NL Central Competitors, A Cubs Minor League Signing, and Other Bullets

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NL Central Competitors, A Cubs Minor League Signing, and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

cubs win standings flags scoreboardA reminder: if you want to win one of the free copies of the World Series Film, get your #WinterCubsFan submission in by tomorrow. Full details on the contest here if you missed it last week.

  • I think it’s interesting to peruse the prospect lists of other NL Central clubs, if only to keep abreast of what might be coming for them in the near-term. Baseball America recently released the top ten prospects lists for the Brewers and Pirates, and each is an impressive crop. The Pirates look to have several impact-type players coming in the next year or two (impressive, given that they’ve been competitive the past five years), and the Brewers are truly loaded (theirs has been a very quick, and very strong rebuild). While the Pirates may have to retool a bit at the big league level in the next couple years, it’s entirely possible they’ll get enough from their coming youngsters to stay near the top of the NL Central for a while (and/or they could trade some for Jose Quintana and be very good again). The Brewers figure to be competitive by 2018. All the more reason for the Cubs to really make sure 2017 is another strong season, given their own roster window (i.e., before Jake Arrieta, John Lackey, and Wade Davis potentially leave).
  • Speaking of NL Central competitors, Mark Saxon analyzes the Cardinals’ changes this offseason, and how they could improve in 2017 in defense and baserunning. The defensive concerns might be overstated a bit, as the Cardinals were right around average overall last year. But the baserunning was horrible, as the Cardinals rated as second worst baserunning team in baseball, and worst in the NL. (I reckon the fact that the Cubs were the best defensive team in baseball, and 5th best baserunning team, probably didn’t help the perception that these were *the* specific problems with the Cardinals in 2016.)
  • Speaking of Cardinals baserunning in 2016:

  • The Cubs have signed infielder Elliot Soto to a minor league deal – you may recall that he was previously a Cubs farmhand who was dealt to the Marlins in 2015 as part of the Dan Haren trade. Now 27, Soto is decent emergency utility depth at AAA, given his ability to play quality defense in the middle infield, and his .241/.358/.297 (14.7% walk rate). No, he doesn’t have pop and, as we’ve discussed before, that manifests itself at the big league level in the form of crushed numbers across the board, but you wouldn’t be relying on Soto for his bat. The Cubs are very fortunate to have both Addison Russell and Javy Baez on the big league roster, but emergency middle infield depth at AAA Iowa is very necessary.
  • Speaking of which, Logan Watkins is moving on, and has signed with the Tigers.
  • Conflicting feelings here, because I’m hugely pro-World Baseball Classic, but Uehara is also going to be 42, is coming off an injury and a decline in velocity, and is important to the Cubs’ “risk” bullpen:

  • Also from Baseball is Fun, Mike Mussina is a Hall of Famer to me, and I feel even stronger after seeing how aggressively he let Joe Torre know when he wanted to stay in a game:

  • This comes via Danny Rockett:

  • A chance to get ice cold for a good cause:

  • Silly fun:

Author: Brett Taylor

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