The Rundown: Players Push Back COVID-19 Meeting with Biden’s Team, Cubs Lineup Still Tops in NL Central, Phegley Retires, Wong Joins Brewers

I am going to skip my usual preamble because, believe it or not, there’s a whole bunch of baseball news this morning. I have a feeling that the next two weeks are going to be similarly hectic with nearly 140 free agents still looking for contracts.

Of note, I was disappointed to see Josh Phegley retired. He’s always been a favorite of mine and I have a great fantasy baseball story I’ll quickly share.

Seven years ago during our annual draft, one of the guys in my league (who is an avid White Sox fan), lost his mind when someone outbid him by a dollar for Phegley. The catcher was coming off a season in which he had just 38 plate appearances, but my friend believed he was going to be the game’s next great catcher, comparing him to Mike Piazza and Pudge Rodriguez.

He slept on Phegley through the entirety of the draft and didn’t have enough cap room to beat an outrageous $12 bid, which was an unprecedented exercise in price enforcement. He was so upset he quit the league, which skewed the values of every other available player. I’ve not heard from my friend since.

Also, we can stop dreaming on second baseman Kolten Wong, who signed with the Brewers yesterday.

Cubs News & Notes

  • The Cubs have loaded up the trucks and the team’s equipment is on its way to Arizona!
  • With the start of spring training less than two weeks away, the Cubs still have three big holes in their roster: second base, starting pitching, and bullpen depth.
  • There’s more Kris Bryant speculation this morning, (more of a hypothetical suggestion) that would send the third baseman to team with Freddie Freeman in Atlanta to give the Braves a dynamic duo at the corners. The Cubs would theoretically get Ender Inciarte, Ian Anderson, and minor league pitcher Spencer Strider (No. 30 Braves prospect) in return, plus they’d be free of the $19.5 million owed to Bryant. I could actually live with that trade, though I’d be unhappy.
  • Yeison Santana (No. 8), Reggie Preciado (9), Ismael Mena (18), and Owen Caissie (19), all acquired from the Padres in the Yu Darvish trade, are among the top 25 prospects that have been traded ($) so far this winter. Zach Davies was the sweetener and perhaps the trade may not look so bad in a few years.
  • Just a friendly reminder that the Cubs have a number of players that could be flipped at the trade deadline, including Bryant, Davies, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Báez, Willson Contreras, Trevor Williams, Joc Pederson, and Craig Kimbrel. Like Cubs Insider EIC Evan Altman mentioned in yesterday’s post about the Wong signing, “Contrary to what [Jed Hoyer] said during the press conference following the Darvish/Victor Caratini trade, such moves [would] closely follow the playbook from the Cubs’ first rebuild.”
  • Yankees catcher Gary Sánchez is upset with general manager Brian Cashman and, even though New York tendered him a contract, the backstop could be trade bait and someone the Cubs may consider in a potential blockbuster for Contreras.
  • High-average, high-contact hitters who usually have low power numbers may represent baseball’s new market inefficiency. Strikeouts continue to rise and batting averages are dipping annually. Perhaps that is the very thing Rob Manfred is hoping Theo Epstein can mitigate in his new role as a league consultant. Yes, the Cubs are still lacking those types of players.
  • Bradford Doolittle of ESPN ranks the Cubs’ batting order at No. 13 overall ($) and unbelievably tops in a weak NL Central, even after the Cardinals (No. 19) acquired Nolan Arenado. Colorado is ranked dead last without their slugging third baseman.

Odds & Sods

The Beatles released their eponymous White album in 1968. Nirvana released “Nevermind” in 1991. Yes, Nolan Ryan was good at baseball. It’s amazing he never won a Cy Young Award despite 324 career wins, including seven no-hitters, and 5,714 strikeouts. Here’s my favorite of all of Ryan’s stats: Over the 1990-91 seasons, he only gave up 239 hits across 57 starts spanning 377 innings. He was 44 in ’91.

Thursday Stove

The Major League Baseball Players Association did not attend a call between officials in President Joe Biden’s administration and MLB under the assumption that it would be pressured to delay the 2021 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, per Ken Rosenthal of The Atlantic. The union scheduled the call for a later date, further illustrating the level of distrust the players have toward the league and team owners.

Biden’s team is on record as recommending that baseball delay the start of its season by at least one month, something the owners will undoubtedly push for now that they have the President’s coronavirus task force to back them up. Rob Manred and the league’s owners believe a one-month delay would minimize potential disruptions caused by virus outbreaks among players and team employees.

Per Rosenthal, the government’s position that a delay would be prudent is rooted in the expected readiness of a new vaccine from Johnson & Johnson. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the administration’s top-ranking medical adviser, said Wednesday that this latest vaccine could be authorized for emergency use “within a week or so,” according to Aristos Georgiou of Newsweek.

If local governments in Florida and Arizona deem their communities are taking a step backward and need to invoke some sort of stay-at-home order, clubs may be forced to delay spring training.

