That’s not to say the team isn’t well-positioned for a quick turnaround. Tom Ricketts has promised that Hoyer will have the necessary payroll flexibility to make a splash in free agency and the Cubs have a number of prospects who could make the same leap Davis has, particularly on the pitching side. If Hawkins decides to trade de facto ace Kyle Hendricks or is forced to move starting catcher Willson Contreras, he could add more prospects to what is quickly becoming the organization’s true strength.
Things may move a little slowly until a new CBA is negotiated, but if the right move is there, the Cubs could strike early. If Hoyer and Hawkins believe changes to qualifying offers and/or free agent compensation — which could affect the valuations of potentially tradeable players and open market acquisitions — are forthcoming, they may elect to start the winter in bold fashion. That would ironically be the more conservative approach.
Cubs News & Notes
- Kyle Schwarber admitted he had a horrible 2020 season and that, though he didn’t like being non-tendered by Hoyer, he understood the reasons behind the move.
- Earlier this year, Schwarber said the non-tender was “better” for his career.
- Turns out I’m not the only one who thinks Tom Murphy and Brandon Williams would be attractive to the Cubs, but I also think the Cubs should get a little more for Contreras than the pair. Murphy is clearly a backup catcher.
- The combination of a reduced groundball rate, a monstrous performance in the AFL, and a little extra upper body strength has turned outfielder Nelson Velazquez into a potentially elite prospect.
- Caleb Kilian was named AFL pitcher of the week thanks to an improving breaking ball. By the way, Velazquez was named the league’s hitter of the week, too.
- Hoyer has emphasized that the Cubs plans to be active on the open market, but they have a number of internal decisions to make first. The deadline to add players to the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 draft is November 19 and decisions will need to be made on players eligible for arbitration. The league’s GM Meetings are slated to take place next week.
- Way-too-early 2022 projections have the Cubs finishing 83-79 and missing the playoffs. That’s a tough prediction to make considering there are going to be about 8-10 new players on next season’s roster.
- The conclusion of the World Series means key offseason key dates have been finalized, though anything after December 1 is subject to CBA negotiations.
Odds & Sods
On March 31, 2021, ex-MLB pitcher Trevor Plouffe predicted the Braves would beat the Astros to win this year’s World Series…in six games.
BRAVES IN 6
HOW DID @trevorplouffe KNOW!?
HE CALLED IT ON MARCH 31st 🤯 pic.twitter.com/M6bUcHf3UX
— DraftKings Sportsbook (@DKSportsbook) November 3, 2021
World Series News & Notes
The Atlanta Braves are your 2021 MLB world champions, their first championship since 1995.
Despite the loss, Houston manager Dusty Baker still has some unfinished business to take care of. The Astros are expected to bring him back next year as Baker seeks his first World Series as a manager.
Houston expects to be in the running for a return trip to the World Series next season.
Last night’s loss marked the second time in three years that Houston lost the World Series on its home field.
The Braves laid the groundwork for their championship at this year’s trade deadline.
Three Houston radio stations accidentally broadcast a commercial that congratulated the Astros on winning the World Series.
- Soler – The Series MVP launched a three-run 3rd inning bomb that seemed like it would leave the atmosphere.
- Fried – The Astros could mount nothing against Atlanta’s starter last night. Fried scattered four hits over six scoreless innings with six strikeouts.
- Freddie Freeman – “Freddie! Frederick!” The Braves’ veteran first baseman sealed the victory with his 7th inning home run.
Freeman and Carlos Correa are now free agents, though their paths seem to be heading in opposite directions. Freeman wants to stay in Atlanta, but it’s highly unlikely Correa will return to the Astros.
ESPN released its first power rankings for 2022, listing the Brewers as the top team in the National League and fourth overall behind the Rays, White Sox, and Astros.
Milwaukee is going to need a heck of a lot of offensive help to validate those lofty expectations.
The Cleveland professional baseball team is removing its signature Indians script from the scoreboard at Progressive Field.
If you look at the path the Braves took to their championship, it’s awfully similar to Hoyer’s stated objectives for the Cubs.
Good morning Atlanta. The Braves are World Series champions.
Here is how they did it.https://t.co/ndYwQ3Tp2n
— Kyle Glaser (@KyleAGlaser) November 3, 2021
They Said It
- “One, I didn’t get screwed. “I’ll be the first to admit it: I sucked last year. I underperformed. There’s no excuse to that, just because it’s 60 games; I still underperformed.” – Schwarber
- “What can you do, except go home, take a shower, figure out how you’re going to come back and win it next year. Look, last year we got one game short of the World Series, and this year we were two games short of the championship. So I guess that’s progress. I still have some unfinished business. I love these guys over here.” – Baker
Wednesday Walk-Up Song
Shoot to Thrill by AC/DC – To the victor goes the spoils.