The kids got Jenga from the grandparents for Christmas, and they are REALLY getting into it. The Little Girl is quite good, and also is enjoying – on every block pull – telling us how much she’s a “risk taker”. It’s fun.
- Jeff Sullivan wrote about the “superteams” being assembled around baseball, for example in Boston or Los Angeles, and already residing on the North Side of Chicago. In large part because of those three teams, the difference between the projected first place and second place teams in 2017’s division races is the largest difference in over 10 years. Although Sullivan’s focus is about the uncertainty of winning it all, even if you have one of the rare superteams in the league, I find it equally interesting to see how few of the teams projected to win 93+ games over the past 12 seasons actually did reach their projection – just 5 of 18 teams! To be sure, many of those teams that didn’t reach their projection still won well over 90 games, but, given what we know about projection systems’ conservatism, it’s surprising to see that so many teams projected to be monsters didn’t reach the level of their (conservative) projection. The 2016 Cubs were projected for 96 wins by FanGraphs entering the season, and wound up winning 103 and the World Series. Not only was that duel feat at the end a rarity, but that 96-win projection was already the second highest in the past 12 years. People expected the 2016 Cubs to be extremely good, and they were somehow better than that. Good luck, 2017 Cubs.
- Speaking of which, those Cubs are currently projected by FanGraphs for 95 wins, tied with the Dodgers for the most in baseball, and a couple games more than the Red Sox. The Nationals are the next National League team, at 90 wins, then the Giants at 88 wins, and then the Cardinals at 85 wins. Yes, at present, the Cubs are projected to win the NL Central by 10 games. But, of course, we know that it’s not that difficult for a season to be derailed. So let’s not count any chickens.
- And speaking of the Giants, their ZiPS just came out, and it’s what you’d expect – solid and steady across the board, with a couple studs at the top of the rotation.
- Jose Bautista is one of the few remaining “name” free agents, but it’s been tough going for the 36-year-old slugger coming off a down year and hampered by a qualifying offer. Remember this time last year when there were reports that he wanted at least five years and $150 million on an extension! It’s truly incredible how much things turned for him in 2016, which saw his strikeout rate spike, his power drop, his defense still look rough, and him deal with injuries. Now, Jeff Passan reports, Bautista is left trying to get a one-year deal for more than the qualifying offer value ($17.2 million). It’s possible Bautista could re-establish himself in 2017 and then sign a bigger deal next year, but it’s almost inconceivable that he even approaches $100 million in earnings from here on out.
- (If Bautista does return to Toronto, by the way, the Cubs’ first rounder will not bump up by virtue of him signing with a team that loses its first round pick (but, to be fair, at this point there aren’t that many teams left with an unprotected first round pick that would be looking to give it up to sign Bautista anyway).)
- Farewell, Christian Villanueva – the longtime Cubs prospect has signed a minor league deal with the Padres (Matt Eddy). Villanueva, 25, missed the 2016 season after breaking his leg in Spring Training. It was unfortunate timing for all involved, as it used up his final minor league option year in the process, which meant that he was going to have to make the big league team this Spring Training, or be subjected to waivers. The Cubs elected instead to non-tender Villanueva last month, so that they could not tie up that 40-man roster spot all offseason on the slim chance that they’d need Villanueva come April (and that he’d look ready to succeed in the big leagues). In the end, though, Villanueva winds up in a good spot, where he might have a real chance of reaching the big leagues at some point this season, assuming he’s fully recuperated. Villanueva has a fantastic glove at third base, has showed good power in the minor leagues, as well as a good approach at the plate. The Padres have Yangervis Solarte at third base right now, but he could wind up a trade candidate by the second half.
- The Ninja coffee bar brewer is on a big sale today at Amazon, but I’m actually thinking I might check out a cheap cold brew coffee maker to see if it’s really a noticeable difference. I drink my coffee iced anyway, so it might be an added bonus to me to reduce the amount of ice melt.
- Probably because he was recently spotlighted here for his excellent rookie campaign, but for some reason this ball-to-the-groin moment popped into my head yesterday. Sorry, Willson.
- We’re now officially under 100 days until the Cubs head to Busch Stadium to open the season: