Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

jason heyward cubsThe week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Always an odd one, isn’t it? With each of the holidays falling on a Friday this year, it’s a little less odd than when they’re smack dab in the middle of the week, but it still makes the weeks feel a little less regular (even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, most businesses do, which means an impacted work week for most folks). Next year is a leap year, which means the holidays bump to Sunday, which, in turn, means next year might feel like there are no holidays at all – just two weekends. You’ll have to wait until 2017 to get your three-day weekend back.

  • Updating this weekend’s big story (or potentially non-story) about an Al Jazeera report that implicates several baseball players, as well as Peyton Manning, as having used PEDs in connection with an anti-aging clinic in Indiana, you can see the various baseball-related denials, as well as MLB’s official statement, collected here at MLBTR. MLB says it will investigate, and I found it interesting that, with respect to Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals said they do not find the report credible. The Phillies issued a statement on Ryan Howard, which was quite a bit more milquetoast, saying basically that Howard is a good guy, the Phillies will cooperate, and will refer other questions to Al Jazeera. I’m not sayin’ nothin’, but the rebuilding Phillies would save a whole lot of money if Howard were ultimately suspended.

  • Although debates about the wisdom of including opt-out provisions in contracts gets me all hot under the collar, I very much enjoyed this read by Jeff Quinton at BP on *why* they’ve become so popular. First, we have to understand a baseline assumption: teams are likely placing an actual dollar value on the opt-out, and negotiating the overall contract with that value in mind, so the increase in opt-outs is not necessarily a new increase in value for players. For example, the Cubs signed Jason Heyward to an eight-year, $184 million deal with opt-outs after years three and four, and let’s say the Cubs valued the first opt-out at $16 million, and the second (which is limited) at $10 million. That means, in that hypothetical, the Cubs would have been just as happy to sign Heyward to an eight-year, $210 million contract with no opt-outs. In exchange for a lower guarantee, the Cubs are giving up the opt-outs (and vice versa for Heyward).
  • Understanding that, the reasons for the rise in player opt-outs are many, ranging from optimism about the financial future, to the desire to preserve flexibility (for non-monetary reasons) when you’ve already cashed in big. That second one is interesting, because we almost never discuss it, instead focusing on the potential financial value of opting out. Maybe the player will simply want to opt out because he wants to leave that organization? And maybe, to have that flexibility – setting aside the possibility of more future money – the player is willing to take a “smaller” contract? Once you’ve guaranteed yourself many tens of millions of dollars before the opt-out even kicks in, perhaps you’re all the more willing to take less on the back-end just to have the option – and, remember, opt-outs are really just multi-year player options – to walk away for another team if, for example, the roster turns over in ways you didn’t anticipate when you signed up.

  • David Laurila’s Sunday Notes at FanGraphs includes an opening section on using relievers for multiple innings, and some of the structural issues with doing it – in short, pitchers aren’t really brought up that way anymore, and have been trained instead to max out velocity for one inning. Going more than that would take them out of action for longer as they recover, and it seems most teams with most relievers have instead preferred to have guys available for one inning multiple days in a row. That certainly makes sense to me with the kinds of relievers being discussed – but what about recently converted starters who aren’t relying as heavily on velocity, and are already in the mode of throwing multiple innings? If they could recover in, say, two days, wouldn’t it be nice to have several relievers who could go multiple effective innings (taking advantage of the reverse of the times-through-the-order penalty)? If you had several of these types – guys who can also go one inning or go for match-ups, if necessary – it seems your bullpen would be at a unique advantage compared to how other teams have constructed theirs. Yes, I’m once again circling back to my excitement at the Cubs’ potential for having upwards of four super utility pitchers – Travis Wood, Trevor Cahill, Adam Warren, and Clayton Richard – in the bullpen to pitch in a variety of roles.
  • If you missed anything from the long holiday “weekend” and you’re stopping back in for the first time since last week, catch yourself up here. There were some transactions, for example, that you may have missed.
  • Cubs on Amazon: these mini-mug shot glasses are very cool looking, and are 54% off right now. Why 54%, precisely? I don’t know. They just are.

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