The Rundown: Projecting Upcoming Projections, Báez and Contreras Tops at Their Positions, League Close to Decision on Astros

Before I get started, I just wanted to thank everybody for the great discussion in the comments section of yesterday’s Rundown. It brings me a great deal of enjoyment when our readers intelligently express their opinions. We have a nice community here and I hope it continues to grow.

I do want to take a break from all of the trade rumors today and talk about the upcoming season. In the weeks that follow Cubs Convention (coming up next week, January 17-19) we are going to start seeing a number of publications start to analyze how the 2020 season may play out. For all the fuss about last year’s PECOTA numbers, the team wasn’t much better than the initial projection of 82 wins. The reasons for the near .500 guesstimate were poor defense and league-average offense and pitching. In hindsight, and after an 84-win season, the Baseball Prospectus algorithm proved to be spot on.

The Cubs’ only significant change from last year is that they fired Joe Maddon and hired David Ross. But the team also lost Cole Hamels, Steve Cishek, Brandon Kintzler, Pedro Strop, Addison Russell, Ben Zobrist and the two-win August and September of Nick Castellanos, and so far have little in the way of replacements for those players. That also means those same deficiencies remain, so it’s not out of the question that PECOTA could project a 77-80 win season for this team.

Not wanting to completely piss in your morning bowl of Wheaties, but as rosters currently sit, the Cubs do project to the highest WAR in the division. Though the North Siders may border on mediocrity, only the Reds have done much to improve their team this season. The Brewers lost Mike Moustakas, Yasmani Grandal, and made a questionable trade with the Padres; the Cardinals may lose Marcell Ozuna and have done nothing in free agency; and the Pirates are still analyzing strengths and weaknesses under recently-hired GM Ben Cherington.

Still, it’s difficult to look at the upcoming season without fear and trepidation that Cubs could have their first losing season since 2014, or that they could be among baseball’s biggest sellers at the July 31 trade deadline. Keeping that in mind, a $208 million (or more) payroll looks like obscene excess. And though I promised I wouldn’t mention potential trades, is it any wonder that the talk since the end of last season has been focused on radical changes, ones that possibly include trading from their core group of players?

Cubs News & Notes

Thursday Stove

Red Sox manager Alex Cora is in a bit of hot water now that the Red Sox have been suspected of stealing signs. Cora was with the Astros in ’17, and has been named as a person of interest in the league’s investigation against Houston.

Rob Manfred is said to be nearing a decision on the Astros and how the team will be penalized. Cora could end up being suspended and/or fined for his roles with both Houston and Boston.

MLB is discussing ideas that would allow the league to help prevent the use of technology in stealing signs.

Instant replay has brought baseball a slew of side effects that no one really saw coming.

Try wrapping your head around an all-decade team for the 2020’s that does not include Mike Trout.

Mookie Betts appears poised to break the arbitration record of $26 million.

While revenues continue to escalate for the owners, player salaries have not kept pace according to this article by Maury Brown in Forbes.

On Deck

Not really baseball related, but CNN Travel has a nice write-up on Chicago and how it became America’s boldest, brashest city. The post does mention the Cubs-White Sox rivalry, which should amp up quite a bit this season.

Extra Innings

Love me some Ernie Banks.

They Said It

  • “All we can say is there was some frustration — or there was some disappointment — with the way those [2018 and ’19 Cubs teams] came together. We won 95 games in ’18, but we weren’t happy with how we played in the second half. Obviously, last year, that feeling of being less than the sum of the parts was always frustrating. Whether that’s leadership, chemistry, you can talk about all of that, but it’s hard to really pinpoint it. Certainly, the way the mix has come together hasn’t been ideal.” – Jed Hoyer

Thursday Walk Up Song

What Are You Listening To? by Chris Stapleton. A personal selection sits at number six on my top 10 songs of the decade. After Sue passed away in 2017, a friend of mine turned me onto this song, and whenever she was worried I might be succumbing to depression, she’d simply text me the title of this song and we’d go deep into conversation about our favorite hauntingly beautiful songs. That’s friendship.

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