The Rundown: Crying Foul Over Cubs League-Average Payroll, Darvish Returns, Robertson Might Be Chicago’s Best Trade Chip
“Gettin’ old. Gettin’ grey. Gettin’ ripped off…underpaid. Gettin’ sold second hand. That’s how it goes.” – AC/DC, It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock & Roll).
Yesterday was a pretty emotional day for me so I actually wrote this morning’s column bottom to top, which gives it a weird perspective from my point of view. To me, it’s a subconscious message parallel to two current facts:
- After last night’s 4-1 loss to the Padres, the Cubs are now 23-37 (.383) and 56-100 since entering play in first place for the last time last season. They are once again on a pace to lose 100 games and as soon as they start trading players they are probably going to be a lot worse. Where is rock bottom? Nobody knows, and that’s a frightening prospect.
- It’s always meat and then potatoes per journalistic integrity when writing a column. The fortifying stuff comes first because you want to grab the attention of your readers. The Cubs are no longer the meat and I’m not sure they’re even the potatoes anymore.
As bloggers, most of my peers and I are in uncharted waters. I wasn’t here at Cubs Insider when Chicago’s North Side baseballers last purposely tanked, but even those who were here before me have never witnessed a team fall so far so fast. As a reader pointed out yesterday, watching the smugness of Jed Hoyer in a recent interview came across as cold and calculated. That’s a tough meal to digest.
When the Cubs tanked during the 2011-14 seasons, it was under the premise that the organization would never have to resort to such drastic measures again. The franchise was a mess top to bottom and needed an overhaul. It’s a decade later and poor decisions combined with poor planning have pushed Chicago back to square one. We are all excited about the team’s minor leaguers, but injuries and/or the recent struggles of prospects Brennen Davis, Brailyn Márquez, Adbert Alzolay, and Miguel Amaya have added a little tarnish to the team’s ever-improving farm system.
Even worse, fans have become conditioned to accept that a scorched earth rebuild is the only way back to winning baseball, and that’s simply not the case. Major market teams are not supposed to be as thrifty as the Cubs are, and I’m being kind. The Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, Mets, and Angels never tear it down to the studs. The nonsense that you don’t need to spend is perpetuated by the success of the Rays, but that’s one example. The Pirates, Reds, A’s, Marlins, Royals, and Orioles are equally cheap regarding payroll, and they’re usually near the bottom of the standings and remain in a constant state of rebuild.
Claiming Hoyer did the right thing by not keeping Yu Darvish, Kris Bryant, Javier Báez, Anthony Rizzo, and Kyle Schwarber smacks of recency bias and hindsight platitude. What if all were having All-Star seasons? The front office replaced those players with Zach Davies, Patrick Wisdom, Nico Hoerner, Frank Schwindel, and Rafael Ortega. Winning organizations don’t strip their rosters of double-digit wins over replacement, but cheap teams do.
Where has the difference in payroll gone? Into the pockets of Tom Ricketts. The Cubs have a league-average payroll but trail the Dodgers and Yankees by about $100 million. Players like Mookie Betts and Bryce Harper will never play for the Cubs if ownership continues to spend like handing out multi-year contracts is a deadly disease. Take away the salary Jason Heyward is owed plus all of this year’s one-year contracts and the Cubs are very near the bottom of the league in payroll.
Counting on minor league players is a crapshoot. I hope it works out for the Cubs and I have a mild degree of confidence that it will, but what if it doesn’t? What’s the answer then? It appears Hoyer and his front office entourage have no real plan and certainly no clue. Darker days lie ahead, and that’s not fair to fans considering the costs associated with attending a Cubs game. I’m disgusted and you should be too.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Astros, Mets, and Giants remain the biggest potential suitors for Willson Contreras if the Cubs trade him.
- Closer David Robertson might be Chicago’s best trade chip this summer.
- Justin Steele had his second consecutive quality start, though he almost left after bare-handing a comebacker that left a cut on his hand.
- Steele is coming into his own as a starter.
- Christopher Morel is now No. 4 on baseball’s hot rookie list. He is second in the NL behind Reds starter Hunter Greene.
- Prospects Matt Mervis and Kevin Alcantara are making strong cases for promotion.
- The Cubs promoted LHP Eric Stout before yesterday’s game and designated Sean Newcomb in a corresponding move.
- Stout is a Chicagoland native who is cherishing his “dream come true opportunity” with the Cubs.
- The massive Wrigley Field sports book is starting to shape.
- Is it just me, or has Crane Kenney completely stopped talking about future Cubs’ payrolls? I would have assumed the profits derived from gambling would yield “wheelbarrows full of cash.”
- Today’s Cubs-Padres tilt is the free game of the day at MLB.TV.
Odds & Sods
I still cannot believe Darvish is no longer a Cub. That storm cell was quite frightening, by the way.
