It’s still hard to move on today, and maybe that’s a good thing. It’s gotten too easy to move on. I saw a list of recent mass shootings this morning, and my stomach dropped when I realized I’d completely forgotten about the horrific church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Twenty-six people were murdered in a church just three months ago, and I’d forgotten about it. I feel sick. I feel ashamed. And I am afraid that I am completely normal.
Maybe confessing it there at the top of this post will matter, maybe it won’t. After Anthony Rizzo moved me to tears last night, I couldn’t let a section in which I often write about my life pass without saying it. So there it is. Now I do my best to move on through the day while holding these stories – as many of them as I can – in my head and in my heart.
On to lighter things …
- Joe Maddon confirmed what we’ve long been expecting – the Cubs will very likely break camp with eight relievers in the bullpen: “When you look at the names among the relievers, it’s hard to imagine less than 13 [pitchers],” Maddon told Cubs.com. “And when you look at the position players, there’s so much versatility. I think the combination of versatility and looking for at-bats – why put another guy on the bench who you’re looking for at-bats for?” It would be a challenge for most National League teams to get by with only four players on the bench, but when you consider the extreme flexibility of virtually every player on the team (heck, Anthony Rizzo can play third base!), carrying bench players isn’t so much about “covering” positions – it’s just about having extra bats available. So, after the back-up catcher, having three additional bats is adequate. It used to make me a lot more nervous, but I could probably count on one or two hands the times it has burned the Cubs over the past two years. Not having enough depth in the bullpen, on the other hand? When the Cubs like to aggressively pull their starting pitchers, especially early in the season? That could be rough.
- As for who those eight relievers are, we can identify seven of them with confidence, assuming health and no total spring meltdown: Brandon Morrow, Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr., Steve Cishek, Mike Montgomery, Brian Duensing, and Justin Wilson. From there, the eighth spot will be an open competition among guys like Justin Grimm, Dillon Maples, Shae Simmons, Dario Alvarez, et al.
- Don’t expect Yu Darvish to be paired exclusively with Chris Gimenez this season, presuming he makes the team as the back-up catcher. Maddon, who had Willson Contreras catch Darvish’s first bullpen yesterday, was quick to emphasize that Contreras is “our catcher,” so he wants to make sure that pairing will work, too. (Cubs.com) And that’s absolutely fine – it doesn’t have to be a Jon Lester-David Ross situation (is it 100% a coincidence that the year Ross is gone, Lester has his first down-ish year in a while?) – but I do think optimizing Darvish’s performance when he starts should be of paramount consideration. Perhaps that works out just fine with Contreras, and thankfully the Cubs never have to weight sitting a huge bat like his in favor of Gimenez. But if there’s a clear difference in comfort level? Well, then at a minimum, it would behoove the Cubs to try to line up Darvish starts against opposing lefties when possible, and let Gimenez start those games behind the plate (he does still hit lefties reasonably well). Again, hopefully this is all academic, and Darvish and Contreras work together just fine. Given the expected continued development for Contreras, there’s no real reason to bet against that at this point.
- Just ridiculous how this has worked out:
By the end of the 2019 season, Andrew Cashner will have made over $41 million in his career. Anthony Rizzo will have made a bit over $38 million by then.
— Matthew Trueblood (@MATrueblood) February 15, 2018
- Cashner has been worth 9.2 WAR to date in his career, while Rizzo has been worth 23.4. Obviously Rizzo is one of the most team-friendly deals in the game, though I’d never criticize a player for taking life-changing money when it’s offered *before* he’s established himself as a solid regular, much less a superstar. Had he gone year-to-year, Rizzo would be entering his final season of arbitration, and probably would be making upwards of $20 million in this season alone before hitting free agency as a 29-year-old monster. As it stands, the Cubs can control him for three more years after this season for $45 million. It’s not a terrible take by any stretch, and Rizzo can still hit free agency at 31 if the Cubs don’t lock him up sooner. But it is a reminder that there is some risk for the player in taking the pre-arbitration extension. Of course, there’s risk for the team, too, and there’s risk in turning down tens of millions of dollars when you have the chance.
- Also, given what he did last night, and what he continues to do for so many groups, I think it’s important to say: you can’t sum up Anthony Rizzo’s value with a dollar figure.
- I felt a little artistic last night, albeit with serious help from photo-editing software (which reminds me, follow us on Instagram: @bleachernation):
- Probably sensing that I’d mentioned my favorite backpack yesterday, Amazon put the black version of it on a deep discount today (62% off).
- Also on sale at Amazon? The Baseball Prospectus Annual for 2018 … and I just happened to write the Cubs essay this year:
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) February 16, 2018