albert almora cubsThe Collective Bargaining Agreement expires at the end of today. I still kinda can’t believe it’s gotten to this point. We’ll see what happens today, eh?

As of last night, things were looking positive, at least.

  • More Cubs-specifically, the big news last night, if you somehow missed it, is that the Cubs signed outfielder Jon Jay (he of historically political and former Cardinal fame) to a one-year, $8 million deal. For more on the signing, see the post from last night, which I updated with some thoughts on the move. But, of course, there’s so much more to say. Jay’s addition is not really a one-to-one replacement for any player on the roster, as discussed last night, because he could fill a variety of roles – platoon partner in center field for Albert Almora Jr., reserve outfielder in all three spots, lefty bench bat. In that respect, he’s “replacing” a small part of what Dexter Fowler was, as well as a part of what Chris Coghlan was.


  • The official line from a Cubs source, via Patrick Mooney, is that signing Jon Jay does not absolutely close the door on the Cubs re-signing Dexter Fowler, but doing so would have to be preceded by the kind of extremely unexpected series of events that happened last year before he was re-signed. And it would probably require even more craziness this time around, as you’ll recall that last time, the Cubs had to trade Chris Coghlan away in tandem with signing Fowler to make things work. Since Jay is, in some respects, replacing Coghlan, the Cubs can’t exactly trade away the very same guy to make room for Fowler this time around (both in terms of the roster, and the payroll).
  • Even without Fowler, the Cubs’ outfield picture is very crowded, and will take further consideration when constructing the final roster, and when dolling out playing time (particularly because of the interrelationship between the outfield and at least two infielders, Javy Baez and Ben Zobrist). We’ll have to to discuss this in a more dedicated way in the future, but it’s not hard to see why there could be some trade rumors coming down the pipeline, with seven outfielders for maybe five or six roster spots: Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward, Jon Jay, Albert Almora Jr., Jorge Soler, Matt Szczur, Ben Zobrist-ish (when Javy Baez plays). Szczur, you’ll note, is out of minor league options, so he either makes the big league roster out of Spring Training, or he is subjected to waivers (and would almost certainly be claimed). Soler has one option year left, though it’s not as if there would be much gained from sending him to the minor leagues at this point, other than being able to stash him (which I’m not sure the Cubs want to do with Soler). In other words, those are the two guys most likely to pop up in trade rumors, at least out of the current group of outfielders.


  • As for Albert Almora Jr., nothing about the Jay signing precludes the 22-year-old from winning the center field job outright and/or being the Cubs’ long-term starter there. What it does do, however, is provide a nice buffer that will allow the Cubs to maximize Almora’s usage not only to help them win games, but also enhance his development. There is still one big question mark in Almora’s offensive game, despite decent results in his first 117 big league plate appearances: can he reduce the rate at which he chases pitches outside the strike zone? As David Schoenfield notes, Almora’s chase rate would have been the 4th highest in baseball if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. Like Starlin Castro, Almora has such an incredible ability to make contact with almost any pitch (including those out of the zone, and out of the area he can drive) that it can work to his disadvantage as the pitchers he faces are better and better, exploiting that ability to generate weak contact. It would be unrealistic to expect a wholesale change in Almora’s game at this point (I kinda feel like we learned that lesson after the aggressive attempts to change Castro), but there can absolutely be incremental tweaks that, in the aggregate, dramatically improve the results. I’m still a believer in Almora’s offensive future, at least within the context of how much value he brings defensively. There’s no reason Almora can’t be a 110ish wRC+ guy if things break right, and, with his glove, that’s a 5+ win player.
  • Long-time Cubs scout Stan Zielinski will be inducted into the Midwest Scouts Association Hall of Fame (Tribune).
  • A 400-pound gingerbread Wrigley Field is all I want for Christmas.
  • Michael dropped some trivia yesterday on Twitter – can you answer (and follow him) without cheating?




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