Yu Darvish said after the game that the tornado warning was a bit sentimental, because everyone cleared out of the stadium and seating area and it was just him out there, sharing a moment with Wrigley Field. Meant a lot to him to be back. #Padres #Cubs
— Annie Heilbrunn (@annieheilbrunn) June 14, 2022
Climbing the Ladder
“I am the crawling dead, a phantom in a box, a shadow in your head.” – White Zombie, More Human Than Human
Darvish owned the Cubs yesterday. Chicago had five hits, placed three runners in scoring position, and left five men on base. That’d be a traffic jam in Greensboro but in Chicago, it was like “Night of the Comet.”
Apparently, Contreras doesn’t catch when Darvish is pitching no matter which uniform he is wearing. Yan Gomes was behind the plate and hit a home run. Whoop.
- Games Played: 60
- Total Plate Appearances: 2,285
- Total Strikeouts: 524
- Strikeout Rate: 22.93%
- Team Batting Average: .241
How About That!
An injury to prep star Dylan Lesko, who was once projected to be a top-5 pick in this year’s draft, might forever change the willingness of high school pitchers to take the mound so often.
Speaking of injured pitchers, Stephen Strasburg is going back to the IL with arm discomfort.
The Braves have now won 12 straight, the best in the majors this season.
Byron Buxton has hit 45 home runs since he last grounded into a double play, the most homers between GDP since double plays were officially tracked for batters in both leagues (1940).
The Pirates have called up outfielder Canaan Smith-Njigba, whose brother was MVP of this year’s Rose Bowl.
The History Channel will air a new documentary that chronicles baseball during the post-Jackie Robinson years. “After Jackie” focuses on the careers of Curt Flood, Bob Gibson, and Bill White and premiers on Saturday night at 7 PM CT.
Monday’s Three Stars
I try to avoid linking to sites that require payment to access the content, but Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic has been absolutely on fire this week, so he gets the throne and its two accompanying seats this morning. I hope you can access the content.
- How long before the Cubs go from sellers to contenders? “It felt far away until it didn’t.”
- Morel is off to an unprecedented hot start, but is it for real?
- The Cubs’ decision to DFA outfielder Clint Frazier leads to questions about recent and future roster moves.
Today’s Game Has Been Called Due to Darkness
We lost a daily reader of The Rundown yesterday and someone who is also a very good friend of mine. Drew Neely didn’t comment often on the articles, though we texted back and forth a great deal about the stuff I write. Tough friend, and an even tougher loss.
One of his last texts to me was “By the way, when you guys lose Evan Altman to NBC Sports Chicago or The Athletic you’re going to have a lot of weight on your shoulders. But good news – I am willing to do an anti-Manfred article every day until MLB fires him this winter. Rob Manfred is to baseball as diapers are to rashes.”
It’s difficult to write this morning, and I couldn’t get to Minor League IPA yesterday, so look for the next edition of that today or tomorrow.
A very good friend and daily reader of The Rundown passed away this morning. Drew had successful brain surgery to remove a tumor but died of cardiac arrest during transport to recovery. I’ve known him 20 years. He will be missed. Big hole in the world right now. pic.twitter.com/8fpzqpJuhE
— Michael “Tidal Wave” Canter ✨ (@MEdwardCanter) June 13, 2022
Tuesday Morning Six-Pack
- Notre Dame stunned top-seeded Tennessee the other day to reach the College World Series.
- State Department officials met Monday with members of Brittney Griner’s WNBA team about the Phoenix Mercury star’s monthslong detention in Russia and the Biden administration’s efforts to secure her release.
- Gas is above $7 a gallon in some places and is not looking back, prompting one Massachusetts gas station owner to stop selling fuel.
- Elon Musk is set to address Twitter employees at an all-hands meeting this week for the first time since he agreed to purchase the social media behemoth in late April.
- Pete Townshend of The Who wants concertgoers to know that he and Roger Daltrey “don’t do f***ing requests!”
- If I had to choose the greatest opening line to any song, it would be “I woke up in a Soho doorway a policeman knew my name. He said ‘you can go sleep at home tonight if you can get up and walk away,'” from the song Who Are You.
Can of Corn
In case you’re wondering when the Cubs will become competitive again, the answer may lie in next year’s draft. According to the rules of the league’s draft lottery, “teams that pay revenue sharing may not receive a lottery pick (i.e. top six) more than one year in a row.” After last night’s loss, the Cubs have a 10% chance of landing the top overall pick.
They Said It
- “It felt far away until it didn’t. I think in ’14 at the deadline was when the feeling went away like this is going to be our last time trading guys. That was the feeling. Then that offseason we signed Jon Lester and Joe Maddon [became] our manager. That was like the stamp that we’re going to win now. We were young in ’14 and had a pretty decent developmental second half of ’14. We just knew some way, somehow in ’15, we were going to be good. We got on a roll there and rode that for a lot of years.” – Rizzo
Tuesday Walk-Up Song
Nothing matters but the weekend, at least from a Tuesday point of view.