The Rundown: Spring Training Thoughts, Bryant Rumors Persist, Betts Trade Still On Hold, Oscar Picks

Though it seems less likely that Kris Bryant will be traded as the team gets closer to camp, don’t expect those rumors to go away anytime soon. It’s worth noting that the pregnant cloud hanging over the organization could serve as a major distraction, one that could last all the way up to the trade deadline in July. If that’s the case, Theo Epstein will have nobody to blame but himself.

If the Cubs can’t or won’t trade Bryant and need to get under the $208 million CBT threshold, who goes instead? And if the Cubs wait until midseason to make any significant trades, what happens if they’re actually contending? Do they strengthen the team at the risk of repeat penalties, or do they sell off for the future instead? Or do they just do nothing, which seems to be the organizational MO these days?

If they do finish the season as a repeat CBT offender, what was the point of doing nothing all winter? There’s little difference if the payroll is $1 above the tax threshold or millions.

I’m convinced that creating bullpen bulk was a sneaky good offseason strategy, but heading to camp with a number of rotation question marks could hurt the Cubs. I’m more confident in Alec Mills as the fifth starter than any of the other choices, but other than Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks, the rotation may not be strong enough to keep the bullpen from being overtaxed as the season wears on. Still, it seems that Tyler Chatwood is most likely going to be the team’s fifth starter. At least it appears it is his job to lose.

Question marks remain at second base and outfield, even if Nico Hoerner and Ian Happ earn those starting positions. Happ could be weak defensively, and Hoerner may struggle a bit at the plate as pitchers make their usual adjustments. The front office believes that Hoerner has the talent to stick with the team and fill the leadoff hole in the lineup at some point.

I truly believe that Joe Maddon cost the Cubs at least six victories last season and even though David Ross is a rookie manager, I expect he is less likely to play the same types of hunches that always seemed to bite Maddon in the ass.

Pitchers and catchers report in four days. Hopefully answers are forthcoming.

Cubs News & Notes

Friday Stove

While there’s still hope that the Mookie Betts three-team trade will be finalized, with the Red Sox talking to Twins about an altered deal, MLB Insider Jon Heyman says some of the principles involved in the deal have expressed skepticism.

Mark Feinsand of reported via Twiter yesterday that progress has been made in getting to a resolution. The hold up in the deal is a medical report on minor league pitcher Brusdar Graterol, who went from the Twins to the Red Sox as part of the trade.

Apparently everybody knew Graterol was damaged goods except the Red Sox. Not a great look for Boston’s new chief baseball officer, Chaim Bloom.

MLB is hopeful that it will finish its investigation of the Red Sox before the start of spring training.

2015 World Series hero Chris Young will take over as MLB’s new chief disciplinarian. He’ll rule on suspensions and fines for on-field manners.

Former Giants manager Bruce Brochy will remain with the organization as a special advisor.

Hank Aaron threw down the hammer yesterday, saying that any players known to be guilty in the Astros’ sign stealing scandal should be exiled from baseball.

Multiple sources have confirmed to The New York Post that the biggest unsolvable issue in the now-all-but-dead sale of the New York Mets to billionaire hedge fund manager Steve Cohen was the role that team heir and current COO Jeff Wilpon would have in the transition of power and beyond.

On Deck

As promised, here is a link to the GoFundMe I started yesterday. Thank you for your consideration and your help, and for sharing with others. I deeply appreciate you all.

My Oscar Picks

You knew I had to.

  • Best Picture: The Irishman
  • Best Director: Sam Mendes, 1917
  • Best Actor: Joaquin Phoenix, The Joker
  • Best Actress: Saoirse Ronan, Little Women
  • Best Supporting Actor: Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  • Best Supporting Actress: Laura Dern, Marriage Story
  • Original Screenplay: Parasite
  • Adapted Screenplay: The Irishman
  • Animated Feature: Toy Story 4
  • Visual Effects: 1917
  • Film Editing: Ford vs. Ferrari
  • Original Score: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, John Williams
  • Sound Mixing: Ford vs. Ferrari

Extra Innings

“A truant finds home, and a wish to hold on. But there’s a trap door in the sun — immortality.” – Eddie Vedder

Apropos of Nothing

Nothing like falling asleep with the TV on and waking up to the final scene of Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. “Lotta killing.” Lotta screaming, too.

They Said It

  • “I also look at the talent that we have on paper and I talk to our players and I get excited about how good of a team we can be. We were an 84-win team last year, but underlying stats projected out, we were probably a 90-win team. Not to say we didn’t have issues — we did. Not to say we don’t have holes now — we do. But there’s significant upside with this group of players.” – Theo Epstein
  • “Realistically, for the next two or three years, there are a few of us that are uncertainties here. You’re going to hear rumors flying, people writing this, people writing that. We have a job to do, and that’s to win and to win here.” – Anthony Rizzo
  • “I want to work. I want to do things the right way. But we’re going to have some fun, too. I learned from one of the best … about how to have fun, how to keep things loose. And I also have some of my own ideas that I’ll implement for this group that I think will carry the day.” – David Ross

Friday Walk Up Song

Better Man by Pearl Jam. I met Sue because of this song. I was singing it at a karaoke bar and she fell in love with me. Kismet.

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