The Rundown: Cubs Need to Dominate Hot Stove Headlines, Ross Loves Happ, MLB Growing in Popularity
I respect Evan Altman a great deal and almost always side with his opinions, but I don’t feel the Cubs should settle for merely being competitive next season. They need to dominate the offseason and do everything in their power to take over the National League.
We’ve reached that time of the year when we all become amateur talent scouts and evaluators. The plots and subplots of the Hot Stove season are so intriguing and the arguments so polarizing. Naturally, we tend to focus on the best of the best in free agency. That means we’ll hear plenty about the top shortstops and starting pitchers. Of course, a large contingent of fans would rather see the Cubs shy away from the open market and continue to horde minor league players.
As a fan, I want the Cubs to win now. If that means trading 4-5 prospects for Shohei Ohtani, I’m 100% chips in. I know what Ohtani will bring to the Cubs, but I can’t determine with the slightest bit of accuracy how well Owen Caissie and Jordan Wicks will do as big leaguers. The Dodgers gave up Keibert Ruiz and Josiah Gray for Trea Turner, and that seemed to work out pretty well. The Padres gave up Robert Hassell, Jarlin Susana, James Wood, CJ Abrams, MacKenzie Gore, and Luke Voit for Juan Soto and Josh Bell. I’m sure San Diego has no regrets.
The same could be said of free agency. I am so tired of the Jason Heyward argument, as if the Cubs are the only team that has ever been burned in free agency. Plenty of players have earned their salaries after signing life-changing contracts. I’d name Greg Maddux, Barry Bonds, Max Scherzer, Randy Johnson, and Andre Dawson off the top of my head.
Does signing Xander Bogaerts mean one or more of James Triantos, Cristian Hernández, Kevin Made, or Ed Howard is expendable? You betcha. But I’m okay with seeing Ohtani and Bogaerts trotting onto the field in Cubs pinstripes at those prices. If you need a nudge in my direction, revisit the Addison Russell saga. Or, look up the major league stats of Josh Vitters, Hee-Seop Choi, Ty Griffin, and Felix Pie. I’ll agree that scouting is a bit more accurate these days, but a study in April by a non-profit organization revealed that only 10% of minor league players make it to the bigs. A 90% failure rate leaves little to bank on.
I love Chicago’s minor league depth and the conversations that surround those players. But I’d rather talk about the acquisitions of Bogaerts, Turner, Ohtani, Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, or Carlos Correa. There are two weeks left in the 2022 season. I’ll be awfully disappointed if the Cubs aren’t dominating the hot stove headlines.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs are dropping season ticket prices by 5.1%. I’m no marketing genius, but if they would have waited until after they signed Aaron Judge and traded for Ohtani they could have actually increased prices.
- Keith Law doesn’t like Matt Mervis as much as the rest of us do, and he raises some concerning, if not somewhat inaccurate points. Still, it seems kind of silly to go against the numbers.
- It seems unlikely that Anthony Rizzo would/could return to Chicago, but a three-year deal might entice him if he opts out with the Yankees. He might be a better fit than José Abreu.
- Patrick Wisdom tops Chicago’s depth chart at third base, with Zach McKinstry serving as his backup. Of course, Christopher Morel will see some time at third on occasion.
- Things are a little murkier at second base, especially if the Cubs pursue a middle infielder in free agency. Nick Madrigal is the incumbent, but Morel or McKinstry could take his place.
- No matter what the Cubs do, Nico Hoerner (13 outs above average and 11 DRS) has what it takes to be an elite shortstop.
- Brennen Davis has been absent from recent AFL play and he is dealing with “general soreness” according to the organization. Davis has not been shut down or sent home and is expected back in the lineup soon, however, his absence provides fuel to those who call him injury-prone. The Fall League schedule wraps up in early November.
- Patrick Mooney of The Athletic says “it will be an organizational failure” ($) if the Cubs don’t make the playoffs in 2023.
- As far as David Ross is concerned, Ian Happ is his starting left fielder in 2023 ($), with Seiya Suzuki manning right field and a player-to-be-determined in center.
- Sports Info Solutions analyzed the shift ban and which players will benefit the most next season. Kyle Schwarber lost 15 hits this year, tied for second. Interestingly, Happ lost nine hits, which would have raised his average from .271 to .287. Mike Yastrzemski, who has been connected to the Cubs, lost a dozen. However, and this is a little scary, Yordan Alvarez lost 15 hits and 34 points in BA to the shift. He should have a monster 2023, so grab him in your fantasy leagues. Alvarez could be a Triple Crown candidate.