New Yankees starter Jameson Taillon is unhappy the league waited until a few weeks before the opening of spring camps to request a delay to start the season.

“I know from a player perspective, we anticipated and expected the league to come to us with something back in October, November…December, even,” Taillon. said yesterday “At a certain point as a player, you have to get ready to compete. For them to come to us now, this late into the offseason while guys have…I mean, the human aspect of it, guys have started shipping cars, booking Airbnbs for spring training, all that. But then from like the big-league ballplayer side of it, guys are ramped up. Guys are facing hitters. I was watching Tyler Glasnow pump 97 against hitters the other day. Now you’re gonna ask him to ramp it back down and take a break? I just don’t think that’s right.”

Tyler Glasnow is already hitting 97 mph? Mercy.

The Rays are a potentially surprising suitor for free agent OF/DH Marcell Ozuna.

The Brewers will likely move Keston Hiura into a first base in a platoon situation with Daniel Vogelbach now that they have signed Wong. Milwaukee may be hoping the league and players agree on a universal DH again.

Although the expectation is that Yadier Molina will return to St. Louis, the Cardinals may have some competition. The Blue Jays are reportedly interested in the nine-time All-Star catcher.

Though the White Sox intend to one day add Garrett Crochet to their rotation, his role this year will most likely be at the back end of Chicago’s bullpen.

Former White Sox closer Alex Colomé has agreed to a deal worth $6.25 million in guaranteed money to pitch for the rival Twins this season. It’s a one-year deal with an option that includes a $1.25 million buyout.

Garrett Richards has signed with the Red Sox and he’s excited to be pitching on the East Coast for the first time in his career.

New Giants starter Anthony DeSclafani throws a fastball and sinker that top out at around 95 mph, and if the San Francisco coaching staff can help him get more movement on both pitches, he could be a great addition to the team’s rotation.

Baby Shark is back! The Nationals have signed Gerardo Parra to a minor league deal with an invitation to camp. Parra, a lifetime .276 hitter, played in Japan last season and will earn $1 million if he makes the team.

Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper revealed his two favorite players yesterday, and it should make Nationals fans happy. He named Washington outfielder Juan Soto and shortstop Trea Turner as the players he most enjoys watching.

If you had to choose the game’s top right fielder, would you go with Soto or Mookie Betts?

The Phillies and Mets are among the teams interested in free-agent utility man Marwin González, who played his last two seasons with the Twins.

Former American League Cy Young winner Félix Hernández has agreed to a minor league contract with the Orioles.

Colorado’s executives continue to get skewered by fans and the media for the Arenado trade. If you think Tom Ricketts is bad, imagine if Dick Monfort owned the Cubs.

Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes will play in his second consecutive Super Bowl on Sunday, but he once considered a career in baseball. His lone appearance as a reliever for Texas Tech probably convinced the star signal-caller to play football instead. Mahomes didn’t pitch again for the Red Raiders and retired from college baseball with an ERA of infinity.

Former major league journeyman Wayne Terwilliger has passed away at the age of 95. As a kid, I remember how announcer Chuck Gowdy loved saying his name when Terwilliger was a coach for the Rangers and Twins. The retired second baseman broke in with the Cubs in 1949, but earned his first professional RBI when he was beaned with the bases loaded in a 1948 minor league game.

Sacrifice Fly

74-year-old Rangers fan Frank Miller taught himself how to throw a cutter and his wife Alice put an ad up on the Nextdoor app trying to find someone to “have a game of catch” with her husband. The Texas organization got wind of it and invited Miller to Globe Life Field to play catch with a few members of the North Dallas High School baseball team. Miller and the team were welcomed with pre-recorded messages, including some from PA announcer Chuck Morgan. Now they meet every weekend and  Fergie Jenkins has even paid a surprise visit. Sending a big round of applause to the Rangers front office.

Extra Innings

This is the time of year where baseball writers struggle to come up with compelling content, so give Anthony Castrovince his due for thinking outside the box.

Did You Know?

Cy Young won 511 games and made 815 starts in his career, yet he isn’t in the 3,000 strikeout club. Young finished his career with 2,803 punchouts, averaging just 3.4 K/9 IP.

Out of Left Field

Just asking, but if you’re destroying the shorts aren’t you manipulating the market in the same way as those you are trying to destroy for doing the same thing? Only in the stock market are we allowed to sell that which we do not own. It’s America’s largest casino, and Robin Hood would be proud of Mr. Musk.

They Said It

  • “There are some threats to [baseball] because of the way the game is evolving. I take some responsibility for that. Executives like me who have spent a lot of time using analytics and other measures to try to optimize individual and team performance have unwittingly had a negative impact on the aesthetic value of the game and the entertainment value of the game in some respects.” – Theo Epstein

Thursday Walk Up Song

Big Time by Peter Gabriel – That’s a lot of baseball news packed into one article and now I’m exhausted. Thanks for reading.

Back to top button