Is it facetious to suggest that, in our breathless anticipation of any significant baseball news, we become so addicted to the slightest signings or the anticipation of potential trades that we begin treat any baseball news with undeserved fervor? I think I know who would agree with that potentially flawed premise: People who patiently suffer through seasonal doldrums while quoting baseball winter’s most cherished phrase – “pitchers and catchers report in XX days.”
Breaking news that once seemed so beneath the radar that it barely received any coverage at all is perhaps the new way of doing business at Clark & Addison. For a team that seems to need a wholesale injection of new blood, Jed Hoyer is doing a marvelous job of cleaning the gutters instead of patching the gaping holes in the team’s foundation.
So far, the biggest shocker of the offseason has been the decision to non-tender Kyle Schwarber. Since then, Hoyer and his entourage, which is still absent of a true GM, have added pitchers James Bourque and Jonathan Holder. Yesterday, the Cubs agreed to terms with infielder Matt Duffy and sidearm reliever Trevor Kelly. All four come to Chicago on non-guaranteed deals.
If Winter 2020 is starting to feel a lot like last year, that’s because it seems like this year’s signings almost identically mirror last year’s group that included Jason Kipnis, Ryan Tepera, Daniel Winkler. The Cubs, under the presumptive mandate of team chairman Tom Ricketts, continue to gather supplies at baseball’s food banks rather than shopping the standard retail outlets. It’s as frustrating as it is bewildering for a team that should be trying to compete with the Dodgers and Nationals instead of the Pirates and Reds.
If the goal is simply to win the NL Central, why not just head to Arizona with the entirety of last year’s roster, including Schwarber? Their divisional opponents are all cutting costs while trimming the fat from their rosters, and if complacency is baseball’s newest version of Moneyball, the Cubs can sleepwalk their way to a division crown and postseason berth.
Despite the underwhelming moves so far, Hoyer still needs to find at least two starting pitchers and an outfielder just to field a complete team this spring. I suppose the Duffy deal has some potential, and Holder could be sneaky good, too, but what in the actual you-know-what is going on here?
If the Cubs are going to continue to treat guaranteed contracts like they are active hand grenades, why not just tear the whole thing down and start over? I don’t mean to sound overly entitled, especially as a last-of-the-baby-boomers fan whose high-water mark of excitement was the Herman Franks-led 1977 squad (81-81), but it’s frustrating to see a big market team spend like the Oakland A’s for the third consecutive winter. It’s enough to make me want to go all Lee Elia on Ricketts if there’s ever an owners’ panel at whenever the next CubsCon occurs.
Cubs News & Notes
- Duffy offers little pop, but he makes good contact and is another versatile fielder who can play multiple positions to spell starters.
- In fact, the Cubs have made versatility their organizational mantra ever since signing Joe Maddon to manage the team in 2015.
- Chicago also has an affinity for relievers with funky deliveries, which may explain the Kelley signing. Still, Steve Cishek is available in free agency and if the Cubs signed Kelley, who pitched just 3.1 innings last season, that’s probably a true indicator of how financially handcuffed Hoyer is this winter.
- An informal poll of 20 MLB executives indicates that Kris Bryant is as almost as likely to be traded as Francisco Lindor this winter.
- It was the hiring of David Ross as manager and not the ascension of Hoyer to president of baseball operations that started the team’s new era.
- If Hoyer decides to trade Willson Contreras this winter or before the July 31 deadline, the impressive development of catching prospect Miguel Amaya will be the obvious reason.
- Other teams have been reportedly asking Hoyer about Yu Darvish, but one unnamed executive said the Cubs would need a “Babe Ruth-like return” to trade the Cy Young Award runner-up.
- Thanks to the pandemic-shortened season, Ricketts avoided the luxury tax and the organization may have escaped other significant penalties as repeat offenders.
- If you’re curious about the origins of the team’s nickname, and why wouldn’t you be given the lack of any significant baseball news, MLB.com has the full edge-of-your-seat backstory.
Odds & Sods
A priceless Darvish thread for your morning enjoyment.
Babe Yu-th pic.twitter.com/j0dQlSkSf8
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) December 21, 2020
La Russa also said he embraces the competitive nature of the AL Central and is looking forward to this year’s division race.
We all should be making a push to get Buck O’Neil enshrined in Cooperstown.
Buck O’Neil was a masterful storyteller and used considerable oratory skills to become one of baseball’s best ambassadors. He should have been enshrined into the National Baseball Hall of Fame years ago. @mlb @Royals @nlbmprez @NLBMuseumKC @baseballhall https://t.co/RQLFkG6CTJ
— Toriano Porter (@torianoporter) December 18, 2020
They Said It
- “I think Joe kind of started that culture with us. I think I think it makes a lot of sense that you know Kris Bryant won an MVP award and can move around the diamond and play in different spots. Javier Baez broke in (playing different positions), and there’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t think you have to be labeled as a utility guy. It gives you a better chance to get in the lineup. It probably makes you a more productive player, and eventually you kind of settle into one place.” – Jed Hoyer
- “[Nico] Hoerner’s willingness to grow and attack any position, and his baseball I.Q. makes it really easy to have the conversation of, ‘I need you to bounce around,’ or ‘I need you to lock in it at short’ or whatever the case may be. It’s easy with a guy like that because there’s a lot of flexibility there. There’s a willingness to learn, and he’s a good baseball player.” – David Ross
Tuesday Walk Up Song
Stuck in the Middle With You by Stealers Wheel – I’m finding it incredibly difficult to see Hoyer’s vision of the 2021 Cubs so far.