Before we get into baseball, I wanted to mention that “John Wick: Chapter 2” comes out tomorrow, and I couldn’t be more excited.
Not only is it already receiving excellent reviews (97% according to the Rotten Tomatoes’ critic score), but the first installation was supremely excellent. If you haven’t caught the original “John Wick“ yet, I strongly recommend checking it out.
In fact, along with “Man of Tai Chi,” “Knock Knock,” and “John Wick,” Keanu Reeves is going through something of a renaissance, and I’m loving every minute of it. Hopefully, “John Wick: Chapter 2” keeps that flame burning.
Alright, movie-talk over, let’s check in on some news from around the league ….
- Although the Cubs previously had interest in left-handed reliever Craig Breslow, he has reportedly signed a Minor League deal with the Minnesota Twins. As a 36-year-old reliever without a ton of Major League success, Breslow was never going to have much leverage, but a new delivery did turn some heads this winter, as scouts are projecting some resurgent potential in relief. The Cubs are mostly set in the bullpen, though, so there’s not much lost here.
- Thanks to a torn UCL (and eventually, Tommy John surgery), the Reds’ Homer Bailey has thrown just 34.1 innings across eight starts in the past two years. However, after making a return around the Trade Deadline last season, Bailey and the Reds were likely hoping for a full, healthy slate of games in 2017 (after all, he’s entering the fourth year of a six-year, $105 million deal).
- Unfortunately, Bailey had arthroscopic surgery on Wednesday to remove some small bone spurs in his right elbow. He’s now expected to begin the season on the disabled list. More specifically, Bailey is expected to resume throwing (which is not the same thing as pitching) in roughly 4-6 weeks. And given his recent track record, I’m inclined to believe the Reds will take things especially slow. Not that it would necessarily involve the Cubs, but it’s not a stretch to believe that the Reds were hoping to shop a healthy Bailey at the trade deadline, given their apparent rebuild, so this does muddy that picture up quite a bit. Of course, with a few more years of control remaining, they can hold onto him as he rebuilds his value. Something to keep an eye on both for the trade reasons, and for competitiveness reasons in the NL Central. (The Cubs do like to beat up on the Reds.)
- The Texas Rangers have agreed to a one-year contract with free-agent first baseman/designated hitter Mike Napoli. An official announcement, however, will likely be postponed until February 14th, when the Rangers’ front office can shuffle pieces off their forty-man roster. Napoli, you’ll recall, played 150 games for the Indians last season, socking 34 home runs … en route to a 1.0 WAR season. He previously played with the Rangers from 2011-2012.
- Did you catch the recently released PECOTA projections for the St. Louis Cardinals? At just 76-86, the Cardinals are projected to finish a staggering 10 games below .500 for the first time since 1999(!). But to be fair, the Cardinals almost always find a way to outproduce, and they’re hoping that this year’s secret can be former Cubs center fielder, Dexter Fowler.
- Fowler’s excellent on base percentage from the leadoff spot (4th best in baseball since his debut) and base running ability, in particular, should be a big boost. Indeed, according to Jenifer Langosch (MLB.com), Fowler’s 6.2 runs above average on the base paths last season (FanGraphs) will be a welcomed addition to a team that ranked last in that respect last season.
- (While we’re on the topic, I recently checked in on the various PECOTA projections for Cubs position players in 2017. We’ll be checking in on the pitchers soon enough.)
- (And while we’re talking about me … I also took a look back at the surprise (and immediate) ascension of Albert Pujols, from a no-name A-ball prospect to a 7+ WAR player in the span of a single Spring Training.)
- Also, with Spring Training around the corner, I can’t wait for the first version of this annual quote:
I wonder who will show up to Spring Training in the "best shape of their life" this year. 🤔🤔🤔💪💪💪 pic.twitter.com/yziN32sVho
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) February 8, 2017
- Here’s an interesting quote Ben Lindbergh (The Ringer) got from a former scouting executive on the public’s ability to form a nearly complete picture of a player’s performance: “Now more so than ever, secrets are harder to keep secret from the public at large. An enterprising independent analyst is likely to come closer to reverse-engineering insight into a team’s roster-building process than many clubs would be comfortable admitting.”
- But the problem doesn’t end there. At FanGraphs, with Lindbergh’s piece in mind, Dave Cameron writes about the devaluation of new ideas thanks to the constant movement of personnel from team to team. That’s a really interesting concept to think about, especially considering how often we praise this particular front office for their creativity, thoughtfulness, and willingness to experiment. According to Lindbergh, the real advantage lies in the discipline it takes to implement a strategy. Knowing something is truly better despite the results and sticking with it isn’t easy. The front offices that manage to accomplish that are going to be the ones that take advantage of new information. Both Cameron and Lindbergh’s pieces are worth reading.
- The Philadelphia Phillies will almost certainly be headed home come October 2017, at least according to the various projections, but they’re not the worst team in baseball … they’re just one of them. With that said, Travis Sawchik (FanGraphs) discusses how the Phillies may just be the best worst team in baseball next season. As we’ve said before, the Phillies do seem to look like the type of team that could maybe, potentially surprise in the near future.
- Back before the 1988 season, then-Pirates Manager Jim Leyland wrote a letter to his players about “The Little Things.” Recently, current Marlins Manager Don Mattingly repurposed the letter to send out to his players. I can dig it:
— Gammons Daily (@GammonsDaily) February 8, 2017
- And finally, the Royals recently designated right-handed pitcher Alec Mills for assignment, to make room for their newest starting pitcher Jason Hammel. The Royals will now have seven days to trade, waive, or release the 25-year-old. Mills, however, is no normal DFA. As MLB Trade Rumors puts it: “Mills, 25, is a semi-surprising DFA casualty for the Royals, as he made his MLB debut in 2016 on the heels of a solid season split between the Double-A and Triple-A levels.” Mills wound up pitching only three innings of relief at the Major League level this year, but kept a 2.39 ERA (2.13 FIP) in 12 starts at Double-A and a 4.19 ERA across eleven starts (and one relief appearance) at Triple-A for the Royals last season.
- Even still, he appears to be MLB ready. Indeed, Mills ranked 90th in the ZiPS Top 100 MLB Prospects for 2017 – a ranking system created solely from statistical projections. Given how dedicatedly the Cubs have been targeting upper minors starting pitcher depth, it wouldn’t be surprise to see them come calling, even after adding Eddie Butler. But don’t think it’ll come easy. For a guy like Mills – as it was with Butler – the league-wide interest should be sufficiently high that the Royals could ask for something notable in return.
- UPDATE: Sure enough, the Cubs pounced, and acquired Mills tonight for Donnie Dewees.