For the Michigan and B1G fans among you: IT’S HAPPENING!
That aside, it was a fairly big weekend, considering that it came after Christmas. I recapped the weekend earlier today for anyone who missed it.
- Javier Baez had a rough day in the Puerto Rican Winter League yesterday, notching four strikeouts (all swinging) in five at bats. He’s now got 21 strikeouts in just 49 plate appearances in the league. I’m not drawing any kind of conclusions about Baez’s performance, because that would be insane (sample size, working on things, no Spring Training, etc.). But has reminded me of something I’ve been wanting to discuss for a while: how prescient does the Tommy La Stella pick up look now? At the time of the trade, we talked about all the possibilities of why the Cubs were picking up a guy who appeared to be a second-base-only type when the Cubs had a glut of young infielders already, and had a guy – Baez – who was the clear-cut starter there. Precursor to another move was a popular guess, but we ultimately landed on “La Stella simply had the kind of bat and approach the Cubs like, so they got him when he was available, and worst case is that he’s depth.” I still think that’s right.
- Something we didn’t discuss explicitly at that time, however, was the small chance that Baez could be sent back to AAA Iowa to start the 2015 season, in which case having La Stella – whom Steamer actually projects to be better than Baez offensively in 2015 (albeit in limited duty) – could be critical to the Cubs’ 2015 season. Recall, the Cubs picked him up all the way back in mid-November, long before they’d executed the other elements of their offseason that made them look even more like contenders.
- None of this is to say I’m advocating the Cubs starting La Stella at second base over Baez – it’s waaaay too early to even discuss that kind of thing, given that so much could happen between now and Opening Day (at multiple positions, and on the roster). I’m saying only that, as we consider the possible near-term for Baez, I’m suddenly very grateful that the Cubs have La Stella in the fold, just in case.* Baez wouldn’t be the first big-time prospect to get a long look in one season, work on some things in the offseason, then need a chance in the minors to refine those things before coming back up to the bigs.
- *(Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out how good I thought Arismendy Alcantara looked at second base last year, and if the Cubs added a leadoff/center field type, and Baez were sent to AAA Iowa, I can’t sit here and tell you I wouldn’t suddenly be pushing for Alcantara to take over at second, even over La Stella. Also, maybe it’s not Baez going to Iowa that opens up second base, maybe the Cubs deal Starlin Castro, and Baez slides over to short. See what I’m saying about it being way too early to actually take any positions just yet?)
- David Laurila’s Sunday Notes at FanGraphs include, among other things, an interesting discussion of how various GMs explore and discuss trades. It doesn’t sound all that dissimilar from how you might imagine it, and that includes the fact that there are plenty of idiosyncrasies among the individual people involved. (Never forget that part: all of it involves humans doing human things.)
- A FiveThirtyEight piece reminds you that winning the offseason doesn’t always mean anything in the ensuing season. It’s a good read, though the only bit with which I’d take issue is the focus on teams not getting surplus value from the free agents they sign in the offseason – as the author, himself, notes, the market is very good at distilling the value of these players, so you’re just not going to find huge bargains out there in free agency (especially with the average age of free agents rising). Used properly, the high end of free agency isn’t about generating surplus value – it’s solely about adding marginal wins, and paying handsomely to do it. The article is a good reminder, however, of how important it is to build your roster via drafting, development, and trades, because that’s where you’ll generate the bulk of your wins.
META: The “Recent Comments” box to the right of the site has never quite worked properly (works for some folks, not for others), and, although I’ve modified the site to make it work as well as possible, it’s still not quite right. I checked with folks this weekend to see if they use it a great deal, or if that real estate is better used on something else (and site resources better devoted – the “Recent Comments” thing is somewhat intensive). Although several folks indicated that they do like and use the feature, the response was overwhelmingly “eh, I could do without it.” With Disqus, there are so many other ways to follow conversations here, so having a dedicated “Recent Comments” spot is less necessary. And, since it doesn’t work properly anyway …
I’m inclined to ditch it in favor of a more robust Twitter stream, where you’d see not only my tweets, but also those of other useful folks. Well, and also in favor of conserving the site resources that the Recent Comments otherwise takes up.
Before I flip the switch, I wanted to give you one more chance to shout me down if I’m wrong about this.