The Rundown: Cubs Probably Done Spending, Smyly Inks One-Year Deal, Youth Shines in Cactus League Win, Soler to Marlins
“I pictured a rainbow. You held it in your hands. I had flashes, but you saw the plan… I saw the crescent but you saw the whole of the moon.” – Whole of the Moon by Michael Scott of the Waterboys.
I can’t find the exact quote, but a lot of people on social media are indicating that GM Carter Hawkins said the Cubs are just about done in free agency. The gist is that he equated the team’s current purchasing mode to batting in the top of the 9th inning. That makes sense, considering Chicago could field a complete roster full of middle infielders and relief pitchers.
Sorting it all out to see who breaks camp with the big club in April and who does not should give birthday boy David Ross fits. It’s not that the Cubs have too many good players, it’s just that they have so many low-risk, high-reward players it will be tough to gauge which way each is trending with the shortened spring schedule. Minding that, I’d like to provide my opinion on who will stick and who will be cut, traded, or optioned over the next few editions of The Rundown.
Today I’ll focus on players who will likely stick and get regular playing time. On Monday I’ll look at the pitchers and on Tuesday I’ll dive into the bubble players and minor leaguers.
Willson Contreras – Because the Cubs and Contreras have yet to engage in extension talks, a trade before Opening Day is a very real possibility.
Yan Gomes – He’ll be the starting catcher if Contreras is traded, but otherwise should split time fairly equally behind the plate as Contreras sees considerable DH at-bats.
Frank Schwindel – I may be in the minority, but I think he will be as consistent this year as he was last year. If he has another banner year, expect Frank the Tank to be sporting the 8-ball leather jacket in and around Lakeview this fall. Schwindel hails from the West Essex part of New Jersey, just west of Newark.
Patrick Wisdom – If he can cut his strikeout rate from 40% to 25%, he will be MVP. If he can get it under 30% he’ll hit 50 homers. Don’t get your hopes up, however, because Wisdom has a 38% chance of regressing this year.
Nico Hoerner – I am still not a fan. I hope he proves me wrong, as I’ve been on him since he was drafted. He needs to break out this year and I wish Hawkins would trade him because if Hoerner regresses further he will have no market.
Nick Madrigal – Cubs fans will love him. If he can develop a little bit of power he’ll draw comparisons to Dustin Pedroia.
Seiya Suzuki – He is already embracing a leadership role, idolizes Mike Trout, and will earn every penny of the nearly $100 million it took to get him to the Friendly Confines.
Jason Heyward – Cross your fingers and hope he hits .265 this year because he’s not going anywhere. That’s the pass/fail BA for the veteran right fielder.
Ian Happ – Somebody please convince him that April is really August, perhaps a hypnotist may help. If Happ was ever traded to a warm-weather city he could be MVP.
Clint Frazier – If I was channeling John Madden, I’d say “Here’s a guy who has all the tools but none of the expected results.” If I was paraphrasing Joe Maddon I’d say “We’re playing the long game with the young man, and we’re expecting big things for Clint once the rubber meets the road.”
Frazier has shown he can play well in spurts at the big league level, and he’ll be a monster if he finds consistency and good health. Those are very big ifs, however. If you’re a glass-half-empty Cubs fan, you probably see Frazier as a quintessential 4A player.
Jonathan Villar – He makes Happ or Hoerner expendable and I can tell you from personal experience here in Milwaukee that Villar will quickly become a fan-favorite because of his hustle and gamesmanship.
Andrelton Simmons – I think he will end up being Chicago’s starting shortstop and No. 9 hitter.
Harold Ramírez – He’ll get some spot starts in the outfield and at DH and he has a little pop.
Rafael Ortega – I am not sure how the starting outfield will eventually shake out, but I’d rather see Ortega facing righties than Heyward.
Alfonso Rivas – Ross needs to find a way to get his bat in the lineup. Rivas was an OBP machine in the minors, though that .364 career BABIP is unsustainable at the major league level. He must put good wood on the ball because he only grounded into 18 double plays in 1,037 minor league plate appearances.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs signed veteran starter Drew Smyly to a one-year deal worth $5.25 million. To make room on the 40-man roster, the team placed David Bote on the 60-day IL while he recovers from left shoulder surgery.
- Justin Steele made his spring debut yesterday and looms large in Chicago’s rotation mix due to Adbert Alzolay‘s injury.
- Suzuki is positioned to be a cornerstone of the Cubs’ next championship-caliber team and will undoubtedly be known as the face of Chicago’s latest rebuild.
- Reliever Brad Wieck is determined to successfully rehab and become a regular contributor after his most recent injury setback.
- Jed Hoyer promised the fans of Chicago’s North Side baseballers that he’d “spend intelligently” this year and a large number of short-term guaranteed deals backs that up. Suzuki is the only player the Cubs signed to a contract longer than three years.
- A number of Chicago’s future stars had big games in Saturday’s 5-4 Cactus League win over the Padres at Sloan Park.
Odds & Sods
Jake Burger is taking the farmer’s tan to an unprecedented level.
I’ve got a bone to pick with whoever designed these Spring Training hats… @MLB @MLBNetwork pic.twitter.com/hOyDe8poZg
— Jake Burger (@Burgatron13) March 20, 2022
Climbing the Ladder
- Steele pitched two scoreless innings with two strikeouts.
- Brennen Davis hit a three-run oppo-taco onto the right-center berm.
- Jared Young, a 15th -round pick in 2017, hit a solo shot and doubled on a 2-for-2 afternoon.
- Rivas was also 2-for-2 with a solo shot.
- 19-year-old toolsy shortstop prospect Kevin Made was 1-for-2.
Spring Training News & Notes
The Marlins have signed free-agent outfielder Jorge Soler to a three-year contract worth a reported $36 million. The deal features opt-outs after each of the first two seasons.
The Carlos Correa acquisition by the Twins is a notable example of the expanded postseason format increasing competitive behavior and salaries. With an additional playoff spot on the line and with nine AL clubs (Yankees, Blue Jays, Rays, Red Sox, White Sox, Twins, Astros, Angels, and Mariners) projected by PECOTA to finish above .500, we are set up to have a fun September.
The Phillies are excited to field what they think is an offensive juggernaut now that they have added Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber to a lineup that includes Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins, J.T. Realmuto, and Alec Bohm
Free-agent outfielder Michael Conforto reportedly turned down a nine-figure extension offer from the Mets prior to the 2021 season.
The Rangers have signed infielder Matt Carpenter to a minor league contract.
The Cardinals are reportedly interested in trading for A’s starters Frankie Montas and Sean Manaea.
The future of Cubs baseball ladies and gentlemen.
Brennen Damage.@BrennenDavis__ pic.twitter.com/YIyrNWp73a
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) March 19, 2022
They Said It
- “For years, we have scouted Seiya [Suzuki]. His performance in Japan has been consistent and exceptional in all phases of the game. We feel equally good about who Seiya is as a person. We prepared a lot of research in anticipation of his posting. All of that research came back about how much he loves the game and how obsessive he is with continually improving in all areas. He’s also incredibly popular with his teammates.” – Hoyer
- “We’ll send a couple of bottles of wine that way for Yu [Darvish]. This is a place where we care about setting players up for success and treating them the right way and communicating with them and doing the best we can to win baseball games while also understanding that there are other things that players deal with outside of just performance on the field.” – Ross
Sunday Walk-Up Song
What a Day That Was (Live) by Talking Heads – It’s great to have baseball back, and for me personally, it’s wonderful to be a daily contributor at Cubs Insider again.