If you’re just tuning in, the Brewers may be picking up a new closer today in Jonathan Papelbon. That probably improves them a little bit, but not enough to make me any more or less nervous about them than I already was or wasn’t. (I wasn’t.)
When you look around the Central, I’m not sure you could argue that any team improved as much as the Cubs this offseason, and, frankly, I’m not really sure any other team actually improved themselves externally at all. Yes, the Cardinals added Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden, but that merely held serve in the bullpen, and bumped up the outfield at the expense of rotation depth. I suppose I’d call it an improvement, but then you stack it against potential aging decline from Wainwright/Molina/Holliday/Peralta, and I don’t see a vast improvement overall.
But did the Cubs do enough – together with internal improvement, and possible regression from the Cardinals and Pirates – to catch the teams at the top? I’m not so sure about that, but, as I’ve said, I’m very pleased with what the front office has accomplished this offseason. The Cubs are, pretty clearly, the most improved team in the NL Central.
- Speaking of which, David Schoenfield writes about the most improved teams for 2015 (as in, his guesses), and the Cubs come in at number three, just ahead of the other Chicago team, and behind only the Astros and Red Sox. The Cubs were starting from a low floor – just 73 wins – and Schoenfield could see them reaching 85 wins in 2015. Ultimately, I don’t care so much about the final win total for the Cubs; I just want to see a team that is arguably still in the playoff race in August and September. I think that’s realistic, and will be a very enjoyable experience after the last few years.
- Ty Nichols is the Cubs’ scout of the year, as Carrie Muskat highlights:
— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) January 22, 2015
- Muskat writes that Nichols is an area scout who covers Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota. (*Quickly scans the last couple drafts for players from those areas, looking for sleepers.*)
- BP looks at Arismendy Alcantara’s fantasy value, which is tough to peg thanks to his rough debut, his unique combination of power and speed, and his unclear role next year.
- … speaking of which, here’s a good read on Alcantara from Patrick Mooney, with quotes from Jed Hoyer and Joe Maddon on how Alcantara could become a super utility player. Maddon is a big fan of being able to give guys regular rest, and Alcantara would be able to rest almost anyone on the field, either directly, or by way of a little shifting around. The only part of this that would make me a little nervous is putting too much on Alcantara’s plate at too young of an age – he’s still trying to figure out big league pitching. As long as he’s comfortable playing multiple spots with possibly erratic starts, then great. If he needs a little more time to ease into that role, though, it would be understandable. (Which then makes me think about the possibility of Alcantara starting regularly at second base, with Javier Baez moving to third or heading back to AAA Iowa for a little while.)
- The Under Armour All-America Game will be back at Wrigley Field this year on August 15.
- This year’s Hall of Fame caps: Randy Johnson in Diamondbacks, Craig Biggio in Astros, John Smoltz in Braves, and Pedro Martinez in Red Sox. Johnson as a D-Back may seem more surprising than it should, because, although his made his bones with the Mariners for eight seasons, he actually wound up spending eight seasons with the D-Backs, too, split between two stints, and had his most prominent success in Arizona. Pedro Martinez was well-travelled in his career, but spent the most time with the Red Sox, and won a World Series there. (Want to get lost for an hour? Spend some time perusing Martinez’s and Johnson’s stats, man. They were so ridiculously good, and so unique. Johnson didn’t become a regular until he was 25, and didn’t really get his command troubles under control until he was 29. His best stretch arguably came after he was 35. Just nuts.)
- The Race to Wrigley is April 24, and is now accepting registrations. One of these years, when the kids are a little older, I’m totally going to do this with The Wife (who is a runner).