The Rundown: Morel Assignment Leaves Personality Void, Hoerner Extended, Cubs Playing Clean
“Good luck suckers, I’m on my way. I’ve been here forever, forever and a day. You’re busy little down roads tonight, time and tide. We’re on the same circle, just a different timeline. Always been a practical man of practical need, practically.” – Giant Giant Sand, Forever and a Day
Christopher Morel struck out 24 times in 52 Cactus League plate appearances, which is part of why he’s headed to Iowa. The Cubs have to trim their roster to 26 players by Thursday, when they open the season at Wrigley Field against the Brewers. I’ve felt like Morel has been a little lost and out of sorts since Willson Contreras signed with the Cardinals. Contreras irked the shit out of me earlier this week when he called Yadier Molina his hero.
I digress. I’d rather not focus on any team or player that resides west of the Mississippi River and east of Kansas City.
Without Morel, the Cubs feel kind of vanilla to me. As I go up and down the current roster, there isn’t a whole lot of personality. Then again, infectious smiles and unbridled excitement don’t win ball games. Tucker Barnhart will be a quote machine and Marcus Stroman always has an opinion or two, but the rest of the squad looks like a team of NASA engineers. They do and say the right things, just with their emotions severely in check. I’m a big fan of Jameson Taillon, though I half-expect him to bust out a slide rule whenever he’s interviewed.
Perhaps that’s why David Ross and Jed Hoyer say camp has been pretty uneventful. The president of baseball operations describes the team like he’s selling linens or planting Christmas trees.
“We have a really, really great group of guys,” Hoyer said recently. “So this has been as smooth sailing of a camp as I can remember — from a makeup standpoint, from a coaching staff standpoint. I think that’s what the season is about, establishing that identity. What do I think our identity can be? I think we can play unbelievably clean and aggressive baseball.”
Maybe a homogenized ballclub is just what fans need to temper expectations. That works well when a team wins, but if they struggle, players can seem a bit non-caring. Playing “unbelievably clean” actually makes me chuckle each time I read it. It’s just so dang milquetoast, but at least Hoyer stirred a little aggressiveness into the mix. And hey, Morel shouldn’t be on the roster if he’s struggling that much to make contact. One would assume he’ll be back sometime this season as a reinforcement.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs have yet to confirm it, but Nico Hoerner has agreed to a three-year contract extension worth $35 million. The new deal begins at the start of the 2024 season.
- Ross says baseball finally feels normal again. In three years as the club’s manager, he’s endured COVID, a roster teardown, and a lockout.
- Rowan Wick was released, cleared waivers, and will join Morel at Iowa. Additionally, Mike Tauchman and Roenis Elías were reassigned to minor league camp.
- There aren’t really any position battles left, unsurprisingly. The Cubs just have to formalize their bullpen before heading north.
- The Cubs expect better than fifth-starter numbers from Hayden Wesneski.
- PECOTA and Fan Graphs projections for the Cubs aren’t anything to get excited about.
- The Cubs will need a lot of things to break the right way in order to compete for the NL Central title.
- The front office believes that experience will be the difference between this year’s club and the past few seasons.
- Zach McKinstry has been traded to the Tigers for RHP Carlos Guzman
Odds & Sods
I think MLB hires umpires who have zero social skills. Only a guy with no friends can get this angry for such a trivial matter.
And the circus continues! https://t.co/MHXPBwyBm0
— Kyle Farnsworth (@24_7Farnsworth) March 27, 2023
Climbing the Ladder
“I’m burning through the sky yeah, 200 degrees that’s why they call me Mr. Farenheit…I’m traveling at the speed of light.” – Queen, Don’t Stop Me Now
This section was started in honor of Shawon Dunston, whose sub-.200 batting average in June of 1989 inspired a fan to create the Shawon-O-Meter. Dunston was hitting .183 on the final day of May but then batted .286 in June, .420 in July, .305 in August, and .373 in September to finish ’89 with a .278 average.