- Schwarber just might be the one player that the Cubs will regret non-tendering.
- Tom Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors hosted his first-ever Cubs-specific chat and offered a couple of interesting nuggets. First and foremost, Dierkes believes Carlos Rodón will want a five or six-year deal. He also believes the Cubs will not retain Franmil Reyes, and that a possibility exists, albeit a small one, that Javier Báez could return to Chicago for pennies on the dollar. I haven’t heard it mentioned elsewhere, but Dierkes believes starter Nathan Eovaldi is a realistic option for the Cubs in free agency at two years and $34 million.
- It is my belief, though I’m sure others share it, that Justin Steele will emerge as a legitimate ace in 2023.
Odds & Sods
This video offers every single reason why I intend to skip CubsCon this January. I’m too old for shuffling Ryan Dempster and dudes dressed in flashing lights.
Join us January 13-15 for #CubsCon!
Hotel packages go on sale Wednesday, October 19 at noon CDT: https://t.co/lP7WcyONoR pic.twitter.com/MslQaHxqj1
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) October 17, 2022
Postseason News & Notes
Verlander surpassed Los Angeles Dodgers star Clayton Kershaw for the top spot on the all-time postseason strikeout list. He struck out the side in the top of the 4th to bring his career total to 215. Kershaw’s previous record was 213 strikeouts.
Phillies starter Aaron Nola and Padres catcher Austin Nola are about to make postseason history. It’ll be the first time two siblings have ever faced one another as pitcher and batter in MLB postseason history.
Quantifiably speaking, the Padres registered the biggest postseason upset since 1995 when they upended the Dodgers in the NLDS.
Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts should be embarrassed by his LDS performance, at least according to MLB analyst Bill Plaschke.
The postseason emergence of Harrison Bader indicates the Yankees may have won the trade that sent Jordan Montgomery to the Cardinals.
Rob Manfred owes a big thank you to Judge because MLB’s popularity appears to be rallying. However, an overall decline in offense is still hurting the game. The new shift rules will help.
This postseason has reaffirmed that a short series can’t actually determine which of two baseball teams is better.
The Mets intend to be big spenders again this winter.
Reliever Eduard Bazardo is now a free agent and I would love it if he signed with the Cubs.
I’d love to see Willson Contreras join Schwarber in Philadelphia. It won’t happen, but it sure would be fun.
Kyle Schwarber's home run went an estimated 488 feet per Statcast, the longest home run in Petco Park during the Statcast era and the second-longest postseason homer. Only Willson Contreras's HR against Alex Wood in Game 4 of the 2017 NLCS went further (491). pic.twitter.com/RuEo2kN8Qj
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 19, 2022
Thursday Morning Six-Pack
- On Thursday night, the Bears had three drives of 60+ yards to Washington’s 5-yard line and came away with zero points. That hasn’t happened in the NFL in 30 years.
- At least the Bears gave up on incompetent wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette.
- Happy Sports Equinox! For only the 27th time ever, all “Big Four” North American pro sports leagues will be in action on the same day. There will be four this year, with the last one falling on Halloween.
- A massive avocado surplus is forcing a Philadelphia nonprofit to give away 2,000+ pounds for free in an event it’s calling “Avogeddon.”
- If it feels like working from home has given you so much of your life back, it has. Americans who WFH spend 60 million fewer hours commuting to work every day, according to research from the New York Fed.
- We do not put ketchup on our hot dogs in Chicago, and our pizzas are always cut tavern-style.
They Said It
- “One of the most gratifying things for me in this job is watching the arc of a player, watching that development. [Happ]took a really remarkable step forward in terms of his consistency on the field. He made a very concerted effort with his swing and his mentality to even that out. I think he did a fantastic job. There’s no reason he can’t continue to do that.” – Jed Hoyer
- “Ian created that himself. He identified what he wanted to be. Part of that was being consistent, and part of that was expanding his game and being versatile. A lot of that has to do with getting the at-bats, in his mind.” – Ross
Thursday Walk-Up Song
Here’s to the great Sports Equinox! If only we had some NCAA basketball, too.