The Rundown: Are Cubs Crying Poor or Playing Possum? Darvish Ready to Go, No Reason to Keep Russell

When I wrote my Friday column, I was thinking to myself that we’re due for the “We’re working behind the scenes on a few things” speech from Theo Epstein and he delivered like he read my mind. The thing is, he really offered nothing to get excited about, unless the signing of Colin Rea rocks your socks.

When Jed Hoyer said last month that he couldn’t wait for the season to start, I’m guessing it was out of sheer boredom and the realization that he would basically be on forced hiatus this winter, a brutal offseason for Cubs fans. And if Epstein’s non-commitment to any type of big play in the free agent market wasn’t enough of a sting, Ken Rosenthal made sure he left little doubt for Cubs fans (subscription required).

Bryce​ Harper to​ the​ Cubs? Hah.”

Here’s the thing: I don’t doubt Rosenthal has solid sources, but the rhetoric here borders on unbelievable if he is trying to convince me the Cubs can’t afford one of their own castoffs, Adam Warren. It just seems far too surreal to be the least bit fathomable. That’s me ever-so-softly whispering that I think Rosenthal is being fed information that isn’t necessarily 100 percent accurate. I’d like to say the Cubs are playing possum, waiting until other teams drop in and out of the race for the game’s best players, but that’s never been their MO.

Besides Harper and Manny Machado, a lot of good players remain available, and it doesn’t seem many teams, other than the Stupid Money Fightin’ Phils and the White Sox, are sitting on wheelbarrows full of cash. So maybe their strategy is one of attrition. It likely means missing out on Machado and Harper, but it could mean there is value to be had on players like Marwin Gonzalez, A.J. Pollock, DJ LeMahieu, Adam Ottavino and Cody Allen, all of who could be solid additions on the North Side. No doubt, there’s a remarkable amount of talent still waiting to be signed.

Make no mistake, the Cubs can afford any of those players, including the market’s two studs. A few items would need to be addressed, however.

  • Do they actually want to spend the money?
  • With the deepest roster in baseball as the team currently sits, who do they move if they sign somebody?
  • What do they get in return for those players?

All of this has to weigh in on any move the front office hopes to make.

Cubs News & Notes

  • I wasn’t kidding. The Cubs really signed Colin Rea. I know I’ll never forget what I was doing the moment I heard the news. You?
  • There are no real guarantees the Cubs will be better next season even if they do sign Harper.
  • I was terribly sick with the flu yesterday and I had one of those hallucinatory fever dreams. In it, the Cubs welcomed Sammy Sosa back to the team at this year’s Cubs Convention. My idioms dictionary calls that  the tail wagging the dog.
  • Epstein acknowledged Saturday that Brandon Morrow (elbow) is unlikely to be ready to pitch when the 2019 season begins. “If you asked [Morrow], he’d probably say he’s going to be ready for Opening Day. But, probably, that’s unrealistic.”
  • The Cubs President of Baseball Operations also said that Yu Darvish (elbow) is in “really great shape” and will be “full go on a normal schedule in spring training.” A healthy Darvish would improve the team as much as any free agent the Cubs might sign this winter. The Cubs got nothing out of their ace last year so let’s just restart the clock.
  • Anthony Rizzo has been nothing short of magic since being acquired by the Cubs.

Tuesday Stove

Despite a career marred by injuries, Pollock is clearly the best free agent center fielder available and is reportedly drawing strong interest from the White Sox and Phillies.

What was Yasmani Grandal thinking when he turned down a $60M contract offer in a market flooded with catchers?

Then again, Kelvin Herrera got a lot more money from the White Sox than I expected. The ChiSox gave him a two-year contract worth $18M that includes a vesting option for a third year.

Besides LeMahieu and Gonzalez, an array of other capable second basemen remain available, including Brian Dozier, Jed Lowrie, Josh Harrison, and Asdrubal Cabrera.

Believe it or not, Patrick Corbin is the only free agent so far to have signed for over $100M.

