“The story is a sad one, told many times, the story of my life in trying times. Just add water, stir in lime.” – R.E.M., How the West Was Won and Where it Got Us
Jed Hoyer was in the news quite a bit over the weekend, first because he gave David Ross a well-deserved vote of confidence, but also because he admitted the Cubs intend to attack free agency intelligently this winter. No matter how others try to spin that latter idea, it is actually a good thing. Including expected arbitration raises, the Cubs will have around $60 million in salary commitments next season, the bulk of which will go to Jason Heyward and Kyle Hendricks. Anyone who’s watched Heyward struggle offensively should be happy Hoyer has no intentions of spending like a drunken sailor.
Ross, who really didn’t need Hoyer to confirm he is a good manager, would like his boss to get two starting pitchers on the open market. Assuming Patrick Wisdom and Frank Schwindel are locked into third and first base next season, the front office will probably be looking at adding an outfielder who can also serve as DH. That sure sounds a lot like Nick Castellanos. The Cubs could make an attempt to sign Kris Bryant, who has already proven he can play all over the diamond, though a reunion is unlikely.
This Brennen Davis homer got out in a hurry!
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) September 23, 2021
Hoyer will also have to consider the timeline of prized minor league prospect Brennen Davis. The soon-to-be 22-year-old has annihilated pitchers after being promoted to Iowa (.326/.396/1.047). He hit four home runs in 11 games and could force Hoyer’s hand sometime next season, though we’ll have to wait until that new CBA is in place to see how the league and the players union negotiate service time. As far as pitching is concerned, Keegan Thompson looked pretty good in Sunday’s 4-2 loss to the Cardinals, Justin Steele has earned a chance to be part of next year’s rotation, and minor leaguers Caleb Kilian, DJ Herz, and Jordan Wicks could join the parent team the year after, if not sooner.
With all of that in mind, spending intelligently probably means handing out contracts with shorter terms and higher AAV, something the president of baseball operations mentioned earlier this season. Of course, how and where he spends his money will be dependent on the next contract between the players and owners. And, not to pick on Heyward, but he is kind of the poster boy for long-term deals that age poorly. It’s unlikely Hoyer will fish in that pond again anytime soon unless he decides to pursue someone like Carlos Correa, something that is also probably not going to happen.
The Cubs closed their 2021 home schedule with six straight losses while watching the Cardinals extend their winning streak to 16 games. St. Louis may or may not be that good, but Chicago is definitely that bad and that final Wrigley series should remind everybody just how much work Hoyer and his staff have ahead of them. The season ends this week after three games in Pittsburgh and three more in St. Louis, and Hoyer is currently sitting on the No. 7 overall pick in next year’s draft.
Cubs News & Notes
- Adbert Alzolay, another potential starter next season, also pitched well in Sunday’s loss.
- In fact, the young arms and some of the team’s standout replacements actually provide a little hope toward a brighter future, provided Hoyer can successfully navigate free agency and the winter trade market.
- Wisdom, Schwindel, and outfielder Rafael Ortega have proven they deserve a shot at regular playing time next season.
- CI’s Greg Huss has this week’s Farm Report.
- Davis is definitely worth mentioning when considering the 2022 Cubs.
- Farm director Matt Dorey may have had the toughest job in the organization this year.
- Adrian Sampson may prove to be the type of reclamation project that helps lift the pitching staff next season, whether he is in the rotation or coming out of the bullpen.
- Former closer Carl Edwards Jr. thought he’d play his entire career with the Cubs.
Odds & Sods
I hope all of Schwindel’s doubters will finally put a lid on it. When you have this type of success, it may just be a matter of preparation finally meeting opportunity. The comparisons to Bryan LaHair are so far off they’re mind-boggling. Do you see LaHair on that list?
Frank the Tank 📈 pic.twitter.com/co3VF8U1OC
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) September 27, 2021
Climbing the Ladder
“I’m burnin’ through the sky, yeah, 200 degrees, that’s why they call me Mister Fahrenheit, I’m traveling at the speed of light.” – Queen, Don’t Stop Me Now
- Games Played: 156
- Total Plate Appearances: 5,738
- Total Strikeouts: 1,542
- Strikeout Rate: 27.0%
- Team Batting Average: .234
It has been a pleasure watching Schwindel and Wisdom this season. At the very least, they gave Cubs fans something to look forward to after the devastating deadline maneuvering by Hoyer.
How About That!
Soto’s season has been quietly historic. Would you believe he carries a 7.2 WAR entering the final week of play?
Two games separate the Dodgers and Giants for the NL West crown. The loser will risk a 100-win season in a one-game playoff, most likely against St. Louis.
Los Angeles is no stranger to winner-take-all baseball.
The Reds are hanging on by a thread.
Do we hate the Cardinals now more than ever? 10 out of 10 Cubs fans probably agree.
Chicago’s 2021 Stars
- Schwindel – If you still doubt his ability to be a starting MLB first baseman, you are simply harboring every sour grape you gathered when Anthony Rizzo was traded.
- Wisdom – He now owns the team’s rookie record for home runs and probably strikeout rate, too. That said, when he connects, the ball goes very far at high rates of speed. He can be a mainstay if Hoyer fills the lineup with patient hitters next season. Wisdom may hit 50 homers over a full season, too.
- Ian Happ – I’m hoping we are not fooled yet again by another late-season mirage. If he puts it all together for a full season, he could be a monster. On the flip side, he could be David Bote.
- Rowan Wick – He’s had a few hiccups, but he could be a dominant closer for years to come.
- Alec Mills – Just give him the ball. He’ll do whatever he is asked to do.
- Ortega – He’s earned at least platoon playing time in 2022 based on his .315/.364/.881 line with 10 home runs and 32 RBI against righties. It’s quite the opposite against left-handed pitchers, however.
- Davis – He blistered the ball at three levels this year. If he’s ready next season, he’s a game-changer and might make fans quickly forget about Bryant.
After last night’s 13-4 win over the A’s, the Mariners are 1.5 games back of the second Wild Card team with five games left to play. I believe!
Do you believe? pic.twitter.com/BeTnt1SpUF
— MLB (@MLB) September 28, 2021
They Said It
- “I really respect the effort [Wisdom, Schwindel, and Ortega] have given. They had an amazing opportunity to come in and play every day for two months and, to their credit, really grabbed that opportunity and [ran] with it. Watching that passion every day — they come to the ballpark to prove something. They’re proving something to the Cubs. They’re proving something to the league.” – Jed Hoyer
- “We plan to be really active in free agency. We plan to spend money intelligently — I think that’s probably the easiest way I can say it. Obviously, we’re scouting that market heavily. We’re going to analyze that market heavily.” – Hoyer
Tuesday Walk-Up Song
Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – Are you prepared to watch the likes of Bryant and potentially Rizzo, Jon Lester, and Kyle Schwarber playing postseason baseball for other teams? Who do you root for? Please don’t say Joc Pederson.