I hope folks are safe and secure after the nasty set of storms that tore through the Midwest yesterday.
- Dexter Fowler is a free agent after this season, but he’s not ready to really talk about that (Tribune). The hope, of course, is that Fowler has a sufficiently great year that the Cubs can, at a minimum, make him a qualifying offer after the season and pick up a draft pick if he signs elsewhere on a long-term deal. The Cubs have a nice crop of outfielders making their way soon (and infielders who could move), though only Albert Almora looks like a true center fielder (and he’s probably not a future leadoff man). If Almora doesn’t take a big and rapid step forward this year, would the Cubs consider committing significant money to Fowler’s age 30/31/32/33-ish seasons? Would the Cubs go with Arismendy Alcantara full-time in center field? Would the Cubs prefer to go somewhere else outside the organization? Even if the Cubs want to keep Fowler, will that be the best use of limited financial resources? The year will have to play out a bit more before seriously considering these questions, but the issue is on the table for now. Based on the little info we have so far on the kind of player Fowler is and can be, this could become a tough decision by the end of the year.
- A great read from Sahadev Sharma over at BP Wrigleyville on Jake Arrieta’s first start, and how Miguel Montero helped bring out the ace in him. And if you missed that Arrieta start, you can watch the highlights here.
- Patrick Mooney on the Castro/Russell stuff, with new comments from Theo Epstein, once again emphasizing that the Cubs can accommodate all of their positional players if it comes to that. (And, as we know when it comes to young players and prospects, it almost never comes to that, because guys get hurt or demonstrate ineffectiveness.)
- Lefty Joe Ortiz, who is on the 40-man roster and figured to challenge for a spot in the Cubs’ bullpen at some point this year, has been placed on the suspended list. No word yet on why, but I believe it would have been announced by MLB if this were a PED issue (and I know that in MLB, at least, players suspended for PEDs go on the “restricted” list, rather than the “suspended” list). So that’s not likely to be it. The Cubs did just sign lefty James Russell to a minor league deal, which makes you wonder whether they knew they were going to be without Ortiz for a while.
- Jesse Rogers notes that, among other things, something that troubled Travis Wood in 2014 was his inability to locate his breaking pitches against righties, leaving far too many out over the plate. In his successful 2013 season, Wood had come inside regularly with his off-speed stuff, but not so much in 2014. That makes me wonder if it was a command issue, or a lack of confidence about coming inside and not getting hammered. We’ll get our first look at 2015 Wood today.
- It’s good (for baseball) that Matt Harvey is finally back. Did you see his outing against the Nationals yesterday? Over six innings, Harvey allowed just four hits, one walk, no runs, and struck out nine. He’s a truly special player – a guy meriting a Bullet on a Cubs site – and his stuff is just so uniquely nasty:
- If you were among the folks who thought something was very off about the 7th Inning Stretch performance on Wednesday, you were right: the new sound system wasn’t synching properly with the organ where the singer was, throwing everything off (Vine Line). With the new video board and sound system, you will probably hear renewed calls from fans to just go with a video of Harry Caray singing the stretch.
- Jayson Stark writes about the many things that happened in the first five days of the season that didn’t happen at all last year.
- The Reds completed their sweep of the Pirates, by the way. Given that I really don’t believe in the Reds this year, I like that outcome. The Brewers were also swept by the Rockies.
- Don’t miss this morning’s first Minor League Daily from Luke. There was Cubs-related baseball yesterday!
A META word on email: although I try very hard to respond to every email I receive, over the last year or so it has become clear that I’m fighting a losing battle. I’m constantly trying to get down from 100 to 200 to something close to zero, but, by the time I’ve finished a multi-hour session of getting through what I can on a Sunday night, I’m not able to get back to it for another couple days … and it builds back up, but just a tiny bit more than before. This cycle has played out for a long time, and it starts to become stressful and anxiety-producing. Unfortunately, I’m coming to the conclusion that the only solution is to stop trying to respond to every email. I’m really sorry to do it, because I love getting messages from you fine folks, but it’s the only way for me to move forward.
None of that is to say you have to stop emailing me if you’ve got questions/comments/feedback/etc. I’ll still read them all. I’m just warning you in advance that I may not be able to respond.