The Rundown: Cubs Stars Increase Value in Shutout Win, Contreras Bracing for Trade, Conforto Could Sign After Draft
“Give her my autograph and tell her ‘It’s been nice knowin’ ya.'” – The Monkees, Star Collector
Do you know who were big fans of Willson Contreras and Wade Miley last night? Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins. These days it seems Contreras increases his trade value every time he steps up to the plate, and last night he moved that needle quite a bit. The star catcher who is on the precipice of free agency launched his 100th career home run in the 1st inning of yesterday’s 9-0 win over the Pirates and he did it in grand style.
Willson Contreras' 100th career home run comes in the grandest of fashions. pic.twitter.com/LRF1GaGg9M
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 17, 2022
Let me pivot back to Hawkins for a moment. What, if anything, has he done since being named GM? He has certainly attained the same expert level at “being Jed Hoyer” as the current president of baseball operations did under Theo Epstein. In Chicago’s hierarchy, it seems the title is in name only. I’m not privy to the machinations of the Cubs front office, but it just seems that with a roster that can best be described as “in flux,” we’d hear more from Hawkins. Or actually, anything from the first-year GM.
Perhaps he will be the face of this year’s trade deadline, one that should see the Cubs deal Contreras and Miley to contending teams. Contreras could be the most sought-after pending free agent available, especially if he continues his torrid pace. Miley will be a free agent, too, and last night he looked every bit as good as the 5.5 WAR starter he was with the Reds last season.
Miley could be the first moved, especially if Caleb Kilian ascends to the majors and takes a spot in the rotation. Alec Mills will be returning soon, and with the electrifying performance by Justin Steele the other day, rotation spots could get squeezed pretty quickly. It’s not unfathomable to think that Chicago’s second-half rotation could consist of Steele, Kilian, Mills, Kyle Hendricks, and Keegan Thompson. That’s if Hoyer’s front office doesn’t decide to trade Hendricks and Mills as well.
Most Cubs fans want to see the team extend Contreras, but the fact that it hasn’t happened yet means it’s probably a foregone conclusion that he will be prime-time trade bait come July. I imagine Hoyer will make a cursory offer (or at least say he did) the sides will remain at an impasse, and the Angels could be adding the recently-turned 30-year-old catcher to an already imposing lineup. Los Angeles has a pitching-rich farm system with many high-upside arms, including Sam Bachman, though he’s probably a pipe dream.
Of course, there are probably at least a dozen teams that would be interested in Contreras, and Miley and Hendricks for that matter. Remember, Hoyer is still in phase one of retooling the franchise. The construction of his 2022 roster indicates several trades are likely, probably to the dismay of most fans. The Cubs are 14-20 and, though their play has improved with five wins in their last seven games, it’s difficult to imagine this is the start of something that is potentially sustaining.
Cubs News & Notes
- Steele had a career game on Sunday.
- Thanks to Steele, the team’s future beyond this season is starting to look more promising and could accelerate the team’s return to more competitive baseball.
- Still, the Cubs are rising above adversity in an attempt to turn this season around. Hey, the Washington Nationals were 14-20 at the same point in 2019.
- It is being reported that the versatile Christopher Morel is being promoted to the bigs.
- It looks like LHP Brandon Hughes has packed his bags for Chicago, too.
- Contreras is bracing for an eventual trade, though he said he is not averse to in-season extension talks. Your move, Mr. Hoyer.
- That said, the Mets could be interested in trading for the two-time All-Star backstop.
Odds & Sods
It doesn’t get much worse than Hunter Greene and Art Warren allowing zero hits and still taking a 1-0 loss.
Through 35 games, the Reds have a worse record and run differential than the 1962 Mets. They are only one game better, and have a worse run differential, than the 2003 Tigers.
The Reds aren't just bad this year. They're on pace to be historically bad.https://t.co/9QOSdolJus
— Kyle Glaser (@KyleAGlaser) May 17, 2022
Climbing the Ladder
“Now whip it into shape. Shape it up. Get straight. Go forward. Move ahead. Try to detect it. It’s not too late to whip it… whip it good.” – Devo, Whip It
Admit it: After the Cubs jumped out to an 8-0 first-inning lead, you were expecting another 21-0 rout. It should be noted that Chicago’s rotation has a 2.45 ERA over the past seven games.
- Games Played: 34
- Total Plate Appearances: 1,251
- Total Strikeouts: 303
- Strikeout Rate: 24.22%
- Team Batting Average: .236
How About That!
DJ and music producer Steve Aoki was just a tad high with his ceremonial first pitch prior to the Red Sox-Astros game on Monday.
Mets starter Max Scherzer prevented a Japanese ambassador who was selected to throw out the first pitch from accomplishing his task. Perhaps Scherzer was mad because his teammates hid his sippy cup or something.
White Sox starter Johnny Cueto turned back the clock on Monday and looked downright phenomenal. The 36-year-old righty shut down the Royals in his first Chicago start.
Agent Scott Boras said that Michael Conforto could still sign with an MLB team after this year’s draft despite being out for the season. Once the draft is complete, qualifying-offer compensation will no longer be attached to the qualified former Mets outfielder.
Monday’s Three Stars
- Contreras – A milestone home run that is also a grand slam is worthy of top billing.
- Miley– Seven innings pitched, one hit, no walks, six strikeouts. That’s earning a paycheck.
- Ian Happ – The switch-hitter was 3-for-3 plus a walk and by the end of July he should be the new face of the franchise. That should make Bleacher Jeff pretty happy.
This is how you make a child a lifetime baseball fan.
How did your first O’s game go? Well … pic.twitter.com/PSMP8V8wix
— Cut4 (@Cut4) May 17, 2022
They Said It
- “I put the right work in to get to where I am right now. My parents gave me the right education. The whole thing that I went through in the minors, they just kept reminding me: The road is not easy, but if you put the right work in, you might get there. Today is one of those days that make me think of my childhood and where I came from. It makes me proud.” – Contreras
Tuesday Walk-Up Song
The Great Beyond by R.E.M. – The last time I spoke to Sue was on May 17, 2017. She wasn’t feeling well, and nothing seemed imminent but she ended our conversation with “I want to die young, in my sleep, and I don’t want to be terminally ill. When it’s my time to go, I just want to go.” She was with God the next morning.