The Rundown: Swanson Ready to Lead Team, Smyly Changes Arm Slot, More Ohtani-to-Cubs Rumors
“Oh, we can beat them, forever and ever. Then we could be Heroes, just for one day.” – David Bowie, Heroes
I’m a big fan of Dansby Swanson. In fact, I’d love to live vicariously through the new Cub shortstop. He’s got that fat contract with a full no-trade clause, he’s a very cerebral player, and his wife is an athlete to boot. After he gets that MVP trophy in November, he’ll own Chicago the way Ryne Sandberg did back in the 1980s and 90s.
When Swanson signed that seven-year, $177 million deal, I wrote that I hoped he’d wear No. 7 as a Cub, and he is. For that reason, I feel synergistically connected to Lieutenant Dans. By all accounts, he’s a leader and a good teammate to go with a pretty handsome mug. Nico Hoerner might be Swanson’s biggest fan.
“He’s a player who’s consistently improved throughout his career, which is one of the biggest signs of character in our sport,” said Hoerner. “It’s a sign of commitment and playing 162 games at shortstop checks all the boxes in that way. A lot just comes from knowing yourself and keeping it simple. A lot of the best players I’ve played with, they’re not doing anything super-revolutionary or mind-blowing on the day-to-day. They’re just very thorough and consistent with what they do.”
The Cubs have a chemistry that I haven’t seen since the early days of the former core. Tucker Barnhart and Jameson Taillon are a big part of that, too. I just love the vibe from Mesa this spring and though chemistry is not quantifiable, it does help keep a team together during the inevitable rough patches. It takes teamwork to make the dream work, or so the saying goes. Swanson is a leader in that respect.
According to Patrick Mooney of The Athletic, Swanson turned his interview around on the Cubs ($) before signing and started grilling Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins about their plans. How are you going to win? And how are you going to make me better? The answers must have resonated with the shortstop because he’s going to be a mainstay at the Federal Landmark through 2029.
Swanson’s acquisition reminds me a lot of Jon Lester when he came to Chicago. It’s a game-changer that signals the team’s intent to win. With a stacked farm system and plenty of money coming off the books after this season, Hoyer is well-positioned to make a championship run as soon as next season. Just don’t tell Swanson he has to wait. He believes the Cubs can compete for that ring right now.
Ed. note: Twitter is apparently having issues with its links, so the usual embeds might not work as well as usual.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cactus Cubs engineered an exciting 9th-inning rally to stun the Rockies 6-5. Trey Mancini is absolutely locked in at the plate.
- Drew Smyly started yesterday and didn’t fare too well. He is working with a change in his mechanics, so give him time to adjust. Smyly’s arm slot adjustment focused on keeping his left arm closer to his body and being in a more compact, stronger position.
- Smyly said the adjustment gave his fastball “way more carry.”
- It seems odd to think so, but Hoerner represents a link from the past to the present and future. According to Patrick Mooney of The Athletic, Hoerner leaned on Ben Zobrist to help hone his major league skills ($).
- It appears that Hoerner is going to be the regular leadoff hitter this season.
- Sweet Swingin’ Billy Williams made an appearance in Cubs camp Sunday, joining the likes of Sandberg, Fergie Jenkins, Andre Dawson, and Rick Sutcliffe as icons popping in and out this spring.
- Ben Brown and Ryan Jensen have taken big developmental leaps since camp started.
- Marcus Stroman took some heat on Twitter after some troubling posts about media control in support of basketball star Kyrie Irving.
- Barnhart is embracing his role as a backstop psychiatrist. He may have his work cut out for him with Stroman.
- NBC Sports Boston ranks Swanson as the sixth-best shortstop in baseball. Sour grapes.
- A healthy and productive Justin Steele will go a long way toward solidifying the Cubs’ rotation this season.
- Adrian Sampson may have an advantage over Hayden Wesneski and Javier Assad for the fifth starter role. His experience could be the difference-maker and he’s also earned the opportunity based on his track record.
- Yan Gomes gave Sampson a bit of ribbing after the starter took repeated pitch clock violations in batting practice. “That’s some bad clock management right there,” the catcher said with a smile.
- Caleb Kilian is among a group of 30 prospects that have really turned some heads in Cactus and Grapefruit League play this spring.
