The Rundown: Crafty Staff May Stretch More Easily, Hendricks a Reluctant Ace, Little Could Surprise, Happ Arb Results Due Today

It’s still early, but I have been thinking about the state of the Cubs right now and, though I know hope springs eternal, I’m starting to like the roster construction at this point. The team is counting on a lot of little things to go right in order to contend for the division, and I think some of the moves Jed Hoyer has made should at least give the team an understated confidence to compete for a division championship. Focusing on workforce management could be the key to any success the North Siders have this year.

I’ll reserve hope for an extended playoff run until July because so much can happen during the course of a season. More so than years past, the health and depth of pitching staffs throughout the league is going to separate those teams that rise or fall as the season progresses.

What I like about the Cubs staff is that they have sacrificed power for general craftiness in their rotation. Guys like Kohl Stewart and Trevor Williams possess the type of skillsets the front office believes can give the Cubs a competitive advantage coming off of a shortened season. That should bode well for pitchers who will have to increase the innings they pitched last season twofold or more. If rotations break down and teams become too bullpen-dependent, things could go awry pretty quickly. I think Hoyer has done well to find pitchers who will have the ability to stretch out more quickly and eat innings with less risk of injury.

Overall, the roster shows plenty of professionalism and is filled with veterans who know how to win. The monkey on their backs is, of course, early round playoff failures going back to 2018. Perhaps the North Siders just need to win one playoff series to get over that hump, so to speak.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Instead of calling Kyle Hendricks “The Professor,” perhaps we should start calling him “The Reluctant Ace.”
  • Farm head honcho Matt Dorey believes shortstop prospect and 2020 first round pick Ed Howard IV is going to be a very special player.
  • One pitching prospect to keep an eye on this spring is 24-year-old lefty Brendon Little. His fastball reached 99 mph during instructs and his slider registered 87.
  • Despite throwing a no-hitter last season, Alec Mills knows that a slot in the starting rotation is not guaranteed right now.
  • Mills indicated that he still hasn’t fully realized the gravity of pitching a no-no against the Brewers last September.
  • The Cubs have spent a great deal of time and money building their pitching infrastructure to maximize talent. Because many of this season’s new additions can be considered prospects, that system will be put to the test.
  • The organization officially announced the signing of reliever Brandon Workman yesterday. Manager David Ross actually caught Workman when the two were with the Red Sox (2013-14). If you play fantasy baseball, the veteran reliever should have a chance to cherry-pick a few wins, as Ross will undoubtedly use him to turn ties and deficits into victories.
  • Ross and the Cubs’ pitching coordinators believe Workman can recapture the magic of his stellar 2019 season. The right-hander was 10-1 with a 1.88 ERA and 102 strikeouts in 71.2 innings that season, pitching to a 256 ERA+ with 16 saves.
  • Ian Happ was the last player to go through arbitration this year and the result of his hearing will be announced today. Happ asked for a raise from $624,000 to $4.1 million during yesterday’s Zoom session and the Cubs argued he should be paid $3.25 million. Teams have won five of eight cases decided thus far.
  • Cubs beat reporter Jordan Bastian of has answers for all of your spring training questions.

Odds & Sods

I’ve actually been waiting for Blake Snell to do a piece for The Players’ Tribune ever since last year’s World Series ended. Of course as time goes on the story will become more exaggerated, but for the love of Mike what was Kevin Cash thinking last October?

Spring Training Notes

Expect starting pitchers to ease into the groove of navigating a 162-game schedule.

The Dodgers and Padres are No. 1 and 2 respectively in this season’s initial power rankings. Closer to home, the Cardinals are seven slots ahead of the Cubs, who are ranked No. 14.

Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts has named Kenley Jansen as his Opening Day closer.

The Brewers struggled offensively last year, averaging just 4.1 runs per game, and manager Craig Counsell is counting on big bounceback years from some of his veterans, particularly Christian Yelich. The 2018 NL MVP batted just .205 in 2020.

The Phillies should be among the NL leaders in home runs this year, but manager Joe Girardi said his offense needs to be more productive when it comes to creating runs.

On the heels of the record extension signed by Padres shortstop Fernando Tatís Jr., many Nationals fans would like to see the club use that contract as a template to ink outfielder Juan Soto to a deal that will keep the young star in Washington for the next decade or longer.

A’s executive Billy Beane waited, and waited, and waited…and then built an elite bullpen in a couple of days. Oakland has been remarkable each winter by allowing the free agent market to regress just enough to fit their budget.

Baseball needs to do a better job of promoting its Black players and Mookie Betts is someone who would definitely inspire young African Americans.

Sliding Into Home

The surgery on my chest and upper thigh will be at 3pm today. Wish me luck and hope to see you all Sunday or Monday.

Extra Innings

Spring Training means the return of mic’d up players, always a fun time for viewers. Here’s the best of last year’s player antics courtesy of the Cubs YouTube channel.

They Said It

  • “Ed Howard is truly a player that has all five tools on the field. But his best tool might be his makeup, his competitiveness, his willingness to play the team game. He’s just a really special talent. I think he really embraces playing in his hometown; he doesn’t shy away from that pressure. He’s doing that at a very young age and that’s just going to continue to mature and grow, as will his skills.” – Matt Dorey
  • ““I think [Workman] is a guy that’s going to pitch big innings for us. He’s got a true four-seam ride, breaking ball guy — which is really big in the game right now. He’s a guy that is a really good competitor, a great teammate, fun to be around, works his tail off, does anything you ask.” – David Ross
  • “He’s already started to introduce another generation to the game. Whether we see it or not, it’s happening. I couldn’t be prouder to have a guy like Mookie [Betts] as a representation of all Black baseball players right now.” – Cameron Maybin

Friday Walk Up Song

All the Cats Join In by Benny Goodman & His Orchestra – I love that more and more position players are showing up to camp early.

This 1946 version of the jazz standard features lyrics by Peggy Lee and Benny himself. It’s a wonderful composition to kick off and your weekend, and the animation by Walt Disney Studios is sublime.

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