The Rundown: Cubs Make Big Hire, Cards and Twins Exploring Big Trades, Braves Penalties

The Cubs hire of Jim Benedict yesterday was pretty exciting news for many, including Cubs Insider’s Evan Altman. Benedict was the “behind the scenes guy” in Pittsburgh, helping detect mechanical flaws and getting pitchers to buy into making the physical and/or mental adjustments necessary to succeed. Benedict’s extreme makeover successes include Gerrit Cole, Mark Melancon, Edinson Volquez, and Francisco Liriano.  What does that mean for the Cubs?

If I were to take a guess, it might mean taking a chance on guys like Chris Tillman or Wade Miley, for instance. That’s not to say that the Cubs won’t pursue marquee deals this winter, whether it be through free agency or in trade, but Tillman could be an interesting dollar-bin pull.

After a solid run of seasons beginning in 2012, Tillman was one of the worst starters in all of baseball with a 1-7 record and a 7.84 ERA in 2017. It wasn’t bad luck either. Across 19 starts and a few relief appearances, the right-hander pitched to an FIP of 6.93, good for a -2.2 WAR. Only three of his starts fit the criteria to be considered quality. Even if he was a free agent, Tillman probably wouldn’t be able to fetch anything more than a one-year deal and he may not be guaranteed a rotation slot anywhere.

Is he fixable? Last season he walked nearly 4.9 batters per nine innings as compared to a career average of 3.2. His homer rate shot up to 2.3 per nine innings vs. a career average of 1.17. But Tillman is only 29 years old and, though never a true ace, he was Baltimore’s number one starter from 2013-16. Seems like working with Benedict would be a perfect opportunity for the Orioles pitcher.

Benedict’s hiring may also indicate that the Cubs intend to pursue John Lackey, though I don’t necessarily see Lack as a guy who will want someone tampering with his mechanics at this stage of his career. He’s likely playing for one more year, and I’d bet against any changes as far as the mental side goes.

But Benedict’s true value may be in taking a guy who is ready to go to the next level and getting him there. Someone like Tyler Chatwood, perhaps. Or maybe the Cubs would swing a trade for Gerrit Cole and/or sign Tyson Ross. Cole has been attached to the Cubs in trade rumors on a few occasions in his career, and Ross nearly signed with the Cubs last season.

For teams hoping to keep some money in reserve for future seasons, and especially for teams that already have three above-average starters, small financial risks on guys like Tillman, Miley, or Ross, trade candidates such as Cole, and mid-tier free-agent pitchers like Chatwood make a heck of a lot of sense. Benedict is a perfect fit for the Cubs at this time.

Cubs News & Notes

The Cubs/Marlins game on Opening Day (March 29, 2018) will be ESPN’s marquee matchup and will serve as the official inaugural game of the 2018 MLB Season.

The Cubs go into the 2018 season as No. 3 according to Sports Illustrated’s initial Power Rankings. The North Siders slot behind the Astros and the Dodgers. Of course, player movement during the Winter Meetings may change that pecking order.

Reviewing the Brew looks at a potential Brewers/Cubs trade with Ben Zobrist as the centerpiece.

Major renovations to the ballpark at Clark & Addison in 1926 included double-decking the grandstands, removing the left-field bleachers, lowering the playing field, increasing its capacity to 38,396, and changing its name from Cubs Park to Wrigley Field. The Cubs also named Joe McCarthy as the team’s manager. And when Margaret Donahue was named Corporate Secretary to William Veeck, Sr., she officially became the first female front-office executive in Major League Baseball who was not also an owner.

Tuesday Stove

In anticipation of the new posting system that was tentatively agreed on by MLB, the MLBPA and NPB, the rumor mill kicked into second gear yesterday. It appears that teams will now have until approximately December 23 to sign Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani. Evan Altman breaks it down.

The St. Louis Cardinals have engaged the Marlins regarding Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich in addition to Giancarlo Stanton.

The Twins have explored trades for Gerrit Cole and Jake Odorizzi.

MLB dropped the hammer on the Braves: Former GM John Coppolella has been permanently banned from baseball and the team lost 12 prospects for infractions surrounding illegal bonus payments to player agents in order to circumvent International Free Agent Signing rules and restrictions. 

USA Today has a complete list of individuals who have been permanently banned by MLB.

Yankees outfielder and Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge had arthroscopic shoulder surgery yesterday. 

The Mets and Tigers have discussed a potential trade involving 2B Ian Kinsler.

Spring Training baseball caps were unveiled just in time for holiday shopping.

Joe Morgan opens his mouth and garbage flows unimpeded. To me, one of the lowest forms of conversation is “remember when.” Morgan wants to think the game was pure and clean in his day. I don’t want to get too much into it but there is no way that Morgan or anybody else on those 1970’s Reds teams did not know Pete Rose was gambling on baseball, or that there was rampant amphetamine and cocaine use by players and front office personnel across MLB throughout 70’s and 80’s.

Wednesday Walk Up Song

Sweet Potato Time by Ray Charles. Happy Thanksgiving everybody. See you Friday.

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