- David Bote is playing at an MVP level this spring. It’s nice to see him not straddling the Mendoza Line for a change.
- Could the Cubs shock the world and sign Shohei Ohtani this winter? They’ll have the payroll space to do so. Seiya Suzuki could be Jed Hoyer’s ace in the hole.
Odds & Sods
The future Cub is a man among boys.
Climbing the Ladder
“It’s been about three days now since I’ve been above ground. I’m no longer overwhelmed and it seems so simple now. Yeah, it’s funny how things change so much. It’s all state of mind.” – Pearl Jam, In Hiding
Sometimes baseball’s best hitters fail at the top of the order, and Lord knows the Cubs have tried just about everyone there since 2016. But how excited are we that Hoerner will be the team’s leadoff hitter? Since Dexter Fowler left the team, the Cubs have given 14 players at least 100 at-bats at the top of the order. Rafael Ortega started the 2022 season as Chicago’s one-hole hitter. Hoerner slashed .281/.327/.737 with a wRC+ of 106 and a team-leading 4.5 fWAR last season, so he should be that guy. I’d love to see Swanson hitting behind him, but David Ross might want to put his shortstop in the middle of the order.
Just imagine what the lineup might look like once Pete Crow-Armstrong officially arrives.
How About That!
The Cardinals want Willson Contreras to continue being his feisty self. Drama works for some players, I suppose.
The league has finished its investigation of White Sox starter Mike Clevinger and said that it will not enforce any disciplinary action.
The feedback on this year’s drastic rule changes has generally been positive, but some tweaks to the rules, particularly the pitch clock, may be needed.
Wait, do we already have winners and losers due to this season’s rule changes? It’s not even Opening Day!
A potential ESPN streaming endeavor is of great interest to MLB.
It’s not been very warm in Arizona and players are “fed up!”
Years after a couple of weed suspensions, Jon Singleton is attempting a comeback with the Brewers. For what it’s worth, some marijuana is legal in Milwaukee. Also, MLB not only removed cannabis from its list of banned substances in 2019, but now has a partnership with a CBD company.
Take Me Out to the Ball Game
I wish I could find the article, and I don’t know if Over the Green Monster got hacked, let someone publish an unedited post, blogged while under the influence, or had an early morning change of heart. But, this morning they published an article with a proposed rule change that would give one player on every team a gun. It’s gone now, but yikes.
Mancini launched his first homer of the spring on Sunday.
Monday Morning Six-Pack
- Bears GM Ryan Poles indicated that the No. 1 pick is available to the highest bidder. But just what is that pick really worth? If the Bears trade down they could get a bona fide wide receiver for Justin Fields.
- In our first free agent profile over at Bears Insider, I took a look at defensive lineman Javon Hargrave. Hargrave is the top non-QB free agent available. He also filled his 2022 stat sheet with numbers that dwarf Chicago’s entire front four.
- If you think interest rates and inflation have peaked, you might want to keep an eye on Friday’s jobs report. I’m an armchair economist, but consumer spending is out of control, the job market is robust, and the government is funding everything at a record pace. That means more rate hikes. Sorry if I pissed in your Wheaties.
- Hey, it’s almost March Madness. I love that it happens the week of St. Patrick’s Day and SXSW every year. I run a Pick Four Pool every year and it’s insanely popular. If you’d like to participate, contact me offsite.
- Wednesday is International Women’s Day, though I don’t agree grammatically with that designation. “Women” is already plural, however, I suppose it’s not plural possessive. I do love it when folks call it Womens’s Day, though.
- Great. Now we’ll never be able to tell real Gruyere from the impostors.
They Said It
- “The cutter was way more consistent and sharp and angled, and that’s where I wanted it. Tommy [Hottovy] is so good at finding little tiny things like that that can get you right back on track.” – Smyly
- “I know I walked less last year than I had in the past. I think both are versions of me. I didn’t set out to walk more when I walked more. And I wasn’t like, ‘Man, I’m swinging at everything’ last year. Things come and go, and I had stretches last year where I did walk more. Obviously, in the leadoff spot, getting on base is important, but base hits get you on base, too. Just continue to have good at-bats and hopefully, everything will be in a good spot at the end of the year.” – Hoerner
Apropos of Nothing
There are three great covers of Heroes.
Monday Walk-Up Song
Don’t let Janie anywhere near Wrigley Field!