The Rundown: Bryant Emerging as Team Leader, Hamels Hopes to Play to 45, Salem Red Sox Have First All-Female Announcing Team

Blurbs and sub-blurbs

I had a weird dream last night about Bryce Harper playing for the Dodgers and it turns out it was really a memory of something I’d once seen before.

Of course that’s not half as odd as the continuing story of Harper’s Bazaar. Will it ever end? I’ve given up on it, to be honest. Apparently there are more bidders now than at any other given point in the process, and all are considering up to 10-year deals. Meanwhile, the Phillies have been played like a flea market fiddle, or so it appears.

Harper’s once-excellent adventure has been playing out as baseball’s version of American Horror Story.

Cole Hamels wants to pitch until he is 45 years old, or close to it, though he didn’t say he wanted to pitch for the Cubs up to that ancient age. Some guys have genuinely succeeded at the major league level into their mid-40’s.

“I played with Jamie Moyer,” Hamels said yesterday. “He was the epitome of a guy who played and took it seriously in a sense when you’re 35, 40, 45, you’re not down and out. That’s my motivation.”

Right fielder Jason Heyward worked out at the Cubs’ complex yesterday, but his return to the lineup remains questionable as he deals with a personal matter. So you can cut the cord on any potential trade rumors. Manager Joe Maddon said there is no timeline for Heyward’s return.

“He’s going to make the call on that,” Maddon said. “But he is well. It’s very personal. But he’s healthy and fine.”

The Cubs played the Rangers yesterday, so it meant Jesse Chavez could catch up with some of his former teammates. Chavez bolted back to the Rangers about two-and-a-half minutes after free agency officially began. The reliever stated that loyalty to the Rangers organization was his motivating factor, but I’d guess getting about twice what I’d expected in years (2) and dollars ($8 million) had a lot to do with it too. The 35-year-old was lights-out for the Cubs at the end of last season.

About those PECOTA projections: The National League will be a lot more compressed this year. A number of teams have improved and the only gimmes on the schedules of each Senior Circuit team are the Marlins and possibly the Giants, even if they do sign Harper. It’s unlikely that the Cubs finish the season in the 78-80 win range, but they’ll have to be at their best, especially when facing divisional opponents. Additionally, the Cubs play the AL West in interleague competition this year. The theme of urgency is about this season’s schedule as much as it is about last season’s failure to close.

There were two divisional tiebreakers in the National League last year and it’s not going to get any easier this season. I still say the Cubs are a 90-win team, but they’ll have to earn every one of them. Keys will be the health of the starting rotation and a bounceback year for Willson Contreras. He’s off to a good start so far.

Cubs News & Notes

Spring Training Notes

Shifts are part of the game now, whether you embrace the idea or not.

Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins says Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is “not a major leaguer” at this point in his development. I’m sure baseball’s top prospect will file that away to use when he hits free agency.

Meanwhile, the Jesús Luzardo hype train is operating at full speed. The rookie looks like a lock to break camp with the Athletics.

Harper and agent Scott Boras had a second meeting with the Giants the other day. The Phillies have admitted their chances of signing the free agent slugger are remote at best.

The Cardinals expect to win the Central Division and contend for the World Series.

Now that Marwin Gonzalez has signed with the Twins, the Astros are hoping a group of players can duplicate his lost offense.

Mets catcher Wilson Ramos sees “Blake Snell potential” in Steven Matz.

Danny Farquhar threw his second simulated game yesterday, another step in his dramatic comeback from a life-threatening brain hemorrhage suffered after walking off the mound against Houston last April.

Mets OF Brandon Nimmo gave himself food poisoning yesterday after eating undercooked chicken.

On Deck

I am looking for two more players for our rotisserie league this year. It’s a dynasty format and we have one opening in the National League and one in the American League. Find me on Twitter and private message me for more details. You will have to be in Chicago for our minor league draft and auction on March 30-31 if you are interested.

Extra Innings

The Salem Red Sox will have the first all-female broadcast booth this season. This is truly a good thing for baseball, high fives all around for the Red Sox organization.

Thursday Walk Up Song

Harvest Moon by Neil Young – I kept hearing Sue’s voice yesterday for some reason so I missed her more than most other days. This was our song. A great close to February’s theme of hauntingly beautiful songs.

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