The Rundown: Cubs Need Hendricks Resurgence, Correa Open to Rebuilding Teams, Astros Tie Series, La Russa Will Return in ’22

If the Cubs hope to compete for a division title in 2022 they’re going to need a bounceback season from Kyle Hendricks. To say it was an up-and-down year for Hendricks would be putting it mildly. The Professor started the recent campaign with the worst April of his career before an impressive stretch of performances from mid-May to early August. He went 11-0 with a 2.79 ERA in those 16 outings, including 14 quality starts, and at least up until mid-June had many fans thinking he was going to carry the team into the postseason.

Things were less than spectacular after the trade deadline, however. In his ensuing seven starts, he posted a 9.08 ERA and finished the season with career highs in ERA (4.77) and home runs allowed (31). If anyone can benefit from new GM Carter Hawkins and his ability to right pitchers, it’s Hendricks.

“I learned a lot,” Hendricks said after his final performance, a five-inning, two-run outing against the Pirates. “Every year you learn a lot about yourself and I’m just excited to disconnect for a little bit, getaway, but then get back after it in the offseason.”

The Cubs depended on Hendricks to be their ace, though many would argue he is atypical of that prestige because he has an average-at-best fastball. It’s probably true he would slot better as a No. 3 starter, which is why Hawkins and Jed Hoyer will be prioritizing power arms when they go shopping this winter.

“You need power pitching,” Hoyer said at his end of the year presser. “You need power arms to win in today’s game. You need to be able to miss bats. The makeup of our staff this year was too contact-oriented, so to speak, and that’s something that needs to change.”

Cubs’ starters averaged a mere 89.9 mph on their fastballs, making them the only rotation in baseball below 91 mph. The 2016 Astros were the last team to perform so pedestrianly, and the Cubs haven’t had a gaggle of true flamethrowers at the top of their rotation since the days of Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Carlos Zambrano, and Matt Clement. Hendricks might conceivably have been a No. 5 starter on that team.

The Cubs do have some interesting in-house options for their rotation, but only Hendricks is guaranteed a spot in the rotation and he’ll probably be their Opening Day starter no matter who the front office adds to supplement its starting staff. If Hoyer sticks to his decision to “spend intelligently,” chances are some of the free agents who would likely bump Hendricks from the top spot won’t fit that calculus. Brailyn Márquez and DJ Herz have the best gas in the system, but neither will be ready to help the Cubs by Opening Day.

I suppose trading Willson Contreras might be one way to acquire a power arm or two, at least ones that are closer to the bigs. That would leave the Cubs with a pretty big hole at catcher, though. Could Hendricks himself be moved for a different kind of starter? It’s not out of the question thanks to a team-friendly contract and a restructured front office that has no attachment to him. The 32-year-old righty might be a nice get for a team with real championship aspirations, like the Phillies, Angels, or White Sox.

Wouldn’t that be a mad twist to Chicago’s offseason?

Cubs News & Notes

  • The Cubs have more needs than just a couple of power arms for their rotation.
  • Anthony Rizzo did a lot more than give Joc Pederson his bat to help the outfielder get out of his early-season slump.
  • I don’t want Cubs fans to get too excited about this, but soon-to-be free-agent shortstop Carlos Correa said he wants to play for a team that intends to build a championship roster the right way. “Whatever team wants to win I want to be part of it,” Correa told Jesse Rogers of ESPN. “I want to be part of an organization that wants to go in the right direction and rebuild in the right way and win championships.” Does intelligent spending count?
  • Wrigley Field and the team’s rabid fanbase remain great selling points for potential free agents.
  • 2019 first-rounder Ryan Jensen pitched four scoreless innings for the Mesa Solar Sox in AFL action. He allowed just two hits while fanning five, delivering 33 of 46 pitches for strikes.

Odds & Sods

Rob Manfred has a very twisted view of the truth, so I’d take it with a grain of salt when he says he believes a new CBA could be in place by December 1.

Apropos of Nothing

If we are going to do “on this day” and reference the 2016 Cubs in doing so, I don’t want to play anymore. I would truly hate it if the Cubs become Chicago’s newest version of the 1985 Bears. It’s time to move on, folks, The organization certainly has. Yes, I’m awfully persnickety this morning.

World Series News & Notes

The Astros evened the World Series at one game apiece with a 7-2 win last night. The next three games will be played this weekend in Atlanta, starting tomorrow evening.

A four-run 2nd inning proved to be Atlanta’s demise, though Houston made little solid contact, basically beating the Braves’ infield shift to put the game out of reach.

Atlanta starter Max Fried gave up six earned runs in five innings last night and hasn’t pitched very well in big games.

Astros rookie Jose Siri shows absolutely no fear on the basepaths.

Braves starter Charlie Morton was dispatched to Green Bay, WI to have his broken leg examined. He’ll miss the rest of the World Series, but is expected to be 100% by the time pitchers and catchers report.

Former President Donald Trump will attend Game 4 in Atlanta. I wonder if he’ll credit himself for the Braves’ success?

Yesterday’s MVPs

  1. Jose Altuve – The diminutive second baseman was 2-for-5 last night with a home run in Houston’s victory.
  2. José Urquidy – The Astros starter kept the Braves off-balance through five strong innings that included seven punchouts.

Thursday Stove

It looks like Tony La Russa will be returning to manage the White Sox in 2022.

Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has some big decisions to make this winter. Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Corey Seager, and Chris Taylor will all be free agents and the team is still in limbo regarding the status of Trevor Bauer, who is on paid administrative leave and holds a $45 million player option for ’22. Bauer earned $42 million this season.

The Blue Jays have denied the Mets’ request to interview Mark Shapiro for their front office opening.

Cardinals GM Michael Girsch has also brushed aside New York’s advances. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is reportedly advising Mets owner Steve Cohen during his search.

Josh Donaldson is offering tremendous baseball insight via his Twitter feed, mixing in an insult or two every now and then.

Shohei Ohtani was in Houston Tuesday night to receive the rare Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award, marking just the 16th time the award has been given out.

Nelson Cruz was named this year’s recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award for players who display character, community involvement, and philanthropy.

Extra Innings

Caleb Kilian is on the come, too, though his fastball usually sits in the low-to-mid 90s. Here’s his complete scouting report from Prospects Live.

They Said It

  • “I would say it was a must-win today. We didn’t want to go to Atlanta down by two. So we left everything we had in there tonight. Obviously, very important win to tie the series to keep going from there.” – Altuve
  • “It wasn’t like [Fried] was getting banged around. Balls that found holes, checked swings, we threw a ball away. It was just a weird inning.”Brian Snitker

Thursday Walk-Up Song

Sherry Darling by Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band – One of the highlights from 1979’s No Nukes concert. The entire video and accompanying 13-song soundtrack drops on November 16.

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