The Rundown Lite: Nolan Arenado Trade Speculation, John Baker Excited About Pirates Challenge, Yu Darvish Downplays Cy Young Chances

Rather than just make like Pre-Chewed Charlie’s and regurgitating Ken Rosenthal’s whole Monday column right away, I began with the part about the Cubs possibly benefiting from the reports of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine. But then I looked at our pageviews and realized I needed something a little more titillating, so I decided to revisit some of the stuff about Nolan Arenado possibly being shipped out of Denver as he and the front office still appear to be at odds.

Okay, it not really about views, since those probably aren’t coming regardless of what I write here. However, we are absolutely in the doldrums when it comes to salient news and anything of note becomes worthwhile. Rosenthal points out that Arenado and the Rockies brass have likely not mended a relationship that fractured last year when the star felt disrespected, making a deal something both sides might like to facilitate.

The star third baseman is owed another $200 million over the next six seasons and he’s coming off of the least productive offensive campaign of his career as the result of a shoulder injury. Oh, what delicious irony it would be to hear the same fans who’ve decried explanations of Kris Bryant‘s injuries as “excuses” suddenly clamoring for Arenado as a victim of circumstance.

For what it’s worth, Bryant and Arenado had identical wRC+ marks in 2020 (76) and Bryant’s career mark of 136 is significantly higher than the 118 put up by his slightly older colleague. But I digress.

Arenado is an elite defensive player, as evidenced by this eighth consecutive Gold Glove, though how long that continues past age 30 is worth questioning. There’s also the uncertainty of his club control since he can opt out next season. However, that possibility is highly unlikely due to the game’s current financial situation relative to the strength of his remaining contract.

Rosenthal writes that the Rockies might be content to build around Trevor Story, moving Arenado for big leaguers rather than prospects in order to remain competitive and make the money work. That latter part is really important because very few teams are going to want to absorb the entirety of a hit to both actual and CBT payrolls, meaning the Rockies would get very little in prospect capital unless they chose to eat a huge chunk of the deal.

Arenado would almost certainly be willing to waive his no-trade clause and either push back or eliminate his opt-out for the right team, which seems to eliminate the Mets from contention. That’s significant because they’re one of the few that appears willing to spend this winter, so it’s possible we’ll hear the Cubs being thrown into the mix yet again. As unlikely as it is that something gets done, the Cubs have several increasing salaries and a desire to reshape their lineup.

I don’t see anything happening, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility and might have at least as much potential this year as last.

John Baker on move to Pirates

Though it seemed like something out of the blue when word came down this past weekend that Cubs mental skills guru John Baker was the frontrunner to take over as the Pirates’ farm director, it makes all the sense in the world. Baker is a passionate person who has thrown himself into his work with the Cubs and other endeavors, creating a culture of mindfulness aimed at improving overall performance.

A lot of people who don’t really understand what makes Baker tick wondered why he’d leave the Cubs for an outfit like the Pirates. They’ve been a laughingstock of late, they don’t have the same financial resources, and, well, they’re…the Pirates. But for someone who loves nothing more than grappling with a challenge and figuring out how to submit it, a move to Pittsburgh’s organization was perfect for the avid jiu-jitsu practitioner.

“Ben wants to build something here from the inside out. That’s an incredibly similar feeling to my days in Chicago,” Baker told The Athletic’s Rob Biertempfel. “The constraints are different. In Chicago, Theo can go out and sign a Yu Darvish. To me, those different constraints here are what make it really exciting. It looks challenging. It looks like a big obstacle. But I like those things.”

Best of luck on the new role, John.

Darvish downplays Cy Young odds

Yu Darvish was money for the Cubs this season, silencing hordes of doubters as he put up a campaign worthy of a Cy Young award. He should be the runaway winner when taking a look at all the numbers, though sometimes it’s the story that wins out in the end.

After all, we’re talking about votes being cast by people who are paid to write about baseball and baseball players. To that end, their motivations could be swayed by how they view not just the performances of the players involved, but what those performances signify.

Jacob deGrom winning his third straight makes for a great story, as does Darvish coming back from being turned into a World Series goat by the Astros’ trash can necromancy. Then you’ve got Trevor Bauer, whose online bullying and general douchery are overlooked due to his candor and willingness to discuss the intricacies of his craft.

Bauer had some of the best box score numbers, though I really believe his status as a media darling could end up being what puts him over the edge. Whether Darvish is following the same rationale or is simply being humble, or perhaps even steeling himself against disappointment, he doesn’t like his own chances.

“There will be an announcement of the Cy Young Award tomorrow, but in the atmosphere of whether it can be caught or not, I feel like I will be in 3rd place after all,” reads a translation of his tweet from Tuesday night.

You can watch the coverage of the announcement at 5pm ET on MLB Network, then you can check out a special edition of Cubs Live! on Marquee Sports Network at 6:30pm CT. Not sure how that’ll play if Darvish doesn’t win, but fingers crossed.

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