Competing, at Last, in the NL Central and Other Bullets

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Competing, at Last, in the NL Central and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs News

wrigley scoreboard featureLate Bullets, eh?

So, yesterday was primarily about introducing new pitcher Jon Lester, but, man, it got a little crazy after that. In case you missed any of it, the Cubs agreed to a deal with reliever Jason Motte, the Dodgers signed Brett Anderson, the Astros signed Jed Lowrie, and the Cubs sent Marco Hernandez to the Red Sox as the PTBNL for Felix Doubront.

And, earlier today, if you missed it, the Cubs wrapped up their PTBNL transaction with the A’s by receiving cash, Michael Morse neared a deal with the Marlins (which prompted a Cubs outfield discussion), and Brandon Morrow reportedly signed with the Padres.

  • David Schoenfield takes a look at the NL Central, and examines how each team could make the postseason, given their current roster and how they project in 2015. It’s a great read to get some early footing on where each of the Central competitors stand, and the things they’ll need to go right in order to be competitive next year. The Pirates will need better pitching (and will need Josh Harrison to continue his breakout, with Gregory Polanco breaking out as well). The Cardinals will need a healthy, successful rotation (because the lineup looks very solid). The Reds will need a lot of things to break their way, and ditto the Brewers. As for the Cubs, they could stand to add a bat in the outfield, but, from there, it’s mostly about having a couple of the young guys break through. Sure, you can expect some regression from Jake Arrieta or Anthony Rizzo, but what if Starlin Castro finally blows up (it’s lurking within him)? What if Jorge Soler adjusts, and becomes a monster? What if Javier Baez cuts down on the Ks just enough to be a solid regular? What if Kris Bryant Kris Bryant’s all over the league? I could go on. The Cubs have realistic downside, even after making some excellent additions this offseason. But if there’s a team in baseball with as much plausible upside, I’d like to have that debate.
  • (I am giddy that we get to discuss these things heading into 2015, by the way. As I was typing out that Bullet, I could not remember the last time I was able to seriously discuss the ways in which the Cubs are right there with the other contenders in the NL Central. Heading into 2011, I guess? Even then, despite the trade for Matt Garza and the Carlos Pena signing, I really didn’t think the Cubs looked like a playoff team. The next few months are going to be so different from what I’m used to, in terms of writing about and analyzing the Cubs. It’s awesome.)
  • Russell Carleton does some gory math at BP regarding lineup balance and concludes – without a ton of certainty, because that’s how these things tend to be – all things equal, it’s nice to have L/R balance in your lineup. But that niceness is probably less than we think, and definitely doesn’t make up for any fundamental differences in talent level. Relatedly, I’d like to say: we always focus on L/R/L/R lineup styling for the purposes of avoiding a LOOGY coming in late and being able to wreck three straight lefties if you don’t break them up, but folks almost never mention the earlier-inning benefit of the righty starter having to face back-to-back-to-back lefties. Sure, higher leverage moments are more likely to come up later in the game, but the runs you score early all still count.
  • In a rain-suspended game, Javier Baez walked and struck out in his two plate appearances yesterday in Puerto Rico. Maybe Baez will become a three-true-outcome player! (I joke, because it’s not likely he’ll ever have a huge number of walks, but can you imagine an Adam Dunn or Rob Deer-like bat at shortstop or second base?)
  • Remember Jacob Nix, the high school pitcher whose agreement with the Astros after the 2014 draft was scuttled because of the Astros’ post-physical dispute with top pick Brady Aiken? If not, you can read the background here from Jon Heyman, who reports that the Astros and Nix have settled things financially, which ends Nix’s grievance (which could have led to the Astros being forced to sign Nix to the agreed-upon deal, pushing them well over their bonus pool limit for the draft, and costing them two first round picks). He probably got a nice chunk of change, and will now decide whether to try and honor his previous commitment to pitch at UCLA, or whether he’ll go to a junior college and re-enter the draft in 2015 (which is what Aiken is expected to do).
  • A New York Times feature on Curaçao and the burgeoning baseball talent base there (h/t Eric). A sample selection: “Curaçao has one major leaguer for every 21,000 residents or so. For comparison, on opening day last season, there were 83 players from the Dominican Republic, a nation of 10.4 million — roughly one major leaguer per 125,000 inhabitants. For the United States, the ratio was about one to 503,000.”


Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.