News broke yesterday that Nico Hoerner has agreed to a three-year, $35 million extension. In doing so, Hoyer bought out Hoerner’s final two years of arbitration and first year of free agency. With Dansby Swanson under contract through 2029, the Cubs have locked up their current double-play combination through 2026.
Hoerner is coming off a career year and has raised his ISO from .037 in 2020 to .129 in ’22. He slashed .281/.327/.410 with 10 home runs and 20 stolen bases, very close to Dunston’s career averages (.269/.296/.419, 13 HR, 19 SB). Both are former first-round picks, though Dunston went No. 1 overall in 1982.
- St. Louis: The Cardinals are relying on a host of aging veterans and uber-prospect Jordan Walker. That said, they’re the favorites to take the NL Central.
- Milwaukee: The Brewers are counting on a talented rotation that features Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff, infield standouts Willy Adames and Luis Urías, and a couple of intriguing prospects.
- Cincinnati: The Reds are at the beginning of a rebuilding stage and they’ll need to stay healthy to avoid losing 100 games. Prospect Elly De La Cruz will give fans someone to cheer for.
- Pittsburgh: The Pirates are better — at least on paper — than you might think, and feature a good mix of decent veterans and potentially good first and second-year players.
How About That!
Including endorsements, Shohei Ohtani will make a record $65-70 million in 2023.
The Astros are No. 1 in the inaugural 2023 rankings.
Houston was also named the top team in the 26-and-under power rankings.
The Padres are a preseason favorite to win the World Series. Hard sell. I’d rank the Astros, Yankees, Dodgers, and Mets ahead of San Diego.
Joey Votto will start the season on the injured list and will miss his first Opening Day in 14 seasons as a result.
The Indians have shut down starter Triston McKenzie due to a shoulder injury.
The Orioles opted not to add top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez to their Opening Day roster.
Sergio Romo just entered the Good Guy Hall of Fame.
Sergio Romo said for every kid who asked for his autograph in spring training, he asked for theirs. The result is this amazing cap full of kids’ autographs. He’s one of a kind. pic.twitter.com/pRXyPoEt8W
— John Shea (@JohnSheaHey) March 28, 2023
Tuesday Morning Six-Pack
- Jalen Carter is a polarizing player when talk turns to the NFL Draft. Bears GM Ryan Poles said he is unlikely to take a player with character/immaturity issues at this stage of the team’s rebuild.
- Poles spent the first part of the offseason improving his defense, and that includes signing impact free agent linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards. He also acquired No..1 WR D.J. Moore in a trade with the Panthers.
- Panera Bread will begin using palm-screening technology for its loyalty program, and some customers are understandably concerned about privacy.
- I’ve been on a real french fry kick for the last 12 months or so and apparently, I am not alone. In 2022, french fries were part of 14.8% of deliveries by US restaurants, up from 6.8% in the year that ended in December 2019.
- Roger Waters has reportedly recorded a new version of Pink Floyd’s Darkside of the Moon album. Drummer Nick Mason says the recording is “absolutely brilliant.” I have doubts. It also seems very passive-aggressive in the ongoing war between Waters and David Gilmour.
- A lot of people love the John Wick movies and I’m no exception. However, the series feels a lot more like a video game to me, and star Keanu Reeves barely speaks, In the upcoming John Wick 4, Reeves has just 380 words of dialogue. He’s definitely dedicated to not speaking.
They Said It
- “Nico’s an impressive human. He wants to win. And his mentality, I’ve never had to worry. He’s one of those easy ones. You don’t have to worry about where his headspace is. He’s all about winning and what’s best for the group.” – Ross
- “I think the best way to describe the Cubs [as] a player, it’s [Hoerner]. That’s what Cubbie baseball should look like.” – Pete Crow-Armstrong
- “I’m not going to try to pull small success stories from a losing season,  games back. We’re nowhere near where St. Louis is. That’s where we’ve got to get to. Now, were there learning experiences and growth that I’m proud of? Sure.” – Ross
Tuesday Walk-Up Song
Hoerner is nicely minted now.