The Rundown: Opening Series May Provide Glimpse of Future, Davis Aiming for Big League Debut, Last-Minute Deals Reignite Hot Stove

“Gonna chase the clouds away, waiting on a sunny day.” – Bruce Springsteen, Waitin’ on a Sunny Day.

It’s been a while since we’ve entered a regular season knowing disappointment lurks around every corner, starting with a four-game series against the Brewers on opening weekend at Wrigley Field. The North Siders were 4-15 against Milwaukee last year and will start this season facing hard-throwing starters Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta, and Adrian Houser. The Cubs intended to frontload their rotation with a big arm or two, but Jed Hoyer couldn’t pull the trigger on anything. As a result, there’s a very real possibility that they start the season on the wrong side of a sweep.

The more optimistic way of looking at the opening set is that the Brewers of today could very well be the Cubs of tomorrow. A lot of things have to go right, but based on pure stuff and projectability, a rotation of Caleb Kilian, Brailyn Márquez, DJ Herz, Jordan Wicks, and Kohl Franklin could be every bit as formidable as those neighbors to the north. If the Cubs take a starter in the first round of this year’s minor league draft, and many analysts have already paired Chicago with prep flamethrower Dylan Lesko, we will have witnessed the full metamorphosis of a farm system that was terribly flawed when Theo Epstein left.

Give Hoyer credit for deftly exercising the type of chicanery Epstein never could. Hoyer said all the right things about trying to retain the core and then did all the right things by trading those assets. The end result is that the current president of baseball operations has fully patched the sinking ship he took steward of on November 17, 2020.

“First, the organization faces many decisions this winter that carry long-term consequences; those types of decisions are best made by someone who will be here for a long period rather than for just one more year,” Epstein explained in a letter to friends and colleagues after he tendered his resignation. “Second…we must face the immediate challenge of how to allocate our temporarily reduced resources in a way that allows us to move forward and to succeed.”

In retrospect, meeting the contractual demands of the previous core would have resulted in organizational apoptosis. Instead, and to the surprise of no one, Hoyer reenergized a flailing farm system through several trades. That started with the Yu Darvish deal, and the rebuild was underway. That trade and subsequent transactions that moved Kris Bryant, Javier Báez, Anthony Rizzo, and Craig Kimbrel to other teams added at least seven prospects with solid chances of making a major league impact in the next few years, plus Nick Madrigal and Codi Heuer.

Certainly, the lack of spending this winter was incredibly frustrating, but Hoyer is positioned to acquire even more talent this summer in an effort to keep the prospect pipeline flowing freely. Epstein promised that type of positive roster churn but just couldn’t close if it meant trading away the very players that earned the Cubs a championship in 2016. Hoyer refused to attach himself to those stars the way his predecessor did, and the organization’s future looks a lot brighter than it has in a long time. We are sad to have seen them all leave, but we’ll fall similarly in love with the next wave of young stars.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

This was the last weekend without meaningful baseball until the start of November.

Climbing the Ladder

“So you’ve been broken and you’ve been hurt, show me somebody who ain’t. Yeah, I know I ain’t nobody’s bargain but, hell, a little touch-up and a little paint.” – Springsteen, Human Touch

  • Wade Miley and Drew Smyly are very much like the under-the-radar pitching acquisitions the Giants made last season. Miley and Smyly, try not to giggle.
  • I’d rather see Daniel Norris in the rotation than the bullpen but he may end up being the type of swingman Chicago hasn’t had since Mike Montgomery was traded.
  • Frazier’s eye-popping bat speed has been a joy to watch in Cactus League action.
  • No backup looks more prepared to play at a moment’s notice than Gomes.
  • If Madrigal can develop just a little bit of power, the Cubs will have their version of Dustin Pedroia. Everything else, including those stellar intangibles, is already in place.
  • Frank Schwindel is batting .400 this spring and looks to be ready to pick up where he left off last season.

Spring Training News & Notes

White Sox starter Lance Lynn will miss the first four weeks of the season with a knee injury.

The Yankees and Mets are swapping relievers. Miguel Castro will head to the Bronx Bombers in exchange for  Joely Rodríguez.

The White Sox and Blue Jays have exchanged 27-year-old backup catchers that were once former top prospects. Zack Collins will head to Toronto while Reese McGuire moves to Chicago.

Over the weekend, the White Sox traded former Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel to the Dodgers for outfielder AJ Pollock.

The Padres have acquired starter Sean Manaea from the A’s as part of a four-player deal. That could mean Chris Paddack will be moved soon.

The White Sox and Marlins each have two starters that are darkhorse Cy Young candidates.

Juan Soto almost signed with the Twins as an international free agent before he inked his deal with the Nationals.

Extra Innings

I joined Cubs Insider the year after the Cubs won the World Series, so I never felt the anticipation that those who have preceded me experienced while writing with an eye toward the future. I’m excited to analyze things from a different perspective for the first time. There are no guarantees with prospects, but the future does look incredibly bright.

They Said It

  • “My goal isn’t to be a prospect. It’s to be a big leaguer.” – Davis
  • “If I hit the ball on a line to right- or left-center gap, the home runs may come, but I’m my best when I’m shooting those gaps and hitting it on a line. I think that’s where I’m most valuable if I go from the right-field line to the left-field line. That’s my main focus rather than trying to hit the ball in the air. Even in batting practice, if I try to hit the ball in the air or hit it out, that’s when I get in trouble.”  – Madrigal
  • “Obviously, reading everything out there, a lot of the rumors, I just wanted [Contreras] to know, ‘Hey, you’re the starter. You’re the main guy. I’m just here for whatever it is they want to do. I’m here to strengthen both of us instead of making this a little bit of a harder deal.'” – Gomes

Monday Walk-Up Song

Take Me Out to the Ball Game by Bruce Sprinsgtone – Is it real or is it Memorex?

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