I mentioned this last week but it is now confirmed: Baseball exceeded $10B in revenues in 2018. That’s a record.

The Phillies still intend to meet with Harper but baseball’s most respected analysts still see Machado as a better fit in Philadelphia.

Machado’s wife Yainee reportedly prefers the Yankees if the decision were hers to make.

The Brewers are hot and heavy to trade for Madison Bumgarner, though matching up with the Giants on prospects for a one-year rental might be tough.

Jon Morosi reports that the Padres “remain interested” in acquiring Sonny Gray from the Yankees.

The Reds are still looking at starting pitching, including Dallas Keuchel.

On Deck

I’m not sure what the Cubs are thinking if they intend to carry Addison Russell on the team this season. I don’t see a positive. He’s a physically abusive human being with a drinking problem. His presence will cost the team fans, particularly female fans, and the Cubs probably have the largest female fan base in all of baseball.  Keeping Russell also creates credibility issues for management and ownership. Finally, there is the daily media distraction sure to follow. That’s a lot to put on a team that is salary-strapped, “broken,” and looking to rise above a gut-wrenching end to their 2018 season.

It’s also a lot of pressure to put on a guy who has repeatedly allowed said pressure to manifest itself in physical violence. Doesn’t anybody in this organization feel the need to protect the women in this young man’s life?

Extra Innings

If you are one of those who is saying that Bears kicker Cody Parkey has replaced Steve Bartman as Chicago’s newest sports villain, kindly heck the shut up. First of all, the Cubs hardly lost the 2003 NLCS solely because of Bartman. As far as Parkey, maybe someone should ask Bears head coach Matt Nagy about his clock management skills at the end of the game Sunday. If Mitchell Trubisky had an extra 30 seconds, the Bears win that game easily.

The Bears are young, good, and hungry, just like the 2015 Cubs. They’ll be unstoppable next year. Barring injuries, and with a year of experience as a team under their belts, there won’t be many teams, if any, that will beat Chicago next season. And I’m (mostly) a Packers fan, though I don’t hate the Bears.

We weren’t allowed to watch the Bears when I was growing up. My father and George Halas had a fractured relationship over the hiring of Jim Dooley as head coach in 1968. Dad represented the financial interests of George Allen at the time and never forgave Halas for letting Allen leave the team as he was thought to be “head coach in waiting.” So on Sundays we trekked up to Green Bay with the old man for the home games and drove to Milwaukee to watch the Packers at a saloon my “uncle” Butch owned when Green Bay played on the road. Yes, I spent my adolescent autumn Sundays in Milwaukee saloons. I’m sure that explains a lot to some of you.

New Music Tuesday

With Christmas credit card bills a few weeks from delivery, I was able to splurge $11 on these three fine spins this weekend:

  1. Ghost in the Machine by The Police – I think it’s their finest album and I’ll debate anybody who disagrees with me. That being said, this is the first effort by the band where you can see Sting really pulling away into his own space musically. In that respect, it marks the beginning if the end for the band. A killer deep cut is the song Secret Journey.
  2. Singles 45 & Under by Squeeze – Everybody who was in college when I was owns or has owned this LP in vinyl, cassette, or CD format. Why? Molly Ringwold had the album poster hanging above her bed in the movie Sixteen Candles, and the song Tempted was an off-the-path anthem for early ’80’s New Wavers.
  3. Who’s Next by The Who – Arguably the best album Glyn Johns ever produced, and only because it was one of the rare times that Johns didn’t stifle Keith Moon on drums. And as far as anthems are concerned, is there any better than Baba O’ Reilly? That’s not rhetorical. The answer is no.

Tuesday Walk Up Song

Every Little Thing She Does is Magic by the Police. Their concert at Wrigley Field in 2007 was epic.


Ed. note: It’s fun to use non-Cubs featured images from time to time and Mike’s title led me to this particularly perturbed possum. You can read more about the angry little fella right here.

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